Chapter One -- The black fey-cat Caleb Martinsen, a guard newly transferred to the Super-maximum Security divison of the State of Aurumnia's (California equivalent) most notorious penal complex, the Paradise City Correctional Medical Facility, overhears Prisoner #12 in his section being tortured in the guise of "specialized interrogation techniques." As he believes that even condemned serial killers have certain basic human rights, no matter what they've done, he is disgusted and appalled, though not surprised. He has worked there for almost a year and, while new to the Supermax division, is familiar with the general culture of the facility's guards. While the medical staff is generally top-notch and genuinely dedicated, the guards fall into three categories: Overtly sadistic and dominant, submissively and/or passively sadistic voyeurs, and normal people too scared, jaded, or willfully blind to say or do anything about it. Caleb falls into the last category, but after his coworkers happen to leave him alone for a couple of minutes, he hurries to #12's cell and slips him $10 with a whispered message to the effect of "my coworkers are sick jerks." Before #12 can respond, he hurries back to his post. Minutes later, the next shift arrives and Caleb hurries home.1
Chapter Two -- Caleb uses the Internet to find Prisoner #621395-D3-12's name -- Jarek Antonin Vukovic, usually referred to as J. Anton. He makes a file with several articles about J. Anton Vukovic's biography and crimes, prints it out, and takes the sheets to bed. After the first two or three pages, he falls asleep reading. A nightmare about being Anton while guards torture him and another guard with his own face stands blindly by follows. He awakens around false dawn, sweaty, surrounded by scattered printouts. His garlak (dog equivalent) is staring at him with worry and nervousness. After cutting through the cobwebs, he turns on the bedside lamp and continues to read until his alarm goes off, at which point he sets the printouts aside and gets ready for work.2
Chapter Three -- Anton in his cell, considering the $10 bill. He tries to figure out if it's a fake. He waits for days for the other shoe to fall, the completion of the trick, the teeth of the trap. But nothing happens. That one guard continues to greet him sometimes, even passing him cigarettes through the bars when no one is looking. At first Anton trades the cigarettes to inmates he dislikes for better drugs, but when he observes nothing bad happening to the other prisoners after smoking the cigarettes, he reluctantly concludes that Caleb is not trying to trick him, that he really is trying to be nice. Anton is shocked, and makes an awkward attempt at reaching out when the two of them are left alone in Caleb's cell block. The Warden had suspended Anton's yard privileges in punishment for some infraction, so while the rest of the cell block was outside getting fresh air and exercise, Anton was alone in his cell. And Caleb, as the newest guard, was assigned to watch him to prevent escape or suicide attempts. This gives them a chance to really talk to each other for the first time, and for a few minutes, the two men tentatively send out feelers, sensing each other out. Anton tells Caleb that no one, especially no screw, has ever done him a real favor for no reason except kindness before. Caleb expresses surprise, and asks about Anton's family. Before Anton can reply, however, both of them hear the buzzer announcing the end of recreation period. Caleb quickly tells Anton that he'll bring him some paper and a pen, and that if Anton wants to, he can write whatever he likes and Caleb will read it and write a response. That way, they can communicate without others knowing. Anton stares at Caleb's back as the guard rushes back to his post so as not to be caught interacting so closely with a prisoner, but he doesn't reject the idea.