“Orthus,” he said the general’s name quietly laced with a tinge of impatience, “We need silence from you.”
Protium couldn’t help but smile behind his mask.
Overseer had no facial expression to speak of – stoic and firm. Their Master and Lord sat in repose on a regal yet utilitarian type chair. Not quite a throne, as in the Great Hall, it lacked a certain larger-than-life quality.
The three men were situated in Overseer’s private chambers, his Sanctuary – a massive room affixed to the back-end of the Great Hall in the heart of the Vigil. It was a little more than an over-sized bedroom, but the entirety of it was made of Deltria. It was hard to navigate as the shimmering material created illusions of edges and steps that did not exist, or hid ones that did. From top to bottom, the dark, black-opal-like structure kept the room in relative darkness save for the few lighting discs that floated in the far back corners flickering their light against the reflective specks amongst the formations of the room. With this much concentrated Deltria, Overseer could manipulate and form the room as he wanted pulling from his home-dimension at-will.
“The lack of knowledge of the subordinates’ whereabouts is something We will ignore…” his voice was smooth, assured despite not knowing the full extent of the situation, “…for now.” The word now held a heavy threat.
Protium had always admired Overseer’s speech – so forceful and succinct – it was a skill he lacked despite his best efforts to exude that kind of confidence when making demands of his lessers. He knew that they had to listen to him, based purely on his rank, but he was always a little surprised when they did.
Shifting his gaze, Overseer looked over at Protium.
“If you could do Us the kindness to explain, from the beginning, what is going on and where Our Kathryn is?” As he said her name, Protium noticed a distinctive tuck of his chin, as if he was swallowing the words as he spoke them. The Consul waved his hand, as if swatting at an errant fly, though the annoyance he felt over this entire charade could hardly be detected in his robotic voice, “Really, my Lord, I’ve already explained this to three different people, could you not bother them? I have much more pressing concerns to attend to.”
“Our concerns are your concerns, Protium. Do not forget that.”
The dynamic between the two men was always a mystery to most, as Protium lacked the finesse in protocol that was expected of someone of his stature. With the exception of addressing Overseer appropriately, his demeanor was always a bit too casual – dismissive even – for speaking with what the Dominion considered a God.
But he knew he wasn’t a God. He was a fourth dimensional creature, one that he had helped coax into this world, and out of the chaotic comfort of the Flux of space-time. And after all was said and done, Overseer needed Protium. He considered it job security.
“Very well…” he sighed the words out, an odd sound coming from his modulator. “Since your dog here decided to take it upon himself and publicly punish your Consort…”
“Kathryn.” Overseer corrected him.
“Indeed, Kathryn,” Protium amended himself, “She has been in the care of the Vanguard.”
Overseer’s eyes looked heavy, bored with the preamble. He leaned forward on his knees.
“A course of action, as you might remember, that I did NOT condone,” Protium narrowed his eyes at Orthus, though he realized the effect was lost in the full-face mask and bio-suit he wore so he continued, “As we both know, Kathryn isn’t someone to languish away in idleness.” He turned his whole body to Orthus, “And that is exactly what you did, you placed a predator among those DRONES and expected her to – what? Play NICE?”
He scoffed at the thought.
“Your stupidity is staggering, she’s a walking weapon, an EXPENSIVE one at that, and you put her in with the fodder?” His hands raised above his shoulders in exasperation.
“Protium, We approved of that demotion.” Overseer added.
The Consul turned to his Master, “I know, but you cannot acquiesce to the begging of a dog, my Lord, or they’ll never stop coming to the table for scraps!”
Overseer remained still as he next spoke. He was casual, here in the comfort of his chambers, his long black hair draped over his shoulder. The charcoal blackish grey of his uniform absorbed all reflective light of his surroundings. Protium had always wondered why Overseer had chosen the look he did for his corporeal form – though Overseer had explained to him that it is what he had surmised as the ideal. The non-Man was structurally appealing, or so Kathryn told him - broad shouldered, Overseer was fit, much like the standard of the Dominion, but he carried with him an air of capability and regality that was uniquely his. His ruddy brown skin always in stark contrast to the brilliant white of his glowing eyes. Such eyes that were now fixated on Protium.
