Since then, Tamora had often seen Mr. N during meals, but they had never interacted. They weren't allowed to talk to each other. So they contented themselves by simply eyeing each other from afar and trying to gauge for possible weaknesses just by looks alone.

During the third day, Tamora had met the EP, Armando Irish and Adam Deane.

Madam Tridalyn accompanied her to Tier 150 and up to the 250th floor.

It was a place built from all-diamondglass, a towering monolith situated at the top floors of the L Hotel, divided from the main building through a magnetic force where it hovered two stories above, and could only be accessible through five running VIP pods.

The monolith was rounded at the corners, hollowed at the middle where only authorized vehicles were parked in the circular silver air strip right there.

Seeing that the L Hotel was a prominent hotspot for notable Prodigy members of the Society, as well as the wealthy (mainly because it had an entrance to the Diamond Alley and its exclusive chains of merchandise stores), it's only reasonable that the hotel was protected by an impressive line of security system to protect its patrons.

In the pinnacle - the diamond glass monolith - each floor revolved around horizontally or vertically, clockwise or counterclockwise - like a rubix cube - in no order and with such irregularity to further confuse any who would threaten to target one specific high-ranking Prodigy or anyone residing in any of its rooms.

There were also Level 10 impact and shock-absorber barriers that wrapped around the structure like an invisible armour, while unauthorized vehicles weren't allowed to fly near that zone, or they would be shot down by drones if vehicle owners refused to give their identification.

It was a building reserved only for the wealthiest and influential individuals that generally had an annual net worth of around trillions of pounds. And for the first time, in all her nineteen years of life as any normal human, Tamora could step into the place and meet two of its temporary guests.


After seating herself in a front of them on a chair designed from elastic 5D fibres that absorbed her weight, both of the Executive Producers had directly asked her questions and Tamora had answered to the best of her abilities.

"What made you decide to apply for this social experiment, Ms. G?" Mr. Deane was the first one to ask, followed by Mr. Irish, who said: "Was it for the chance of being among the thirty finalists who will be Locked Up together with two of the most popular crowd of prodigies from the Prodigies Society?"

Very much aware of the wristband on her wrist that the two Prodigies had given to her under the pretense of extending their congratulations for being amongst the fortunate who had been accepted, Tamora took some time to answer.

She knew what the wristband was since she had heard her parents discussed about them. The Lounsbury LabCorp had supplied different types of wristbands to a focus group, most were medical practitioners, including Tamora's parents, to evaluate consumer response to the product prior to launching it into the market.

Both Tamora's parents were DenSpecs. They specialize in cleaning, restoration, aligning, oral surgery, therapy - or most often - stimulating ectoderm to promote teeth growth which would require hours of Dental Micro Surgery. It also meant the need for long-acting anesthesia.

The Lounsbury Labcorp had both provided Tamora's parents a supply of anesthesia wristbands.

After trying the wristbands on their patients, Allison and Joseph Grant had nothing but praise for it. They had given a positive review, and 9 out of 10 pentagrams for the product. And later, telling the company that they would buy it once it was available on the market.

The wristband that Tamora was wearing, however, was not an anesthesia wristband. It was something else entirely.

Given that the Locked Up experiment would involve living with, and getting close to the Prodigious members of the Society, Tamora suspected that the wristband was for them to ensure that most finalist, that were chosen, weren't there to possibly harm one of their kind while inside the Castle.

Tamora concluded that the wristband must be one of those that contained a mild form of sodium thiopental - or in other words - a truth serum. If absorbed through skin and into the bloodstream, it would force the wearer only to tell the truth.

Some finalist might not be unaware of what the wristband could do, but Tamora had prior knowledge to it and knew how to slow down the effects.

Tamora started holding her breath for about five seconds while she talked. If she slowed down her breathing, the supply of oxygen on her red blood cells would decrease, hindering the pentothal from attaching itself into her blood and thus delaying its effects to reach her brain.

"To be quite honest, Mr. Irish, Mr. Deane." Tamora began, still trying to control her breathing. "It wasn't really my plan at all to join the Locked Up. My best friend, her name is Lea Chang, she was the one who convinced me to apply and send a holorecording of myself to the Four Founder's Group. I have never expected that I would be picked from the random selection and get the invitation for the final casting process."

The two men must have noticed her odd breathing pattern because Tamora saw them exchanged a brief look.

