WARNING- mature content (18+)

CHAPTER ONE:

THE GODS

“The gods have become our diseases.”

 

SORAH SUHNG & KATE COLORS

Karnal Sin and Neros: When BAD meets WORSE

It wasn’t often that Karnal Sin spent time contemplating the nature of the fourth dimension, or the beings that it spawned, but the last six months of diplomatic maneuvering made her think of it now. How envious she was of Overseer’s timeless reality, in which an eternity and a split second felt the same.

 

Since making their existence known to the inhabitants of Neros, the planet ostensibly named after its absolute ruler and godlike figure, she as ambassador of the Dominion, had traveled back and forth between dimensions exactly one hundred and twenty-one times. She finally twisted Protium’s arm into setting up a communications system that would allow her to stop reeling from interdimensional Jumps every other day.

 

Karnal Sin’s introduction to Neros was violent, a risk she had gambled both her and Sicarius’s life on to establish the tone of dominance she wished to convey of the Dominion. More as an afterthought, she also reasserted herself after the trial of torture she endured at the hands of Neros’s minions on his territory planet, Auxidian. Murdering one of the Chosen in the throne room before even speaking to the Emperor, she effectively displayed her other-worldly powers. She also showed her, and the Dominion’s, willingness to be just as brutal as he was.
 

Much to Karnal’s pleasure, Neros responded well to her ferocity, welcoming her to his court. The fourth dimensional creature stood at a staggering height of six foot six inches, elevated even higher due to his throne’s platform. As he shifted his figure forward, slipping out of the shadows and into the fiery glow of his throne room, she saw the deep red tone of his skin and the luxurious jet-black hair that plunged down his broad back to his waist. This monarch was massive, and she remembered feeling small in his presence. But his eyes – as with Overseer – were what kept her gaze – a brilliant white, pupil-less glare locked onto her and didn’t move. As with most normal monarchical societies, she was kept at a relative distance to him. She was allowed to bow deeply, but no handshakes or physical touching was permitted.

Beyond the initial pleasantries Neros handed her off to one of his Imperial Secretaries, a woman named Lucia, who Karnal would come to loathe for the runaround arrogance that was so plentiful in what she considered a paltry empire.

 

And now, after half a year of initial negotiations, Karnal Sin sat across from Lucia in the Secretary’s office - mentally exhausted, headache brewing - as they finalized the details of the summit.


“Overseer should be seated to Neros’s right,” Lucia stated.

 

Every detail of this trip had been planned and coordinated to an exhaustive degree, from forbidden verbiage, to approved apparel – with both parties vying for their own self-interests. She understood the purpose, but it was tiresome for her. After six months, she just wanted it to be over.

 

“We’ve already been over this, Lucia,” Karnal straightened her back, ready to go toe-to-toe once again with her foe. A part of her laughed at the absurdity of a diplomatic meltdown over a seating chart, “We don’t care who is on the left or the right, but the chairs will be tilted towards one another and at the same angle, so as to not imply that anyone is subservient to anyone else.”

“Then he shall be on the right,” Lucia looked smug with her supposed victory.

Overseer’s seat placement wasn’t an important factor for the Dominion, and she should just let it go - let the woman think she got one over on them.

But she couldn’t do that.

 

“If Neros requires specialized seating to reaffirm his anointed position to his…” she intentionally paused as she exaggerated searching for a word, “…devoted masses, then that is entirely his choice. Overseer has no such requirement, as his position within the Dominion Systems, is secure.”

 

The game being played between these two women, speaking on behalf of their rulers, was one of dominance, and neither woman seemed keen on acquiescing that assumption of superiority.

 

Lucia stood, a feigned smile on her face. Her large and formidable frame, not in the least intimidating to Karnal Sin, was still impressive. Lucia was roughly the same height as her, but that is where the similarities stopped. Lucia had a dark, almost black complexion and short hair with tight and small corkscrews framing her hair in a soft, cropped halo of textured black. She was a curvaceous woman, but it her frame was mostly muscle. It wasn’t that she lacked a feminine appearance, it was more that she seemed to revel in the power of her masculinity.

 

Karnal Sin stood, delicately, but with purpose, cocking her hip to the side out of habit as she extended a hand in calculating formality, “Secretary Lucia, I look forward to the next time we see one another.”

