“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
Art: Creees & Sanju Nivangune
Karnal Sin: The Flux
Living on field rations and at the whim of the outdoor elements was nothing new for Sicarius.
Doing so while recovering from a solo Jump had him on his knees.
Hiking through the terrain of his home world only allowing himself to travel at night, the journey had been a slow, arduous trek as his body desperately tried to recuperate from its transdimensional voyage. It had taken him days, but he finally caught sight of the largest city on his planet.
He had never been here before.
“How are you going to find her?” The words of his second in command Daxia, teased the doubt he had been trying to quash ever since he had decided to come after Kathryn on her fool’s errand.
“I know where she’s looking.”
At least he hoped he did.
His mind settled on thoughts of Kathryn.
The ex-Consort to Overseer had willfully put herself in harm’s way and jeopardized the unit’s mission.
She jeopardized the Dominion’s mission. Not just yours.
The thought annoyed him.
Covered head to toe in a week’s worth of filth, he found an isolated glen with a tributary streaming through it to rinse and change into appropriate clothing.
“Simpleton, I reactivated all of her DIA instruments. You can track her.” Protium tossed him a device, gesturing towards his screen up goggles. “Attach it to the same port as your directives.”
Running his hands through his short brown hair and along the tired muscles of his body, the water only exacerbated the air’s humidity sticking to him. It had been years since he had seen his home planet and it surprised him how much he remembered. The air had a smell to it that was immediately familiar – musky, and welcoming, with the persistent hint of wet vegetation – and he breathed it in as he splashed more water across his aching form. The foliage was young, not like the sprawling interwoven trees of his childhood, but eager young saplings and grasses competing for sunlight. The fires had decimated this place, but he could barely see the evidence in charred remains scattered between the new growth.
The two suns, Ryso and Ara, warmed his skin further and lulled him into a comfortable rhythm as they moved slowly across the sky heading towards their horizons.
A wave of a nausea hit him and he stood still in the creek, eyes closed, letting it pass. They came less and less frequently as the days wore on, but he was worried that they were even coming at all, having spent multiple days resting between his tiring journey. Protium had been dubious as to whether a simple human, sans any enhancements, would be able to survive such a Jump “without an envoy.”
Whatever Protium meant by that, Sicarius wasn’t sure, and he shook his head back and forth vigorously, as if it’d clear both his thoughts and nausea. While Sicarius never questioned Protium’s genius, he had to be careful when to choose to listen to him as his rambling and self-talk were often self-indulgent riddles.
The final burst of light from the two suns shone across the low-lying clouds and broke through the saplings and canopy of the glen. His adrenaline began to course through his body as he reached for his Greys, shaking off what excess water he could. Methodically pulling the lower-most layer onto his moistened olive skin, he began his checklist.
Use a Jump Gate across the river and scale the city wall on the west.
He fastened the flexible, ribbed fabric up the sides of his body.
He reached for the black armaments neatly laid out on the bank of the creek.
Find her exact location.
He grabbed his screen up goggles, thumbing the attachment Protium gave him.
Assuming this works.
He pulled the strap around his neck and let the device hang at his clavicle.
Plant a few bombs for distraction and…
He double checked his belt’s compartments, making sure they were stocked, finishing off by reorganizing some of the contents and weapons attached to his figure like he was a one-man armory.
He still hadn’t figured out why Kathryn had decided to come to his planet to begin with. Protium made some allusions that she was looking for something to do with the tyrant that took control, all those years ago. But the man wouldn’t divulge any more information beyond that.
Why it was important enough to risk her life, he had no idea.
What he did know was that she was his responsibility. And as much as the Vanguard, by his direction, liked to act like she was just another rank and file member – she wasn’t. Demoted or not, Kathryn was important to the Dominion and more so, she was significant to Overseer. Sicarius had taken an oath to protect the Dominion’s interests, and Kathryn, in her own unique way, was part of that oath.
And your word is your bond…
He tried to dismiss the follow-up thought as he made his way through the outskirts of the capital, making a wide berth to the western edge of the city. But his mind had already started down the path that he had spent the previous weeks suppressing.
