Coppertop vs Kaylin: Interval 05 (Well-Meaning Angels)
Within a few days of the departure of the Emperor's Light from the Eldar-infested planet...
Kaylin approaches the seated man in the mess hall, making less noise than the ship around them before coughing to get his attention. "I need to speak with you." She offered, mask over her face as per usual, her tone serious.
Coppertop looks up at her, holding up a hand as he swallows before smiling. "Hi, Kaylin. What's on your mind? Sit down, sit down."
"In private, preferably."
He tilts his head. "It's like that? All right, half a minute." Bolting down the rest of his tray in the way only an active young ectomorph can, he slides it into the slot on his way out of the hall. "By the way-" Reaching into his everpresent bag, he draws out her grapnel, reversing it as he hands it to her. "Thanks. I replaced it, and have a spare, since I go through these things like drillbits."
She cocks her head slightly before hauling in said rogue grapnel. "Appreciated. A spare never hurts, especially with the use you seem to get out it. Your room, or elsewhere?"
He casts a tight grin her way. "Are you sure you want it that private?" Laughing, he relents. "I know somewhere closer, but if you like, my room is fine."
"I don't particularly care." she offered, working slightly to ignore the jest but otherwise remaining resolute. "Lead the way."
Coppertop checks his dataslate, charitably leading her to a projection room unscheduled for use anytime soon - she may not care, but he'll avoid the rumors for her sake. Dropping his bag on a random bench, he turns to regard her. "All right, Kaylin. What is it?"
Kaylin follows after him, closing the door before speaking frankly. "Tell me what's going on. Between your conversations with Eldar and whatever it is all that you've got on that dataslate, I'm getting concerned."
His lip twitches. "You don't ask for much." He sighs, reaching up to scratch his neck. "What's going on with what? You know as much as I do about my conversations with Eldar - you were there for all of them. You missed out on it when I ran into those two in the basement," he admits, "but none of us were very talkative. Much stabbing, relatively little dialogue."
"The eldar are not to be trusted, Copper. I don't really believe that you trust anyone, but walking off with your enemies, especially through the webway, is not exactly sound decision making, as we've learned already. Twice. And that still leaves the latter part of my question."
"Kaylin, what do you want to hear? Yes, I followed Jurius, and you followed me, and we were all richer for it. Wasn't this supposed to resolve your paranoia? Knowing what I'm up to, being there for it? And," he notes dryly, "we didn't enter the webway. I admit I'm curious as slag to find out where I'd end up on my own, but we remained in the Materium the entire time."
Kaylin sighs slightly. "I hate eldar. More than I hate most things. I'm irritated by the principal of acting on anything they offer us, and frankly I'm irriated having not taken his head off while I had the chance before he left. You still haven't answered the last part."
He sighs, himself. "Let me rewind a few... my dataslate? You could look through it if you like, carve it in half if you want. I expect you'll replace it."
"You and I both know that wouldn't mean anything. I'm trying to understand why I feel like I can't trust you going to a daemon world. No, I know why I think I can't. What I'm trying to do is be proven wrong, and it's difficult to do that when I know there's something you're hiding."
"Thank you for not doing it, by the way. Some of that music is a bitch to replace." With a twist of his lips, "Kaylin, if there's one place you can trust me, it's a daemon world. I've met a daemon, once, and I didn't like it..." Shaking his head, "Am I hiding something? Of course. I won't even bother denying it. That's why I ask you to trust me."
"Name another world where you haven't come back with something heretical."
He laughs. "Name one where I have."
"The nature of daemons is to catch you unaware, so you don't realize until it's too late. You're curious, Coppertop; you test out our enemies, you flirt with their ideas and bring yourself close, and so far you've prevented it from reaching you, but what happens when you get yourself caught because of it?"
"I'm disappointed - you missed an opportunity. I expect you to come at me with the Necron orb incident. Kaylin, if my experiences so far have been any indication, daemons don't have ideas other than 'one bite per face'. In all seriousness, of everything you could be concerned about, this shouldn't be high on your list. I'm trying to get myself extra seals, slag it!"
"I didn't bother; perhaps I should have. You certainly almost died for the trouble." She points out before forging on. "Yes, but seals only keep them from coming to you, and they're a hope, not a promise. They won't help if you go looking for trouble. The daemons that try to tear your face off aren't the ones I'm worried about."
