Sparks Rise

Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken Page A

Book: Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alexandra Bracken
open behind me and I straighten, shifting to allow the person in. Gray scrubs, reddish-brown hair—it’s the guy from the landing, the one who’d been arguing with Olsen. When he turns to shut the door, he takes a moment to collect himself and clear the anger clouding his expression. When he faces the girl again, he’s not smiling, but he no longer looks like he wants to rip someone’s head off.
    The nurse steps past me to get to the computer. My eyes dart down to the keyboard as he types his password: Martin09! I track his progress as he clicks through several different programs and screens to bring up the girl’s file. Chelsea. Her name is Chelsea.
    “How are you feeling? The cold giving you any trouble?” he asks, and, to my surprise, there’s no malice or irony coating the questions. The girl relaxed the moment she saw him and is no longer trying to wring her hands raw. She shakes her head, keeping her eyes on the toes of her shoes.
    Right. No eye contact.
    The nurse reaches up into the cabinet on the wall and unlocks it. Inside are rows upon rows of bottles and jars. I shift my gaze back to the ceiling as he turns around and fills a paper cup with water from the sink. Chelsea accepts it along with two pills.
    He takes a long, thin piece of latex and ties it around the girl’s arm. A tourniquet. He’s drawing blood. Only, even when he gets a grip on her arm, she’s trembling so hard he’s struggling to get the needle in.
    “You have to stop shaking,” he says.
    Her gaze slides over to me before jerking back to the nurse’s face. Her bottom lip is caught between her teeth, bloodless with how hard she’s biting it. A look of understanding breaks across the man’s face. The way the girl clutches the examination table makes me feel like I’m wearing a disgusting Halloween mask I can never take off.
    Oh, I think.
    “Oh,” he says. To his credit, it only takes him a second to steel his nerves and turn toward me with that same calm face. For the first time I see the name on his ID tag: R. Dunn. “Step out for a moment.”
    I don’t release the breath I’m holding until I’m in the hall again, and the door is shut behind me. The rumble of his voice starts up again. I press my hands flat against the wall behind me, turning my face away. I don’t want to hear it. For some reason, it feels like a rejection—it feels like I’ve been stung, and I’m swelling with toxic resentment.
    The day marches on with half my thoughts on the wooden structure behind the Mess, and the other half on monitoring the Infirmary’s hallway. I’m barely listening to a sound track of status updates in my earpiece and nearly miss a request aimed at me.
    Sam isn’t in the Factory when I go to pull one of the girls there so she can get a hit from her asthma inhaler. She isn’t in the Mess during the midday meal. If it hadn’t been for Tildon, I would have assumed that they’d just forgotten about her, or stretched her punishment out another night to drive home their point with a wrecking ball instead of a hammer. Has she eaten anything? Did they bring her water, at least? I come up with a thousand different ways I can ask Olsen about her without actually asking, but none of them work. They all make me seem like I have a heart.
    Focus. Computer. Then Sam. I just have to be fast.
    I bring each kid I go to collect for their treatment down to the nurse in that same room, counting the minutes it takes for him to finish with them. In those minutes, I look for cameras. In the hallway. Through the doors that swing open. In the room directly across from where I’m standing I have seen not one, but two separate pairings of female nurse and male PSF disappear inside of it. I have heard the door lock behind them. And I have pretended not to notice how winded they always seem when they come out again a short time later. Whatever happens in that room is not being monitored, clearly.
    I bring the last kid, 2231, a Green boy, in, open the

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