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"I Want It All"


Sarah Tintagyl
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The nuke may not have hit Vienna, or Graz, or even Salzburg, but it had hit Austria and because of her stupidity in North America with the Idahoans thousands of Austrians lay dead. Dinner in Beijing had been interrupted suddenly by a man in a uniform running into the room and informing the Austrian and Chinese delegations that nukes were heading towards Europe and Asia respectively. During the emergency plane ride, Angelika, had prayed more than she ever had in her life. Watching the clouds roll by and the ground underneath her vision disappear, she prayed that the madmen who had sent those nukes up into the sky would be destroyed and that their instruments of death would never touch the rolling hills of Austria. Despite her prayers, Angelika's hopes would not be answered for as the Austrian craft would arrive at a secure Chinese bunker the message would arrive that the nuke sent from Maine, while pushed off course from Vienna, would impact Austrian territory miles south of the capital in a small village hosting many African Legionnaires and countless young men and women who were surely going on about their day.

She watched as Maria and Theresia broke down in tears and agony at hearing the news. The Empress and the youngest Hapsburg fell to their knees, tears filling their eyes and hugging each other tightly trying to console one another, Angelika stood silent, her hands closed into tight fists overcome with a rage she had never felt before in her life. In the bunker, Angelika watched various Chinese advisers and military men pouring over maps along with a larger electronic board at the far end of the room, monitoring where the nuclear missiles had been launched and the victim cities of their explosions. She watched, unable to change the course of history, as the cities of Porto and most of the Maine innocent citizenry were destroyed in waves of fire and heat; even thousands of miles away, Angelika could almost hear their screams and it made her want to scream. It didn't help when one of the missiles on the map hit Austria and her sisters' crying echoed through the bunker like lost banshees, singing their last songs before descending into Hell. Angelika shook her head and turned away from her sisters and the other Chinese around her. She couldn't take it anymore, she was too angry, and she needed to be alone.

Throwing open one of the doors on the side of the bunker's central room. Angelika found a metal table that served as an interrogation room. Picking up the sides of the table, her anger exploded as she flipped the table onto its side and stood in her white dress fuming at the current situation. "They can't do this to us! They can't do this to the world!" She screamed, "It's unfair to everyone. Something like this just happened a few years ago, so much killing, so much death. It needs to !@#$@#$ stop!" The Duchess screamed as she kicked the table and then turned around and drove her fist into the stone wall of the interrogation room. She did it repeatedly until she felt the bones beginning to break and the blood began to flood down her knuckles and fingers.

Finally, her energy spent, Angelika fell to her knees against the stone all and her blonde head came to rest on the bloody stone wall as the tears began to pour from her eyes. "God. Jesus. Whoever the $%&@ is up there. Why are you letting this happen to the world? Aren't we supposed to be your children? Aren't we supposed to be saved? Why are you making people suffer like this? Why are you doing this to the world?" She shook her head and pounded her closed fist against the stone with her eyes shut. "I swear. Give me a miracle. I don't care what it is. But show me what I can do to help this $%&@ed up world." Angelika quieted down for a moment and could still hear her sisters crying beyond the cracked door and let a few more tears fall to the ground. "Help me make them stop crying. God. I will do anything. Just please, make them stop crying, make it so that Austria can be saved. I will sacrifice myself if I need to, just please, let Austria and my sisters be saved. I can't take it anymore!"

She pounded her fist against the wall again. "Don't abandon me! Don't abandon Austria!"

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Jia had spent much of the time either coordinating with Ding; who was running the war from Taiwan, or periodically checking in on Theresia. He had given little notice to who else was in the command center or who had boarded his plane. In the chaos of the movement, Ming, the man who Jia harbored the most suspicion of among the entire UFE senior leadership was for the first time in many months not to any extent monitored by Jia or his imperial guards.

Ming had watched the nuclear exchange with some degree of amusement. He knew the chances of a single state launching an attack upon the UFE were remote, and the rest of the world, he didn't give a damn about. As expected the military leaders were easily mounting professional counter-assaults. Nuclear war was boring. It was the tools of gladiators, a broad sword which would at the end of the day undoubtedly kill humanity. No what interested him was a scalpel, a weapon which could defeat the big weapon systems that dominated warfare with a single bullet.

