Sirens blared throughout the compound. Siobhan opened one eye, then let it drift shut again. Green alert. Not her territory.
The walls shook as boots thundered about. Men liked to run. Had the alert been blue, she might have run a little too, but only to make her mum happy. It wasn’t that she didn’t need to hurry as much as the rest of them. She just had something the rest of them didn’t.
An irregular thud prompted her to open her eye again. Finn had tripped, just inside her field of vision. He was already scrambling to his feet, one arm in the sleeve of his dust jacket. She opened her other eye, but stayed where she was, curled up on the ratty brown sofa. “Haste makes waste.”
“Stuff it. Where’s my gear?”
She waved a lazy arm toward the lockers. “Where else would it be?”
He clumped over to his locker, jamming his other arm into the appropriate sleeve. This must have been a good day. Usually, his jacket went on backwards at least twice before he managed to right it. “I keep it in my room.”
“That’s a stupid place to put it when you’ve got a locker right here.”
But he didn’t hear her. He had already yanked his rucksack out of the locker and slammed it shut. He had to come back for his headset, but by the time he did, Siobhan had rolled over. As far as Finn was concerned, the only thing that Siobhan had that he didn’t was a pair of breasts.
The sirens wouldn’t calm for another few minutes. They’d be gone before the lights switched off. Another girl might have whined and moaned to match the wailing sirens. Maybe even smothered herself to stop the lights slicing through her eyelids. Siobhan had lived with the alerts since she was a baby. They were like a lullaby.
The only alerts that would wrest her from her napping place were blue and red. The latter meant a direct attack on the compound. Those were rare, but the threat was enough to justify the extra bulb.
Droning hums added themselves to the alert. Siobhan stood before she had quite left the sofa behind. A blue alert. Blue meant that it was time for her to work.
She pulled her hat off and dropped it onto the floor as she left the room. No hats in the op room. One of mum’s many rules. As Siobhan made her way to the op room, she braided her hair. Strands of brown stuck out like thorns from a squashed bush, but “out of her face” was the only requirement.
The rusty sink beckoned to her just inside the op room. Mum was already there, scrubbed pristine, standing erect. Like a statue, made of ruddy stone. Siobhan nodded a professional greeting and set about washing her hands.
The guys would be out in the sandy wastes, seeking out one of their clients in distress. She and mum had the more immediate work.
“What do we have?”
After a quick critical scan, Mum opened the door. A truck had already parked, haphazardly. Three burly men and women carried a writhing man on an improvised stretcher. “Call said a panel fell on his leg.”
Siobhan stood at her place by the op table. If the leg was crushed, they might have to amputate. But in all the time she had seen her mum work, the woman had never lost a leg. One day, Siobhan hoped she could hold to the same reputation.
What Siobhan had was dignity.