CHAPTER ONE:

THE DISAPPOINTMENT

"A particularly beautiful woman is a source of terror. As a rule, a beautiful woman is a terrible disappointment.”

The room felt a little smaller despite comfortably housing her full staff of intelligence officers, all busily coordinating seemingly abstract data into coherent information at a word. The Dominion Intelligence Authority had a robust operation, with officers and agents ranging in the hundreds of thousands. They all milled around the room on machinery and interactive holographic screens, coordinating the millions of data points in a deceptively chaotic flurry of activity. They were all at the command of Kathryn Seren Moore.

 

“Mistress, the Dominion Legion are in position, they are poised to execute.” One of her underlings’s voices rose above the hum of activity and electrical burring.

 

Kathryn moistened her lips, her eyes glancing at a screen that projected several outcomes to the troop movements. Her deep azure eyes lacked focus though, as her hands rested on her hips, her head tilted to the side, as she weighed her options. One hand was at the hollow of her neck, playing with a metallic pendant, as she thought. She already knew they’d be there, that was never in question. What was in question was how she was going to respond.

Draped in her formal Dominion uniform, Kathryn struck an intimidating pose befitting someone referred to as Mistress. A deep, blood red corset hugged her figure mercilessly, while matching thigh high boots closed the

Kathryn Moore sitting on the Dominion Throne

gap of flesh between her hips and knees.Wrapped at her waist laid a spiked belt, coupled with the pointed gauntlets decorating her forearms. A pair of circular, sharply studded, arm cuffs held up a luxurious split cape decorated with the Dominion Insignia. Around her slender neck, a high-posture collar kept her blue-eyed gaze from ever wandering beneath her status.

“Mistress, Commander Orthus is waiting on your recommendation.”

 

Oh, is he?

 

She had already accepted what was to happen – both to her and the Dominion forces.

 

Her half smirk blossomed as her words slinked out of her mouth, “Tell him to proceed.”

 

The room stopped for a moment, all eyes on her. There she stood, confident as always, in control as always, as her intelligence officers accepted what she had just commanded of them. Despite their information, despite their expertise, despite them expecting her to tell them to stop, she had just condemned thousands of their comrades to their deaths.

 

And she looked delighted to do it.

 

The room felt smaller despite comfortably housing the top tiered officers of the Dominion. They all stood shoulder to shoulder in the gallery of the Great Hall, eyes locked onto the kneeling figure of the Mistress, Kathryn Moore.

 

It was a room designed to make you feel small, with towering half arches narrowing as you got closer to the apex of the room where a series of steps lead to raised flooring and a single throne-like chair.

 

A man stood at the top of the flight of steps from where Kathryn lay prostrated, his eyes a cool, sharp green, bright against the black, helmet-like structure of his headgear that kept his face visible, but covered his chin, cheeks, and hair. The black mask seamlessly merged with his black body suit, a simple uniform adorned only by metal gauntlets and a singular gladiator-like shoulder piece. Cuffed at the clavicle, a full bodied showy white cape emblazoned with the black Dominion Insignia cloaked him in uncontested power and privilege. Behind him was an artfully constructed throne. Lit from the armrests by floating hexagonal disks of light they cradled the man in darkness and light, creating an ominous glow behind him. Spiked peaks and cut out circle replaced a traditional bannister and top slat, bringing full attention to the authoritative mouth bellowing dictations and commands. The throne glimmered iridescent black in the lighting, bringing all focus to whoever sat, serving only to accentuate how unimportant those beneath the plateau of power really are.

 

“Kathryn Seren Moore. Your lack of candor is found to be obstinate and intentional.”

 

With her gaze on the metallic tiling of the floor in the Great Hall, she braced herself, thankful that her face was partially obscured by her hair falling forward.

 

“Your actions cost the lives of seven hundred thousand Dominion Legion and cannot be tolerated amongst the upper echelon of the Dominion.”

 

Her lips, normally so relaxed, full, and inviting, narrowed into a thin line as the man continued.

 

“We have found you in violation to the Dominion Protocol,” his voice boomed out throughout the Hall, the company of officers stood still in the gallery, not a breath heard amongst them.

 

“You are hereby stripped of your position,” but she already knew that was coming. Once she told her commanders to allow Orthus his hubris and she was told to appear in the Great Hall days after the ensuing slaughter, she knew.

