“Consider the capacity of the human body for pleasure. The whole body is susceptible to pleasure, but in places, there are wells from which it may be drawn up in greater quantity. But joy is not inexhaustible. How long is it possible to know pleasure? Consider pain. We are always ripe for it. All life is ripe for it. Always.” ― Jesus I. Aldapuerta, The Eyes: Emetic Fables from the Andalusian de Sade
The black auto prowled down the street past upscale apartments facing streets and shops with windows into a world of wealth and fashion. Men in suits and women in expensive adornments walked down the sidewalk lost in their thoughts. The life of wealth created a veneer of satisfaction on the faces making their way to their destiny.
The car stopped in front of a walled home with the branches of fig and persimmon trees laden with fruit reaching out to passersby on the sidewalk. A woman got out of the vehicle and rang the bell on the walk-in gate. A moment later the gate unlocked and opened. The woman dressed in a simple gray outfit disappeared behind the entrance.
On the steps of the home, a governess wearing a white skirt, blouse, and black apron met the woman with a child in tow. The little girl wore black pants gathered at the ankle and a long sleeved red smock with loop and pearl buttons. She wore cloth shoes with beaded embroidery. On her back was a pack with personal items to take on her journey.
The lady led the child to the back door of the car and ushered her inside. The nursemaid carried two suitcases and helped the driver place them in the trunk. The window lowered, and the sobbing child cried out to her governess with outstretched arms and a teary-eyed face. The nanny hugged the girl through the window, tore loose from the desperate fingers inside, waved and smiled.
The car left the sidewalk and disappeared down the street. The sound of a child wailing drifted down the avenue of wealth, and happy dreams as the auto mingled in the flow of traffic. The nanny hurried to the gate with her hand to her mouth as sobs broke loose through her fingers. The door opened as she moved inside the wall and shut the gate. The woman fell to her knees and wept. She knew all too well the child’s fate.
A lorry fell in behind the vehicle with extra fuel and supplies to make sure they made it to their destination and to deliver crates of goods to the Pleasure Market near Sonid Youqi, Inner Mongolia. The sedan drove out of Ulaanbaatar, the capitol of Mongolia from the River Garden Luxury Village on the Tuul River and picked up Narnii road to the traffic circle that spun them out on the highway south on their 764-kilometer journey.
Hours driving across the steppes of Mongolia left the dirt and noise of city life behind and opened up the vast sky.
“Darya, doesn’t it look like we’re sailing a sea of rolling land with waves of grass to the horizon in all directions?” Doctor Viktor Aristov never tired of Mongolia.
“We are fortunate to enjoy all of this travel. I don’t think you could pick better subjects for your experiments than the Mongol people. They are so beautifully healthy and energetic.” Darya mused as she stroked the child’s hair.
Faith slept in the arms of Mrs. Aristov against her swelling belly. Darya was expecting her first child in six months; a girl she would call Dominika. She loved the ancient Latin name because it meant, of the Lord. Her child was the progeny of the Russian Black Dragon. Darya felt Dominika was destined to a great future in the world of the Dragons.
The trip from Russia to Inner Mongolia was hard on Mrs. Aristov, but she dedicated her life to her husband and his work. She cared about his patients and the girl asleep in her lap was no different. She believed as her husband believed, the secret to divinity, expressed in a pure humanity, could only come to pass through a crucible of hard sacrifice and pain.
They crossed the border of Mongolia into Inner Mongolia and picked up the G208 highway into Xilingol Prefecture and soon arrived at Sonid Youqi. They drove to an unremarkable house on the edge of the village in the flat plains of an ancient land still untamed by human endeavor. Dr. Aristov carried Faith in his arms with Mrs. Aristov at his side to comfort the child. The driver followed with the suitcases.
At the door, a heavy-set man with close-cropped hair let everyone inside. He glanced around then shut the door. Outside the men from the truck carried two crates through the gate to the back of the house and unpacked the electronic gear and lab equipment and began setting it up in the building behind the house.
