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Auroris    160

[Auroris] Indeed. Work can progress much faster now. The next step will be to expose you to a significantly higher dose of Anima than previously, to acclimatise your body to the levels, and to ensure there will be no side-effects. Unless you have any specific objections, I want you to spend 8 hours a day there for the next 3 days. Happily for you, there shouldn’t be an issue with taking something to do, though the shielding will prevent you from getting an internet connection.

[James] “Thankfully I don't always need to be online” James smiled. “More Anima. Makes sense. It is probably just as well Kyle is not around to witness any side effects” He stood up. “So when do we start?”

Well, assuming you want to at least try and approximate a normal working day, I would suggest you get settled in this afternoon, then we begin tomorrow. I’ve made arrangements for some fully self-contained living quarters. They may not be quite up to your normal standards, but they should suffice.

You'd be surprised at some of the conditions I've endured. A models life does not pay the bills. Or at least not when I was at university. Lead the way.

Very well. Your quarters are this way.

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Auroris    160

So, now that those are done, we’re both going to spend a day going over every bit of data collected so far, and I’ll explain what’s going to happen in the final process. Any questions?

So far makes perfect sense. Is there anything specific we are looking for?

Anything that might indicate any form of adverse reaction to the higher doses of anima. It may be nothing, but everything needs to be considered.

James nodded and started looking through the data. “As far I can see only the initial dose caused issues. Since then it has been relatively smooth sailing.”

That agrees with my observations too, however we will check everything again anyway, to be certain.

James smiled. “Through. Given that it's my life on the line it's also appreciated.” He returned to the data.

Well then, shall we get started.

---

After hours of sifting through data they found no additional data. James smiled. “Well I think we've exhausted all possibilities” he said. “Short from actually doing the experiment”

I believe so. Very well. The final step will be to try and add the bee. I believe the fundamental problem with the Council’s original work was that they tried to force the bee on their subject. For this to work, the bee itself has to be willing, even if the host isn’t. The aim of this experiment is to suffuse you so completely with anima that when we introduce a bee into the chamber, they will see you as a natural destination. It’s not so much giving you a bee as it is making you an attractive prospect for colonisation. Obviously as a result of that little inconvenience of choice, I can’t make any guarantee that it will work, but I believe this to be the best choice that will not include adverse side-effects such as insanity.

James nodded. “Insanity is not an ideal scenario, although we don’t know for sure that the insanity in the previous subject was as a direct result of the bee.” He thought for a moment. “Not to mention the fact that they clearly did not want a bee inside them. But I digress. This sounds like an ideal plan. It will probably be more effective if it’s not forced.” He stood up from the table. “So lets get started shall we”

What a wonderful suggestion. I have no real idea how long this phase will take, so I’m going to leave you in there with a supply of food and water until you indicate you’re ready to come out.

James chuckled “Exactly what kind of indicators am I looking for?” he looked over to Auroris “I mean I doubt I’ll suddenly be shooting blood magic from my wrists, not that I haven’t studied to get a head start”

If Gaia decides to colonise you, then I promise you’ll know all about it. I was less than 2 when it happened to me, so my memories are somewhat unclear, however I’ve studied extensive first-hand accounts, as well as making arrangements to actually view the process a few times. You’ll know.

“That is not as reassuring as you think it is. A little heads up would be nice.” He shrugged “Still I suppose some of the mystery needs to remain” He stepped into the chamber and sat down. “This is going to be interesting”

Yes, I’m rather interested to see what happens myself. I’ll be here the whole time if circumstances require my intervention.

“Yes, please do not hesitate to intervene if it means preventing my death” James laughed.

Actual death is quite low on my list of likely side-effects. Gaia-inflicted insanity or a possible self-maiming is a lot more likely, I suspect.

“Actual death is not a side effect Auroris…” James said simply. “I would like to avoid all side effects if possible.”

It is if the procedure is otherwise successful. Anyway, are we going to get started?

James rolled his eyes. “Shall we just get this started before your talk me out of this with all the side effects?”

You are legally required to have been informed of them all before we started. You did sign the declaration form listing them, so I assume that if you were going to get talked out of this, it would have happened some time ago.

“I wonder about you at times. Were you dropped on your head much as a child? Don’t answer that. Just get the process started”

Auroris raised an eyebrow, shut the chamber and started the process, before going to find a book to read.

---

Hours seemed to pass, aside from getting peckish nothing appeared to be happening. James began to fidget. He was so close… The bee had been flying about for a little while now, stubbornly sitting on the ceiling of the device taunting him. He sighed. “Am I supposed to be asleep for this?” He asked Auroris over the intercom “Because everything I’ve seen suggests it happens when asleep. The bee seems interested, as much as you can judge the behaviour of a bee, but it seems to be waiting for something…” He continued  “Any ideas?”

It’s probable, yes. Bees are not predators, and every previous record would indicate that the host was asleep at the time, with a couple of exceptions, but they were in comas at the time. Hmm. If this doesn’t work, we could try a medically induced coma, and see if that works.

“Oh fun, a medically induced coma. I am glad Kyle is not around for this” James replied dryly “Lets give it a little more time and see how it goes. I’m not a fan of comas”

Most people aren’t, for some obscure reason. Lets go of the intercom

James sighed. “Well there’s not much more I can do but wait.” He sat watching the bee. “Do I really have to fall asleep? That’s very impersonal, besides I’m inviting you in…” The bee just stared at him and flapped its wings. A few more hours passed. James was getting tired now and yawning every few minutes. Eventually after a while he said “Fine, you get your way. I’m going to take a nap, happy now?” He closed his eyes and very quickly was asleep.