“You question Our judgement?”
Protium crossed his arms, “No, sir. I think perhaps you were bored with her adulation and attention, but you could have easily just as dismissed her!” His voice sped up, “As important as she is to the cause, it seems rather shortsighted to put her into harm’s way!” He paused for a brief moment, “So yes, I am questioning your judgement.”
“You are Our oldest advisor, We would have hoped that by now, you could trust Our decisions.” Overseer sat back in his seat, lifting his chin, a royal air to his demeanor, as always. Protium couldn’t blame him for it, he had helped the perception of Overseer’s majesty – both to the public and to Overseer himself – ever since they started this venture together.
“Yes, but-“ Protium began to interrupt, but Overseer raised a hand, stopping him.
“Orthus assured Us that her placement within the Vanguard would hone her skills and give her a touch of humility, something We think we can all agree she lacks with plenitude.”
Protium was never bothered by Kathryn’s attitude, as she had always been more than pleasant with him. A willing subject to his experimentations, with a resolve and constitution that belied her soft exterior – what more could a scientist want in a subject?
“We were given weekly reports on her progress. So, for her to suddenly…” Overseer searched for a word, “abscond off the Homeworld, disappoints Us greatly.” He punctuated his statement with a harsh look to Orthus.
The dog stood at attention, tall and proud – Protium thought he maybe saw a twinge of shame cross his face, but he wasn’t sure. The thought of it delighted him though.
Overseer turned his attention back to Protium, “Given Orthus’s exemplary service and adherence to Dominion Law, and Our direct orders, his claim that YOU are the cause of Kathryn’s escape from safety is what brings Us here today.”
Protium was thankful his expressions couldn’t be read. A mix of indignance and frustration enveloped him.
“Thus, We give you the floor to explain this situation otherwise.”
Protium looked up, “We are here because your dog’s idiot decisions has brought us here.” He looked emphatically at Orthus, “I have been but the oil to the machinations of his ineptitude.”
“Explain it to Us. Now.” Never one to raise his voice, Overseer commanded the Consul straight-forward.
“Had Orthus,” he hated saying his name, but did so now for emphasis, “not foolishly moved forward with the maneuver on our last target that Kathryn, the Castra of our intelligence division, a division that I helped create, she would not have had to follow your command to execute a suicide mission. It wasn’t HER that cost us thousands of Legion, it was HIM. He just made her pull the trigger. And I know. I KNOW. Because she did so in such a public manner, we had to punish her.” He began rambling through his rationalizations.
“But,” he paused for dramatics, “had it not been for Orthus’s incompetence in listening to his subordinates, Kathryn wouldn’t be missing.”
“How so?” Overseer’s brows furrowed, intrigued, at least Protium thought he was intrigued.
“Kathryn is on an undertaking that should have been a Dominion priority fifteen years ago.”
At this point Orthus had broken his own protocol and now, bewildered, looked directly at Protium as he laid out the problem theatrically.
Beginning to pace, Protium used his steps on the cold hard floor of Overseer’s Sanctuary to stress the importance of his words, “A child came to us, not by our expansion, but based on a rumor of our existence, pleading for our help. He joined the Legion, declaring to anyone willing to listen of the plight of his home world. He spun amazing tales of world-wide fires and roaming droves of assailants, mass murder, and tyranny.”
He had their complete attention now.
“And that child mentioned something – over and over and over again, but no one would listen. Not even his commanding officer, and not his commanding officer’s commanding officer.” He turned tellingly towards Orthus.
“A specific observation of the tyrant that ravaged his world.”
He could see Orthus’s mind churning, running through manifests of officers and troops in his head.
“I think the term he used was…” Protium walked directly in front of Orthus. The general’s towering height above him not stopping his bravado, “monster.”
It elated him as he saw Orthus’s cold, blue eyes go round in realization.