“Welcome doctor. I trust your journey was peaceful.” The white-haired gentleman rose from his chair to greet the doctor and his wife as they entered the living area. He extended his hand. Across his forearm was a Black Dragon tattoo. The tail disappeared under his sleeve.
“It was uneventful, Brother. I’m sorry to visit under such unfortunate events but ever thankful you can help.” Viktor bowed to the elder man and held the hand of his Dragon Brother. Mutual trust and respect showed in their eyes.
“I can never repay you for what you have done for my people,” the elder gentleman replied. “It’s the least I can do. The child will stay under our care until she is ready for her induction and education.” The old Dragon turned and pointed to a low table with pads on the floor as women hurried to set the evening meal.
“We were fortunate to gain custody of the child so quickly. Pity about her dear parents. They were good friends, and I’m sure they would approve. The little one’s life is destined to serve as a Dragon Sentinel. I checked her DNA at birth, and she is a near perfect match for the treatments.” Dr. Aristov chatted as he followed the old Dragon and sat down. Darya and the other women sat in the kitchen to gossip and keep an eye on the two Master Dragons.
After Viktor and Chingis finished their meal and a few too many drinks, one of the women enter the room and sat with a small zither across from the men seated around the table and began to play. The haunting sounds of the zither were soothing to Viktor after a long day of listening to tires roar on rough pavement.
“Bravo, Rose. You are more beautiful and talented each time we meet.” Viktor’s eyes were bright with admiration of the courtesan.
Rose bowed but said nothing. She continued to play; her body moved with fluid grace as she plucked and vibrated the strings.
“Chingis, can you arrange for Darya and me to examine Rose tonight. If she is progressing well, we can give her a treatment tonight and save a trip later.” Dr. Aristov never ventured far from the subject of his work.
“Yes, indeed.” The old Master replied without taking his eyes off of Rose.
When the courtesan finished her song, Chingis got up from the floor and walked over to her offering his hand. Rose took his hand and unfolded from the ground under her layered silk dress.
“Go to the doctor,” Chingis ordered.
Rose bowed and followed Darya and Viktor down the dark hall to a side room. Darya helped Rose out of her silk coverings leaving the last layer to cover her nakedness. Darya checked her vitals, took some blood samples, and asked a few questions about her health, annotating the answers in her notebook. When she finished, she looked at Viktor, who walked up to Rose. The courtesan dropped her eyes to avoid looking at the Dragon Master’s face.
“I must test your optical reflexes, Rose. I’m sorry, but it’s not a pleasant thing I must do as you know.” Viktor watched Rose for her consent.
“You must do it, Master. I am ready for your test.” Rose never lifted her eyes from the floor as she spoke.
Darya opened the silk to expose Rose to the tall doctor with the narrow angular face and piercing stare. Viktor gathered her nipple between his index finger and thumb pinching her and watching her wince from the pain. Darya handed him a small spring clamp with wires trailing back to a box with a dial. The doctor attached a clamp to both nipples and instructed Darya to turn the knob to the number five and press the red button.
“Look into my eyes.” The doctor commanded the patient.
Rose looked up and focused on his harsh pupils and tried to endure the pain. Viktor looked over at Darya.
“Increase the power to ten.”
Rose trembled from the burning pulses that felt like the teeth of the dragon feasting on her flesh.
“Okay, stop.” Viktor gazed into the eyes of his subject and marveled at how little clue she gave to what was an excruciating dose of electric current.
“Note the patient showed only mild iris agitation and minimum pupil distortion. I’ll agitate her further to see if I can detect a transformation.” The doctor’s clinical intonation alluded to a ritual of tests routine to the tester and a traumatizing hell for the patient.
“Rose, please forgive me what I must do. It is the pain response and anger that creates the conditions for your transformation. Don’t resist what your body insists. Give in to it.”
Rose looked into the tormentor’s eyes with a disoriented plea for mercy. Viktor oozed confidence under the control of a desire for something greater than her life or perhaps even his. The doctor pulled on his examination gloves and opened the courtesan’s silk.
“Place your feet in a wide stance. Good, now bend your knees slightly like you are about to sit down in a chair and put your hands on my shoulders to steady yourself.” Viktor’s voice denied what Rose feared most from these treatments she endured.