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Auroris    160

James woke up to find the bee was crawling on his face. He tried not to jump and sat very still. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet and decided that it was probably best not to. The bee was exploring. He could feel it’s tiny legs as they crossed the surface of his skin. After a while the bee wandered into his open mouth. He tried not to spit it out and managed to keep his body from reacting. Carefully he waited. After exploring his mouth the bee got up and flew straight down the back of his throat. He coughed and spluttered. But the bee didn’t seem to be coming back up. He waited. Nothing seemed to be happening. He reached for the intercom and said “Well good news is I’ve swallowed a bee. The bad news is nothing is happening”

Hmm. That’s unexpected. There is nothing to prevent the bee returning to Gaia if it chooses, and flying down your throat will simply provide additional protein. Give it some time. Unless you’re feeling discomforted?

James shook his head “Not discomfort, simply confusion.” He sat trying to wait patiently but now more than ever he wanted this to be done with. He was so close. Thankfully he didn’t need to wait long. He reached out for the intercom again and suddenly a blue flame appeared on his fingertips. He looked at it and smiled. He stood up and pushed the chair to one side and began to experiment with the flame. Turning it off and back on again, transferring it from hand to hand. Just as he was getting used to it he felt a sudden blast of energy flow through his body, lifting him off the ground slightly. It was difficult to describe, the closest he could do was say it felt like being drenched in sun but only if the sun had an end goal and was reaching places the sun never got to see, like the insides of his body. He fell to floor and reached for the intercom, “I think we have contact” James said slightly out of breath.

Well about time. Auroris smiled I was starting to arrange the supplies for a coma. You will be staying here under medical observation for a minimum of a week to assess for subsequent side-effects, such as the previously mentioned insanity and psychosis, but assuming you clear out, you can go home in a week. I’ll leave it to you to decide how to break the news to your husband.

James laughed. “He’ll just be pleased that I’m not dead. Besides a week in the grand scheme of things is not so bad” He looked at Auroris “As long as I can practice those techniques I’ve been studying I should be ok. I trust you don’t need to keep me in this device for the whole week?”

That won’t be necessary, no. Merely in the facility. Obviously you’ll need to maintain a detailed self-analysis the entire time, as well as for several months afterwards, at the least.

“I suspect that Kyle will be doing enough analysis for the both of us. However I will keep an eye on things” He smiled. “Right now though I could do with some sleep, this has all been oddly tiring”

Hardly surprising. Enjoy your sleep.

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Hreb    48

Hreb turned up at the offices in slightly less formal clothing than for the hearing, a light green sweater over shirt and tie, giving more of an impression now of avuncular solidity and the weight of age even if he still bounced rather lightly, clearly a morning person to the core.  He carried a tray of pastry to the breakroom, claimed a cup of coffee and one of the pastries and wandered until he’d finished it, exploring and peeking into places and saying hello to everyone, clearly clueless about what he should actually be doing as if an office was more of a forest and nigh unfamiliar turf.

 

He finally found a desk with his name on it, a small cubicle with a few neighbors.  He introduced himself to his neighbors as “Hrr-eb Campbell, Mike or Angel if you gotta.” and promptly suckered one into helping him sort his computer.  He was a hopeless dork about computers, but fortunately likely all he will ever need to do is email reports.  He spent the morning fiddling with the desk quietly as if it might hold some unexpected secret compartment and letting his neighbors get on with their work.  He appears to understand office etiquette even though he clearly does not understand the office.

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Hreb    48

After a couple of days attempting to blend into an office environment Hreb begins to keep an utterly regular office hour twice a day, and otherwise shows up dressed for field work, in some state from before to thoroughly disheveled afterward.  He goes off to do stuff.  He remains a cheerful pastry bringing presence, but does not talk about what he does.  He wears the hat.

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Kle    122

Kyle wandered into the office after a week off. He felt bad about abandoning Hreb so soon after recruiting him but it had been a relatively non-negotiable part of his disciplinary. He looked around and sighed when saw Hreb at the desk.

"They've stuck you down here?" he said mildly annoyed "How are you supposed to mentor people from behind a desk? You need to be out in the field. Or at least have somewhere more comfortable" He could see the rest of the staff glaring at him. "No offence meant. You guys do amazing work..." He said quickly. "But it's not like we have a mentor hotline." He paused "Wait we don't have a mentor hotline do we?" One of the women at the cubicles leaned over to the man next to her and whisper "Hudson". Her college simply nodded. 

"Come on Hreb. I'll have a word and try to get you out with some agents. We can finish this in my office. Grab your stuff. You're leaving." Kyle went to find a box and came back looking slightly frustrated. "Fine. We have arms. You can work from my office for the time being. That way if you need one to one time with agents you don't need to worry about booking rooms" He randomly grabbed a pot plant from Hreb's desk and walked toward the exit. He didn't know if it belonged to him but he was going to make a point. "Are you coming?"

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Hreb    48

"Coming!"  At last, proper officeing, this was how it was done!  Hreb hopped up happily.  "Do we got me a mentee?"  He also grabbed a thing from the desk, getting into the spirit of things, a small oriental brass dragon figurine.  It was that or a power cord.  "Be careful with Edith."

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Kle    122

Kyle smiled. He liked Hreb's energy. As they walked down the halls to his office he said "not quite. I've only just got back so haven't had a chance to get stuff in order. I figured that you'd be better off in my office then there though. More relaxed." He turned to Hreb. "Edith? You named your plant Edith?" He laughed. 

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Hreb    48

"Yes, after the kinky mask lady on Twitter.  I tend to name things, dunno why, but I do, possibly my nieces and nephews are to blame.  Although. Never named my revolvers.  I'm not sure I get the whole gun thing.  The Bright Spear already had a name.  Oh, you have a for reals office."  Hreb poked about the small space a moment, curious, and studied Kyle's desk to see what it said about the man.

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