…is that all?
Sicarius had purposefully put himself in the position to protect Kathryn. His admiration for the woman was dutiful, but over the time they had spent together, it had grown beyond just that.
She was fiery, intelligent, and strong. He had seen her handle setback after setback, but she never once begged for mercy, for pity, for anything other than the respect she felt she had earned. And she had earned it, as far as he was concerned.
He had often sat back in his office, while logging his weekly reports on her progress, wondering what could have given her so much resilience. He couldn’t believe the rumors that swirled around her, any high-bred person he had met didn’t have the fortitude of her nature. There was something inherently capable to her, no matter what circumstance she found herself in. So much of Sicarius’s life was structured and rote. Kathryn was unpredictable – as if she thought three steps ahead of everyone, including himself, while creating chaos around her. The lies she had willingly wrapped around herself only fed into the perception of her volatility. Even her appearance was both controlling and chaotic. She let her looks and demeanor play into this illusion of her own mercurial temperament. A perfectly human Kathryn, without the powerful augmentations haphazardly equipped to her, would be a force all her own.
He knew his own commanding officer, Orthus, was a war dog – efficient, but simple, like himself. He couldn’t believe that Kathryn had casually ordered the death of all those Legion. She had to have had a plan, and he acknowledged that while he resented Orthus’s eagerness to exploit that situation, he lacked the foresight to see Kathryn’s end game.
So he did what he thought was best – for the Dominion.
The Dominion needed someone like her.
They couldn’t just toss her aside because of Orthus’s lack of vision.
That’s why Sicarius saved her from Orthus’s wrath.
Sicarius’s rationalizations halted as he came to the river that ran by the capital. The dark waters were fast moving and he could see the froth of the waves highlighted in the dim lighting of the night. Looking up, he saw the massive wall that wrapped itself around the heart of his planet. The wall was ancient, built before anyone on his homeworld kept records, and it was now integrated into the environment, updated as technology progressed. Whatever the wall was made from kept him from pinpointing Kathryn’s location.
He had to get on the other side of it.
Peering up at the hundreds-feet high obstacle, the river’s waters crashing against the base, he did some quick calculations as he planted a Jump gate at his feet. He’d have to position and time this perfectly, if he was going to be able to scale that wall and not appear inside the stone structure itself. Bringing his gauntlets together, he prepared his assault.
“Riori Post, all clear.” The white-clad patrol spoke on behalf of him and his partner, standing atop the westernmost part of the city walls. A lone arm went up, fist clenched, to signal the next in line for the call and answer.
As soon as the hand went back down, the man collapsed, a two and half foot, segmented blade protruding from his neck. Blood began soaking his white garments as he fell to the elevated walkway with a thud.
Before the next sentry could utter a word of alarm, her throat was slashed. The blood looked black and molten in the night’s darkness as it oozed from the wound allowing her only to let out a muffled and liquid gurgle as she fell next to her partner. The untriggered energy staffs of the guards landed on the strewn cloaks, making little sound.
Sicarius, catching his breath from climbing the wall, slid the blades back into their homes on his body. The collar of his suit pulled up to mask his mouth as he breathed steadily and controlled.
Keeping a watchful eye, he moved the bodies to the corner line of where the walkway met the wall. Wrapping and tying off several yards of tactical rope around their wrists, he levered them up and over the parapets keeping the corpses from crashing into the river but out of sight.
Sicarius lifted a hand to his screen-up goggles, cycling through the settings until he landed on the tracking program Protium had given him. What had been a general haze of light in the city when outside, became more pronounced and defined, the layered structures of buildings proving to be not as large as a hindrance as the walls had been for his tracking sight.
He could see her light, brilliantly shining in what looked to be the center of the city. She was housed in a massive, block like compound. He’d prefer to be able to do more reconnaissance on the building, but he lacked the time. He had no real inkling to the cycle of call-ins for each sentry post along the walls, so he had to move fast. Once properly engaged, he would be on borrowed time.
