WARNING- mature content (18+)

CHAPTER THREE:

THE OFFER

“For better to come, good must stand aside.”

 

KYLIE KNIGHT & KATE COLORS

No Rest For the Wicked

Karnal Sin tried her best to keep her facial expression as neutral as possible, but she was so blindsided by his question, she wasn’t confident if she maintained it or not.


Neros looked at her, his full lips widened to a broad, almost lazy smile, his glowing white eyes hooded, his expression just shy of smug.

 

She took a beat to gather herself before responding.

 

Can you even kill a fourth-dimensional being?

 

He was playing with her. And it was time she parried.

 

“Your Excellency, I can assure you that we of the Dominion have no such plans.” She succinctly retorted.

 

With her hand still resting somewhat daintily on his, she became acutely aware of how warm he was. His touch felt not-quite electric but there was a churning heat beneath him as if the very veins, if he even had veins, were filled with liquid lava.

 

“Should I believe you?” His voice rumbled at her, a quiet rhythmic baritone that tickled the inside of her ears.

 

Still trying to figure out how best to navigate this meeting, she realized she couldn’t do her go-to tactic of lady-like coyness. He knew her to be a killer already. She would have to try something else.

 

Karnal Sin tilted her head, her blue eyes locked onto his face, a few blonde strands of hair moving ethereally over her face until they settled with the rest of her mane, “To know something is to control something – belief is a defensive mechanism for those who lack control.”

One of his large thumbs began to stroke the back of her hand, but he didn’t stop looking at her.

 

“You think I lack control?” His tone held a quiet threat behind it.

 

Gambling yet again with this creature who she barely knew or understood, she gripped his hand for emphasis, “I think you know you can wield your control better.”

 

He seemed somewhat shocked at her forwardness, his smile dissipating so that his mouth laid straight across his face. If his skin felt warm before, it was absolutely blazing when touching him in earnest. Karnal had no idea what it was that Overseer had wanted her to accomplish in this meeting with Neros besides instructing him on the nuances of public relations – but she felt she was coming at this blind.

 

“Remove your hand.” He directed her.

 

She quickly obliged. [1] 

 

“You seem quite adept at taking commands…” He leaned back into his seat, his massive frame causing the wood to creak from the pressure of his presence.

 

She didn’t respond, resting her hands in her lap once again.

 

“I’ve been watching you, Sin.”

 

The admission took her aback, as she had assumed that he had barely noticed her. She wasn’t sure how to respond, continuing in her tepid dominant posturing, “An entertaining activity, I’m sure.”

 

This time he smirked, “Your Master provided me very little information about you, which was disappointing. For example, why your underlings call you Mistress?”

 

“Overseer calls me Mistress, as well, your Highness.” She corrected him.

 

“I noticed.”

 

She was a bit unnerved at his interest in her – she had previously assumed that he viewed her as yet another peon to the grandiose existence of himself and Overseer. Her status as Ambassador was a functional formality, but like his Blessed, she would be barely on his radar.

 

Karnal calculated her words carefully, “I’m sure that Overseer informed you that I am the Castra of the Dominion Intelligence Agency, Consul to Overseer, as well as being the Ambassador to your empire. While the title of Castra and Consul inherently hold a level of status and command, the title of Mistress insinuates an immediate and intimate subservience.”

“So…” he purred at her, looking down the bridge of his nose, “It’s not just control you want, but power.”

 

She returned the smirk this time, “Who doesn’t love power?”

 

“But if Overseer is your Master, why have him address you thus?”

“His Lordship is gracious enough to help me maintain that narrative. It suits his needs to have me in such a position.”

 

“There’s that word again – narrative.”


She was thankful he picked up on her deliberate word usage, as she tried to steer the conversation to her agenda.

 

“Before we get into the subject of narrative control, I have some questions for you,” he licked his lips idly, his words pouring out of him with the warmth of a good whiskey seeping down the throat.

“Very well.”

 

“Are you and Overseer lovers?”

The question jarred her – not only for the bluntness of it, but for the fact that he would have the intelligence apparatus to be able to detect that relationship. Maybe he did, in fact, have monitoring capabilities that the Dominion was unaware of. They had been operating as if he did, but they had yet to confirm anything. Despite it all, she knew this tactic, and gave him credit for his execution of it – by asking uncomfortable questions, he not only tested the boundaries of the target and subject, he also established a false sense of intimacy of forthrightness. It was an interesting strategy against someone like Karnal Sin, considering her name and outward appearance.