He had watched Angelika at the dinner and had observed her mannerisms. According to her file she was among the most impulsive of the World's high profile political figures. Further she was already skilled in close quarters combat and trained in the affairs of both persuasion and intrigue. A perfect candidate perhaps?

Ming followed her as she left the war room. Despite his near albinism, he was extremely adept at staying hidden from view in the shadows. As he followed the girl, watching her, listening to her every word, judging her emotional character.

He heard her cry out [i]Don't abandon me! Don't abandon Austria![/i] as he stepped through the door, his cold red colored eyes met hers. "God does not answer prayers by waves of a magic wand." he said, his voice sounding ominously evil, almost out of a science fiction film. "Rather he offers himself as source of strength which we must use to fulfill our own goals Miss Von Hapsburg."

He took another step through the door, his gaunt pale figure coming into focus. He had a mischievous smirk on his face. "Are you strong enough to help Austria?" he asked.

[center][img]http://img840.imageshack.us/img840/522/caulderdaysofruin.jpg[/img][/center]

Edited by Triyun
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Angelika hearing the voice beside her, nearly fell to the ground in shock. But when she turned and saw someone staring down at her, with those cold eyes and that seemingly knowing tone, she didn't scream, she only stared. The Duchess remembered Ming, only briefly at dinner, while she was choking on fish eyes and wines, he had been observing everyone, cold and calculating, it was something she immediately saw when she had arrived at dinner, just not something she was comfortable in pointing out.

"Who are you to make that judgment sir?" The Austrian said as she pushed herself off the ground. Her eyes were still raw with tears and blood ran like rivers down her knuckles. "But no, I'm not strong enough. If I was, I would have stopped all this from happening at the beginning. It was my fault from the start. Involving Austria in North American affairs and people died because of me." She didn't like the look of the man, but he was the only person here willing to talk to her and so she indulged him. "And you're right, God helps those who helps themselves, but sometimes a miracle is all you ask for. I don't know what you Chinese believe in or if you believe in anything. But that is what I believe in and I'm tired of watching innocent people get killed for no reason." Looking at Ming though, Angelika assumed he wasn't one to care about the innocence and so she straightened herself up and prepared to walk back out towards her sisters.

"But I've kept you Herr Ming, if you'll excuse me, I have to console my sisters. Maybe then I'll be strong enough to help Austria."

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As she passed by his shoulder exiting the room, a sinister grin formed on his face, "Miracles?" he asked. "That is a myth of your civilization dear." he said with amusement. "They are stories told to school children because reality is too terrible to face. You are no longer a child Miss von Hapsburg. Your people look to a savior who is long dead. It was not your Christ which saved your religion and your civilization time and time again from annihilation but soldiers, Constantine, Charlemagne, even Vlad Dracule who you've turned into a villian. The reality of the world is what your philosopher Thucydides said millenia ago: 'As the world goes, it is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.'" Ming said.

His face turned to meet hers again, "Deep down you know as well as I that the only times your true miracles occur is when the just happen to care about the weak. Evil in this world can only be defeated by power which can impose its will on an enemy. Of course to wield such power requires a special kind of determination and a special kind of person." he said with a grin his teeth glistening like fangs in the feint light

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Angelika turned cautiously, obviously offset by the man's maddening appearance. The door back to the control room was cracked and she could leave him alone, especially for her own sanity and safety. She felt threatened just standing next to the official, he hadn't talked during dinner and now that he was conversing with her, Angelika didn't know whether to feel special or terrified. "The people, Herr Ming, are not so quick to look back at their historical figures for guidance. Have you seen Europe as of late? Charlemagne is regarded as a traitor by the North Germans, the Slavs are divided between Tsarists and a pseudo-German regime that lives in the past and as for Constantine," She looked down at the ground and frowned, "The only trapping of that age is the fact that Rome has not been Paganized yet, another one of Austria's many duties that she can barely fulfill. Looking back at history isn't enough sometimes." Angelika looked back up at him, her face stern, like a stone. "Sometimes you need to believe in a higher being because everything on Earth is so pathetic that the supernatural is the only think that might save us."

