The bumpy dirt road jostled Seras's sunglasses. Pushing them back into place, she glanced up at the overcast sky, thankful the sun wasn't shining. It didn't bother her quite as bad as it used to, but she still hated it.
She didn't like the two police officers she was riding with either. The one in the passenger seat kept casting glances back at her, and she could see the driver looking at her through the rearview mirror instead of at the road.
"So you are British?" the one in the passenger's seat said. "And you are looking for the American girl?"
Seras nodded; it was no big secret that the American president's daughter, Ashley Graham, had been kidnapped while visiting Europe. The story hadn't quite hit the media yet, but that would likely change.
"I wonder what the Americanos will say if you succeed," the policeman behind the wheel said. "How embarrassing for them it will be."
"Just as long as we get her back safe and sound," Seras said, not wanting to talk to her companions anymore than she had to. The more questions they asked, the fishier her involvement in the affair would sound.
The story she was telling was that she was a member of the SAS working in conjunction with the CIA to rescue Ashley Graham who had been kidnapped by an unknown group, most likely terrorists. The story was only partially true: she did work for the British government, but not the SAS. She was a member of the Hellsing Agency, an order of Knights charged with the job of eliminating undead threats to England.
She scratched her head absentmindedly, contemplating just how strange her present situation was. Being a vampire herself, working for a group dedicated to their annihilation was an inconsistency she dealt with on a daily basis. What had her puzzled at the moment was why she was running such a high profile rescue operation so far from England that, as far as she could tell, had nothing to do with the undead.
"Los Illuminados," Sir Integra Hellsing, her boss, had said when she was put to the question by Seras shortly before she left the Hellsing manor. "They're a cult of some type. We know little about them, which is why I'm sending you on the mission. Not only are you to rescue Ashley Graham, and get the United States to owe us a favor, but you're to find out just what Los Illuminados is all about and report back as soon as you can. We'll be looking into it as well, but ground recon is essential."
Integra's words were vivid in Seras's mind; the last time Sir Integra had sent her on a recon mission outside of the country had been a nightmare. She had been sent to spy on the Umbrella corporation's doings in Raccoon City, USA. While there, the virus Umbrella had been cooking up got loose, turning the entire population of the city into mindless, undead, cannibals. She still remembered having to shoot the little girl she had rescued after she had become a zombie.
The car slowed to a stop next to a dirt pathway that lead to a small house off into the woods on the left. "Is this it?" she asked.
"That way is the village you want," the policeman in the passenger's seat said. "This is as far as we go."
Seras got out of the car and shut the door. Peering over her sunglasses, she couldn't believe how dismal everything looked. Everything from the trees and the sky to the wood making up the small house seemed grey. The crows perched in the leafless branches, peering down, only added to the sudden sense of foreboding she felt.
She patted the nine millimeter Glock17 she kept in a shoulder holster beneath her blue coat. Adjusting her baseball cap, she moved forward towards the house with intention of asking whoever was inside if they had seen Ashley Graham. Aside from her gun and a combat knife, she was armed with a powerful radio, a photo of Ashley, and a crash course in basic Spanish. She hoped it would all get her through this mission quickly.
Glancing back at the police car to make sure it wasn't about to drive off, she went up onto the porch of the house. It looked fairly solid, but she could tell that whoever owned it didn't have the money to keep it maintained. The floorboards on the porch sagged and creaked as she walked over them towards the door.
She opened the door, not bothering to knock. The interior was a mess. No one had cleaned for some time and the stink of rotting meat filled her nose. Not needing to breath, she held it and walked inside.
The sound of a fire crackled from around the corner, and she walked around to see an older man tending it. He was dressed in filthy, plain clothes and turned stiffly to look at her.
As he sized her up, she took out the photo of Ashley Graham, a pretty brown eyed girl with blond hair, and showed it to him. "Excuse me, have you seen this girl?" she asked in Spanish. "I'm with the police."
"No, get out," he said plainly.
She had been told to expect some unfriendliness from the populace in this part of Spain so she simply nodded and turned to leave. Once her back was turned, she heard the man make a sharp movement. Seras spun around just in time to duck the downward swing of the fire poker he had been carrying.
"Hey, what's you're problem?" she said in English as the man swung again. The attack was clumsy and she easily avoided it. The man was shouting at her in guttural Spanish. Seras couldn't tell if it was her ear not picking up his words or if he had simply begun to snarl and speak gibberish.