 

She didn’t lie.

 

“We were. We have not been in a while.”

 

His facial expression didn’t change, “Bored with him then? Or did he get bored of you?”

She smiled involuntarily, “My attentions have been elsewhere, Emperor, and He would never enter your domain without your permission.”

 

This was a game she hadn’t played in quite a while.

 

“My domain?” He leaned forward, tilting his head slightly.

 

She batted the implication away with ease, “Given that I am here to facilitate the merging of our two great societies, we thought it uncouth for him to move between worlds to attend to me.”

 

He leaned forward. Despite the two of them sitting down, he was tall even now, and to maintain eye contact, she had to tilt her head up to look at him.

“Has he Claimed you then?”

 

From what she could tell, being Claimed was something that the Blessed took part in, wherein they would wear each other’s insignias as a public show of the ongoing relationship. It was a quaint cultural norm – simple but something she found a bit archaic and unnecessary.

 

“No one owns me.” Her eyes narrowed a bit, a flash of defiance in her tone.

 

“And yet you call him Master…”

 

She was about to explain when he raised his hand to silence her, “More furthering of the narrative, I suppose.” He continued, still leaning forward, “It’s interesting, the illusion of control you perpetuate within the Dominion, while my control here is absolute. So, explain to me how your method is better.”

Feeling relieved to be leading away from her personal life, Karnal eagerly sprang into her semi-prepared diatribe of the benefits of public relations, relaying the structure of the Dominion societal norms in comparison to his own, “Overseer has absolute control, ultimately, but to show a willingness of accountability gives the populace a sense of control they can comfort themselves in. Through our crafted propaganda, the idea that they can, at any time, wrest control from their ruler keeps them at bay, and satiated.”

 

“To what end?”

“Compliance. If they think that they have a semblance of power over what happens, they are more willing to comply with demands – with very little threat of uprising and problems. We head the potential of protest off at the pass. We pre-emptively quell it.”

 

“Hm.” He encouraged her to continue.

 

“You rule by fear alone, your greatness and literal power replace the willing power granted to Overseer.”

“But surely they are aware that he could destroy them at will.”

“Actually, until the discovery of your existence, Emperor, the Dominion citizens had no idea that Overseer was anything other than a man with a vision.”

 

Neros chuckled, resting his elbows on his knees, “Not something I could adopt at this point.”

She smiled at him, the whites of her teeth shimmering brightly in the firelight, “No, but if you were to implement some new social allowances for the peasantry, it would ingratiate you with public opinion capital.”

“But they know I can destroy them.”

“Yes, but you are actively choosing not to. Overseer, for example, also rules quietly by fear – but not through himself.”

“Through you.”

She was surprised at how quickly he was catching on, considering the concept of this was foreign to him, “Yes. I am the weapon of fear. The Dominion Intelligence Agency is the eyes of the government, and we are strict in exacting Dominion Law. While we serve at the pleasure of Overseer, he also can keep us accountable – at least to the public.”

 

“So Overseer is beloved by his people, for keeping you on a leash.”

 

“Figuratively, of course.”

 

“He really must have bored you in that case.”

She couldn’t help but widen her eyes at his throw-away comment. Karnal Sin, for all her poise in the presence of power, adept in deciphering people’s intent, couldn’t make heads or tails of Neros. She couldn’t possibly fathom a creature like him flirting with her – after all, Overseer was the closest she had to compare, and he was never one to banter with her like this. That feeling of being ill-prepared crept back over her.

 

Neros licked his lips again before rumbling out another observation, “And so this is why you will not wear the gowns I have provided for you for our gatherings. Because you want to maintain the public appearance of being other – part of the Dominion – and in control.”

“I do hope you are not insulted by it,” she offered deferentially.

“Not at all,” he waved a hand dismissively, “It’s just a shame, they were designed to flatter your appearance.”

 

She started to reach for his hand to touch in thanks for his willingness to understand, but stopped, remembering to not be too comfortable around this ruler. Karnal couldn’t help but chide herself over succumbing to the casualness in which he had manipulated between them.

