Order 4: A River in Egypt
After remarking on the mind-blowing (ha-ha) subtlety of Alucard's words Danny took his leave back to Hellsing Manor and his temporary bed. By the time he got there it was nearly four in the morning but with the after images of the scene still lingering behind his eyelids, there was no way he could get to sleep. Five and a half hours later Walter Dornez had to literally shake him awake or resort to using a bull horn on the lad. When Danny finally lifted his head his first words were: "…Am I still in the vampiric Euro 80's?"
The butler's face went dry, "I'd appreciate you referring to the Organization by its proper title, Mr. Fenton,"
'You should talk.'
The dryness softened into empathy, "but yes, I'm afraid you are still grounded here." Danny gave a groan that in Walter's opinion rivaled the wails of many Hellsing soldiers after New Year's. The lad even dragged his hands over his eyes and forehead in suitable hangover style. He looked like he'd slept hard after coming home, his eyes red and his pallor unhealthier than when he was 'dead.' In fact he resembled Integra in her first week of her new self-enforced sleep schedule. Mr. Dornez had half a mind to just let the poor boy go back to sleep, but Sir Integra had said… "Sir Integra wishes to have a word with you in her office." Danny rubbed his eyes again and hung his legs—he'd slept in his clothes?—over the bedside.
"Right now. Do you remember the way to her office, or--?" Danny waved him off with a nod and lumbered out of bed. As he passed Walter detected the scent of blood trailing from his clothes and the butler bristled. So Alucard hadn't been exaggerating. And if the boy really hadn't come face-to-face with a slaughter before… Walter grimaced inside and thought of other greenhorns he'd seen on the killing field, all of them coming back shaking and bug-eyed with the experience. Some become properly jaded after the first time, while others steered into more hazardous territory. As Walter began to remake the boy's bed he pondered the merits of letting him have a sip of gin.
Not ten steps down the hall Danny smelled it. The fading aroma of blueberry pancakes, cereal, eggs, bacon, orange juice and a smattering of hash browns stampeded from upstairs and rang in his senses, making his mouth water. His stomach snarled in synch, reminding him it was still there and unsatisfied with the lack of input. Danny pulled up his pants and yanked the belt tighter as he came to the big oak doors of Sir Integra's office. He creaked one giant slab of a door open to see the chair with its back to him. "Come in Mr. Fenton." Danny slid inside and shut the door.
"Still just Danny, Sir Integra. Uh, good morning.", he paused, "It is the morning, right?" She didn't turn around.
"9:30. Another half hour and the chefs will cut you off from breakfast entirely." Danny nearly shrieked at the notion and he had to bury his fist in his gut to keep quiet. "But I won't keep you long." His stomach sighed. "I'd just like to clarify a few things in case Alucard and Commander Porter skimmed on the matter. What all do you understand about Hellsing, Mr. Fenton?" Honestly, what was so difficult about the concept of Danny?
"Well, I know the short of it is that you protect England from monsters. I'd guess you specialize in killing off," 'Those things.' "vampires and those zombie things. That's about it." Now Sir Integra turned the chair slightly, her profile a stark cutout against the sunshine of her window wall. The light glinted off her glasses and made her hair seem nearly translucent. She didn't look at him.
"True on all counts, and those 'zombie-things' are referred to as ghouls. The difference is that unlike the frenzied, disease-riddled things in horror films, ghouls are real and are under a single point of control by their vampire masters. They are the product of vampire bites inflicted on non-virgins with virgin victims in question becoming vampiric slaves still retaining their minds." A sliver of a smile curled her lips as she turned her visible blue eye on him. "Thankfully Alucard suggested you'd be of the latter."
'Suggested I was..? Oh wait, hey!' Danny plastered a hand to his face. "Oh that's nice. Is there anything he didn't broadcast?"
"If it's any consolation that was where his personal commentary ended." She tugged a lock of hair out of her glasses. "Outside of the details of your massacre, of course." Danny's eyes widened and he felt something nervous coil in him.
"Massacre?" Now she turned fully to look him in the eye, her steely irises gazing up at him under platinum brows. There was a deranged mix of feelings in those dots of blue. Accusation, determination, and a queer glaze of hope.
"Don't play dumb, Mr. Fenton. If a word of your origin is true you've dealt with far more stress without coming out amnesiac and shell-shocked. According to Alucard you obliterated the heads of no less than eighteen ghouls with your internal arsenal, saved every child in the target vampire's possession and, as the git put it, 'merrily beat the unholy hell'", the girl didn't fail to catch the boy's wince at the word, " 'out of' said target vampire without breaking a sweat." Danny suddenly became riveted with the state of his feet and began to fiddled with his fingers in his pockets.