 

“You are no longer the Castra of Dominion Intelligence Authority,” his words ripped through the Hall.

 

“You are no longer Consort to the Overseer,” each proclamation stung her pride a little more each time.

 

“You are no longer Proconsul to the Overseer,” she had no idea when he would stop.

 

“Only by the grace of your former colleague, Orthus, General to the Legions and Consul to the Overseer, are you granted a small mercy.”

The mention of Orthus’s name caused her to grit her teeth further. Orthus’s bullheadedness is the whole reason she was here being humiliated in the first place. She had tried to argue prior to the invasion that the losses could have been mitigated. She’d told Overseer that a longer intelligence operation by the DIA could have completely avoided bloodshed. But the Consuls had been impatient and, always devaluing Kathryn’s work with the DIA, had cajoled Overseer into a foolhardy and costly excursion. As far as Kathryn was concerned, she hadn’t done anything wrong, she simply let Orthus’s plan play out as she said it would.

 

Squaring his shoulders and looking down the long bridge of his nose, the man made the final blow, “Kathryn Seren Moore, instead of banishment or execution…”

 

She held her breath just a little.

 

“Your skills are still valued as part of the Dominion, so for penance, you will be reassigned to the Vanguard.”

 

At that her head snapped up.

 

“Where We hope you can regain the trust of the Overseer, and the Dominion at large, by learning to appreciate the cost of decisions made at your previously held level of authority. “

 

Her jawline quivered as she grit her teeth, the sound of enamel grinding against enamel deafening to her.

 

Orthus and Protium, the other two Consuls to Overseer, stepped forward just enough to be in the light and to flank the man.

 

Orthus was a tall, broad, overbearing man wearing the standard “Greys” of the Dominion Forces. Consuls had the allowance of distinguishing themselves amongst the ranks, uniform wise, but Orthus, despite the privilege he enjoyed, believed himself a man of his people. Dominion Greys were a tactical outfit consisting of flexible synthetic materials around bendable joints and molded specialized black shock absorbing body armor. With cropped blond hair and a blond goatee, the only thing differentiating him from the standard ranks of the Dominion Legion was his cloak – white and patterned with the Dominion Insignia.

 

Protium on the other hand was a slim mystery. Covered head to toe in malleable bio-armor, no one had ever seen his face. For all Kathryn knew, he could have been an artificial intelligence. The only thing keeping her from thinking he was an A.I. was that he was so off the wall weird. He was of average height, forever encased in an olive colored suit with silver tubing and piping winding in an out of his armor with purpose. His empty black goggles gave nothing away to his intention or mood.

 

Kathryn’s own top-to-bottom red attire, like Orthus’s Grey’s, was strategic, but in other ways. Her physical relationship with Overseer wasn’t a secret, and her normally favored position was socially precarious. She’d earned her position through hard work and calculated risks, but that relationship would forever call into question her true merit. To counter this, Kathryn donned a uniform that didn’t hide her physical appearance or detract from her sexuality. She put it on display, but from a position power and dominance. Her raw presence demanded submission and she required everyone - even Overseer, the absolute ruler of the Dominion - call her Mistress. Her power was built into the language that surrounded her. Plus, she looked great in red.

 

“The Dominion is dismissed.” The man in black said.

 

Without a word from the ranks, the gallery emptied, leaving only Kathryn, Orthus, and Protium together. Consuls with former Consul.

 

The man who had been speaking turned and left without ceremony as the final ranks of the Dominion exited the Great Hall, sealing the doors behind them. The two remaining men made one step back, giving a clear vantage of the empty throne to Kathryn.

 

The three remained mute, and Kathryn remained kneeling.

 

It was an odd moment. Stillness enveloped the three of them as the rustling feet outside of the Great Hall faded into silence.

 

With a nod from Orthus the room’s energy shifted and a single noted hum quietly arose, channeling its way into focus between the men, and then beyond them. Kathryn felt the room vibrate for a moment, as the pendant around her neck reacted to the hum.

 

The throne’s lighting brightened at the zenith of the humming. until the stillness veiled the room once more.

 

A man materialized from the throne, as if the throne itself spawned him from ethereal to corporeal. He looked nearly identical to the man who’d carried out Kathryn’s judgement only moments before, save for his unclothed head and glowing white eyes.
 

The three spoke in practiced unison, “Master.”

