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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 3 (v.1) - Babysitting

Submitted: October 19, 2017

Reads: 141

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Submitted: October 19, 2017

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I’m at least grateful Dr. Harris didn’t lie. It was uncomfortable, and she never looked at me as more than a project, but she never was cruel. He was never allowed to leave Dr. Harris’ office, she made sure to inform him that the door was always locked. But, he was fed and there was a bathroom. God knows they could’ve been worse, and maybe he deserved worse. He wished she would explain why he was there, beyond the vague answer of ‘testing’. He can’t remember anything past getting shot, after the explosion. He sees jack almost everyday, which is a nice reprieve from Dr. Harris’ ever-chipper attitude, and constant obfuscation. At first, she only came in to help Harris with… whatever they do, but there must have been a skirmish between the Militant forces and the rebels, because Harris got a lot busier a few days into testing, and he spent a lot more time alone, and not being tested on. After that, Jack got assigned to check his vitals twice a day, instead of Harris. She still tried to oversee in any way she could.

“Why doesn’t she leave you alone?” he asked one day, quietly, while Harris was on the other side of the room. She shrugged in response. Ruben didn’t push the issue, he didn’t want Jack to get mad. On a slower day, while Harris was drawing some blood, he did push.

“Why do you supervise Jack so closely?” She smiled, and for a few minutes, didn’t answer the question. After taking the vials of blood and putting them away, she answered.

“Jacklyn is an exceptional student. She learns quickly, rarely makes stupid mistakes, and, within these walls, I have complete confidence in her.” And that was that.

Today though, nobody came to check Ruben. He looks up at the clock. 1:37. It seems like I’ve checked the clock every five minutes for an hour. He gets up out of the bed and walks to the door. I could try to leave, see what’s going on? Ruben shakes his head, he can’t do that. He sits back on the bed, knowing that, eventually, he’d have to do something if they don’t.

I’ll give Harris and Jack till 5, then- then we’ll see what’s happening.

 

About an hour passed- not that he was obsessively watching the clock again- before anything happened. Ruben took to sitting in front of the door, so he could listen for any footsteps. He had just started to zone out when he got pushed roughly by the door.

Ruben quickly get to his feet, embarrassed at having been on the floor and caught unexpectedly. Dr. Harris is at the door, an eyebrow quirked, but she doesn’t say anything. Adam follows behind her, looking as serious as ever. Adam quietly closes the door behind them. Harris quickly goes to sit at her desk, and Adam stays by the door, eyeing me carefully. He wants to ask what’s happening, but- I’ve got this feeling in my stomach, like I’m about to be in some deep shit. The door opens again, and Ruben hears him before he sees him.

“Imara, we might have to get you out before you can get everything together, so make sure you pack what you absolutely need to continue first.”

Grayson?

“Adam, help her as much as you can. We’re behind as is.”

Why is he here, of all places? Why’s he… giving… orders? What the fuck?

“Ruben, let’s take a walk” He says to me. It almost doesn’t register in Ruben’s mind that he’s being addressed, until his arm is taken hold of and he is unceremoniously dragged into the hallway.

He follows as instructed, not really sure which part of this he should be questioning. Grayson lets go of him after a bit, and folds his hands behind his back, looking as militant as Ruben did before. He turns to look at Ruben, carefully eyeing him. Grayson’s jaw is set, and Ruben can almost hear his teeth grinding. Grayson gives a small sigh, then his fist connects with Ruben’s jaw.

He ends up on the floor, totally unprepared to defend himself.

“What the fuck?” he says, not really asking why, just angry.

“Hey, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but we’re in the middle of a fucking civil war? And you chose the wrong side. So, that’s for being an asshole.” He holds out a hand to help him back up. After a moment, he concedes, and take his hand. Grayson folds his hands behind himself again, posture just as stoic as before, but he’s smiling at Ruben now.

“Don’t get the wrong idea Ruben, I’m still pissed at you. I’m just glad you’re not in the fight anymore.”

“Funny way of showing it.” he says, wiping some blood that’s started running from his split lip. Grayson shrugs in response.

“Good to see you haven’t changed, Gray” he says with a huff.

“You too, Ruben.” He says with a short laugh. He gestures back towards Harris’ office, and they walk back together.

A soon as they walk back through the doors, Adam is pulling Grayson aside to talk to him. Both of them seem very worried, but they’re being careful not to be obvious about what they’re discussing. Harris is still going through medical files, so Ruben’s not sure if he should ask her what’s going on. He debates in his head what he should do. But the worst thing she can do is not tell me, right? So he walks over to her desk.

“So…” he says, trying to be casual, “what’s, uh, what’s going on?” Harris looks up from her files for a moment, and gives him a sad smile.

“We’re evacuating the hospital.” She sighs heavily. “Somehow, they found out we have a cell here.”

“How do you know that?” She laughs softly at his question.

“You may have passed the commander’s test, but you still have a long way to go.”

“Test?” W-”

I AM DOING THE BEST I CAN!” Grayson shouts, before walking out of the room and slamming the door behind him. Adam remains stone faced, and after a moment, goes to follow him. Ruben cocks an eyebrow and look at Harris. She sighs again.