"I wouldn't say merrily." Integra nodded and kept her eyes on his face as she pulled something from a drawer. She waited until Danny brought his gaze up before lighting the cigar. His eyes flashed in alarm at the sight but said nothing as she placed the thing between her teeth.
Around the cigar she said, "I wouldn't say I minded if you were laughing like mad or snarling in rage. The soldiers don't do much of either, not counting some of the more eccentric soldiers. My point being, did you take down the enemy force as Alucard claimed you did? Single-handedly, I mean."
"Yes." 'Some of the physically easiest attacking I've ever done. God, I never even thought of what would happen if I ever hit a person before last night.' "Why?" Integra blew a stream of smoke from her lips like the classy ladies of noir films past and held the cigar between her fingers.
"Because provided we discover your limits you could be a supernatural force for our mission not unlike Alucard. He saves us the trouble of countless rounds of ammunition and human lives on the field. Doubling that kind of paranormal power, until further notice," she tacked on, "would be an obvious plus. What I am asking is that you lend us your services should the appropriate situations arise, Mr. Fenton. I will not put a gun to your head or throw you out on your ear if you decline." She leaned forward in her seat and Danny felt the same urge to lean away as he had with the lunatic in the basement. "I ask this of you for the sake of the Organization and its aim to preserve human life." She leaned back into her chair and took another contemplating puff. "What do you say?"
'What am I supposed to say to that? No?' "Yeah—yes. If there's any way I can help, I will. What kind of appropriate situations are we talking about?" Tan lips stretched in a happy line around her cigar.
"I'm willing to bet Alucard will want you to take care of any day jobs he would otherwise be dragged out of his coffin for. That aside you'll be called upon when a particularly nasty group of apparitions appears. In fact you'd be most helpful when we deal with literal specters. Until we reach that circumstance I'd like you to display the extent of your powers in a," she looked warily at the floor, "controlled environment. After that I think it would be best to heighten your living capabilities as well." She took a therapeutic breath from the cigar as Danny gave her a puzzled look.
He gripped his stomach in tighter. "My living capabilities meaning--?"
"You'll be doing hand-to-hand combat and gun training with the soldiers." Danny could've sworn her next smile was sunny. "If you're feeling particularly suicidal you can start with Walter too." The sunny smile shrank to sly smirk level again.
"I'll think about it. Is that all you wanted to talk about?"
"Yes, you can go eat now. But before you go—," Danny froze painstakingly half in and half out of the floor with both hands trying to smother his purring torso, "—take a shower after you eat and if you must, change back into those clothes. You're first mission will be to go shopping with Walter for more than one outfit."
"It's okay I don't want you to blow any more cash on me." 'Not counting money spent on food. With any luck I won't be here long enough to need another change of clothes.'
"The soldiers' attire will swamp you and I doubt you'll want to share my apparel. Unless you'd prefer pleated skirts?" Visions of the 'My Fair Lady' incident flashed traumatically in his head.
"Indeed. You're dismissed." Danny fell through the floor and rocketed along the trail of breakfast aromas. He halted at the dining room entrance, his face taut with ravenous joy. It was by sheer willpower he didn't growl an ominous fooood to really disturb the cooks and maids cleaning up. As it stood the lot of them nearly jumped out of their professional aprons. Danny cleared his throat and reigned in his psycho gimme-food-or-I-eat-you face.
"You wouldn't happen to have anything left over, would you?" A pair of servants shoved a cooling plate of pancakes and a dish of bacon across the table at him and one chef backed away from a pitcher of orange juice as if it was riddled with Ebola. 'Note to self: learn how to do subtle entries.' "Sorry for freaking you out." Already half the staff had stampeded out the other door while a single servant stammered.
"N-No, it's quite alright! Most of them are just getting used to the vampire of the house. We'll just, ah, leave you to yourself." Then he and the remains of the workers made like the Roadrunner and zipped out of the dining room. Danny might have had a dose of angst if his hunger hadn't stifled it. He was at the table and inhaling the food at record speed. He didn't stop until the last drop of syrup was gone.
"Ahh." 'It's going to feel like I have an anvil in my stomach in three seconds, but it'll still be worth it.' That was taken care of. He was ready to fly back to his room but considering there might be other as yet non-traumatized workers around, he decided to hoof it. Two stories of hoofing it later he'd happily give the next servant phantom phobia and just march through the walls. After finally reaching his floor his mantra consisted only of: "Ow, feet, ow, feet, ow, feet…"
"Yes, it does take some getting used to." This time Danny was able to mute the startled cry before it got past his teeth. Walter Dornez stood a pace away from the halfa with a placid smile cracking his face.
