The Thousandth Floor

Page 113

“Seriously, Ry? When has a party ever stopped you before?”

Rylin laughed, shaking her head. “This must be a first, you convincing me to go to a party.”

“So do it!”

Rylin nodded at her sister’s words, gripped by a sudden sense of urgency. She should go up there, tell Cord the truth, and try to fix what she’d so terribly broken. Maybe Cord could find it in himself to forgive her.


LEDA PAUSED AT the door to Avery and Atlas’s party, looking around the room with a strange smile on her face. God, it was good to be back. She felt fully awake for the first time in months. Every cell in her body was on high alert, thrumming with anger and xenperheidren.

What a wild ride the last twenty-four hours have been, she mused, thinking over everything that had happened—and all the secrets she’d accumulated, which her hyped-up mind was weighing and assessing and hoarding carefully away. Eris and her dad. Leda shuddered at that one, still disgusted. Figuring out that Cord’s Spokes had been stolen, and telling Brice. Confronting Watt, to learn the truth about Avery and Atlas. What he’d said was awful and incomprehensible and shocked Leda into silence—but she’d realized that as utterly fucked up as it was, it made a twisted kind of sense. It explained so many things about both of the Fullers, from the moment Leda had hooked up with Atlas in Catyan. Hell, from the moment she and Avery had first become friends.

No wonder she needed drugs, Leda thought, a little crazed. All along she’d been playing the role of third wheel in the Fuller siblings’ twisted love story, and she hadn’t even known.

Well, tonight that was all going to change.

Leda had barely slept after learning about Avery and Atlas. She’d spent all day huddled at home, popping various pills from her little bag, her mind chasing down one rabbit hole and then another as she concocted ever more elaborate scenarios for revenge. She’d come to the party tonight in order to do just that. She wanted to destroy Avery and Atlas, publicly and painfully.

She made her way through the crowd toward the living room windows, where she knew she would find Avery. She plucked an atomic shot off a passing tray and knocked it back. The alcohol flared hot and fast through her overstimulated system.

Her contacts lit up with an incoming flick-link request—from none other than “Nadia.” Watt. He needed to re-add her, after permanently disconnecting them before. Seized by a dark, warped amusement, she accepted the request.

“Hey there,” she said as he immediately pinged her. “How are you feeling?”

“What are you going to do to Avery?”

She sighed dramatically. “Quit trying to play the white knight, Watt. You’ve already lost.”

“Leda, please—”

“You have enough to worry about yourself right now, you know,” she warned him, and hung up.

Watt’s secret had been the most surprising of all. After she’d drugged him up and gotten him to confess about Avery and Atlas, Leda hadn’t been able to resist snooping around his family’s apartment. The door to Watt’s bedroom was open; it was all too easy for her to slip inside and take a quick look around. She wasn’t sure what she was searching for, exactly. She just wanted to know how he was such a good hacker—how a seventeen-year-old downTower kid had infiltrated the Fullers’ home security, and the State Department.

In one of the drawers of Watt’s desk she’d found a flat box of silicon optic processors. She looked them up online, and what she discovered had stunned her. They were only used in the construction of quantum computers.

Watt Bakradi had an illegal quant.

Nadia hacked it. Funny, she realized, Nadia must be what he called his little illegal toy.

She snooped around his room for a while longer, looking for the computer itself, so she could steal it; but after a half hour of searching she gave up. It didn’t really matter whether or not she had the actual computer. She had the ultimate blackmail card over Watt, and could play it indefinitely—because if she told on him, he’d go to jail for life.

It would be kind of fun, really, having Watt under her thumb. And with Watt’s quant hacking for her, no one would ever be able to surprise Leda again.

They were liars, all of them, she thought, Atlas and Avery, Eris, her parents—they’d all been hiding something from her. It was hurtful, and yet the knowledge was also strangely reassuring, as if she’d known it on some level all along, and now had the satisfaction of seeing her suspicions proven correct.

She couldn’t trust anyone in the world but herself, but then again, Leda never really had.


BY THE TIME Eris arrived, Avery’s party was even more crowded than she’d expected. Every junior and senior from Berkeley was here, as well as the more daring underclassmen, and some kids who Eris was sure didn’t go to Berkeley at all.

She moved slowly along the tide of the party, pausing constantly to say hello, tell a story, accept compliments. Tonight should be a celebration, she reminded herself. Finally, after weeks of torment, she was about to get her old life back.

Yet for some stupid reason, tonight felt false—her friends’ designer clothes looked garish, their words seemed meaningless. Eris couldn’t stop thinking about what Mariel had said. Compared to the time she spent with Mariel, this felt like a bizarre whirlwind that moved too fast. Why did she care about it all anyway?

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