 

He must have seen her start and stop, picking up where she left off, he reached out and touched her red-clad knee.

 

She couldn’t get over how warm his touch was.

 

“I would like to meet with you again, to further these discussions about propaganda and narrative-control.”

 

“I am happy to oblige you, your Highness.”

 

“I’m sure you are.”

She couldn’t tell if he meant that specifically for her, or if he was just used to everyone acquiescing to his needs and desires.

 

A quick shift in airs, and Neros stood up, the hanging red cloak of his outfit draping gracefully in front of him as if by command.

 

Karnal Sin stood as well, deliberately taking her time to straighten herself to her full height, her heels clicking on the marbling of the floor.

 

“Tomorrow then.”

“Yes, your Excellency,” she responded quickly, dropping into a curtsy of deference to him.

 

He left as she kept her eyes to the ground, the flow of his cape disappearing from her sight, though she still heard and felt him in the room.

 

“You may call me Neros, if you please, Mistress Sin.”

 

And with that, he was out of the room.

 

Karnal Sin had hurried herself back to her quarters, trying to do some quick math in her head. She would no doubt be getting an updated itinerary from Lucia if she was to meet with Neros again tomorrow. Given the time-difference between Neros I and the Dominion Homeworld, she would have to endure a bit of sleep-deprivation to make it work.

Her legs weren’t moving fast enough. She didn’t want to run through the halls, but she also couldn’t fly to speed up her movement either. And so she quickly banged her heels against the marble flooring of the Citadel as she made her way to her rooms.

 

Rounding a corner, she crashed into what she thought was a pillar, falling backwards until a pair of hands gripped her elbows and straightened her up.

 

“You shouldn’t move forward so blindly, Sin.”

 

Blinking her sight straight, she looked to who had knocked her down.

 

Diamante.

 

He was dressed immaculately, as usual, a sheer robe draped over one of his shoulders with intricate filigree painstakingly etched into the edges of the fabric, glinting in the morning light. Karnal jerked her arms away from him, “Thank you for catching me, Blessed.”


He let one arm go but his left was still clutched around her tensed appendage, “How did your meeting with the Emperor go?”

Chapter3_2_PencilsColorsSM.jpg

Karnal Sin on return from her meeting with Neros crashes into Diamante

She physically pushed off him, adopting an aggressive stance, “If you were meant to know what happened in the meeting, you would have been invited. Step aside.”

The man sneered at her, “I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.”

 

She didn’t say anything, instead waiting for the moment she could pass by him.

 

“Weren’t you supposed to go back home today?”

“Indeed. I am headed there now.”

He stepped out of her way then, “A pity you won’t stay there.”

Karnal Sin nodded at him dismissively as she walked by. She pressed on down the hallway, feeling the heat of his gaze on the back of her head until she finally turned another corner. She hadn’t realized she had been holding her breath until she exhaled and gulped in fresh air.

 

Karnal hated the level of tension she was perpetually experiencing these days. Always alert, she couldn’t help but replay Diamante’s words repeatedly in her mind as she finally found refuge in her chambers. As the doors shut behind her, she pulled up the control panel for her portal.

 

The hexagon shaped pool of liquid burred to life - ripples of light and dark cascading from an imperceptible center. Before leaving, she thought to contact Lucia for both the time for her meeting with Neros tomorrow and to inform her of what Diamante had said, but ultimately decided against it. The threats from the Blessed were so ubiquitous now, she had no real way of determining what was generic and what was sincere. She’d just have to take her chances.

 

Stepping onto the ledge of the small hexagon of Deltria, she took a little leap and Jumped home.

 

After a short reprieve to gather her senses from the excruciating pain of the Jump back to the Dominion Homeworld, Karnal Sin blinked her eyes quickly, adjusting to the relative dullness of this planet. In contrast to the luxurious use of colors on the Neros I and the sensory overload of the Flux, the drab greys, blacks, and silvers of the Dominion architecture paled in comparison.

 

“Mistress Sin,” a voice came from just beyond her focus.

 

Squinting a little, she struggled to see the figure in the limited lighting of the Portal Natatorium.

 

The figured walked closer to her.

 

Karnal Sin couldn’t help but smile, “Protium, darling, you have no idea how good it is to see you.”