"Did you have to go to a special school to specialize in giving people heart attacks or am I just a special case?"
"You seem to be naturally jumpy, Mr. Fenton—and it's more of an acquired trait than an educated one. Treading lightly quickly rises into one's priorities when one tries to sneak up on hyper sensitive creatures that will readily eat you if given the chance. Speaking of, did you get any breakfast?" Danny blinked.
'Interesting segue.' "Yeah, I got there just as they were cleaning up. I think I might have freaked them out a little, though." Walter waved this off and smirked.
"They'll get over it quickly, I assure you. When the staff first dealt with Alucard it sounded as if a choir of cats was shrieking in unison and a third of them quit the first day. The most your visitation could cause is a request for readily available liquor next to the aspirin."
"Good to know. Um, Miss Integra,"
"she said that we're supposed to go out and get me--."
"More than the outfit you came in.", he said with a nod to Danny's person.
"I'm well aware, Mr. Fenton."
"Danny, Mr. Dornez."
"Walter, Danny. Go wash up and meet me by the front doors." The butler continued down the flight of stairs with barely a tilt in his poker straight back. Danny found his room. The bathroom in it was a thing of Vlad Masters proportions. Everything gleamed and shone and was three times as big as anyone who might use it. He speed showered, re-dressed, pocketed his wallet of unusable 90's-printed cash and brushed his teeth with the untouched Colgate brush waiting beside the sink. Back in the guest room he began to put on his shoes when he wondered what Walter would think if he brought his mp3. There was no way he could use it in public, but if the drive to a store took them across all of the country road he'd seen and they ran out of conversation he wanted something to plug up the quiet time. 'Or the contemplation time. Either or.' He decided to risk it and reached under his pillow.
He felt the cellphone and nothing else.
Danny yanked away the pillow and only saw the cell lying on its back with dots of lint on its window. But the mp3 was gone. A twinkle of panic grew in him as he dug between the mattress and the headboard, looked under the bed and dumped the pillow out of its cover. It was gone. Then he felt a tiny clench in his middle. "He wouldn't." 'The same guy who threatened to bite off your head as a joke? Pfft, no!' Danny grabbed his head. "He would." He would've gone down to the vampire's room himself…maybe…but Walter was waiting. Danny tapped one foot, imagined the two stories worth of stairs again, and dropped through the floor. He appeared at Walter's side five blisterless seconds later. The butler had been nose deep in another book, this one titled, The Count of Monte Cristo. The book closed with a snap and was plopped on the long table beside the front doors.
Keys in hand Walter opened one monumental door and the pair stepped out. "I spoke with Sir Integra and she said you were to have an allowance of six other outfits. Likewise she recommended that one outfit be a bit more fight-ready than jeans and tennis shoes along with some form of combat boots."
'Ohhh ducky.' "I'm guessing that's for the hand-to-hand stuff?" Walter nodded. They were in the sunlight now and Danny could see the harsh green of the grass and the color of the flora in contrast to what he'd seen last night. If they didn't know better a passerby could mistake the place for a college or the British version of the Playhouse Mansion. They stopped outside the garage where Walter fiddled with a keypad beside one of the giant doors. 'Are we taking a tank to the store?'
"In case you're wondering, no we won't be taking any of the artillery vehicles into the city."
'Does everyone here have telepathy!?' "Then what are we taking?" The garage door whirred and dragged itself up to reveal a black AC Greyhound Saloon with enough wax on it to reflect the sunlight in their eyes. "Oooh."
"Quite. Shotgun?" Danny all but manifested in the passenger's seat as Walter got behind the wheel.
A mile of country road later Danny professed a single word: "Weird."
"It's just so bizarre.", he breathed.
"That you're in another dimension?"
"There's that, but I was referring to the fact that we're driving on the left side of the road without crashing."
"Ah. What all do you know about England?"
"Just the reverse road rules thing and that you provided the world with the Beatles and John Cleese." Walter chuckled and took a sharp turn. They could see the tops of rural buildings on the horizon.
"Triumphs to be sure. Now I feel I should warn you that there are quite a few xenophobes in the public so--."
"Ah, people adverse to foreigners."
'I.E. the delightful Euro 80's couple from last night.' "Oh. What about them?"
