A palpable chill blows over you as another pair of words sinks into your head.

Hard limit.

A jolt pierces your insides and your hands drop to the table as your fingers release the glass to clutch your thighs. Impulsively, your head drops, your shoulders shaking as they struggle to support your rigid frame. Your gut almost splinters when you hear the drag of Frost’s chair across the floor, your head jerking up to meet him rising from it. The way he towers over you is almost comical, but there’s nothing funny about how you feel.

You expect him to speak, watching his imposing frame like some fictional warlord about to dismantle his captive. He says nothing, walking past you. His footsteps send a spike into each heartbeat, calm yet prominent. The sound of a door opening and closing replaces it. For several moments, you don’t turn to confirm, too stunned. Too shocked. Too afraid and unsure of what you will—or won’t—find. The silence stretches, taking on a crushing, eerie depth and quality. Only the sound of your stilted breaths competes with that of your heart. The only sign of life. Frost’s absence is simultaneously liberating and frightening.

You try not to look, but you can’t stop your eyes from roaming and scanning this enclosure. Your gaze catches furniture and equipment bathed in both the natural and artificial light, latching on to the labels assigned to each of them. Everything properly categorized and in its place. Neat. Organized. Perhaps…too organized. Like an actual lab.

The Emancipation Room.

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