"You made it!" Shay's stunning smile faded as she looked down at the crumpled form of Dr. Cable.
"What's with her?"
Tally blinked, awed by the transformation of her friend. Shay's beauty seemed to snuff out everything inside Tally; her fear, surprise, and excitement fled, leaving nothing but amazement. "You...turned."
"Duh," she said. "David! You're both okay!"
"Uh, hi." His voice was dry, his hands shaking as they gripped the powerjack. "We need your help, Shay."
"Yeah, I guess you do." She looked down at Dr. Cable again and sighed. "You guys still know how to make trouble, I see."
Tally averted her eyes from Shay's beauty, trying to focus her thoughts. "Where's everyone else?
David's parents? Croy?"
"Right in here." Shay gestured over one shoulder. "All locked up. Dr. C has been totally bogus to us."
"Keep her here," David said. He pushed past Shay and through the door. Tally saw a row of small doors inside the long room, each with a tiny window set in it.
Shay beamed at her. "I'm so glad you're all right, Tally. The thought of you all alone in the wild...of course, you weren't alone, were you?"
Meeting Shay's eyes, Tally was overwhelmed all over again. "What did they do to you?"
Shay smiled. "Besides the obvious?"
"Yeah. I mean, no." Tally shook her head, not knowing how to ask Shay if she was brain damaged.
"Are any of the rest of them..."
"Pretty? No. I got to be first, because I made the most trouble. You should have seen me kicking and biting." Shay chuckled.
"They forced you."
"Yeah, Dr. C can be a major pain. It's kind of a relief, though."
Tally swallowed. "A relief..."
"Yeah, I hated this place. The only reason I'm here is that Dr. C wanted me to come by and talk to the Smokies."
"You live in New Pretty Town," Tally said softly. She tried to see past the beauty, to find whatever was behind Shay's wide, perfect eyes.
"Yeah. I just came from thebest party."
Tally finally heard how slurred Shay's words were. She was drunk. Maybe that was why she was acting so strangely. But she had called the others "the Smokies." She wasn't one of them anymore.
"You go to parties, Shay? While everyone here is locked up?"
"Well, I guess so," Shay said defensively. "I mean, they'll all get out once they turn. Once Cable gets over her stupid power trip." She looked at the unconscious form on the floor and shook her head. "She's going to be in a bad mood tomorrow, though. Thanks to you two."
The sound of complaining metal came from the detention room. Tally heard more voices.
"Of course, sounds like no one'll be around to see it," Shay said. "So how are you two doing, anyway?"
Tally opened her mouth, closed it, then managed to answer. "We're...good."
"That's great. Listen, sorry I was such a pain about all that. You know what uglies are like." Shay laughed. "Well, of course you do!"
"So you don't hate me?"
"Don't be silly, Tally!"
"I'm glad to hear that." Of course, Shay's blessing was meaningless. It wasn't forgiveness, just brain damage.
"You did me a big favor, getting me out of that Smoke place."
"You can't really believe that, Shay."
"What do you mean?"
"How could you change your mind so quickly?"
Shay laughed. "It took exactly one hot shower to change my mind." She reached out and touched Tally's hair, tangled and knotted from two weeks of camping out and riding all day. "Speaking of showers,you are a total mess."
Tally blinked. Hot tears were forcing themselves into her eyes. Shay had wanted so much to keep her own face, to live on her own terms outside the city. But that desire had been extinguished.
"I didn't mean to...betray you," she said softly.
Shay glanced over her shoulder, then turned back and smiled. "He doesn't know that you were working for Dr. C, does he? Don't worry, Tally," she whispered, putting one elegant finger to her lips. "Your ugly little secret is safe with me."
Tally swallowed, wondering if Shay had found out the whole story. Maybe Dr. Cable had told them all what she'd done.
A buzzing sound came from beside Dr. Cable. On the work tablet she had been carrying, a request light blinked with an incoming call.
Tally picked up the tablet and handed it to Shay. "Talk to them!"
Shay winked, pushed a button, and said, "Hey, it's me, Shay. No, I'm sorry, Dr. Cable's busy. Doing what? Well, it's complicated..." She muted the device. "Shouldn't you be rescuing people or something, Tally? That is the point of this little trick, right?"
"You'll stay here?"
"Duh. This looks bubbly. Just because I'm pretty doesn't mean I'mtotally boring."
Tally brushed past her and into the room. Two doors had been ripped open, David's mother and another Smokey freed. The two were dressed in orange jumpsuits, with stunned and sleepy looks on their faces. David was working another door, his powerjack thrust into a small slot at floor level.
Tally saw Croy's face peering wide-eyed through one of the tiny windows, and planted her powerjack under his door. It whined to life, and the thick metal screeched as it bent upward. "David, they know something's up!" she called.
"Okay. We're almost done here."
Her jack had wrenched a small gap in the metal, not big enough. Tally reset the tool, and the metal groaned again. Her days of pulling up railroad ties soon paid off, the jack tearing a hole the size of a doggy door.
Croy's arms appeared, then his head, his jumpsuit ripping on jagged spurs of metal as he wriggled.
Maddy grabbed his hands and pulled him through. "That's everyone who's left," she said. "Let's go."
"What about Dad!" David cried.
"We can't help him." Maddy ran into the hall.
Tally and David shared an anxious look, and followed.
Maddy was dashing down the hall toward the elevator, dragging Shay by the wrist behind her. Shay stabbed the tablet's talk button and said, "Wait a second, I think she's just coming back now. Hold please." She giggled and muted the device again.
"Bring Cable!" Maddy called. "We need her!"
"Mom!" David ran after her.
Tally looked at Croy, then down at Dr. Cable's crumpled form. Croy nodded, and they each took a wrist, dragging the woman along the slick floor at a trot, Tally's grippy shoes squealing.
When the party reached the elevator, Maddy grabbed Dr. Cable by the collar and pulled her up to the eye-reader. The woman groaned once, softly. Maddy carefully pried open one of her eyes, and the elevatorpinged, its doors sliding open.
Maddy tugged off the doctor's interface ring and dropped her to the floor, then pulled Shay inside. Tally and the other Smokies followed, but David stood his ground. "Mom, where's Dad?"
"We can't help him." Maddy yanked the tablet away from Shay and cracked it against the wall, then pulled David in against his protests. The doors closed, and the elevator asked, "Which floor?"
"Roof," Maddy said, the interface ring still in her hand. The elevator began to move, Tally's ears complaining at the swift ascent.
"What's our escape plan?" Maddy snapped. The glazed look was completely gone from her eyes, as if she'd gone to sleep last night expecting to be rescued this morning.
"Uh, hoverboards," Tally managed to answer. "Four of them." Realizing that she hadn't done so yet, Tally adjusted her crash bracelets to call them in.
"Oh, cool!" Shay said. "You know, I haven't been boarding since I left the Smoke?"
"There's seven of us," Maddy said. "Tally, you take Shay. Astrix and Ryde, double up. Croy, you go alone and throw them off the track. David, I'll ride with you."
"Mom...," David pleaded, "if he's pretty, can't you cure him? Or at least try?"
"Your father's not pretty, David," she answered softly. "He's dead."