She pushed open the door a little bit further and saw a few yards away, her sisters still in their arms, crying. "You're right about power being able to save the weak." The Duchess bit down on her teeth and clenched her hand into a fist. "I know you don't understand why my sisters and I are here Ming. I can see it in your eyes, Asia has a dislike of Europe and I won't hide the fact that I share the same feelings many of the time. But its not fair to see them suffer like that and its my fault because I got Austria involved in North America and those !@#$%^&* destroyed everything. Those kinds of people, the people you talk about, those with special determination, they don't exist anymore. I have faith in my sisters, but not when the world is against you, there's nothing you can do."

Angelika turned back to Ming. "When I was in America, I was an enemy of Red Dawn and if I could have, I would have stopped it then and there. But there's only so much one person can do. That's why we believe in miracles. That one person can do the task of thousands. But that's why its a miracle, because it doesn't exist." A single tear dropped from her eye as she smiled at her sisters. "I just don't want to see them hurting anymore."

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"No savior from on high will save you or Austria." Ming said coldly, he continued speaking at a whisper, out of ear shot from Maria and Theresia. "Despite your assumptions, I have little opinion of Austria one way or another. I am not a europhile like Jia, but I am not those who oppose him either. I am a scientist and a humanist. I do not seek the improvement of just one nation's condition but the improvement for all of mankind. There are powers to protect, powers to do the impossible, the power of God if you will in this World. But it is not something which comes from God, or Allah, or a Buddha. It is something which comes from us humans, through science and progress. We alone among species have the power to manipulate the forces of this World to our will."

He studied her face, his expression shifting to an unexpected show of sympathy, "I have seen others wield this power to tremendous effect. If you wish to have this power, you must cast aside religious dogma, regret, and weakness, and use the fear and anger within you as motivation to become stronger. Tell me, would you be willing to commit blasphemy before your Church and your silent God if it meant that your family and your country would be safe?"

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Angelika stood silent for a moment, unsure of what the Doctor was talking about, though in the back of her mind, in the nightmares that kept young girls from sleeping she had her fair share of ideas. She looked back at her sisters and bit her bottom lip before shutting the door. Walking towards the center of the room, she crossed her arms looked up at Ming, her eyes meeting his own in a cool stare of fear, worry, and excitement. She appeared elegant in her gown with the Austrian sash still hanging delicately around her chest and over her shoulders, the Duchess' earrings and necklace sparkled in the florescent light of the interrogation room in stark contrast to Ming, who was still standing in the shadows.

"If it meant that my family and country would be safe from rogues like Maine and other mad regimes in the future then yes, I would do anything. What blasphemy are you talking about? And whatever it is, Maria and Theresia are not allowed to know that we discussed anything like this."

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"I would never dream of it Princess." he replied to her concern about her family. There was little reason to let them know, especially since it would come back to Jia. The less oversight of Special Projects, the better for Ming.

He pulled a small vile from his pocket. A translucent orange liquid was inside. "There are some who say, that humanity was never intended to play with the laws of nature." he said. "That mankind should place its faith in God alone for its strength, as we were created in his image. This was the mythology that lead your church for centuries to claim inoculations against small pox we're an abomination of God's Will. I have taken this a step further. This serum, is the first in a series which helps mankind surpass its limits. The end of disease, longer life spans, greater reaction, greater speed. This is the power of science. I give this to you, try it. Its power will greatly increase your ability, if you find it to be desirable, come to Lanzhou in two weeks. Come to the edge of the Himilayas. My people will find you. If you choose this path, we will give you the second phase of the serum and you can wield a powerful greater than you can possibly imagine." he said with a grin firmly placing it in Angelika's hand. He then seemed to vanish as she was left to look at the vile of serum.

Edited by Triyun
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Angelika looked down at the orange liquid in the vial and then back up at Ming, but by that time, he had disappeared entirely. The meeting had been odd and she couldn't grasp any reason why the Chinese Doctor would want to help her, plus just the way he spoke made him sound less than sincere. Holding the vial up to her eyes she rotated the glass tube in her hands, watching the liquid bounce back in forth in small droplets against the side. It was a gooey substance that slide against the sides, like the medicine she used to drink when she was younger. The liquid sliding down her throat like a slime, just the thought of it made the Duchess gag.

