Integra liked how she only had to think his name to summon him. It had been unnerving, of course, when she found out that her vampire servant could read minds but she quickly got used to the feeling; a cold sensation of fingers wiggling inside her skull that wasn't painful, but couldn't be called pleasant, either. The first several years had been the most difficult. She didn't have any mental guards against him, and every little thought that passed through her childish mind was blatantly public. It wasn't that she cared, particularly, about him reading her thoughts on the day's lunch or something equally unimportant. When it came to her more personal thoughts, though, she began to loathe the vampire and his abilities. In defense, she spent nearly four weeks in her father's old library, practically living there, and read all she could about strengthening the mind, meditation, and mind control. In the end she walked out of the library on the last day of her studies with a confidant strut, and an agitated Alucard by her side.
"Master," he had said, looking at her through narrowed eyes. "What did you do?" Integra let a small smile curve on her lips; besting Alucard was rare, and she enjoyed the feeling immensely. A mere human, who had only been in existence for twelve years, had outsmarted one whom had been around for centuries.
"I simply put locks on the places that I don't want you to go," she replied as she flashed him a haughty smile. Alucard had given her a look that she might have equated with a pout and then slid down into the floor, disappearing from sight.
With each year that passed her mental strength grew until she was able to keep the cold, searching fingers out of her mind for good. Over time she also learned that she could broadcast certain thoughts over her barriers – such as his name, or a call for help – and that he jumped to these summons. And this was where it all had left her, sitting at her desk with her father's journal and an aching head. She didn't really like what she was going to do, but figured there was no other way. As she waited for Alucard – sometimes he drew out the minutes just to irk her – she reread a passage in the journal.
Tuesday, the fourth of May
I am at a loss. My situation is entirely foreign to me, and entirely terrifying. The vampire has such frightening powers, and Alucard's surpass any I have ever seen in my lifetime. We, of course, have taken precautions. Placed locks on his power so he can only utilize so much at one time. The problem, however, is the effect that his released powers have on humans. How can I possibly focus on defeating the enemy if I am trying to keep my heart from leaping out of my chest with fear?
The images he can summon, the things he becomes – it is all so horrifyingly grotesque that I have difficulty sleeping at night. Alucard certainly knows this; that wicked smile and insane gleam in his eyes only seems to increase with my growing fear. I see no other solution but to confront this situation head on, in the safety of a non-aggressive arena, and examine all of Alucard's higher powers up close until I am familiarized with them. I am thinking, perhaps, that if I expose myself to the full terror that is Alucard, bit by bit, my body might perhaps build up an immunity of sorts. To the terror that he exudes in such a battle state.
If I am to ever be successful on the battlefield with Alucard, it must be done.
Oh, how I am dreading tonight.
After this, to her dismay, Integra could find no other entries pertaining to her father's experiment with his exposure to Alucard's terrible powers. He wrote nothing of the results, and never mentioned anything about it in all of his writings thereafter. The next entry following, Friday, the seventh of May, discussed the boringly safe subject of tea selection. Integra gently ran her thumb over her father's signature, eyebrows furrowing. Why wouldn't you record the outcome? That wasn't like you, Father. There wasn't time to dwell on this concern, however, as Integra's thoughts were abruptly interrupted.
"Ah, I see you've delved into your father's diary for some late night reading. What a fantastic choice." Only six years of exposure to his sudden arrivals kept Integra from leaping from her chair. She chose, instead, to turn around and pierce Alucard with an annoyed glare. All she got in response was a raised eyebrow. "You summoned me," he pointed out, grinning in an infuriatingly relaxed manner. How could he be so reposed when she was nearly jumping out of her skin with nerves? She turned back to the volume on her desk and tapped it with one impatient finger.
"Read this," she ordered, picking it up and holding it out for Alucard to take. He did. After a moment he returned the journal with a secretive smile and reclined back into his chair. "And?" she prompted, her fingers now drumming on the polished mahogany of her desk.
