Bast stretched as she woke up. As far as military beds went, this one was fairly comfortable, if utilitarian. Much like the room; the walls lacked any kind of adornment, the rug was a light grey that was only distinguishable from dirty because it was so uniformly colored. It was larger than where less important people than the Admiral had slept, but beyond that it wasn’t all that different. She clambered to her feet, rubbing the back of her neck as she did.
It had been literal millennia since she’d needed to sleep except to fill a Hunger, but just like the need for hearts was now omnipresent, so was a lethargy that crept in with time. She hoped the effect was temporary, but remembered Vlad’s daytime torpors. For now, drawing power directly from her nanoverse could delay that, but she didn’t want to push herself unless there was an active crisis.
A burst of gunfire came from outside the complex, and Bast rolled her eyes. A crisis actually deserving of my attention, she amended.
Apparently, the United States Navy became concerned when it lost contact with a top secret facility for a full day. It became downright alarmed when their initial attempts to send people in had resulted in further lost contact. So outside her new base of operations was now a force of US Marines, trying to figure out how to punch through the barrier she had erected around the complex.
Since the entire stock of ichor bullets was within these walls, Bast didn’t like their chances. She’d used a trick Enki had learned from Crystal on that damn island in Canada, manipulating lava flows into a solid stone dome. She’d added her own twist to change the chemical composition of the stone into iron, and the result was sturdy enough to keep the military at bay for now.
Eventually they’d grow impatient, start using explosives to punch through, but right now not knowing how many survivors were in here was keeping them from risking innocent lives. Cassandra had done an excellent job playing the captured damsel to convince them of that risk.
Bast finished dressing. The fact that there was gunfire was concerning, at least partially. It meant something outside the walls had become worth firing out. She needed to find out was, but it wouldn’t do to rush. Even if they get through, they can’t possibly harm you. You can just phase, detonate the ichor-laced gear, and move on. So long as Cassandra gets into your staging area, there’s no risk to anything that matters.
The lack of urgency lead to her spending some time brushing her hair in the mirror, clearing away the night’s tangles. She could have just shifted the hair short and then long again to remove the tangles, but ever since had been a small child she’d enjoyed the simple act of running a comb through her hair. It was a calming ritual that helped focus her for the day, and even when she’d ascended to divinity she’d kept that habit up.
Today, that meant she was still in the Admiral’s bedroom when the door leading to the hall changed into a staging area’s doorway and opened.
Bast’s reaction was immediate and violent. With a flick of her wrist, she sent a dagger forged out of air condensed into a solid and transmuted into iron towards the entrance. Whoever was on the other side let out a grunt of pain as the dagger struck home.
“Wait! It’s me!”
Of all the reactions Bast had expected after the strike, that one had not even made the list. Her eyes narrowed. “I can’t tell who it is with you gasping in pain.”
The figure inside stumbled towards the entrance, the dagger clearly embedded in his forearm. As soon as she saw who it was, Bast bit back a curse. “Horus. What in all the hells are you doing here?”
He winced at her tone, and Bast found it easy not to care. “I’m…here to rescue you.”
“Do I look like I need rescuing?” Bast responded, rolling her eyes and turning back to her mirror. Him. I’d rather Ishtar, Athena, and the Eschaton stumbled through ready for war than deal with this.
“No, but I had no way of knowing that!” His tone was harsh, offended, and Bast seriously considered testing out her new gifts in killing Horus. If it wasn’t for the risk of a military breach, she would. But right now, Horus wasn’t worth the effort.
“Well, now you do. If you could take your leave, that would be wonderful. If you can’t, then I’ll be happy to help you.”
“Damnit Bast! I’ve been worried sick about you for weeks. Ever since I saw you on television. You were working with Enki, of all people. Then you vanished from that island fight, and Athena said she’d killed you. I went to the Curators to find you! You at least owe me-“
Bast whirled on him, her eyes flashing. “I owe you nothing, Horus. I have never owed you anything. How many centuries will it take for you to realize this?”