“Glowing, white-eyed, monster.” Protium finished.
Overseer’s appearance had always been kept secret from the rank and file of the Dominion. The only people to have ever seen him corporeally were the three highest ranking officers – himself, Orthus, and Kathryn. No other being they had come across, in their decades long pursuit of purifying the multiverse, had possessed this trait. It was something unique, they assumed, to fourth dimensional creatures. And until Kathryn’s revelation of this information, a creature of existence solely reserved to Overseer.
Protium berating Orthus in Overseer's Sanctuary.
But the promise of another trans-dimensional being?
Orthus erupted, forgetting himself, and his Master’s edict of silence, “But it was the fearful words of a child!”
“SILENCE.” Overseer barked his command at his general, and Protium reveled in it. He understood the need for a war dog in the formation of the Dominion, it was something that he could not find interest in, and unfortunately, something that he couldn’t train someone else in. Unlike Kathryn, a specimen handpicked by himself to fill the role as the leader of their intelligence community, Orthus was picked by Overseer – Orthus was a star of the Legion in his day – obedient and so-called worthy of the role.
“I sent Kathryn to the planet and dimension in question – to verify this utterance.”
“Alone?” Overseer queried, his white eyes, devoid of expression.
“No, one of the Vanguard chased after her…” he paused, “and then another.”
“Why were We not informed?” Overseer lifted himself from his seat, held tilted ever-so-slightly down as the implications of her mission solidified within him.
“She had hoped to bring back proof – to regain your trust and favor.” Protium explained, his voice once again regaining its exuberant lilt, once again tonally inappropriate to the gravity of the situation.
A heavy silence took over, as Protium offered more information and Orthus was muzzled.
Their Lord stood, his long dark locks falling behind his tapered back, loose and unbound. Protium smirked at the pageantry of their Master.
Like a peacock. Protium mused to himself. But a deadly peacock.
The Dominion hierarchy had chosen to keep Overseer out of sight of its people. The reasoning being that Overseer, as an emblem, needed to be an everyday man. The social order required him to not be unique, to not stand out, but to be of the people.
If the populace actually knew what he was, the purity of the Dominion’s mission would lose out to fear. Overseer was extraordinary and could easily best any man or woman presented to him. He didn’t follow the rules of existence the way that everyone else did. His actuality didn’t hinge on the physical, and he could always choose to return to his home plane. It would be hard for the masses to understand why Overseer chose to benevolently rule over them. How could they?
A man, they could overthrow, even if they revered him as a God. But an actual, omnipresent being? Fear was not the way for him to rule, and they knew that. When Overseer and Protium formed the Dominion, they knew they had to tread a fine line of dominance and grace – he would have to be loved and only a little feared – that balance was critical to the hierarchy of the Consuls, and to the equality enjoyed by the Dominion citizens.
It was why Kathryn was so crucial to the structure of that hierarchy. As the Castra of the Dominion Intelligence Agency, she monitored that fear. She was allowed to rule by that fear. The mere existence of the DIA, with someone of Kathryn’s stature at the head, had the effect of everyone attempting to stay in check – for if they broke the rules, she and her agency would know. But because Kathryn wasn’t the head of state, she didn’t have the same balancing act that Overseer had to maintain. Her actions could always be called into question if it needed to be.
Overseer, having paced a few steps back and forth, stopped in front Orthus, overtaking Protium’s presence, “Ready the Legion for the Jump, but we are changing our destination.” He straightened himself by habit as he spoke, “Do not engage with the inhabitants. We are to have a show of force. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Orthus obediently acknowledged his commands.
Overseer lifted his chin to Orthus, dismissing the general to his duties.
Protium was about to leave with him when he was stopped by a steady voice, “Stay, We have need of you, still.”
It had been over a week since Ellius had heard anything further from Kathryn or Sicarius. She had long since cleaned up the wreckage that the Vanguard had left of their dormitory, and she patiently awaited long delayed orders of their impending Jump.
So, it came as a surprise to her when the same woman who had turned her apartment on end suddenly appeared at her door.
