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He had promised Dr. Weston a week, and he intended to deliver. His determination was not without doubt though. Ultimately it would be the men themselves who determined the outcome. The Ascendant Power was an intimate force that each had to accept on their own. Fortunately Nikolai had chosen his candidates well. They were outstanding in their respective fields and displayed an aptitude for tolerance and adaptability. Unfortunately, adaptation did not always manifest in benign behaviour.

Michael felt both utterly isolated and perfectly at home. As he watched his students, he could feel the struggle inside of each. He did not believe in any ability that could discern someone's true nature - at best the practitioners were extremely adept with educated guesses - but he saw truth in his student's eyes, even in those who wished to hide it. The struggle of becoming something more - or less - than human was familiar and its unique brand was distinguishable.

Michael saw the unbridled wonder in the recovered Monserre's bright eyes. The Ascendants' healing capacity was superior to the average human's, which no doubt surprised his doctors when he was up and fit to continue within 48 hours. He felt the barely contained hunger in Taichechski's. It was not all egotistical. Some responded with curiosity and fascination, wariness and even fear. The last two emotions were the most sensible, but also the most detrimental. Caution was certainly due, but uncertainty bred mistakes and fear bred doubt.

Nonetheless, by the fifth day all of the men had been able to grasp the Ascendant Power 9 out of 10 times and hold it safely 7 out of 10. It was not the perfection the Dr. wanted, but he doubted it would ever exist.

Michael pushed them. Hard. He forced them to their physical and mental limits, so much so that they had neither the time nor the energy to experiment. It was a simple schedule. Eat. Learn. Sleep.

As hard as it was, he received no complaints. At least not directly. No doubt some of them harboured an abiding hatred of his relentless regime. However, the shroud of their tomb-like habitation hung heavy around them all. Every one of them wanted to be released from the cage they lived in, and their only hope was through the Ascendant Power.

On the morning of the 6th day as the 8 men assembled, Michael grasped the Ascendant Power and held a simple ball of Fire and Air in his left palm. Tony's trick had rubbed off on him. Fireballs seemed to impress people. "Today, the days of indulgence are over,"
it was of course a hyperbolic statement which delivered the intended effect. "Now, you will learn to use your gift."
"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
For something that would revolutionize the world, Michael's task was painstakingly dull. He longed for the open air while they breathed in the purified and recycled oxygen he could not get used to.

The first lesson his men recruits learned was distinguishing and producing the five base powers that compromised the Ascendant power as a whole. Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Spirt.

The first few days were spent in simple exercise. One would be asked to extend a net of one power on demand while another would be asked to identify which was used. It only took a few days. It was for the most part intuitive, but Michael did not risk lives on intuition intervening.

The following lessons were a graduation of learning to use multiple powers at once. Starting with the basic of two through to all five together. The nets he taught were extremely simple and functional. The combination of Air and Fire proved to be the most popular. More than once he had to swat away a ball of floating fire, often having to douse burning clothes. After the doctors grew annoyed at the too-frequent requests for new uniforms, he announced that there would have to use whatever they had with no extras. Nonetheless, the singes and stains grew until all of them turned up with some kind of ruined piece of clothing.

These lessons Michael extended far longer, making sure that every man could spin at least one net using all five powers combined. It proved to be enlightening. From what he observed, each man had different strengths and weaknesses. Most exceeded in Fire and Earth while being relatively weak with Water and Air. Michael's strength in Air proved to be one of many oddities he found.

Time stretched on and the weeks passed by. He was constantly tense and drained and keeping a strangle-hold on his emotions wore thinner each day . So he retreated to the solace of the bubble of emptiness that came with the power increasingly more often. The effect spread throughout the entire facility like a plague of melancholy.

It would not be long until someone snapped.
"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
"Uh, Commander, are you sure this is safe?"
a nervous white-coat said. It was a term that had stuck with the Ascendant group for the scientists that observed them. There was little love lost between the two groups. One who thought themselves test subjects little better than lab rats, the other cautious or afraid of the powers being honed within their facility.

Michael closed his eyes and pressed a hand to his forehead. The Ascendant Power swirled around the room like miniature cyclones. Today was an exercise in precision and defence. One group would use a web of Air to throw a cricket ball - a contraption he had apparently introduced to more than a few of them - towards their partner who would in turn stop it with the Ascendant Power.

"How safe are the experiments you conduct?"
Michael replied.

The man grunted and Michael opened his eyes. He had puffed out his chest and took on a tone of pride. "The tests scientists conduct will naturally have an element of risk, but these risks are weighed against the benefits and solutions are formed through rigorous theoretical analysis. This...power... is an exception, you understand. We don't have any reliable data, so we can't guarantee -"

Michael nodded. "You have your answer, then."

The man - Michael distanced himself from all of Dr. Weston's team. He did not want to remember them with anger. They were only following orders and had good intent. - accepted his words, but eyed the flying objects with nervous suspicion.

Michael had a shield in place around the both of them as he monitored his students. It gave him a strange sense of pride to see them all grow so quickly, even the slowest among them, Samuel Leweski held his own against the naturally talented Allan Rykovi.

Im Seung Jun held the most power among the group but most of them looked towards Karim al’Shaidis for advice. His eagerness and diligent modesty had earned him a reputation that even the arrogant Julian Monserre respected. The man had been humbled after the first day and devoted himself, but he could not fully dispel the airs of superiority that clung to him.

Others were more troubling. The young Dominik Taichechski hungered for power above all else. Michael did not fail to notice the way he pushed the boundaries of both the Ascendant Power and Michael's patience.

Sanjay Ramanujan also remained a mystery. He held his intentions close and preferred to watch rather than take any stance of his own in the politics among the group. No matter how much Anthony Petrovic poked him Ramanujan did not budge, and it wasn't often Petrovic didn't get under someone's skin with his blasé mocking attitude made all the more insufferable by his seemingly effortless development.

Michael was ripped from his contemplation as two spikes of power drew his attention. Taichechski stood over a furious Petrovic who spat blood from his swollen mouth.

"What the hell was that! You cheating bastard!"
the usually laid back Petrovic hissed.

Michael barely spun a web in time as Petrovic lashed out and sent Taichechski flying through the air where h was caught just short of the wall.

"Release the Ascendant Power, all of you!"
Michael demanded.

Seven men obliged. Michael turned to face the eighth who was now safely deposited on the ground once more. Michael did not hold the full extent of his own power, but he was still twice the match for Taichechski.

The man tried to resist but Michael's wave of Air and Spirt knocked the wind from Dominik's lungs. He lost his grasp on the Ascendant Power as he clutched at his stomach, dry-heaving. "Don't press me, you will regret it."

"The rest of you, good work. I am proud of everything you have done in such a short time. Even you, Dominik, have talent. Don't waste it with foolishness. Today's session is over. Do as you wish for the remainder of the day."

He had no need to lecture them on what they could not do, they all knew the rules by now and managed to unwind. Unfortunately, the fragile peace was coming to an end. He had to do something.

Michael made his way to the communications room. It was past time he returned to the surface.
"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."

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