 

“As do I, Ambassador Sin.” Lucia’s head was tilted up ever so slightly, allowing her to peer down her nose at what she considered her lesser.

 

Karnal let this one slide for the sheer desire to get away from her and the talks. The two walked to the double doors, ready to make their icy goodbyes when they both noticed they were not alone.

 

In the hall roamed groups of nobles meandering between social engagements.  

Letting out a quiet sigh of exasperation, Karnal Sin prepared herself for a much showier and formal departure, as the eyes of the people were now upon her. Lucia matched her demeanor, straightening her shoulders and tilting her body in such a way to showcase her size dominance.

 

“Secretary Lucia,” a voice rose from the hum of chatter.

 

“Sin…” another voice addressed her directly, though she couldn’t make out who.

 

Two women and a man stood an arm’s length away from the pair. Accompanied by a cadre of handmaidens, servants who saw to their every whim and desire, the three moved comfortably in the palatial setting of the Citadel. They were decked out in traditional Neros-wear, flowing, light fabric that crisscrossed their bodies and draped over the peaks of their shoulders elegantly. They were part of Neros’s high court. They weren’t pleased at the potential of losing their status should Neros join the Dominion System and they made no secret of their displeasure. At dinners and social functions, the nobles of this regime seemed to revel in throwing cutting remarks at and about her in an attempt to devalue her organization’s proposition to Neros.

 

One of the women, Fara, a statuesque brunette with sharp green eyes inched forward, “We do hope that your meeting with the Imperial Secretary was fruitful.”

 

Karnal hated the double speak and passive aggressiveness of politics, but she took her new role as Ambassador in stride. Standing up straight, she matched the haughtiness of their demeanor, a smirk on her face. She was ready to defend herself if she needed to, ready to defy the royal decree that no powers be used inside of the Citadel. Chosen, with their limited weaponry, were meant to be the only armed personnel in the structure protecting their god-emperor. She had no idea what these Blessed, as the natives called them, were capable of.

 

“The summit will proceed as planned,” she started, then motioning towards her counterpart, “I’m sure Secretary Lucia will make the final announcement today.” Karnal was sure to keep her tone as neutral and light as possible.

 

Another spoke, this time Gallus, a short, ebony skinned noble whose physique resembled that of a frail old man. Skinny to the point of looking sickly, he lacked the timid nature one would expect out of someone so physically nonthreatening, “We are most hopeful that such discussions have been left with amicable and understanding results…”

 

“Indeed,” Lucia responded, half-heartedly.


Karnal noticed how controlled Lucia’s tone was, but also how dismissive. “Please enjoy the rest of your afternoon, Blessed.” And with that, the Imperial Secretary disappeared into her office. Karnal couldn’t help but envy her exit.

 

Lucky.

There was an awkward silence as the three Blessed processed the sudden departure. But they recovered quickly, turning their forked tongues to the remaining target.

 

“We really don’t know if you have considered the consequences of such a meeting, Sin.”

“Ambassador Sin,” She corrected Gallus, keeping her eyes shifting between the three, tracking their closing movements.

 

The third spoke up, Dayla, a plump and vivacious woman with a deep tan, “There are more people in positions of influence in opposition to your arrangements than you think.”


Karnal had quickly become aware that the Blessed, as a whole, were not a fan of hers or her agenda. She knew that there was a ringleader but had yet to figure out who it was. With Neros’s court so massive, it was an exercise in futility to keep track of every single member, let alone interacting with them long enough to see where their opinions on political mergers were.

She didn’t have time, patience, or energy to waste on these three minions, “You can tell your noble luminaries that their feelings on the matter are inconsequential, to either the Dominion or Neros.”

 

Gallus practically hissed at her, seething under his breath, “You dare speak his name.”

Karnal Sin splayed her hands by her side, a crackling and popping noise tickling the corners of their minds.

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Ambassador Karnal Sin is confronted by The Blessed (Dayla, Fara, & Gallus)  

She squared her shoulders, “I’ve gotten away with it once, would you like to see if I can get away with it again?”

Before she could really drive the point home, Dayla relented, parrying the tension in the hall onto Karnal Sin, “Dear, you are far too defensive!” Her rounded cheeks lifted in a smile at the Ambassador, “We only mean to warn you that you should tread carefully.”