Horus’s fist clenched, and Bast thought it would come to blows right there. Hoped it would. She readied herself to meet his attack…and then noticed something that had been at the edge of her awareness, slow and steady.
His heartbeat had undertones unlike any human’s ever had. She wasn’t sure if it wanted that heart or not. But if she didn’t deescalate this, she’d have to kill him before she could find out. And he talked to Athena. He knows things, useful things.
Bast took a deep breath, holding up her hand in a placating gesture. “It has been a trying week, Horus. Can we perhaps try this again?”
Slowly, Horus got his temper back under control, and nodded.
Inside, Horus was still seething. I came to rescue you! She wasn’t supposed to be treating him with contempt, with scorn. They were supposed to be past that. She was supposed to be thanking him, letting him past the warrior façade and melting into his arms, not trying to poorly contain her own anger! And yet, there she was. How dare you?
But maybe this could be salvaged. Only she knew the horrors she had endured over these weeks. “I’m sorry,” he growled, as apologetically as he could manage.
Bast didn’t return the sentiment, but gave him a nod to acknowledge he had given her what was owed. “Apology accepted. I regret worrying you,” the closest to an apology he expected to ever get.
“Can I sit?”
She motioned towards the edge of the bed as she turned the chair she was in around. “You look well, in spite of the dagger.” Horus’ anger had masked the injury, but at the reminder the pain came swelling back. He pulled a bandage out of one of his pockets and removed the weapon. Bast watched with an odd fascination as he patched the injury, and for once, her scrutiny made him feel vaguely uncomfortable.
“How did they manage to hold you?” He looked her up and down, calming himself by drinking in her beauty while at the same time noticing how in control she seemed. “Did they hold you?”
“They did.” Bast gave a small shake of her head. “I’d rather not talk about how. Suffice it to say it was unpleasant, and it won’t happen again.”
“I’m glad for that last part at least. And glad that you are free. When the Curators told me…”
She laughed slightly, and for a moment it was like old times, when they had been friends. “You must have been truly desperate to seek them out. I remember how little patience you had for their scrolls before.”
“I was desperate. I was worried something had happened to you! Why were you working with Enki?”
Bast cast her eyes down and reached with one hand rubbed the elbow of the over. “He knew where it was, Horus.”
“The Ankh of Ra, Horus. The same one we used to end Sekhmet’s rampage. The same one that…” Bast trailed off, meeting his eyes. “Do you know what we could do with it?”
Horus’ mouth dropped. He remembered Sekhmet, driving half-mad with bloodlust. He remembered the Ankh flaring with light and power. He remembered Bast, at the time Sekhmet’s high priestess, emerging from rubble that should have killed her. “If you used it on the Eschaton…”
Bast nodded eagerly. “He didn’t even know what it could be used to accomplish – he never would have offered it to me if he did. You see why I had to work with him. Why I had to get it. Or would you rather have left our fate in the hands of Ryan Smith?”
“I…I don’t know if I agree, but I can definitely…” Bast gave him a disapproving look, and Horus felt the wind go out of him. “Of course I can see,” he corrected, and Bast beamed at him.
“I’m so glad you understand, Horus. We’re going to get through this. Together. We’re going to be the ones to save the world. If you’re with me, that is.”
Horus leaned back in his chair, biting his cheek. On the one hand, this was everything he had wanted. On the other, it meant betraying the group. He thought about Ryan, a young man who dismissed his council. Ishtar, who was too preoccupied with her own concerns. Athena, who heaped scorn upon him at every turn.
“I…” The low rumble of gunfire from outside drew his attention. “What was that?”
Bast sighed. “An annoyance I was going to deal with before you arrived. Think on it, Horus. If you’re here when I get back, I’ll know you’re with me. If you’re not…” She gave him a small frown, and continued in a voice so low he could barely hear it, “if you’re not, then I hope I never lay eyes upon you again.”
And with that, Bast was gone, walking through the wall to deal with some unknown threat, leaving Horus to decide if his love was more important than his honor.