The Variant and the Vampire
Hellsing belongs to Kouta Hirano. Xombie belong to James Farr. Minor World of Darkness references.
Late November 2042, America, somewhere along the West Coast
The November wind blew in from the sea, an icy breeze that probed through clothing with the chillingly clawed fingers of Jack Frost himself, prodding and poking to find the elusive gap so it could chill a person to the bone.
The night air was crisp and cold, the sky clear of cloud revealing the stars in all their glory. The land lay dark and silent, with only the light from the full moon that hung low over the horizon, revealing the cold wintry landscape.
The wind picked up again, carrying the soothing sound of lapping waves and bringing further coldness inland as it whistled around through the empty branches of the scant few trees on a small overlook. They stood silent and weary, as if they were silent guardians of the small picnic area.
The wind faded as suddenly as it had begun, leaving the only sound to be heard that of the distant waves. It was then that a strange new sound made itself known; a buzzing noise, like that of insect wings beating rapidly, but larger than any insect known.
A faint glowing blue eye floated down towards the trees, zigging and zagging erratically. The eye, if that were indeed what it was, looked more like the lens of a camera than a living creature's eye and was attached to a round, black, beetle-like shell with six spindly legs, ones that appeared to be far too thin to support its own weight.
The drone hovered for a moment, scanning the area carefully for the approaching anomaly, before it dropped down to the nearest branch. The wings folded away and hid themselves under the shell, which sealed shut with a faint, wet click. It scurried along the branch, with little ticks of noise as its sharp, pointed legs stuck into the bark.
The drone paused a moment before leaping lightly into the air and spinning around to the face into the picnic area. Then the black creature wrapped its legs around the branch and lowered itself down. The lens-eye slowly faded from view, leaving only a black bump, indistinguishable from the branch unless you knew it was there, and waited.
It didn't have to wait for long. The quietness was broken by the crunch of gravel and the snap of twigs as someone walked over them. A shadow moved in the darkness, darker patch of blackness that formed the shape of a person. The night was dark, but the shape itself was darker still, almost as if it were sucking any of the weak ambient light into itself.
Seras Victoria, former Hellsing operative, stepped into the empty picnic area and came to a halt. The wind lightly blew again, ruffling her wild blond hair and the long black leather duster she had taken to wearing over her original Hellsing uniform recently. She absently adjusted the straps to the large backpack she carried over her shoulders out of habit rather than a need to adjust for the weight and studied the derelict grounds for a moment.
Everything showed a story, the empty, rusted and roughly opened tin cans told of survivors of the outbreak taking shelter here at one time, or perhaps one of the rare, and growing rarer, roaming gangs had stayed a while. A few old newspapers, empty cardboard boxes and leaves had gathered in a corner and congealed into a grey and brown mush underneath the elements.
Like most places Seras had visited in recent years, these grounds were silent, decaying, void of life, derelict; an empty reminder of the world that had died only a few years previous. Even an immortal monster such as herself felt the inevitable end fast approaching.
Armageddon, Ragnarök, Gehenna, whatever you wished to call the end of the world, it had came and went, and not with the explosive final battle many had believed. No, the end had slithered upon them when they weren't looking, like a long incubating disease; and a disease it was. Nekrosis. A virus that refused to be defeated by any treatment. A virus that no one knew when, where or how it had come about, or even how long it had laid dormant inside the world's population. A virus that could infect anything, living or dead. Seras had seen vampires turned into mindless monsters by it. Even with as powerful as she had grown, if infected by large quantities, it could make her feel worse than any flu had when she still lived.
'Is that how I'll go out?' she wondered morosely. 'Like everything else? Turned into a brainless zombie? Or will I go mad with hunger first?'
She sighed at the depressing thought, one that had been coming more often recently. She wondered if this was why Alucard had revelled in battle, seeking an opponent who could destroy him, instead of existing alone for eternity.
'Don't worry Mignonette. I'll make sure you don't go madder than we already are.' Pip's voice comforted her. 'Hey, I know what will cheer you up. See all those benches? Gather them up and light a big fire and then you can bust some zombie heads when it attracts them. Dancing naked around it is optional but highly recommended.'
"I'd slap you but I know it wouldn't do any good." Seras snorted out-loud in reply to her permanent guest. The vampire walked forward heading towards the cliff-face. She stopped at the edge and stared out over the ocean pondering something.
"You know what; I've always wanted to visit Tokyo. Let's go and get my coffin, find a boat and cross the ocean." Seras said.
'You sure about that? I mean you and crossing large bodies of water don't mix well.'
"So I still get a little seasick-"
'A little?' Pip snorted in reply. 'Mommy! Daddy! It's horrible! Master! Please kill me now! Sir Integra! Why did you make me leave like this! Please God! I'll turn Catholic if you make this stop!' he continued in a high pitched whiny voice, inter-spaced randomly with gagging noises.
"That was over forty years ago." Seras replied feeling embarrassed. "I've gotten stronger. I bet I can handle it as well as Master could now!"
"I-" Seras's retort died in her throat as a faint buzzing sensation tickled the very edge of her senses. She turned back towards the picnic grounds to study the area carefully.
'We're being watched...again.' Seras mentally sent to Pip as she continued scanning the dark and leafless trees.
'Positive. It's that same sensation.'
'You mean the imaginary one where you can't find anything watching you.'
'Yes - Oi!'
Seras rolled her eyes despite the situation. She was about to make a comeback when a new sound found its way into her ears. With a frown covering her face, and the sensation of being watch forgotten for the moment, Seras cocked her head slightly inland towards the approaching sound of rotor blades. She hadn't heard such a sound for a long time, it almost seemed surreal or alien to hear after only the wind, or the occasional collapsing wall for company.
As the thrumming noise approached, the familiar stirrings of hunger began to grow as her mind automatically made connections. Rotor blades meant a helicopter, and a helicopter meant there must be humans piloting the craft. That meant there had to be a human settlement nearby, and that meant living people with warm, fulfilling, hunger ending blood.
"No! No need for me to go near to temptation." Seras muttered and tried to convince herself even while she squashed her blood-lust and the treacherous thoughts of visiting for a while. She found herself both loathing and loving the thought of tearing into a human settlement and feasting.
"The last thing I need on my conscious is the deaths of any survivors from a half-starved vampire losing control."
The sound of the helicopter drew closer and clearer as she firmed her resolve against a quick visit. She turned her eyes upwards towards the star speckled sky and sought out the source of the sound. Her incredibly sharp eyesight quickly and easily picked out the approaching shape of the helicopter by the tiny lights on the underside.
'That's a UH-60M Black Hawk. Amazing condition to be still flying in this day and age. Somebody knows a thing or two about military hardware.' Pip informed her with a whistle. 'Would be a museum piece by now if things hadn't gone to hell.'
"Hmm, that means the settlement it came from must be under military control." Seras reasoned. "Interesting." her voice was quickly drowned out by the noise from the sleek craft as it passed loudly overhead. She followed its path with her eyes, watching as it flew out to sea.
"I wonder what's important enough for them to head out to sea?" Seras asked the empty area.
'No idea boss. But it has to be something vital to their survival to use fuel for it.'
"Very weird..." Seras stated as the Black Hawk disappeared over the horizon. She was curious, but something held her back from going after the helicopter.
'Go on, you know you want to.' Pip urged.
"No." She replied and turned away. "Whatever it is, it doesn't concern me. It's better if I don't get involved."
'Are you sure? Or are you afraid of something?'
"Afraid?" Seras snorted at the thought. "As if I have anything to fear from them."
'I wasn't talking about them.' Pip responded.
"Shush you." Seras sighed.
In the branches, the drone waited for the anomaly to put some distance between it and itself. Once the drone was certain the anomaly was out of range its lens-eye glowed back to life, wings popped out of its shell and began buzzing before it lifting smoothly into the air and followed discretely. The minds behind the drone were curious about the anomaly. It was not one of the variants, all three were accounted for, but neither was it alive. A curious diversion, nothing more.