They lost their aggressive stance and walked past her, Fara tossing a quip back to her, “Do take precautions at the summit.”

 

As the trio left her, their robes sashaying across the Deltria-laden marbled floors, their numerous servants quietly shuffling behind them, she made her way to her quarters. As she walked the arching halls of the structure, she bit her lip in contemplation. Maybe she had been too callous in her assessment of the threat from the Blessed?

 

After six months, she was no longer in awe at the magnificent size of the Citadel – with its vaulting ceilings that disappeared into darkness meters above her. She remembered the first night she was here, along with her colleague, Sicarius, warily making their way to the throne room to meet the ruler of this planet. The ornate filigree of Deltria trimming the sconces and decorative accoutrements, no longer caught her eye. All she ever thought of it now was the stark difference of perceived elegance.

 

Much like the two men.

 

It wasn’t lost on her that the expression of opulence between the two rulers were diametrically opposite, though the effects were still the same. There was a threatening beauty to both approaches, she just found Neros’s more self-indulgent.

 

She hadn’t seen much of Neros during her half year stint on his planet, despite his constant presence in her conversations. At this point, she had only seen him from afar at any formal gatherings he held. He had incessantly sent her clothing for her to wear to his court, beautiful and gilded dresses paired with even more lavish jewelry to match his surroundings, but she thought it prudent to maintain her distance and status in the court as being the representative of the Dominion.

 

During this time, she had discovered that her powers were not something abnormal in this society, and in fact, her abilities to manifest and manipulate energy fit her in neatly into Neros’s entourage of nobles. The society in which she encountered was classed – there was the peasantry, who were sustained by working and producing the luxuries of the upper class. The upper class, the Blessed, was made entirely of people, who like Karnal Sin, were somehow connected to the fourth dimension, and could bring forth their own flavor of power and destruction. She had yet to determine if these were naturally occurring, or like her, a product of technological enhancements.

Neros surrounded himself with these people as he felt they were the most like him with their superhuman capabilities. He had no qualms about using the Blessed as threats of power against the laborers that sustained their lifestyles. As far as she could tell, the laborers, while in a position servitude to the throne and those favored by the throne, did not suffer for their efforts. Despite the class difference, and such a difference between the Dominion egalitarianism, it seemed to work.

 

You’d have a better idea of it if you actually left the palace.

 

The thought was ever-present in her mind. She had not, in her time on the planet, been permitted to leave the Citadel’s grounds. She was essentially a sanctioned prisoner, only ever allowed passage back and forth to the Dominion Homeworld.

 

In spite of her inner musings, her mind kept focusing on the words of the Blessed and she debated on calling upon Lucia to enlighten her about the threat.

 

What threat?

 

Even if she quoted them, she’d sound like a paranoid mad woman. Their words, always carefully chosen, stood up to scrutiny, and so she would rely on her interpretation of tone – something that could easily be dismissed with cultural differences.

 

No. She thought to herself. Better to increase security on our end.

 

Finally making it back to her assigned quarters, she began a ritualistic series of stretches as she started to peel off her Reds. The red leather of her corset, gauntlet, boots, and posture collar were all comforting but restrictive. 

 

Her communicator, attached to one of her spiked gauntlets, beeped at her as she threw it to the chaise.

 

Catching the material before leaving her reach, she answered the call, “Karnal Sin,” she identified herself.

 

“Mistress Sin,” she recognized the voice as Protium’s, “I am prepping the Portal Natatorium for Overseer’s entourage tomorrow. Could you please confirm the coordinates for their entry?”

 

While Overseer could manifest himself at will into this world, with only the guarantee of Deltria concentration to stabilize him, he’d need his delegation to bring such a guarantee – usually in the form of his pure Deltria gauntlets.

 

“Yes, darling. I’ll send them over immediately.”

“Excellent!” There was a moment of pause, “And how is my Little One?”

 

Karnal couldn’t help but smile at Protium’s father-like caring for her wellbeing, regardless of the reasoning behind it.

 

“A bit stressed, but I think that everything should go smoothly from here. You’re not coming, are you?”

“Nonsense. I have far too much work to do here. But rest assured that this excursion will provide me with even more work.”

 

She chuckled. They spoke cautiously, unsure of how much surveillance was actually available to Neros. She knew, much like her first trip to this planet, Protium would have equipped the entirety of the delegation with sensors and scanners, undetectable to Neros’s technology.

