Cosmo sat on the edge of his cot, listening restlessly to the hum of voices around him. Escape seemed futile after this much time. If a moment of freedom was not offered to him, he would have to create one.

He looked down and found himself absent-mindedly rubbing the red cuff mark on his wrist. The only time to escape would be in an instance when he was both unsupervised and uncuffed. These times were limited: only in emergencies and possibly moments at night or in the showers. He would have to seize one of the few daily opportunities and execute an escape plan.

Cosmo racked his brain for the exits of the facility. There was the front, of course, with its friendly lobby walled in by pictures of Clarissa Frayne playing happily with orphans. There was the back, closed supervised by a security guard. There was the service entrance, also carefully guarded.

And there was the fire escape. Cosmo instinctively glanced at the top corner of the dorms. On the outside of the top left pipe, there was a locked hallway that led to the fire stairway. Of course, a locked fire escape is a useless one. A fire in the Clarissa Frayne Institute translated to the death of 300 orphans, no questions asked. Fire regulations were overlooked in the building, along with the health and safety of the orphans. Keeping orphans from running away was more in the management's best interest than fire safety.

Exhausted from a day of testing, Cosmo collapsed back on his bed. Ziplock's voice floated up from underneath him, retelling the story of how he'd nearly thrown up after one of the injections that day. Today's experiment had involved medications for curing heachaches, and although the boys hadn't started off the day with one, many had ended up with head pains, nausea, or worse. Half of the boys had been tested with one product, Cephaloaberatio, while the other half was injected with the knockoff. According to the Chemist, the knockoff had contained far less Ipecac, a vomiting agent, than the real brand, which explained why half of the boys were feeling far worse than the others.

Cosmo had been injected with the Cephaloaberatio, but he'd vomited almost immediately, expelling the chemical from his body. This was far superior to sleeping on an upset stomach all night, as many groaning orphans were currently attempting.

"I swear, that stuff is vile!" said Ziplock animatedly. He had been too dehydrated for a needle, so he'd been force-fed the syrup instead. "I almost gagged it right back up, but the guy made me swallow. I felt it in my stomach right away. Oh, man!"

Cosmo embedded his finger in his curly hair, wondering if girls would find him attractive. What was considered appealing on a guy, anyway? Plain features? Lighter skin? Long hair? Having only ever conversed with a few female guards and Redwood's wife, Cosmo had extremely limited experience with the opposite sex.

"And just a few seconds later, I said to the guy, 'Oh, man, I think I'm gonna puke,' and what's he do? Just washes out the medicine cap and throws a barf container on me. It hit my stomach and just about shoved the juice out of me." Ziplock paused, and Cosmo could hear him groaning faintly. It was only a matter of time before everyone's stomachs would reject the fluid. It was the only cure, said the Chemist.

"Are you okay?" asked Cosmo.

"Ah, someone was listening," replied Ziplock. "Yes, I'll be all right just as soon as I puke this stuff up. How're you doing, Hill?"

"I threw it up right away. Now it's just been sore." Cosmo laid on his back and studied the railing on his pipe's ceiling. He wondered if there was any way to detach it. It could be useful, for escape.

"I take it you got the real brand?"


"I got the knockoff, but I swear it's worse than the branded kind when you swallow it. My throat's been on fire all night."

Cosmo's right arm was practically numb from the injection, so he used his left hand to trace a set of initials scratched on the pipe- CF. What could they stand for? A name? Clarissa Frayne?

"I bet that guy was just trying to hurry up and finish the experiment before I lost it," went on Ziplock. "I bet he was just trying to get out of there."

Cosmo let his arm drop and again rubbed the sore, hurting cuff mark on his wrist. Aren't we all? he thought grimly.