Seras quietly hummed to herself as she walked out the area and followed the overgrown path back to the highway that ran along the cliff-side. She chose a direction at random and headed off down the road. As the coastal highway was only just outside of a large city, it was littered with abandoned cars; many still had the doors flung open from people desperate to leave during the outbreak and worst of the war.
Pip had gone silent, which left her to her own thoughts, which stubbornly continued to keep going back to the thought of the helicopter. To take her mind off of the thought of the living, she tried to distract herself by counting the cars she passed.
Seras's mind was violently taken off of the thoughts of people as a loud explosion was heard in the distance, out to sea. She unconsciously whipped her head around towards the horizon, to see the telltale orange glow of a fire sitting just beyond it. Staring towards the rare light she could easily make out the thick, oily black smoke rising into the sky.
"That can't be good." She turned to fully face the sea.
'That was one big explosion.' Pip commented. 'Wasn't that the way the Black Hawk went?' he pointed out.
"Yeah." Curiosity getting the better of her, Seras altered her direction and headed towards the cliff face once more to get a better look. She hopped easily over the metal barrier that separated the drop from the road, even with her heavy backpack, and approached the cliff edge. She watched curiously as the smoke continued climbing in the distance.
'What d'you think happened?'
"Does it matter?" Seras shrugged and tore her eyes away. She knew if she kept looking her curiosity would get the better of her and she would have to take a closer look, and taking a flight out to sea, even a short one, was a risky proposal for her.
Seras forced the thought of the fire to the back of her mind and turned back to the highway. She set off again, following the road as it began to twist downwards. She passed a dirty and faded roadside sign that stated beach access was only half a mile away.
She hadn't gotten far when another sound caught her attention. This one quickly conjured up unpleasant memories of previous encounters she had had with undead wildlife. She looked up and prepared herself to disappear quickly without drawing attention.
As she expected, a flock of undead seagulls in various stages of decomposition, all victims of Nekrosis, flapped and swooped around a large circle above her. The only noise they made was that of their flapping wings. Not a single one called out as they silently circled, hunting for prey.
'Bloody flying piranhas.' Seras thought. They were some of the worst zombies to face, so small and fast, and when gathered in large groups they could easily strip the flesh from a person in minutes. Even to her they were a pain to deal with, usually making it better to just avoid them.
She braced herself, ready to sprint away, but surprisingly the horde ignored her and swooped away towards the beach. Maybe she had been too far away for them to sense. She knew from experience that Nekrosis zombies had trouble detecting her, but if she got too close they seemed to notice the difference and attack her anyway.
"Well, that was odd." She stated in surprise and watched as the birds continued to circle over the beach. Curiosity was eating away at her resolve not to investigate, with all the odd occurrences that night.
"Oh, what the hell." Seras remarked setting off at a brisk trot across the small parking lot and towards the beach. She carefully followed the circling zombie birds with her eyes. All the while a nagging sensation that something was wrong, tugged at the back of her mind as the flock grew thicker with the arrival of more dead gulls.
As her heavy boots first hit the sand she spotted the cause of the gathering. A small body had been washed up onto the shore. She looked on sadly and with a little surprised to find that it was the body of a young girl, no more than six years old, which lay unmoving on the sand, still wearing a bright orange life-jacket.
'Poor kid's leftovers.' Pip remarked. 'Think she came from the helicopter?'
"Maybe-" Seras cut off in sudden realization of something. Zombies, no matter the species, did not gather to eat other dead. They only ever swarmed living beings. "Oh crap!" the vampire's eyes widened in shock as the girl stirred and pushed herself up to look around. A nearby gull had landed and squawked curiously towards the girl, which started her, making her flinch away.
Seras sprung into action, sand spraying away from her as she sprinted towards the girl, even as the first screech rose from the flock of dead birds and echoed across the beach. The noise was a terrifyingly distorted call, a distant and twisted echo of what they used to sound like when they still lived.
The girl also shrieked, but in terror, as the first birds swooped towards her. Some instinct made the girl pull her life-jacket off and she tried to use it as a shield. She screamed again as small rotten bodies began battering at her and began wildly waving her make-shift shield in an attempt to fend the horde off as their razor-sharp beaks sought out her eyes.
Seras continued to race towards the scene, smoothly grabbing a piece of driftwood off the sand with her arm deforming into blackness to reach it as she rushed past. Her sensitive sense of smell picked up the highly desired coppery scent of fresh blood, spurring her on. She had to make it in time.
"Get away from her!" Seras entered to fray with a roar, swinging the large piece of wood with all her strength. Small bodies went flying aside, some with surprised squawks and wet squelches, other with dry cracks as Seras continued to swing and shout at the birds, trying to draw their attention away from the girl and to herself.
The girl ran blindly towards Seras. In her terror she did not pay any attention to what was going on, only escaping crossed her young mind. It was only when she slammed into Seras's legs and bounced back onto the sand that the girl looked up through tears and blood from a wound over her right eye, to see the vampire as she swung the make-shift bat around with deadly accuracy.
Seras threw the driftwood with all her might before she reached down and scooped the girl off the ground.
"Hold on to me." Seras commanded as she cradled the girl to her chest and wrapping her arms protectively around her head. With the girl held out-of-the-way Seras turned and sprinted back up the beach. The flock of zombie gulls screeched their displeasure as they gave chase after the ignorant creature that had denied them their supper.
Seras cursed all zombie-birds once again as the swarm battered against her backpack, flapped around her head and tried to get at the girl. The cries of hundreds of the tiny demons filled her ears, and many of their beaks managed to find their way to pierce her arms and legs as she ran. She ignored the damage she received, she had taken far worse in her time and she could heal it easily anyway.
Her inhuman strength propelled her across the sand faster than a hundred-meters sprinter and slowly she began to pull ahead of the swarming flock from hell. The moment her feet hit the concrete of the parking lot, she picked up speed from a better purchase and began to place some real distance between them and the zombie gulls. All the while, the girl she had rescued sobbed into her chest.
Seras had suddenly become acutely aware of the smell of blood from the girl, fresh, healthy virgin blood and it took all of her willpower to ignore it and turn her attention to the road ahead. Just beyond the other side of the road was forest.
'Perfect, those blasted things won't be able to follow so well in there.' Seras thought as she manoeuvred between the old cars and leapt over the small ditch by the roadside. Then they were in the forest.
With a glance over her shoulder, Seras smirked as she was pleased to see that her plan had worked. The noise of the birds began to fade as they crashed into branches or the trees themselves.
'Hope the flying rats they skewer themselves!' Seras thought nastily and continued deeper into the woods. After a while the noise of pursuit faded and the vampire slowed down before coming to a halt. She checked the area quickly for anything undead that wasn't herself, and when she felt nothing immediate she let out a sigh of relief.
"Shush. It's okay." Seras gently told the sobbing child as she lowered the girl to the cold forest floor. The girl's terrified face stared up at her and Seras smiled putting on her friendliest face.
"It's okay. You're safe now...mostly." Seras told the shaking girl. Now that the immediate danger was over the vampire could get a good look at the girl she had rescued. Her hair was a lilac colour, which Seras thought was odd as it seemed natural. She was wearing loose fitting cargo pants covered in a multitude of pockets and a grey t-shirt with a raven drawn on it. She was also soaked to the bone and shivering in the cold night air.
Seras's attention was almost immediately drawn to the deep scratch over the girl's right eye, which was still bleeding and made it appear worse than it actually was.
"We better get that scratch patched up before any more of them arrive." Seras stated dropping her back backpack onto the ground so she could find a first aid kit she carried around in case of bumping into wounded humans. It also served to distract her from the smell of blood.