 

“As always, darling.”

“Indeed! We’ll speak again soon.”

 

“Protium, wait.”

 

“Yes?”
 

While she would have had to pick and choose her request with anyone else, she knew that she could make reasonable demands of Protium with no questions asked, “Darling, can you send me some DIA-survey kits along with the entourage?”

“DISKs?” He sounded intrigued, but Karnal couldn’t afford to explain in the event that they were being monitored.

 

“Yes, I just want to make sure that my files are in order.” She knew that would make no sense, but it would communicate her point clearly that she needed them.

 

“Very well, Little One. Expect them in the morning, oh-eight-hundred Dominion Time.”

 

Looking across the room to the clock, and doing some quick calculations for time difference, she felt comforted knowing that additional security would only be a few hours away.

 

“Thank you.”

“Anytime.”

 

Ending the call, she kept the trans-dimensional link open long enough to plug in the confirmed coordinates of the entourage’s suite provided for them. Setting her gloves down, she laid back on the couch, idly looking at the small, lonely gate provided to her in her quarters.

 

In two days, her work here would be put to the test. That gate either represented a new beginning for Dominion-Neros relations, or an escape route.

 

The night before the summit, was fitful for Karnal Sin. This was a heralded even never before seen with two fourth-dimensional beings meeting in peace.

 

Feverish dreams plagued her for months with visages of real-life experiences mixed haphazardly with the incongruent images and sensations of the Flux, the transitional phase between dimensions. As she had Jumped multiple times in quick successions, she worried more and more that the tendrils of Dimensional Derangement closed ever tighter around her consciousness. Nothing had ever been proven of the effects of trans-dimensional travel, everything was hearsay, but the idea of it terrified her.

 

Conversations she had, hadn’t had, and seemingly were to have, invaded her thoughts as her poor mind tried to make sense of the timeline of events. The specter of Protium’s detached ramblings were at the forefront of her mind. She couldn’t think of a worse consequence of her duties – to lose one’s mind, the ability to control one’s actions.

 

“Thank you for helping to bring the Dominion to Auxidian, Mistress Sin.”

 

She restlessly shifted in her bed.

 

“You will kneel, Mistress.”

 

The voices came at her at once, confusing her even further. Until a single voice woke her up.

 

“He will suffer, as I have suffered.”

 

Getting only a couple of hours of sleep, she sat up, braced against pillows, as the morning sun washed across the blankets. Her hands splayed across the embroidered silk duvet, letting the light of the sun tickle warmth into them.

 

Alone in bed, as she had been for the months she had been on this alien planet, her mind wandered. Not someone prone to being lonely, enjoying the company of herself, she couldn’t help but feel the weight of something missing. She shook her head, as if the very thought of entangling herself with someone, even for the superficial satisfaction, would even be worth the distraction to what was about to happen.

 

In just a few hours, she’d see the fruits of her labors, as Neros and Overseer would meet, face to face, for the very first time.

 

Karnal’s level of stress seemed normal, within parameters of her duties, but somehow it was weighing on her more than usual. She needed to relax.

 

Her hand moved, shifting to touch her skin beneath the covers, her fingers tracing the contours of her flesh as they drifted ever lower in a measure to alleviate her anxiety.

 

She’d be lying to herself is she didn’t acknowledge her nerves regarding the summit. She felt comforted that everything was planned, accounted for, and controlled, just as she and Lucia had worked out. There were not outliers, save for the vague threat of the Blessed. This was all political, and both parties wanted it to go smoothly.

 

Pressing her head against the headboard, determined to calm the tension, she pushed the unease from her mind as she compelled her body to cooperate in her solitary pleasures. She thought of nothing – and no one – as she brought herself to climax. The physical release filled her body with a wash of endorphins that numbed her from the disquiet that plagued her.

 

Feeling at least temporarily emboldened against her seclusion, she threw the covers off her bed and got up - chilled against the brisk morning air - ready to start the day ahead.

 

Hours were spent in solitude between the two rulers, without even Lucia and Karnal Sin present for all of them, as the two discussed the agenda set forth by their two stand-ins and that they had been prepped for. When the two fourth-dimensional beings emerged from Neros’s chambers later, looking serene as ever, they sat in their predesignated positions. Overseer sat on the right.

