She was floating and floating and floating, and there was nothing around. No movement. No colors. No light. No gravity. No time. Complete and utter nothing. She was a tiny spark of existence in a void. Finally something changed. Thoughts appeared. They flowed slowly like a very thick liquid.
Who am I? - she thought. - Where am I?
A jolt of memories came next, filling her with knowledge. It made her scream soundlessly, trying to deny all the memories had implied.
Why can't I feel my body?! Am I dead? It... can't be!
The thought was beyond scary. Chaotic waves of horror crashed on her, eliminating thoughts, threatening to wash away the awareness she'd obtained. She clung to the memories, trying to find a safe harbor in them, and they flicked like a kaleidoscope - various scenes of her life, people she'd known, deeds she'd done. But there were so many more - things undone, unsaid, unfinished... It was unbearable. Horror receded, overridden by another feeling. Anger.
I will not die, I REFUSE to die! I want to stay in this world, live, learn, love, go and see the places I've seen only on TV, eat snowflakes next winter... Oh, hell! I've been knocked down so many times before, knocked down figuratively and literally, and I've always got up and struggled on, so I'll get up this time. I'll live, I want to and I will, dammit, I will!!!
Anger flared, building up into clear, pure rage, reaching out into surrounding nothingness like an explosion of Supernova. Something gave up under its power and the void turned into a maelstrom, a vortex, pulling her somewhere...
Senses returned, reporting awful cold, darkness, pain, monotonous huff-huff of some mechanism above her head and muffled distant voices. Profound relief swept her, but it lasted only a few moments. She couldn't move. She felt her body, but couldn't move the smallest muscle, couldn't even blink. First stirrings of fear crept forth, but she knew better now.
Don't panic, Victoria. Panic will not bring you anywhere.
Footfalls. Voices came closer.
"Dumpfbacke." - a young male voice said.
"But sir, the operation was a success! Doctor left us clear orders to get the younger vampire for his experiments, if such an opportunity arises. We did as he'd bid." - this voice was obviously older, but had subservient undertones in it.
"Oh yes, you did. Doc may get a new and cute guinea pig, that's true, but only if she survives and I doubt that."
"Cryofreezing will keep her body in its current state..."
"Ja, and as soon as Doc defrosts her, she'll turn into ash in his hands. He'll be extatic, I bet. Maybe he'll use you as a guinea pig instead, even if you are far from being a rare specimen. - he snorted sarcastically. - Idiots are common everywhere."
"Mr. Schroedinger, I'm sure..."
"Sure?! Now listen to me, Du... Arsch mit Ohren! - the accent in the younger man's speech became clearer, as he lost his temper. - Cryofreezing was never tested on a true vampire, let alone so freshly raised and badly injured as this one. You didn't even let her wounds close or stopped the bleeding."
"She put a fight, killed three members of the assault group! There was no time to..."
"Shut up. The experimental spell you used to cover up had never been tested in big and old cities. You were not authorized to run it, especially for a mere kidnapping operation. It's like using something with a potential of a thermonuclear device to kill bugs... Look what we've got for your ineptitude. The London branch is a mess! Half of the men are going crazy and even I feel this buzzing in my head. Saugut! It seems even stronger now... and nobody knows when the effect of the spell will tone down. Hellsing and Iscariots are not stupid, they will start to suspect something and hell knows what they'll dig up. And... - there was a soft slithering noise as somebody stroked a smooth metallic surface inches from Victoria's head, - there's a chance the girl won't survive. All for nothing and a major fuckup."
"What... What your orders will be?" - the older voice was small and scared.
"Prepare everything we need to ship the girl to the headquarters, but don't touch her or transfer her into another cryorefrigerator. Try to calm the personnel and establish some discipline. And for your own sake - think twice before you do something!"
"I'll tell the pilots to get to the plane immediately."
"Scheisse, use your head!!! We can't trust our pilots now - they can snap any moment and nosedive the plane into the ground!"
"I can hire humans..."
"I'll do it myself. You screw up everything you do."
The owner of a young voice left, closing a door with a distinct metallic clank, the second man stayed. He swore, paced the room and in a minute or two left the place too.
Cryofreezing? I am... what did they say on TV - minus 190° C?! - Victoria's mind hiccupped on an idea of being reduced to an ice statue and still being able to function somehow. She kicked the disturbing image into the back of her consciousness.
I must get out of here. – thought she frantically. - I don't know what's going on, but all that sounds really bad. Guinea pigs, spells, shipping me to the headquarters... I must get out of here and bloody quick!
She tried to move again, but the attempt was futile. Nothing but her nervous system worked. She was effectively paralyzed and absolutely helpless. When it fully dawned on her, she snapped.