"I'm Seras. What's your name?"
"Z...Zoe." the girl answered her voice wavering.
"That's a nice-" Seras was cut off when a zombie gull burst from one of the side pouches of her backpack with an angry squawk. Zoe shrieked and scrambled away as it dived towards her. Seras was too fast for it. She caught the undead bird by its throat as it shot past her and gripped it tightly. The zombie gull's glazed, lifeless eyes bulged from its skull almost comically as Seras squeezed its neck. There was a dry snap.
The vampire dropped the dead bird onto the ground. It flapped its wings and flopped about even as its head lulled sickeningly to the side, almost hanging upside down. It attempted to squawk but no sound came from the dead bird's crushed windpipes as a boot descended upon the zombie. It crunched under a powerful stomp, sinking into the hard earth from the force and permanently silencing it.
"Heh. Impure souls of the living dead shall be banished to hell. Amen." Seras chuckled as she casually ground the lump of rotten flesh and bone beneath her boot. "Sorry about that, it must have crawled in while we were running." She explained to Zoe, who looked up at Seras in wide-eyed surprise. Her expression morphed into one of amazement, the recent trauma forgotten with child-like resilience.
"That was cool!"
"You think so?" Seras smiled as she finally retrieved the first-aid kit from her backpack. Popping the lid she withdrew an antiseptic cream, some cotton-wool and a patch of gauze. Taking a damp wipe from its protective package Seras knelt on one knee in front of Zoe.
"This might sting a little." Seras told the girl as she dabbed the wound cleaning the dirt from it. "Keep your eye shut."
She proceeded to treat the girl's wounds all the time fighting to ignore the smell of blood. Once the girl was patched up Seras placed the first aid kit back into the pouch and while the girl was not looking licked the blood from the cloth. She closed her eyes in rapture. The girl's blood was so pure that Seras found herself having some very bad thoughts. There was something else too, something powerful that sent a refreshing and pleasurable shudder right through her, leaving her feeling cleansed.
"Um...Ms. Seras?" Zoe asked tugging on Seras's duster, which snapped the vampire back to reality.
"Y-yeah?" Seras asked as she quickly tossed the cloth over her shoulder. An intense feeling of guilt settled upon her at the thoughts she had just had.
"Can I go home now?"
"Home?" Seras pondered before asking the required question. "Where do you live?"
Zoe's face scrunched up in concentration as she thought about home. Before long, she looked up at Seras with a worried expression in her visible eye. "I don't know. I can't remember." Zoe's bottom lip quivered.
"You don't, huh." Seras replied as she studied the girl.
"I'm sorry." Zoe stated. Her expression was downcast as she stared at the ground expecting any moment that Seras would scold her for forgetting.
"Not that surprising with what you've just been through. Probably a mild post-traumatic stress disorder, you'll probably remember in few days. Just need to give it some time." Seras reassured and gave Zoe's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"Y...you think so?" Zoe asked as he face brightened.
"Yep." Seras stated as she hefted her backpack onto her back once more. "We can't stay here." she continued looking back the way they had come. "Those gulls will find us eventually, but at least the branches give us some cover." Seras pointed up. "But, they can fly and smell yo...us. They're not as agile in death as they were in life so getting through the branches will slow them down a lot."
"Wow! You sure know lots about zombies."
"You could say that." Seras smiled at Zoe, before putting a finger to her chin thoughtfully. "Now, that Black Hawk went out to sea so I'm betting you came from it or were being picked up. It flew in from the west so if we head that way I'm sure I'll be able to find a settlement." Seras held her hand out. "Well we better be moving."
Zoe hesitated a moment before she took Seras's hand and the pair set off towards the west. Seras was careful to keep her pace slow and her eyes and ears peeled for danger. There was no doubt in Seras's mind that zombies would be approaching shortly, a sentiment that Pip echoed.
'This is quite a situation eh, Boss.'
"You can say that again." Seras replied absently.
"I...didn't say anything." Zoe stated in confusion.
"Ah...sorry. I was...thinking out loud." Seras would have blushed in embarrassment if she could.
'Haha! The kid must think you're crazy now.' Pip chuckled.
'Aww shush you.' Seras sighed. 'I'm just used to speaking my mind.'
'Heh. Seriously though, this is a bad situation for the kid. Any nearby zombies will have caught her scent by now and will be zoning in on us. They may be slow and dumb, but they're persistent and will eventually catch up.'
'I know. I just hope I can get her home before any large horde find us.'
'We don't know where we're going either.'
'That can be fixed. You can go batty and scout ahead for me.' Seras grinned.
'Aww no boss. You know that makes me queasy.'
'Exactly.' Seras mentally stuck her tongue out at Pip.
"I can't see anything Ms. Seras." Zoe interrupted in a whisper after she stumbled over an exposed tree root in the dark. She could not actually make out anything in the forest as Seras led her by the hand
"Don't worry, I can see fine." Seras assured Zoe and continued to lead the girl steadily through the dark forest. "And just call me Seras."
Zoe fell silent after that, trusting Seras to lead her to safety. The forest was dark and silent, the only sounds she heard were of twigs snapping under their feet or the rustle of branches above as the wind move them. Seras led her confidently and quickly through the dark and even though it was spooky Zoe felt safe.
Seras suddenly halted causing Zoe to freeze up beside her.
"What's wrong?" the young girl asked in a whisper and glanced around in the dark for the zombies she was told to hide from.
"I hear something." Seras stated. She turned her head to get a better focus on the noise. It was some kind of orchestra music, scratchy and would jump now and then.
'Sounds like a gramophone.' Pip observed.
"What is it?" Zoe asked frightened as all she could hear was the rustle of branches in the wind.
"Music." Seras replied. "And on something that needs to be manually reset to play. Someone's living nearby. Come on, we should check it out. If it's a person they might have a radio."
Seras moved a little quicker as she tracked down the music. The pair soon exited from the edge of the forest. Once out from under the tree cover, the light from the moon illuminated the world enough that Zoe could now make things out.
"This way." Seras told the girl. The music began clearer to Seras as the pair approached an overgrown path that sloped upwards towards a hill in the distance. They followed the path up until they came upon the foot of a series of steps that led up into a cemetery, surrounded by dark railings. By now even Zoe could just make out the sound of music.
"Evergreen Memorial Cemetery." Seras read out the words formed into the metal arch above the entrance to the cemetery. "You're kidding me. Somebody's living in a cemetery?" She stated in disbelief.
"The music is in there?" Zoe asked her blond rescuer.
"Apparently." Seras replied as she took in the rusty gates. Beyond the gates, the overgrown cemetery was dark and uninviting. Some of the tombstones had fallen, or pushed over. A thick cloud floated passed the moon, blocking the light until it passed, casting long shadows from the various different shapes and sizes of tombstones, which stretched out like clawed fingers reaching out hungrily for them.
Seras sniffed the air; moist dirt, grass, a definite smell of zombies and an overpowering stench of formaldehyde. She frowned at the last smell.
'Who in their right mind wanted to preserve the dead these days?' she wondered; after all, they had an annoying habit of getting up to walk around and chew off your face.
'Grave robbers?' Pip suggested.
'Yeah right...' Seras sent back as she grew more curious with each passing second.
"Stay close to me." Seras told Zoe. She set off into the cemetery, the girl behind her clutched tightly to her long duster as they ascended the path. Zoe who had no intention of letting go of Seras's coat for even a second.
At the top of the steps, Seras paused and looked around the cemetery. A faint mist hung around the base of the graves giving the cemetery the old horror movie look and as she stared around the music wound down and finally stopped with a scratching noise. As the cemetery was plunged into silence, the vampire switched to following the smell of formaldehyde.
