- Full Circle
The passage in the wall was wider than she had originally expected. In fact, the way the museum was constructed, diagonal rooms, it gave the illusion that the hidden chamber did not exist at all. Clever of the Catholics. After the guards dragged Maxwell inside, Theodoric gestured for her to enter first. Chivalry? Or a way to not give her his back? Regardless, she inclined her head and complied. Show some trust to deceive the barbarian.
It was too quiet since Enrico had stopped his tirade of insults and trashing. Integral missed that; his eyes appeared to pop out his head when he did that. However, she was relieved to see Maxwell cooperating at last. Had the fool caught on to her plan? She hoped that her strategy was not obvious to the Goths. Maxwell's rage must seem real. Besides she enjoyed watching him get riled up, as much he loved tormenting her. Integral wanted to win their sadistic, power game.
"It seems that your little stunt has robbed the archbishop of his last straw of hope," Theodoric pointed out, murmuring behind her. "He has resigned himself to his fate."
Integral shot him a curious glance, taking care on the narrow staircase. "May I ask why you require the Codex Argenteus? You denied that its value was merely sentimental."
"I forgot the passages of the Silver Bible. Of how to speak them in my mother tongue," Theodoric replied. Integral detected weariness in his tone, the same as that she had glimpsed in his eyes previously. "I tried once to utter them but the result wasn't very forthcoming."
Result? Could it be some sort of spell? she mused, her gaze traveling to Enrico. She wondered if he knew the reason why he kept the Codex Argenteus from their grasp. And if he did, why had he not predicted a possible unstoppable attack. Like me, he knew there were several enemies out there but never had a grasp of how many. Her greatest mistake had been to underestimate the Nazis, believing they were not an organized army. That their ranks were not as impressive. London had paid dearly for her misconception. Maybe… she and Enrico were not so different.
Aside from him being a Catholic megalomaniac, that is.
"I could tell you more, but not until I'm certain where your loyalties lie."
Integral scoffed, folding her arms, feigning great offence. "My loyalty is with my land and my people, Lord Theodoric. My goal is to get his genocidal armies out of my country. To defeat him and have control over Enrico Maxwell. I will do everything to accomplish that." She meant each word of her speech. She would smite the invaders; they did not need a tyrant who dictated their religion and their lives.
Theodoric inclined his head, "I have no doubts of your intentions. I wouldn't be too concerned about his armies; I took the liberty of sending a few troops to the nearest encampments of Catholic knights. My men are probably feasting on them by now."
Integral froze. Would that mean massacres everywhere? Multiple sackings? Inwardly, she shuddered at the mental picture of the urban spectacles through Europe – deserted streets covered with the dismembered coprses of the citizens while their limbs remained hanging on the branches of the trees.
"I can smell your fear. Don't worry, I dispatched them with specific orders to restrain the troops. They can behave when it suits them. Like we do in Spain."
Spain. Of course, the Goths had settled there for a time. It was a perfect place to hide. So close and so Catholic; easy to gather information.
No more steps to descend. They had arrived at the ground. Integral assessed the location. It was not a grand space for strategic combat; she would have to improvise when the time came. The walls were richly adorned with tapestries that illustrated the Last Supper and in front of them there was a bronze door with a silver knob, a computer mechanism beside it on the wall. It had a green screen and a small opening. Voice and fingerprint recognition?
The guards released Maxwell, shoving him to the door. He hit the metal surface and nearly collapsed. Integral snickered at the scornful glare he threw in her direction. There was something else besides anger; his eyes were curious and wondering. So he had taken the hint.
"We can cut off your fingers and make you scream to open those gates, Monsignor," Theodoric warned, fingering his blade. "You only need one hand to bring us the Codex Argenteus." Enrico swallowed hard, she could distinguish the unmistakable drops of sweat on his forehead.
Come on, Integral wanted to say, give them the impression you're a coward and do as he says. Come on, Maxwell, don't be a fool and risk everything for bravado.
Enrico slid his gloves off and pressed the buttons with his bare digits. The monotone melody played on the ground until it was over and he uttered: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." The machine, once more processed his password and a click was heard.
