Sparks Rise

Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken

Book: Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alexandra Bracken
walk-through, and, from what I can tell, I didn’t miss much. The smell of it is like every dentist’s and doctor’s office—rubber, antiseptic, fake lemon. The ground floor’s checkered tile is half hidden by the stacks of boxes, plastic crates, and piles of what almost look like curtain rods. It’s not anything alarming, but the girl beside me stops dead and stiffens as she takes it all in.
    They don’t know they’re leaving here, I think. Of course not. They’ll just be woken up in the middle of the night and marched out. They won’t even be told they’re never coming back, I’ll bet. They’ll always fear the possibility.
    Still, I have orders. I turn toward the staircase as the sheet on my clipboard instructs. She drags her feet at first, pulling back against my grip before she remembers. She’s staring up at the second floor, but we’re going to the basement and she doesn’t ease up on the resistance until she realizes that fact for herself. I look between her and the first few steps leading up, and wonder what the hell is up there to provoke that immediate, unconscious response—to turn her so inside out with dread she’d be willing to challenge a Red, even for a second.
    I tug her forward, down the steps, feeling like the uncaring asshole she must think I am. The closer we get to the small landing, the easier my ears can detect the voices whispering there. We take the two of them by surprise—and then I’m caught by the same thing. Olsen is standing in the corner with a younger guy, no more than thirty, decked out in gray scrubs. His ID badge is swinging from where it’s pinned on his pocket as he gestures harshly toward the PSF, his face marred with angry lines. “—is not going to make it if you don’t help me—”
    Olsen holds out her hand, silencing him as we come fully into view. I wait for her permission, a nod, to squeeze past them with the girl, but my ears are straining the whole time, trying to catch her words when she speaks again. “Handle you’ll be okay...again...”
    The basement of the building mirrors the structure of the first level: it’s T-shaped, one long hall running horizontally—this one packed with expensive-looking medical machines—the other, with a series of doors, intersecting it. The sheet tells me to bring each kid to office number twelve, which seems to be at the other end of the hall. Small gift. It lets me glance inside the rooms that have been left open, assess what’s still left inside. Shelves, filing cabinets, more than one computer.
    I bump shoulders with a PSF hauling a stack of boxes in his arms, but he’s concentrating too hard on not dropping them to level me with a cutting remark or hit. I draw the girl over to the side to make way for more uniforms and boxes, and we narrowly avoid colliding with two women in gray scrubs. Nurses, I think. They’re weaving in and out of all of us, shouting, “Coming through!” with what looks like bags of blood in their hands.
    I glance back, alarmed, just as the first door on the right opens and two men step out, allowing the nurses inside the room. One is O’Ryan, rubbing his buzzed hair, the other is in a white coat. We reach office twelve before their words can carry down the echoing hallway, but I feel unsettled as I guide the girl inside and kick the stool over so she can climb up onto the metal examination table. Two sharp, dark thoughts try to connect to one another, and then a third, but I force them out. I need to be focused on finding a way back into the kennel today. I have to make sure she’s okay.
    I position myself by the door, near the small counter with its jars of cotton balls and ear swabs. I let my hand rest on the flat surface, fingers inching over to the computer’s mouse. At the smallest touch, the dark screen erupts with light. It’s on, I think, but the screen it brings up is locked and the only thing on it is a space for entering a password.
    The door swings

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