"Yes, I remember that particular date." He shrugged his shoulders and sank back into his chair, obviously not caring to elaborate.
Integra nearly groaned. "Well, was my father's idea successful?" The silent look that he gave her was unnerving and much too long for her comfort. His smile, for once, was gone. Replaced by something a bit darker and contemplative. They sat like that for nearly a minute, and Integra found she couldn't look away.
"More or less," he finally answered. "Why do you want to know, master? Interested in repeating the experiment?" At least that smile was back. For whatever reason, she always felt unnerved whenever he lost his glaze of insanity and devilry. Integra turned away from him and looked at her steepled fingers. A short time before summoning Alucard she had made up her mind that she would follow in her father's footprints and also confront Alucard's terrifying powers head on. To date, in all of her sixteen years she had never witnessed Alucard in his Level One power unlock. The most she had ever experienced was Level Two, and from the sheer, cold terror that had washed over her at that moment, she wasn't even sure that she wanted to experience the feeling of Alucard at full power. Then she read her father's words. It made sense – too much sense. What if she needed to fight one day and froze in the onslaught of Alucard's power release? Integra was certain that she might be injured in that moment of terror – or even worse, killed. It was decided, then. No matter the fear, she had to familiarize herself with Level One Alucard.
"Yes," she finally said, dredging up courage that she didn't even know she had. "Yes, I am. We will start tonight, in the lower levels – that room – so as not to frighten the servants. It wouldn't do to have to hire all new help." She gave him a dismissing wave and turned back to her father's writing, so familiar, but foreign after years of neglect.
The smile Alucard gave her before he bowed and melted into the wall almost made her change her mind.
Oh, father. What have you gotten me into now?
Roughly an hour later Integra found herself at the imposing door that lead to the lower levels. She held only a gas lantern (electronic things had the odd habit of dying when Alucard released his power locks) and a blank notebook. She would handle this in the most scientific manner possible. Notes, of course, would be taken and every aspect would be looked at. If she was going to go through with this insanity, she was going to do it the right way; the way her father would have done it. The other item she carried, taken from a plain box in her room on a whim, was a small handgun loaded with six silver bullets blessed by the church. She didn't know why she brought it, or what she was planning on doing with it, but she felt infinitely safer with the weight of it against her hip.
It took her only a few minutes to navigate the dark hallways and sharp turns, and soon she found herself before another door, this one plain and unremarkable. After hesitating – she could turn around now and forget the whole thing – she turned the handle and walked into the large candle-lit room. She had picked that particular room for the great size: it stretched nearly thirty feet across, and had a ten-foot ceiling. She was never sure what it was for (and had never been able to find a room like it in any of the blueprints of the mansion) but judging from the chains that still remained on the walls and the scratches made on the floor by what could have been human nails, she suspected that this once had been a torture chamber of sorts.
Fitting, seeing what she was about to subject herself to.
Alucard was sitting, relaxed, in one of two rickety chairs near the middle of the room. He was, oddly enough, beside a small, round table made from some manner of dark wood. The dim light in the room was provided by four candelabras strategically placed on each wall. Integra set down her lantern and made her way toward to table, sitting opposite Alucard in the other chair. She smoothed the front of her blouse in reflex and cleared her throat. Surprisingly, it was Alucard that broke the silence. "You informed Walter of your little experiment this evening, I trust?"
Integra snorted and waved her hand as if swatting a fly. "Of course. I wasn't about to have him come barging down here with his wires – this in and of itself is more than enough." Alucard nodded and picked up a delicate wineglass that had been sitting on the table, quickly drinking all of the dark red liquid in one gulp. "Well, master, shall we get started?" Integra opened her notebook and sighed, quickly jotting down notes on Alucard's appearance, mannerisms and current power level.
"Just a moment, I want to compare and contrast afterward. What abilities do you have at the moment?" she asked, still writing hurriedly. Alucard shrugged and stood.
"Rudimentary ones." he stated, brushing off her question. "We should start; it's bound to be a long night." Whether he meant a long night for himself or for her, she wasn't sure. And she didn't really want to know.