The smell led her towards the largest mausoleum, almost right in the centre of the cemetery. As she walked, Seras spotted the various shuffling shapes in the distance. She counted roughly ten zombies trying to find their way through the tombstones that acted as obstacles between them and the living being they sensed. Seras knew she would have no problem defending Zoe from that many and continued towards the source of the music and smell.
They paused just outside the mausoleum. Seras placed a hand against the stone wall and stuck her head inside. The steps twisted down and at the very bottom was a faint light. She sniffed once; the smell was strongest from down the steps.
A nearby wet moan to her right was all the noise Seras needed to know that one of the undead had managed to figure out its way to them.
"Zoe, don't scream." Seras commanded as she pulled her head out, precisely at the moment Zoe spotted the zombie and screamed.
"Oh great." Seras sighed as the girl's shriek alerted every undead in the cemetery. Seras turned around, pulling Zoe with her and putting herself between the approaching zombies and the little girl.
Seras swore under her breath at the sight, at least ten shadows moved slowly and jerkily around the various tombstones as if they were poorly operated puppets. Seras's sharp eyesight could make out the various zombies, most in quite an advanced state of decomposition, flesh and sometimes whole limbs missing. Soon the groans and growls started to rise in volume as more of the undead became aware of a living body in the cemetery and began their conga-line-of-death towards them.
Seras dropped her backpack to the ground with a thud and indicated to it. "Zoe, stay behind that."
The vampire began to reach for her guns and paused in the knowledge that the noise from firing her guns would give the zombies something extra to home in on, and the fact she had limited bullets, Seras decided it would be better to take this lot out by hand, messier but quieter.
"Until all targets are silenced." Seras spoke with an evil grin covering her face as she cracked her knuckles, feeling the lust for battle swelling inside.
Charging forward Seras decided to take the battle to the zombies, she drew her fist back and punched the closest one right in the centre of its decaying face. The zombie's head vanished into the distance from the brutal impact and its body collapsed. The others near it seemed to pause in confusion giving Seras time to grab the next nearest one.
She gripped the zombie by the skull and with a simple bit of pressure crushed the dead thing's skull easily and messily. The other zombies near her, as one began to reach out for her as they realised she was not one of them. Seras twisted backwards, dragging the body she still held in one hand with her, and slammed her elbow into another zombie's face, sending its teeth and jaw flying. It stumbled away.
Zoe leaned out from behind Seras's backpack and stared in amazement as her rescuer started to fight the zombies hand to hand. As she watched in fascination, Zoe became sure that the zombies were going to be no match for Seras as she elbowed one in the face before throwing another zombie with one hand at the other ones approaching. Seras moved between them like water, punching zombie faces sending anything not solidly fixed to their skulls flying. Bones broke under Seras's fierce kicks and any that fell soon ended up with a boot print firmly and permanently embedded into their decaying brains.
'She looks like she's having fun.' Zoe thought and completely missed that Seras's visible eye was no longer a bright blue but a blood red. She also missed the zombie that had snuck up from her right, right until its decayed fingers grabbed her t-shirt.
Zoe jumped in terror and attempted to pull away, but she caught firmly in the dead man's grip. She screamed as the lipless, noseless and eyeless creature opened its mouth wide, giving her an unwelcome look at its bloated purple tongue.
"Zoe!" Seras whipped around at hearing the girl's terrified scream and cursed herself for forgetting the girl in her lust for battle. It was all the remaining zombies needed to rush forward and dog pile Seras. She fell to the ground taken by surprise as the zombies began to try to bite and tear her apart.
Zoe continued screaming as the zombie's mouth inched closer and time seemed to slow down for her when suddenly the sound of metal impacting skull echoed around the cemetery. Zoe stared up as black drool splattered her face. The zombie had come to a complete standstill as the metal edge of a shovel sliced into it. Zoe was certain that it the zombie had eyes they would be rolling around like in those cartoons she watched. The zombie collapsed bonelessly and the shadow of a large man behind it pulled the shovel back.
"Stay put little girl while I help your friend." The hulking shadow stated, its voice deep and gravelly. Zoe could only stare up in surprise as her newest rescuer leapt away towards the zombies pinning Seras down.
"Get off!" Seras's voice shouted out from under the pile before the zombies exploded off her as she burst to her feet in a display of strength. She shook herself, trying to remove the particularly stubborn zombie still clinging to her back.
"Fore!" A deep voice stated before Seras felt the rush of air past her head and felt the zombie fall off. Turning quickly she saw the zombie's head disappearing into the distance and before she could turn to her would-be rescuer he spoke again. "Stomp em while they're down."
With that said the man began to slam his large shovel down on the bodies, severing heads. Seras deciding to ask questions later and joined in, literally stamping out the zombie menace. The pair of them made short work of the remaining zombies, between Seras's boots and the man's shovel that he wielded like some kind of shovel wielding ninja.
"Phew." The man stated spinning the shovel before jabbing the blade into the ground and leaning casually against it. "That would get your blood pumping, if you have any that is."
"Thanks." Seras stated turning to face the man and her eyes widened in surprise. Staring her in the face were a pair of milky eyes, set in a face that was little more than blueish skin stretched over a grinning skull due to having no lips. No nose, but what was left of it was plugged with what seemed to be a filter. The 'man' only wore a pair of tattered trousers and some bandages wrapped around his wrists. The man was in fact a zombie and Seras stared completely thrown, that was probably the only reason he was not immediately smashed by a vampire-powered fist.
"What's wrong? You never seen a zombie before?" the heavily muscled dead man quipped amused.
"You...can...talk?" Seras dumbly pointed out pointing.
"Give the crazy lady a prize." The large zombie stated.
"Hey!" Seras snapped. "Who are you calling crazy?"
"The person who attacked a bunch of zombies with her fists." The large dead man ground out standing to his full imposing height, even with a slight hunch he towered above Seras. "Seriously, who in their right mind fights zombies without a weapon?" he asked yanking his shovel out of the ground and resting it across one shoulder.
"Seras?" Zoe asked walking over slowly, carefully observing the zombie that was talking with Seras.
"It's okay Zoe." Seras said carefully eyeing the zombie, before adding. "He's...friendly." she faced the zombie. "You *are* friendly right?"
"I'm not trying to chew your face off am I?" the zombie quipped back.
Zoe examined the large zombie that seemed like a giant to her before asking. "You're not going to eat us?"
"If I was going to I'd have tried it by now." The zombie rumbled. "But if you don't want the *unfriendly* zombies trying to, you should get in there and I'll shut the door so they can't get in. The strong smell of embalming fluids will hide your scents from them." He pointed to the mausoleum.
"There are more zombies?" Zoe asked looking around the graveyard nervously.
"There's *always* more zombies." Both Seras and the large dead man stated together before blinking and staring at each other suspiciously which caused Zoe to actually giggle.
"Well, that does sound like a plan." Seras said while carefully placing herself between Zoe and the zombie, not quite trusting him yet.
While Seras retrieved her backpack and lifted it easily over one shoulder the zombie observed her, he was sensing something strange about the young woman before him. Something was odd with her but he could not quite place his rotten finger on what it was.
"Do you have a name?" Seras asked turning to face him catching him by surprise. The large zombie paused and his jaw unhinged as if to speak. To be honest he could not remember if he had a name or not. He knew he must have had a name but could not for the un-life of him remember what it was.
"I...don't know." He admitted his decayed face actually seemed to show sadness. Glancing at the tomb door and his eyes wandered over the weathered inscription. The inscription was in Latin and read Dirge, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectus tuo viam meam.
"You can call me...Dirge." Dirge rumbled. "As good a name as any."