Interested, "Are there ones that don't? Is there a taxonomy I could go over?"
Kaylin cocks her head to the side once more. "I'd thought you would know that; of course there are daemons that do more than try to gut you, otherwise they would just be like any other threat."
Coppertop grins, rising on the balls of his feet for a moment before sobering. "I'm not a weapon. I'm an inquisitor. There's truth out there, and I'm willing to look to find out what it is. I asked you before, I'll ask you again - what do you want to hear? What is it that you need from me?"
"If I knew, I don't think this would be so much of a problem." She mutters before shaking her head. "I suppose in the meantime that you won't trifle with daemons. You came close enough with the eldar; I would rather you not wind up some deaemon puppet because you couldn't hold in your curiosity."
"That may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me." He settles down, perching his hip on a bench and drawing his leg up. "Kaylin, sit down. Mask off."
"You're not allowed to use me against myself, you know." She hesitates, before reaching behind her head to twist off the cinches and slide it from her face, resolute and slightly wary.
His lip twitches. "Isn't that what you're worried about? That they'll do that to me?"
He tilts his head, waiting.
"How is that relevant?"
"You ask me what I'm hiding, from behind a mask..." He shakes his head. "You've studied them more intensely than I have. Understanding your fears may better prepare me for what we'll face... but we'll get to that. I want you to understand something first. I am human. There is no part of me that wants to be anything but. You duel with blades, I duel with ideas - I seek knowledge and understanding, it can help our cause and our people. At no time have I ever sought to be like the Eldar, or the Necrons, and certainly not the Orks. Tarkus is right - we can learn even from our enemies, but that doesn't make me the enemy." Carefully spacing his words, "There are those that will accuse me of heresy for the things I know, and the things I do, and they are not wrong. That doesn't make me a threat, any more than it did Caiten Reath... and it doesn't make me vulnerable. It tempers me."
"It does both." She muttered, shaking her head. "You don't understand. What happens when someone knows as much about what you're doing as you do? The eldar can read minds; what would happen if they knew what you were planning and decided to turn it around? Daemons are sins made manifest; what would happen if they decided to bait the way to damnation for you, knowing just what would lure you in, knowing just how much they needed to give to make it convincing?"
Dryly, "What happens if they challenge you to a duel?"
"Then I kill them, or they kill me. But there's more to loose when you fight with ideas than your life."
"Kaylin, you're asking a magician's question. 'What happens if they do something against which you have no defense?' I lose, of course, and am damned to be their puppet forever. But I do have defenses, the least of which is your quite accurate assessment that my trust comes dear and isn't granted to nonhumans as a matter of course."
Kaylin sighs, running her hands over her face, covered palms grinding against her eyes. "They don't need your trust, they just need you to believe that you're better served doing what they offer than not. Resisting your sins takes more than wit, Copper, it takes faith, and I think you have more of it in yourself than you do in something that will protect you!"
"I have a lot of faith in myself. And why not?" He plants hands on knees, leaning forward. "Have I not proven myself? Have I not led you all through the fires and out again? Have you not been tempered, yourselves?" After a moment, he sighs, leaning back again. "But you already know my faith only goes so far. You're wrong about something, there."
"When I went with Jurius, I knew I had no chance against him, I knew he could read my intent. I went in with a peaceful heart and my guard down because I knew it would draw him out and because I knew you would be there. Sure, it's wit. But at the same time, I had faith in you, Kaylin. You're a welcome guardian - and, in a strange and terrifying way, a conscience as well."
Kaylin blinks, caught off guard before shaking her head, trying to fight down the color rising to pale cheeks. "You're putting an awful lot of faith in me." She points out with a slight cough into her hand.
Coppertop shrugs. "Are you going to tell me I shouldn't? You've been riding me ever since we met about remaining true to the Emperor and keeping untarnished thoughts." With a quick grin, "It hasn't always worked, but there's always that thought there - 'how would Kaylin execute me for this?'"
"Perhaps it's good that you've got a psychotic axe-murderer for your conscience; I don't know if a well-meaning angel on your shoulder would even be a concern for you." She muttered, still a bit red in the cheeks before shaking her head and getting to her feet. "I'm...sorry, I guess. I should remember that most people are a little more together than I am."