 

Protium’s goggles whirred as she moved closer to him. She tried to give him a hug before she collapsed against the sturdy frame of his armor. The man’s arms reached out and caught her, steadying her footing, allowing her to use him as a counterbalance.

 

“You could have asked me to send some more anesthesia, Little One,” Protium’s robotic voice spoke chidingly at her.

 

Karnal waved her hand, “No time. I have another meeting with Neros in the morning…their morning.”

“Very well. Overseer and the dog are waiting for us in His Sanctuary.”

 

The olive-drab Consul bent over to look at her face as he spoke, “Shall we?”

 

The two hurriedly walked through the Deltria-laced passages. Despite the ostentatious glamour and opulence of Neros I, something that she herself loved to indulge in, Karnal Sin missed walking the stoic halls of the Vigil, the heart of the Dominion Systems. Her time spent on the alien planet had indeed made her homesick for the form and functionality of this utilitarian domain. It represented order, purpose, and understanding – here, she could relax in the comfort of familiarity and intent.

 

But relaxation was the last thing on her agenda.

 

As the pair of Consuls finally reached the entrance to Overseer’s Sanctuary, the doorway shimmered and moved hypnotically as the reality of the third and fourth dimension blended together.

 

Protium’s voice could be heard audibly breathing in, about to announce their arrival, when the doors slid ethereally open, almost disappearing into nothing before coalescing into a solid mass behind them as they walked through the threshold.

Standing in the center of the room was Orthus, his blonde hair dingy in the darkness of the pure Deltria chamber. He wore the Dominion Greys, his white cape stark against the black insignia draping proudly down the broad man’s back.

 

“Dog.” Protium addressed the General of the Dominion Legions.

 

Overseer sat in a chair-like structure that shimmered beneath him, shifting with his movements effortlessly to keep him balanced and in comfort. Karnal always marveled at his command of the material and had often wondered how he was able to control the element with such seamless ease while conducting business. His hair was down, resting to one side on his black-clad shoulder – he had no need for anchoring Deltria armor here in this place between planes.

“My Lord,” Karnal Sin addressed her sovereign who nodded plainly at her.

 

“We trust your journey was uneventful.” Overseer’s voice was neutral, as always.
 

“There were no impediments on Neros I or in the Flux, Master,” she answered him.

 

Orthus stepped forward, bowing to Karnal Sin, “Mistress Sin, I hope you bring good news with you.”

 

Her lips pinched to one side of her face, “I bring news, you may be the judge of whether or not it is good.”

 

Orthus stood up, his normal towering six foot three inches seeming less so with the size and mass of Neros so fresh in her mind, “Overseer informed me that you had a private meeting with Neros, did you not make clear our demands.”

Overseer raised his hand, stopping Orthus’s questioning, “We had her on a different assignment during that meeting, Orthus. Let her speak.”

Protium had been quietly walking around the room when he finally rested both of his hands on his waist, the sound of exacerbation clear in his mechanically-inclined voice, “I have been standing all day, can we not have some seats?”

 

At the request, three form accommodating platforms appeared from the floor, the malleable seats appeared at the behest of their ruler with no visible command. The three Consuls to the Overseer sat in a semi-circle, Karnal Sin in the center, with the two other men flanking her – Protium to her left, Orthus to her right – facing Overseer’s platformed perch.

 

“So, tell Us, Mistress, how was meeting with Neros?”

Karnal Sin sat with her back straight, her head held high, forever obliging her posture collar. Much like in her meeting with Neros, she kept her hands clasped in her lap as she reported back to her superior, “It wasn’t that long – though we did cover the overall nature of the his method of rule.”

She saw Orthus shift from her periphery.

“He…” she paused, searching for the right phrasing, “As I am sure you surmised in your summit with him, he is very intelligent.”

“Indeed,” Overseer agreed.

 

Her eyes drifted away from her Master as she spoke, remembering her encounter only a half an hour previous, “He caught on to the concept and suggestions very quickly, and seemed to weigh the options presented effectively.”

“So, you didn’t get any real answers out of him then?” Orthus interjected, the gruffness in his voice apparent.

 

Karnal shot him a side glance, her eyes narrowed, “Not everything can be charged at like a bull, General.”