When Mr. Deane turned to look at her once more, Tamora saw the twinkle in his blue eyes.

It puzzled Tamora that it seemed her method of trying to counteract the effects of the wristband had pleased both the Executive Producers.

Surprisingly, they didn't comment on it.

A creeping suspicion rose up within Tamora, telling her that the wristband must be some kind of test that she past.

"You are very fortunate Ms. G, because out of more than a billion of hopefuls, and most of them fans of the Death Dealers and the Red Wanderers, you have been encoded by our system as a potential candidate to be Locked Up in the Hellholt Castle. Whether you are a fan of the two groups or not, I'm glad that you didn't back out from this opportunity to be seen and recognized by the entire world."

"I hear from Ms. McGregor that Ms. G here had nearly denied the invitation." Mr. Irish said, scrutinizing Tamora. "You are a very unusual girl, Miss G. Other people out there would die to get this chance to be seen and gain fame while locked up in the Hellholt Castle. Yet from what Ms. McGregor have told me, you were ready to decline our invitation when she contacted you. I believe you would have, if she hadn't given you the time to think twice about it. May I ask the reason behind your hesitation?"

Tamora was glad for the sleek, geometrical table that stood between her and the two executive producers. It gave her the opportunity to hide the movements of her hands.

"It's a simple reason, really. I was planning to study this summer for the entrance exam in Oxfarva University -"

Tamora wanted to become an Alucinari; a new course major that the Oxfarva University started offering this year.

It was a type of Psychologist solely for the Prodigies. If Tamora obtained a Bacherlor's and Masteral's Degree on that course, she would be able to go in and understand more how the Prodigies mind work.

If not that, Tamora could always fall back to her second choice of becoming a BioTechno Engineer.

With them hanging unto her every word, Tamora swiftly dragged her wristband against her black cammo polyester pants.

" -So I thought... I won't be able to do that if ever I'm chosen as one of the thirty finalist to be locked up in the Hellholt Castle -"

Using the right amount of pressure, Tamora forcefully turned the wristband inside-out, consequently rendering it ineffective with its microscopic filaments currently exposed to the air, where it had previously been expelling the chemicals directly into her skin.

Tamora would have approximately around 30 seconds before she would be able to lie.

"-If I am to live with the two groups and thirty other people under 24/7 hours of surveillance. It won't be a conducive environment for me to study. The Death Dealers or the Wanderers might even create such a ruckus that it will be difficult for me to concentrate."

Now, Tamora's frank answer seemed to have amuse the two middle-aged men even further.

"So what changed your mind?"

"It was my parents who convinced me to come for the final casting process."

"What did they say to convince you?"

It's time to test if Tamora could lie.

"They told me that they will be paying for the courses that I will choose in the future, but on one condition…" Tamora paused while the two men leaned in with interest. "If I got them a personal autograph from both the heirs of the Lounsbury LabCorp and Graham Electronic Industries."

Yes, it worked.

The reason her parents had given 9 out of 10 pentagrams during the product review; it was mainly due to the wristbands being slightly loose that it still allowed room for movement and the chance of possibly turning it inside-out; like Tamora had purposely done to make its purpose ineffective.

Fortunately, Tamora's parents hadn't encountered this problem during their initial test run on their patients, lest the patients would have been in extreme pain during the surgery.

Mr. Deane and Mr. Irish now looked equally intrigued.

"Are your parents both fans of the Death Dealers and the Wanderers?" Mr. Deane inquired.

"No, not the group as a whole." Tamora clarified. "My parents are fans of both Mr. Lounsbury's and Mr. Graham's brainchild."

There was a long pause as the two stared at her, uncertain if she was jesting or not.

"Do you mean the new AR Vision?" Mr. Deane started, a puzzled frown knitting his brows.

Tamora knew that both Tamlin Lounsbury and Jaime Graham had developed the new AR that came out six months ago.

Currently, both the Lounsbury Labcorp, Graham Electronic Industries, and their associates were using an effective marketing strategy that would promote the ARs through mainstreaming, and using their newly formed group (though separate) - the instant global sensation - The Red Wanderers and The Death Dealers.

This, of course, had drawn other business corporations, such as the Four Founder's Group, to capitalize on the group's fame to their advantage, and set up a stage for them in the upcoming social experiment, the Locked Up, which would ultimately fill the overloaded pockets of many Prodigies with a disgusting amount of gold.