But was it safe? Was Ming doing this to help her or when and if she drank the serum, would it kill her? It was well reasoned that not all of the Chinese were as happy to have Austria as an ally as Jia was, Ming could be one of those men, taking advantage of the young girl in her time of need to feed her poison. Angelika's mind spun as she removed the cap of the vial and smelled the liquid. A mixture of industrial strength rubbing alcohol and pomegranate played with her nose and she didn't know whether to throw up or to keep smelling. A few seconds later the door moved and Maria poked her head into the room as Angelika snuggled the vial tightly into her corset.

"Angelika? Is everything okay?" The Empress pushed the door further. "Theresia and I couldn't find you. We were worried."

The Duchess smiled and nodded, "Yeah, I'm okay, everything's going to be fine. When I heard that we were hit, I just couldn't contain myself anymore. I wish I could have just cried with you and Theresia. I'd feel better."

Maria looked over at the table and smirked. "Seems you did a number on our friend here," she said putting her hand onto her younger sister's shoulder. "Listen, Angelika, we each have different ways of dealing with anger. Theresia and I, well, we were always a little more calm when it came to stress and then you were the one who punched holes in walls. Its why grand-papa liked you the best. You were the sister who defended us. Even if you were a nuisance."

"Is Theresia okay?"

"She's going with Jia now, Beijing was targeted, so she has to be with her people." Maria chuckled, "It's kind of funny saying that, she's grown up faster than both of us. Already taking care of a billion or more people as the Chinese Imperatrix. But we're going to get going, the Chinese have enough to worry about, without dealing with the Austrian delegation taking up room. Bridgette has already prepared our flight back to Vienna. We're leaving in twenty minutes."

Angelika sighed and opened the steel door and looked out at the control room. Theresia had disappeared and the various Chinese officers and agents were buzzing around the room while flashes of red and green covered the board on the far wall. "So much for the dinner party, eh? I was looking forward to having more of that roast duck."

"Maybe next time. At Theresia's wedding."

"Yeah," the Duchess said as she walked out of the interrogation room. "Then we'll have to deal with the Plague."

---

The entire flight back to Austria, all twenty-some hours of it, Angelika had stayed wide-awake and when all eyes around her had shut, she studied the vial again. In two weeks Ming had told her to return to China where she could get the second part of the serum, the part that was necessary to bring her, to what Ming had called, full potential. It was like something out of a movie or a novel, being promised something life changing and for seemingly nothing. But Angelika knew better, she knew that somewhere in Ming's talk there would be a catch and she would lose a bit of herself because of it. By the time the plane had landed in Vienna, she had convinced herself to get rid of the accursed vial as soon as the Imperial Motorcade reached Hofburg Palace. Yet the warm liquid that pulsed through the glass against her skin told her otherwise. She thought about the power that Ming promised, how she had been chosen by him like God might choose one of the saints to orders. Then thoughts of Maria and Theresia crying, holding each other tightly in that bunker, wandered back into her mind. Maria had called her their defender, their protector, and after all, what had happened in North America was her fault. Sacrificing herself to the serum inside the glass tube strangely enough seemed like a valid enough reason to accept the gift.

When she finally returned to her room in the palace, the Duchess looked the door and placed the vial onto her nightstand for later. After taking a shower and fixing herself for bed, Angelika returned to the orange liquid and picked it up in her hand.

"So this is what power feels like, eh?" She closed her eyes and opened her mouth. "Lets see what it tastes like."

The orange goo slide down her throat and as Angelika had expected it tasted like slime. She could feel every bit of the serum sliding down into her stomach and then it was over. Standing there in the candlelit room, the Duchess ran over to the mirror and looked at her face. She half expected for her face to start melting off or that she would have a sudden urge to howl at the moon, but nothing like that happened. Instead, Angelika coughed a few times and shook out the taste of rubbing alcohol and oranges from her mouth and went over to brush her teeth before going to bed.