 

“Dog, not bull, Mistress. Come on, the more we use it, the more others will catch on.” Protium offered, leaning back into the misty Deltria of his seat.

 

She kept glaring at Orthus, “If Overseer wished to take your approach, the Legion would have been on that planet months ago. Or are you questioning the wisdom of our Master?”

 

Six months was not nearly enough time to get over the nefarious and power-grabbing moves of Orthus that had sent her on the demoted path from Kathryn to Karnal Sin. She had lost everything, and while she had gained almost all of it back, she was no longer the woman she was the last time the four of them had shared this space together. While she would behave accordingly to protocol, she was not ready to play nice.

 

Overseer seemed to let her poke at the General, not stopping her verbal lashing.

 

“Obliterating the so-far willing diplomacy between the Dominion and Neros would be costly, bloody, and detrimental to the desires of our Lord. Is that what you want?”

Orthus began to open his mouth before Karnal finished her thought with a final word, “AGAIN?”

 

The goateed man shut his mouth as quickly as he had opened it.

 

“If I am allowed to continue, Sire?”

 

It looked like Overseer almost smiled right before nodding her along.

 

“He seems to have taken an interest in me – though I am not sure what his intent is as of yet. I think he’s been studying me as much as I have been studying his people. Speaking of which,” she turned to Protium, “I do believe that their surveillance capabilities are farther along than we think. From Lucia knowing I was planting the DISKs before the summit to the questions he asked me during our encounter.”

“What questions?” Overseer asked.

Her relationship to Overseer was no secret to the Dominion, although it hadn’t been formalized in some months, “About us, Sir.”

The glowing eyes of Overseer widened just a hair as his eyebrows lifted at her response.

 

“He inquired as to the nature of our intimacy.”

 

“We thought as much.”

“Sir?” She asked.

 

Protium got up from his seat then, pacing the floor, a hand to his chin as he moved. He paused, but then paced around again.

 

Karnal and Orthus matched gazes as they both watched Protium and Overseer, their eyes darting back and forth, waiting for either to elaborate.

 

“Protium had the DIA analyze the data you sent back to him after the attack at the press conference. He noticed an abnormal amount of body language and movement directed at the two of us, pet.”

 

Her brows furrowed, her mind working quickly to piece the information to a logical conclusion, “And so…” she spoke out loud, “…that is why you wanted to go back to my quarters with me.”

 

“Exactly, Mistress, which is why I asked our Liege to make sure you could get into proximity with the creature, alone.” Protium walked over to Karnal Sin and held out his hand to her. She obliged, resting her hand in his, her arm outstretched.

Carefully, Protium pulled a thin translucent technological skin off her spiked gauntlet, “This will be invaluable to us.”

“How?” Orthus asked, clearly still confused.

 

Karnal Sin quickly put two and two together, “Neros would have been too calculated and careful during his meetings with Overseer, and so any readings of his corporeal form would be have been…useless data. But…” she licked her lips, speaking deliberately, “…I am not a threat, and so his guard would be down, giving us the ability to read his vitals and metamorphic state more…accurately.”

“Exactly.”

 

Karnal Sin looked up to Overseer, her blonde hair whipping around her face at her sudden movement, “So that’s why you wanted me to meet with him.”

 

“Yes, pet.” Overseer said, his eyes meeting hers without hesitation or pretense.

 

She smiled lopsidedly, her mouth opening in a gentle grin before speaking, “Did you or Protium come up with that?”

 

Protium sounded chuffed, “It was a mutual plan!”

“A very good one, Protium. We thank you for the forethought.” Overseer lifted his chin to his armored Consul.

Karnal couldn’t help but feel a little bad for Neros – he had met her in, what she thought, was good faith, and she had been a useful pawn in more reconnaissance for the Dominion. It was something she was used to – though usually more in the know.

 

“I’ll get this over to the DIA immediately, Sir.” Protium spoke over his shoulder as he left the Sanctuary unceremoniously.

 

“—Shouldn’t I do tha?” Karnal threw her words at him as the Deltria doors closed behind him.

 

“I still don’t understand, your Grace.” Orthus was still mulling over the plan in his head, “To what end? Why do we need further information on the man?”

Karnal snickered, turning her attention back to the two remaining bodies in the room, “So we can kill him if we need to.”

 

Orthus grunted, “I’m sure the Legion could kill him if we needed to.”

