Chapter 13

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We spend a further three days ensconced belowground before finally emerging.

Tawny leads Luca and I through the tunnels and out an abandoned shaft near the crumbled remains of the Irrigator. We find Geoff waiting for us, disapproval written clearly across his grizzled features. Wordlessly, he hands boots and a bundle of clothing to Luca, instructing him to change behind some of the wreckage.

"I really hope that your boy knows what he's doing." Geoff directs his misgivings at Tawny, still oblivious to my role in the entire scheme. "You don't seem to appreciate just how far I'm sticking my neck out."

"We all are." Tawny shoots back. "Come off it. You wouldn't be here if you didn't want this rebellion as badly as the rest of us."

Geoff gives a noncommittal grunt as Luca re-appears, head bowed and pulling nervously at his Enforcer uniform. Even after spending the last several days watching the half-wild Waster refine his speech and manners, the transformation that comes with a new set of clothes is startling. With his freshly-shorn hair parted precisely and combed into shining waves and the dark, heavy uniform turning his lean frame broad, Luca appears an entirely different person. Where there was once a mild-mannered wanderer, there now exists an authoritative blueblood.

"Well?" Luca asks, breaking the round of stunned silence that follows his arrival. "Do I meet approval?"

"I'll be." Geoff shakes his head. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were a born and bred Babelonian."

I grin proudly, throwing Luca a reassuring wink as he visibly relaxes.

"Told you." Tawny can't resist getting a word in as she rubs her hands together in glee. "This is going to work."

"Let's not count our chickens." Geoff recovers from his brief bout of shock, once more turning gruff. "New duds and a haircut might be enough to get him into the tower, but breaching the laboratories is an entirely different matter."

"You just let me worry about that." Luca tells him.

"Easy there, boy." Geoff raises his hand dismissively. "First thing's first. How much cash have you got on you?"

"Cash?" Luca looks to me for help.

"Cash. Cheddar. Money." Geoff lists off, voice dripping with condescension. I suppress the urge to smack him for his insolence. "Those eggheads surrounding the lab are going to need their pockets lined before letting us get anywhere close."

"You didn't mention anything about bribes." Tawny speaks up, clearly annoyed. "We don't have any money."

"'Stotle's sake, Tawny. What kind of half-assed rebellion is this?" Geoff runs a hand over his face. "Of course we're going to need to bribe our way into the lower levels. I told you before that I don't have the clearance to just waltz on down."

"How in the Burn am I supposed to know that? You're meant to be my man on the inside, you should have mentioned this sooner."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought that as our fearless leader you might have an idea of how bureaucracy works."

"There's no way I can raise the funds in time." Tawny's freckled face turns red. "You're going to have to find another way."

"Trust me, there is no other way. The labs are locked tight and the only way to open them," Geoff rubs his fingers together. "Is with a little grease."

"It's fine." I break in. "We can get you the money. How much do you need?"

Geoff's unnervingly pale eyes find me, as if for the first time. "A thousand ought to do it."

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