"A psychotic axe-murderer," he allows, "is an attention-getter." He rises himself, stretching. "You are who you are, the mask and the face, and both have strength to offer. I'm glad to have you around... Kaylin? I'm not ready to tell you everything, but I want you to understand something and remember it. Everything that happened, everything I did - everything I knew - happened with Caiten Reath's knowledge, consent, and support. Until his absence." Shaking his head, "I've been on my own since then."
"Being on your own is a bad place to be." She points out dryly, smiling slightly as she reaches down to gather the mask, looking at it for a moment and tapping it with the back of a finger. "The trick to never being alone, I guess... Do you ever see yourself, in the things that you come up against? It's different for us, I realize. I target people or enemies or things to be killed, when you're after loftier things, but do you ever see things of yourself in other people?"
"Mm..." He rocks on the balls of his feet. "Nah. They're never as good-looking."
"Eh, I've seen better." She offers over her shoulder as she walks towards one of the panels on the wall, begnning to flip through the library, working hard to keep the grin off her face.
With a pout, "You have not! Who? Give me a name." Coppertop shakes out his arms. "I'll show them what the Ordos Assassinorum does to pretenders..."
"It was a long time ago, and it could just be a fuzzy memory." She points out, chuckling.
"I should think so," he hmpfs. "That's heresy you're suggesting." He grins suddenly. "It must have been one of those daemons - a sin made manifest, baiting the way to damnation, knowing just what would lure you in, just how much you needed to convince you..."
She laughs and shakes her head, browsing the selection of various daemonic incursions. "He was at least as much of a man as you, I'll have you know." She threw out with a slight snort of mirth, flipping past a particular slaaneshi incursion she'd already watched. "Though I saved him from one, once."
Solemnly, "I'll choose to ignore your height discrimination this time, acolyte Ghent."
"I assure you, proper penance to be made shortly." She offers in a somber, pious tone, though the corners of her mouth twitch up.
He chuckles, padding over to look at her browsing, shamelessly eavesdropping. It wasn't much pleasant viewing; lots of death and doom and bloodshed, mostly just recordings of daemonic incursions and warbands spilling loose. Some of it looked almost propagandized, but now and there was a particular feed straight from the camera, and these she denotes off to the side. "I see you're in the mood for a comedy."
"I don't watch comedy. This is more for meditation than anything else. Nothing you'll enjoy, I bet."
"You have strange ideas of how to relax. I'm not sure why I even bother pointing this out by now..." He tilts his head. "I wouldn't say I'd enjoy it, but it may be educational."
"That's why I watch them." she shrugged, tapping the screen to halt her selection. "I was planning on waiting until you left, but if you'd like to stay you can. Master Faceless occasionally used this as an excersize, and I'm trying to understand something."
Amused, "Master Faceless? Did he ask you to call him that?"
"No; he would have beat me for it. He told me to call him Master." She moves back to one of the benches in the room, shifting it out of the center area and back towards the sides. "Did your master name himself to you?"
"It wasn't like that." He tilts his head, watching her manipulate the feng shui of the room. "There was a lot of... fuck it, let's call it what it was, programming and psychological warfare. Outright abuse. Sleep deprivation, running until we dropped and punishing us for being unable to do the impossible... the first time I killed, it was someone my age, someone I'd known before. We had whatever minder was around at the time. I don't know about the others, but I named them, mostly by their voices."
She remains silent until she shifts everything around and then begins to undo her gloves, letting them drop off to the side on the floor as she shifts out of her cloak and moves to sit on the ground, reaching into it before removing an ivory handled knife, long and thin. "That sounds different from my training; there wasn't a group of us, just a master and an apprentice. I didn't even know there were other children being trained until I had to prove myself against one. If it's all the same to you, sit somewhere behind me if you would."
"Well enough." He takes a seat of his own behind her, rubbing idly at a shoulder. "We were young enough to be broken. That's why they took us; we'd passed some test, maybe, but we weren't special. They broke us, and beat us, and tempered us, and forged us into blades. Sometimes we were together, more often kept alone... even now, I couldn't tell you how many they started with, or how many survived. We learned and obeyed - it was a little less painful that way, we thought at the time. Do you need silence?"
