[personal profile] purplekitte
Title: One Day More, chapter 5 (other chapters)
Fandom: Warhammer 40k
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2169
Summary: A Slaaneshi mad scientist issues a letter of challenge to Fabius Bile.


It wasn’t too late, Avery reminded herself. It wouldn’t be too late for about ten minutes. She could change her mind at any point before then.

Ten minutes for her to still believe she could stop this. She could drop all her plans, go to Fulgrim, letting nothing stand in her way, and say ‘Don’t make the mistakes I did.’

Then she would be required to explain what those mistakes were and why she cared so very much about him in particular and the very thought caught in her throat and she was going to let everything go to hell wasn’t she because she couldn’t bring herself to face that. By all the dark gods, she hated herself.

She loved the sharp sensations of her own rage and despair and hated herself even more for getting off on it, and it was all one big, deepening feedback loop. Slaanesh laughed and fed.

‘Why did you call me here? What do you want? I’m a busy man.’

Avery let her attention shift to Fabius Bile. She was supposed to seduce him to Chaos, that was why she was here, even if she wasn’t usually of an evangelical bent. Mostly she had just wanted to get off Terra like she’d been meaning to since the Great Crusade began. It was going well, but she had decided she wanted him for herself. Despite the fog of inaction and guilt she was stuck in over other topics, this she would do and she would not regret.

‘Nice enhancements you’ve been managing. Maybe if someone decided to waste a thousand warm bodies on you, you might manage a single success with all your sadistic flailing around. And you call yourself a scientist!’

‘You’re Asenath, the remembrancer?’ he asked, as if the situation called for him to first make sure.

‘That I am. But my mother knew me as Avery, and what I am is a doctor, a scientist, and a beloved of the Prince of Pleasure.’

‘I don’t know what you’re babbling about, but I’ll kill you for the insult.’

‘I called you here to challenge you to a fight in the first place.’

‘Why?’ His obvious sheer bafflement at such an odd situation was keeping him from leaping into action. ‘What makes you believe you could possibly win? It’s not even going to be a fair fight.’

‘That’s true. You’re wearing armour and I’m not. If you want a fair fight, take that off.’ Would he take the bait? It would be harder if he didn’t.

‘It won’t be even then.’

‘I’ll still be smarter than you, it’s true.’

He growled. ‘I’ll rinse your blood off my bare hands rather than my armour then after I’ve crushed your skull in my grip.’

‘By all means,’ she said as he removed his armour. She in turn pulled her dress over her head and smiled. She was wearing nothing under it. ‘Let’s be even here.’

He looked even smugger now. She could see he’d begun to suspect she had a secret plan, but could contemptuously dismiss it as an attempt to beguile him with female flesh, which he was of course immune to. Exactly what she wanted him to think.

They squared off with the ceremony the Emperor’s Children used to turn even the most casual of spars into a formal, ritual duel. It was instinctive on his part; for her, it made everything feel too real. She had rehearsed this over and over in her mind, but now it was really happening.

They were actually going to fight. An Astartes warrior against her. She was barely trained, certainly not experienced. She suspected she could do this, thought it likely, but she had never tried before and what a stupid way to die.

Avery was terrified. The hormones it sent racing through her blood made her shiver no different than excitement, but in her mind she panicked.

Was it too late to write it all off as a joke? Just a little humiliation and she could live; was her pride worth that much? It probably was too late, but she kept wanting to run for it and wanting to believe that she could.

Safety is a lie, she told herself. Worlds burn, stars die. Those who take no action are swept away. The only question is if I am ready. She ignored the voice screaming to her that the answer was no.

If I loose, my patron will turn her back on me and I will deserve it. If I win, it will be by my own merit. What I have done will defeat the Emperor’s finest.

Bile moved first, reaching out to grab her, and she saw it like it was in slow motion. He wasn’t expecting her to be able to see him move at all let alone react to it, but he still had his muscle memory. That would expect movement from her to be ducking or flinching.

One bare foot landed atop his outstretched arm, while the other slammed into his face. She pushed herself back the opposite direction than her kick had sent him and returned to the ground lightly.

The expression on his face really was amazing. No normal, unenhanced human to break in the face of a stiff breeze she.

He was already moving again, punching upwards. She pulled back, then his other fist breezed her cheek coming around from another direction. Her foot flashed out to collapse his knee at the most vulnerable point and keep him off the offensive for a moment, but it didn’t break the ceramite bone.

She was faster, but not as much as she could have hoped. He was moving quicker than she had seen before in her observation. The servo-motors in power-armour meant it slowed him down very little, but the minute difference meant a lot here.

She couldn’t let it drag out. Beyond the fact she was on a schedule, the more it stretched, the more her lack of skill or experience would become obvious. She would lose.

She made for a punch to his throat, but only managed to scrape his shoulder with her nails and took a knee to the stomach for her efforts. She pushed him upwards and backwards, redirecting his weight to exactly where he was most off-balance.

He stumbled backwards but caught himself before he fell. She panted for breath, threw herself into the air, and smiled.

Avery stopped holding back her aura as tightly as she needed to to fade into a crowd and turned it on him.

She was beauty in motion. Her fight was a dance, her golden hair flowing after her. Her body was beautiful. Her strength was beautiful. Her fear was beautiful.