Greedy Bastards.

"No, my parents became great admirers of them for creating...the new version of Pokemon Go. The one with the Lord of the Rings Crossover." Tamora lied, trying to keep a straight face while she gauge to see the men's reaction.

She saw surprise flicker on both Executive Producer's eyes.

The two stared at her like she had just grown two heads until they both realized what she was on about.

The men exchanged glances once more before nodding their head in unison.

Abruptly, Mr. Irish stood up and extended a hand towards Tamora which she automatically took.

The man was smiling.

"Congratulations, Ms. G. You pass the initial interview. We hope that we will get to see you on the finals." He told her, shaking her hand firmly.

Mr. Deane stood up to shake her hand as well. "Thank you for meeting us today Ms. G. You've provided us with something to think about. It's been a pleasure meeting you."

They didn't comment on how Tamora was able to lie through the truth serum wristband, which only confirmed Tamora's theory that it had been a test after all.

A test she had past.

And it seemed Mr. N had past as well because Tamora could still see his arrogant figure sitting two to three tables away from her every time she came down to eat her meals.

Tamora didn't know who else had passed the test. The restaurant was often packed by other kinds of people, both from residential and corporate inhabitants in the L Hotel, as well as temporary guests, so it was difficult for Tamora to distinguish who else was there for the final casting process.

Three days after her meeting with both Mr. Deane and Mr. Irish, Tamora was then asked to take the standardized IQ test and Personality test.

The test was conducted within an anechoic chamber, which was designed by walls, ceilings and floors from 3.3 inches of sound-absorbent wedges, built within double insulated steel and concrete, and then reinforced with a 50 mm of ballistic glass.

It was a chamber to drive anyone insane in less than an hour with no sound but you.

At around -9 dBA, Tamora could hear the sound of her beating heart, the chugging of blood within her veins, the churning of her stomach, and even the sharp rasping of her lungs as it collapsed and expanded with each breath she took.

Tamora was used to the silence in the library, but this kind of silence produced hallucinations.

So by the time it reached around ten minutes while she scrambled to answer the question, she started hallucinating.

It was only through sheer amount of concentration that she was able to ignore the figure of a woman who was standing still beside her.

The form had appeared as a vague shape at first, and as minutes pass by while Tamora answered the exampad on the table, the woman seemed to solidify.

The black figure stood right next to her, just watching how Tamora tapped on the touchscreen pad with shaking fingers.

It was standing still as a statue. It looked sleek as black marble. With no eyes and nose, but with a mouth, and hair so long it reached the floor.

It didn't have arms, but it had razor sharp teeth, and blackened - by what appeared to be -days old blood.

And the figure was grinning wide from ear to ear, like someone had slit through the sides of its mouth to give it a Glasgow smile.

Tamora felt only horror gripping her heart. The sound of her racing heartbeat was like the sound of a deafening thunderclap.

As time passed by, the figure seemed to lean in closer and closer to Tamora. She watched it from the corner of her eyes; a scream lodged within Tamora's throat as it pressed its wide, grinning mouth right beside Tamora's face.

Just a hallucination! This chamber is designed to break the mind! Don't fail your test! She thought as her fingers frantically continued to tap –tap- tapping on the exampad.

She was almost done. She had to finish the exam.

Just close! Ten more items! Don't fail! Don't fail! Or that thing is going to eat you!

As if reading her thoughts, the faceless figure started whispering into her ear. It's black, long hair sliding against the floor that produce a sound like sharp iron nails dragging against glass.

"You will fail. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!"

Tamora felt like screaming.

Concentrate Tamora! Concentrate! That thing is a not real! Its just like Madam Tridalyn had warn you about! It's just a hallucination produced by long stay in anechoic chamber! Ignore it!

The thing continued to whisper at her. "You're a failure! Failure! You are –"

Tamora finally tap finish button on the exampad and instantly leapt up to her feet and ran towards the door.

She heard the Boggart screaming... or was it her?

As soon as she came out of the room, and could finally hear other sounds other than her bodily functions, Tamora immediately vomited on the floor.

A sweeperbot came out from the wallchute to clean the mess when it had detected the contamination.

Madam Tridalyn had been sitting just outside in a Cruzador chair, when Tamora came running out from the test chamber.

The woman had hurriedly came to assist her.

"Do you need to go to the Clinic?" Madam Tridalyn asked with worry and Tamora shook her head.

