(an experiment in not using quote marks. An adapted version of this was fed into Plaything (of which Alexos is the main character), and it contains a character from Spyderweb (namely, Vutch))
Alexos knocked and was told to enter.
Major Vutch was laying, fully dressed with the exception of her boots, on her bed. Her hands were knitted behind her head. She looked up at Alexos as he entered, her expression professing interest, but mostly just reflecting the deadening exhaustion which Alexos felt.
She told him to take a seat, and asked what the occasion was. He span her chair away from her desk on one of its legs and lowered himself slowly onto it, exhaling as his sore muscles protested.
Not much, he said. Just a morale check, if she understood. Being trapped in a building, surrounded by raving heretics, and then snubbed by command as 'not being a high enough priority' to rescue had to hurt. As a commissar, Alexos told Vutch, he had to know the condition of those alongside whom he fought.
She slid her legs off the bed and propped herself into a sitting position. In that case, she replied, she was fine. Tired, obviously. But probably not as tired as he was. Throne alone knew how he'd managed to keep upright these last several fights.
Is that respect, he asked back, or just motherly concern? Vutch snorted humorlessly.
Really, he said, there is something. Probably not much, but he had caught a couple of the staff whispering in a corner about the basement. Something about having 'toured them right past' and 'them not suspecting a thing'. When he confronted to them on it, they said it was just contraband; a stash of medical-grade hallucinogens and the like. They were frightened, to say the least.
She asked him what he had done – made an example of them to the other staff?
Alexos shook his head. What would the point be? he asked. It could be dealt with after all of this was over, if they even survived this. Why waste energy now? It's not like the scum are going anywhere, right now.
She seemed amused by this. A commissar getting lax on his duty? Wasn't that some sort of direct contradiction?
He shrugged, sure she could sympathize with such a hairline of apathy in the current situation, and said as much. She readily agreed. A brief silence followed.
How utterly pointless, she commented. Discussing the precepts of duty while almost certain death surrounded them on all sides.
If you listen to the judges and sages long enough, he said, you'll realize that that's precisely what they would want you to do in such a situation as this. 'Preventing the degredation of our faith' and the like. Trust me, I spent the first third of my life in the Schola, memorizing that sort of shoka.
Shoka? she asked dubiously. The drink?
No, no, the fungus. It's what the drink's made out of. Tastes even worse. Not an agriworlder?
She sighed and slid into a slightly more slumped position. No. Just another hiver, pulled from the darkness into the Emperor's light. Though I probably haven't had shoka juice since I left it. To tell the truth, I had been looking forward to be back in a hive. It's not something you can forget, you know?
Even if we'd spend most of the time in the underhive, probably, he said. Not somewhere that you'd have come from, I think.
No again, actually. Underhive born and bred is me, until I was shipped off to the Schola.
An underhiver becoming an officer? He raised his eyebrows. How did that happen?
Well—she began, and then closed her mouth again, exhaling. It's hard to explain, she continued haltingly. Let's just say it was—payment for services rendered.
Silence. Alexos pursed his lips awkwardly.
Not that kind of services, she said, smirking. He sighed with relief. No, she continued, it was more... the 'I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you' type of thing.
Oh yes, she said emphatically. Most assuredly. It might be best if you don't get inquisitive, though. If you catch my drift.
Aha, he said. I see.
Any other news? she asked. How are the men holding up?
Well enough. They're fighting for spots on the third floor, which they claim has been receiving less enemy fire than the others. The damn chagnats outside have picked up a new tactic, though—using the broken carcasses of their own tanks as cover and sneaking forward, then sniping. We'll be rigging up some spotlights once it gets dark to keep them back.
It that everything?
I think so, major. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to be putting back on my 'mean' face. It was a nice chat, but we have discipline to uphold.
Completely understandable, Commissar Alexos, sir. Though...if we have another one of these talks, please, call me Kay.
He was once again struck by how beautiful she was—not in a 'pretty' way, which contained connotations of 'fragile', but in a manner which was certainly...youthful. That might not be best, he said, not unkindly. Though—hellwarp. Why not, if we're all going to die. In that case, call me Montra.
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
Last edited by Mossy Toes; 03-27-11 at 03:56 AM.