He had been contemptuous about her ability to inspire lust in him, he was a Space Marine after all and engineered to not feel such things. That had not been her plan so much as throwing him off-balance, but she was beloved of the Prince of Pleasure and blessed with his gifts after all. She fanned the fire of his hate, but also his lust. Just to see the look on his face as his body betrayed him with a flood of unfamiliar hormones.

Unfamiliar hormones...

Unfamiliar...

Fabius Bile hit the deck solidly.

Avery stepped out of the way and watched him for five seconds before approaching. She ran a nail down the side of his face, drawing another line of blood, as she looked into his pupils closely. This close, he could smell the sharp scent of unknown chemicals in her nail varnish. He was instinctively tempted to bite her. He was even more inclined to get up and kill her. His eyes were stuck open because he could barely blink.

‘I have to thank you for letting me in your apothecarium. It would have been so much more trouble to do my research if I hadn’t had a steady supply of badly-supervised, half-dead patients on hand. You Astartes are so fascinating.’

‘Nngh.’

‘I did tell you I was a trained medicae and knew how to stay out of the way of people doing work. The only thing I was lying about was wanting inspiration for my poetry.’

Honestly, poetry. The remembrancer program had seemed extremely attractive as a way to go on Crusade without having to bother with the annoyances of military life, even those of the medicae corps. Unfortunately, while she was Slaanesh’s, her own talents were towards science, not art. She’d finally decided poetry was a stupid subject that was all about ‘interpreting’ things in silly, made-up ways anyway, so she made up a fake identity and slept with a bunch of literary critics. Just analyse some existing poetry for most the common words and how phrases were put together and produce something that sounded deep, except that if you thought about it for a while, you’d eventually realise that it didn’t actually mean anything.

‘Rrggh.’

‘Can you still feel what finger I’m touching?’ she asked with one of his hands in hers. ‘Any movement at all? No?’ She put it back down and stamped on it, to the sharp crunch of ceramite. His eyes almost managed to roll shut and it was almost as difficult as trying to pick up and carry a Titan to pry them back open as she repeated the process on his other hand and feet, checking minutely for which muscles spasmed.

She grinned, all teeth, and sat down sideways on the edge of his chest. ‘Now, you might be wondering why I’m doing this. Partially because I wanted to do a full field test of some new compounds I’ve been synthesising. The reason I’m going to leave you alive is more complicated.

‘I’m better than you. I’m going to show up the Emperor himself someday. I didn’t just beat you: I humiliated you, as a scientist, fighter, and human being. Remember that. Hate me. Cherish your hate. Find an emotion so black and pure and yearning that hate itself would be too small a word to contain it. I want a rival to keep me sharp, and you’re the closest I’ve seen to being worth the effort of bothering with.’

She patted him on the cheek. ‘It’ll wear off in ten to fifteen more minutes. I didn’t calibrate closely enough to be sure. We’ll meet again, but not for a while I think.’

‘Grrrn.’

One last thing occurred to her. ‘And by the way, about the research problems you’re having, what kind of moron are you: dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers are clearly inhibiting ceramite uptake, the retrovirus substitutions you’re using to increase oolitic kidney function are messing with the src genes--stop using alpha-retroviruses and switch to an epsilon type, and specified psy-adherences don’t even have a biological component they’re purely Immaterial you can’t synthesise it--though it might be possible to crudely approximate the effect if you used naltron molecule sphere of DNA at super-low temperatures. You could probably also use that to... Anyway, figure out the rest yourself.’

Avery wasted three whole sections picking up the dress she’d dropped and letting the midnight blue fabric fall over her head. She felt no shame about the idea of running across the ship naked, but even as things teetered towards Slaanesh, at this point it would still attract attention and someone might try to stop her. She could overcome any resistance, her blood singing with victory she had no doubt of this, but she might miss her ride. No sense in that when she’d already worked out her timetable.

Still not too late.

Then she ran, skirt swirling around her knees. Cooped up on a ship, it had been a long time since she’d run. She missed the sky, had to fix that sometime. She’d still never been to any planets other than Terra.

She smiled, laughed, waved to people as she went, confused biometric scanners and waved faked credentials to soldiers who didn’t know her. Didn’t happen to run into any primarchs on the way to the nearest hangar.

‘Asenath?’ the pilot of the victuals bulk-hauler asked. He leaned back unconsciously towards her without taking his hands off the controls, his body addicted to her pheromones. ‘You sure cut that short. We’re scheduled to lift off in thirty seconds and the Navigator’s been bugging me to start the airlock decompression already.’

‘Sorry,’ she said with a kiss on his cheek. She couldn’t remember his name. Whatever. ‘Last-minute thing. Let’s get going.’

She stood over his shoulder, watching intently as their departure proceeded routinely. Occasionally she made to snuggle with him to have an excuse for hanging around, only to have him push her away long-sufferingly to concentrate on his job, which suited her just fine.

She watched the Pride of the Emperor as it faded into a fainter and fainter speck against the blackness of space. Took in every last glint of it for the last time as they transitioned into the Empyrean.

It was too late.


(a/n: Avery subsequently goes on to a long and successful career as a freelance mad scientist and occasional warband leader, as well as carrying on a fulfilling kismesissitude with Fabius Bile and becoming a much more mature, composed, and self-assured grown-up. It turns out not everyone get the short end of the stick. There must be stick leftover somewhere for someone to get the long end of it.)
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purplekitte

March 2015

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