"After this, Boudicca, I give you my word to make you immortal. You can borrow my men to destroy the invaders as a sign of friendship. "
Integral felt a chill run down her spine at the dreadful suggestion of vampirism. Only cowards who could not live as humans would take such an offer when there were other ways to fight. "Your men? The Visigoths?"
"No, lady. I blessed them as mine, thus they are under my protection, but my real people didn't come back from their resting place," Theodoric's tone shifted to melancholic, a yearning akin to that of a man who missed his homeland. "I want them back, at my side, these brutes don't offer good company."
Her eyes narrowed in realization. The Codex Argenteus. An unfortunate mixture between holy and pagan book that held a mysterious power. There must be a side effect to uttering the Holy Word from that scripture. Even…
"You want to raise the dead with the Codex…" Integral muttered, questioning further. Necromancy, who knew how he could accomplish that? But there were mysteries that she did not wish dwell upon, even those belonging to her own family.
"And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth," Theodoric stated with a mirthful tone. "Open the door," he commanded to Enrico.
"Open it yourself," Maxwell sneered. "Afraid you might burn?" The guards moved to restrain him. Theodoric held up one hand and muttered what Integral guessed was the Gothic equivalent of 'Halt.'
"I'll do it," Integral offered advancing towards Maxwell; she pushed him out of the way and turned the doorknob. The sight of the treasures she could spot inside was awe inspiring – goblets, asserted weapons, paintings, scultures… The Vatican had 'borrowed' more than the Silver Bible, that was clear. "Should I go for the Bible?"
"No, I want the same Catholic who ordered the robbery return it to my hands," Theodoric chuckled. "We'll fire at you if you refuse and I know there's no other exit from the vault. If he takes too long, then yes, Boudicca, retrieve it and do as you like with the bishop."
Integral bent down, grabbing Maxwell roughly by his clothes and pulling him back onto his feet. She used the motion to slide the holy water vial into his right pocket. He might need it, just in case her plan worked and he was disarmed. "You heard him, Maxwell. Go for the Codex Argenteus," she hissed, pushing Enrico towards the room roughly.
Theodoric dictated some commands to the guards, who were aiming in Maxwell's direction, following every motion until the gates closed with a thud. Integral fired at the stunned Visigoths, exclaiming:
"And be quick, Maxwell! I don't think I can hold them for too long!"
She looked at Theodoric, he was unsheathing his blade. "Boudicca was called a traitorous lioness, I should have known."
"I couldn't betray someone to who I hadn't pledged alliance, heathen!" Integral abandoned her firearm for her sabre. She assumed a defensive position trying desperately to block Theodoric's charging blows. His movements were too fast for a human being. The fact that he had more experience did not help either, but she managed to shield herself and he was only able to draw some blood on her upper left arm.
"I'm trying to read a passage of the Genesis! But this gibberish is hard to translate!"
"Well get your bloody Old German straight! Ugh-" Integral winced as Theodoric's sword crossed hers, he was gaining ground, forcing her to retreat.
"I did promise to make you one of us," Theodoric smirked, his blunt teeth changed to fangs. Integral grimaced; she would not be defeated and changed into a slave. She would not! Suddenly a cold hand grasped her wrist, twisting it slightly. She cringed, noting that the vampire did not require both hands to wield his weapon. "Surrender… Everything is lost."
"Typical thinking of a monster. You shouldn't underestimate me, I'll fight until the end," Integral said coldly. A quick blow of his sword made her drop hers, his hands were now over her shoulders, gripping them.
"This is the end, hu-"
Integral blinked, the door slammed open, striking Theodoric's face. He shrieked at the contact of the Arian blessed surface with his flesh, smoke poured from his head. The force of the blow made him release Integral and knocked him backwards.
"This has a lock on the inside too, fool," Maxwell declared, "No one touches the sow but me, she's my rival. If there's anyone that will have the pleasure of see her broken it won't be you!"
