I don’t know what I expected. Maybe screaming girls, horrific looking tools and heaps of blood maybe. None of those are waiting for us.
Instead, the room is empty.
After dropping from the ceiling, it became apparent we were actually in a sort of attic, not the actual floor. It took some time, but we eventually found a way to get down, all the mean while hushing each other.
When my stomach grumbled, the others did at almost the same time and we had to cover our faces with our hands so we’d stop giggling so much.
I really do hope we find food.
“Where is everyone?” I question, turning in a circle to see if I missed anything.
The room’s a sterile white and smells of disinfectant and some essence. It looks like a normal hospital room. About seven cots sit against the walls on each side and have curtains ready to be pulled around them. There’s a nurse station just before the staircase and after exchanging nods with Amelia, I make my way towards it.
Just papers, a communication device and cabinets. No food and no sign of a live person.
“Do you think they would have killed the girls in here?” I hear Eliza ask.
“I thought of that,” Amelia sighs, following us down the steps, “but I need to see the rest of the hospital before I come to a conclusion. Something tells me there are still people here, just not the ones expected.”
I exchange a wary glance with Liliana.
The next floor, the girl’s dormitories are empty, too. Everything’s all orderly and pretty, the girl’s beds made and even fresh flowers in the vases, but still no sign of everyone.
“If you so much as see a spot of blood, tell me,” Amelia instructs, stepping around a corner with her gun raised to check the place is clear.
“Maybe we should try using the other staircase,” I point back the way we came. “That one’s for the patients. We’re using the doctor and nurses.”
Amelia shakes her head.
“Wouldn’t make a difference, love.”
Shrugging, I follow her down to the next floor.
As expected, it’s also perfectly neat and tidy, minus any human life. Lucky for us, there’s a fridge in the nurse’s station and we rip it open eagerly to find a half empty bottle of milk, some cold meat, a sandwich and a small square of brown pudding.
Eliza and I halve the sandwich, cobbling our own bits in two seconds flat while Liliana goes for the pudding and Amelia the two slices of cold meat. We take turns sipping the milk.
“What’s the next floor?” Amelia asks when we’re done and wiping the white milk stains from above our lips.
“Operating theatre,” I respond easily.
I’m reminded of that day where I was forced to help the rebels rescue Liliana from this very hospital. I remember staring at the layout of the building, pointing to each floor as I named them. Before I forget, I tell everything else.
“Bellow that is the secretary offices which is followed by a general room where they bandage wounds, talk to patients, etcetera. It’s like a usual facility. Than bellow that is the waiting room and bellow that is the basement.”
“Right,” Amelia leans against the wall, pinching the bridge of her nose together as she screws her face up in thought. “If anyone was to be here, where would they be?”
“Odds are everyone was cleared out,” Liliana points out.
“Yeah, well that’s the bit that doesn’t make sense. Unless those soldiers went around cleaning, mopping and even sterilising the place in only a matter of a few hours, that’s not likely. Surely some of them tried to run. When you get an entire hospital overrun with soldiers, odds are one of them are going to leave a mess.”
“Try the basement,” Eliza sighs. “Maybe they shifted everyone underground.”
“That’s where they keep all their equipment,” I shake my head roughly, but no one seems to listen.
“Basement it is,” Amelia agrees with Eliza, but is stopped by Liliana.
“Want my view on the situation?”
“Go for it.”
“What if this place has actually been empty for days? Like, what if all patients had been moved or stored away so the nurses could clean and leave? Wouldn’t you clear out if there was a war going on?”
“Where would you go though?” I ask, feeling slightly defensive. My hormones and lack of sleep aren’t doing wonders for my mood. “It’s not like you can just wheel out someone who’s had a liver surgery.”
“Yes,” she nods firmly, “but what if they had a plan for this type of situation?”
We all exchange looks before Liliana points upwards.
“Here’s my proposal. Alice, you know this place better than any of us, you head upstairs to the secretarial offices while I check out the basement and Amelia and Eliza search the other floors. Look for anything, like a manual, that appears to be a sort of emergency procedure.”
I scan my brain, trying to remember if there was anything like that, but there’s nothing to remember. Then I face-palm myself mentally. I’d doubt they’d leave such information out in the open. If they were planning for an attack, I’d doubt they’d want it made public.
I give Eliza a quick hug around the neck before heading back for the stairs. Turning around at the public staircase to see Amelia and Eliza disappear and a flurry of brown hair, I sprint for the other staircase. I’m not sure if anything will even be there, but we’d be stupid not to check.
Turns out they’re just as bland as the other staircase sets, just plus a few doors that lead into medical cupboards. Feeling stupid when I reach the above floor, I shake my head and get to work.