 

Overseer.

“My little Kat…” his voice lilted over, addressing only her.

The pet name stung. Knowing she couldn’t respond in kind, as she was no longer Consort.

 

She mustered every ounce of decorum she could, looked up, and responded plainly, “Sir.”

 

Lifting himself from his throne, Overseer stepped forward. His stride was otherworldly and effortless, and his pupil-less gaze peered deeper into her than she liked to admit. “Whatever are We going to do with you?” He said as he moved closer to her, slipping his cape around his left arm, before draping it in front of him, the Dominion Insignia on full display.

 

She never knew if he meant “We” in a royal sense or if he was referring to the “We” of his Consuls. She knew the Dominion was formed under the guidance of Protium, Praetor to Dominion System Sciences. She knew that their relationship founded the basis of Dominion power – that through their work together they mastered interdimensional travel, called Jumping, that allowed them to consolidate control over hundreds of worlds and systems. Hundreds of worlds and systems that revered Overseer as a God, and for good reason. To those who knew, currently limited to the Consuls, Overseer was a fourth dimensional creature with unlimited access to power and energy that Protium had harnessed for their own designs.  Protium’s work functioned only with Overseer’s “body” channeling raw tetraspace energy, or Flux, into realmspace. This power source was the secret to the Dominion’s early success.

 

 

Overseer dressing Kathryn down in the Vigil Throne Room

Overseer’s other Consul, Orthus, was his general. Predating her own association with the Dominion, Orthus was driven by the bureaucratic and militaristic exceptionalism that formed the core values of the Dominion. He received and gave orders well, with a well-bred knowledge of military tactics. A natural born leader, Orthus would have ended up in a position of power no matter his circumstances, but Kathryn believed that it was only the God-like adoration of Overseer that kept Orthus in check.

 

Overseer was a well-built man. Living both outside of space-time and corporeal existence, his projection of himself into the three-dimensional world made him, physically, the peak of what a human could aspire to be. He was always stronger, always faster, always more than what humans could muster at their best. Apart from his glowing white eyes and non-linear sense of time, he was perfect. Broad shoulders tapered into a trim waistline defined by functional and showy musculature. He had the build of a man who had spent his life working labor. His skin was a warm and inviting brown crowned with long black hair he normally kept bound at the nape of his chorded neck, but that, presently, was undone and flowing over his left shoulder, mirroring the draping of his cape. His jaw line drew attention to both his refined nose and full lips, straddled by cheekbones that cut into the frame of his face without remorse. He wasn’t just handsome, he was pretty, and he damn well knew it.

 

“This isn’t the first time you’ve caused problems, pet…” the words purred out of him, as he stalked toward her like a large, predatory cat.

 

Kathryn capitulated a bit, lifting her chin further to meet his bright eyes, “My love…”

 

“SILENCE.” His voice echoed in the empty Great Hall causing everyone around him to shift back in place.

 

“We heard your arguments, We decided on the plan that was enacted. Orthus was still dependent on real-time intelligence that you failed to provide him.”

 

He paused.

“Time means nothing to Us…but you Trienes, you live it, breathe it, are enslaved by it. You killed thousands of Our acolytes because of it.”

 

With each sentence, he stepped down a level from his throne, getting closer to her.

 

Her heart raced. She had already been demoted, but she is, err, was, the Castra of Dominion Intelligence Authority. She knew people could be disappeared. And in that moment, she knew she could be disappeared if it needed to happen. Overseer was the law. The only thing binding him to any limitations was his moral and ethical code, of which had been inexplicably imbued into him by Protium – a certifiable mad scientist who somehow convinced Overseer that morals weren’t all that bad.

 

As Overseer reached her, a single large hand went under her chin, pulled upwards, and lifted her to her feet.

 

His fingers wrapped around the metallic pendant attached to her collar, the black iridescence shimmering in the light.

 

His voice quieted as he spoke to her, “How could you be so foolish. I thought we trained you better than that.”

 

He pulled her closer via her pendant, looking at it instead of her, rolling the bauble between his fingers, “You’re meant to be better than this, Mistress,” his usage of her now defunct title bit into her, “…parading around and playing with power that doesn’t belong to you…jealousy of others…” he trailed off, sneering a little.

 

“Your defiance is beautiful…but green does not suit you.” With a quick flick of his wrist, he ripped the ornament away from her neck.