"If I might be so crass, the only way your accent could be more American would be if you threw in a Southern twang."
Danny cracked a smile. "That obvious?"
Walter returned the look. "That obvious. I'm not asking you take on one of those dreadful cockney accents, but just brace for any needling remarks."
"Walter, forty percent of the banter I've heard in the past two years has been discussion about how much my enemies want to kill me and how they want to do it. Skulker held a serious conversation with me about whether I wanted to be stuffed or have my head mounted on his wall."
The butler's eyes bugged comically. "I--."
Danny leaned against his seatbelt. "He brought sample plaques for me to choose from. I think I can handle some heckling."
"I don't doubt you Mr…"
"Er, Danny. I just felt I should warn you."
Danny nestled himself back in his seat and looked out the window at the estates dwindling into places of business. "Thanks." Silence reigned for another ten minutes before the butler gave up and turned on the radio. Danny could barely recognize three songs. He made a note to get back his mp3 one way or another. If they got back in time it would still be light out and Danny could take it back from the sleeping Nosferatu. He was just getting enthralled with the wonder of store windows passing in a blur when Walter said something. "Sorry?"
"I said we're almost there. I'm going to drop you off, go to the pharmacy and come back in an hour." Walter turned into a parking lot planted in front of a long strip mall with store names Danny had never seen in his life. Suddenly they were parked and there was a credit card in his hand."I'll leave the spending to your judgment. But as per Sir Integra's orders, I must inform you that should an extra pound be spent she will quote unquote, 'make Alucard look like the Count from Sesame Street by comparison.'" Walter smirked evilly. "Something to chew on. See you in an hour." With that jolly thought in mind Danny was deposited on the sidewalk, the AC driving back into traffic. Danny drummed his fingers nervously on the thin plastic before tucking it into his wallet.
'I'm in an alternate dimension paranormal version of London in the eighties just dropped off by the butler of a vampire hunting organization to go clothes shopping. Forget comic books, this is outright manga.' He began to pace along the pavement, searching the display windows for anything masculine and not reeking of fad designs. Three displays later and Danny could feel his retinas going on strike. "Jeans, people. I just want jeans and a shirt without a popped collar. Is that so much to ask?" The last store was a jackpot of plain pants and nearly featureless t-shirts. Naturally there was a grand total of three customers that he could see compared to the swarms he'd seen in through other windows. In a depressingly anticlimactic fifteen minutes he'd picked out his shirts, jeans and aforementioned combat boots without a single bump in the transaction. He found himself sitting on a bench outside the store in record time, passing the snail-slow minutes by making tiny pellets of ice and flicking them out of the shade and into the sunlight where they vaporized immediately.
"Stupid mp3 stealing vampire.", he muttered as he flicked a gumball-sized chunk into a decorative berry bush.
"Ow!", said the bush. Danny paused with his thumb still out as he gaped at the shrub.
"Hello?" There was no reply, just a tiny rustling from its middle. Lugging the two bags with him he walked up to the bush and peered through the branches. Through the network of twigs, leaves and clusters of berries he could see a girl of ten huddled underneath. Her clothes were ragged, her hands and shins were glazed with dirt and her yellow hair was one giant snarl. Giant baby blues stared up at him as she bit her juice-smeared lip.
"Ah, h-hullo…" She smiled weakly. "Care for a bite, guvnuh?" She grimaced sickly after the last word, her tiny hand clamping into what was left of her stomach. Danny dropped the bags and began to pull apart the bush.
"What the heck are you doing in there?" The girl accepted his hand when he offered it and she clambered out of the plant, groaning as she did.
"I was jus—urp—just eating some o' the berries. Haven't eaten since yesterday and that was just a piece o' sna-aah-ack cake. Ooh." The kid began to bend at the waist and her shoulders trembled. Danny eyeballed the berries and recognized that shade of red painfully well. He'd eaten a variant of it in his first and only trip to summer camp where he'd ruined a pair of shoes with one colossal heave. "Huuaagch!" Just like that. The halfa had taken a wise step back and only the girl got her Velcro sneakers splattered. Seeing the mess made her cheeks puff out again and this time she aimed for the bush and its betraying berries.
Danny's face drew down in a disgusted crescent and he made an urping noise of his own. "Aw geeze, how many did you eat?" The child mumbled something like "twenny" before hacking out one last glop of vomit. She coughed thinly for a few seconds and was done. "Is it all out?"
