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Vikiana moves, the action is so sudden and unexpected considering her previous immobility that the Director’s two protectors fall into a guarded stance. The Exemplar walks past them and picks up my cloak from the floor.

She shakes it a few times to get rid of the dust and walks up to the table. She deposits the cloak over my waist. Suxen throws her an annoyed look but doesn’t say anything.

Being covered like this doesn’t seem like much considering that I’m still at the Director’s mercy, by my own choice, shackled. Yet, the small act of compassion helps a lot, enough that I can stop biting my own tongue. The Exemplar moves away, not very far.

Suxen deposits her quill on her book, taking care that the ink on the tip does not rest on the expensive white paper. She then takes a small polished steel instrument with a flat head out of her pocket and makes her way around the table to my feet.

She takes hold of the cloak and folds it over my waist. She directly inspects my sex through her glasses, the runes on it are glowing golden. I almost start twisting the runic shackle’s chain links to try to break them. I can, not, ruin my cover.

Her eyes remain fixed on my intimacy for what feels like an interminable amount of time, she leans in and slips her small steel instrument’s flat head in-between my outer lips and splits them. Its cold, intrusive. I shiver and growl.

The Director pays no attention to me, she inspects my most intimate place without the least bit of shame, making mechanical movements as she scrutinizes every corner of me. My Lady herself hasn‘t, yet this emotionless woman is taking every liberty.

She wipes the instrument that was just in my sex with a handkerchief. Suxen then uses her left hand to spread my butt-cheeks and inspect my anus. I feel humiliated.

When she’s done, she places the cloak back over my sex and walks back to her book, laid near my head, to pick up her quill and starts taking notes. It allows me to take a breather and somewhat recover from the traumatizing experience and brace myself for the next one.

Specimen is a virgin. The specimen is slightly aroused. The aphrodisiac pheromone does not seem to affect the specimen as much as it does the Shade. The Exemplar appears unaffected. Is the specimen resistant to the pheromone? The context that the specimen is in might influence the pheromone’s effectiveness. Specimen is healthy.

I’ve been pent-up for over a week. That’s an excuse, the fact is that I get turned on anytime I think of Leomi. I inspect Aisha, finding that her legs are crossed even though she is standing, she is hiding her vulnerability. Vikiana looked away when she cloak was slid over and hasn’t turned back.

The Director suddenly seizes my jaw, taking me by surprise. She tightens her grip and forces me to open my mouth. She checks my teeth and then makes a quick note about my good dental health. She moves on to the flat expanse of my left breast. Suxen seems interested in the scar that Celyz made to remove it, it looks different from my other ones, cleaner.

These tendrils. They are different from a Princess’.” Suxen declares. “I’m going to probe you, specimen, do not resist.”

The Director doesn’t waste time, she assembles a construct over my heart and sends it inside my body. I hurriedly obliterate my signaling construct. I could conceal it from her probe, but she might notice that I’m doing something.

Suxen keeps adding flow into her construct as it spreads out to cover my entire body. My symbiont trembles when the energy courses through it and I have to focus on keeping it calm. I summon my mental image of Celyz once more for the feeling of safety that comes with it.

What can you tell me about the specimen’s appetite? Sex drive? Healing rate?” Suxen asks without looking up.

She eats two to three times as much food as the Exemplar does.” Aisha replies.

So four or five times what would be normal, considering the specimen’s height and weight.” Suxen concludes. I could go with less but we have the coin for food.

I wouldn’t know about her sex drive but her healing rate seems to be unnaturally fast.” Aisha continues.

The specimen’s heart shows signs of damage. How old is the specimen?” She asks.

Eighteen.” Aisha answers. How does she know that?! “Tell me why you ask.”

I am oversimplifying but her body is twenty-one years old.” Suxen answers without looking up. What? That’s not possible.

How is that possible?” Vikiana asks, echoing my thought.

The specimen’s metabolism is accelerated. The parasite is most certainly the cause of it. It either provoked it or the human body did so by itself because of the parasite.” Suxen says. “Given the rate, the specimen will not die of old age because something will fail long before that becomes an issue, likely the heart or liver. The human body is not built to withstand the parasite’s needs for an extended period of time. You did well to bring it to me.”