 

“You are no longer welcome in the Dominion Vigil.”

 

Of all her punishments, this was the most personal. Stripping her titles and power were one thing, but this was a blow to her ego and status. Gifted to her by Overseer, the pendant was constructed from Deltria, a rare material that the Dominion horded to assist in their interdimensional travels and invasions. Its elemental structure was the bridge between the third and fourth dimension, it is what allowed Overseer to exist in the three-dimensional plane. His throne was made of it, his armor was made of it, the entire Vigil was coated in it; it was his anchor, and he had been anchored to Kathryn.

 

In removing it he had severed the connection between them.

 

Kathryn had never thought of her relationship with Overseer as anything special. She had kept herself guarded against that sort of toxic thinking. She knew that, somehow, he favored her, but that ultimately, she was disposable. She had to constantly make herself useful to him in an effort to keep her influence and favor. She had miscalculated in her earlier actions – expecting to lose her status, but not her access to him personally.

 

She looked up at Overseer, her wide eyes filled with betrayal and empty bravado.

 

 “You are on mandatory leave for two weeks.” Said Orthus.

Kathryn’s eyes didn’t waiver. they remained locked on Overseer, as Orthus continued to speak, “I suggest you use the time to gather yourself, and…reflect on your actions.”

 

She tilted her chin up, refusing to lower herself in defeat. She looked to Orthus, breaking her gaze with Overseer. She nodded, her jaw tight as her teeth ground together.

 

“You can accompany Protium out of the Great Hall. Report to his lab.” Said Orthus.

 

Protium was silent, his blacked-out goggles and posture revealed nothing.

 

“Get out.”

 

This time it was Overseer.

 

Keeping her head up, she stood, the stilettos of her boots resounding loudly against the metallic floor of the Great Hall as she landed on them. Turning on her heel, not waiting for Protium, she walked, audibly, away from her former colleagues and Overseer, towards the doors that were now opened for her. She left the Great Hall, the grandeur of the room mocking her fall from grace.

 

Kathryn walked with purpose as she rounded corners and bypassed vertical lifts. Avoiding as many people as she could, she stormed to her quarters in the Vigil. Thankfully, the door reader still recognized her as the occupant of the residence.

 

Refuge.

 

The former Mistress took a deep deliberate breath in a vain effort to calm herself. When she opened her eyes all she saw was red.

 

She paced the neatly organized penthouse, her fists clenched and her steps heavy. Marching from room to room, she caught a glimpse of herself in front of her vanity, the air around her crackling with kinetic energy, the ends of her blonde hair rising ever upwards. Shifting her glare from herself to the mirror itself, she felt disgust at the ornate decorative nature of it. The mirror’s frame was pearlescent and elegant, with delicate, indulgent curves cusped around a broad silver imbued piece of glass that was once an object of pleasure for her. She remembered how she had commissioned its creation, how she had shown it off, how she had enjoyed its opulent luxury. Now it was a reminder of everything she had just lost.

 

She turned away, only to stare into a bedroom where an ostentatious bed stood lavished with plush pillows and draped with otherworldly silk.

She was surrounded. Trapped by things that were no longer hers.

Clenching her eyes, she looked down, desperately trying to bring herself into equilibrium, vibrating with the energy building inside her. She looked up once more and saw herself crying, out of frustration, out of the failure of those around her to heed her word, out of the contrived circumstance she found herself in due to the incompetence of others. A single tear rolled down the curve of her flushed cheek.

 

The force of energy that had been brewing and oscillating encompassing her came to a head. Her technological implant, the Apex Module, was designed to regulate it, but it creaked from the strain and crushing pressure. The clutch of her hand snapped open as she harnessed then amplified the electromagnetic energy around her in one sweeping motion. A ribbon of blinding white light burst forth, blowing an undirected hole through the wall of her flat. The metal disintegrated, warped, and crumbled from the strike. Almost overloading her regulator, she lashed out again, the combustion around her hand propagating small, lightless spheres, each with their own event horizons and she fired them at her vanity, the glass exploded inwards, the frame quickly rendered to ash. The raw energy escaped her body in streams of light and destruction as they ripped across her apartment, destroying everything in its path. She screamed at the emptiness of her room, the meaninglessness of all these trappings as they were devastated by her physical hyperenergetic assault. Her mind raced feverishly.