 

Quietly, between the private sessions between the two rulers, Karnal Sin had set up the DISKs she had acquired from the entourage of aides that were sent as a welcoming delegation prior to Overseer’s arrival. She created a network of surveillance that keyed the AI reports directly to her piconet cell communicator, a holdover from her time in the Vanguard. It was a communications advantage she had held onto and pushed for all Dominion Intelligence Agency members to incorporate into their work. Attuned to shifts in the dimensional balance, she was now aware of every Blessed manipulation at the summit, even if she couldn’t see due to the blinding lights of the media. The Blessed outnumbered the communications personnel, all of whom seemed to just be thrilled to be granted access to the Citadel as most of them were not of noble status.

 

Karnal Sin wondered if the population of Neros could accept Overseer as Neros’s equal. Unlike the ruler they were used to, Overseer looked very much like one of them; his height was impressive, but nowhere near the towering mass that was their monarch; he carried himself regally, but lacked the otherworldly presence given to Neros by way of his choice of human skin tones. Neros looked different from them. And Neros had, at some point, expressed his powers over them, as he had over the population of Auxidian, by way of burning the agrarian planet almost to ashes. Overseer was more subtle – he tried to fashion himself not as different, but as like his subjects as possible.

 

This was not only a momentous time for Neros, but for Overseer, as this was the first time he would be publicly shown to his people as something more than human. The vast planetary and dimensional systems of the Dominion was getting its first look at their ruler as he truly was – not as one of them, but as a fourth dimensional being who benevolently ruled over them. Karnal Sin and Protium had worried over their reaction at the deception played upon them with Overseer’s human double he had used for years prior. Despite their apprehension, the masses seemed little concerned with it – thankful that they had a high-ordained entity to guide them through this encounter with an other-worldly ruler. The timing of his reveal couldn’t have been more perfect – his otherness was seen as a boon due to Neros.

 

The room they sat in was massive, as were most rooms in the Citadel. The ceilings were raised by graceful and magnificently decorated Deltria arches, with beautifully ornate braziers that gave a warm and inviting glow to everything their fiery light touched. The stage, was literally, a stage, raised off the ground by three feet and adorned with spotlights that added drama to the proceedings. The room was, by design, meant to bring focus to one spot. Massive columns, draped in sensuous fabric cradled the scene, adding a degree of lavishness to the already-luxurious setting.

 

The summit was filled with aides, servants, media, and the Blessed. She saw Fara, from before, seated in the front row of the attendees, her robes primped perfectly by her peasant handmaidens, but she barely recognized the rest of the noble class in attendance, though some faces seemed familiar. While she spotted Gallus easily, she didn’t see Dayla. A few seats down from Fara was a man who she had seen a few times, she assumed, as he always wore a fashionable but obscuring half mask on his face and beautifully hooded robes. The hooded robes weren’t different, as it was nobility garb used frequently, and even masks were used on occasion. She never had any direct interaction with him, it was just hard to not notice him from his use of the mask combination with the hood. Next to him was another man, though she had a bit of interaction with him, and she had seen many times before – Diamante. He was a relatively tall and broad man, who had a penchant for blue robes that matched his blue eyes and leather armaments that seemed more militaristic than other Blessed choices. In lieu of an ornate hair style, he shaved his head bald, giving him a commanding and almost-brutal utilitarian look despite his pleasant features. He had been present during her first visit to the planet and had been less than warm towards her.

 

The two men always seemed to be together at social functions and she idly wondered if they were lovers. Pairing, coupling, and any number of sexual proclivities was something that the royal court had little to no inhibitions about. A sense of ownership was attached to most relationships, with associated individuals wearing the insignia of one another. She looked to the masked companion to see if he had Diamante’s tell-tale branding on his person when the thought of her own ownership distracted her and she smirked. She herself bore the insignia of her owner on her uniform. She turned to him, her ruler.

 

Karnal Sin noticed how pale and normal Overseer’s skin looked when put up against the deep warm reds of Neros. Normally a warm brown, Overseer looked so plain - so human. She smiled gently to herself, admiring her Master. He was truly the best of the Dominion – beautiful, capable, intelligent, and containing a wisdom and leadership quality that she had yet to find a rival.