Karnal tilted her head, her blonde hair falling to one side as she patronized the General, “Do you think the Legion could kill Overseer?”

 

Orthus stood, affronted at the suggestion, “Never! And to even speak such words is treasonous, Sin!”

 

She smiled sweetly, her head slowly lifting back to a straight position, “So what makes you think we were equipped to kill a fourth dimensional being, one who has elemental access to his home plane?”

Orthus glared at her.

 

“He conquered an entire planet by himself, remember? So, unless you’re willing to throw body after body of Legion at him all at once, I think it’s prudent we find a better way at eliminating him if the need arises.”

 

Overseer stood finally, walking carefully and purposefully down the platform to the main floor of the chambers, “Orthus, do not leave yet.”

 

“Sir.” The General acknowledged the command.

 

“Mistress Sin, We told you We wanted you to find out more about the civilian population outside of the palace walls.”

“Yes, Sir.” Karnal bowed to him as he came closer to her.

 

“Work with Orthus and figure out how best to accomplish that goal.”

 

She barely resisted the urge to sneer at the suggestion, instead turning to Orthus with a sweet smile on her face, “It would be my pleasure to work with your General, Master.”

Overseer was face to face with her now, resting his hands on her bare shoulders, “Do not stay away too long this time, my pet. We do miss your company here on the Homeworld.” He leaned over and kissed her gently on the forehead.

 

“You may take your leave, Consuls.”

The leader of the Dominion turned on his heels and disappeared into the darkness of the Deltria, a billowing mist of the element obfuscating his figure quickly. He was no longer in their presence. He was no longer on their plane.

 

Karnal Sin turned to Orthus, “Your office, or mine, darling?”

 

Hours had passed and she was becoming aware of the impending deadline she had to get herself back to Neros.

 

While Karnal Sin loathed to work with Orthus, she couldn’t help but admire his tactical mind when given a directive by his sovereign. They were assigned to find out more information regarding the planet of Neros I, as the Ambassador had been barred from ever leaving the palace grounds. Karnal Sin had struggled initially on how best to accomplish this goal. Admittedly, she thought it was best if she was put directly into the mission, but Orthus was careful to remind her the benefits of delegation.

 

“You are too valuable and noticeable a…target,” he seemed to revel in the word, “you are best served as an asset within the walls.”

She begrudgingly agreed.

 

“I think I know who to bring in for this mission. And since we aren’t Jumping anytime soon, I’m sure they’ll be eager to help.”

 

Karnal Sin leaned back in the oversized chair in Orthus’s office, her hands behind her head casually, “Shouldn’t your subordinates always be eager to help?” She said, half to herself.


Orthus didn’t respond, and Karnal peered at him, recognizing the momentary off-world look in his eyes as he communicated via his piconet cell telepathically to whoever it was.

 

He blinked, looking down the bridge of his nose to Karnal, “They’ll be here momentarily.”

“So what have you found out about the forces on Neros?”

She shrugged at him, “There are a lot of Chosen, but they are nothing but humans with weapons.”

“What of the Blessed? Protium made mention that they were gifted with powers, not unlike yourself.”

Karnal knew that Orthus looked down on her willingness to upgrade her abilities at Protium’s whims, as he found pride in his natural, albeit human abilities. He thought her a cheat, but she didn’t mind.

“I’m not sure of the origin of their powers, but I do not think it’s technological.” She sat straight up in her seat, “Sorry you won’t have a whole swarth of the population to look down on.”

 

“They will soon become one with the Dominion. I do not look down on any citizen of our Systems.”

“Just me then?” She was being playful, though she knew that a large part of her wanted nothing more than to have him choke on his own tongue as she shoved her fist down his throat and fired a concentrated burst of energy into him.

 

“I do not look down on you. I pity you, Kathryn.”

She jerked her head at the name, “Mistress Sin.” She corrected him. The thought of her former self was something she couldn’t consider – by separating herself from it, she found a semblance of peace. Distancing herself from who she was, and what she had endured, was the only measure of reconciliation she had with accepting her new self and her new role.

 

He smirked, seemingly enjoying her reaction.

“I thought you lot at the DIA were sturdier than the reports I read on your time on Auxidian.”

Karnal lowered her chin, glaring up at him through her lashes.

