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Ian stirred when a scuff of shoes sounded down the hallway. It was still early, very early, though with no windows he couldn't be sure if it was still dark or daybreak lit the sky.

A squeak of rubber on the shiny tile floor echoed down the hallway — Tennis shoes. Vincent. It is Vincent.

Ian checked the lock on his cage, a constant habit of his. He'd already checked it several times throughout the night. But he was restless. Last night, Sonora and Jorah had come to him stronger than they had since he was trapped. Ian didn't know what that meant, but he hoped it meant something.

The lock was secure, as it was every time he checked it. He had inspected the bars and seams long ago and found they had no weaknesses. And though most days Ian spent in despair, every so often a tiny flare of hope would light.

Like last night. Ian rubbed down the small hairs that lifted on his arms. He would pay for his defiance. He shot a glance at the hallway. Unless he could get Vincent to help him.

Vincent's jaunty whistle started, a sound Ian had learned to dread long ago. It meant the start of a new tortuous day. He moved back and forth, longing for a way to flee, but there was no way out. Even if there had been, there was always Devon's threat to Sonora hanging in the air like a threatening cloud.

As horrible as it was for him to be here, the thought of Sonora strapped to that table was unthinkable. The image flashed through Ian's mind, and he jerked his head to clear it of the despicable picture.

Vincent stood at the door. The sound of the key in the lock caused every caged inhabitant to still. Ian's eyes glued to the door. Vincent waltzed through it and sat a backpack on the steel table that took up one side of the room. The steel table where Ian spent most of his days.

The lab assistant laid out the instruments for the day. Ian tried and failed to stop himself from trembling at the sight of the same thick, long needle that was jabbed into his chest yesterday.

Vincent started feeding the animals, beginning with the small and working his way up to the larger ones. He gave each a little encouragement, sometimes he offered a gentle pet or spoke a few kind words.

Before he made it to Ian, he returned to his pack and brought out an apple. Vincent juggled a bottle of water, a protein bar, and the fruit making his way to the larger cages.

"Here you go, buddy," Vincent said handing Ian the items one at a time. "Sorry I had to skip out early yesterday, but I brought you something extra." With a flourish, Vincent pulled an orange out of his jacket pocket and handed it down through the bars; then he moved on.

"Thank you," Ian said.

Vincent jumped back. Subjects were not allowed to talk. He frowned but continued, willing to let it go this time.

"My name is not buddy. It is Ian."

Startled, Vincent turned to see Ian eyeing him. He looked to the door, then the camera and back at Ian and whispered, "You know you're not allowed to talk! Do you want punished? He will be here soon."

Ian hung his head. "It is too late. The tape holds an image of me defying him. He will punish me for that."

"Look, buddy—"


"Whatever!" Vincent glanced back over his shoulder.


"Fine, Ian! You think you've had it bad? I've seen him do much, much worse." Vincent took a step toward Ian. "I'm just tryin to help you out."

"I understand. Can you erase the tape?"

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