Inside the stairwell, the three of them stood in a circle as Barb quickly changed into the outfit the boys had brought. She tossed her mini-skirt to the side, as the boys respectfully looked away.
"K, I'm done," she said, zipping up the dark navy jumpsuit.
They turned to look. Adams cocked his head to the side. "Ow."
"What?" she asked.
"Yeah…I guess… it kinda… works…" Adams said.
"She sticks out." Chung said bluntly. "What are you again?" he asked her.
"What do you mean?" she said dumbly.
"She's a Pure, you idiot," Adams interrupted, "She doesn't know."
"Well, she looks like a 12-1 or something, I mean, she's super pale. We won't be able to hide her."
"Thanks…" Barb murmured.
"Oh. Sorry." Chung blushed mildly.
"What Chungy here means," Adams hurried to explain, "is that your rare and astounding beauty will be difficult to conceal."
"Right," Barb grinned. There she was again, smiling.
"Work with it, Chung," Adams commanded, "We stick to the plan. You lead, we follow. Give the signal if anyone stops you."
Chung pursed his lips. He clearly did not feel good about the plan. "Yeah. OK. I'll give you the signal." He took one last look at Barb and starting skating down the stairs. "I'm gonna kill Jimmy when we see him again!" he called out behind him.
"Not if I get him first," Adams snickered.
Barb was about to one up them both when she remembered the shrunken man. No room for smiles anymore.
Adams swung the med room door open. Nobody had intercepted them on their way down. Barb stepped in as Chung gave a quick nod goodbye and maintained his steady trot down the hall.
"Welcome to my humble abode," Adams said. "Make yourself at home."
Barb looked around and took in the sterile nature of the room. Besides the thin wool blanket on the bed, there really wasn't much warmth to the place. The bottom half of the walls were painted a pea green. That was kind of nice. She turned to face Adams. "What should I do if someone comes in?"
"Well, not to say you're not special," Adams replied, "but nobody came to visit me for hours when I was in here, so I think you'll be good. If someone does come in though, just pretend you're asleep."
"Isn't that a camera?" she pointed at a small device in the top corner of the room.
"Hey. I like your powers of observation," Adams said. "It is, but pretty much all the systems are down. Security breach. Cause of the – " The same thought occurred to them simultaneously.
"Dirth," Barb whispered.
Adams looked away uncomfortably. He didn't wanna be the one to tell Jimmy that his little girlfriend here had a huge crush on a Pure. "Yeah. We think it's the same guy you were with."
"Where is he?"
"We don't know. We know he's being held here somewhere, we're just not sure where yet. That was gonna be our next mission, after we got you tucked away, and Jimmy situated. Lisa might already be workin on it. She's good like that."
"Why?" Barb asked.
"Why are you doing all of this?"
Adams looked at her. "Cause we wanna help. Cause it matters."
Barb smiled sadly. Maybe Insiders and Outsiders weren't so different after all. She thought back to the morning she and Sandy first struck out in their beat-up car. "K," Barb said finally. "Think I'm good here."
"K, cool," Adams said, with a smile of relief. "Be right back."
Barb sat on the edge of the bed and let her pale legs dangle there. Was this real life? Was she really Outside? And now, in the same building as Dirth? She looked towards the door that Adams had just shut behind him.
Adams turned into the Atrium where absolute pandemonium was taking place. Chungrae was already back at his station, and so was Lisa, whose eyes were fixed on her monitor. He sidled up to her.
"Not now, Adams," she said tersely, before he could even say hello.
"Aw," Adams joked, disappointed, "I just wanted to say –"
"Adams!" roared MB Charlie from across the room. "First Saguto, now you. Where in agatha's name have you been?" The hefty commander marched his way towards Adams.
Adams swiveled around and took two quick steps away from Lisa's desk. "Nowhere sir?"
"Nice try Adams. Don't think I didn't see you trying to sweeten up to Monitor DonLouise just now. But she's working! Like we need all of you to be doing. Need I remind you that none of us," he included Lisa in his gaze, "were impressed by your little antics with Graves earlier." Adams went blank for a second – he had forgotten all about the staged kerfuffle from before. He glanced at Graves's monitor and couldn't help feeling a sense of smug satisfaction at seeing his seat still empty. He could feel MB Charlie's eyes scanning his left arm, which still hung uselessly in its sling. MB Charlie gave a cough, signaling Adams had passed muster. "Now get on retinal before I have to peel your eyes open myself." MB Charlie turned away.
Adams swallowed. "Sir?"
"Retinal for what, sir?"
MB Charlie turned back just a hair. "We're using drones to look for the breach."
Adams was in genuine disbelief. "Can't we just use internal cams, sir?"
MB Charlie looked like he wanted to slap him in the face. "The breach isn't necessarily in the building, Adams. We're searching the entire Outside, starting from the EIU and moving in phases outward." Adams felt something spring loose in his brain. The entire Outside? Where had that order come from? Were they out of their minds? That would take… how long?
"Can't we just… ask the Pure how he got here? Sir?"
MB Charlie frowned. "Where have you been Adams. The Pure doesn't remember a damn thing."
As MB Charlie walked away, Lisa threw her voice Adams' way. "You tool, I told you not to talk to me."
"Coulda said, 'MB Charlie's watching,' might've been more direct," Adams replied.
"He's always watching, in case you haven't noticed," Lisa muttered. "But look, as long as you don't blow it, we've almost got the 3-2's coordinates. Chung got the feeds up in both halls. I'm checking criminal, and he's checking med, once MB Charlie gets off his back, that is." MB Charlie was just sidling up to Chung's side, hovering over his monitor. Chung was the star pupil, second to Jimmy, of course.
"I'll check medical," Adams volunteered, "MB Charlie isn't watchin me."
He plopped down in his seat and glanced at his amassed pile of NutriYeasts, still waiting to be eaten from earlier. They were probably warm by now. Adams grabbed a NutriYeast and tore off its wrapper as he logged into retinal. As he bit off his first bite, Adams' chewing came to a slow… he had just pulled up the feed from the med hall. The door to his med room, where he'd just left Barb, was open.