"Uh huh. D'you have anything non-pukey I could eat, mister?" She shook the toes of her shoes to the side to flick off the remaining berry barf. Danny scratched the back of his neck and batted the possible answers in his head. If he wasn't willing to risk Integra's ire when she got an unnecessary food bill? No. If he was ready to risk it and not the clawing-at-the-hero-complex-conscience he'd surely feel otherwise? Yes.
"I can get you something. But first let's get that stuff off you." He pointed at her shoes. The teen knelt down. "Close your eyes."
The girl scrunched her face up indignantly and took a riled cat stance. "Oh so you're one of those 'mericans?"
"One of what--? No! No, I mean you can't look when I…"
"Look when you what?", she probed taking a cautious step forward.
"When I do my, uh, trick. Tell you what, just look up at me." Danny raised his hands to his shoulders. The girl glanced up and opened her mouth to ask why when he sent the surge of intangibility out of his feet. It flowed through the space between them and lapped at her shoes, dropping filth off of them. The kid felt the tingle and looked down just as the wave receded. Upon seeing her barf free footwear she was the tiniest bit surprised.
"How the hell'd," Danny winced, "you do that!?"
"Ancient Chinese secret. Now do you want some food or what?" The prospect of food trumped surreality instantly and the kid followed him as they walked to the end of a strip mall where a small restaurant sat. The jaunty sign posted above it proclaimed it was, Benny's Bevs and Bites complete with a little cartoon burger and shake added to the end. As they approached the door Danny felt they'd become close enough to ask the burning question, "So what's your name?"
"Oh. S-Seras. Who're you?"
"Danny. And can you pull the door open?", he pointed with one full hand. Seras obliged and tugged it open with her stick arms. As they went in they were treated to only a handful of ogles, ranging from sweet aww-brother-and-sister-bonding to where-the-heck-are-their-parents. Managing to get the credit card back out Danny whispered as non-Americanly to her, "What do you want?"
A light flashed on behind Seras' face and she burst, "A double-scoop, hot fudge covered strawberry ice cream cone with little chocolate bits on top!" A pause. "Please." Danny set the credit card on the counter.
"What she said." The bepimpled girl on the other side of the counter just nodded, swiped the card and produced the much-pomped ice cream cone. Seras took the treat lovingly and began to feast immediately, scarcely looking up as Danny hipped the door open. They went back to Danny's bench and he waited until the chocolate topping and one of the scoops was vanquished before starting. "So. Any particular reason you were resorting to barf berries for food?" Seras snorted on her strawberry and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She studiously licked the sweet, pink blood of the treat from the cone and when she realized Danny was still waiting, gave in.
"Because." An anxious slurp.
"I should warn you, I'm a younger brother and have long since mastered the art of annoying wordplay. Don't make me start the I'm not touching you game.", he deadpanned. This hooked a snicker from the girl.
"It's because I don't want to be in Cheddar."
"…You don't want to be in a cheese?"
"No, I mean the town Cheddar."
'Someone actually named a town Cheddar? Is there a village of Gorgonzola I don't know about?' "Alright. So you ran away from home?" Seras squeezed the cone with a soft crack that made more of the ice cream begin to ooze. The girl looked up at him fervently with her eyes huge and her lips taut.
"No! That rathole was never my home and it never will be!" Danny started backwards on his side of the bench and nearly fell off.
"Okay, okay! Not your home, I get it." Seras looked forlornly into the pink slush and began to slurp it quietly. "What did you run away from then?"
"I…I'm sorry for snapping. It's just that the orphanage,"
"is just all thirty-one flavors of awful and I hate it. Before mum and dad died,"
'Oh double crap.'
"I had a home. A perfect home with all those sappy Christmases and birthdays most people only see on the telly." She smiled and the remains of the cone tilted in her hands as the ice cream slush dripped unnoticed to the pavement. "It's b-been years since that night. I-I know I should've healed at least a little by now—and I think I have, really but—but life in the orphanage is just one big screaming mess of bratty kids and pushy grown-ups and all these other little kids getting to go to new homes wh-while I sit and watch and—and I thought if I could--," she hiccupped and her eyes became glassy.
'Oh super double crap.'
"—if I could just g-go back to the house, if I could go home I'd—they'd be--!" The first tear peeked out and streaked a clean line through the pink smear on her face.