 

She knew she needed help – but the threat of Dimensional Derangement loomed over her with each Jump she suffered through between Neros and the Homeworld. To take herself for professional processing of her trauma, beyond the tweaks to her enhancements from Protium, was out of the question for her. Making herself vulnerable to anyone within the Dominion would show weakness.

 

And Karnal Sin could never be weak.

 

“Would you like to see how sturdy I can be, dog?” She intentionally used the term that Protium, his former compatriot, coined. She never really knew what happened between Orthus and Protium, but she did know that at some point the two were close. Protium had never offered her more information on the matter, and she treasured her friendship with the scientist too much to push any further for it.

Orthus stood behind his desk, his fists clenched and now planted firmly on the marble structure before him, his large frame leaning forward threateningly.


“Without Protium’s little toys shoved into your tiny little body, I would crush you.”

Chapter3_1_PencilsColorsSM.jpg

Her lip curled into a smirk, “It’s cute that you think you could. Size isn’t everything, Orthus, I am quicker and smarter than you. Just one little blade across that massive throat and you’d bleed out like anyone else.” Her eyes began to glow menacingly as she felt the energy around the room quicken, eager to scratch the itch for violence she felt against this man.

“Ahem.”

Karnal Sin and Orthus turned around to the door of the office to see Sicarius and Da-Xia standing at attention.

 

Karnal powered down, her breath caught in her throat. It was the first time she had seen Sicarius in nearly six months. The last time she had seen him, he had Jumped back home from her quarters on Neros, after establishing her security on the planet.

 

“Please be careful, Mistress Sin.” The memory of his words rang in her ears.

She had wanted to assure him at the time, but, frankly, she couldn’t promise him anything. She was given an assignment, and once the wheels of the diplomatic overtures had started to turn, she had to rely on the good will of those efforts to keep her safe. If she were completely honest, she would have preferred him to stay with her, for nothing more than a familiar face in the foreign land and position she had found herself – but it was out of the question. He was needed back on the Homeworld, and she had to show a strong front for the Dominion. 

Orthus threatening Karnal Sin in his War Room

“Mistress Sin. General.” The two Vanguard spoke in unison, addressing their superiors.

 

Sicarius looked well – healthy and groomed. She noticed he had yet to fix his left eye that had been damaged beyond traditional repair on his foolhardy, but successful, rescue mission on his home planet.

 

A rescue mission of YOU. She reminded herself.

 

Da-Xia looked as she always had – within her form fitted Greys, her pink and pale skin rippled out of the skintight body suit to wrap around a would-be skull into a domed, bald head. The darkened ridges of her flesh poised in quiet stillness, though everyone knew they could shift at a moment’s notice.

 

Karnal had since gotten over her anger at the Vanguard for their exacting their ill-guided vengeance on her nearly a year ago, and almost paradoxically, now missed the comradery she had felt when part of the Alpha Squad.

 

“At ease.” Orthus ordered them, and they immediately stood akimbo, their arms behind their backs.

 

“I am releasing you to the command of the Castra of the Dominion Intelligence Agency.”

Karnal admired his adherence to protocol – they all knew each other, some better than others – but Orthus insisted on playing everything by the book.

 

“We have determined that a merging of the two branches of the Dominion, Legion and Intelligence, is necessary for this particular mission. Small scale, of course.”

Orthus sat his large frame back into his seat, his hand splayed at the two newcomers, beckoning them to take a seat next to Karnal Sin.

 

“If you could please explain, Mistress Sin.”

Karnal gathered herself, blocking out any errant feelings she had as she sat down in her chair, once again, “We have a directive from Overseer to gain more information on the peasantry and civilians of Neros I.” She took a quick breath, “This will be a covert mission – the DIA is meant for intelligence and analysis, but you are meant for incursions – precise, quiet, and deliberately so.”

 

“Understood,” Sicarius answered for both himself and Da-Xia.

 

“This will be a long-term assignment. I will provide Protium with the requirements of finding you DIA counterparts to assist.”

 

“Yes, Mistress.” Da-Xia responded. She thought she saw a playful glint in the woman’s cephalopod style eyes.

 

Karnal Sin looked at the time display on Orthus’s desk, “I’ll be in touch in the next few days, if not actually back. Prepare yourself.” She turned to Da-Xia, “You’ll need to be incognito for this – so pick a human look.”