Integral smiled grimly, his motives were so selfish. Enrico Maxwell was unable to play hero even once in his pitiful existence. The grunts and groans of pain coming from the front startled her. She looked down. The Visigoths were regenerating slowly from her shoots to the heart and brain.
Quickly, Integral rushed to shield Enrico, positioning herself on the aperture, ready to open fire once more. "What are you waiting for!"
Enrico stayed wisely inside the room; at least he displayed some intelligence in her eyes. "I cannot read this! A few phrases, that was it! I'm not very good with modern German, let alone this stuff!"
Integral frowned. If Sister Heinkel were here, it would be easier. If the Catholics were not as focused on their plans for world conquest then this would never have happened. Lamenting was pointless; she needed to think and fast.
Integral tried to think an alternative of her original plan. Theodoric's source of power was the Arian Codex Argenteus… if the thing was Catholic maybe the holy vial would be handier than she believed.
"If you cannot bless him with the words of his religion, then bless his holy item!" Integral shouted, looking at Maxwell when she was sure the Goths were back on the ground. "Use the holy vial!"
"That was plan B," Enrico sneered. Integral gloated at his poor attempt to hide his ignorance but had no time to enjoy it. Theodoric madly lunged against her in an attempt to reach Maxwell. His face was rotten and dark; his canine glittered in a sinister light. Apparently, her bullets did not detain him as he snaked his arms around her waist, pulling her close, spinning her. Her back pressed tightly against his chest. She could not move, his grip was crushing her. Worst of all, she did not see his face drawing closer each passing second.
"Do it now!" Integral urged Maxwell, feeling Theodoric's fangs descending over her shoulder, ripping the layers of her clothes.
"I bless thy …In Nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen!" Enrico made the sign of the cross and spilled the holy water over the Codex Argenteus. The silver cover shone, covering the room with an ethereal light. The beam was so bright that it blinded her momentarily. The pressure of the fangs and arms lessened.
Behind her, Theodoric was screaming in pain. She could not register half of the things he said, either they were not in English or were just curses. The one thing worthy of mention was his pathetic plea. "I just wanted to be with my people again!"
"And you will," Integral answered icily, "You'll meet those heathens in one of the circles of hell."
She should not have said that. In his rage, Theodoric used her as a weapon to toss against Maxwell. Like a doll thrown against the wall, Integral Hellsing landed on Enrico Maxwell who yelped in surprise as her weight pinned him to the floor.
Shouts, followed by more curses. Then nothing. Integral sighed, it was over.
"Do you mind getting off me?" Enrico grumbled, shifting uncomfortably beneath her. "You should quit the scones, Hellsing, you're quite heavy."
Integral scolded, "If it wasn't for that comment, I would have. I'm rather comfortable here. You're such a skinny mattress." That retarded git. Could he not be more grateful?
Enrico grinned, "It seems a Catholic saved you. Again."
"Just because I told you how to save yourself and your beloved not-so-Holy-anymore See." She would not let the swine win a verbal quarrel. Certainly, she had her pride in consistently being far wittier than he believed himself.
Enrico's grin faltered a bit. Victory! But no, there was his blasted sly smile once more. "Perhaps that merit a kiss for the heroine."
"You're confusing me with your altar boys, Maxwell," Integral laughed hard at the suggestion. Snogging Maxwell, what a ridiculous idea. She fancied herself to think Enrico was just a predictable megalomaniac, despite this she could not foresee his next action: his lips would press against hers. Her initial shock subsided and she resisted the urge to pull away and give him a proper smack. His eyes stopped her, he was waiting for her to do that. She would show him who had power over the other one. Even in this insignificant clash, Integral would triumph. Her mouth leaned on hungrily, returning the fierce kiss. With a rough motion, she forced her tongue inside his cavity – prodding, exploring, and teasing. She heard him moan. Who was the one in charge now?
With a grin, she leaned off, fairly panting. Who would have thought a mere kiss would leave her breathless. "Speaking of giving up food, Maxwell, with your breath reeking of garlic, I'm surprised you didn't just kiss the enemies and kill them with it. It would have saved us a lot of trouble."
"Why did you do that?" Enrico demanded, wiping the saliva off his lips.