A sudden surge of excitement and anxiety gripped him. He had been trying to ignore the childhood fear-fueled unease. Being back on his homeworld, he was conscious over the fact that he had an underlying fear, seared into him from when he was young. The specter of the monster and the pain of losing his family, it all coalesced into a ball of unknowing inside of him. He had no time to deal with any of these feelings, and he knew them to be irrational. So instead, he tried to replace those feelings with the thrill of the hunt. It had been a good while since he had been able to properly use his finely trained assassin skills since he had been promoted within the Vanguard, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t enjoying flexing this particular muscle.
Calculating the distance from the center of the city to the eastern wall, he planted yet another Jump gate. Reaching into a pouch on his belt and grabbing the boxy contraption, he pushed a few buttons before tossing into the open gateway moments before it closed.
Kneeling, he plugged in a new set of coordinates into the gate.
Keeping his eyes fixated onto the furthest point on the wall from him, spanning the vast distance of the city beyond Kathryn’s location, he saw the explosion before he heard shockwaves.
Alarms sounded almost immediately, ear-piercing and wailing sirens filled the air.
He leapt into the open gate.
Reappearing at the precipice of the rooftop of the building Kathryn was located, he watched as figures moved with purpose. They either moved towards the direction of the explosion to fortify the entry points nearest to the commotion or they hunkered down at their assigned positions.
He could Jump into the building, but that would leave his exit routes populated with sentries. Without knowing what kind of condition Kathryn was in, he couldn’t leave it up to chance and he had a limited supply of gates available to him.
He would have to clear his path in and out.
Sicarius gripped his dual blades, weapons he had come to depend on in the years since joining the Dominion. They were made of polyfiber abythyn nylon, the most durable material that could retain a hardedge in the Dominion arsenal. Straight, from pommel to point, with a deadly sharp edge starting at the guard on both sides of the flattened material. It was jointed every three inches, each segment nested in the previous segment when not in use, so it took up very little real estate and allowed for easy transportation. He quietly skirted the roofline to his targets, his boots making almost no sound as he shuffled from his vantage point to attack, his mind singularly focused on the data through his screen-up goggles, giving him exact readings on the number and locations of the bodies in his way.
A sentry gasped briefly, the breath of him escaping his body for one last time, as a blade penetrated a chink in his white-armor. His neck was snapped, the cape enclosing his body muffled Sicarius pulling the sword back towards him. Using the retrieval velocity to throw the blade, like a missile, at the unassuming sentry partner, slipping through the slit of the helmet to pierce the occipital orbits.
The two bodies folded falling to the ground, knees first, their blood soaking the stone beneath them intermingling as their assailant disappeared.
Shifting once again into the shadows, Sicarius felt most at home when hidden. His powers of observation were best suited here, as he assessed his next move, a strength of strategy that had allowed him to advance easily up the Vanguard ranks.
He tossed a handful of small flash bombs ahead of him as he leapt backwards into the air above the next set of guards. On the apex of his arc, he launched eight five-inch daggers at the distracted bodies below. They traversed the air like bomber birds, three hitting their quarry, but leaving one lone sentry standing, hands still shielding her eyes from the bright flashes of light. Her energy staff was on, as she defensively swung wildly into the air. As Sicarius’s boots hit the stone walkway, the assassin pivoted, lunging at the woman. Clipping her by her legs and slicing apart her Achilles tendons, Sicarius caused her to crumble to the floor in agony. He brought himself up to stand behind her, his left hand wrapped around her mouth to muffle her outcry, his right, swinging up in one fluid motion to stab her through an opening behind her shoulder blades.
Sicarius, clearing the Chosen from his path to his target.
With an increasing body count in his wake, Sicarius pushed forward, eyeing his next round. Grabbing another Jump gate from his belt, he quickly assessed the distance and flew through the portal, appearing midair, in the western courtyard. The three sentries were caught unaware as they were skewered in silence from the darkness, the whites of their uniforms turning black in the poor lighting as blood spilled mercilessly from their broken bodies. Sinews snapped, bones cracked, and death throws were silenced as the assassin worked his way through the remaining guards.
By the time he made it to the western entry of the building, alarms had been triggered that there was an intruder. He knew he only had a limited amount of time before the troops that had been sent to the eastern wall would be hurried back to his location.