The newly named Dirge silently examined the woman as they walked over to the mausoleum. Seras, the girl had called her as she placed herself between him and the girl. Dirge could not actually blame her, he knew what his appearance was like and it was not like anyone had even seen a zombie that had intelligence before. He was still surprised Seras had agreed to his request that they hide down in the crypt so easily, but was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Trying not to make it obvious he was examining her, Dirge became curious about Seras's backpack. The pack was large; the sight of Seras holding it casually over one shoulder looked almost comically out of place. The slim blonde-haired woman had hefted the pack easily. At first Dirge had thought the pack must be practically empty, but even with the filter his sensitive sense of smell could make out the scent of polished metal and gunpowder emanating from Seras's backpack and the faint clink of metal striking metal gave away the fact the she had at least a couple of guns hidden in that pack.
Staring at the bottom of the pack, Dirge could make out some additions to the pack's base. Patches of thick material had been sown onto it, reinforcing the underside and Dirge could see the base bulging with the weight of whatever weapons were inside. His eyes drifted over the straps and noted a similar reinforcement there. It indicated that Seras was stronger than she appeared at first glance.
"Well?" Seras asked turning to face Dirge as Zoe and she passed the entranceway to stand on the top steps. Zoe was peering down into the darkness below, a look of apprehension on her face as she clutched tightly to Seras's coat. "Are you going to stare at me all night, or shut the door?"
"Right." Dirge stated absently as he gave the cemetery a quick once over and proceeded to walk over to stand in the entrance next to Seras. Zoe moved to hide herself more behind Seras when Dirge approached and the dead man felt a twinge of annoyance and sadness at the effect he had on the girl. Could not be helped he supposed, after all he was a zombie. Kids would be taught to fear zombies.
With an unnecessary grunt Dirge gripped the makeshift handle he had placed on the large stone slab that was the crypt door and dragged it slowly shut. The entrance was slowly plunged into complete darkness as the light from the full moon outside was cut off.
As the only light vanished, Zoe gripped Seras's coat even tighter, her knuckles going white. She was scared but at least Seras was here. The big zombie that talked seemed friendly but weren't zombies supposed to eat people? Didn't they like to hide in the dark and grab unwary people? That's what she had been taught by her mother...
"It's ok Zoe. I'm here." Seras's voice spoke out in the dark and Zoe felt a gentle hand rest against her head calming her. If Seras was calm then she would be fine Zoe reasoned, after all she had seen Seras take on zombies already.
Seras watched the intelligent zombie carefully, almost expecting him to turn on them any second. Intelligent and zombie, two words that until tonight she would never have used in the same sentence. She had never seen a zombie with any semblance of intelligence before, and now found herself extremely puzzled by Dirge's existence. She was dying to find more out about him as he was a curiosity.
Dirge checked that the slab door did not close all the way, leaving a small gap for air. As the crypt was almost air tight he did not want to cut off the pair's air supply as he would not notice. Turning around slowly he paused in surprise and gripped his shovel tighter by reflex. For a brief moment, he had been sure that he had seen two glowing red eyes in the dark boring into him. Blinking quickly the image had vanished leaving only the darkness in front of him and he dismissed it as his eyes playing tricks on him.
"Follow me." Dirge spoke alerting them to the fact he was moving and walked past the pair. He was as blind as he expected the two humans to be in total darkness, but his familiarity with the crypt and sense of smell allowed him to navigate around them easily. Looking down the spiralling steps a faint light could be seen in the distance, a greenish glow. "Careful on the steps, they're a bit uneven." Dirge warned.
Seras let the large zombie pass by and get a few steps ahead of them before she leant down and picked Zoe up. Zoe instinctively placed her arms around Seras's neck while Seras cradled her in the crook of her arm, allowing Zoe to sit. The smell of having the little girl so close to her was hard to ignore and the vampiric craving for blood came on stronger than previously. She forced her eyes to focus on the back of Dirge's hairless skull, turning her thoughts to the zombie. Seras noted he seemed to have a crisscrossed scar on the back of his skull and focused on watching that bob up and down with each step he took.
As the strange group descended, the light became brighter and the smell of formaldehyde got stronger. They stepped into the crypt at the bottom of the stairs and onto a spongy ground. Seras looked down to see that the floor was covered with a layer of dirt. At Zoe's gasp Seras glanced up and her eyes were drawn to what had caused the girl's reaction.
Straight ahead of them a large cylindrical glass tube, filled with a green liquid standing in one corner. A multitude of jury-rigged pipes and tubes extruded from the top and spidered over the ceiling before they entered what must be a pump. Seras knew that was where the smell was coming from and walked over to stare into the murky green and faintly glowing depths. There was a vague outline floating in the tube, but she was unable to make out exactly what it was.
"It's embalming fluid." Dirge stated as he placed his shovel against the wall by the entrance. "In case you were wondering."
Seras turned away from the container and looked over at Dirge quizzically. "What are you preserving?"
"Mostly myself." Dirge replied with a faint chuckle. "How do you think I look so good?" He flashed Seras his most suave grin, which actually looked like something that had crawled out from the depths of hell.
"I see." Seras said turning her attention to examine the rest of the crypt that Dirge was using as a home. The first thing she noticed after the large glass container was the fact that every wall, nook and cranny were all covered with books. Piles upon piles of books of ever colour, shape or size you could imagine. The crypt was a veritable library and Seras whistled at the size of Dirge's collection.
'It must have taken him some time to collect all these books.'
Letting Zoe down Seras picked up the nearest book and flipped through it. She frowned. It was one of those incredibly complex scientific theory books that she knew she had no chance of understanding. After a moment, she closed it and replaced it back on the pile.
The moment Zoe's feet had touched the ground the girl had begun examining the piles of books as well, staring up at the nearest mountain with awe.
"Some heavy reading." Seras stated.
"Especially for a zombie, right?" Dirge asked the unspoken question, his voice rumbling as he crossed over the crypt to lean down and begin winding up the antique gramophone. "Well, make yourselves at home." Dirge stated as he lifted the stylus. He carefully placed it against the rotating record and soon the sounds of Mozart's Requiem began to play once more. Dirge then dropped himself into the worn high-backed chair next to the gramophone. He reached down to the side and retrieved the book he had been reading moments before he had gone to investigate the disturbance upstairs.
Seras continued to stare at the zombie while he buried his head into his book.
'Do you think I hurt his feelings?' she asked.
'Now *that* is a crazy thought.' Pip replied.
Seras shook her head at the situation; she almost wanted to pinch herself to make sure she was actually awake. A sentient zombie. One smart enough to be reading books on quantum physics and other baffling theories. She was going to ask him some questions and decided that Zoe did not need to hear them.
"Come here Zoe." Seras asked gently. Zoe had started to climb one of the book mountains when Seras had spoken. The purple-haired girl paused before clambering back down.
"Okay." Zoe said accidentally knocking a couple of books loose. The books landed open and the pages had creased. Seras glanced over to Dirge, ready to apologise in case the large zombie would be mad at the girl ruining his books, but he seemed completely engrossed in the book he was reading and if he had noticed, he was not reacting to it.
Dirge did his best to keep his mind on the book before him and away from the two humans. He focused on the words to prevent his mind from wandering and forced his instincts down. Instincts that told him he was hungry and that food was nearby.
Seras took Zoe's hand once more and led her past Dirge towards the back of the crypt. As they passed an alcove, Seras noticed a large amount of newspaper clippings stuck to the wall and deciding to examine them on the way back.
She was pleased to note that if there had been any coffins down here Dirge had already moved them out. She checked the area carefully to ensure Zoe would be safe left alone. Once she was happy that they were the only ones down there, Seras let go of Zoe's hand and dropped her backpack with a thud, clink of metal and a faint raised cloud of dust.
"What are you doing?" Zoe asked while Seras began moving books carefully off one of the alcoves. The vampire placed them one by one on the floor.
"Making you a place to sleep." Seras replied dusting the ledge down once the books where cleared.
"But I'm not tired." Zoe stated in childish defiance at going to bed while Seras shrugged off her long duster and placed it down on the makeshift bed.
"Come on Zoe." Seras told the girl gently picking her up and putting her down on the ledge.
