Although she was hot and out of sorts after sparring with David, Cassie stopped at the clinic to check on how things were going. She found Doc making the ward rounds alone. “What’s the matter?” she said. “Did you scare all your nurses off today?”
“Rochelle is here.” He motioned Cassie nearer and lowered his voice. “She seems to have gotten through to May. I took over ward duty so she can keep doing whatever it is she’s doing in there.”
Cassie glanced toward the door. “Can I go in?”
Doc shrugged. “It’s been an hour, so it’s worth a try, I guess.”
“I’ll pretend like I’m looking for aspirin.”
The air in the treatment room was stultifying, and smelled vaguely of old urine overlaid with alcohol and herbs. It was a confusing odor, not pleasant but not so distasteful that Cassie wanted to bolt. She pretended to look for something in the cabinet, glancing occasionally toward the back wall where May lay propped against a stack of pillows with Rochelle beside her nursing the baby. To Cassie’s relief, both girls returned her smile. Rochelle’s was broad and welcoming, and May’s was strained, but it was all the encouragement she needed to join them.
Wisely, Cassie didn’t comment on May’s change in behavior and instead offered her opinion on the weather, the state of the potato garden, and the general stuffiness of the hotel. Conversation drifted aimlessly, centered on light, inoffensive topics.
Finally the baby grew fussy and Rochelle gathered him close. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to take him to the patio where it’s cooler.” She looked at May, a question in her eyes.
“Go ahead. I’m fine.”
After Rochelle was gone, Cassie asked if she should leave.
May shook her head. “I hear they’re making plans. Tell me.”
Cassie told what she knew of the attack strategy, apologizing that it was so vague. “We’re going to try to get the alliance leaders together tonight to agree on the final plan. I think we’ll move pretty fast after that. We might be mobilizing as soon as tomorrow.”
“Good. Don’t give the bastards a chance to get stronger.”
“I wish you were able to go with us.” Cassie held her breath, waiting to see how May would answer the implied question about her health.
“I’ll do what I can around here while you’re gone,” she said. “I’ve been sorry for myself long enough.” Her expression turned grim. “Rochelle told me about Eleven. I need to get well so I can kick his ass.”
“So you’re going to be okay?”
“I guess. I can’t let a kid like Rochelle down. She thinks I’m brave and she says she wants to be like me.” May made a gesture dismissing the absurd notion.
“But you are brave.”
“Bullshit. I’m the biggest coward there is, but we need to set an example for the younger ones, since they’ll be on their own soon.”
“Maybe not. We’re going to attack the bunker and see if there’s a Telo cure, remember?”
“Yes, the Telo cure.” May sank deeper into the pillows and closed her eyes. “I have a feeling when you get there, it won’t be what you think.”
“What do you mean? Is there something you didn’t tell us?”
“Just a feeling I have.”
“Well, there must be something there, or why all the mystery? Why the kidnappings? Why do the Pharms—”
May jerked her face away at the mention of Pharms. “You’re right we have to try,” she said. “I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be all ego and wishful thinking.”
EXCERPT FROM CASSIE’S JOURNAL:
The plans are made, my gear is packed, and I’m ready to deploy.
Our advance unit from St. Xavier’s found a roadblock on the first route they tried and they were scared to take the posted detour, for fear it was a trap. The twins scouted us a different route, so that’s the way we’ll head out of the city. It’ll add another five miles to the journey, but it can’t be helped, since the other roads are being monitored. The twins identified safe houses for us, so we’ll have shelter, at least.
Many of us are nervous about getting ambushed. Julilla says we shouldn’t worry because there’s no good place for a battle until we’re almost within sight of the office park where the labs and bunkers are. When we ask Alex if he agrees, he just looks tired and walks away. He’s been working too hard and not sleeping enough, because there are shadows under his eyes and he seems distracted. All the responsibility must be hard on him, since he’s the general for the entire alliance and his only experience is a year of ROTC. But that’s more than any of our other leaders have, which makes him an expert, even though I think Julilla is just as capable. She certainly isn’t running herself into the ground like he is, even though I never see her sleep and she seems to be everywhere at once, giving orders and checking that all is ready.
May is getting around a little, hobbling like an old woman because she’s still in pain. I think the Pharms did things to her that she’s not talking about. But she’s determined to be brave for the sake of Rochelle and all the younger girls being taken advantage of by the boys. She says their lives shouldn’t be defined by sex and violence. She says they need to see that being victimized doesn’t make one a victim.
She’s going to care for the baby so Rochelle can come with us. Poor Rochelle! She can’t bear to be parted from either Doc or the baby, and the confusion on her face was terrible to see. But Doc has been assigned to come with us to handle battlefield injuries, and in the end puppy love won out over baby love and Rochelle is on our medical team. Doc is happier than seems reasonable, which makes me wonder if he really does love her and is finally figuring it out. May said she was going to plant a few ideas in his head, so maybe she made him see what’s been obvious to the rest of us for a long time.