For the next few weeks Mundo kept the Regents busy with training and security measures. Julilla led Cassie and the other teenage girls in morning stair runs and weight lifting, followed later in the day with target practice if there was enough ammo to spare. The youngest children were taught to be alert to trouble and sound the alarm at any odd activity, and the halls thundered with the older boys’ daily training runs.

Sid was given the task of designing alarm systems and he quickly warmed to the project, suggesting ways to make the walls unscalable and designing ever more complicated structures of bells and netting to alert the group to intruders.

But in spite of all the activity, no one felt safe. The children whispered of people in black lurking in the shadows and slept fitfully, only to wake up shrieking or in tears, complaining of nightmares. Several notebooks went missing from the clinic, even though no one could have gotten into the room without someone’s knowledge. Even more mysteriously, the notebooks reappeared a week later in almost the exact spot from which they had been stolen. Lying nearby was the missing e-planner.

Doc examined the e-planner as if it might be possessed. “It’s definitely the one. But I’ve never had it out of my room, I swear.”

“No one came in through either the ward or the clinic door,” Rochelle said from where she was making tinctures under Cassie’s guidance. “We’ve been here all morning.”

“And you didn’t see or hear anything at all?”

Cassie shook her head. “It’s like they reappeared all by themselves.”

“That’s impossible.” Doc slipped the e-planner into his lab coat. “I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Mundo. He’ll want me to say how it happened and I have no idea.”

“Nisha wasn’t at breakfast this morning. Her blood pressure is up again. Maybe he’ll be too distracted by her problems to care,” Cassie said.

Doc rubbed his forehead. “Don’t remind me about Nisha. I think I’d rather try to explain the e-planner fairies than deal with a preggo who’s having complications.” He glanced at Cassie over the tops of his glasses. “You sure you don’t want to take the lead on delivering her baby? I’ll give you all the books and if you read fast, you’ll know as much as I do by her due date. I’ll even weed the potatoes to give you extra reading time.”

“No way. I’ve heard delivering babies is messy and it smells.”

“I’ll do it,” Rochelle said. “I love babies.”

Doc and Cassie shook their heads. “It’s not about liking babies or not,” Cassie told her. “It’s about knowing how to handle a serious medical situation.”

“But I—”

“You will assist,” Doc finished for her. “And some day I’m sure you’ll make a great midwife.”

Rochelle bowed her head back over her work. “Until I get Telo and die.”

Doc pretended not to hear. “Well, I guess I better tell Mundo what happened.”

“Want me to go with you?” Cassie offered.

“No. It’s going to be a weird enough conversation as it is. No need to turn it into a circus.”

As he reached for the door handle, Cassie said, “Are you going to ask again if you can go on the mission to the lab? I can cover for you if he says yes.”

Doc turned around. “Thanks, but I don’t think it’ll do any good. He says I’m not expendable.”

“A lot of the people on the mission aren’t expendable.”

“That’s what I said. Plus, I’m the only one who knows where my dad’s office is and what his stuff looks like. What if they’ve moved things around? Julilla will never find what we’re after.”

Cassie nodded in sympathy.

“It’s all about Nisha and her stupid baby. If it wasn’t for her, Mundo would be just as happy to take a literate three-year old, a copy of the Merck manual and a box of band-aids and call it medical support.”

“And you don’t even know about babies,” Rochelle piped up.

“Damn right I don’t.” Doc stomped out the door, making sure to slam it as he left.


1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

Poor Doc! I generally think he came out well on the deal. His struggles in his father's old office were only likely to get worse. Still, you gotta wonder what Mundo will do it the baby doesn't make it.

I like the richness of this one. It has nice layers.