'Oh super double mega crap, no, here it comes..!' On cue Seras broke into a keening bawl as the half-eaten ice cream cone fell and sprayed itself below her dangling feet. Her hands went to her face as tears began to leak from her like water from a broken spigot. For one bizarre flash of time Danny could have sworn he saw Danielle sitting beside him, the blonde hair a silky black and the ratty clothes morphed to a blue hoodie. Then she was Seras again. But the big brother twinge had taken root in him and refused to leave until he took care of business. He touched her shoulder and she rammed her face into his chest before clinging to his back with her tiny arms. Danny folded his arms around her in return, waiting for her to turn off. One minute. Two minutes. Five minutes. A couple and their dog walked by and stared. Seven minutes. At the second before the eight minute mark she cooled down and released his ribs. "Are you okay?"
"Sorry, standard question."
Seras snuffled and used her arm to scrape away the mess on her face. "I'm close enough to okay. Sorry about your shirt." Danny looked down to see a lovely mix of strawberry ice cream, berry juice and dirt plastered over the white of his shirt.
"Eh, it's fine. Everyone needs to blow once in a while. But as for the running away thing, I'd stop now and catch a bus back to the orphanage."
'Man, how do I put this?' "You know they won't be waiting there Seras. Just think for a sec--."
"I don't want to think! I want to have my mum and dad back! I want to have my life back!" Her face was even redder now, angry tears threatening to drop again.
"Seras believe me when I say I know what you mean. I'm having a crisis pretty close to yours." Before Seras could get a question in he went on, "I know how corny this sounds, but running away isn't the answer. I've tried it more than enough times to know it can end up very, very nasty. There's all kinds of freaks and weirdoes out there that would do unimaginable things to you or anyone else out alone." Danny kicked last night out of his mind right when it raised its head. A vivid memory sparkled in the child's wide eyes and she visibly cringed with insight to just what kind of "unimaginable" things could be done.
"I know." Danny kept one hand on her shoulder and he turned himself to face her fully.
"Then you know you have to go back. Worst case scenario you can threaten the grown-ups with these words of savvy child wisdom: 'I will sue for child harassment.'" Seras giggled at that and smiled solemnly.
"I guess so. I brought enough pounds with me to get me back to Cheddar, but what if I can't handle it? What if things just get worse?" Danny brushed this off with a wave of his hand.
"If you made it all the way out here under your own steam that just proves how much tougher you are than the brats there, right? You can take their crap." Her smile grew from a slit to a face-brightening grin.
"Don't mention it."
"Don't mention what?", a docile tone queried. Both Danny and Seras jerked on the bench and looked up to see a bemused Mr. Dornez standing at the edge of the bench with the bags in hand. A stammering explanation, a hanky for Seras, a detour to the bus stop and a slipped twenty pounds for Seras later Danny and Dornez were heading back to Hellsing. "…"
"…So are you going to tell Mi—Sir Integra about this?" Walter straightened his monocle.
"I can't see how I can keep it from her, Danny." Danny drooped in his seat. "I mean a John Bull my age splurging on ice cream? It was truly juvenile of me and I must face the consequences." Danny straightened and gaped at the butler with stars in his eyes.
"You rock so hard Walter."
He smiled serenely. "I know. When you go in take your bags straight to your room and change. I can still smell the strawberry on you." The Greyhound halted in the garage and Danny scaled the stairs. He tiptoed past Integra's office.
Through the closed doors he heard an offhand, "Change into your soldier attire."
'Oh that's not even fair.' "Yes sir." Danny forsook the tiptoeing and tromped to his room. He dug through the bags until he had the fatiguesque outfit and boots out, tearing tags off as he went. His home clothes dropped in a pile and he slipped into the new apparel like a noodle into a garden hose. This wasn't to say he was a complete stringbean. Years of ghost hunting had given his human half a slight padding of muscle and he couldn't count as many of his ribs these days. But no matter what size he wore, at least those above size 7 ½ , hung around him like a sail. Looking at himself in the bathroom mirror he said, "Oh yeah. That's intimidating right there." As he walked out of the bathroom he was assailed with heart attack number 532 of the day. 'I should just not drink soda anymore…maybe just switch to decaf.'
Standing just outside the door was Integra with her back against the wall. She took a quick side glance at him before returning her attention to whatever void she usually stared into. "Did you really eat anything today or was the rush to breakfast just for show?"
"Yeah, I-I wolf down my food but I think my metabolism is on speed most of the time. Ha." Integra propped her glasses up higher on her nose.
"Metabolism or no, you really should gain some weight for your age. I suggest more red meat. Do you know where the firing range is?"
'Her segue skills, they know no bounds.' "No, but I'll take a wild guess and say it's in the basement."
"You guess correct." She slipped a long column of hair off her shoulder and padded towards the door. "Follow me." Danny obliged, his mind fumbling weakly for something to talk about that would get more a monotone from her. Halfway down the first flight of stairs she cut off a rather stupid question he was about to ask—soo, is it natural or bleached?—with a question of her own: "Why do you cringe at it?"