"Do I have to?" Zoe asked cutely, Seras's coolness diminished with the enforced bedtime. Seras tucked her coat tightly around the girl to keep her warm, the crypt was cold and the last thing Seras wanted was the girl to catch something.
"I'm not tired." Zoe stated once more to which Seras leaned close and looked Zoe in the eyes.
"You. Are. Tired. Go. To. Sleep." Seras commanded drawing on her abilities.
"I'm tired." Zoe repeated hypnotised and her visible eye drooped before closing completely as the young girl went into a deep slumber.
"Good girl." Seras gently patted Zoe's head and stood up.
'Yep,' Seras thought to herself, 'I could make a living out of being a nanny.'
'Yeah, I can just imagine you floating to work on an umbrella.' Pip smirked.
Giving the area one last check Seras turned and walked back over to the newspaper clippings she had seen when she had passed by. The first story was about a police dog being rewarded and Seras skimmed over that. Next to that was a set of photographs of mountains and above that a picture of an Egyptian. The next article that caught her eye was titled "Black Spire North Brings Jobs, Misgivings to DC".
"Government defence giant Black Spire has renewed the 70 billion research and development contract, bolstering employment for the surrounding metro area, and strengthening the local economy. Through official releases omit the nature of the research, this hasn't stopped MABS, DarkSpire and other watchdog groups from weighing in. The company's rumoured involvement with WMD development has been categorically denied, though recent leaks involving quantum mechanics have given rise to new suspicions." Seras read quietly and wondered why Dirge was keeping this.
Scanning the other articles she found they were not as interesting, one mentioned something about an ability to switch hair colours as easily as clothes though some sort of DNA research. The other was about a block of ice found on an Egyptian dig that was baffling scientists. The rest was familiar to Seras as she had seen all of it happen. The rise of the dead and subsequence fall of humanity.
Feeling she had learned all she could from the clippings Seras left them behind and walked back over to where Dirge was still reading quietly, his face obscured by his book. Seras walked over to stand before him, calmly observing the reading zombie as he flicked the pages of his book and she read the title, Theoretical Neuroscience.
"I suppose you're wondering how I can think." Dirge spoke not taking his eyeballs off the page.
"In a nutshell, yeah." Seras replied. "Zombies aren't usually known to read books on neuroscience. Hell, most humans don't."
"Beats me." Dirge stated with a sigh. He knew he wasn't going to get out of talking about himself with the woman and lowered his book. "I have about as much idea as you do."
"How'd it happen? Your death I mean."
"No idea." Dirge stated with a wave of the book. "I don't remember anything before waking up like this."
"But you remember enough to talk and read." Seras probed.
"Yeah, weird huh." Dirge paused and eyeballed Seras. "So, what were the pair of you doing out here alone anyway? Humans don't usually leave the settlement in pairs and it's irresponsible for you to bring your child out here."
"Child?" Seras blinked in confusion for a moment before she began to wave her hands in protest. "Whoa. Slow down there. You've got it all wrong. I found her on the beach about to become zombie-gull food."
"Oh?" Dirge stated his eyes widening. "I just thought you must have been...you know. So you rescued her?"
"Yeah. Dived in, grabbed her, and ran for it." Seras nodded.
"Ahhh." Dirge exclaimed. "So you became separated from the main group in that helicopter. You're part of a rescue team. Explains your uniform." Dirge stared at Seras and chuckled. "I'm surprised they let you wear such a short skirt. It must be quite the distraction."
"Wait. Wait. Wait." Seras shook her head. "You've got it all wrong. I'm by myself. I was wandering along the road when the helicopter flew out to sea. Then there was an explosion in the distance and shortly after that I noticed the birds. Zoe was washed up on the beach and I think she came from the helicopter."
Dirge's face showed his disbelief as he listened to Seras's explanation. "So let me get this straight. *You* wander around out there. Alone?" Dirge stated. Seras nodded. "Don't get me wrong but I just don't see how. Every single zombie within four point seven miles would be homing in on you. Trust me, I know. A lone human's chances of surviving out there are slim to none."
"Let's just say I had experience with dealing with undead before the outbreak." Seras smiled mysteriously.
Dirge's eyebrows, well eyebrow ridge, rose in interest and he leaned forward in his chair. "You were involved with zombies before the outbreak? How exactly?"
"I was part of a group that hunted similar monsters back in England." Seras told the zombie in front of her. "Not the same as the ones from the outbreak but close."
"How close?" Dirge asked.
"Close enough that when the outbreak started making the news I began seeking out the puppet master behind them." Seras paused. "The ones we dealt with were man-made and were controlled by a...commander. I soon found out that these weren't the same and there was no mastermind directing them. The ghouls we dealt with could be used to fire weapons and act like an organised group."
"So the ones your group dealt with weren't created by Nekrosis?" Dirge asked.
"No." Seras shook her head. "They definitely weren't created by Nekrosis."
"Oh." Dirge leaned back in the chair obviously disappointed. "I was hoping you might have known how I came about."
"Sorry, can't help you there." Seras told Dirge. "You're a completely new species of zombie, even to me."
"Wonderful. Mark me down in the pages of evolution." Dirge groaned before looking back towards Seras. "You're British eh? Explains your accent, you came over during the war?"
"Nah. I was over here long before that started." Seras stated.
Dirge frowned. Something was not adding up here. Seras claimed to be dealing with creatures similar to zombies before the outbreak and that she had been in America for a while before the outbreak. That would be at least ten or more years ago but she looked barely over twenty to Dirge and if what she was saying was true she would have only been a little girl.
He was about to ask how old she was when the thuwp, thuwp sound of rotor blades drawing closer caught both of their attentions.
"The helicopter!" Seras exclaimed as she spun on her heel and ran off up the steps. Dirge sprang out of the chair as well and followed her to open the door. Halfway up he was sure he heard the door being slid open and once he reach the top he was surprised to see it had been and Seras was outside.
'How the heck had she moved that door?' Dirge wondered stopping to stare.
"Damn! Missed it." Seras sighed as the sound faded. She stared off into the sky at the dwindling shape of a Black Hawk as it disappeared into the distance. Dirge looked to the area Seras was staring towards but could make out nothing in the darkness. The large zombie turned his attention to Seras. Something did not add up and it was bugging him.
"Definitely heading inland." Seras stated. She turned to Dirge. "You wouldn't happen to know any settlements in that direction?"
"Hmmm." Dirge pondered the question and forgot what he was going to ask. "The only human settlement in that direction is settlement A-1."
"Settlement A-1?" Seras repeated.
"Otherwise known as the Acropolis. It's the only land based settlement within a hundred miles of here. If that chopper is going anywhere it'll be there." Dirge expanded.
A thoughtful expression grew on Seras's face. "You seem to know the area well."
"Well yeah, I...for want of a better word 'live' here. I've scavenged quite a few books from around the towns and needed to know where the humans stay so I could avoid them. They don't go asking if you're sentient before firing you know." Dirge told the blond woman. "And I want to keep in one piece...well as much as I'm in one piece."
"Can you take us there?" Seras asked.
"Wha?" Dirge's jaw dropped open in surprise.
"Can you take us there?" Seras repeated.
"I heard the first time." Dirge stated as he reigned in his surprise. "Let me get this straight. You want me to take you two to the Acropolis? Me? A zombie?"
"Well yeah. You've admitted to knowing the area already. And you do know where this settlement is. It would make our trip much quicker if we had a guide and the quicker the trip the fewer zombies will get in the way." Seras told Dirge with a friendly smile.
'And less temptation for me, if somebody's watching.' she quietly added to herself.
