Jimmy beat his wrists against the edge of the counter. He knew it was useless, but he couldn't help but try. He looked around the room. There was nothing to help him out of this situation.
If only he could get his aunt back in the room. If he could just get her talking, or at least get her to listen, maybe there was a chance…
His mind raced. He was an Outsider. There had to be something he could do, something he knew, that would get them to come.
He looked down at his wrists again. Maybe there was.
Lily Armistad stood bent over a tank of guinea pigs. There wasn't much she could do to stop herself from thinking about the boy, the Outsider. Jimmy Saguto. She reached into the clear plexi tank and hoisted one of the struggling pigs into her arms. With one hand she deftly drew a syringe and punctured the animal's skin. It snorted in dismay. The boy's face, she couldn't get it out of her mind. It wasn't so much that it was similar to her own – after all, they were both Outsiders – as much as it was his expression. His earnestness. His sharp and obvious attention to detail. He had known everything about her so-called life on the Outside. The name of her dog, the subject she taught in school, the fact that she taught at all… why would he make something like that up in so much detail? He'd even had a blended last name for her ready: Laguto. And what did she know about him? Not much. She thought back to his file. His sample had supposedly scanned at 25% 12-7, or, as the Pures said, 'Asian.' Japanese to be specific. But when she thought of his face, he really did look like any other Outsider. Except he claimed to be her nephew.
The claim was an impossibility. Lily had lived in DOMO for as long as she could remember. Yes, she may technically have been an Outsider, but she'd basically lived inside this facility her entire life. What were sides to her? She had been raised by scientists. She belonged to the side of science. And science was telling her to inquire.
She set the guinea pig down and quickly squeezed its sample onto the top plate on her stack of glass. With both hands she gently lowered the lid to the tank and snapped off her gloves.
With a furtive glance around the room, she pulled out her tab and quickly skimmed back to the boy's file. Yes, there it was, 25% Japanese. She tapped on the number to reveal the long genetic sequence that comprised the result. Then, with a few quick gestures, she deactivated the tab's link to the network. She wouldn't be able to access anything from the DOMO database, but she didn't need to. And she didn't want her next few moves to be tracked.
She picked up the syringe and stack of glass and with a few wide strides reached the lab's makeshift tiger den. It was a pygmy tiger, only a few feet long, and like many of the animals, it was struggling to live. The tiger lay slouched up against the side of its plexi tank, sleeping. Unlike the other animals, the pygmy's tank was redundantly housed within a tall wire cage, to facilitate any necessary additional human interaction. Lily carefully lifted the latch to the wire enclosure and stepped inside, making sure to give off a procedural air. It was important not to draw attention – all the extraction rooms were monitored.
"Here Stella Stell," she cooed. She typically didn't give the animals names, but the pygmy was an exception. Estella lifted her head lazily and then slumped down again. "Come here, Stell," Lily repeated. Estella groaned and slowly lumbered to her feet. Lily knelt down to the plexi's hatch door and opened it so the tiny tiger could amble into her arms. After stroking her gently a few times, Lily reached down to her side, picked up the syringe, and without a second thought, punctured her own arm with the needle, hidden behind the squirming screen of fur that Stella provided. The liquid filling the syringe wouldn't be violet, but it was fine – no one had figured out how to regram Estella's blood yet since she was literally one of the last of her kind, so her blood still ran red. After what felt like an eternity, the tab on the syringe popped up – the extraction was complete.
"Good girl, Stell," Lily cooed again, and gently tipped the tiger back through the plexi door into its home. With the deftness of several decades of practice, Lily quickly squirted some sample onto the top lens of glass, picked up her supplies, and stepped out of the wire cage.
She took a deep breath. The hard part was over, but now came the moment of truth. With the lens in one hand, she walked slowly over to the scanning station. Adhoc analyses in extraction rooms were rarely needed, but once again, Estella was a rare bird, so to speak. She was the perfect excuse.
Lily slid the plate into the scanner and waved her hand under the security strip to begin the scan. The machine began to hum and shake lightly in place. A warm yellow light glowed from the slot where she'd submitted the lens. Inside her coat pocket, Lily's fingers drummed nervously against her thigh. This was the most nervous she'd ever been in her entire life. The machine came to a slow and the readout suddenly appeared on her tab, just like that. A sequence of numbers and letters with a few symbols mixed in – her genetic sequence to the tune of Dexler's code.
At DOMO they had a few quick tricks for visual matching, all based on statistical probabilities. She pushed the line of symbols to the 663rd index – it was an A. She then jumped to the 7070th digit – a solid, dark triangle. Lastly, she went to the end sequence, or 'the necklace' as they called it – the string of 15 digits that ended 15 digits from the end, and noted them. These were the indices, typically, that indicated the Pures' old notion of race. Few people still memorized them, but Lily was a prodigious student, with an aptitude for learning. Plus, something about race had always fascinated her.
With her own sequence memorized, Lily propped the tab up and quickly flew back to the sequence from the boy's file. As she pushed through the letters and numbers, retracing the same indices, she felt her throat constrict, as though she shouldn't be allowed to breathe in this moment. She reached the 663rd place – A. That was normal, perfectly expected – everyone started with an A. Every 10-10, that is. The next earmark though would be the truth of it. When she reached 7070, her eyes seemed to cross paths as they observed the black triangle. There it was – a deviation. The last string of digits, the necklace, would tell her precisely what kind. When she reached the necklace, it took all her effort to set the tab down on the counter rather than let it drop to the floor. The two were a perfect match.
But it couldn't be. It couldn't be. Outsiders essentially shared the same sequence, with the exception of 2-3 digits in the necklace that still varied. By all intensive purposes and outward appearance, they looked the same. She looked the same. And yet, there was the evidence before her. A deviant gene signature from a boy who claimed to be an Outsider, and it was an exact match on her own. The odds were extremely low. The absurdity of it struck her – she had never even thought to sample herself.
Her hand drifted up to wave off the scanner.
She felt her body turn in her shoes to face the door.
She was beginning to realize that there might be a lot she still didn't know. But she did know one thing. She was a scientist.
In a daze of movement, Lily suddenly found herself facing the door to the boy's extraction room. She shook her head to reset her thoughts, cleared her throat and then checked quickly through the glass that she'd been staring at him through just hours before. He wasn't there.
Lily's eyes ballooned as she quickly raced to pull the door open, not even thinking to activate his binds.
There he was. The boy lay on the floor, his wrists dripping blood, dark lines of red arcing down to the floor. He weakly raised his head and looked at her.
"Don't you people… monitor… our health?" His head lolled back onto the floor as he fainted.