"Huh?" 'Smart.' "Cringe at what?" She turned her face at an angle, her eyes seeming to look down at him despite his being half a head over her.
"…Hell." Danny caught her meaning too late and winced.
"Yes, that and the cigars. What all were you exposed to back home? From what I know you engaged in life-threatening fights on a near daily basis. Did nobody curse during those scuffles or were the other specters mute? Did no one smoke or murder?"
"I'm sure they did. Just not where I could see or hear it."
"Indeed. Then I should warn you about the habits of the soldiers."
"A little cuss happy?" They were now plodding down the first set of stairs into the cellar levels.
"Along with smoke, drink and trigger happy. I should warn you some of them are not unlike your run of the mill high school bullies. If you show even a hint of a squirm during their boorish acts they'll never let you be about it." They were on the second level of the basement now and from some far, muffled place Danny could hear gunfire.
"Will they stuff me in a locker or give me a swirlie?"
"Nevermind. Is this it?" There was a loud report from the other side of the door. "That's a yes." Integra stepped forward and opened the door on a long row of firing booths. There was a man in uniform at each booth with one giant firearm per soldier. Danny couldn't find Colin Porter's face among them. 'Day shift.' None of them turned their heads even as Integra paced towards the rack. Danny watched wide-eyed as she took a gun from the collection and stood behind the nearest soldier. She cocked the barrel so that it would aim an inch away from the man's earmuffed head. The boy gulped. "Uh, Sir Integ--?"
The bullet sped past the soldier's head and hit the paper target square in the center of the black head. The soldier yelped loud enough to jolt the other men out of their trance. "The fuck was thaaaaoh hello Sir Hellsing!" He and the other men stood at attention and saluted. "Permission to question Sir!"
"If you'll pardon me, why did you need to fire an inch from my head, Sir?" He rubbed the side of his head warily. Sir Integra's smile was drenched in syrup.
"Well, clearing my throat wouldn't have done much would it? Besides, I need to keep up my aim. I'm here to introduce you to a new member of your ranks." She stepped aside to reveal an uncomfortable Danny Fenton. "This is Daniel Fenton."
"He will be serving as a Hellsing soldier until further notice and while he is in human form you lot are to teach him the techniques you use to execute freaks. When he's not as…lively I'm certain he can teach you a few things himself. Teach him the ropes to the best of your abilities. I leave you to your business, gentlemen." Without another word she disappeared out the door. Cue chirping cricket soundtrack.
"…So you're the ghost night shift was on about?" The congregation turned to see a tall man with a faceted face and slanted eyes standing at the middle booth. He propped his gun against one broad shoulder and stepped to the front of the long room.
"That's me." Danny noticed the name on the shirt read E. Stedler.
"If you don't mind my saying, you look a bit too corporeal to be hooked up with Linda Blair." A light chuckle rippled through the men and Danny scratched the back of his neck. Whether the man meant it or not his words had come out sour. Not a good sign.
The teen gave an accommodating smile and shrugged. "She wasn't my type. But I am half ghost. Wanna' see?" He went invisible on the last word. There was a joint gasp from the audience as tenors and baritones began to ask each other where the blighter went. Danny stopped a foot away from Stedler before suddenly turning visible. "Boo." Stedler made a noise not unlike the ones Danny had been making for the past hours. The man jolted and nearly shot him point blank in the face. 'Ooh, smart move Danny. Smart move.' "Sorry."
"Damn right your sorry!", he wheezed shrilly with one hand on his heart.
"Bloody 'ell, Stedler, wet yourself why don't you?" Stedler threw half a glare at the other soldiers and half at Danny who took a quick step back. Intangibility or not Danny wasn't a fan of being shot at. The new man stepped forward and his expression seemed to break and thaw the ice of the situation. "I'll say this much for you Danny, far as dead people go you're an improvement on the bloodsucker downstairs."
'Please God don't let him have heard that.' "Thanks." 'Or that. Oh, hello gun.' Danny suddenly had his thin arms full of heavy artillery which shot him back to his pirate radio escapade. It was like a Fenton gun, but heavier. And full of bullets that could make living(ish) things explode.