The whole floor is set up like one massive office. This is where we’d deal with payments, private information and track the work loads of the doctors. You’d think it’d be risky, letting everyone in the Society be a doctor or surgeon without any training, but not here at least. Along with the needle that changes our skin, hair and eyes, we also develop the same instincts and smarts. If I wanted to, I could perform and open surgery on anyone now if I had the appropriate equipment.
This just reminds me of my wounded arm and I quickly rip back the fabric to check its not festering.
The wound’s red and a little swollen, but nothing seems off. Gritting my teeth, I retie the bandage before checking out the first station.
I can’t remember much from my work here, but I do remember the basics like the layout and computer details. I press furiously at the computer’s keyboard and a sign pops up, searching for a login and password. I type in a series of numbers I was given at the time with no hope and it turns out I’m correct. They change the details with each new set of workers.
There’s nothing in the cabinets and drawers that speaks, “EVACUATION PLAN”, but I go through all seven nurse stations until I reach the last, the one used by the head secretary. Unfortunately for me, I never got a so high up job. Still, the station seems about the same as the rest.
Only, there’s a lock on the door.
Biting my lip, I take a few steps backwards before rushing forward to slam my right shoulder against. I’m glad I didn’t use the left. I would have screamed from the pain.
Hating that I’m making so much noise, I settle on smashing the door with my foot, putting all my force into each thrust. After about ten solid kicks, all I’ve achieved is a foot shaped dent. In frustration, I whirl around and slam a foot into a drawer besides the door.
There’s a crack and the bottom drawer hits the ground.
I fall onto my knees to inspect the contents of the drawer as they go rolling, hoping for a key. A heap of bandages hit my hand along with a small torch, a lighter, hair comb and, get this, a pack of bobby-pins. Grinning, I pocket the other contents except the bobby=pins which I roll around in my hands feeling sly.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Amelia and… and Toby. We were making our way through the tunnels, tracking Jackson and Collin to locate Eliza. Feeling like an idiot, I had nothing to contribute to their planning of breaking an entry so I had wandered behind, still gripping hands with Toby, but feeling withdrawn.
That’s when Amelia announced she had wished she’d bought hairpins to use as keys. Toby had laughed at her, turning on me to ask if I to agreed she was an idiot, but she calmly pointed out that old fashioned locks still existed before I could yell at him to be kind.
Lucky for me, this is one old fashioned lock.
I’m not entirely sure how to do it, but I have plenty to use as test runs. I just hope I don’t break the lock.
Feeling like a thief, but also quite powerful, I insert the first pin, jiggling up and down. It bends this way and that way until I pull it out angrily, glaring at its ruined figure. Tossing it aside, I start on the second.
More determined this time, eventually there’s a soft click and I stumble forwards, catching myself with my hands so I don’t face plant the ground. I hiss at the pain that ripples up my left arm and roll on my side, clutching it to my chest.
Taking deep breaths, I pull myself to my feet and turn around.
I let out a scream and back up, nearly falling over again when I see the grinning face on the TV that eyes me eagerly. I’ve only seen her once, but it’d be hard to forget a women like her.
I swallow, meeting her eyes carefully. She’s still staring at me coldly and than she’s opening her mouth to talk.
“My voice goes out to my soldier, my brave and young soldiers who have fought well to reclaim my city.”
Feeling relieved, I burst out laughing. She can’t see me.
I tiptoe forward, quietly so I don’t somehow alert her of my presence as she yabbers on about how brave and courageous everyone has been in regaining the city.
The screen fits the entire left wall, hence the massive head freaking the hell out of me. I can’t see an on or off switch, but under the TV is a desk the runs the length of the wall, scattered in papers and pens that roll and flutter when I take a seat at the desk, taking note of what she’s saying in case she lets spill some important secret like her location.
The notes are all in code, symbols like arrows and dots and squares. I spend a few crucial moments trying to make sense of the gibberish, but I give up after a moment and stuff the papers into my pockets. Maybe Amelia can figure it out.
Once I’m done on the desk, I set to work on the drawers, stuffing all coded messages into my pockets along with anything that looks suspicious like flashing devices and weapons. I’m just planning on making a leave when I’m stopped by Margaret’s cool and calm voice.
“Lastly, I think it’s in my place to tell everyone that you are, in fact, quite safe in my city. The rebels have been blocked from the city and I suspect it will take them at least a week to make their way in. That gives us more than enough time to rally our forces, regroup and prepare for war. Remember, we’re fighting for a nation of equality, health and justice. These people are fighting for the opposite.”
And then the screen goes black.