"I'm fine. I just need to go to my room."

Tamora still felt like vomiting again. She didn't know how long she had been in the chamber.

It felt like she had been there for hours.

"How long was I inside?" Tamora asked after rinsing her mouth with a bottle of Aguamenti which Madam Tridalyn had handed to her.

"Around forty-five minutes and ten seconds," Madam Tridalyn respond automatically.

She's been counting. Tamora noted, narrowing her eyes.

The test wasn't completely about the things that she had answered on the exampad, but how long she had lasted in the chamber.

It was test of how long Tamora was able to hold her sanity in check.

Later, Tamora was told that she past the second test, and so did Mr. N because he was still there. It meant that the FF Group was still eyeing her and him as possible participants.

A week after that, she met Dr. Fraiser, a Psychologist for her Psych A Exam. It had provided her a small respite when she discovered that the Psych Exams were normal exams, and not an unpleasant exam like she had experienced in the anechoic chamber.

The moment she entered into the Doctor's office, Tamora swiftly deduced that the Doctor held an interest in Astronomy, judging from the embedded glowing celestial objects on his glass chassis walls.

The walls must had been reinforced by polycarbonate and layers of laminated glass to make it impenetrable against strong winds in that altitude; albeit thin enough to allow Tamora to see an unobscured view outside, yet still glimpsed celestial processes like supernovae explosions and gamma ray bursts displayed in the glass.

Silently, Tamora contemplated if it was a recorded live feeds that was taken from the hubble spectroscopy she could see standing outside his balcony.

Tamora sat on the Cruzador sofa as the doctor began explaining to her the reasons for the Psych exams.

"The FF Group has made it a prerequisite that all potential Hellholt finalist must undergo the Psych Evaluation Exams for us to determine if you have the capacity to withstand the psychological impact and emotional minefield that you will face while staying in the castle for three months. With no outside contacts, constantly under surveillance and with the increasing pressure of every expulsion night..."

There was a paused while Tamora waited for him to continue.

"This will prove to be quite stressful to some of the participants and might push them to act irrationally, even to the extent of having a mental breakdown, and in turn, can possibly endanger the people within the castle. Hence, the need for the Psych exams… Furthermore, we want someone who falls under a predictable behavioral pattern and least likely to act on their violent impulses, what I mean to say is, the FF Group is looking for participants who don't have similar traits as that of a Psychopath. With these exams, it will lessen the risks of wrong-casting murderers into the castle."

"And are both the Death Dealers and Red Wanderers being subjected to the same exams as us, the finalists?" Tamora inquired.

This had bothered her when she began taking her test. She wondered if the two group was exempted from the exams because they were…The Death Dealers and The Red Wanderers after all.

"They have their own exams, yes, but I can't tell you more than that."

Beside the hololight of a centaur on the Doctor's Volno-Floor mounted table, Tamora could see the Vtrans device sliding open; a device that would transcribe the conversation into beamed words to be read through any holosystem interface (HSI).

The doctor started drilling Tamora with questions, such as:

"Can you tell me more about yourself?"

"What are your hobbies, motivations, goals?"

"What are the things you dislikes the most and people that you don't get along with?"

Tamora answered everything without holding back.

Dr. Fraiser listened, but at the same time, he kept on checking on the holopad in front of him, which Tamora assumed must contained her files and her answers during the Personality and IQ tests.

He also asked her if she had history of substance abuse among other things.

"Have you previously used drugs? Do you smoke? Have you tried to kill yourself? Have you been admitted to a Psych Hospital? Have you been convicted of a crime? Ever harm anyone?"

And along with some uncomfortable questions.

"At what age did you become sexually active? How many sexual partners have you been with? Have you ever had problems with-"

Dr. Fraiser might have continued on if Tamora hadn't step in.

"I have never had sex." She told him, forcing herself not to fidget in discomfort.

The Doctor looked startled at her answer.

After a short pause, he backtracked and said to her, "I see... May I ask the reason why that is?"

As much as Tamora wanted to lie about her lack of sexual experience, she couldn't possibly do so when Dr. Fraiser had injected her with a shot of truth serum prior to the exam.