 

Orthus.

 

Castra.

 

Overseer.

 

The thought of Overseer caused her to focus on the bed, now partially wrecked as her body continued its maelstrom around her. Her hand lifted as she directed her efforts at the bed, that which represented her failure to abate her misfortune.

 

But maybe she could fix it?  

 

She lowered her hand, her body absorbing the pent up energy, the regulator dissipating it safely throughout the wreckage. The room cooled save for the hot embers from mangled and devastated furnishings.

 

Killing Orthus wouldn’t be a problem. That piece-of-shit, self-righteous, arrogant, bastard wouldn’t even see it coming. Mister ‘oh I’m such a man of the people’ kept himself totally baseline human. I wouldn’t even break a sweat…

 

She walked over to a large, heavy dresser-like container that opened at the wave of her hand revealing a cache of weapons – some ornamental, but most functional.

 

She gripped an alien-looking weapon that hooked back towards the handle before flaring out in a several menacing, razor thin, edges.

 

I’d love to see his face as I gut him from navel to…

 

Her other hand landed on a monstrous gun-like device that burred to life with her clutch; expanding into threatening barrels, poised to fire.

 

Or I could just watch him eat this…

 

She smiled, sickeningly sweet.

 

Make him pull the trigger himself…

 

Somehow the rational part of her mind broke through the haze of angry fantasy.

 

Overseer would send every single one of your former minions after you. There isn’t a world you could run to, not a faction who would welcome you, no dimension would have you. Even if you managed to Jump to a dimension that the Dominion didn’t control, it’d only be a matter of time before they’d hunt you down.

 

She slunk down to the ground, holding both weapons in her hands.

 

You could just quit.

 

There was a thought - she could just quit. Go be a civilian. Enjoy the spoils of her hard work and live in peace. She could find a quiet planet, a small plot of land, find a hobby, become a contributing member to society.

 

The thought disgusted her.

 

No.

 

Running away would only reinforce the idea that she was in any way wrong. And she wasn’t.

 

She got to her feet, walked to her closet and found a standard-issued Dominion carrier. She looked at the destruction of her apartment; fragments of recognizable debris laid amongst the pock marked walls, melted accoutrement, and rubble.

 

None of it mattered.

 

This wasn’t the first time Kathryn had found herself with nothing. From nothing, she had risen to the height of power as the Castra of the Dominion Intelligence Agency. From nothing, she had become Consort and Proconsul to Overseer. From nothing, she had survived. From nothing, she had thrived.

 

I can do it again.

 

She left her once-home, empty handed.

 

 

Marching down the halls of the Vigil towards Protium’s laboratory, Kathryn tried to keep herself composed. Demoted, humiliated, and now stripped of her access to Overseer, a luxury she hadn’t quite taken advantage of before. Power wise, she was at a momentary loss. She knew her decision would have repercussions, but she never thought the Consuls would have managed to completely excise her. She knew it wasn’t Protium. She was his favorite. She knew it was Orthus.

 

She kept her head high but, although the Vigil’s pathways weren’t heavily populated, she still felt the eyes of observers on her.

 

Turning the final corner, she instinctively stopped at an inauspicious vestibule, much like the multiple openings that lined the halls of the Vigil. A programmed display indicated this one lead to Protium’s lab. She planted her feet, waited, and made sure her body language communicated nothing but strength and awareness. Her eyes drifted over to peer into the familiar laboratory through the multiple glass and semi-metal doors.

 

Protium could rub anyone the wrong way, and his lab was a testament to his erratic thought process and personality. With each subsequent dimension the Dominion conquered, all technology, all would-be “magic”, made its way into this lab. Strewn about the multiple rooms, tables, slabs, and counters was a hodgepodge of devices, machinery, weapons, and other such specialized equipment. Visually they ran the gamut of pre-industrial era to obscenely advanced, none of which Kathryn could begin to theorize the purpose of. Protium, however, could dissect these gadgets and integrate them into the Dominion arsenal with ease.

 

The room itself was standard Dominion architecture – cool, sleek, and efficient with accessibility and functionality high in priority of this room’s design. Access panels were aplenty, as were two-way communication nodes. Sterile, clean lighting hugged the walls behind metal panels, allowing for equally distributed light. With only directed light coming from chosen devices, it eliminated the possibility of unintentional glare for when anyone was working. While there were some embellishments on the walls’ design, even they provided another function, in this case – ventilation.