"No." She noted, shaking her head as she began to undo the front of her suit, not removing it but exposing her chest to the air as she picks up the knife and tests it with the tip of a finger. "Talking just might be difficult for a minute or two. I grew up killing; I think I told you that. Before I was taken by Master Faceless, I was already killing in the name of the Emperor; proxy fights against other street orphans, the older kids driving on the younger ones. Pointless, but it teaches you certain things. It seems odd, to be selected at random for such a thing. Harder to accept, almost."
He smiles bitterly. "I don't know. Was it random? Was I chosen? Were my family the target, or was I?" Stretching, he leans back against the next bench, hooking his arm over as he sprawls. "Did he plan on my surviving, in those pitfights and tests, or was he simply prepared to take his chances with whoever still breathed in the end? They did treat our injuries - or did they only treat mine, weakening my opponents? I suppose I would have learned the answers in time."
"The things we learn through impatience." she noted, breathing out slowly, controlled, but with a slightly distant tone to her voice. fingers working a careful pattern as the tinge of blood perfumes the air. "I always knew why I was taken, because I was informed when I first met him. Still, you seem remarkably free of their hold, from where I'm standing." The muscles in her back tensed, her neck growing tighter, but that was all.
"I've had time to adjust." He laughs, dryly, raking fingertips through his hair. "The Temple... never mind that. I'm clever too, aren't I? I'm a clever son of a bitch. It all comes together in the end. Am I going to have to break out the medkit?"
"You do know I do this every day, right?" She points out, twisting the hand slightly as she breathes out once more. "A few more and the it will be done; I've taken to the next layer of the pattern, which is...more complex." A slight grunt, but little more as she finishes off the last few swipes, removing the blade and wiping it clean in something as close to ritual as anything. "Why so bitter? Being clever's not a bad thing."
"You think so?" Pulling himself up smoothly, he watches her, eyes hooded like a hawk's. "Maybe if I weren't so clever, I wouldn't have to ask these questions. Ah, Kaylin, so many questions..." Abruptly, he bounces to his feet, shifting his weight from side to side. "How did this come to pass? Why do we do things that way? What would happen if we did it differently? What approach is most likely to succeed? Probabilities - the probabilities alone are enough to drive me to distraction."
"Are you talking about the mission, or life in general?" She asks with a raised eyebrow, finishing off the ritual and moving to pat the blood from her chest before closing up her body suit and shifting to look at him. "You don't know enough about the situation to determine anything about the mission, and you can't change the past."
His lip twitches. "The mission is months away. I know very little, and I'm going to change that. Slag it, of course I'm thinking about the mission! How can I not? But I'm talking about life in general."
"Either you know something I don't, which is likely, or you're just starting to spiral because you're thinking about dark things." She offers, turning to look to him, not used to seeing him this out of it. "You really do keep quite a lot bottled up."
With a grin, "Both. I run fast enough, sometimes I leave it behind, just for a while..." Raising his hands up to the ceiling, he brings them down in a calming gesture, splaying jazz hands out to the side. "Enough of this! Let's talk about the care and feeding of daemons."
"I don't care for daemons, I kill them, hopefully, or they kill me." She points out dryly, shaking her head before getting to her feet and looking to him oddly only to clap her hands to his shoulders, pointedly, the gesture slightly forced but still remarkably friendly coming from her. "Breathe. Relax. For real, instead of just making a show of it."
Startled, he murmurs, "Are you feeling all right? That was downright extroverted of you."
"Just shut up and do it for once."
Coppertop smiles, after a moment. Quietly, "I don't think I can anymore." He lays his hands together, an oddly subdued handclap. "What about you? You've had a taste of what it's like to be Coppertop..."
"Not really. I have enough trouble figuring out which me I am at any given moment." She points out, the hands on his shoulders carefully patting a bit. "You put on a good show, but you have to stop putting one on. You're going to break if you don't."
"Hah! The solution to all your problems. I'll draw my face on your mask. I'm not sure what will happen, exactly..." He sobers. "Kaylin- it's all right. I'm good. We both have ways we bleed."
"Yeah, but you're bad at it. I've got practice." She points out dryly as she watches him, finally pulling her hands off, slowly, flexing the fingers a bit before twining them together and pulling them back to her chest, slowly taking another step backwards before shuddering slightly and moving to get her gloves again.