"Fine," she growled, also standing and setting down her pen. "Do whatever it is you do." Alucard smiled.
"You must give me an order to release the power restrictions," he said, his voice disgustingly saccharine. Integra tried not to blush in dismay at her forgetfulness, failed dismally, and then nodded.
"Right…" What was she supposed to say? She searched her brain for the words that she had memorized several years before and had never needed to use. "Situation A. Unlock limited release control system to Level One." The stale air around her swirled and lifted her hair; Alucard's smile simply widened and shined threateningly in the dim light. She made her voice louder. "Your master, Hellsing, commands it. Acknowledge my approval!" Now it was Alucard's turn, and she took a step back from the now looming presence before her.
"Releasing control art restriction system to Level One. Limited release approval is confirmed." At that moment all the candles went out, the only light source remaining was her lantern and the odd red glow coming from Alucard. Her breath hitched in her chest as Alucard's shining, red eyes met her own. "Releasing power restriction until orders are complete."
Then everything went to hell.
Alucard wasn't Alucard anymore. He had become a writhing mass of shadows and eyes and teeth, moving towards her maddeningly slow, as a predator would stalk it's helpless prey. Integra found that she couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't breath and oh God, this was why her father never wrote anything down in his journal. The writhing mass drew closer, whispering in her mind a plethora of evil things, dark things, dirty and wrong things. She wanted to move towards it; she wanted to run away. And run was what she did when Alucard sent two tendrils of dark shadow streaming towards her. Integra spun on her heels and ran towards the door, breath coming in uneven, breaking pants. From the door though, a black shape appeared, quickly taking the form of a dog's head: saliva dripping from it's fangs, multitudes of red, blinking eyes staring at her. Integra screamed and ran three steps backward until she was wrapped securely in two arms. She looked up wildly to find Alucard's feral smile turned at her, his eyes burning and hair loose and moving with a life of it's own. His arms tightened around her as she kicked and hissed, trying even, once, to bite the arm that held her.
Then he was inside her mind. She stiffened dramatically in his arms, her back arching and mouth open in a silent scream of anger, pain, and fear. He violently broke down the barriers that she had tirelessly put up over the past four years, and she was sure that her head must be splitting open from the very inside – oh God, he was killing her. The cold fingers delved deeper and deeper, but this time they hurt and finally Integra found her voice and began screaming, her eyes open wide and staring into nothing, too shocked to cry. A third arm, from somewhere, appeared and quickly placed a hand over her open mouth, blocking the sound. Her chest heaved and she suddenly found that she wasn't in the room anymore, that Alucard was no long holding her, and she was in some dark forest, the very branches of the trees reaching out for her.
"Alucard!" she yelled out, bringing her hands to her head. "Stop!" On that word a wolf appeared in front of her, it's shaggy black coat glistening with some viscous substance, it's white teeth and red eyes flashing in the pale light of the moon. Integra fell to her knees, still holding her head, and looked at the wolf through tear filled eyes. Her glasses were gone but she found, numbly, that she could see perfectly. "Please," she whispered now, "Stop it." The wolf met her gaze for minutes, hours, days, before snarling and leaping at her, hitting her chest hard and knocking her awkwardly backwards. A strangled gasp escaped her as she felt ribs crack under the weight, pressing against her lungs painfully. The wolf's teeth snapped close inches from her face, but she was too busy focusing on trying to get air into her lungs to react. Then the wolf disappeared with the forest around her and she found herself in a vast open plain, the sun a low red disk in the sky. The pain in her chest had gone with the wolf and the forest, but she sat up slowly, gingerly feeling her ribs. She had been so sure that they were broken.
The voice resonated in her head, making her ears ring. "Alucard?" she prompted. The voice was his, but it seemed changed somehow.
Look around you, little girl. Look and see the wonders of my work!