 

She could feel Sicarius’s eye on her, but she dared not address him directly. Turning to Orthus, “I have to go or I’ll be late to my next session with Neros.”

Orthus stood respectfully and bowed to her, “We await your word then, Mistress.”

Karnal was a little thrown off by Orthus’s compliance, but she reminded herself that this had been mostly his idea to begin with.

 

He probably wants them to spy on the military capabilities of the planet. She suspected.

 

Addressing Da-Xia once more, “I’m going to try to make it back for Ellius’s retirement celebration. Please let her know.”

Da-Xia actually smiled at that, nodding at her quickly, “Yes, Mistress!”

 

The Ambassador stood, straightening her blood-red cape, cut to match the Dominion insignia, behind her. Without offering Sicarius a second glance, she left Orthus’s office.

 

Karnal Sin was on yet another mission.

 

Kathryn was barely breathing.

 

Back at the Portal Natatorium, Karnal Sin was relieved to find Protium waiting for her, anesthesia in hand.

 

Tilting her head to the side, she approached him with deliberate steps, the heel of her stilettos clanging against the floor of the massive room, the sound echoing into eternity against the cavernous walls of the passage-chamber.

 

“You know, darling, I could just administer the shot myself.”

“And pass up a chance to speak with my favorite specimen? Never!” If Protium was grinning, she could hear it in his voice.

 

“Where would you like to stick me this time?” She grinned at him.

 

He gently grabbed her arm and skillfully slid the needle beneath her skin into one her veins, the feeling of lightheadedness coming at her quickly.

 

Protium placed a fresh piece of translucent, sensory tech on her gauntlet.

 

“Go quickly. I know you are on a schedule and this will not last very long.”

 

She nodded lazily at him, her head lolling a bit as she stepped unsteadily on the edge of one of the smaller portals.

 

“Please be careful, Mistress Sin.” She couldn’t tell if he had said it, or she remembered it.

 

With just over an hour to spare, Karnal Sin had made her whirlwind journey from Neros to the Homeworld back to Neros with little interruption. Her mind was exhausted, processing multiple timelines, expectations, missions, and agendas all at once. By the time she got back to her quarters, she longed for the bubble of timelessness that Overseer had granted her when he was here last.

 

She felt like she was being pulled in a thousand directions at once – from juggling the politics at home, to the politics here, to her emotional disconnect to her emotional hunger. Never had she been pulled so thin across so many different fronts and the wear of it all was getting to her.

 

As the doors of her rooms closed behind her, she saw a small package on the chaise in front of her.

It could be a bomb.

 

Her first thought of a threat sobered her up from her Jump quickly and she carefully pushed her body against the exterior wall of the room as she made her way to a cabinet. Inside, she reached for a small box, that once her hand was on it, opened, revealing a Screen-Up device. Placing it on her head, blinking her eyes to clear them, she looked at the package waiting for her.

 

No projectiles.

 

No gasses.

 

No energy readings.

 

“No threat.” She said aloud. Pulling the visor-type device off her head, she approached the chaise and carefully picked up the package.

 

Opening the flap gingerly, she found a note scrawled on to the lip of the box-like envelope:

His Excellency, Neros, recognizes that you may return too late to meet with him in the morning.

He asks that you accept this gift and get some rest before joining him again.

-Lucia

She opened the remaining flaps of the box to find an intricately designed pair of earrings. They were meant to coil up the outer ridge of her ears and hook behind her lobes. They were fashionable, with matching jewels at the opening where her ear should slip into the grips.

 

Hesitating but for a moment, she rationalized that if he had wanted her monitored, he would have found a cleverer way to do it than a physical tracking device. And if she wanted to endear herself to him to help further along both the reconnaissance and diplomatic relations, given that she had rejected all his other adorning presents, it was the least she could do but to wear this in a show of cooperation.

 

Karnal was thankful for the invitation to rest, and keeping the present in its box, she walked to the bedroom, a lazy smile coming across her face as she looked at the welcoming bed before her. She all but collapsed involuntarily onto the bed, falling asleep quickly in her formal Dominion attire, spikes and collar notwithstanding.

 

She’d have to figure out everyone’s agenda tomorrow.