“I don’t know if Jack told you,” she says, going back to her work, “but the Commander was scheduled to come today. Routine, you understand. But, then he comes and says we need to uproot this cell and move. And- well, I shouldn’t tell you this, but this is one of our largest, and best-established cells. It won’t be easy to move. We’ve been here for a long time.”

If he didn’t know any better, he’d say her voice cracked at that last bit. Ruben chews his lip, not sure what to say to try and make her feel better. What could I say? Aren’t I the enemy?

“Do you- do you want any help? Is there something that I could do to make this easier for you?”

“I'm afraid there isn’t, but thank you.”

He nods curtly in response. Hi fiddles with the hem of his shirt, not sure of what to do with himself, so he goes and sits in the chair that’s next to what’s been his bed since Harris started testing on him. His stomach growls loudly, and he groans inwardly, remembering that he hasn’t eaten today yet. He can hear Grayson and Adam arguing loudly outside the door. Well, Grayson is being loud, like he always is. He never was able to discuss anything serious without yelling. He slouches forward in the chair, elbows rested on his knees, and picks at the skin around his nails. He can't ignore the yelling, though. Never been able to.

The door opens again, and Adam comes in. Grayson is nowhere in sight.

“Ruben, follow me. I’m gonna bring you back downstairs.” Adam says.

“Why?”

“We can’t evacuate everyone at once, so it’s safer to stay in the basement for now. Just in case.” Adam’s face doesn’t show any worry to Ruben, but for a moment, his eyes flash something other than the cool attitude Adam usually gives off.

“Alright.”

They walk through the halls of the hospital swiftly, and Ruben can feel the sense of urgency. People are rushing around, not running, but the fear is palpable anyway. He sees a few boys that couldn’t be older than fifteen helping some of the wounded, and even a few children, into the basement. Ruben’s own daughter comes to mind, and his chest feels tight.

Adam takes him into the basement, but stops him at the bottom of the stairs.

“Hold on, we’re waiting for someone.” Adam says. Reuben is about to ask who when someone comes and clasps their hands on their shoulders.

“Hi Jack.” Adam says, not turning around.

“Thought I woulda got you this time. Ah well.” She says with an exaggerated sigh. Adam turns to Ruben.

“Jack’s gonna be babysitting you ‘till this is all over, ok?” Adam says.

“You’re not gonna stay down here?” Ruben asks, surprised.

“Disappointed?” Adam says, eyebrow raised and smirking.

“What? It-didn’t you just say it’s safer down here?” Ruben says, rubbing the back of his neck. Adam drops the smile.

“I’m Regent of this cell. I can’t hide from this, I’ve got to help my people.” He nods at Jack. “Good luck.” Adam quickly turns away and goes back upstairs. Ruben watches him go, then turns to Jack.

“What can he even do up there? Isn’t it better to protect your high-ranking officers instead of letting them go get themselves killed?” He says.

“That’s what makes us different from the Militants, Ruben.”

Jack puts a hand on his shoulder.

“Come on, I’ve got work to do down here, so you can’t just stand around and brood.” Ruben barks a laugh, and follows her deeper into the basement. Jack brings him to what looks like used to be a community room. A few tables are occupied in the center of the room, supplies are being brought in and managed by the people at the tables. It looks like a lot of the wounded were brought here, dozens of them are set up in cots. People are milling about, some seem to be doctors or nurses, others may be family members. A few young children sit next to cots. Ruben tries not to look at them. There’s some general conversation going on throughout the room, but otherwise, it’s very quiet for the amount of people in the room. Jack sits him down at one of the less crowded tables.

“I need to get to work in here, promise me you won’t do anything stupid?”

“I promise”

“Ok good, I was worried I’d have to kill you.” She says, smirking as she walks away to tend patients. After a few minutes, she comes back and thrusts a paper bag into Ruben’s hands.

“Forgot to feed you today, didn’t we,” She says, sighing. Ruben looks in the bag in his hands.

“Thanks Jack.” He says, stomach growling again at the sight of food. She pats him on the shoulder and walks away again. He eats slowly, trying to make it last.

Rubin sits quietly, observing the people at work around him. Some of them seem to take notice of him, too. Some of them seem to know who he is. He shifts uncomfortably under the weight of their stares, but doesn’t try to leave. He starts picking at the skin around his nails again.

Rubin is able to ignore the attention he’s getting for a while, but it seems like word that a Militant is among them is spreading quickly among hushed whispers. He can feel a bead of sweat roll down his face, and his heart rate has picked up, almost imperceptible. He shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath. When he opens them, he sees a young girl peeking out the door of the common room. She couldn’t be older than four. Nobody sees this unattended child possibly putting herself in danger in a doomed hospital. They all see me though, he thinks, rolling his eyes. He looks back behind him to see what Jack is doing, and when he turns back around, the girl is gone.