"I don't know..." Dirge frowned and turned to examine one of the nearby graves. "Do you really need a monster to help you?" Dirge's mind and emotions began to tumble. All these years alone he had tried stayed out of the way of the humans, justifying that they would more than likely destroy him if he approached. He had resigned himself to this existence and spent all his time reading to pass the time, of which he had a lot of. Yet here was a human asking him for help, seemingly accepting him so easily.
"Hey," Seras spoke placing a hand against Dirge's shoulder. Dirge saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, the only way he knew Seras had touched him as being dead removed all tactile senses. "The difference between humans and monsters isn't just in appearance. I've met monsters that were more human than humans, and humans that were worse than monsters. Your actions prove who you are. What you do defines you, not what you are or your appearance."
Seras's voice was firm as she spoke these words and Dirge felt the conviction behind them. He stared at the blond woman in surprise and felt his spirits begin to rise at her beautiful and understanding smile. The way his woman treated and spoke to him was not what he expected from a human.
"So will you help a little girl find her family?" Seras looked up to hold Dirge's gaze.
Dirge held her gaze for a few seconds before he drew himself up to his full height and took a deep breath into his non-functioning lungs. A sudden sense of purpose entered Dirge's head and he swore that he would protect and guide these two to their destination.
"When do you want to set off?" Dirge asked.
"Right now." Seras beamed her smile seeming to lighten the entire cemetery to Dirge and he was certain she was an angel sent to guide him to redemption.
"Okay." Dirge rubbed his jaw in thought. "You go get the girl ready while I get my things." Dirge commanded. "Then the four of us can set off."
"Right!" Seras saluted and rushed ahead to wake Zoe. She smiled to herself, glad that Dirge was willing to drop everything and set off right at the moment. She was even more pleased that he had not suggested waiting till morning. In her current blood staved condition the day would make her very lethargic. She had blood packs in her backpack but had been forced to ration them due to finding healthy blood few and far between. Halfway down the steps Seras paused as Dirge's words finally registered in her head.
'Wait-a-minute...four' The vampire blinked and wondered if he somehow knew about Pip.
"Come on move it." Dirge stated as he passed Seras on the steps down to the crypt. Seras shook her head and decided to ask him once she got Zoe.
Zoe felt the icy cold waters surround her as she floated downwards. Looking up she could make out the shape of her teddy bear as it too descended downwards. Above that, the only light shone down into the chilling depths.
All around her shapes moved through the water, monsters. Lots of monsters. As her lungs began to burn from lack of air a voice called out.
"Zoe, wake up." Seras gently shook Zoe awake. The girl blinked her eyes in confusion.
Where was she? Why couldn't she see out of one eye?
"Hey sweetie, we're going to go find your mom now." Seras told the sleepy girl and Zoe suddenly remembered where she was.
"Seras?" Zoe asked with a yawn while her blond rescuer began to unwrap the coat from around her. Once free from her makeshift covers Zoe hopped down to the ground and watched Seras put her coat back on. "Are we going to find my mom now?"
"Yep." Seras ruffled Zoe's hair as she passed by the little girl to pick up her large backpack again. Pulling her arms through the straps Seras smiled. "Dirge knows where the settlement is and has agreed to take us."
"The m...monster?" Zoe asked glancing around for the large zombie.
"Listen Zoe." Seras stated dropping to one knee in front of the girl and fussing over her clothes. "Dirge is not a monster okay. No matter what he looks like and it's because of him we're going to find your mom quickly so I want you to treat him like you do me. You don't want to hurt his feelings right?"
"Okay." Zoe replied.
"Good girl." Seras nodded then stood up and took Zoe's hand once more. "Let's go see if he's ready."
Seras led the purple-haired girl into the main area to see Dirge rummaging around on one of the makeshift shelves hidden behind a pile of books.
"Now where is it?" Dirge was heard mumbling before he exclaimed "Ah ha!" in triumph. Seras watched on curious as Dirge retrieved a large metal and spiked collar, which he clamped around his neck with a loud clunk.
"Won't do any good without a head." Dirge stated once he saw his guest's confused expressions. "I'd like to see a sword that could cut through this."
Seras did not reply but she absently thought a certain paladin she once knew would have probably been able to do that. While Seras pondered that, Dirge picked up a heavy thick chain and expertly whipped it around his chest forming a cross shaped loop. Seras absently thought the look suited him.
"I want to ask you something. You said the *four* of us back there." Seras stated as she fell into step beside Dirge. The large zombie eyed her with mirth as he wandered over to the large glass cylinder.
"Indeed I did." Dirge proclaimed as he pulled on a lever. There was a clunk and the fluid in the container began to empty with a sound not unlike a toilet flushing. Once the fluid had emptied, Dirge opened the container and something from a horror movie padded out.
Seras stared with wide eyes at the creature that stood by Dirge while embalming fluids dripped from its matted and patched fur. The creature must have been a large scary dog in life but in death it had become far more frightening. Teeth sprouted from its muzzle in various directions as the zombie dog regarded them with unblinking eyes. The dog's fur had various patches of different colours and lots of stitches indicating that Dirge had patched the dog together more than once. In fact Seras thought that the dog resembled something that Dr. Frankenstein might have made.
"No Cerberus they aren't for eating." Dirge stated holding a hand towards the dog as it raised its head towards its master. Cerberus whined faintly at that.
"Is...is it dangerous?" Seras asked while Zoe hid herself behind Seras's legs. The dog's unblinking stare was creepy.
"Extremely." Dirge intoned leading Cerberus towards the way out.
"It won't attack us will it?" Seras asked engaging in a staring match with the zombie hound.
"No." Dirge stated. "Well, probably not. I think."
Seras turned to Dirge with an annoyed look. "You think?"
"Cerberus was a police dog in life. Extremely well trained, I trust him more than I do myself." Dirge stated.
"Well if you're sure." Seras spoke slowly not quite convinced yet.
"Cerberus comes in really handy. You'll see." Dirge stated convincingly as he turned to the exit. "Ah! Come here Faust." Dirge picked up his shovel and with expertly timed execution spun the shovel like a baton and dropped it behind his head where it came to rest against the links of the chain with a clank.
"You've named your shovel?" Seras asked surprised.
"Well...yeah." Dirge mumbled slightly embarrassed. "Don't you give pet names to your stuff?"
"Hehehe." Seras chuckled herself. "Does it talk to you when you sleep?"
Dirge's face went blank as he stared at the blond woman as if she had just said the stupidest thing in the world. "Are you mocking me?" Dirge asked confused. "And I don't sleep anyway."
"Eh? Oh no, no, no, no." Seras waved her hands to calm him down. "Sorry, sorry."
Dirge regarded Seras before speaking. "You really are a crazy chick, you know that?"
Dirge poked his head out of the mausoleum first and glanced left then right. The cemetery was silent and nothing seemed to be moving under the light from the full moon. The barest of sea breezes drifted in from the beach carrying the smell of the sea and making the faint mist that hung around the graves swirl by just the slightest amounts.
Cerberus, the large zombie dog poked its hellish head out next and at Dirge's signal walked out to sniff around, now and then a faint tinkle from the collar that hung from the dog's neck could be heard. When Cerberus did not growl Dirge fully stepped out into the cemetery, satisfied that any zombies aside from themselves were not hanging around the immediate area.
"Okay you two, it's as safe as it gets." Dirge told the two females behind him.
Zoe poked her purple-haired head out next, leaning around the doorway to peer worriedly around the cemetery, her last experience out here still fresh in her mind. While Zoe scanned the graves for any more surprises, Seras calmly stepped out into the moonlight.
Seras did not bother looking around, she could already tell there was nothing dangerous to Zoe aside from herself and the dog, maybe Dirge himself but apart from that she was currently safe.
"It's a beautiful night don't you think." Seras stated staring up at the moon hanging in the sky, a faint smile playing on her lips as she remembered a similar night so many years ago.
"Huh uh." Dirge nodded absently not paying attention to Seras while he continued to check around. "If we hurry, I think we can make it there before dawn." The large zombie stated.