When she reached the sink however, a sudden chill came over her. This was no normal chill, goosebumps rose up from her skin almost instantly and only seconds before she had thought it was rather warm in the room. "Ugh..." She groaned turning on the sink and rubbing her hands across her arms trying to bring some warmth back, but it was no use, her entire room felt like she was in the middle of Siberia. Taking a hand full of water, Angelika splashed her neck and her hair, trying to bring some warmth or at least some feeling back into her skin...feeling...she was losing feeling?

Suddenly the pain hit her as she lurched forward onto the sink and felt her body began to tense up. She tried to scream, but the tension in her veins and in her jaw wouldn't let her. Every muscle and sinew she had began to contract and as she slid off the sink and onto the floor, Angelika could see the veins beginning to rise up from her skin making small mounds of blue, green, and orange across her body. "Need...need...to...move...what...what's happening..."

A bit of feeling began to come back into Angelika's arms as she reached forward and pulled herself out of the bathroom and into her room. Crawling across the floor, she could feel more feeling coming back into her chest and her legs, but she was still cold, freezing actually as she reached up and tried to pull herself into the bed. The Duchess made it half way before she turned herself around and rested her head against the mattress, it was so soft and the candle was so bright. In fact, everything was bright, the stars, the moon, even the white walls that were still covered by a shroud of darkness. Her arms dropped to their sides as her eyes seemed to roll to the back of her head as entire universes began to pass through her mind and into her veins. Sitting there, Angelika could feel an indescribable energy working its way into her arms, her chest, her legs, and her head. Where once she was shivering, a warm pulsing filled her and as a smile crept across her face. "So this is what power feels like...absolute bliss."

She closed her eyes and closed the door to reality, knowing she would never really be the same again.

---

When Angelika woke up, she squinted from the intense brightness the filled the room. It was no brighter than normal, but she could see clearer as it was, there was fresh glow to the world, a sincerity that she had not always been privy too. Pushing herself up from the floor also seemed easier than normal and while Angelika had not changed physically, well for the most part, her skin had changed from its old pallor to a healthier tan and the rounds of her biceps seemed at least slightly harder. The serum had worked, in the course of the night, Ming had delivered everything he had promised, now it was just a matter of hiding it.

Oddly enough, it wasn't as hard as Angelika had first believed. Maria barely noticed any changes in her sister's physical appearance and everyone else was happy to see the Princess who had always been confined to the north, finally get her tan. In addition, the Austrian Court was too busy worrying about the North American situation than what Angelika had gotten herself into the night before.

For the next week, she experimented with the full potential of the serum and found that she could run much further without getting tired, lift significantly more dead weight and a plethora of other physical activities. It was during all this prancing around Vienna, showing off to herself the advantages of the change that Angelika remembered her promise. She had not done this for herself, she had done this for Austria and if she was going to stay true to herself then she would have to take a much more active role in the Empire. She swore that after returning from her trip to the Himalayas that she would use what knowledge she had from the University of Berlin and the droll teachings of her Grandfather to join the Austrian General Staff. She would serve Austria the way she had always dreamed, from the front, protecting her family and her country from danger all the while expanding it's glory.

So when she finally arrived in the mountainous regions of the southern Federation, to see Ming on the appointed date her mind was buzzing with ideas. She only hoped that the catch of such a rush was her using the serum correctly and not a binding soul sale to the doctor.

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Lanzhou was very much past the edge of what was cosmopolitan China. The glistening new sky scrapers of Shanghai and Beijing had given way to monolithic concrete buildings indicative of the Communist rule under the Cholans and later the Revolutionary Communists. All that was new was military buildings. Despite the thaw in UFE-Cochinese relations recently, years of heavy military spending to protect against invasion by the Indians was apparent.

Most Chinese here were dressed in the faded blue and olive green mao suits seen in films. The air was thick with the smell of coal and smog from older cars, left over from the years before China began to increase environmental controls. The air was thick with pollution and the sun was hazy at best. It was... an alien world when compared to the fairy tale scenery of Vienna.

At the airport, the men dispatched to meet Angelika would easily find her. Few Europeans ever came to this part of the world. The men meeting her were dressed in tailored suits and conservative crew top haircuts standing out from the normal population. "Miss Von Hapsburg." one said in German. "You are to come with us, we have a helicopter waiting."