“Wait-” He says to himself. He scans the room, but he can’t see her anywhere. It’s not safe out there. He looks at Jack again. This isn’t stupid, he thinks getting up. People notice his movement, but Jack isn’t one of them. He walks out into the hallway.

Ruben quickly walks back to the stairs leading up to the first floor.

“She wouldn’t go here,” he says to himself. Someone up there would’ve noticed a kid running around. He turns back around to go further into the basement. He’s not entirely sure of the layout, so he tries to keep tabs on which way he’s gone. Fortunately, he finds her rather quickly, looking around an old storage room. There isn’t really anything in there, it’s been emptied out. Stone walls, metal shelves with old, empty boxes.

“Hey,” Ruben says, trying to get her attention. She looks up at him, then immediately goes back to looking at an box on a shelf. He squats down next to her and looks at the box too. The girl puts her hand in her mouth and starts sucking on her fingers. Ruben’s chest feels tight again.

“Hey,” He says again, “Whatcha doing?” She doesn’t reply

“Y’know, it’s not safe in here. You should come back with me, back where everyone else is.” Rubin offers her a soft smile.

“I don wan to” The girl says around the fingers in her mouth.

“Why not?” He says. The girl shrugs in response. Ruben plops down on the floor next to her.

“What’s so special about that box?”

The girl shrugs again. Ruben nods slowly, as if he’s really thinking about her answer.

“You know,” he starts, hoping this will get her to listen to him, “I have a daughter that’s about your age. Her name is Julia. What’s your name?” She looks up at him and takes the fingers out of her mouth.

“M’names Phillipa.” She says.

“Well , it’s nice to meet you, Phillipa. My name’s Ruben.” Ruben sticks out a hand for her to shake, and she looks at it a second before sticking her saliva-covered hand in his.

Shoulda seen that coming.

“So Phillipa, what’re doing here all by yourself? Don’t you want to be around everyone else?” She shakes her head.

“M’dad’s busy all the time. Wanted to find him.” She sticks her hand back in her mouth.

“My brother is the same way. It gets really boring doesn’t it?” Ruben says. She nods in agreement.

“But,” he continues, “I’m sure I can help you find him. And at least it won’t be so boring with two of us! So come on, let’s go back. I’m sure he’ll be there.”

Phillipa mumbles something unintelligible with her fingers still in her mouth, but offers her free hand for Ruben to take. Ruben smiles wide, and takes her hand in his. He leads her back to the common room, taking a slow pace as not to rush her. When they reach the end of the hallway that the common room is in, Ruben hears some raised voices. He furrows his brow, and is about to pick up the pace, but Phillipa wraps her arm around his leg. She looks up at him with wide eyes. Ruben looks back down the hallway, and sees Jack storm out of the room, arms crossed. He sees her take a breath, and she turns down the hallway toward him. Her eyes go wide when she sees him standing there. , he thinks as she practically sprints toward him

“Where the hell did you go?” She says through gritted teeth. She’s about to start yelling, but Phillipa looks out from behind his legs, and she pauses. Jack raises an eyebrow.

“She wandered off” He says, putting a hand on her protectively. Jack pinches the bridge of her nose, obviously still irritated but doesn't berate him.

“People were scared,” she says, “they know who you are, and you just disappeared. And at a time like this?” She doesn't continue.

“I just…” He starts

“No, I get it. Don't worry about them.” She says. They start to walk back down the hallway as a group, when they hear more shouting.

“I swear once they start they-” she stops abruptly.

Adam has just rounded the corner, slipping because of how fast he's running.

“DUCK AND C-” The first explosion cuts him off. The ceiling in between them collapses, yelling fills the air with the sound of subsequent explosions. Ruben grabs Phillipa and picks her up, holding her to his chest, hand over her head protectively. In a blind panic, Ruben runs back in the direction he a Phillipa came from. Jack shouts something at him, inaudible over the din. She runs after him.

Shit, shit, shit, where am I going to go? He keeps a calm face, but the question still stands. He rounds a corner, heart racing, and Jack close behind. It sounds as though the bombings have stopped for the moment, but they could start again at any time.

“Do you even know where you’re going?” Jack yells. Ruben shakes his head. She groans at him.

“We are right under the East wing right now. If any part of this pace is going to collapse, it’s right fucking here!”

“I thought you said it was destroyed?” He looks around pointedly, “This doesn't look destroyed.”

“Most of the basement is intact, but barely. Dumbass.” She runs a hand through her hair. Ruben starts walking again.  Phillipa shifts in Ruben’s arms, wiping her face on his shirt.  The storage room Phillipa was in is close by, they could probably hide there. The metal shelves could fit her, he thinks, absentmindedly rubbing circles in her back. Shield her from debri, but if a bomb hits too close…

He shakes his head, and quickly finds the storage room again. Jack stops protesting, but she keeps her lips pursed. He crouches down to let Phillipa stand on her own feet, but she clings to his neck and he can hear her say a muffled ‘no’ into his shirt. He sighs, but sits back so she doesn’t have to let go of him. Jack sits down next to them. Together, they sit huddled in the dark, and the sound of the next round of bombings starts

 


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