 

The lab was a mess. Only the owner really knew where anything was, what everything did, and he seemed to like it that way – his unique approach to the Dominion agenda made him an invaluable asset and protected his position.

 

Her eyes glanced over several objects, some glowing, some absorbing light, as her mind centered on Orthus. She’d done nothing wrong. Orthus proposed a plan that she knew would spill Dominion blood, and his stubbornness, flattery and affections to Overseer had superseded the intelligence she’d provided. Livid at being punished for Orthus’s folly, her normally tranquil face contorted into one of quiet anger and insolence.

 

As she fumed, the doors sprung open. Behind them was Protium, facing her the way he always did.

 

“I really do not agree with this, you know, Little One.”

 

Kathryn slipped into his laboratory, shooting him a smile, “You don’t say, darling…” she tiptoed to kiss the side of his armored cheek, her hand resting for a moment on his chest plate.

 

“It’s highly unorthodox to remove acclimated, experimental technology from a willing host.”

 

A part of her always loved how Protium treated her like nothing more than a science experiment. In a way, his treatment of her was the most authentic relationship she’d had in the Dominion. She wasn’t some buxom blonde with power to be leveraged to him. No, to him, she was simply Kathryn, Case #K5692, a subject in his long line of experiments. Her wellbeing was solely judged on the way she adapted, and her body accepted, his technological enhancements.

 

“Lay down on the table, Little One.” He directed her to a smaller room that had been cleared of clutter for the procedure.

She smiled up at him, this man, this machine, this scientist, who had been so fatherly to her throughout her time in the Dominion, she knew he’d not hurt her intentionally – if only to keep his favorite specimen happy.

 

As she laid down on the operational table, the machinery surrounding her buzzed to life. Swirling biometric arms took her neurological readings, as pop-up holographic screens appeared in front of Protium, “Despite an elevated heart rate, you seem to be in great shape, Kathryn!”

 

His enthusiasm on her health only endeared him further to her, “I’ve had a bit of a day, so you’ll have to excuse the heart rate.”

“We’ll have to bring it down before we can perform the extractions and deactivations.”

 

Kathryn hmphed at him, “What exactly are we doing today?” Childlike, Kathryn looked up at him from the table, her head tilted to the side.

“Well let’s see…” a new holographic screen appeared in front of him, she could see her name on the docket, albeit in reverse, “We have to deactivate your Jump security clearance, and power down your energy manipulation enhancements. You’ll still be able to fly and teleport locally, but all Jumps will have to be scheduled and pre-approved.”

Kathryn groaned, eyes rolling, “Let’s be honest, seven hundred thousand troops is a drop in the goddamn ocean…”

“Statistically, yes! But from what I understood from Qu-, I mean, Overseer, is that your mistake was that you calculated those numbers so publicly…”

Her face contorted into one of begrudging willingness to accept that truth, “So I take it you’re going to only do all this,” she motioned at the medical and scientific equipment surrounding her, “temporarily?”

 

Protium’s black goggles looked down at her. She could hear the irrational happiness in his voice, but she saw nothing on the blank metal mask he wore.

 

Seeing him from the vantage point of atop a medical slab for the first time in years, she suddenly felt like a teenager again, being inducted into the Dominion. A youth of sixteen, she had been whisked away to the Dominion Home world, a literal different dimension. Poked and prodded by her would-be father-figure, she was tested on, experimented on, and pushed to her limits – she was his ultimate guinea pig. And all that time, Overseer watched, patiently, as his favorite pet became his partner’s favorite subject.

 

Enthusiastic as always, Protium beamed, “OF COURSE, LITTLE ONE! You’ll be back in your spot by Overseer in no time, I’m sure!”

 

Her mouth pinched to one side and her brows furrowed a bit.
 

She wasn’t sure how sure he was.

 

 

Sedated, Kathryn remained in Protium’s lab, recovering from the numerous procedures she’d been subjected to. In the removal and deactivation of her Tetraspace Deltrium Particle Harmonizer and Apex Module, she had been left a, portable, but underpowered, weapon for the Dominion. She still had her intelligence training and skills, but she would be coming out of this feeling underpowered and defenseless, having gone so long with her advantages.

