She attempted to speak, to call out to Steve, but found her throat dry and her voice weak. The best she could manage was a whisper, but it didn’t matter; he seemed to be out cold. She felt herself begin to panic, to give in to the helplessness, but she fought it. She knew that if she was going to survive, she could not afford to give into those kinds of thoughts.

“I will get through this,” she told herself, shutting her eyes tight. “I will survive.” She continued the litany in her head, a mantra to calm her nerves. “I only need to work out how.”

The sound of footsteps down the hall drew her back to her bleak surroundings. Her eyes shot open and she lifted her head to try to see. It would be too much to hope that the sound signaled rescue, but it may at least provide some answers. She needed to know where she was, why she was here. And, though she feared the answer, she needed to know what was going to happen to her.

After a moment, three men stepped out of the darkness at the edge of her vision and into the small pool of light provided by a hanging lamp above them. One of the men looked like a common street thug, tall, overly muscled, plain clothed. She didn’t like the way he was looking at her, and she certainly wouldn’t want to have to go up against him in a fight, but beyond that, he didn’t interest her at all. The second was a hunched, short fellow carrying a small sack over his shoulder and holding a clipboard. The last man seemed the most important. He was short and thin with a thin mustache and close cropped hair and he was wearing a long white lab coat. A doctor, she thought. He wasn’t looking at her at all. He was staring at Steven.

“Male,” he said to the clerk. “Age approximately thirty years, hair brown, eyes…” he reached up to inspect the unconscious man’s eyes, “green. Health appears good, subject seems physically fit. We will begin with formula eighty seven.”

The clerk rapidly finished writing down the doctor’s observations and then pulled a vial from the sack he carried and handed it over to the doctor. She could not see what he did with it at first, but she saw it reappear attached to a syringe as he injected it into Steven’s neck. Then he turned to face her.

“Why am I here?” she rasped.

The man just looked at her and blinked, surprised that he was being questioned. “Joe,” he said, waving a hand in her direction. The hired muscle stepped over to her with a smile and slapped her across the face. “There will be no speaking,” the doctor said as Joe stepped back to the side. All she could do was stare down at him with hatred.

“Female,” he said, as if the previous exchange had never happened. “Age approximately twenty five, blonde hair, brown eyes. Slightly malnourished and underweight, otherwise in apparent good health. Formula eighty eight.”

The clerk handed the doctor a second vial, which he then screwed on to his syringe. “No, please, don’t!” she cried out, as loud as her throat would allow. She felt the sharp pain as the needle broke skin, felt the heat as the vial’s contents emptied into her system. And then she felt the pain of Joe’s fist across her cheek. She heard the doctor mumble “You were warned,” as her world faded to black.

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