"Somebody, help me! - cried she silently. - Help me!"
Despair grew to its peak but she couldn't do anything. She just lay there, feeling her time running out. Suddenly a new sound cut through the silence: something was pinging - a sharp, ear-piercing sound alarm systems would produce. Close, very close. It was maddening. It was delirious. It brought hallucinations... A tiny fluttering spot in her chest, next to a rock-hard lump of frozen meat that used to be her heart. It radiated warmth in waves, throbbing like a second heart... Not a hallucination. The temperature was really climbing up. Soft gurgling and hissing were coming from everywhere. Liquid nitrogen starting to boil? She didn't know. All she knew was that the spot turned into a line... And on the other end of that weird line something materialized out of thin air, landed on her stomach and stayed there. Heat enveloped her, running from her head to her toes, wrestling the cryogenic frost grip. More pain came along with the heat, but for once Victoria didn't mind pain. It promised the ability to move and that was all that mattered. She managed to open her eyes, but couldn't see anything informational - just bits of darkness through the rimed eyelashes. Crackling noises added themselves to the widening array of sounds. She wriggled her fingers. They were stiff, but at least they obeyed. Slowly, tentatively she tore her hand from the ice bed it rested on. The arm went up and in a second her fingers dug into something soft and warm. It writhed and four pairs of glowing red eyes stared at Victoria from the dark. A small rough tongue licked her palm. A simple jump of deduction made her smile and clutch a handful of wet fur in her trembling fingers. The fingers quickly unclenched, when an especially loud crackle above her head was followed with a thin beam of light, oozing through a fresh fracture in the lid. The alarm-like device outside was fully engaged now, making shrill howls instead of pinging.
The change of the temperatures is too intense. - came an absent thought, - No material can stand up to that. But how could I... never mind. I'll think about it later. Time is really running out. The noise... It can alert someone...
She raised both hands and pressed them against the smooth cold steel of the lid. It brought another wave of pain, but she clenched her teeth and continued the effort. The steel complained with a moaning screech and gave up, bending outward. Victoria grabbed the ragged edges of the hole and pulled herself up, squeezing through the narrow opening.
Finally she got up, staggering and keeping her hands on the cryochamber for balance. Her feet were still inside, but she couldn't muster enough energy to get down to the floor. She just stood there, feeling sickeningly lightheaded, and looked at the place she'd almost died in. It was a small windowless ward, clean and almost empty but a few racks with some electronic equipment and canisters. The cryofreezer dominated the room, sitting in its center like a bizarre futuristic coffin with tubes and wires running from its side and hiding somewhere under its bottom. The steel of the core was of the distinct grayish shade indicating at high percentage of titanium in the alloy. A hysterically blinking and howling control panel adorned the head side of the cryofreezer, so Seras reached forward and punched it, putting an end to its noisy manifestation. The rapid movement induced another wave of dizziness and she moaned softly, dropping to her knees. The hellcat's curious face popped through the side of the cryochamber, scrutinized the wrecked panel and uttered an approving mew. Having accomplished its cheerleading mission, Pussy jumped out and started to explore the new territory.
I'm not at my best and my brightest today, that's for sure. - thought Victoria bitterly. - How many times did I slip through the lid of my own coffin without ruining the damn furniture... and, more importantly, wasting energy and time?
Her vision was still a hazy, variable thing with tiny white spots dancing all across its field. She blinked, suddenly afraid to pass out and foil all the efforts... The spots stayed. She looked down and saw the polished metal of the lid marred with specks... Snowflakes. Any humidity the room's air had had was being condensed and crystallized by the frost rising from the broken cryofreezer. Wanted to eat snowflakes, eh? Here, served on a titanium plate, yum-yum! - she shook her head, trying to remarshal the scattering thoughts. - Oh, for the love of all that's sacred - what the fuck I'm thinking?
The aura of warmth she'd owed her fast-forwarded defrosting started to fade, making her feet painfully aware of their unfriendly environment. Distressed or not, it was time to move on. Victoria pulled herself out of the cryofreezer and followed Pussy's suit, jumping down to the floor. Her knees buckled and she found herself on all fours. Very weak and trembling fours. Something clicked, and when Victoria raised her gaze to the source of the sound, she saw a man standing in the doorframe, his eyes widened in disbelief. She hadn't heard him approaching. Hadn't heard his leather loafers step behind the door. Hadn't heard anything until it became too late. Ohshitohshitohshit... She'd have given everything for her usual physical form instead of the current pathetic one, but... The ten feet of distance might as well have been ten miles. She couldn't cross them quickly enough. The man swore and slid his hand under the white lab coat he wore. Victoria could bet it wasn't a stethoscope he was after. It was a gun.
