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The Mental Ward - Contact with Base (17)

      Emery craned her neck, searching for a safe landing place, as she dragged Beth down the hall.  The girl was still whimpering, her arm over her face.
      They passed Beastly's Box and turned left down an auxiliary hall.  "I have to get them some food and water," Emery murmured.
     A door hung open on their right.  Inside was a table, an exam bed, and a light.  Emery led Beth inside and sat the girl down on the bed.  "Wait here."
     "Tell a story about green grass and red flowers and tall, tall columns -- like home." Beth begged, shifting her shoulders from side to side.
     "Shhh.  I'll be right back."
     Emery fairly flew down the hallway.  From the supply closet, she found clean cups.  She took a handful to the bathroom and filled them with water.  They sloshed over her dress as she hurried back to the Box, but she didn't slow down.  She opened the tiny feed slot in the locked door.
     "I have water," she whispered.
     "Bless you!  Everybody is waking up now, and we are parched."  Hands reached out, taking the water from Emery.
      "Food is on its way."  Emery scrambled back up the hallway.  There was no sound coming from the exam room where Beth sat, but Emery was afraid to leave her for too long.
     Emery burst into the office, gathering several tins of food.  But at the door, she paused, looking back at the intercom on the wall.  Impulsively, she set the food down, ran to the wall, and pushed the button.  "Hello?"
       For a moment, nothing was heard.
       Then..."Hey!  We got her again!  Miss Clayton?"
     "We're okay," Emery said.  "There are a bunch of staff members hiding in the room that was once Beastly's.  I think everyone is conscious and stable."
     "Wonderful, sweetheart.  Now we need you to do something for us.  We need you to find the control box."
      "The control...?" Emery's words faded as she realized what they needed.
     "This asylum is locked down.  Every window, every door, every vent and pipe.  We can't get in unless we have that box or we use an explosive."
     Another voice interrupted.  "Amherst!  What you are asking that young lady to do is dangerous!  Don't you realize there is a lunatic on the loose in there?"  The voice spoke louder: "Miss Clayton?  Just stay hidden.  We'll find a way in."
      "With all due respect, we've tried that.  There's no way in.  Now unless you want to turn this asylum into a tomb for an untold number of people..."
     Emery twisted away from the intercom and scanned the room.  Where would somebody hide such a thing?
     In her mind, Emery suddenly heard Beth's voice: Want to see what I got? And her eyes dropped to the sheet under the desk.
     "I can find it."  The confidence in Emery's voice surprised her.  "I'll beep through to you again soon.  Don't call me.  I have to go now."
     "God be with you, Emery!" The voice that burst through at the last minute was familiar, even through the static.
      Emery's heart caught like a hiccup and her confidence melted. She spun back to the intercom.  "Mom!" she cried, throwing both hands against the intercom speaker as if she could touch her mother through it.
     But the intercom was silent.  The team on the other end was honoring her request to wait for her next call.  Tears spilled over Emery's cheeks.  Was her whole family out there, waiting for her?  Praying for her?
     This had been the longest day ever.  And Emery wanted nothing more than to throw herself into her mother's arms and cry.  She wanted to feel the rough hands brushing over her hair, soothing her.  She wanted to be a little girl again, with no job, no asylum, and no...
     Emery pushed away from the intercom.  She couldn't say she wanted no Beth.  Beth needed her...even more than Emery needed her mother.
     And her mother was praying for her.  Emery was sure of it.
     "I can do all things," Emery whispered, "through Christ who strengthens me."  She wiped her tears away with a little laugh.  "Mom won't even recognize me any more -- she always called me her timid one.  And look at me now."
     Emery scooped up the tins of food and hastened away to deliver them to the Box.  She was beginning to feel uneasy about Beth.


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