“Hello.” The redhead offered tentatively.
“Greetings,” Daxia replied, her eyes, with their elongated pupils, resembling a cephalopod, looked not at Ellius, but beyond her.
The pause between their acknowledgement grew thicker.
“Can I help you?” Ellius offered.
“I need something of Kathryn’s.”
Ellius raised a ruddy eyebrow at the textured and pattern Vanguard in front of her, “What? And why?”
Daxia gave her a troubled look but gave up no more information.
“I’m not allowed to just release her personal belongings to you, Vanguard or not. There are procedures in place for personal effects,” Kathryn’s roommate carefully examined the woman in her doorway as she continued, “Even for people who are…arrested?”
Daxia’s facial expression didn’t change.
“…Dead?” The word weighed heavy in the air between them, but Daxia’s lack of response gave her some sort of reassurance.
Daxia’s eyes focused on her then, and Ellius let out an involuntary sigh.
“But really, I can’t just give you her stuff.”
The bald, pink pigmented woman suddenly reared, and grabbed Ellius, pushing her up against the jam of the door, “I am under orders from Orthus and you will COMPLY.”
Ellius, taken aback suddenly, by the lithe woman’s aggression, steadied herself and countered, bringing her thick and heavy arm down on the braced arm of her assailant, freeing herself and dropping to the ground.
“Then send me the directives,” Ellius said through clenched teeth, “Or I will remove you forcibly from my doorway.”
Daxia retreated, her back to the wall opposite Ellius, a look of confusion and frustration in her eyes. The alien woman looked genuinely distressed.
About ready to close the door on the random intrusion, Daxia stopped the door from shutting with a splayed and heavy hand, “I need your help, please.”
“What will you have of me, my Lord?” Protium stood as relaxed as he could in the visual miasma of Overseer’s chambers.
Overseer waited for Orthus to close the door behind him before he responded.
“What does this mean, Protium, can there really be Another?” His Master’s voice was higher pitched than normal and Protium couldn’t remember a time in recent history he had heard this kind of excitement from him.
Despite the oddness of the moment, Protium was happy to join in his exuberance, “A great many things! If Kathryn has successfully tracked down this other’s whereabouts, or proof, then this widens our field of discovery considerably!”
Overseer shook his head slightly, dismissing the scientific aspirations of his partner in power, “No, what does this mean for…me?” The non-man looked to his friend, brows lifted and the resonance of movement in the glow of his white eyes seemed to speed up.
Protium noticed the use of the individual vocative tense, no longer keeping the Majestic Plural, the possibility of Another fourth dimensional entity such as himself had clearly rendered him into a new perspective. The prospect of finding one of his own kind instinctually made him dispense with the formalities of his corporeal requirements.
Overseer paced, nearly floating around the Deltria cased room as he moved seamlessly from point to point, phasing in and out of his home dimension in excitement.
Protium shifted in his stance, adjusting his olive-drab bio-suit’s attachments before responding to his long-time colleague, “For you? Only you can really answer that, I have no idea the implications of your identity in regard to Another.” The man shrugged, helplessly, “For the Dominion…well…”
Overseer turned towards him, approaching slowly as he spoke in earnest, “This could change everything for the Dominion.”
And Protium knew that. His desire for scientific knowledge clouded any other agenda or outcome to a fault. He was acutely aware that the entire premise of the Dominion, and Overseer’s reign of it, spawned from the very issue they were discussing now.
When Protium discovered Overseer, the entity had no name – he simply was – the name came later. Overseer, or rather, Specimen Thirteen, was an unexpected development in his experiments with Deltria. He had originally attempted to treat SP13, as scientifically objective as possible. But it proved to be futile as the more he entangled himself with the knowledge of the fourth dimension, the more self-awareness SP13 gained, eventually exceeding his wild assumptions that it was simply a reflection of his own consciousness. SP13 became cognizant. And the day that SP13 corporealized in front of him forced him to rethink his entire approach to his research. No longer simply a scientist on the search for more knowledge, now he had to contend with what can only be described as a child, with the mental capabilities of an adult, but one with a complete lack of experience and understanding of the world around them.