 

Examining him like this triggered a gentle pang in the pit of her stomach as her body reacted to being so close to him. It had been six long months since she had someone other than herself to relax with, and she remembered in that moment about Overseer’s other more private, admirable qualities. Despite what her head was telling her, her body had an agenda of its own and needs to be met that overrode her trepidations.

 

Overseer sat with his back straight, slightly relaxed, as he kept his attention on the words spoken by his counterpart, Neros.

 

Neros was much more relaxed, with what Karnal Sin could only surmise was confidence in being on his home planet. He pontificated eloquently on the importance of the summit.

 

“We, Overseer of the Dominion and myself, are here today to usher in a new era for our peoples – one of cooperation and understanding.”

Karnal Sin smiled to herself, recognizing the prepared statement.

 

Neros’s eyes glowed bright white, but they were calm, lacking the tell-tale sign of agitation, “The citizens of Neros look forward to a time in which we can co-exist and share our two cultures, moving into the future together…stronger…as allies.”

Interesting word choice. She thought to herself.

 

Overseer lifted his chin, his own eyes a calm rippling pool of glowing white, “The Dominion welcomes the citizens of Neros.”

 

The red one was about to interrupt before Overseer continued, “In what will be a smooth process, We are confident in Neros’s ability to acclimate Himself and his people to the new circumstances of mutual existence.”

Clever. Karnal smirked, feeling only a little overheated by the extra lighting of the press conference.

 
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She noticed a slight lip twitch in Neros at Overseer’s words. Her hand lifted to her collar, fiddling with the piece of Deltria attached to her neck.

 

Lucia, standing off camera opposite to Karnal, nodded at her as they both reached for their pre-arranged exchange. The woman grabbed an ornate piece of Deltria, carved into the beautiful shape of a native bird of prey – the feathers were masterfully sculpted, each one reflecting the glaring lights in stunning brilliance. It was truly exquisite, the refractory nature of which Karnal Sin could only surmise must have been made from pure, unflawed Deltria. Lucia handed the statue to Neros, who did not take pause before handing it to Overseer.

 

“The people of Neros gift this to you, Overseer. Handcrafted by the artisan guild of our world.”

 

Such a gift was a testament to the abundance of the material on the planet.

 

Overseer accepted the gift with grace, thankful in earnest to the media and his counterpart.

 

Karnal Sin reached back to one of the aides and took hold of the Dominion’s gift.

 

It wasn’t what was agreed upon.

Overseer & Neros: the two gods meet for the first time 

What should have been an equally decorative offering to the reigning emperor, previously agreed to be an ornate interpretation of the societies cooperation, was now a piece of tech. Karnal recognized it as a piece of local Jump technology – allowing the user to use Deltria to travel in short distances on the same plane of existence.

 

Hesitating only for a moment, she moved the tech from the aide’s hands to Overseer’s, keeping her eyes downcast for as long as she could to avoid Lucia’s bewildered gaze.

 

“And We, of the Dominion, bring you this gift - a promise of the advancements we have to offer to your people in this age of cooperation.”

 

Neros, caught unaware, expertly maintained his expression as Overseer explained the offering.

“This is a local Jump device, designed by the Vanguard of the Dominion, the functionality of this  technology will help in the creation of leisure time for the citizens of Neros, as it outmodes the need for a commute.”

 

Neros grasped the technology firmly in his large, red hand, keeping his head high, peering down the straight edge of his nose, regal as ever, “The people of Neros thank you, and the Dominion.”

 

Karnal looked at Lucia then.

She did not look happy.

 

Karnal Sin knew why. This was an affront to Neros, the ruler. He was law, he was the source of all things for his people – so to be offered a gift that showed him as less than capable was a clear violation of that expectation. This would have been easily diverted if it wasn’t done during a press conference, live, to the masses of both their societies.

 

But here the Nerians were, displaced as lesser. She felt the glare of Lucia on her, as real as she felt the glare of the lights from the communications equipment that surrounded them. Karnal Sin ran through the list of people who she would scream at for ruining her perfectly laid plains before she realized that the only people who could possibly go over her head were Protium or Overseer.

 

Just as she thought the tension couldn’t get any worse, the pause between the rulers feeling like an eternity, she heard a cry from off-stage.