"I'm a scholar, you see, and I have to maintain my grades and remain at the Top, or else I'll lose my position in the Veeta Five. My Academy are well-known for expelling students if they failed to keep up with their rigorous school curriculum. So I've been preoccupied with my studies that I haven't got the time for dating," Tamora explained and added. "The only dates that I'm able to have are study dates with my friends, while the semblance of romance that I'm able to experience, is through reading the preclassics in my holotab."

And those unusual dreams that she had a hard time recalling in the last three years; dreams of a life being adored and loved by people...by men with faces hidden in the shadows.

The Doctor had simply nodded his head in understanding and continued to ask her questions. Fortunately, it was no longer about her absent sex life.

It must be around 30 minutes after, when Dr. Fraiser finally announced that he was done with the Psych Evaluation.

However, before Tamora could leave, the man had given her a forewarning.

"If you enter the castle, you will gain recognition. There's no doubt about that. Will it be a good thing? Not necessarily. I tell you this, Ms. G….if you proceed, this can very well be damaging to your mind."

Dr. Fraiser had warned her, whether it was another scare tactic that the FF Group was trying out or not, it was an enough indication to Tamora that she had passed the Psych A Exam.

Madam Borse, who was her handler at that time, had then led her to the next Psych B Exam. The Psychologist this time was a robust man with straw blonde hair - which Tamora presumed must be the result of hair follicular enhancement.

Dr. Horace Slensker greeted her with an enthusiasm that surprised Tamora.

"Come on in, Ms. G! Come in! Come in!"

Tamora immediately notice the obnoxious amount of holographic images displayed on every tables, shelves and even the glass walls of Dr. Slensker's office that showed captured vids of himself alongside well-known AV personalities, influential ministry officials, heirs and heiresses from the Sacred Twenty-Eight of the Prodigious Society, and other affluent individuals that Tamora didn't recognize.

Sitting down on the circular disk of a chair with curving cushion at the back, Tamora frowned in consternation when she saw a holovid of the Red Wanderers and the Death Dealers in the same scene.

All ten of them were either smiling or in some form of camaraderie. She saw Jaime Graham grinning widely with his arms slung in both Tamlin Lounsbury's and Seth Bolthrope's shoulders.

The Bolthrope Heir had the same sly smile as Jaime Graham, while Tamlin Lounsbury on the other hand, was frowning with his arms crossed in front of him, a far cry from the other two dark-haired men.

Apart from that, Tamora also noticed how very different they were. Tamlin Lounsbury was all manners and propriety. It showed well in the set of his broad shoulder - his posture ramrod straight, and at the way he impeccably dressed himself in blue-black slim-fit tailored BioLogic formal wear and an evening coat trimmed with fur collar.

His hair perfectly combed back with some rebellious waves curling at his forehead and the back of his neck and ears. Though Tamora noted the man's lapis lazuli eyes - framed by thick, dark lashes - held a slight warmth through its frosty blue, when he stared straight out the holoshot.

In contrast, Seth Bolthrope, in his laidback manner, kept his black hair at shoulder length. It was slightly wavy and lustrously thick, accentuating the man's handsome, rugged features; his strong jawline, thin long nose, high cheekbones with a slight scar below his left eye, and he had cleft on his chin.

The man's blue-grey eyes were alight with an inner fire - either borne from mischief and rebellion. He wore clothes that fit well with his personality, and it did justice to display his admirable lean physique; in blue-black Technoleather jacket, a royal blue V-neck shirt beneath it, and grey loose pants, combined with a sleek black combat boots and black thinsulate fingerless gloves.

He had the insignia of trouble stamped all over him.

Right smack in the middle of the two men, stood Jaime Graham, with his unruly raven-black hair and his eyes glowing green, which could only mean that he was wearing Rob2 absorbable lenses to improve his eyesight.

His fashion style was a mixture between something formal and informal. In an earthen palette, he wore a shearling line jacket over a pristine white long sleeve shirt, unbuttoned at the neck and showing more of his sun-kissed skin. His ensemble was completed with a dark dress pants and brown round-pointed Yepme shoe made of synthetic PVC.

Like the other two beside him, Jaime Graham was an attractive man. He had two dimples peeking from either side of his mouth when he smiled. He looked arrogant but equally playful at the same time.

Tamora was certain that many had fallen for that smile. In silence, she admitted that she liked the shape of his eyes with the hint of laugh wrinkles at the corners.