The gun was out already and moving to point at Victoria, when the invisible line she'd felt awhile ago went taut again. A low and menacing hiss came from behind the cryofreezer and the man reflexively jerked his gun in that direction. Something black leaped over the lid. A shapeless, growing and stretching form moved with a lightning speed, and a split-second later a twitching arm with the gun still clenched in it fell on the floor, splashing blood across Victoria's face. An inarticulate agonizing scream rose and faded, being replaced with wet sounds of ripping flesh. A few moments later the body burst into white smokeless flame. Seras snatched the gun away from burning and shriveling remains of the arm, and fell back on her butt to free both hands. She pressed her shoulder-blades against the cold side surface of the cryofreezer, training the gun on the new danger. There was a doubt if this weapon would be of any use even fired point blank, but she did the only thing she could. She looked at the newcomer down the barrel of the gun, held in a two-handed grip. The target was huge, sleek, catlike... Catlike? More leopard-like, bar the spots. Muscles bulged and twisted underneath the jet black fur, as the creature turned and looked at Victoria intently with its eight red eyes. Familiar eyes...
"P-Pussy?" - she stammered almost involuntary.
The creature blinked, uttered an innocent mew and started to wash its face with a paw. Victoria took a deep shuddering breath and dropped her hands in her lap. They were shaking too badly anyway... A bit of memory flicked in her mind - the low warm pitch of Dad's voice...
"When you were three, Vicky, and your Mom was taken to the hospital for the first time, I used to take you for a walk in a park not far from our place every time I was off the duty. Do you remember that? No? You should. You could stay there for hours, feeding squirrels and pestering me for taking one home... Heh... Anyway, one day you had a really good time with squirrels and a bag of peanuts, and I was on a park bench nearby. I smoked and listened to your cooing, when a dog came running around a hedge. It was a black mastiff - a huge scary looking beast, badly trained and malicious. Its owner often walked it in the park... But that time the bloody nitwit... ahem... the bloke let it run about the park - a public place! - without a muzzle or a leash. I moved to you, trying not to excite the dog with rush movements, and picked you up into my arms. And then... Damn, even remembering that gives me creeps! You saw the dog, twisted out of my arms and ran right to that monster... Jesus! A three year old pumpkin with pigtails, you wrapped your tiny hands around its neck, turned to me and squealed enthusiastically: "Daddy! Daddy! I want a hamster like this!"
"I don't remember anything... Did it attack me?"
"Never. Your precious "hamster" just sat on its ass, drooled and looked stupid...Too shocked, maybe. Like me."
A nervous snicker trickled through Victoria's lips. The warmth was gone completely and shivers started to rack her body. Pussy raised its head, blinked and moved forward. In one smooth motion it rubbed its back against Victoria's side and purred. She scooted away from the cryofreezer, hugged the hellcat's neck, dug her fingers deep into its fur and whispered:
"Daddy! Daddy! I want a hamster like this!"
The cat wriggled in her arms happily and purred louder. Yeah. Big, fanged, carnivorous hamster... er... kitty, whatever. It would tear an armed man apart in mere seconds, wash its face neatly and come to its mistress to be petted. Like one hell of a good kitty...
Victoria started to laugh. She laughed and laughed and laughed, and then tears came. She couldn't help it, so she just sat there, feeling the tension flowing away, and the hellcat drew even closer, warming her and licking the young vampire's pink tears off her cheeks.
Finally she calmed down, picked up the trophy gun and checked its ammo. Eight bullets. Made of silver, whoa. They played it tough here...She pressed the safety switch on the gun, tucked it into the small of her back and carefully got up on her feet. Yay, big progress. She limped to the corner of the room, where she'd spotted a lab coat on a peg. The capturing fight in the night street and further freezing/defrosting had turned her clothes into a bad case of wardrobe malfunction, so any additional piece of cloth in the downright frigid air of the room was bliss. Victoria hastily wrapped herself into the coat, founding that its previous owner was almost of her height and her size except for the chest. She snorted, giving up on attempts to button the coat all the way to the top and headed to the door. The hellcat trod beside her, gradually shrinking to its original compact size. Obviously, Pussy was not a show-off type.
2Byakko: As far as I know, Sanskrit and Aryans do mix pretty well. Google it up, Sanskrit is considered to be the language of Aryan tribes that invaded India. As for Tibet, its monasteries are known for having vast libraries with ancient scrolls and books of various origin. I read a book about Nazis sending expeditions there to look for occult info. Maybe the author of the book used his artistic license ™ too freely, I don't know. :)