Half-reaching for her arm as she draws back, he drops his hand, lip twitching. "You did always want to beat me at something."
Kaylin raises an eyebrow as he reaches for her hand, not quite sure what to make of that as she pulls the gloves on. "You're twitching, not smiling." She noted, pointing to his lip before shrugging. "And if you even think of drawing a face on my mask, I'll take yours and wear it for real."
He grins. "I know everyone wants to be this good-looking, but that's just scary."
"And the funny thing is, I don't think anyone would even question it."
"Yes, because I frequently walk around in a dress." He nods to the discarded robes.
"That's not a dress, that's armour." She points out dryly. "I don't wear dresses."
Solemnly, "It's a dress, Kaylin. It's long and flowing and diaphanous, in the right light." No it isn't, but he says it anyway.
"I suppose you've chased enough skirts to know one when you see one." She points out, almost sticking her tongue out but not quite as she gathers the red robes. "Space travel must be so painful for you."
Coppertop laughs. "It is here! I can't risk getting frisky with an astropath!" He tilts his head, regarding her. "Have you ever worn a dress?"
"I need a yes or no on this. It's important."
"How can that possibly be important?"
"It is, all right?"
"Not recently, of course."
"Yes, but... ever?"
Kaylin sighs and slides two fingers to the bridge of her nose, kneading it gently. "Yes, Coppertop, I have before worn a dress. Once."
Coppertop sighs, relaxing. "Thank the Emperor."
"Well, they called it a dress. It was more of a medical robe, but when I told them that they told me to be quiet."
"It was the thought that counted, I'm sure."
"I think they actually just wanted me to be quiet. I was in an asylum at the time."
"All technicalities count." He grins.
"Everyone wore them, it was standardized. The boys wore the same outfit, I asked." she points out defensively as she slid her cloak on, the armour clinking slightly as it fell into place.
Waving it off, "It just would've been horrible if I'd worn a dress and you hadn't. I would've had to go get drunk."
"...why did you wear a dress...?"
"It was a tactically sound move at the time."
"Makes sense, I suppose. You're girlier than I am," she notes, making her way to flip off the screens.
"I will kill you," he notes.
"You might break a nail trying, best not to bother."
"All right, now you're just being bitter."
"No, if I was bitter I'd say you could be Modesty's little sister with some make-up and stuffing." She points out as she made her way for the door. "I was just being funny."
Coppertop laughs. "You just wish you'd looked as good as I did." Coppertop snags his bag, padding after her as he slings it under his arm.
"Somehow the idea of you trawling for men is more terrifying than the one of you trawling for women, but I suppose I'll have to accept this new Coppertop."
"Modesty wants larger breasts. As in, she wants me to give them to her."
"Why would anyone want larger breasts? I don't even like the ones that I've got."
"She wants to be more distracting?" He shrugs. "I'm considering it. We've got enough time on this trip to make it work."
"Pointless, but to each their own, I suppose. Why you instead of Makrell?"
"I don't know, but I suspect I'm less likely to engage in fanciful experiments while I'm there. She likely doesn't want to wake up and find out they're playing music."
Kaylin shakes her head. "Nor would I, I suppose.." she notes before blinking and stopping slightly, cocking her head to the side. "I've just been joking and being social this whole time, haven't I?"
Coppertop pats Kaylin's back in passing. "You're welcome."
"I'm... not sure if it's something to be proud of..." she mumbles before pulling her mask back on and coughing slightly. "Levity doesn't suit me."
He smiles, looking back over his shoulder. "Yes it does. I suspect," he adds, "it's a place you'll visit, rather than living - but you were quite relaxed while you were there."
"A shame you weren't."
"Maybe someday, Kaylin."
"I'm sure you could get Modesty or Mina to get you a massage for a drink or two."
Laughing, "I'm sure I don't want to complicate things by doing that." He tilts his head. "They're bad enough as it is, with Vlad constantly clomping after Modesty and Mina..."
"I'm surprised she hasn't lost a hand yet."
"So am I. I'm getting soft."
He grins. "I'm going to let that pass. No..." He shakes his head. "It's not that kind of pressure valve, though I appreciate your concern."
"I'd offer some sort of helpful advice, but I don't really have any. My relief tends to come in the form of butchering eldar as of late, or attempting to figure out how to out-fight a daemon."
