The 100 (The Hundred #1)(6) by Kass Morgan

Yet while the reading was interesting, she must have dozed off at some point, because when she sat up, the circadian lights had dimmed and the living space was a jumble of unfamiliar shadows. She stood up and was about to head to her bedroom when a strange sound pierced the silence. Clarke froze. It almost sounded like screaming. She forced herself to take a deep breath. She should have known better than to read about vampires before bed.

Clarke turned around and started walking down the hallway, but then another sound rang out—a shriek that sent shivers down her spine.

Stop it, Clarke scolded herself. She’d never make it as a doctor if she let her mind play tricks on her. She was just unsettled by the unfamiliar darkness in the new flat. In the morning, everything would be back to normal. Clarke waved her palm across the sensor on her bedroom door and was about to step inside when she heard it again—an anguished moan.

Her heart thumping, Clarke spun around and walked down the long hallway that led to the lab. Instead of a retinal scanner, there was a keypad. Clarke brushed her fingers over the panel, briefly wondering if she’d be able to guess the password, then crouched down and pressed her ear to the door.

The door vibrated as another sound buzzed through Clarke’s ear. Her breath caught in her throat. That’s impossible. But when the sound came again, it was even clearer.

It wasn’t just a scream of anguish. It was a word.

“Please.”

Clarke’s fingers flew over the keypad as she entered the first thing that came to her head: Pangea. It was the code her mother used for her protected files. The screen beeped and an error message appeared. Next she entered Elysium, the name of the mythical underground city where, according to bedtime stories parents told their children, humans took refuge after the Cataclysm. Another error. Clarke tore through her memory, searching for words she’d filed away. Her fingers hovered above the keypad. Lucy. The name of the oldest hominid remains Earthborn archaeologists ever discovered. There was a series of low beeps, and the door slid open.

The lab was much bigger than she’d imagined, larger than their entire flat, and filled with rows of narrow beds like in the hospital.

Clarke’s eyes widened as they darted from one bed to another. Each contained a child. Most of the kids were lying there asleep, hooked up to various vital monitors and IV stands, though a few were propped up by pillows, fiddling with tablets in their laps. One little girl, hardly older than a toddler, sat on the floor next to her bed, playing with a ratty stuffed bear as clear liquid dripped from an IV bag into her arm.

Clarke’s brain raced for an explanation. These had to be sick children who required round-the-clock care. Maybe they were suffering from some rare disease that only her motherof y her m knew how to cure, or perhaps her father was close to inventing a new treatment and needed twenty-four-hour access. They must’ve known that Clarke would be curious, but since the illness was probably contagious, they’d lied to Clarke to keep her safe.

The same cry that Clarke had heard from the flat came again, this time much louder. She followed it to a bed on the other side of the lab.

A girl her own age—one of the oldest in the room, Clarke realized—was lying on her back, dark-blond hair fanned out on the pillow around her heart-shaped face. For a moment, she just stared at Clarke.

“Please,” she said. Her voice trembled. “Help me.”

Clarke glanced at the label on the girl’s vital monitor. SUBJECT 121. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Lilly.”

Clarke stood there awkwardly, but when Lilly scooted back on her pillows, Clarke lowered herself to sit on the bed next to her. She’d just started her medical training and hadn’t interacted with patients yet, but she knew one of the most important parts of being a doctor was bedside manner. “I’m sure you’ll get to go home soon,” she offered. “Once you’re feeling better.”

The girl pulled her knees to her chest and buried her head, saying something too muffled for Clarke to make out.

“What was that?” she asked. She glanced over her shoulder, wondering why there wasn’t a nurse or a medical apprentice covering for her parents. If something happened to one of the kids, there’d be no one to help them.

The girl raised her head but looked away from Clarke. She chewed her lip as the tears in her eyes receded, leaving a haunting emptiness in their wake.

When she finally spoke, it was in a whisper. “No one ever gets better.”

Clarke suppressed a shudder. Diseases were rare on the ship; there hadn’t been any epidemics since the last outbreak they’d quarantined on Walden. Clarke looked around the lab for something to indicate what her parents were treating, and her eyes settled on an enormous screen on the far wall. Data flashed across it, forming a large graph. Subject 32. Age 7. Day 189. 3.4 Gy. Red count. White count. Respiration. Subject 33. Age 11. Day 298. 6 Gy. Red count. White count. Respiration.

At first Clarke thought nothing of the data. It made perfect sense for her parents to monitor the vitals of the sick children in their care. Except that Gy had nothing to do with vital signs. A Gray was a measure of radiation, a fact she well knew as her parents had been investigating the effects of radiation exposure for years, part of the ongoing task to determine when it’d be safe for humans to return to Earth.

Clarke’s gaze settled on Lilly’s pale face as a chilling realization slithered out of a dark place in the back of Clarke’s mind. She tried to force it back, but it coiled around her denial, suffocating all thoughts except a truth so horrifying, she almost gagged.

Her parents’ research was no longer limited to cell cultures. They’d moved onto human trials.

Her mother and father weren’t curing these children. They were killing them.

They’d landed in some kind of clearing, an L-shaped space surrounded by trees.