 

Protium stood outside, his eyes lost in the observational monitors to such an extent that he didn’t notice the hulking form of Orthus wade into the lab.

 

“Protium,” said the soldier.

 

“Dog,” replied the scientist.

 

 “How is she?” said Orthus, not missing a beat.

 

 “With the removal of her proprietary enhancements, including the self-calibrating phase-shifting implant, and the Apex Module, the subject, according to her diagnostic work-up, is the absolute pinnacle of health... for human standards.”

Orthus frowned.

 

 “She’s a vehicle lacking an engine.” said Protium. “She makes for a great shelter, but that isn’t what she was designed for. She should be waking up shortly.”

 

At the door stood another man, someone Protium had not initially noticed. He was painfully human and, worst of all, normal. Brunette with pale and freckled skin, with amber eyes. He looked functional, with musculature that showed a talent for agility, dexterity, and strength. He wore the classic Dominion Greys, except that he had a fabric collar that could be pulled up around his mouth and nose should he need to protect his neck. On his back, he had two hilts, which Protium could only assume were segmented blades – technology his labs provided for the Vanguard. Dominion System Sciences hadn’t wanted to give them anything too formidable or expensive, given the fact that the Vanguard were so disposable and replaceable.

 

Protrium gave the newcomer a final once over, “Sicarius?”

 

The man nodded.

 

“Play nice with her. She’s formidable with some tricks remaining, but she’s basically base level human now, you would fair poorly for you if she were to be…mishandled.”

 

Sicarius looked at the scientist, then looked to his commander, Orthus.

 

“He knows what to do.” said Orthus.

 

Sicarius looked through the observation windows at Kathryn. It was odd for him. He had only seen her poised and powerful in ceremonies in the Great Hall. To see her now, vulnerable, out of uniform, and human, was a rare privilege so much so that he felt he was violating her privacy.

 

He looked away.

 

“Here she comes,” he heard the scientist announce a minute or so late.

 

 

Kathryn’s eyes fluttered open. She took a gasp of air as the feeling of emptiness enveloped her. It was an odd feeling, the void, feeling stripped of metaphorical and physical power. The best way to describe it was as a constant panging hunger. At least for the likes of Kathryn.

 

Holding the thin sheet of fabric to her body, she sat up, looked directly at the observation glass.

 

“Is it over?”


“Yes, Little One, you are now a defunct half mortal.” Protium’s voice came through the communication system closest to the hidden room. 

 

Kathryn nodded, slipped off the bed, and wrapped the thin lab provided sheet of paper around her. It did little to hide her figure from the peering eyes behind the glass.

 

Protium, not being one for propriety, opened the doors, allowing the three men pour into the room, some more willingly than others.

 

“I assume you are okay?” Protium asked.

 

She fixated on Protium’s mask, the blackness of his goggles as reassuring as they were judgeless, “I’m fine. I feel weird, but if anything seems out of reason, I’ll let you know.” She knew the procedure of self-reporting as the subject of his many experiments.

 

Sicarius was still averting his eyes, while both Protium and Orthus dismissed her physicality as if it didn’t exist.

 

“Kathryn, this is your new commanding officer, Sicarius.” Orthus introduced his subordinate, who was now called to attention. 

 

Keeping her head high, she nodded at him, “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” although the sneer in her voice was hard to hide.

Kathryn reached over to her Dominion uniform. Protium’s hand beat her to it, “Sorry, Little One, you can’t.”
 

Sighing heavily, Kathryn nodded at Protium, “Understood, do you have a set of Greys available for me?”

 

“INDEED, I DO!” His normally poorly timed enthusiasm, was just enough to make Kathryn laugh, catching the other two off guard.

 

Knowing she made the other two men uncomfortable, Kathryn let the fabric fall from her, exposing herself to them as she reached for the offered clothing.

 

Orthus didn’t break his gaze, Sicarius looked away, Protium, as expected, remained completely unfazed.

 

Dressing without shame in front of the men, Kathryn looked straight at Orthus, “I think I’ll start my leave.”

 

Snapping the uniform into place, she nodded at the other two and walked out of the laboratory. She knew everyone’s eyes, both from the lab and outside, were still fixated on her. Maintaining as much dignity as she could, Kathryn left the Vigil, coming down the steps for all she knew was the last time, leaving a trail whispers in her wake.

Demoted and depowered, Kathryn leaves the Vigil