“At what point does a senseless jump become the sensible thing, Mr. Allen?”

      Allen bit the inside of his cheek before finding the perfect wording to avoid another ten-part spur-of-the-moment exam. All the while, Professor Rickby’s gaze bore into him as if she were determined to find the least bit fault to pounce on him for. The answer given, Allen felt his chest tighten, wondering what unseen tripwire he’d found.

      He paced the circumference of the space allotted him in the tower, counting forty heel-toe-heel-toe steps all around. No door to open, and a fair-sized window taunting him of a serene setting outside, Allen did his best to keep his focus on what he could control.

      He had never had to deal with detention since his studies began, walking within the lines, not bothering with contraband that would immediately result in this. Instead, the sentence was imposed upon him without warning while he was on his way to the study group.

       Allen lost count of what lap he was on when an unfamiliar, almost inhumane voice echoed in the chamber.

      “Who are you, Mr. Allen?”

      Allen stepped to the center of the chamber, adjusted his glasses before focusing on nothing in particular since determining the source of the sound was impossible. He heard rumors of the invasive introspections and that some students hadn’t endured well, quitting or failing from the program so close to completion. If this was his turn for such a test, he could only hope to be strong enough to pass.

      “I am the son of Alle and Ellia Yomin, merchant scholar and medical-.”

      “You lie!”

      He flinched, from the booming resonance that shook him to the core. At least when he faced the trials with Professors Chekton and Miga, Allen could see his accusers, could try to read their expressions and try to anticipate the next collection of questions, keeping in mind Professor Miga’s advice. Granted, in hindsight, that may have led to Allen being chosen as a target for Miga’s plan.

      Here, the questions came at him from all directions, with each disagreeable answer resulting in the stones closing in on him as the window began to shrink in size. What seemed disturbing was the fact that the window rose a bit each time, yet still focused the outside rays on him. Granted, it didn’t bring him warmth or chill him completely for being in such a spotlight, but the change of it troubled him just the same.

      Closing his eyes, he brought his right hand to his left breast pocket, clasping the pocket-watch within. If he dared to steal a look at it, he might have been correct in his guess of at least a whole day passing since the questioning began. If his time was about to come to an end, then he’d do what he could to face it with dignity, determined to remind himself that he hadn’t completely failed his second set of parents either.