It was through Protium’s guidance and assistance that Overseer defined himself – choosing a role and purpose based on deductive reasoning for the reason of his existence. He was part of this world without being of this world. He had the gift of time, the gift of a special type of omniscience, he had the gift of finding order within disorder. In the Flux of the fourth dimension everything existed simultaneously, there was no beginning, no end, and so there is an awareness of all things at once. Beings from the third dimension can’t come of it with any coherence and are told not to trust anything they experience while traversing through a Jump. Even Overseer, when manifested as a physical three-dimensional being, cannot make sense of what he knows to be true when in the Flux. But unlike natives of the third dimension, he is able to decipher enough to possess a special kind of prescience. Ontologically speaking, he was the closest being to a God that any corporeal creature had ever been exposed to.
Defining what a God is supposed to do though, that’s entirely different, and something that Protium, when asked, had struggled to answer. Instead, in a vain effort of staying objective, he tried to lead SP13 to its own conclusions.
And from those leading discussions came the Dominion. No longer SP13, Overseer felt it incumbent of himself to do what a God should do – save the people. Between sessions with Protium he traveled the cosmos, moved from dimension to dimension between the multiverse, and all he ever witnessed was the ills of the third dimension.
Overseer couldn’t understand how the world in which Protium inhabited was so different than his home plane. There was no balance, no justice, no security. It seemed often the success of one led to the immediate suffering of another. He decided, it was no way for them to continue to exist. He decided, he was driven to self-awareness to purge this plane of existence of its woes. And he’d do so by any means necessary.
But now? Now he wasn’t unique. Now he wasn’t God.
“It doesn’t have to,” Protium followed up on the leading statement from his old specimen, “What you’ve been doing, it’s been good for us mere mortals. Nothing has to change.”
“Nothing HAS to change, but it is changing nonetheless, Protium.” Overseer smirked at his friend, “Perhaps you fear the day the Dominion no longer feeds your endless appetite for discovery?”
Protium shrugged emphatically, tilting his head to his raised shoulder, “Perhaps. But I think I’m more fearful of the possibility of you adopting the belief that life is without objective meaning or value.”
His Lord chuckled at him, “I’ll refrain from smiting you.”
“Much appreciated!” Protium responded enthusiastically, “If you could spare my laboratory, it would be even better.”
“I have no idea where she keeps her reds, Daxia.” Ellius looked at the ridged dome on the top of Daxia’s head as the woman searched through Kathryn’s belongings.
“I have to find them. I haven’t yet mastered shiny objects.”
“Yes, mimicking reflecting light while in movement is incredibly difficult. I’m not yet an elder, I’m only four.”
“You’re only four years old?” Ellius failed in not sounding shocked at the confession.
Daxia, wildly flinging objects across the room in her search, didn’t break a beat in countering the human’s amazement, “Yes, by…” she hesitated stating her peoples label specifically, as it was frowned upon within the Dominion’s philosophy that once part of the Dominion, you were simply a Citizen with no discernable greater or lesser value than others, “Lyxian years. By human years I’m more or less an adult.”
Ellius ran a hand through her rusty red hair, blinking as she tried to absorb this information, “I don’t even know if I was toilet trained at four years old.”
“My home planet has a much longer sun-cycle than here,” Daxia countered, “At last!” She exclaimed. Holding up above her head in triumph was the red, spiked and studded garb that Kathryn had worn during her tenure as the Castra of the Dominion Intelligence Agency.
Ellius instinctively smiled back at Daxia, though she was still dubious about the point of this charade, “Why is Orthus having you do this again?”
Daxia began to strip in front of Ellius, paying her no mind. Ellius still harbored a sense of modesty from her former life before joining the Legion, but she tried her best to remain evenly expressed, keeping her eyes boldly on the changing Lyxian.