Just beside Tamlin Lounsbury, the Maxwell twins, Austin and Luke, were wearing dark green and steel grey formal suits; and obviously a product from their personal tailors. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, slightly back to back with their chin lifted up haughtily as expected from the wealthiest Prodigious family.

Their tailors had fitted them with suits that emphasized the broadness of their shoulders, the undeniable outline of their muscular chest, and ultimately complimented the silken silver of their hair.

The only way to distinguished the two of them apart was through their hairstyle. Austin had his long platinum blonde hair tied in a high ponytail, displaying most of the sharp angles of his pale, aristocratic features.

In comparison, Luke Maxwell had his long hair tied in a low ponytail. And both of them were sporting that trademark Maxwell smirk plastered across their lips.

Tamora was certain that the devastatingly handsome pair could have easily made women faint by the sight of them standing together.

Tamora, however, turned her attention to the two men beside Seth Bolthrope. Closest to him, a man with light brown hair and a couple of scars - of what appeared to be claw marks - must be Romulus Lugovich.

The man was smiling warmly, a hand draped over Seth Bolthrope's shoulder, his head tilted slightly to the side.

Romulus Lugovich had soulful and kind green eyes and he was wearing neutral colours in slim-fitting dress suit. Broad across the shoulders and tapered to a lean waist, which Tamora could gauge base from his body alignment.

Although, if he stood next to Seth Bolthrope, he's musculature wasn't built as an athlete. He had a scholarly air about him and Tamora instinctively knew that she would like him instantly if they meet.

After Romulus Lugovich, Tamora's eyes settled on the man who look no more than twenty-four years old and had a cherubic face. (Tamora was fairly certain that he had surgery for that.)

The man had curly brown hair with golden highlights at the end, bright blue eyes and completed with a bow shaped lips. He was also smiling rather impishly in a way that made some girls, and older women, want to pinch his cheeks.

Tamora recalled Lea Chang saying that his name was Peter Sewell. He was the shortest of the group of men who towered mostly beyond six feet tall.

Peter Sewell probably was around 5'8.

Next, Tamora's attention shifted to the three men beside the Maxwell twins. One had cropped short black hair and beside him was another man with the same hairstyle, but he had platinum blonde hair.

They were Regan Bolthrope and Dominic Maxwell.

The youngest Bolthrope heir had a sombre look about him. His face was nearly expressionless, his lips pulled tight in a straight line, the corners tilted downwards. He looked so serious that he appeared to be older than even his elder brother; Seth Bolthrope.

Carefully, she noted that he had similar features like his older brother; the chiselled jawline, the aquiline nose, and the arch of his brows.

However, Tamora found his face more aesthetically-pleasing, especially when she saw his eyes.

His eyes were like molten gold.

She immediately knew that there was something special about those eyes.

However, before she could think more on that, her attention went back to the blonde standing beside him; Dominic Maxwell.

Like his older brothers, he had the same aristocratic features. He was tall, perhaps a few inches shorter than the twins. Also, he appeared to be in tip-top shape like Regan Bolthrope beside him. Meanwhile, his silver-mercury eyes were the exact opposite to Regulus golden orbs.

His eyes were like a still pond, a pond with the moon casting reflection upon it, she wondered how many girls had drowned in those silver pools.

Dominic Maxwell's smirk was slightly off though. It didn't hold the same arrogance as the twins. It carried more weight...heavy with responsibility, where Tamora caught a glimpse of it reflected in his silver eyes.

There was also a strain in the corners of his mouth that she couldn't see in his older brother's smirk.

Nonetheless, the youngest Maxwell heir still cut a fine figure in green leather military jacket, with silver circular buttons, paired with a black neck-warmer, black slacks and forest green Kraasa boots.

Whereas Regan Bolthrope wore a sleek Bolthrope mod military jacket, somewhat resembling a bullet proof vests with geometric knits with inverted triangles on the chest, combined with utilitarian lightweight camo trousers, with the same forest green combat boots, and curiously, a golden necklace hanging around his neck.

The two didn't look like they were dress for a party when the holo was taken. They look, more or less, like people who just came out from Military training instead.

Last but not the least, Tamora's eyes landed on the man standing sideways beside Dominic Maxwell. He was pale with jet black hair, which was cut at a shoulder length style, some of it fell over the side of his face.

He wore all black, with black double-breasted coat over a white stand-up collar shirt, a pair of trouser pants and an Aadi formal shoes.