It’s killing me. The mental scream breaks my focus and my symbiont furiously flails. It doesn’t bother the cold-blooded woman who continues probing me with her construct.

It’s killing me. No matter the personal cost. My survival instinct and the weight of my oath I swore clash inside my mind. My I… I shake my head and reaffirm my resolve before I can even consider running back. To my love, to my Lady.

What happened to your left breast, specimen?” Suxen questions me directly.

It got in the way.” I reply shortly.

 The Director casually slaps my right cheek and takes a scalpel out of her right pocket. Aisha and Vikiana react instantly, they rush to stop her but Suxen’s number four and six move to block them.

Suxen, I told you no experiments!” Aisha shouts.

Vikiana takes the dead-eyed number six woman down with two blows. One kick to the knee followed by an uppercut to the chin. However, she is too late to stop the Director and the scalpel cuts me exactly where Celyz did to remove my breast.

The pain surprises me and my symbiont which is now violently thrashing to free itself by alternately pulling on the chain and hitting the table.

Suxen takes a pair of pincers out and uses them to spread the wound wide open. I feel my skin stretch and tear at the edges.

After no more than a few tens of seconds of inspecting my flesh and the tendrils wrapped around my ribs, she deposits her instrument on the table and picks up her quill. Before she can write anything, however, Vikiana falls on her and seizes her wrist.

Experimentation will lead to that parasite eating its host.” Aisha intervenes, cutting the Exemplar off before she speaks or acts.

Is that how the specimen lost that breast?” Suxen asks, smiling.

It is.” Vikiana affirms, lies.

That is consistent with my observation.” The Director nods. “There are signs that these bones were eroded and healed. Would you release me so that I can write this down? Please.” She says the last word with a lopsided grin.

The Director’s expression isn’t just out-of-place in the context, it also clashes with the emptiness in her eyes. This woman is scary, yet my plan requires that I not kill her. Leomi. Celyz.

Vikiana releases the woman but remains close by. This time, Suxen picks up her book and takes a few minutes to write everything down. I can’t read any of it anymore so I concentrate on my symbiont.

Director Suxen finishes up and closes her book. She lifts her white blouse to take a runic glove out from her belt. She fits it on and places it above the bleeding cut. Flow courses through the runes. She picks up her pincers and uses them to bring the two sides of the injury together.

It takes a few minutes for it to heal, which is extremely surprising to me considering that she isn’t using a lot of energy, barely more than five times a human’s normal reserves. I spend the time reaffirming control of my symbiont, I have to forcefully dictate my will as Celyz’ image is no longer sufficient.

It strains me to impose myself, makes me feel even worse. My symbiont responds to that by gently undulating the tendril attached to my spine at the base of my skull. I chuckle, attracting odd gazes from everyone present.

For the specimen’s health, I insist that it is transferred to my custody.” Suxen says, putting her runic glove away.

No.” Aisha replies firmly.

There are things happening to the specimen that require further examination. Three of the tendrils have fused with her muscles. There, there, and there.” She declares, poking at my belly and at my lower-right waist. “Not to mention the issue of her accelerated metabolism, it taxes her heart but I cannot know if the rate of deterioration is constant or fluctuating without a period of observation.”

This woman looks on me like I am lesser. Her gaze is one that I wouldn’t lay on an animal, or any being. Suxen’s personality is foreign to me, too different, incomprehensible. I cannot read her, I do not know what she will do. She passes her hand over my right wrist and pulls the energy out of the runic shackle.

Specimen, show me your flow.” Suxen orders.

I wish I could activate the air-blade beneath me to take her out, or the lightning constructs, yet I need to withstand this. Besides, there is an issue with the air-blade as it would cut me in half if I activated it.

There is no way that she would give me time to link and alter it to prevent that. I positioned the construct wrong because I hadn’t expected to be spread out naked to the table.

I pull a tiny stream of it and send the black-gold energy out of my right hand. At least this tells me that the shackles aren’t perfect, they likely need two pairs to cover an entire body if wrists and ankles are held together.

That ratio is odd.” Suxen says with a frown, forgetting to remove the smile on her lips once again. “How much access does the specimen have?”