“This is insurance, for if Kathryn is compromised or has been compromised on Sicarius’s planet. This way, we can bridle the anal for the rest of the Legion when we get there.” Daxia slid the red gauntlets up her forearms as she spoke.
Ellius’s confusion read easily on her glass face, “Bridle the anal?” She couldn’t help but lift the tone of her voice in exaggerated question on the last word, “Do…do you mean annal?”
“Annal, anal, yes.”
Ellius thought for a moment more, “And do you mean…control the narrative?”
Daxia seemed frustrated with this line of questioning, answering hurriedly, “Yes.”
“Hey, you’re the one who attacked me and demanded me to help you,” Ellius reminded her, “I’m entitled to ask you questions, orders or no orders.
Daxia sighed, nodding, shifting her weight in the bodice and boot of Kathryn’s ceremonial garb, “How does it look?”
Ellius hadn’t signed up for any of this. When she agreed to take on Kathryn as a roommate, suddenly, she had thought it would be an interesting change of pace for her. The only ex-Consort to exist, and one rumored to have a wild streak in her, she had thought that her evenings would be filled with parties and experiences she could take home with her after her last tour of duty. She would have never expected for her home to be ransacked on multiple occasions and to be in the thick of a deception that potentially violated the direct orders of Overseer himself.
She looked at the Vanguard in earnest. If Ellius was honest, the deep red against the pastel-like pinks and purples of Daxia’s skin pattern wasn’t the most flattering thing she had seen. And the posture collar only emphasized the baldness of her head.
“It fits great,” She answered honestly, “So what now?”
Ellius’s eyes widened slowly as she watched the pigments and ridges that lined Daxia’s body shift and undulate on command, the creases moving independently from one another as they searched the proper elevation and hue to perfectly form the smooth skin and structure of her roommate’s. The peaked ridges of her scalp reached out and split effortlessly into strands, upon strands of hair, forming a mass of warm blonde atop her head. Daxia’s eyes themselves altered to mimic a blue-green coloring, even going so far as to match the flecks of variation within each individual iris.
She could easily pass as Kathryn.
“By Overseer’s breath…” Ellius whispered to herself, “You look…amazing.” Ellius couldn’t help but gawk at the newly transformed Vanguard.
Cocking a hip to one side, exaggerating her imitation of Kathryn’s demeanor with relative ease, Daxia smirked at the Legion, “Implying I don’t look amazing normally? Tsk.” The charlatan winked at her, responding, and to Ellius’s sanity’s satisfaction, Daxia could not mimic Kathryn’s voice.
“Yeah, you’re definitely laying it on thick there, Daxia.” Ellius laughed at her. It wasn’t just Daxia’s impersonation that was causing her to laugh, the entire situation felt comical. She had sworn over two decades of her life to the Dominion, loyally serving the Legion and Overseer, successfully completing mission after mission, some even gaining honors. And yet, in her last year with the Legion, she was participating in a side of the Dominion she never knew existed – a side that made her question the entirety of her servitude. She began to catalogue each time some form of information from the Dominion had be distributed to the ranks.
Looking at Daxia masquerading as Kathryn was both comforting and unnerving to her as she watched the Lyxian straighten herself up from her parody play, lifting her chin regally, and holding her carriage with an ease of comfort that perfectly reflected Kathryn’s posture.
“Wow…” Ellius’s utterance was involuntary, “Can all Lyxians shape-shift so easily?”
Daxia transforms herself into Kathryn, wearing her Reds.
“There’s been no formal announcement of Kathryn’s return to the DIA, how are you going to explain her…appearance?” the Legion asked.
“I didn’t ask. Above my security clearance. Of which, Ellius, you will need to provide your bio-scan into accepting your new intelligence clearance based on your assistance in this.”
Ellius shrugged, “Listen, I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign, so long as I’m in the clear for it.”
Ignoring the possibility that Another couldn’t exist, Overseer had gone into overdrive for his own scientific curiosity, using Protium as more of a sounding board than anything else.
“I have many questions for this being.” Despite the exuberance, Overseer now sounded regal as ever, as if he was pontificating to himself, “How did they come to exist here? Were they discovered, like I was?”
