The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor #1)(8)


by Katharine McGee

“Rylin Myers?”

“What the—who is this?” She couldn’t hear. The crowd was still buffeting her back and forth.

There was a pause, as if the speaker couldn’t believe the question. “Cord Anderton,” he said finally, and Rylin blinked in shock. Her mom had worked as a maid for the Andertons, back before she got sick. Dimly Rylin realized that she did recognize the voice, from the few times she’d been up there. But why the hell was Cord Anderton calling her?

“So, can you come work my party?”

“I don’t … what are you talking about?” She tried to shout over the music, but it came out more like a rasp.

“I sent you a message. I’m throwing a party tonight.” His voice was fast, impatient. “I need someone here—to keep everything clean, help with the caterers, all the stuff your mom used to do.” Rylin flinched at the mention of her mom, but of course he couldn’t see. “My usual help bailed last minute, but then I remembered you and looked you up. Do you want the job or not?”

Rylin wiped a bead of sweat from her brow. Who did Cord Anderton think he was, summoning her on a Saturday night? She opened her mouth to tell this rich, entitled asshole to shove the job right up his—

“I forgot,” he added, “it pays two hundred nanos.”

Rylin choked back her words. Two hundred nanodollars for just one night of dealing with drunk rich kids? “How soon do you need me there?”

“Oh, half an hour ago.”

“I’m on my way,” she said, the room still spinning. “But—”

“Great.” Cord ended the ping.

With a herculean effort, Rylin pulled the patch from her arm, and then, wincing, ripped off the one on her neck. She glanced back at the others—Hiral was dancing, oblivious; Lux was wrapped around a stranger with her tongue down his throat; Indigo was sitting on Andrés’s shoulders. She turned to go. V was still watching her, but Rylin didn’t say good-bye. She just stepped out into the hot stickiness of the night, letting the used gold patches flutter slowly to the ground behind her.

ERIS

ERIS DODD-RADSON BURROWED deeper under her fluffy silk pillow, angry at the ringing that was playing incessantly in her eartennas. “Five more minutes,” she mumbled. The ringing didn’t stop. “I said snooze!” she snapped, before realizing that this wasn’t her alarm. It was Avery’s ringtone, which Eris had long ago set on full override, so that it would wake her up even when she was sleeping. “Accept ping,” she mumbled.

“Are you on your way?” Avery’s voice sounded in her ear, pitched louder than usual over the clamor of the party. Eris glanced at the time, illuminated in bright pink numbers in her lower left field of vision. Cord’s party had started half an hour ago and she was still lying in bed, with no idea what to wear.

“Obviously.” She was already halfway to her closet, shimmying out of her oversized T-shirt as she picked her way through discarded clothes and stray pillows. “I just—ow!” she yelped, clutching a stubbed toe.

“Oh my god. You’re still home,” Avery accused, but she was laughing. “What happened? Oversleep your beauty nap again?”

“I just like making everyone wait so they’ll be that much more excited to see me,” Eris answered.

“And by ‘everyone,’ you mean Cord.”

“No, I mean everyone. Especially you, Avery,” Eris said. “Don’t go having too much fun without me, ’kay?”

“I promise. Flick me when you’re on your way?” Avery said, and ended the ping.

Eris blamed her dad for this one. Her eighteenth birthday was in a few weeks, and today she’d had to visit the family attorney to start her trust fund paperwork. It was all excessively boring, signing countless documents with an official witness present, taking drug and DNA tests. She hadn’t even understood all of it, except that if she signed everything, she’d be rich someday.

Eris’s dad came from old money—his family had invented the magnetic repulsion technology that kept hovercrafts aloft. And Everett had only added to the already-massive fortune, by becoming the world’s premier plastisurgeon. The only mistakes he’d ever made were two expensive divorces before he finally met Eris’s mom, when he was forty and she was a twenty-five-year-old model. He didn’t ever talk about those previous marriages, and since there were no children from either, Eris never asked about them. She didn’t really like thinking about it, to be honest.

Stepping into her closet, she drew a circle on the mirrored wall, and it turned into a touch screen that lit up with her closet’s full inventory. Every year Cord threw this back-to-school costume party, and every year there was a fierce and unspoken competition for best costume. She sighed and began sorting through her various options: the gold flapper dress, the faux-fur hood her mom had given her, a hot pink sequinned gown from last Halloween. None of it seemed right.

Screw it, she decided. Why was she trying to find a costume anyway? Wouldn’t she stand out more without one?

“The black Alicia top,” she announced to her closet, which spit the item into the output chute at the bottom. Eris pulled the top on over her lace bra and stepped into her favorite suede pants, which she knew made her ass look fantastic. She snapped a set of silver cuffs on her elbows and reached up to yank out her ponytail, letting her strawberry-blond hair fall around her shoulders in a wild tangle.

Biting her lip, she plopped down at her vanity and placed her hands on the hairstyler’s two electropulsers. “Straight,” she ordered, closing her eyes and bracing herself.

A tingle spread from her palms, up her arms, and into her scalp as the machine jolted her with a wave of electricity. The other girls at school always complained about the styler, but Eris secretly enjoyed the feeling: the hot, clean way it set all her nerves afire, almost like pain. When she looked up, her hair had fallen into straight layers around her face. She tapped at the screen of her vanity and closed her eyes as a fine spray of makeup misted over her. When she looked up again, eyeliner now brought out the strange and arresting amber flecks in her irises, and a blush softened her cheekbones, highlighting the smattering of freckles along her nose. But something was still missing.

Before she could second-guess herself, Eris was moving through the darkness of her parents’ room and into her mom’s closet. She felt for the jewelry safe and typed the passcode, which she’d figured out at age ten. Nestled inside, next to a colorful array of gemstones and a rope of thick black pearls, were her mom’s stained glass earrings. The rare, old-fashioned kind of glass—not flexiglass, but the kind of glass that could actually break.