Viktor turned to Darya. “Note, the patient emitted a small current when she touches my shoulders.”
Viktor watched his subject’s face for distress as he reached down between her legs. He felt the apex of delicate folds with his index finger. His thumb traced down until he was sure he had the sensitive spot where the body concentrated the most nerve endings. Again, he pinched her until a small cry escaped from his subject. The doctor looked into his patient’s eyes then attached the clamp.
Rose pursed her lips together, closed her eyes to the pain, and turned her head as the clamp bit into her tender skin. Viktor slapped Rose across the face with his left hand.
“Look in my face!” Viktor demanded.
“Now, prepare yourself.”
Rose’s legs trembled. Her fingers dug into the doctor’s coat above his shoulders. Darya applied the current and eased it up to its maximum output.
Rose’s pupils vibrated and narrowed to vertical slits. The irises began to change from brown to a golden yellow. The burning current forced the trembling woman to open her mouth in a wide yawn as her face raised to the ceiling in agony. A rush of air came from her lungs, a rumble like distant thunder.
Viktor motioned to cut the power and Rose collapsed in his arms. Darya rushed to help her husband lay Rose down on a bed pad. They placed a cushion under her neck as the courtesan’s body shook with tremors.
“Be careful Darya. She can emit a powerful shock in this state that could injure you.” Viktor’s voice was no longer the demonic torturer. He looked at his patient with concern. She was a means to an end, and the end always justified the means. He kept to himself how exquisite her pain was to him.
“Please bring my bag over, dear.”
Darya delivered his medical bag. The doctor removed a syringe and vial with a dark fluid in it. He drew 120 milliliters into the syringe and injected the medication into the side of Rose’s hip as Darya massaged the knot that formed at the injection site.
“While she is in the altered state this will help strengthen her. I added some morphine so she can rest while the treatment works.”
“She endured so much pain, Viktor. Did you see how she focused her mind away from what you were doing to her? For a woman, this is traumatic to be treated this way.” Darya’s voice cracked as she imagined Rose’s experience as her own. She too knew the doctor’s skill at giving pain and the enlightenment it brought to her life.
“It would be the same for any reasonable person, man or woman. It’s the high threshold for pain the Mongolian people are born with that makes them best suited for the experiments. The women have thresholds twice that of the men. It makes the women the best subject for the tests.” Dr. Aristov continued to administer to Rose as he spoke.
After checking his patient’s blood pressure again, he continued. “It is the pain and anger that creates the chemicals in the body that make the transformation possible. The DNA from the black dragons travels in the pain channels attached to the neurotransmitters and slowly causes the biological changes.”
“What will become of Rose after her transformation is complete?” Darya asked.
“Rose is the genesis of a new warrior class of Dragons, the Eve to the Dragon’s Adam. The Black Dragons will use her unique skills as a courtesan to get past the defenses of important people they want to influence or eliminate. When finished with her duties as a concubine, they will find her a mate. Her children will carry the transformation naturally. She is the first mother of what will become the Dragon Emperor’s Praetorian Guard, his Sentinels.”
“And what will become of Faith?” The child falling victim to some nefarious plan concerned Darya.
“She will stay with Rose for now. Later, she’ll go to school in Korea to learn her trade.” Viktor sounded so confident; he convinced himself that everything in his plan would come to fruition.
“Will she take the treatments?” Darya asked.
“She must, my dear. Her DNA is perfect for the transformation. That is why we want her to stay with Rose, so the process is familiar to her, ingrained in her subconscious. She’ll become one of the society’s greatest sentinels, and her children will be just like her without the necessity for the treatments. If her bonded mate is a natural warrior too, the DNA pairing could be phenomenal.”
Darya stroked Rose’s hand as Viktor put away his instruments of change and tucked the comforter around the sleeping courtesan. The two Russians left their patient and returned to the others.
On the floor, a faint golden glow from Rose’s eyes cast a pall on her face. Beads of sweat collected on her forehead as her body twitched under the comforter.
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