Autax chuckled and shook its head as it snapped four of its fingers. There was a small glimmer of light on the left hand wall, and a door appeared, through which another creature appeared.
This one was almost impossible to discern, as its form seemed to not only shift ceaselessly, but also to embody multiple spaces and shapes at once.
Watching it made Dylan’s eyes water, and she quietly praised herself for not priming into battle mode before coming here. All that plus a precognitive blur might have made her head explode.
The two creatures were, she assumed, communicating somehow. It seemed like some sort of combination of words, movements, and sweet, lingering, musical notes, none of which made any sense to her. So she waited patiently, still amazed Autax hadn’t tossed her out of the window, or something equally unpleasant, after her response to its proposal.
Eventually, the conversation ended and the second creature disappeared back through the shimmering doorway, which immediately closed behind it.
“That just leads to another office in the building,” Autax told her, following her gaze.
Dylan glared at it. Of course that idea had crossed her mind, but gloating was just uncouth.
“So…” Autax leaned back in its chair. “You turned down my offer? That is no problem. You even turned it down in a way nobody else has ever managed before, so, well done. I’ve done a lot of these and you are something new. Now, like I said, you are in no danger while you remain here. I have neither reason nor desire to cause you harm. However. Your gift is rare and valued, and others may not be so accommodating. I can protect you only if you accept my offer. So I ask again, will you work with me?”
As reply, Dylan stood and left the room without another word.
Her bravery began to leak out as soon as she stepped foot into the lift, and continued to shrink with each step she took towards the doors until eventually she stood, toes at the threshold, watching the rain fall listlessly outside, the only moving thing on an otherwise empty street.
With a deep breath and a sigh, Dylan shook herself. The chances something else was waiting right outside to kidnap her were almost zero.
Besides, standing here like a coward wasn’t going to get this new information into the ears of anyone else, and that was now her single most important task.
She stepped out, and after a quick bearings check (and a hasty glance for incoming kidnappers) she set herself into a deceptively fast stroll, eating up the street as she made her way to the one place she could pass information on without looking suspicious.
Because no army which consisted of modified creatures bound in slavery (however coy Autax might be about it, slavery it was it was), was without its rebels.
And humans were nothing if not resourceful.
One of the smaller hubs in the city has slowly been rotating out non-rebels, and pulling in like-minded creatures of all kinds. Dylan still hadn’t gotten to see Becca, but it was these creatures who could tell her that she was alright, pass messages, and keep mistreatment down to a minimum.
She related her tale to her team as soon as she arrived, and the new information set the hub buzzing.
A general in the army. But there were others less tolerant. Could Autax be a sympathiser? Was it possible to find out without winding up dead?
And what of the others Autax had mentioned? Until today not even the other rebel creatures could have told them the name of any of the higher-ups, much less where to find one.
All of this was quietly filed away. Nothing written or typed, nothing tangible existed, but each person kept a file in their heads, inside of which a specific set of information resided.
The large gilted bronze and gold creatures had shown them how to do this, had worked out who could best hold what information, and as each new creature or human proved themselves trustworthy, a portion of the information was entrusted to them.
None could provide more than a sliver of the total information that the various creatures had been gathering for a long time, but together they created a whole picture, continually adding, adjusting, extending as new information came in.
But it was clear that this place, this dimension, was different to the others. Instead of taking their time, slowly insinuating themselves into enough minds to enact their eventual takeover, and only then activate whatever it was that lived inside the brains of those they chose, that they wanted to control, they had changed tactics. Less time, fewer minds, and these had been fully activated before control was taken.
There were lots of theories as to why, but no answers.
Because Dylan had a plan.