Inside Out Page 63

“We need a meeting place and we think the infirmary would be ideal.”

The doctor stiffened as a guarded expression blanketed her face. “What for?”

Time to slide down the chute. The scrubs needed Broken Man to rally around, and in order to be successful, the uppers would need someone, too.

Locking gazes with her, I said, “So we can coordinate our efforts in opening Gateway.”

She gasped as all color flew from her face.

Riley elbowed me. “The whole heartbeat thing—does it work in reverse? ’Cause I think the doctor’s heart has stopped.”

“You…found it?” The doctor gripped the edge of her desk.

“I know where it is, but opening it is going to be difficult, hence the need for help. Are you willing?”

“Of course,” she said without hesitating.

A meeting time was set and Riley planned to contact the uppers with the details. Before he left the infirmary, he gave me a narrow metal box as long as my hand. The number ninety-eight was on the digital readout.

“So you can listen to the bug in Karla’s office,” he explained. Then he paused as if struck by a notion. “It works the same as the receiver Anne-Jade made. With the batteries, that’s the smallest space I could cram everything in.” He touched the earring. “That’s some serious tech. We have nothing like that up here. The Travas don’t encourage invention.”

“Then we have an advantage.” I hoped it would be enough.

I kept Riley’s device close by, but no sound emanated. Karla must be off-shift or elsewhere. I also worried because I hadn’t heard from Jacy in a while. Feeling stronger, I paced around the infirmary.

Finally, Doctor Lamont said, “If you’re going to be in the way, you might as well help me.” She showed me the supply cabinet behind the high counter, and asked me to organize the contents. “In an emergency, it saves precious time.”

The shelves bulged with various sizes of bandages, packages of sutures, tape, splints and packs of gauze all heaped together. As I worked to put order to chaos, uppers stopped in, seeking medical treatment or advice. Most ignored me. But on occasion, Doctor Lamont would ask me to help with a patient. If they asked, she introduced me as her new intern, Ella.

At one point, Lamont placed a bin full of clean bandages next to me. “Can you roll those when you have time?”

“Sure. With such exciting tasks as these, I’m surprised you don’t have a ton of students volunteering to be your intern,” I teased.

“Watch it or I’ll have you scrubbing bedpans.”

“Rolling bandages right now, Doctor.” I saluted her, and exaggerated my enthusiasm for the task.

She laughed. I liked the sound of her laughter. Light and carefree and warm. She wasn’t quick to laugh; grief clung to her skin like perfume but hadn’t doused her empathy for others.

Around hour forty-five, my energy level dropped. A nap was more appealing than the last three shelves. I sat on the floor, resting my back when a shrill voice broke through my drowsiness.

“Doctor?” A woman’s panicked voice.

I stood as Lamont rushed past. A very pregnant woman clung to the door. Her face ashen, she swayed on swollen feet. Bright blood stained her pants.

“My water broke,” she said.

Lamont held her elbow and half carried her. I rushed to support the patient’s other side.

“It’s not supposed to be red, is it?” she asked.

“Where’s your mate?” the doctor asked.

“Won’t come. Too hard.” The woman slurred her words.

We reached the exam room.

“Surgery?” I asked.

“Not yet. I need to determine what’s the matter.”

Hoisting her onto the table, I grunted with pain, but soon forgot about my injury as the woman’s condition worsened.

Lamont shouted orders to me and the patient. I fetched bandages and sterilized instruments.

The woman groaned and shuddered. “The baby wants to come out.”

“Not yet. Hold on a little longer.”

Doctor Lamont examined the patient and I held her hand. She squeezed my knuckles so hard, I thought she would crack my bones. The hand-crushing grip came every minute and was accompanied by moans from the woman.

“Contractions,” the doctor said. “Flip that switch there.” She pointed to a wall and I extracted my hand long enough to comply.

“Surgery now.” Lamont pressed a pedal and the table sprouted wheels.

We rolled it into the surgery.

“Don’t you need more help?” I asked.

“Called with the switch. He should be here soon.” She launched into a flurry of instructions, leaving me no time to think.

The events blurred together. Another upper arrived and I had two people yelling orders at me. The woman’s cries mixed with the loud bawl of a newborn. And somehow I ended up out in the exam room, holding a swaddled infant while the doctors attended to the woman in the surgery.

If Cog could see me now, he would be incapacitated with mirth. At least, the baby was asleep. Although I marveled that she could sleep after what had happened to get her out. The doctor had said the placenta blocked the birth canal and the woman needed an emergency C-section.

The baby weighed the same as Zippy, my small cleaning troll. More than I expected. I peered at her tiny face and wondered what name the woman would give her. Naming a person seemed a huge responsibility. In the lower levels, the scrubs handed their babies over and the Care Mothers assigned them names.

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