Casualty of War

The young man squatted in the dark alley, heedless to the light rain falling steadily around him. Frightened, tired and hungry, he had little recollection of who he was or how he had come to be there. Thinking too much made the man's head ache but he paid little attention to the pain and tried to recollect the night's events. He remembered being in a dark cage and people, no, some kind of soldiers looking between the bars, laughing at him. They seemed to talk quietly amongst themselves and every once in awhile, rattle the bars, jostling him toward wakefulness. The prisoner's struggles against his confines only seemed to add to the guards' amusement.

The man next remembered the door to the crate-like object being opened and him running for his life, after surprisingly meeting none of the expected resistance. On the streets on which he ran were many, many other people. The atmosphere around him was total chaos. It appeared to the young man that he had stepped into a nightmare, or, onto an urban battlefield. Soldiers, dressed in uniforms of some rank and regime he could not easily identify, were engaged in slaughtering anyone and everyone in their path. Some used their weapons to simply shoot people at point-blank range in the head or heart while others were just walking up to their victims and appearing to tear out their throats. The stink of drying blood hung heavily in the air, while the screams reverberated off the building facades. If this wasn't Armageddon, then it was very, very close.

More by instinct than through any insight or planning, the man found the alley and ran in to hide, the sounds of the war, muffled by the surrounding bricks and mortar of the high-rise buildings. The dripping of a nearby drainpipe ticked off the passage of time with a steady, rhythmic beat.

Suddenly and without warning, a blackish object landed on a nearby refuse bin, clattering the aluminum cover. The man spun quickly around in the direction of the perceived threat and, as if by magic, razor-like metaphysical wires appeared, shot out and shattered the body of the feral cat into a dozen pieces. The parts of the former cat's body splattered against the nearest wall with a dull, meaty sound. The young man's body visually relaxed and he let out an audible sigh. Well, the man thought to himself, it was nice to know that he would be able to properly defend himself should something more malevolent than a cat appear and threaten his life.

The young man sat down with a thud, his back to the side of a brick-faced building. His clothing was ragged and torn but it afforded him enough protection to wait out the rain and the battle raging outside. Perhaps, when the present engagement was over or moved on, he would reassess his situation and his surroundings.

The man didn't know how long he slept, just that a good amount of time had passed. When he next opened his eyes, it was quiet, bright and sunny. Morning had come at last. Birds were happily chirping nearby and the man had a sense that the city around him was falling back quietly into its familiar pattern.

A lone, young woman, perhaps in her early to mid-twenties, was walking down the alleyway toward him. She was of medium height, with long hair and blue eyes framed by glasses. She carried a pistol at the ready and moved with caution toward him. Her finely tailored suit and her commanding attitude seemed to demand respect of the viewer but she showed no outward signs of aggression or hostility. Sensing that she may not have been sent by his enemy, he let her approach. She leaned down and shook his shoulder once, roughly. She began to look him over, examining his clothing and overall appearance. The man heard her talking but this was drowned out by a loud beating sound.

It took a minute or two for him to realize that the thudding sound was the sound of her heartbeat. She moved closer to the young man so that she leaned almost on top of him and started saying things. Her voice, the surroundings, everything, was drowned out by the steady beat of her pulse. If he looked hard enough, he could almost see the vein in her neck throb in time to the sound. The up and down staccato of her pulse underneath her skin mesmerized the man until that was all he cared about, all he could watch. He was entirely entranced.

Suddenly, the hunger that had been a dull ache in his gut roared to full, burning life. The man now still did not know who he was but full comprehension of what he was came directly to him. And the nourishment that his body required was in those small, delicate veins under the smooth, creamy skin. The young man felt fangs grow in his mouth, pushing down over the other teeth. The girl did not seem to notice the change immediately but sensed something had occurred and began to pull away.

The young man knew that this opportunity would not come so easily again and,

did not hesitate in his attack. He leaned outward with his body and struck for the neck in one clean, swift motion. The man's fangs ripped into the skin, opening the vein underneath. Warm blood, hotter and sweeter than anything he had ever tasted, flooded his mouth. And with the feeding, came his memory. This was not some nameless girl that had found him. This was the present leader of the Hellsing organization and more importantly, Arthur's child. Integra.

Walter immediately withdrew his fangs from Integra's throat but it was too late. She collapsed with a resounding thud, on top of him. Integra's blood loss was significant and she was now on the brink of death.

"My God, what I have done to you?" Walter whispered in a hoarse voice, cradling the body of his dying leader.

Integra's eyes were open but she could not speak. Her throat was too ragged and torn. Walter stared into her eyes. Integra moved restlessly in her former butler's embrace and struggled to make a sound. Suddenly, her body convulsed twice, hard, and she died. Walter thought he had seen forgiveness in her dying eyes.

Walter stared into Integra's now sightless eyes and looked upward, letting out an ear-piercing scream. The world spun wildly, went black and disappeared from view.

Two Nazi vampire doctors watched the body of the Hellsing butler in their laboratory through large glass windows. He lay, on a steel metal gurney, in the middle of the sterile room, his body covered by a large white sheet. Machines of varying degrees of complexity surrounded his body while wires of every shape and size made spider-web patterns, connecting him to them. An outside observer would have thought that Walter was unconscious but the machines said differently. The butler was dreaming. Every so often, his body made short, sharp motions and he moaned loudly, as if in pain.

The two scientists closely monitored Walter's vitals on screens at their workstation.

One of the vampires turned to the other, "I don't care if the false memory kills him. Remember our orders. We are to keep repeating this until the patient is able to kill without remembering who she is and more importantly, who he is."

"But he almost had a stroke this time," the other, younger vampire pleaded to his superior.

"That was because the patient actually killed her before he remembered who she was. During the last sequence, his memory came back faster as he made the motion to

strike. Hopefully, this time, we can successfully wipe out all memory of her completely."

The older vampire looked scornfully at the younger one. "You heard what I said. Start the dream sequence again."

The other, younger scientist hesitated, but then, bent over the controls and made some adjustments. Walter's body in the other room began once again twitching on the metal table.