Lydra clung to the safety railing at the edge of the roof and looked down at the pulsing and churning waves. “So, the only way here is by air.”
Her cousin, Mirdok, nodded. “Yes. This is a secure facility. How did you get them to agree to your visit?”
“Ah, I have excellent grades and a leaning toward genetic research. They are courting me.” She turned and looped her arm through his.
He sighed. “And how did you get the Citadel to agree to have me fly you around the islands?”
She laughed. “I am very smart, Specialist Mirdok. They are courting me, too.”
“My aunt has a lot to answer for.”
“She’s busy teaching. Now, shall we meet the researchers? I am eager for my tour.” She elbowed him in the ribs, and he sighed, leading her toward the bright-faced researcher who was desperate to get her on their team.
EmberCorp Genetics was the most respected and effective genetic research and alteration facility on their world. They got the best and brightest minds in their entire solar system and occasionally beyond. They wanted Lydra Yrick, and she was considering the staggering sum that they were willing to pay for both her mind and access to her genetic code.
“So, as you can see, the equipment we have here is second to none. We do research for the Citadels, the Sector Guard, and occasionally, we even get diagnostic requests from the Nyal Imperium.” There was pride in Administrator Rorring’s voice.
Lydra looked at the scanners and equipment. Her fingers itched to be working on those machines. She tried to act casual. “Do you have anything new?”
The administrator smiled as if sensing her capitulation. “We have been working on a genetic accelerator.”
That perked her interest. “What?”
“Well, as a potential power yourself, you know that a few generations is sometimes all that is needed to unlock the power in the genes. We have created a machine to do the work of those generations.”
Lydra cleared her throat. “Can I see it?”
“Our researchers are eager to show it to you.”
Lydra could tell that the administrator was eager to show their new jewel to her. She hoped that Mirdok was entertained in the visitor’s centre. She was definitely wanting to take her time and see all she could. A placement at EmberCorp was a lifelong appointment. They would complete her education, her training and give her housing and security. They would select even her husband, matching genetics for the best chance at a powered offspring.
It was a lot to decide on, but the promise of a life of research and discovery was so tempting, she was nearly drooling.
She was taken through six security locks and down into the base of the building. It was like creeping through the layers of a nest to reach the egg inside.
“Dr. Hameruk, this is Lydra Yrick. We are trying to get her to come to the Corp when her finals are done, though her marks and research papers have already assured her a place here if she wants it.”
Dr. Hameruk was tall, handsome and had a curl to his lip that indicated he considered his mind a law unto itself. “What is your genetic status?”
Lydra looked at him calmly. “I am a potential.”
He raised his brows. “Power in the family?”
“Seven members within one generation.”
“Research educators with weak telekinesis.”
He blinked. “Your parents are powered?”
“They are, though they prefer the term talented. I have three siblings and one cousin affiliated with the Citadel.” She smiled with pride. “They have all made it to Specialist ranking or higher.”
Suddenly, the contempt was gone from the doctor’s face. “May I have a hair sample for destructive purposes?”
She blinked and challenged him. “May I see how the machine works?”
Anger crossed his features, and then, he let out a slow smile. “Of course. Come this way.”
The administrator was delighted. “You have had a successful test?”
The researcher’s jaw tensed so hard, Lydra was afraid he would crack his teeth.
“We have had moderate success. I will be happy to demonstrate for the candidate. I am sure that you are content to remain outside the chamber?”
Rorring looked nervous. “Yes, of course. If you are fine with that, Ms. Yrick, I will be right outside.”
“I am sure I will be fine. Please, Dr. Hameruk, lead the way.”
He gave her a tight smile and led her through three secure doors until they were facing a lock that required genetic samples and full biometric scans on the part of the doctor.
He smiled and gestured for her to take his position. “Scan for access, subject of study, Yrick.”
The phrasing was a little peculiar, but Lydra’s curiosity was her worst failing and she wanted to see that machine.
The scan prickled along her skin, and she stood motionless as it went over her from head to toe several times. When she felt like the victim of a high-powered solar bath, it ceased its scan and she was free to enter the airlock with the doctor.
The moment the secondary door opened and she could see the equipment, she started smiling. It was gorgeous.
“Oh my. Did you put it together yourself?” She approached the unit, taking in the articulated restraints that would custom fit to every subject, the set injectors and the serum containment systems. It was begging for a subject.
“I gave the requirements to different teams in the facility and installed it myself. The restraint system is a thing of beauty.” His tone was warm as he went to the control desk.
She looked at him as his fingers moved across the panels and screens. Lydra called herself seventeen kinds of fool when a shock crossed her body and sent her stumbling back. Her own skin moved her, and the tingling of the scan made sense. She had been coated with microbots. Nanites.