He knew very well. It was power and control, not physical desire. No bodily attraction, just another arena of mental combat.
"Do what?" Enrico glared in response. She chuckled and leaned on him once more. "This?" she inquired, brushing his lips with hers and for a while, no one talked.
She was so wining this game.
Seras Victoria was not in what one could consider a decent position, her legs snaked around Anderson's neck and her crotch brushing the back of his head. Thank goodness she had targets to mind or she would be horrible embarrassed. Or taunted the Paladin. Honestly, since Pip's mind merged with hers, she was no longer certain which were her antics and which used to be his.
Sadly, she had run out of bayonets. Anderson was selfish about sharing his toys. So bloody unfair. Her arm or rather, the shadowy thing that had replaced it, was healing. The process was slower due to the holy ground. She was amazed that her body had not burst into flames as Sir Hellsing had warned it might. The Goths had probably ruined the wards a bit.
Heartbeats. She could sense a dozen of them, beating rapidly a handful meters from there. Ignoring Anderson's overkill, she looked up. Over the Basilica she could distinguish Heinkel and Yumi but the construction blocked her sight beyond that. The survivors of Iscariot still battling.
She yipped as an arrow grazed her cheek. "Careful, Anderson, be a good mule and try to protect your rider."
"Ye want me to throw ye along with my knives?" Anderson replied, keeping to his monotonous routine of vampire stabbing. Seras watched a tad confused. There were not many, how could it be that it was taking him so long? Disposing of such a force should have been no trouble for 'Angel Dust' Anderson.
She took a good look at their foes.
They were familiar… as far as pink-skirted undead barbarians were a usual sight. They smelled similar too; their scents were the same as those she had blasted with the Harkonnen to allow Integral and the rest passage.
She stared agape at one who was reattaching his severed head to his shoulders. Now that explained a lot. They were the ones she had previously faced!
"Anderson… I think they stole your regenerative trick," Seras tugged his hair and made him gaze at the recovering vampires. They rose, practically emptying their ammunition in their direction. Sensing her body strengthened, Seras made her shadow tendril grow to shield both Anderson and herself. The effort nearly drained her but at least now they had nothing but blades to fight.
"Ye're better, Draculina. Why didn't ye just fly?"
Seras gave a slight shrug and leaned on him further, fingers messing with the short strands of his hair. "Because this is luxury, traveling on you."
She expected him to stab her senseless and then impale her with a cross, instead Anderson laughed. Cackling madly he cried, "Hold on to me, Draculina. This will be quite the ride."
As a measure of precaution, she did as she was told, her body curled on his shoulders, tightening her grip. Anderson twirled, bayonets sliding from his sleeves and hands. Seras felt mildly dizzy, old humans habits were kicking in. She could barely believe what she was beholding. His inhuman speed made the air around them shift to wind. They were in some kind of small twister that sucked in the vampires. They soon became victims of the blades trapped by the winds. Her sight sharpened. Bible pages, the twister was composed of them. After every blasted Goth in the area had collapsed, Anderson paused, the tornado vanished and he inhaled deeply. Seras sensed his pulse rate increasing. He must be really tired after such effort.
"Never better, Draculina… Sons of the Devil!" his tone became harsher. Seras groaned. They were rising again, their muscles twitched as severed body parts grew back together. Was this never ending?
A beam of silver light bathed them, covering the zone and expanding across the sky. Seras felt nothing but the vampires around them seemed to be affected. The healing had stopped, they were screaming, wailing until they faded to dust.
Well, damn, it was about time.
"I know," Seras rolled her eyes and hopped off Anderson, her shadow tendril shifted to a wing. He was so bloody tall that she had to levitate to be at eye level. "You think Sir Integra and your chief did something about it?"
"Must be Hellsing, I doubt that Maxwell could ever do something right," Anderson gnashed his teeth. Seras grinned, Integral had told her how angry he was with his boss and she had been an eyewitness to his displeasure at how Maxwell had handled London.
"Why did you come back with him? Why are you his bodyguard then?"