"Let's get started then." That soldier's name turned out to be Benjamin Barkell and Danny learned most of the other names in the unit over the day. He experienced his first recoil from a gun, the ecto energy guns didn't count, and he got a brief tutorial on the type of bullets they were using. Silver and mercury bullets washed with holy water and blessed by a Protestant priest with a small cross etched into the side of each gun. Thorough. Stedler made some gripe about what use a ghost boy could be if he had to use a gun. Danny rebutted with a green laser shooting from his finger and through the paper skull of a target. Stedler then griped about how they were wasting bullets. It went on. He didn't go ghost the entire day, even when he desperately, desperately needed to when they moved on to sparring. The most he'd been able to do was duck or outrun the soldiers.
When this was reported in excruciating detail to Sir Integra, ala Stedler, she gave a noncommittal 'hmm' and let the halfa know that the next day he could feel free to 'die on them.' Hint-hint, wink-wink. So his first full day had passed with shopping, heartwarming, gunplay and hilarious hijincks. Danny went to his room with a gut full of poultry and his head full of lethargy. It all came to a crashing halt when he felt his chicken-stuffed gut clench and he opened the door. Taking up three quarters of the bed was a sprawled vampire and his spread coat. Planted in the ears of said happy dapper vampire were the earbuds of Danny Fenton's mp3. He had the audacity to flick his booted foot to the beat of whatever song was playing. Alucard glanced idly at the device in one glove while he slipped the other behind his head. "With the exception of a few pop songs (never would've have pegged you for an a-ha fan) you have a wonderful selection on this toy." He swung the mp3 like a pendulum before his hectic face. "I suppose it's too much to hope that you have another one of these?"
Keeping his pupils dancing from Alucard's face to the mp3 and back again, Danny came forward. He held out his hand for the device. "Afraid so. How much power did you use?" The second his fingers came close to the plastic pendant Alucard yanked it away. The vampire plucked the earbuds out and Danny could hear Smashing Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" album drifting from the pores. Alucard deftly turned off the songs and peeked at the little screen.
"The battery icon says it's almost dead."
"I see." 'You piece of--! Son of a--! God d--! Gyuurrrarggh!' Alucard let out a euphoric cackle. "What?" The vampire blipped off the mp3, chucked it to the boy and proceeded to crow maniacally.
"You—ha haa—you even censor yourself in your mind! The heck and hell thing was hilarious in and of itself, the cigar issue was even better, but this—aha-ha! This is gold on par with your frivolous existential denial game." Danny turned the device off and pocketed it. When he looked up the vampire was standing with one hand glued to the wall for balance. Still snickering.
"Existential what now?"
"You're a child, phantom, but you're not half the imbecile you pretend to be."
'Sez you.' "You sweet talker, you. But what are you talking about?" The laughter mellowed into nonexistence leaving only a knowing smirk in its wake. Alucard turned this on Danny with his eyes seeming to hum with their red glow.
"You succeeded in going most of a day of blocking it from your thoughts. Kudos."
'What is he--? Oh.' "It being the 'I want to go home' deal." Alucard inclined his head. Danny sighed through his nose. "True, and thank you for bringing that up right before I go to bed." The boy leaned back an inch as Alucard slithered closer. His eyes were ancient and brilliant in his sockets. "There's this great invention called personal space, dude. You should try it some time." Alucard's face didn't shift an iota.
"You've forgotten how to do it. That or the shock is trying to stamp it out. Hmm." Alucard leaned away with a mimic of satisfaction and walked back to the wall beside Danny's bed.
'…Is this just some vampire thing I'm not supposed to comprehend?' The teen gulped and stroked the screen of his mp3. "Am I ever going to get a straight explanation out of you?" Alucard paused half in an half out of a squirming black portal in the wall.
"Here's one for your trouble: electrocute your toy and see what happens. Sleep well." Before Danny could say another word the vampire was phht. The boy eyeballed that spot for a few seconds in case any abominations decided to visit. Nothing. Danny took the mp3 back out and after a moment, curiosity kicked the electricity out of his fingers and into the machine.
Danny nearly dropped the thing when it sparked but he caught it by the tentacle of the earbuds. There was a momentary white glow around the thing—an undead mp3?—before it faded and Danny could see the full battery icon on the screen. 'Well. I can recharge for however long I'm here. That doesn't suck.' After double, triple and quadruple checking around his bed, he peeled away his soldier duds down to his boxers and listened to his playlist on a loop. His thumb clicked it off halfway through a Jeff Dunham skit and stuffed it under a pillow. He was out a minute later…and he dreamed.
This was like birthing a wailing, thrashing, 100 pound text baby through my brain. They won't happen all the time I'm afraid (thank God). But reviews…intricate, ego-inflating reviews…those might persuade me otherwise. Adieu.