On the third floor of the Compound orphanage, a high, keening wail woke Lucy. Her feet hit the floor before her head left her pillow. Without thinking, she scrambled upright, shoved her feet into her fuzzy slippers, and grabbed her robe. The wail continued to rise and fall as Lucy fumbled her way out of her room and down the hall to the boys’ rooms.
U’Kee stood in the middle of the hall staring down at the wailing Alan on the floor. “We’d been playing cards and just went to bed when I heard someone in the hall. Major Michael was doing a check on us because the orphanage in Sylvana was fire bombed. I guess Alan heard the major and me talking.”
The gorge rose up in Lucy’s throat, but she put aside her own reaction to the news of a bombing to deal with Alan, who sat on the floor outside his room wailing and throwing his torso and head against the hall wall.
Lucy grabbed his shoulder. “Alan, it’s okay. We’re safe. Please Alan, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Alan ripped himself loose from her grip as he threw himself backward against the wall.
Lucy looked up at U’Kee, who still seemed frozen in place, his face unreadable as he just stared at Alan. “Get Medic Kai. I think Alan has cut open the back of his head, and this meltdown isn’t going to stop without help.”
U’Kee turned and ran, thankful for something to do that took him away from Alan’s screams.
Backup arrived immediately in the form of Lizzie. The big white dog crawled into Alan’s lap stopping the forward motion of his rocking, thus easing the force with which he could hit the wall.
As Alan threw himself backward, Lucy tried to cushion his head with her hand, but his skull hit it so hard she yanked her hand back and held her wrist as pain shot up her arm. She wondered if her hand was broken.
“I’ll get his blankets and pillow.” Nicole had arrived and darted into Alan’s room to retrieve his bedding.
Lizzie, Pooh and Thomas, the three big orphanage dogs, had been trained for therapy. Pooh loped down the hall, followed by some of his human orphan family. He spread his weight over Alan’s legs while his sister sat up and leaned heavily on Alan’s chest.
Martha knelt on Alan’s other side. “It’s okay, Alan. We’re all here. We’re safe. Just wrap your arms around Lizzie. Give Lizzy a hug. That’s right. Good job. Lizzie loves you. Hold her tight.”
Nicole and Lucy managed to stuff Alan’s blankets and pillows behind him to protect his head.
Subdued by the big dogs and somewhat comforted, Alan’s rocking slowed, but he continued his high-pitched screams.
The third dog, Thomas, arrived, inspected his siblings efforts, and carefully settled himself on Alan between his litter-mates. Lizzy shifted her weight again and started licking at Alan’s tears.
Lucy looked around at the crowd of kids from all the houses. Most of them were crying. “Does anybody know what happened in Sylvana? Are the children okay? Who’s hurt?”
“They were fire bombed. What do you expect?” Miranda screamed back. “Don’t you ever think, Lucy? They’re probably all dead. You’re so stupid. Those protesters will be after us next.” She broke down again in loud sobs.
Lucy stood and glared at Miranda. “Stop with the weeping, now. The kids at Sylvana could be fine. We were firebombed once, and we were fine.”
U’Kee and Kai arrived at a full-out run with Troy, Lizzie’s brother trained for security, loping beside them. Troy stood and wagged his tail at his siblings while Kai dropped to the floor beside Alan. “U’Kee, hold his arm for me. Dogs, hold him still.” He swabbed Alan’s arm then inserted a needle. Alan continued to scream and tried to hug Lizzy with both arms.
Lucy asked, “Kai, do you know anything?”
Kai removed the needle and rubbed Alan’s arm. “No, we passed two security agents in the hall. They didn’t know anything except they’d been ordered to their posts. What set Alan off?”
A chorus of voices answered Kai with conflicting information. Alan’s wail fell to a low moan, and he slumped sideways.
Lucy massaged her sore hand. “Kai, I think Alan may have cut his head open hitting it on the wall.” She glanced around at the hall full of whispering and crying youths. “I think we need to know what’s happened. I’m going to the president’s office.”
“You can’t go outside,” U’Kee said. “those protestors in the park will attack you and the building is on lockdown.”
“I’ll go through the attics.” Lucy patted Alan and said to the dog, “Good girl, Lizzy. Stay with Alan.” She stood.
The rest of the orphans fell silent. The thought of walking through the dark Compound at night sent shivers down everybody’s spine. Rats lived in the basements and scurried through deserted halls. Spiders and occasionally bats lived in the attics. The children feared fugitives, thieves, or squatters lived among the maze of unused rooms and dungeons.
Lucy grabbed Alan’s flashlight from his room. “Troy, take me to President Jake.” She set off toward the stairs with Troy at her side.