Anderson smiled at Seras. Not a bloodthirsty grin, rather one she had seen once when he'd talked about brining his orphans to the museum. He looked rather cute… She scolwed to herself and tried to push that thought out of her mind without avail.
"Someone has to protect the Vatican when his knights are busy in his so called crusades, Draculina. Someone has to keep an eye on him to stop him at times. Those people in London, although heretics, were innocent."
Seras stared at Anderson. She had heard something similar not so long ago. To save innocents, to protect those in London who had nothing to do with the war. Other words, same meaning. It was always from the most unexpected ones. A supposed soldier of fortune that should be fighting only for the money and now a fanatical assassin who should hate everyone who was not a Catholic.
Anderson had more in common with Pip Bernadette than she had given him credit for.
"You have the heart of a hero beneath all the silver blades," Seras commented. In a bold gesture, she leaned toward his cheek, pressing her lips to the corner of his. Then withdrew, flying away from the oncoming knives that Anderson had hurled in her direction.
"Sorry to kiss and flee, Alex! But things will get… stabby otherwise," Seras teased, snickering at Anderson's furiously red cheeks. His heart pounded faster, the drum made such delicious melody to her ears. "Besides, Batgirl has to save the dynamic duo." Then she headed to the Basilica.
Heinkel was angry at the rushed escape of her partner but then understood her way of thinking. It was a change of setting; if they climbed they had better possibilities to settle themselves in an advantageous spot for a fight.
The task was dangerous; made more so by that blasted beam that came out of nowhere blinding them. She looked down and swallowed at the height. Yumi had better have that berserker head of hers thinking for a change.
Was it her imagination or had she just heard screams of pain coming from the Cathedral?
"Faster, Heinkel!" Yumi urged her. She frowned and nodded, one hand on the stone wall and the other over one of her guns. "I'm going up! Cover me!"
"Cover you? Yumi!" Heinkel blurted out as her friend executed an impossible jump to a higher level of the dome. Holy, the woman grew more insane with each passing day.
"Behind you!" Yumi screamed from above. Heinkel turned carefully; one false move and she would step on nothingness. Two of the Goths were half out the window, she paid no heed to their bad appearances, instead concentrating on the fact they were ready to fire. Her finger was faster, pulling up the trigger, she shot first. The bullets pierced one's brain; he stumbled and fell. Unable to catch himself he became one more spot on the ground. The other, however, was not affected, he shot at Heinkel and she returned the courtesy. Whether or not her aim was accurate, she had no way of telling. She had miscalculated her motion to duck the bullet, slid and lost her balance.
She would soon join the demon as another spot on the ground. A firm hand grabbed her, pulling her up. "Yumi?" she asked, looking to her saviour. She was too blonde and barely dressed to be Yumi. And dead. "Seras Victoria!"
"Let's get your friend out of there, Sister!"
Were they flying? The sight fascinated Heinkel. At this distance, she could spot Anderson fighting alone at the entrance. Or rather an ant she assumed to be the Paladin and near the museum… a handful of Iscariots were doing the same. Thank God, they were not the only survivors. The Lord had smiled upon the righteous believers. She tore her eyes from the show under and assessed the display above. Yumi leaped with her sword unsheathed over the Goth that she had failed to hit.
"Is she always that suicidal?" Nosferatu Victoria inquired.
"She's zealous, there's nothing wrong with that," Heinkel defended Yumi as her partner landed on the vampire, tearing him limb from limb. The devil had not stood a chance. "Yumi! Over here!" Heinkel waved her arm as Seras flew closer. Without hesitation, Yumi jumped and caught her hand.
"Seatbelts on, please ladies," Seras joked, "We're going to land."
Heinkel was happy she had not eaten that day yet.
Enrico Maxwell was still shocked by his own actions inside the compound. How could he have allowed Hellsing to take control so easily? And he had enjoyed it. He craved to repeat their… conversation. Nonetheless, he locked away the impure thoughts.
Better to think on other things, he thought, adjusting the undone collar of his cloth. Such as His Holiness' displeasure when he returns…
Well that did not work. The thought was not pleasant either. At least the infernal gunshots had stopped. He was wondering how much time it would take the sow to clear the exit of the museums of vermin.