Charging forward, he kept himself to the edge of the building, flanking the next group of opponents. He jumped, perpendicular to the wall of the edifice, thrusting himself in a leap. He grabbed one of his targets, threw them onto the ground with a violent crack of a skull, before jamming a dagger into their clavicle, silencing them. The two other sentries heard the nose and cried out as they came for him. Sicarius threw projectiles at their centers. The incendiary devices exploded, their innards launched behind them as they were severed in half from the blasts as their bodies disintegrating into heaps around their feet.
Only seven more guards to get through before he made it to the threshold of his entry point.
Propelling himself off the ground, Sicarius met two charging guards head on, his blades splayed from his waist, elbows straight, as he deflected their energy staffs. He sliced the two rods in half, the metal of the Dominion proving superior to the metal of his homeland, and he gutted the patrolmen as he crashed through them keeping his movement ever forward.
Grabbing the hot end of one of the broken staffs, Sicarius shoved it into a third body, quickly cooking them from the inside, an unnatural groan escaping the lips of the fallen guard.
Running at full speed, his breathing was calm, his mind focused. Despite his progress, he knew he had nothing to look forward to. He had no inkling of what type of body count would lie in front of him as soon as he made it into the building, so he paced himself as best he could, taking it one set of enemies at a time, trying hard not to prematurely exert too much energy.
An energy shot came across his brow, and he blocked it with his left blade only for the metal to be disintegrated upon contact.
He put the leftover hilt back into its strap sheath and gripped the remaining blade’s hilt with both hands, his knuckles barely guarded by the streamline cross guard. Charging the gun wielding watchman, he strafed, agilely, dodging the bolts of energy shot his way. As he got closer, the guard was losing his nerve, erratically shooting in his direction. Letting out an involuntary growl, Sicarius braced his right foot behind him, pushing off the stone and flinging himself up the short set of stairs at his assailant, his hands braced adjacent to his chin, the blade exposed towards his opponent, as he lifted into a high arc, his arms extended and tensed.
The gunman dropped.
The remaining four patrolmen had boarded themselves up behind the doors, just as Sicarius got to the landing.
He stood in front of the barriers, for a moment, catching his breath. A sudden urge of nausea crept up to him, but he buried it along with any respite he was allowed.
Sicarius could hear the patrol speaking through the doors, their voices frantic and worried to one another.
“How many are there?”
Casually reaching to the back of his belt, he grabbed another Jump gate.
Letting himself have one more quick moment of reprieve, he dropped the gate, blade in hand, daggers ready, he threw another round of flash bombs into the glimmering portal and ran in after.
The defenders were both blinded and assaulted at once. They shielded their eyes from the brilliance of his distraction as he plunged his blade into their soft spots. The initial resistance of their flesh was a tease for the release of it giving way to his whims, cool metal gliding further into them, severing arteries, muscles, and organs.
One sentry swung his staff around, as he fell, succeeding in making contact with the assassin, swiping the blade of energy across the forehead and cheek in a downward, vertical arc. Sicarius pulled back, stifling his pain with gritted teeth, his goggles and mask ruined. Sicarius ripped them off his face and stuffed them into a pouch on his belt. The smell of seared flesh filled the air, the injury exuding enough blood to see only out of one eye.
Sicarius pulled his lone blade from one of the guards and turned on his heel, not knowing what to expect.
But there was nothing.
No more guards.
Keeping his sword ready, he kept his back to the wall, navigating the labyrinth of halls and dim lighting. Winding in and out of hallways, he thought he heard the faint sound of voices as he got closer to what he could only guess from memory of the tracking, his objective.
Head aching, the throbbing pain of his facial laceration almost too distracting, he pushed on.
Counting his paces, he kept track of his direction and distance. He needed to know how far he was from the outside. He needed to know his escape.
Traversing the seemingly endless passageways, he thought he could make out what someone was saying, just as he came close to a pair of massive, ornately decorated double doors. From what he could tell, siding towards them, they were thirty feet tall, and six feet wide, covered in gold and marble, all fashioned into extravagant filigree and ornaments.