There weren’t many serious injuries, but there were enough to keep Clarke busy. For nearly an hour, she used torn jacket sleeves and pant legs as makeshift tourniquets, and ordered the few people with broken bones to lie still until she found a way to fashion splints. Their supplies were scattered across the grass, but although she’d sent multiple people to search for the medicine chest, it hadn’t been recovered.

The battered dropship was at the short end of the clearing, and for the first fifteen minutes, the passengers had clustered around the smoldering wreckage, too scared and stunned to move more than a few shaky steps. But now they’d started milling around. Clarke hadn’t spotted Thalia, or Wells, either, although she wasn’t sure whether that made her more anxious or relieved. Maybe he was off with Glass. Clarke hadn’t seen her on the dropship, but she had to be here somewhere.

“How does that feel?” Clarke asked, returning her attention to wrapping the swollen ankle of a pretty, wide-eyed girl with a frayed red ribbon in her dark hair.

“Better,” she said, wiping her nose with her hand, unintentionally smearing blood from the cut on her face. Clarke had to find real bandages and antiseptic. They were all being exposed to germs their bodies had never encountered, and the risk of infection was high.

“I’ll be right back.” Clarke flashed her a quick smile and rose to her feet. If the medicine chest wasn’t in the clearing, that meant it was probably still in the dropship. She hurried back to the still-smoking wreck, walking around the perimeter as she searched for the safest way to get back inside. Clarke reached the back of the ship, which was just a few meters from the tree line. She shivered. The trees grew so closely together on this side of the clearing, their leaves blocked most of the light, casting intricate shadows on the ground that scattered when the wind blew.

Her eyes narrowed as they focused on something that didn’t move. It wasn’t a shadow.

A girl was lying on the ground, nestled against the roots of a tree. She must have been thrown out of the back of the dropship during the landing. Clarke lurched forward, and felt a sob form in her throat as she recognized the girl’s short, curly hair and the smattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose. Thalia.

Clarke hurried over and knelt beside her. Blood was gushing from a wound on the side of her ribs, staining the grass beneath her dark red, as if the earth itself were bleeding. Thalia was breathing, but her gasps were labored and shallow. “It’s going to be okay,” Clarke whispered, grabbing on to her friend’s limp hand as the wind rustled above them. “I swear, Thalia, it’s all going to be okay.” It sounded more like a prayer than a reassurance, although she wasn’t sure who she was praying to. Humans had abandoned Earth during its darkest hour. It wouldn’t care how many died trying to return.

CHAPTER 6

Wells

Wells shivered in the late afternoon chill. In the few hours since they’d landed, the air had grown colder. He moved closer to the bonfire, ignoring the snide glances of the Arcadian boys on either side of him. Every night he’d spent in Confinement, he’d fallen asleep dreaming about arriving on Earth with Clarke. But instead of holding her hand while they gazed at the planet in wonder, he’d spent the day sorting through burned supplies and trying to forget the expression that crossed Clarke’s face when she spotted him. He hadn’t expected her to throw her arms around him, but nothing could’ve prepared him for the look of pure loathing in her eyes.

“Think your father kicked the bucket already?” a Walden boy a few years younger than Wells asked as the kids around him snickered. Wells’s chest tightened, but he forced himself to stay calm. He could take one or two of the little punks without breaking a sweat. He’d been the undisputed champion of the hand-to-hand combat course during officer training. But there was only one of him and ninety-five of them—ninety-six if you counted Clarke, who was arguably less of a Wells fan than anyone on the planet at the moment.

As they’d loaded onto the dropship, he’d been dismayed not to see Glass there. To the shock of everyone on Phoenix, Glass had been Confined not long after Clarke, though no matter how many times he pressed his father, Wells had never discovered what she’d done. He wished he knew why she hadn’t been selected for the mission. Although he tried to convince himself that she could’ve been pardoned, it was far more likely that she was still in Confinement, counting down the days until her fast-approaching eighteenth birthday. The thought made his stomach twist.

“I wonder if Chancellor Junior thinks he gets first dibs on all the food?” asked an Arcadian boy whose pockets were bulging with nutrition packs he’d collected during the mad scramble after the crash. From what Wells could see, it looked like they’d been sent down with less than a month’s worth of food, which would disappear quickly if people kept pocketing everything they found. But that couldn’t be possible—there had to be more in a container somewhere. They would come across it once they finished sorting through the wreckage.

“Or if he expects us to make his bed for him.” A petite girl with a scar on her forehead smirked.

Wells ignored them, looking up at the endless stretch of deep-blue sky. It really was astonishing. Even though he’d seen photographs, he had never imagined the color would be quite so vivid. It was strange to think that a blanket of blue—made of nothing more substantial than nitrogen crystals and refracted light—separated him from the sea of stars and the only world he’d ever known. He felt his chest ache for the three kids who hadn’t survived long enough to see these sights. Their bodies lay on the other side of the dropship.

“Beds?” a boy said with a snort. “You tell me where we’ll find a bed in this place.”

“So where the hell are we supposed to sleep?” the girl with the scar asked, looking around the clearing as if she expected sleeping quarters to magically appear.

Wells cleared his throat. “Our supplies included tents. We just need to finish sorting through the containers and collect all the pieces. In the meantime, we should send a few scouts to look for water so we know where to set up camp.”