Having since stopped his pacing, Overseer stood still, continuing his series of seemingly rhetorical questions, “Do they see this dimension the same way I do? Or are they as disappointed as I am in the drab, colorlessness of it all?”
Protium’s perception of the fourth dimension, during his time spent in that plane, could only hint at the lackluster comparison Overseer was making. To him, this world, and all the worlds he had been to, were nothing more than a sepia wash of dull and faded visuals. No sunrise, no sunset, no sweeping vistas, no vivid nebulas could match the intensity and sensory overload of the Flux. Or so Overseer had told him – given his mortal senses, how was he to ever comprehend the difference?
“Perhaps I’ve even met the Other, in our home plane,” Overseer pondered out loud, “Are we unable to perceive each other as separate consciousnesses there?”
The Consul, feeling uneasy at this series of thoughts, felt compelled to reign in his Lord’s expectations, “I hope you’re able to ask all those questions, sir.” Protium offered a bit of cold water to Overseer’s flights of imagination, “With any luck, Kathryn will have gathered more information than just proof of its existence.”
“Ah yes, Kathryn…” Overseer said her name, almost as an afterthought, “She will need to be recovered.”
“Recovered?” Protium inquired, careful when treading on the status of their relationship.
When Protium first brought Kathryn to Overseer’s attention, he was unprepared for the response she received from him. At first, he thought perhaps the non-man’s interest in her was the same as his own – a scientific peculiarity, her resilience was hard to come by even amongst the many planets they visited. But Overseer took a particular interest in her, intellectually, and then eventually physically. Protium still wasn’t sure if that was a genuine sexual expression or if Overseer used the intimacy as a way of controlling and playing with her. But over the course of the years, Overseer seemed to welcome her intimacy and presence in his private chambers.
Overseer sat down in his chair again, lifting his chin as he spoke, “From what I ascertain of the Flux, this is not Kathryn’s time to shine or die. She is still of use to Us.”
Protium was quick to notice his shift of pronouns.
“But you still don’t know how…” Protium led him.
“No.” Overseer sounded disappointed in himself, “That future is something blocked from me anytime I transition from the Flux to here. But I need her. Alive.”
“I’m sure the Vanguard can retrieve her once we’ve landed on the planet.” Protium offered his Lord.
Overseer tilted his head, his gaze no longer focused on his long-time friend. Bringing a hand to his mouth, he brushed his knuckles against his lips as he thought, and Protium couldn’t help but marvel at so many of the human-like qualities that Overseer had adopted during his reign of the Dominion. His masquerading double was almost unneeded save for the obvious physical differentiation.
“No?” Protium asked, unsure of what train of thought Overseer was responding to this time.
“Ready for Our attendance.”
“We will be joining in on this excursion. And I will handle Kathryn’s recovery myself.”
Protium addressed his commander, feeling compelled to ask what he knew Kathryn would ask if she were part of this conversation, “Sir, is it wise to expose yourself like that?”
“We clearly cannot leave the wellbeing of Kathryn in the hands of lessers. We shall retrieve her, and then, with luck, We shall meet Another. Do you not think that warrants an appearance?”
“But…what will the public think?” Again, Protium couldn’t help but think of the concerns of the DIA, one of the reasons he had relinquished such responsibility to Kathryn in the first place, as it took him away from his scientific pursuits.
Overseer reached out, turning to him, placing both hands on his shoulders, a rare, reassuring smile on his face, “Friend, the Dominion is so vast, so powerful, and so in balance, We hardly think this revelation amongst the Legion will prove disastrous, do you not agree?”
Protium weighed the response risk in his head, by instinct, before agreeing with his long-time friend and compatriot, “Indeed.”
“Then ready for my appearance. Provide Orthus and the Legion with the appropriate adaptations for my arrival on the planet.”
Protium didn’t like the idea of broadcasting Overseer’s true form in this fashion, but at this point, he knew that there would be no deterring him. He had seen that glint in his eyes before. Right before they formed the Dominion together.