I extend two of my left hand’s fingers and then fold them back in case the Director looks up from the stream of flow. The Shade notices.

Twice the standard access.” Aisha says.

That will require further examination for confirmation.” Suxen comments. “Perhaps the specimen lost humanity when the parasite was implanted. Or altered her more than I am detecting.”

I demand that you remain focused on what we require of you, Director.” Aisha speaks up.

Ah, you are feeling more in control of yourself, Shade.” Suxen observes. “The parasite did not continue emitting the aphrodisiac, perhaps because it is ineffective. Interesting. We should do a small experiment, it would take no time at all, Shade. Take my place and scalpel, make a small incision anywhere on the specimen’s body. Since you are sexually receptive, it would be revealing if the parasite releases pheromones in an attempt to stimulate you since that would signify that it will spend resources to protect the host specimen.”

N, what? No!” Aisha stutters a little and closes her fists. “Gather the data you need, Suxen. You do not have time to get sidetracked.”

Very well.” The Director replies.

Yet, despite what she just said, she places the shackle back around my wrist to pick up her book and write down a few sentences. Likely a note to remember this experiment she just suggested. She then pulls the probing construct out of my body and dismantles it to form another one.

This construct prickles as it slowly infiltrates my flesh, it isn’t painful but distinctively uncomfortable. Aisha looks peeved as she watches the Director. Vikiana’s cold eyes are on the woman but her face is devoid expression so I can’t get a clue about what she’s thinking.

Tell me, Suxen. How goes Cenwalh’s impossible request?” Vikiana asks as she catches my gaze. “Is that Princess worth the war we provoked by taking her?”

Yes, without a doubt.” The Director replies. “There is no proof that it is impossible to usurp flow.”

There is no proof that it’s possible either.” Aisha counters.

Actually, I do.” Suxen declares to our surprise. “Flow access is different for the insects than it is for the cold-blooded lizards and from ours. That means that someone, or something, determined it as such. And I do not mean by some kind of non-existent divine providence. Flow is no mystical blessing. The Lake of Fire is but a myth. Flow is a tool that manipulates energy, everything we know points to it, and tools can be reshaped. It may be impossible for us, at least for now, but that does not mean that the task is inherently impossible. The very process of proving that it cannot be done, and why, will teach us much about flow.” Suxen glances at the Exemplar and Shade in turn, showing the first emotion that seems genuine to me. Satisfaction from their baffled expressions. “Cenw… King Cenwalh knows all of this, but he supported me because he understands that the research that goes on in the institute, unhindered by the University’s old-guard quacks, represents the future of our species. The Emperor himself, or at least… who he was long ago, knew to take risks and attempt what all thought impossible by persevering and making use of resources that none would have thought of before him. Some of that pioneer’s legacy remains in the current Emperor. Otherwise, He would not have agreed to this.”

Vikiana blinks, looking confused. I close my eyes. Emperor Rasaec reached for what was necessary, he took a risk but did not act recklessly considering what He knew at the time.

As I am now using my other sense, I notice that Aisha’s body is extremely tense and that she shifted her left hand behind her back so discreetly that I missed it despite the fact that I was looking at her to see her reaction.

Aisha is moving that hand’s fingers in the same way that she did when I seized Cecil by the throat, when it seemed like she was about to shape a construct to defend the Madame.

Quiet down, Shade. I know but scraps of our past, same as you.” Suxen declares with a confident grin.

Tread. Very. Carefully. Director.” Aisha threatens. “No one is important enough to evade the consequences of foolishly running their mouths. We will not, ever, tolerate those who spread seditious rumors.”

The Director makes a nice smile that somehow feels abhorrent to me. She then pulls the prickling construct out of my body. She stores it inside a small vial of water that she pulls out of a wooden case attached to her belt, under her blouse.

She then hands the vial and case over to the dead-eyed number four. Number six got back up at some point and seems fine, apart from a small bruise on her chin. Suxen then picks up her book and starts prodding my body where there are tendrils.

A quick glance at the page when she leans in tells me that she’s completing her sketch with their locations. I could mess with her and get my limb to reposition its tendrils but that would only give her more information about what I can do.

