“Nurse Grey”, the voice over the tannoy says, “Nurse Grey to neonatal ward.”

Click clack click clack click clack.

Late, again.

Something about these assessments sets her on edge.

It’s not that she doesn’t agree with them. No, no, no. No one could be more patriotic than her; she’s eighth in the family to serve the state. And with such pride.

It’s just that it takes some getting used to.

All those cots laid out in neat rows like vegetable patches, the babies like fat purple cabbages waiting to be plucked.

Doctors prowl up and down, nurses clatter alongside, and the babies wail, hum, gurgle, burble and moan, wrapped up in their neat uniforms of white towelling.

What an honour. To be weighing and prodding each warm little papoose, ushering it into the first stage of a glorious career, helping choose the next generation to represent our republic.

As the sweat glazes her upper lip, and her palms prickle with heat, a thought creeps in. How fine the line between dread and honour. How permeable the membrane between our highest and lowest states.

“Truly, it is a privilege to be on the team, doctor” she mumbles.

And mutters it again and again and again, as the mothers press their fingers pleadingly to the glass.