==================================

The flight over the foothills of the Himalayas was barely remarkable. Gone were the endless crowds of the East. Military outposts and fortified villages could occasionally be seen in the countryside, but aside from that was wilderness, and the barren kind at that. The helicopter finally touched down on a location along the Huang He River. The facility was build into the cliff side.

Ming stood on the helipad to greet the Austrian Princess. Sizing her up he could see the tell tale signs of serum, the intensity in the eyes, the elevated breathing, the greater tone in her figure. [i]Good.[/i] he thought. He also knew that the first dose of serum was soon to begin to wear, and that without the follow up doses the pangs of a withdrawal so intense it could put someone into debilitating pain would be the inevitable effect. Angelika did not know it yet, but her destiny had already been sealed.

"Princess Angelika, so kind of you to join us in our humble abode." he spoke eerily.

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The entire experience after leaving Vienna, felt strange. Angelika felt like she was doing something illegal, like sneaking out of the palace in Germany to buy drugs or bum alcohol off of someone and in truth, it was exactly what she was doing. The mystique of China had disappeared along the flight, the China she was seeing was the one misshapen by the Communists and the buildings that hugged the cliff side and the fortified villages reminded the Duchess of how Austria had looked during it's own Communist Regime. She sighed and leaned her head back, trying to concentrate, but with the world still spinning and unbelievable amounts of energy still flowing through her veins it was almost impossible. Angelika took deep breaths, long breaths and closed her eyes as the helicopter began to descend. There was no turning back once she had swallowed the serum, but now the gravity of the situation was dawning on her and she was afraid to take the next step.

Getting off the helicopter, Ming was there, his creepy smile made her hair stand on end. "Well the pleasure is all mine, Herr Doctor. I drank the serum. I was worried that it might have been a trick, but I have to say, I've never felt better in my life. Stronger, more alert, faster, the world is even more clear and I have you to thank. But I have to ask. What happens now with the next stage and all?"

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Ming's smile widened, he did not detect regret in her but rather enthusiasm. This was good, she would be easier to mold. He had feared observing her younger sister that she would ultimately return to the shackles of morality, but rather she appeared to be embracing ambition.

"Now, we must prepare your body and mind for the next phase of the serum." he said. "You see the power that you will unleash is not something that the human body so easily adapts to. You are becoming... better than a normal human. Our physiology was not designed for such a thing. Come come. There is much to be done!" he motioned to her leading her into a earthen passage into the mountain.

The walls were filled with a strange iconography barely visible under the sparse ceiling lighting. The passage opened up into a vast room with natural cave ceilings high above it. The room was filled with testing equipment and lab coated scientists. "The first phase is of course to train your heart and muscles." he said pointing to a chair.

"This is an electro-muscle therapy machine. It will train your muscles at a extremely rapid rate. Normally a machine of this power would kill a human, however, you will find you can endure it in time for longer and longer intervals. It will be extremely painful, but sadly there is little alternative... I am sure you will do better than previous subjects, your serum is much more refined." he said with the cold detachment of a scientist experimenting with lab rats.

He pointed to another chamber large chamber with a set of weights and a tread mill in it, a single cot stood at the edge of it with a curtain and what barely could be considered bathroom facilities lay behind it. The Ritz Carlton it was not. "This is the vacuum chamber, it will train your respiratory system through increased air thinning. We will start with the altitude of Lhasa, and over the course of a week train rapidly increase it to equivalent to Everest, this chamber is where you will spend most of your life here."

"Lastly..." he began. He had a proud grin on his face. A machine was sitting in a corner, it had a chair hooked up to a large computer with a single head mounted display on it. "The E.X.A.M. system." he said. "This is the most wrenching thing you will face. Through this your brain will be subjected to direct input increasing your knowledge of martial arts, weapon systems, military strategy, etc., bypassing your sensory systems completely. This will force your brain to use more of its excess capacity and prepare you for the increased sensory input you'll experience at full serum. Fortunately we have found an anti-convulsion medication that is effective for the seizures normally caused by E.X.A.M. I must insist though if you start to form psychosis your inform us immediately. Subject Number 7 managed to kill quite a few of my finest researchers before taking his own life."

Ming turned to Angelika, his red eyes meeting hers. "So Princess, are you ready to become a living goddess?" he asked.

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