By: Ryann Kerekes

“We can’t seem to get inside your head.” O’Donovan reaches out toward me, and I try not to flinch as he taps a finger sharply at my temple. “And I intend to find out why.” The look in his eyes says it all. He’ll stop at nothing until I’m a broken heap on the floor. He turns back to Dr. Nolan and Will. “As long as it takes, as much as it costs, find me something. I want a report at the end of each day.” And then he turns on his heel and leaves the room, Will saluting him until he’s through the door.

The air in the room is heavy, too still. I can sense them deciding what to do with me, who should take me first.

“You start,” Will says to Dr. Nolan after a minute. “I’ll go set up for the physical tests.” The heavy door clicks into place behind him, leaving me alone with Dr. Nolan.

I position myself on the stool in front of the data terminal to begin the intelligence tests.

I scan the barcode on my wrist on the blue light at the side of the machine, and it comes to life. I tap my finger against the screen to start the test. A word association test appears, and after reading the directions, I begin arranging the words on the screen, dragging them into different boxes. I do it quickly, my mind barely processing each word before my finger slides it into the right place.

I move onto answering questions about how I would respond in fictitious situations, then onto a series of questions where I have to choose between two bad things, like being trapped in a fire or underwater. Lastly, I move onto finding patterns in numbers, where I predict which number comes next in a series, while Dr. Nolan busies himself on the data terminal across the lab.

I have no strategy when it comes to these tests, since I have no idea if it will be better or worse for me if I score well. Regardless, I do the best I can. My eyes burn from concentrating, and I’m hungry after several hours.

Just as I’m finishing, the door pushes open, and a guy I’ve never seen before comes in. “Ready?” He directs his question to Dr. Nolan.

Dr. Nolan is reading a print out from the data terminal tests I took. He looks up from the paper, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “You can take her. We’re done for the day.”

The guy comes toward me. He’s dressed like Will – camouflage cargo pants tucked into heavy work boots and a black T-shirt strained across his muscled chest bearing the silver insignia of government, a crest with sharp edges protruding from the center of the circle in a sun burst pattern – so I assume he’s another guard.

“What happened to Will?”

He laughs, but there’s no joy in his face. “They all want Will.” He closes the distance between us with two more steps and grabs my arm. His eyes narrow and he brings his face directly in front of mine, looking at me with a cruel, mocking expression. His eyes are nearly black, and I find myself stumbling back from him, but his grip on my arm holds me in place.

“Will’s busy with the other recruits. I’m in charge of you now.” My arm turns red under his thick fingers. He hauls me after him, and I have no choice but to follow. He pushes me ahead of him down the hall, and I walk blindly ahead, unsure where we’re going, but knowing I don’t want to spend any more time with him than I have to.

“You didn’t say what your name was,” I say to the empty space in front of me.

“Who said you could speak?” His fingers prod my back, and I walk faster to stay out of his reach. “I’m Kane,” he says after a minute. “In here,” he says when we reach a heavy, metal door. He presses his fingertip to the sensor, and the door clicks open. Inside is a big gymnasium with ropes hanging from the ceiling, various weights, benches and barbells. And through the doors on the far end that connect to another room – I smell a pool – though I can’t see it yet.

“Over there.” He shoves me toward the weights.

I would gladly walk; I don’t know why he doesn’t just ask – probably an excuse to show off his control over me. I don’t like the thought of being alone with him.

He selects two twenty-pound dumbbells and sets them at my feet. “Start with curls – do as many as you can.”

I pick up the weights, which feel much heavier than twenty pounds. I was never strong to begin with, but the lack of food and proper rest certainly isn’t helping. I hold them at my sides and curl them up once, twice and by the third time, my arms are shaking. But Kane is waiting for me to fail, to give up, and I refuse to give him the satisfaction. I begin lifting one at a time, my entire body struggling with the effort. I make it to ten, and my arms are quivering. A drop of perspiration rolls down the back of my neck, and I set the weights calmly at my feet.