They say it's a program for gifted children. They say she'll advance. That she'll be amazing. That she'll serve the Alliance well. That her full potential will be unlocked.
Those are, possibly, not lies.
But River knows what's in their brains. Picks picks picks secrets, like little poisonous berries peeking out from dark serrated leaves dripping with blood -
They inject her with something.
(They've injected her with a lot of somethings.)
Her mind expands again.
She screams -
And when her brain starts processing coherent imagery again, they give her a keyboard and a screen and tell her to write her loving family a lovely little letter.
She knows they're screening her communications.
She smiles and she's a normal excited girl who doesn't remember the torture, like they don't want her to -
She winds in a code.
No one's rescued her yet, but -
River Tam writes about vacations that never happened, games they never played, stories they never told.
And then, quietly, this time without even murdering anyone (she'll save that for later) she goes back to the chair.
And then, afterwards, she sleeps, limbs bound to each other and the bed so she can't kill her minders like she's done so many times before. So she can't sneak out, and tell them oh I'm not here as she steals needles and scalpels and slits their throats -
They always catch her.
River Tam smiles as she's bound.
And then she sleeps.