I originally wrote “Dominion” for the Oregon Writers’ Workshop in 2018. One of the buying editors for that workshop was looking for stories for a romance anthology. But “Dominion” was bought by a different set of editors for an anthology themed around strangers. Sometimes things work out differently than anticipated. “Dominion” was my first pro sale. That’s why I’m so thrilled to finally be able to share it with you.
Galeron approached the phase-shift transit-point, a “surface” in space not unlike the “disk” created by two soap bubbles where they touched.
Nothing on his instruments suggested anything but a stable transit-point, located exactly where it was supposed to be. Still, he hesitated, holding back from taking his fighter-craft through.
Holographic displays sprouted from the semi-circular panel that wrapped around him. Data streams told him that the minor damage his ship had taken was healing as expected.
A snapshot, taken an hour ago, of his prey—another fighter outclassed by his own at least once over—floated within the hologram, the image showing most of its stern.
The longer Galeron waited, the greater the chance that he would lose his prey’s trail. Yet, here he was, lurking.
He sank back into the yielding grip of his pilot’s chair, and ran his thumb along the smooth, pearlescent surface of the armrest. The ship’s smooth interior was like the inside of an egg-shell, ready to sprout additional controls and interfaces as needed. They remained dormant as clean, sanitized air—its movement the only motion in the stillness—filled his nostrils, then his lungs.
Teirani Tutori, former sister-in-arms, now vassal of an enemy House, had fled before him. According to his ship’s data, Gota-Dai, the system on the other side, had six other known transit-points. And if Teirani took any one of them, she’d disappear.
Galeron’s instruments could only detect gravitic waves from her fighter for a limited time. A time he was wasting here, hesitating. It wasn’t cowardice. Nor sentiment.
It was written into his nature, his donai genetic code, as much as the almost-human appearance, the layered irises that gave him augmented vision. The enhanced hearing, strength and agility. The ability to heal. The symbiosis with his nanites.
It was his ardent desire to catch and defeat her.
All the things that made him more than human, made him, donai.
His hand tightened on the throttle without moving it. He ordered the ship to prepare a dozen message drones and load them with telemetry.
“My lord, I am in pursuit of House Dynadin’s donai,” he added to the message. “If this is where the information we seek has been hidden, I will send confirmation.”
He couldn’t be any more specific. Should any other House capture one of the drones before they made it back, details would betray House Cadarn’s goals. He ordered the ship to calculate a dozen random routes to Lord Cadarn’s three most likely locations.
The routes appeared on the holographic display, a jumble of strings branching out from his position, twisting and corkscrewing not through physical space, but through the extra-dimensional space of the phase-shift transit system. Should one of the drones make it—and he had no expectation that more than one would—House Cadarn would sent help.
He verified that the telemetry and report had been loaded, powered up the drones, and deployed them with full stealth.
“All drones are away,” the ship confirmed.
He pushed the throttle forward. His fighter’s prow pierced the transit-point, disappearing into a disk barely large enough to accommodate small ships like his and that of his prey.
There was no disorientation, no indication at all that he’d just traveled thousands of lightyears. There was, in fact, no change in momentum at all. He simply was someplace else, someplace far outside House Cadarn’s territory, away from help of any kind, for at least as long as it took the drones to reach their destination and for his liege lord to dispatch reinforcements, assuming all went as planned.
The Gota-Dai system was unclaimed. And no wonder. A single planet, the fourth, was suitable for human life.
The footprints left by Teirani’s gravitic engines were aimed towards that world. Assuming she hadn’t slingshotted around it, engines off, leaving no footprints, his destination was clear.
Galeron pulled up all the data his ship had on Gota-Dai. No orbital platforms, no communication arrays or relays, nothing to indicate the presence of the Ryhma—the human faction that had created the donai, used them to destroy their enemies, and then ordered them to self-destruct.
Supposedly, Ryhman survivors had scattered and set up hundreds of primitive seed colonies, hoping to escape the attentions of the donai and the chaos that had resulted from their rebellion.
Several donai Houses were now actively seeking out these seed colonies, determined to subjugate all humans before they could rise to power again. Some had more aggressive solutions—wiping out humans en masse, or only allowing the most docile amongst them to survive and taking them as chattel.
The sovereign of House Cadarn seemed to be of two minds, sometimes acting benevolently, other times showing no mercy. Galeron could see no pattern in his reasoning, and he’d never been in a position to demand an explanation, or be offered one.
Once the planet’s gravity well became dominant, Teirani’s footprints vanished. There were no other planets that she or her wounded ship could survive on, no gas giants to hide in while her ship healed. And if she’d fled through the transit-points, the game was lost.
He approached the fourth planet. A few orbits told him what he needed to know. Her ship had made a crash landing on one of the lesser continents.
It would’ve made more sense for her wounded ship to go through a transit point than attempt an atmospheric re-entry in its condition. Teirani had chosen to approach this system for a reason—because it certainly wasn’t the shortest, fastest, or safest route to anywhere, by any stretch of the imagination.
Every donai House was after two things—revenge on any Ryhman survivors and their creators’ knowledge.
Read the rest in Face the Strange: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction, Edited by Ron Collins and Brigid Collins.