 

Her piconet cell remained dormant as a young man lunged himself from the throng of the media. His small blade glinted in the blazing lights as he charged the two sovereigns. Karnal Sin chastised herself for foolishly thinking that the Blessed would attack themselves – of course they would hire a patsy.

The youth screamed at the top of his lungs as he closed the gap between him and the foreign ruler, “NERIANS FIRST!”

Karnal Sin acted quickly, stepping in front of her Master, Overseer, without hesitation, both of her hands lifted to shoulder height as she instinctively called upon the surrounding energy to her control, turning it into a single column of destruction that shrieked the distance between her and the assailant. The burst of power caught the aggressor in his chest, ending him quickly, melting away any hope of easily identifying the protester.

 

The body collapsed to the floor.

 

Chosen, not as quick as Karnal, surrounded Neros defensively, their energy weapons ready for any further aggression. But none came.

 

Overseer reached up and touched her gently on the waist, calling her back without saying a word, and Karnal stepped back to where she had been before – unseen to the public.

 

Lucia stepped forward, speaking to the media, “This concludes the public portion of the summit. We thank you for your presence.” And with a simple wave of her hand, all the cameras and communications were cut, as the reporters left in an organized and timely manner.

 

Neros stood, emerging from the huddled masses of Chosen around him, towering over them, “Shall we, Overseer?” He asked, gesturing back to the private rooms they had been in before. Neros seemed completely uninterested in the scramble happening to identify and remove the body that had attempted to assassinate his guest.

But he knows. She thought to herself. He knows that blade would have done nothing to damage someone like him and Overseer.

Still, she couldn’t help but think of how distasteful the optics of his disregard came off – even though none of his subjects seemed to bat an eye. The people of the palace, including the Blessed, were either leaving the chambers nonchalantly or cleaning up the mess of the fallen would-be assassin. Any of the nobles that had been present were the first to leave.

 

Lucia approached Karnal, as both their masters walked away casually, her eyes narrowed as she spoke, “I would think with all your advanced technology that you would have been able to anticipate such an attack.”

 

Karnal Sin looked at her incredulously, “They’re your people, I shouldn’t have to police them in a secure location.”

Lucia didn’t hesitate, “I saw you setting up a security grid, did you mean for this to happen?”

 

Scoffing, Karnal snapped back, bothered more that her actions with the DISKs had been detected more than the accusation, “I was keyed into possible attacks from your precious Blessed, not the servants.”

 

The woman sneered at her, but otherwise didn’t say anything.


As Neros and Overseer passed them, Neros lingered behind, making sure to slow his pace as he crossed Karnal Sin.

 

His deepened red skin made his lips a shade darker as he smiled gently at her, a knowing look on his face, “I can see why he keeps you around…”

 

It was the first time he had spoken directly to her in six months.

 

And with that single line, he walked away, following Overseer into the closed chambers to further their discussions.

 

Lucia looked nonplussed at his address, but glared at Karnal, who had neither the bandwidth nor time to respond to the ruler before he strolled away.

 

“Ambassador.”

Karnal’s brows furrowed as she tried to make sense of what Neros said.


“Karnal.”

 

Did he mean because I protect him? She thought to herself.

“AMABASSADOR SIN.” Lucia raised her voice at her counterpart.

 

Karnal shook her head, refocusing on the situation before her, temporarily erasing the thought of Neros and his words from her mind, “Yes?”

“What do you mean that you were keyed on the Blessed?”

The Consul to Overseer smirked, “It would seem that not everyone on your planet likes what we are trying to accomplish here, Secretary Lucia.”

“How dare you make such an accusation!” The woman responded, which is exactly what Karnal expected of her.

“What do I know?” Karnal offered her sarcastically.

 

Lucia’s expression contorted several times as the reality of the situation worked its way through the logic of her mind. She seemed genuinely surprised at the proposition that anyone of her planet would be thwarting their efforts and Karnal couldn’t blame her. With Neros as the absolute power and law in this world, going against his wishes seemed as foreign as the Dominion.

 

“And…” Lucia started, “…the Blessed are involved?”

 

Karnal Sin hesitated, trying to calculate her words as carefully as she could before giving up and responding, “I have no proof.”

 

Lucia, determined, stepped closer to Karnal adamantly, “You will tell me what you know of this conspiracy to undermine my Lord.”