"I would appreciate advice there. I managed last time, but it was distracted, and I discovered they have a weakness - melta bombs planted on their back."
"I can imagine that doing it. Unfortunatlly, I'm coming up with a blank. I've the best chance in a direct fight, and I still think I'm probably outgunned."
Cheerfully, "Melta swords?"
"If you can find one, I'll give you anything for it."
"Mm... let me get back to you on that."
"No, I probably wouldn't, but it would be nice." she offers with a slight shrug. "I shouldn't feel this way. Apprehension has no place when battling the daemon."
Coppertop laughs. "That was fast. What are you afraid I'd ask for?"
"I don't even know."
"It's all right to be apprehensive now. Get it out of the way, it's cathartic. Emperor knows I'm not looking forward to a rematch. I'll be hiding behind you all the way."
Kaylin snorts, shaking her head from behind her mask. "I know no fear that I cannot use to fuel my hate. Just don't ask me to spare a daemon."
Solemnly, "I swear to you that I won't ask you to spare a daemon unless it seems like a really good idea."
"Let me rephrase that; don't expect me to spare a daemon. You can ask until you're blue in the face."
"Oh, I'd only ask once."
"I wonder how effective those seals will be."
"Ah... very effective, I hope. I'm going to be talking to the scribes."
"For once I'm glad not to have a soul."
"I'm hoping they'll be able to give me something more permanent against corruption than a few wax stamps - like embedding them as tattoos."
"I think the mighty Coppertop is afraid of something after all."
Dryly, "It's not just the daemons. The Pariahs saw through my cameloline, the Eldar sensed my intents, the Ork horde was highly distracting - I'm getting tired of every two-bit xeno getting in my way while I'm working."
"There are ways to increase your mental defenses, you know. Meditations, and such."
"Surely you're not suggesting the mighty Coppertop is anything but an iron tower of fortitude?"
"A gilded tower seems more appropriate."
He grins, feathering fingertips through his coppery hair. "You don't say."
"Careful, or you'll be blondie to everyone on board..."
Special Criterion Edition Outtake!
Con: Nah, Kay wouldn't kill Modesty just for trying to kill her. xP She might take off a hand, but not kill her.
Veav: "Let me explain why you're wrong." "ow."
C: Largely. If she whipped out her hand guns and tried to shoot her, she'd remove said hands along with the guns, but nothing further than that.
V: "Would you stop doing that!" "But it works." "And I'm the one that has to mop up after! Emperor's teeth... go get me some more thread."
C: "I'm pretty sure they have janitors to mop things like that up. Why not cauterize the wound?"
V: "Because I'm better than that."
C: "Of course. Clearly cauterization is for laymen."
V: "Laymen, and flamer salesmen."
C: "He makes a good medic in a pinch, you're just picky."
V: "Yes, I am. And yet I hang around you."
C: "I think you're infatuated with me."
V: "And yet you hang around me." *evil grin*
C: "You're better than Mina about it."
V: "Tch, Mina just needs to compartmentalize. Infatuation on tuesdays, handball on wednesdays."
C: "I don't think she's capable."
V: "Far be it from me to suggest that a guardsman would have problems walking and chewing gum simultaneously."
C: "You should propose an experiment. I'm sure Modesty could convince the Commissar to try."
V: "The last time I proposed something everyone wandered off before I was done. And YOU were first. Hmpf."
C: "You were proposing that we all work together. I was already doing that. If I wanted to go off on my own, I wouldn't have kept you all updated."
V: "Why do you keep using the term 'together'? I do not think it means what you think it means."
C: "Together means towards the same goal, doesn't it?"
V: "My goal is to not have you chop hands off when I have to sew them back on."
C: "Shall we compromise, and I'll only remove half of each hand?"
V: "Hrm... which half?"
C: "I'll even let you pick."
V: "I do want to be fair, and work with you on this. That's why I've just injected you with defenestration."
C: "...I don't think I understand."
V: "Yes! And while you're confused, she escaped!"
V: *it's super effective!*
C: "... You know how I haven't stabbed you yet?"
V: "Yes you have."
C: "I have not!"
V: *escapes in the confusion!*
V: *it's super effective!*
C: Lies! >>