The man's features were sharp around the cheeks and smooth down his chin. He had a hooked nose that added character to an otherwise inscrutable face. His pink lips were thin, pursed together in a frown that match the knit in his brows. But there was something about him...

It must be his haunting, dark brown eyes.

After that, Tamora looked at all of them, regarding them as a whole, and concluded that they were an odd lot. Certainly, heads would turn if these ten men were seen in the same room because each of them had an air that commanded respect...and of course, they were all powerful men, who came from wealthy and influential families.

They were bound to draw attention if they came in as a group. Tamora could practically see women stumbling all over themselves just to get near them.

Though Tamora mused that the men would have definitely clash due to their different personalities, but it seemed both Jaime Graham and Tamlin Lounsbury had managed to keep the group together during that time.

However, a year ago, Tamora remembered the news of the two bringing some kind of dispute to the Court. Everything was hushed up, but in the end, the reports stated that the two had settled at unspecified price.

It still didn't stop people from speculating though.

Like the rest, she had wondered what had caused a rift between the two heirs of the Lounsbury LabCorp and Graham Electronic Industries, which had resulted to the ten friends to part ways and choose sides.

Surprisingly, from what Tamora had heard, both Jaime Graham's and Tamlin Lounsbury's fathers - Fleamont Graham and Tamlin Lounsbury Sr. - had remained cordial and best of friends.

It appeared that the conflict was only between the heirs and their closest friends.

Seth Bolthrope, Romulus Lugovich, Peter Sewell had chosen Jaime Graham. Meanwhile, the twins, Austin and Luke Maxwell, and their younger brother, Dominic - together with Regulus Bolthrope and Shane Nies - had chosen Tamlin Lounsbury.

Ten friends broken apart for a reason.

"Ah, yes...them." Dr. Slensker said when he followed Tamora's gaze to the still holoshot of the ten men currently expanded up in the screen with their figures towering up to the high ceiling like ten giants...or Gods.

"That picture was taken four years ago during an Annual Party for the Prodigies. I've known those ten since their years in the Institute. The KRT, some might call them during their Uni Years...That was before the... rift occurred. It's sad to see such good friends torn apart…."

Dr. Slensker shook his head.

Tamora didn't comment. She hardly knew the men and she didn't want to appear like a gossip monger if she started asking question.

After a short pause, Dr. Slensker straightened and directly addressed the reason she was there.

"So...I'm sure you already have a strategy?" Dr. Slensker began.

"My strategy?" Tamora asked, frowning.

"Your strategy to remain longer in the castle."

"I don't have a strategy actually…"

Dr. Slensker stared at her, his smile faltering.

"Is acting as myself considered a strategy?" Tamora asked instead.

She could almost tell that the Dr. Slensker was disappointed with her answer.

That wouldn't do. She needed to make a good impression, lest she would be disqualified from the final casting process.

Tamora changed tactic and smiled. "Of course, I have a strategy, Dr. Slensker. I was only...testing to see how you would react if I don't."

Dr. Slensker brows rose in surprised.

"Then, what will you do to remain in the castle?"

So Tamora told him what she thought would be shocking.

"My plan is to.. inculcate myself into the two group's...good graces."

Even as Tamora said those words, she wanted to take them back, or scrub it off her mouth for its suggestive implication. Just thinking about it made Tamora sick.

She sounded like she was ready to sell her body like a common whore.

She was glad that she hadn't been injected with a truth serum or Dr. Slensker could tell she was lying.

Enable for Tamora to pass the exam, she had to discard her prudish and goody-toe-shoes persona and show a shrewd and ruthless side of herself, or pretend to be; a femme fatale hidden beneath layers of a nun hobbit.

It's time for Tamora to take this exam seriously and show the FF Group that she was ready to play their game; ready enough to lie her way through it and hid behind a false bravado.

She knew that every word was recorded in a Vtrans and her reaction was possibly captured by hidden cameras. She guessed that the FF Group was looking for someone very interesting and Tamora was going to show them that she could be a very interesting person indeed.

At the moment, Dr. Slensker was rifling through his holotab, skimming his fingers through it as if searching for something.

"It said here in your profile that you have no previous relationship...and lack the.. experience. Yet you appear to be confident in your...feminine capabilities to gain favour with the Death Dealers or the Red Wanderers." Dr. Slensker commented, allowing his words to hang heavily in the air.