He swung again only this time Seras caught the poker bellow the sharp end and yanked it from the man's hand. He lunged at her, screaming louder so she struck him in the temple with the poker's handle. The old man went down like a sack of grain and stopped moving. Looking down on him with horror and disgust, she rolled him over onto his back using the fire poker.
The old man smelled bad, but not zombie bad. The stench came from a lack of bathing, rather than rotting flesh. Something about the man's face, contorted into a death mask, told her that he had been a complete lunatic.
She picked her head up and looked into the pantry next to the fireplace. Piled into a tiny alcove were three rows of human skulls complete with assorted bones, all brown from rot. Wondering if she had stumbled into the den of a serial killer, she stood up straight when the sound of an old diesel engine came roaring through the house.
Running back into the living room, she looked through the window in time to see a large truck, one she hadn't noticed before, speed down the dirt path she had come up and plow into the police car. The police vehicle rolled over into its side and slammed into a thick tree on the other side of the road.
With her jaw hanging open, she turned her attention to the four men rushing towards the house. Another older man carrying a pitchfork was leading three younger men carrying hatchets. The old man stopped on the porch and pointed at the door, shouting something in Spanish.
The three young men burst into the house as she drew her gun. As soon as the first man turned to see Seras, there was a bullet in his head. He staggered backward, knocking the other two men off balance.
Shaking his bleeding head, the man groaned and moved forward, brandishing his hatchet. Seras fired again, this time taking the top of his head off. He fell forward as the two men behind him stepped over his corpse.
Seras put a bullet in each of their knees, causing them to fall forward onto their faces. Two more bullets for the backs of their skulls, and they were dead. The window next to her head suddenly shattered. Seras ducked just in time to avoid the thrust of the old man's pitchfork as it came crashing through. Before he could pull it back, Seras snatched it from his hands, turned it around and shoved it into the man's face.
Instead of going outside, she went to the pantry where there would be a wall at her back and removed the clip from her gun. She had a box of bullets with her, and she used it to refresh the clip.
She took a deep breath though her mouth to calm her mind. She was no stranger to such situations, but things had gotten weird, even for her. There was something wrong with these people. They were much dirtier than they aught to have been, even for backwoods peasants. The man she had shot in the head should have died from the first bullet, not staggered forward to attack.
All her ears could pick up was the screeching of the crows and the faint sounds of broken machinery from the car wreck outside. It was a long walk back the way she had come, and besides, she still had her mission.
Reminded that she had a radio, she pulled it out and switched it over to the frequency she was supposed to use to contact Integra. "Hello, come in. Victoria reporting."
"Seras," came Integra's voice over the radio. There was slight static at first, but the signal evened out after a second. "Seras, what's going on?"
"I was just attacked," she said. "A villager. He came at me with a fire poker, and then they crashed a truck into my police escort. I've had to kill five people."
"What? Are you serious? Is there any sign of Graham?"
"Yes…I mean, yes I'm serious, and no, no sign of the president's daughter. I-I don't think these people are quite human," Seras said, trying to compose her thoughts.
"Seras, I know they're Spaniards, but…"
"No, I mean…I shot one in the head and he didn't drop right away. They all seem crazy or something, but they're not ghouls or zombies." Seras peered around the corner to get a better look at the first old man she had killed and was appalled to see that he seemed to be dissolving. "Oh dear Lord, now they're melting."
"This changes nothing," Integra said. "You're a full-blooded midian with a mission. This shouldn't be anything you can't handle. Find Ashley Graham and learn what you can about Los Illuminados. It's likely there's a link between the people you've encountered and the organization."
"Gee, you think?" Seras said, making sure she covered the transmitter and spoke quietly so Integra wouldn't hear her. "Yes, sir," she said clearly into the radio. "I'll update as soon as I've got something."
"Good. Take care of yourself, Seras. Hellsing out."
She set the radio so that it would only receive, so as to conserve battery power. Stuffing it into her pocket and readying her gun, she left the house. First, she jogged over to the car wreck and found both the cops she had ridden with and the driver of the attacking truck to be dead.
The big rig had been parked in the road leading past the house and had been covered by boards and branches to make it look like a thick wall of forest and junk. Now that the way was clear, Seras noticed a wooden sign reading Pueblo pointing down the pathway.
Hoping she wasn't in for a repeat of Raccoon City, she made her way towards the village of Pueblo.
To be continued…