Integra finally took in her surroundings and with terror found that what she had thought were distant trees were in fact impaled humans. Several, she noted with muted horror, were still feebly moving, inhuman shrieks finding their way around the stakes emerging from their mouths. Integra leaned forward, hands on the cold earth, and threw up, sobbing as she tried to crawl away from the horrifying scene before her.
But they were everywhere.
Finding her way to her feet she began running blindly, panting, her lungs and legs burning. From somewhere in her mind Alucard began laughing maniacally, the sound making her sick.
Isn't this what you wanted, Integra? Isn't this what you were asking for? To be freed of fear – to be able to face death and carnage with a straight, uncaring face. Look and drink it in, little one. Revel in the carnage, breath in the blood, drink in the pain. You must overcome, or face your demise!
Sobbing through her panting breaths, Integra stopped, unable to continue forward, and wiped away the saliva dripping from her open, panting mouth. The tears from her eyes stung the skin of her cheeks, and she looked up at the single stake that was left standing before her, sticking up from the ground like some perverse flower. The stakes' occupant was quite dead, and Integra reached out a shaking hand to touch the tortured face in front of her.
It was her own.
Integra's breathing became jagged, rapid gasps as she noted the horribly blank blue eyes that she knew so well – that stared out of the mirror at her every day. The dead Integra before her seemed so small, so defeated, so insignificant. Her legs gave out from under her then, and she fell to her knees with jarring force, her hands out in front of her on the hard, bloodstained ground.
"No no no nono nonono nonononono…" The mantra continued, air not even entering her shocked body. She numbly recognized the cold arms that wrapped around her and lifted her from the ground, cradling her against a chest that held no beating heart. She barely heard the words Alucard spoke, "Limited release complete. Orders fulfilled." She didn't even protest as Alucard began to lick away the tears on her cheeks, the feeling deceptively gentle and kind. What she did notice, however, was that she couldn't breathe.
The room that they had started out in swam before her eyes, and inviting black spots lazily danced across that hazy vision.
Alucard, she desperately thought, I can't breathe. His tongue ran across her cheek once again, catching new tears.
Then let me in. She didn't understand what he meant until she realized that her mental barriers were still intact, as if he had never even broken them at all. Fear gripping her and blackness creeping over her vision, she unlocked her mind and opened it to him, shivering at the feel of those cool fingers probing at her thoughts, gently this time. She stiffened in his embrace and expected pain that didn't come, lungs burning, chest aching.
I'm going to die…
No, you are too stubborn.
After another breathless moment of him searching in her mind, he finally pulled away, the cold fingers disappearing, the barriers relocking. "No," he said the words aloud this time. "You won't die." She saw him open his mouth and take in a deep breath, which didn't make sense to her. He didn't need to breathe. Then his mouth was on hers, and his hand was on her jaw, gently forcing her to open her mouth. He breathed out into her and she gasped in the air, the lovely lovely oxygen, before coughing violently in his arms, her face red, and gasping in another breath of air. And another, and another. The feeling was so exquisite, and Integra was sure that she had never felt anything like it before. Was this what it felt like to be born? To take your first breath in a strange, new, frightening world? She clung to Alucard's clothing, frightened suddenly, so frightened, that he would put her down, leave her alone here. He chuckled as he walked from the room with her still in his arms. She didn't notice as they melted through wall after wall, coming finally to a stop in Alucard's personal chambers. He made a quick gesture and a bed slid to a stop a few feet in front of him. He gently laid Integra on it, propping her head on the plush pillow. He waved a chair towards him and placed it at the foot of the bed, watching Integra's blank, sleeping face with interest. Noticing the slight upset of her clothes that was undoubtedly cause by a weapon, Alucard frowned and removed the offending object, placing it in on of his pockets.
It wouldn't do for her to wake up and have access to weapons. No, it would do at all.
I'm working on a follow-up chapter for this, but I'm not making any promises. Right now I don't think it has the right feel to it, and until I remedy that, this will be a stand-alone oneshot. Sorry. :(
Edited on August 27, 2007 for some minor errors.