I want to impale Suxen, eat her. Restraining myself so much is taking a toll on me, my emotions are teetering from anxiety to horror to longing for my Lady. I even feel something I haven’t in a long time when the Director pokes at the junction between my symbiont and my body, where my pink skin folds over its rubbery brown flesh.

I perceive an intense phantom pain coming from my lost arm, I know it isn’t coming from my current left limb because the flashes of agony seem to be originating from thin air and definitely feel like the arm Mother gave me, the one my Lady took from me.

I still resent her for it. I do understand better than before that Nobles are limited in energy and that tactically she couldn’t risk burning her reserves to save my arm, but still. It turned out that the Rykz weren’t trying to kill us or at least not all of us.

Or perhaps, they were but Celyz changed their orders. Regardless, we wouldn’t have escaped them as long as we did if Leomi lacked the flow to collapse the iron mine’s tunnel behind us, or was too short on energy to defend us when they harassed us or when we ran into the Grub.

Ill use that against her, it‘ll be liberating for me and hurt her, there is no downside. I notice that the Director finished examining me while my mind was wandering and she is putting her instruments away.

I’ll need to analyze this and reexamine the specimen, when can we meet again?” Suxen asks Aisha.

We’ll send you another letter.” She replies.

The sooner the better. I am quite impatient.” Suxen declares with no sign of the emotion on her face. “I do need to talk to you in private.” She adds.

I cough once to signify my agreement to the Shade. It would look odd for Aisha to refuse, I can‘t let Suxen get suspicious now, after enduring all of this.

You have a minute out on the porch.” Aisha says.

The Director, number four, number six, and the Shade make their way out. As Aisha walks by, she picks up and throws the cloak covering my sex over my symbiont. I can tell that she’s doing it to mess with me but she isn’t wrong, my privacy matters less than secrecy.

I throw a quick glance at Vikiana who is hesitating about what to do. I enhance my hearing and try to catch what they’re saying.

Need more time with the specimen, Shade…” Director’s voice dies down as she spots Tsek waiting just outside.

Go get me the key.” I utter urgently.

The Exemplar rushes out of the room. I detect Aisha receiving a key from the Director before Vikiana even reaches the two who are now standing just outside, near the front door.

The vengeful little minx then hands the key over to Tsek. Fucking Aisha, what did I do to her? Vikiana seems to be about to intercept Tsek but the Shade and the Director start talking, making her have to choose between protecting my privacy and keeping an ear on the two. She chooses the latter.

Vikiana barks something at Tsek and he walks back into the building with his hand extended out in front of him, blocking his front view but allowing him to see where he’s going.

I struggle with my shackles a little but cannot let myself break them, I need them to remain visibly intact. I can’t even move too much in fear of displacing the cloak covering the proof of my monstrosity.

Tsek walks in, and turns bright red, proving that his hand isn’t very effective at blocking his sight. He didn’t try hard but his cock now is. I growl as he stands there, fully aroused and not moving.

Release me.” I bark, temper entirely lost.

R, right. Sorry.” He mutters and rushes over.

He picks my left foot first, fumbling the key in his hands to try to fit it inside the lock. Likely because his eyes are often looking at my thighs and up. I snap my mouth shut to roar in frustration without making too much noise.

That motivates Tsek who finally manages to open the first shackle and then proceeds to unlocking the other two. While he does, I reach out to my lightning constructs and link back to them to reset the timer. Just in time, a minute or two more and they would have triggered.

Tsek moves towards my left wrist, covered by the cloak but I stop him by extending my right arm out in front of him, nowhere near his erection. He stops and I steal the key.

Turn around.” I order.

What were you all doing?” He asks, turning aside.

Not now.” I snap.

I free myself, hurriedly the cloak over my left side to rush into the hallway and listen in on the conversation going on outside. I don’t miss the fact that Tsek disobeys me as soon as my back is turned to leer at my exposed right side.

I do not overly mind my body being seen by men, but this wasn’t my choice, and I did not want to fuel the kid’s fantasies any further. At least the bulge in his pants and high body temperature shows that he appreciates what he’s seeing.

Whatever your problem is, Aisha, you’re going to pay for this.

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