"That was the last," Integral informed him, upon her return. It irked him that she had taken the lead on his own lands! "I think you owe me now, Maxwell."
Enrico's eyes narrowed, following her steps closely. "Our agreement, yes…" his eyes fell on the survivors of the Iscariot Order. "London will be left alone but you won't be able to leave the Vatican. Restrain her!" he commanded. Quickly, the priests surrounded Integral, aiming their weapons at her. She was calm, not a muscle of her face twitched. How could that be? The first time they met she had not been like this, something must have happened to teach her to mask her emotions so well.
A gust of wind from above made him lifted his gaze, Seras Victoria released Yumi and Heinkel dangerously close to him. He gulped, as Yumi's blade passed within a few inches of his nose.
"It seems I'll have to aid Sir Hellsing in getting rid of a few flies," the Nosferatu dared to taunt. Then her grin faded, head turned to the west. Enrico gestured for his men to hold their fire, curious about what the wretched creature heard. In a few minutes, a helicopter appeared on the horizon. The papal crest and the white hoods brought a disdainful smile to his lips.
The Knights of Malta! Finally they decided to bring their Nazarenos-dressed selves there! Fuming, Enrico strode over the looming helicopter. They refused to land? What on earth? The two knights were pushed out of the chopper. They had holes in their chests.
"Welcome back, Alucard, I'm so sorry you missed a war. Twice," Enrico heard Integral say, humour soaking her tone. No! That vampire was lost on the ocean! He should not be there! He could not! Not when he was so close to achieve his craving!
"Master!" Draculina shouted.
"Sorry for the delay, Sir, we were attempting to control the situation in London as soon as we returned to the docks," the old man, her butler, explained.
"God must truly hate me to make me miss all the mayhem and slaughter, Integra. The handful of victims I took almost weren't enough," Alucard replied, smirking cheekily in Enrico's direction. "But that could be changed… Are the Romans bothering you? I would be delighted to finish what someone else started."
"Hellsing! Control your beast!" Enrico demanded. He had lost too much to afford an open attack by that animal and she knew it. The sow had an infernal grin plastered on her face. He would rather have those lips… elsewhere…
"Then, Maxwell, will you leave us in peace?" Integral lifted a brow; she clearly did not mind his troops targeting her.
Enrico nodded, if he was lucky the wrath of the Pope would only divest him of his bishop charge . "Go, one day, we'll finish our pending… businesses," he licked his lips, tasting the favlour her mouth left on them. He would have her at his mercy, one day.
"I'm counting on it," she replied in challenge, "Seras!" The young Midian grabbed her chief's arm and lifted her, carrying her to the helicopter. The fans increased their speed and the vehicle flew out of the Vatican.
"Monsignor Maxwell!" Father Renaldo called out. Enrico watched him and Anderson following him not so far behind. "The knights will arrive soon. Orders from the Pontiff. Should I explain the situation is under control and returning them to England, United States and France?"
"No," Enrico shook his head, glancing once more in the direction that the helicopter had retired. "We have to avoid His Holiness's further wrath."
"And Renaldo… are you free for a confession?" Enrico inquired, clearing his throat. He was remorseful, was he not?
"Certainly but that has to wait, I've another turn before you."
"Oh? Who?" Maxwell scolded, displeased to have to wait. Whose sins could possibly compare to his under these circumstances? The troops for being incompetent?
"Father Anderson," Renaldo gestured to the Paladin who passed without sparing a glance in their direction. His attempt to hide such a huge object beneath his coat was laughable. But Enrico could not blame the man for trying.
"Chief?" Heinkel asked. "Vhy is Father Anderson carrying Seras Victoria's weapon?"
Enrico shrugged. His confession could wait; Anderson struck him as the victim of worse impure thoughts than his own.
Author's Notes: Once again, thanks to Kit Durani for edit this. And to all my reviewers for the feedback. I hope I have kept them IC, considering the almost 'AU' setting I need to follow. If there's anything wrong, please point it out and I will correct it.