Only ten yards away, he felt a great rumbling and a crackling energy in the air.
He had felt something like this before.
And at that thought, the double doors were blown off their hinges, a monstrous amount of energy bursting through the opening, the blinding light of red, white, and contrasting blacks, aching to his one functioning eye. The energy shattered adjoining pillars into splinters of marble. Sicarius instinctively crouched down, guarding himself.
The energy ripped through and tore the doors into shreds of metal and wood, melting at the mullion, the illusion of rails and casing barely surviving, now nothing more than heaps on the floor where they once stood.
On the ends of the explosive blast, he heard a voice, screaming.
Ignoring the trailing energy shockwaves, he forced his way past the damage and turned the corner to the room.
Bodies. Some scorched, some liquified, some merged molecularly with the walls themselves, were strewn about the room, and Sicarius wished his mask was still functional.
At the center of the blast, was Kathryn.
Sicarius comes to the massive doors of the Palace's throne room,
only to be greeted by a massive, uncontrolled explosion.
She was standing in the middle of the room, still screaming, shreds of clothing on her, covered in marks, bruises, and deeper lacerations. Blood, he assumed was hers, had matted itself to her body.
But there she stood. Her blonde hair on end, pulsing in waves, like a heartbeat, as now harmless kinetic ripples of energy continued to emanate from her.
And even though she was looking in his direction, she didn’t acknowledge him. Her eyes rimmed red, almost glowing, looked masked, far off, distant, as if she wasn’t there.
The sound of his voice must’ve snapped her back to reality, she stopped her outcry, as her eyes seemed to clear and she looked at him for the first time.
He started in her direction, dropping his blade, and rushed towards her as she began to collapse.
Catching her in his arms, the blood of her wounds sticky against his Greys, he held her protectively as she succumbed to exhaustion, excursion, and pain.
Sicarius hadn’t intended on saving a Jump gate. But the lack of security beyond the doors, what he assumed were now melded to the architecture of the room, left him with an easy out. He could land them right back to where he began, in the glen.
He wondered only for a moment if she could survive even a short, localized Jump, but he knew she could.
She was so strong.
He planted his remaining gate, the portal opening into a beam of light.
Lifting Kathryn into his arms, delicately but securely cradling her, he walked carefully through the radiance.
“You can’t give me orders, dog.” Protium leaned back against the counter of his laboratory, the sterile metal gleaming in the multidirectional lighting he had been adjusting earlier.
“IT’S NOT AN ORDER.” Orthus ran a hand through the tuft of his blond hair, the exacerbation showing in both his face and his raised voice. “It falls on ALL of our heads with the Vanguard leaderless, and Overseer’s PET missing.”
Orthus’s explanation did little to impress his counterpart.
Gritting his teeth, the massive, goateed, blond adjusted his approach, “Protium, if you could PLEASE tell me where Kathryn and Sicarius are, it would be GREATLY appreciated.”
“I neither require nor desire your appreciation.” The olive-drabbed Protium tilted his head, the robotic, digital nature of his voice, in stark contrast to the grated, very human voice of the General, “I do not answer to you.”
“THEN WE SHALL GO TO WHOM YOU DO ANSWER TO!”
Orthus stormed out of the laboratory, leaving Daxia, who had been quietly standing just behind him, alone with the remaining Consul.
“I think it’s time for me to take my leave, sir.”
Protium waved his hand dismissively at her, “Do what you will.”
He knew this was coming, he had orchestrated it with both Daxia and Sicarius before he sent Sicarius off to go find his project.
But what Sicarius and Daxia didn’t know, was that Protium knew Overseer was always going to get directly involved, and that no matter how much Orthus desired it, Protium would never see reprisals from their One-True-Overlord.
However, Protium mused to himself, It would be just enough to get Kathryn back to where she belongs – in the safety and care of her creator, allied against the war-mongering cur.
Daxia nodded curtly to him, as she turned on her heel to leave.
“I’ll follow you out.” The Consul spoke as prepared himself for the exhaustive and unnecessary play for Orthus’s sake.