Daxia knew enough about the play that she was about to partake in would immediately change her status as second in command to Sicarius of the Vanguard. Inadvertently, her loyalty to Sicarius forced her into a privy position to both Protium and Orthus.
Sicarius had always passively complained about the politics he was forced to endure once he was given the commanding rank within the Vanguard, and truth be told, Daxia had always dismissed his grievances as slight and unseemly for someone in his position.
Now I am eating cow.
Crow. She corrected herself.
Reporting as ordered, she entered the Vigil, disguised as Kathryn, Mistress Moore, Consort to the Overseer.
She’d be lying to herself if she said the ruse didn’t excite her. The looks, recognition, and deferment she received – dressed as she was – was new and different for her. Daxia was used to functioning in the shadows, efficiently, but out of notice and sight. Being Kathryn, she found a new appreciation for the immediate pressure and attention that her teammate existed under. There was a mixture of lust, fear, contempt, and adoration that came with the role. She could partially see now why Kathryn behaved, dressed, and carried herself as she did. Daxia had often thought it was from pure arrogance and entitlement, only to realize, it was survival. Kathryn had to elevate herself to such a state that she was, in a way, unapproachable. Kathryn openly engaged in the leering and judgment, facing it head on and controlling it, versus allowing herself to be inundated with outside forces controlling her own narrative.
With a little difficulty, Daxia navigated her way to Orthus’s war room. Upon entering, Daxia stood tall in front of her twice-commanding officer, the general.
“It’s a good thing you’re her size?” Orthus mused at her.
“I can change my size, sir.’ Daxia responded.
“A handy trick, I’m sure.” He said dismissively.
Daxia’s direct interactions with Orthus were relatively limited, so she wasn’t confident in interpreting his tone or meaning. Up until now, she had always been buffered from him through Sicarius.
The blond wall-of-a-man stood at his desk, examining her from head to toe – not in a leering, lecherous way, but he analyzed her as if she were a piece of equipment, and the feeling of objectification, albeit unsexualized, unnerved her.
“And how have you enjoyed slogging it with the Vanguard, Consort?”
It was clear he was addressing her as Kathryn.
“Darling, it was a sweet vacation from having to deal with you.” She quickly responded, pulling everything she knew about Kathryn’s personality profile that she could think of.
Orthus smiled, genuinely, before breaking character, “Tell me, Daxia, does your species have gender and sex distinction?”
Taken aback by the question, she stumbled on her words, “Uh-hhhh, yes, we are sexually dimorphic...” she managed, “and distinct.”
Orthus tilted his head, his blond hair, short and cropped to his head reflecting much of the light above him and his desk, “But is it by choice?”
Daxia studied him for a moment before answering, “Yes, by human standards, we are able to choose our biological, sexual expression.”
He didn’t smile, but instead allowed a very obvious moment of silence between them before finally breaking it, “Very well, I will release the announcement of Kathryn’s reassignment to her former position.”
To Overseer, it seemed as if no time had passed at all by the time he received the call from the Legion, now appearing, en masse, on Tau Eight. Situated in his chambers, the comfort of Deltria allowing him to exist between the third and fourth plane, it was a quick movement of thought to traverse from the Dominion homeworld to his troops.
As a creature borne of the fourth dimension, traveling its corridors was natural, painless, and easy. As he shifted from the physical through the Flux of space-time, he easily sought the beacon of Deltria awaiting him at Orthus’s signal. Through the timeless, miasmic maelstrom, he pulled himself together, arriving on the planet from thin air, forming into his corporeal form, embraced by the Deltria-laden adornments for his armor.
His large hand gripped his gauntlets, securing them to his forearms as arriving troops began to exit their Jump portals surrounding him. The Legion close enough to him in awe of his presence.
Their adulation would have to be enjoyed later.
Turning to Orthus, who stood at attention and at his command, he noticed the faux-Kathryn standing by his side, only mildly impressed with the illusion.
He spoke with a threat of danger in his voice, demanding of his general, “Where is she?”