Tamora didn't let the smile slip off her face, while on the inside, she was mentally reprimanding herself for acting so overconfident.

"Yes, I may not have any experience with relationship, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm ignorant of such things." Tamora responded, plastering a fake smile.

"If that is what you say, so do you mean, you are willing to offer yourself to any of them just to save yourself from getting expelled?"

Not likely! Tamora inwardly frowned. She wasn't going to do that of course.

However, she would certainly find a way to gain the two groups trust, befriend or impress them in some way, just enough to have any of them save her from getting expelled.

"Yes," she lied instead.

Dr. Slensker regarded her in a contemplative manner.

"I have years of experience as a Psychologist to know when someone is lying." the doctor stated, suddenly smiling.

At his words, the fake smile on Tamora's lips wavered.

"You need more practice with that before you can get into the Castle, Ms. G... otherwise you will become easy prey to those who have mastered the art of deception..."

Tamora opened her mouth and closed it again. She didn't know what else to say. Should she apologize for lying?

Dr. Slensker must have seen the uncertainty on her face because he said, "You need not worry, Ms. G. I won't hold it against you for lying. After all, this is a test to see how far you will go to slither your way up into the finals, which will require a certain degree of cunning in your part to achieve it."


Tamora was done with most of the exams. Astonishingly, Dr. Slensker had cleared her mentally fit to enter the Castle and scheduled her for the medical exam Tomorrow.

After that, Tamora was told that she would meet up with Mr. Deane and Mr. Irish for the call back, given that she passed her medical exam.

Speaking of exams, other than the one she had been asked to take, there was another Psychological test that they hadn't informed her, and perhaps other finalist as well.

A test that was bound to tick some people off, and would significantly cut off the competition for the final casting if they end up walking out of the place.

Tamora had recently discovered that her room was bugged with micro cameras that was equipped with fast-detection movements and incredible heat sensors.

Currently, she could almost sense two of those floating ten meters behind her back while she lay on her feather-light bed which was doing the rhythmic motion (like in the old times when a ship was anchored in the docks with waves making it bobbed up and down). It would have lulled her to sleep if it weren't for the fact that she was very much aware of being watched.

Tamora had pretended not to notice the flicker, and sometimes the odd disproportion in the air, every time she moved around the room.

She knew that the cameras were capturing her every move, and perhaps it had sometimes made itself known to Tamora just to see how she would react.

Thus far, Tamora merely pretended that it didn't exist. Others might start throwing fits - or freaked out - after realizing that there were cameras following them in the last few days.

However, to Tamora, she decided to treat everything as a learning experience to give her the edge. (She wasn't going to let others treat her like a lab rat. So she might as well adapt the opposite mentality of a guinea pig and prepare herself for the psychological side effects of being locked in a Castle for three months.)

Moreover, she understood the need for the cameras in the room. Other than to ensure that the FF Group had chosen finalists who looked exceptionally well in front of the cameras. It was also another method for the company to desensitize the finalist and prepare them for the nerve-wracking and constant camera-exposure once within the Hellholt Castle.

She wondered how the others like her were faring and how many were left.

She hoped they were only few.


Information:

Sodium Thiopental (Pentothal) is still used in some places as a truth serum to weaken the resolve of a subject and make them more compliant to pressure. The barbiturates as a class decrease higher cortical brain functioning. Some psychiatrists hypothesize that because lying is more complex than telling the truth, suppression of the higher cortical functions may lead to the uncovering of the truth. The drug tends to make subjects loquacious and cooperative with interrogators; however, the reliability of confessions made under thiopental is questionable. - source: Wikipedia

...

Anechoic Chamber

The longest that anyone has survived in the 'anechoic chamber' at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis is just 45 minutes.

It's 99.99 per cent sound absorbent and holds the Guinness World Record for the world's quietest place, but stay there too long and you may start hallucinating.

"In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound." -source: www dot dailymail dot co dot uk - the world's quietest place

...

The prodigious savant is a convincing example of suboscine genetic inheritance of the actual instructions and knowledge that precedes learning. That is not to say such inherited skills (nature) cannot be cultivated, enhanced and improved (nurture). They can be. But I agree with Dr. William Carpenter that savants demonstrate a "congenital aptitude for certain mental activity, which showed itself at so early a period as to exclude the notion that it could have been acquired by the experience of the individual. - source: "Genetic Memory: How we know things we never learn." by Darold Treffert