Ceres - Dock A64 How long had it been? The seconds had bled into minutes, the minutes into hours, and the hours into weeks. Time had held no meaning for him. Day and night even less. He couldn't remember how long he had been in that cell, couldn't even begin to fathom the amount of time that had been stripped away from him like an animal in a cage. Nothing seemed real. Nothing. Not even the passage of time. They told him that it had been five years, that they had stuck him inside of that cell for five years. It didn't seem right. It didn't seem long enough. Surely it had been longer? Surely he had spent decades within that tiny room, confined within a crate that seemed smaller than the space one needed to breath. Alric had no idea how long it lasted, how long he'd endured their tortures. For days at a time they would surround him with flooding lights, and then for months it would be nothing but darkness. All sound had been taken from him, all sensation that he could hang on to. Even the food, the taste of things had been stripped away. He had no idea if they had done it on purpose or if they'd simply been too cheap to pay for real food, but the effect had been all the same. Alric remembered nothing of even the smallest luxuries. Red Kibble seemed a distant memory to him, a wisp of something that he could barely understand. They had beaten him. Tortured him. They had done their best to drive him to the edge of madness. A few times he had been close. He had been so near to falling over the cliff. More than once he'd been tempted to embrace it, more than once he had wanted to simply let himself go. It would have been so easy, so simple to just lose his mind. His sense of time had been taken. His consciousness had been stripped from him. Sleep came rarely and a second to think on his own time was all but unfound. Yet he was still here. Wasn't he? He wasn't sure if this was another trick, wasn't sure if they were serious. The Soldiers, the men that had tortured him and broken every bone in his body, had told him that he was being released. It was a trick they had played before, offering false hope, offering a vision of what might come...yet this time was different than the last. They had moved him, put him on a shuttle. After all this time he knew what that felt like, the press of acceleration on his bones, the drugs in his veins. They were moving him...he'd known that, felt it. Then...then it happened. Others had been brought onto the shuttles. He'd recognized none of them, though all of them wore the branding of the OPA. There had been a surge of invigoration when he'd seen that, a hardening of his heart, a pride even. He'd wanted to speak, to urge them on, to force a rebellion right then and there. Yet before he could open his lips he found that his throat was raw, and any words that he might have spoken turned into less than a croak. He thought that some of them had recognized him. That a whisper spread across the small shuttle. A few looked at him as though they knew, though most seemed to ignore it. Alric did not question, he did not try to speak, he knew it would be in vain, knew that it might still be a trick. A trap. An execution. All of it was still a possibility, all of it was still what he expected. It only became real when he stood on the ramp to Dock A64, when the UN Marine stood in front of him and undid his cuffs. When his voiced echoed in Alric's ears. "Can't believe they're letting you go after what you did." His disgust was clear, but to Alric it was a sweetness he could hardly comprehend. The former terror of Io stood on the ramp of the UN shuttle. He was half hunched over, his clothes were naught but rags, more cuts and brusies lined his body than should have been possible, and his beard nearly reached his chest. He had been bent, he had been beaten, yet he'd never broken. He stood, breathing in the air that had been given to his people so long ago.