"Great." Seras grinned. "All the better. I don't move around much during the day."
Dirge raised half a hairless eyebrow as he pondered her meaning. Did she mean she felt safer moving at night? He supposed it made a sense in a way. He knew from experience that though zombies could only see as well or worse depending on condition as normal people. They mostly used their enhanced sense of smell to move around and track prey. Once a zombie smelt living flesh they would not stop coming until the smell vanished, either through the victim getting out of range or dying.
With this in mind Dirge carefully checked the filter over the remains of his nose making sure it was jamming most of the scents. He knew the effects the smell of the living had all too well and was glad for the ionic scent filter.
Without it he feared for the girl and Seras, unsure if he could resist the temptation. Cerberus had no such device, but Dirge was certain the dog's training would not allow it to attack without being commanded no matter what.
"Are there zombies outside?" Zoe asked innocently still hiding half around the doorway.
"There's..." both Seras and Dirge began to speak. The pair realising they were both about to say the same thing paused and glared at each other, each silently accusing the other of spoiling the moment.
"Go on." Seras finally smiled. "I know you're dying to say it."
"Bah, the mood's ruined now." Dirge grumbled shrugging his broad shoulders.
Zoe glanced around once more before hurriedly making her way over to stand beside Seras, who smiled at the girl as she continued to glance around.
"What if the zombies find me?" Zoe asked her voice quivering, letting them know how scared she was.
"Then they'll find me." Dirge stated firmly.
"And me." Seras gave a feral grin, which revealed her fangs much to Dirge's surprise at how large Seras's canines were. "They have to go through us first before they can come after you Zoe."
"Promise?" Zoe asked.
"Promise." Seras replied.
"Same." Dirge stated. "Now let's get moving before any do arrive."
Soon the ragtag group had left by the road that ran up to the cemetery and joined the small road that for the most part ran parallel with the coastal highway and began making their way towards the mountain range just beyond the city. Dirge was still concerned about having to travel through the city, after all a large amount of the population had died there becoming zombies. Hopefully they could move quickly enough that the zombies would not keep up. As they walked along the road a thick fog began gathering and soon obscured the view ahead.
Soon, with a little bit of encouragement from Seras, Zoe began to talk to them both and Dirge found himself almost wishing that the little girl had stayed afraid of him once the innocent questions of a six year old began.
"Where are we going?"
"To the mountains, the settlement is there." Dirge stated as he led the procession along the road, carefully checking the trees by the road for movement.
"How long will it take?"
"A few hours, if we're lucky." Dirge told Zoe.
Zoe went silent for a minute as she stared at Dirge, before the questions started again. "Where are your ears?"
"What?" Dirge stumbled nearly falling at hearing the strangest thing he had ever been asked. He turned and stared at Zoe who was waiting patiently for him to answer, her large eyes sparkling with interest.
"Err...they fell off."
"Did it hurt?"
"Oh." Zoe pondered something. "Did you keep them and put them under your pillow? Like with teeth?"
"Why would I?" Dirge asked giving a glare at Seras as she was chuckling quietly away to herself in the background.
'This is all your fault.' Dirge thought to himself and continued to direct a glare at the quietly laughing blond woman. Dirge looked down at Zoe, who had positioned herself next to him now that she knew he was friendly. Dirge spoke again. "You know...if you keep talking like that the zombies will find us quicker."
"But you're here to protect me right? You'll beat any zombies right up." Zoe proclaimed happily. "So it doesn't matter."
"Haha!" Seras laughed. "Can't argue with little girl logic."
Dirge was sure one of his eyes had begun twitching in frustration and grumbled away to himself. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see Zoe was winding up for another question. He braced himself.
"Did your nose fall off too?"
"Yes." Dirge sighed stretching the word out.
"Oh..." Zoe cocked her head as she thought away to herself.
"How do you smell then?"
"Terrible!" Seras laughed behind them. Zoe looked back at Seras not getting the joke while Dirge glared even harder. If he could feel pain he was sure he would have a stress headache coming on.
"You are not helping." Dirge informed the laughing blond.
"Sorry." Seras giggled before looking at Dirge slyly. "I got one for you."
"Oh hell no." Dirge stated slapping a hand against his face in frustration.
"Don't swear!" Zoe pointed out angrily surprising Dirge.
"Sorry." the large frustrated zombie grumbled.
"How'd you talk so well without lips?" Seras asked smirking.
"Arrgghh!" Dirge slapped both hands against his head and spun on them. "Please! Please stop asking questions. Okay?"
"Okay." Both Seras and Zoe stated.
"Good." Dirge stated actually surprised when the pair went silent. For a few minutes, they travelled in silence and Dirge felt himself relax slightly.
"Did your hair fall out too?" Zoe asked.
"Gah!" Dirge's shoulders stiffened and he began grumbling away to himself in irritation. "Yes!"
"To save me the trouble of tearing it out I suppose." Dirge answered with a sigh giving in.
"Why would you tear-"
"Quiet!" Dirge hissed and held a hand in front of the pair to stop them moving as a large dark shape loomed out of the fog. "Wait here a sec." Dirge told them and walked over to the large shape. It turned out to be a black riot van. He carefully checked inside through the windows to make sure it was empty before he signalled to Seras that the coast was clear.
"Problems?" she asked stepping up to the zombie.
"Not yet. We're going to have to be careful around here and check the cars as we pass." Dirge replied as he set off again. The group followed behind him as he began to check each car they passed by carefully. Zoe remained silent as she followed Seras's lead. Cerberus would wander ahead sniffing the road and then circle back around them.
They soon passed more cars, all with their doors wide open. Their owners had abandoned them in a hurry it seemed. After passing four more cars they came across an old 1951 Cadillac Hearse.
"That was well looked after, at least before the outbreak." Seras pointed out. "It's got to be nearly a hundred years old."
"Yeah." Dirge agreed walking up to the hearse and inspecting the inside. There was a coffin hanging half out of the back. The lid lay on the raid and it was empty. "That wouldn't have been pretty." he muttered to himself at the image of a zombie bursting from the coffin while the car was being driven.
Seras paused as she heard and sensed the telltale signs of zombie hordes approaching beyond the fog.
'That was awfully fast.' She thought, surprised by how soon they had encountered a bunch of zombies. It was almost as if they had been waiting for them. She reached into her coat and withdrew the pair of custom-made guns she had had made a few years before the outbreak. Both oversized and modelled after the ones her former master had enjoyed.
"Dirge." Seras stated drawing his attention. "We've got company."
"Wha? I don't think so. Cerberus would...have..." Dirge stated and trailed off when he saw the guns Seras had pulled out and his jaw dropped threatened to unhinge. Dirge's jaw snapped shut with a click.
"What the hell are those...things?" Dirge asked in disbelief pointing at the monstrosities that Seras was wielding. Both guns had barrels well over a foot long and could only be described as black and chunky. Hugely reinforced. Dirge guessed the bullets that were fired from them must be at least thirty millimetre rounds.
"Just keep near Zoe." Seras growled seriously.
"Listen, Seras. If zombies were near Cerberus would warn us." Dirge attempted to reason with Seras. It was at that moment that Cerberus began growling, rumbling like a demented chainsaw and Dirge swore in surprise.
'She was right?'
Seras stared into the fog and watched the approaching shapes. Zombies and lots of them, more than she had bullets to take care of and there were surely more approaching all the time. Once one got the scent they all seemed to gravitate towards their prey like a pack of wolves. They needed to get out of there quickly.
"Dirge! See if the car works." Seras commanded scrambling over but keeping her guns aimed perfectly at the nearest targets.
"The car?" Dirge paused in the motion of reaching for his shovel. "Oh! Right!" He realised what Seras was hoping for. He grabbed hold of Zoe and rushed with her around to the driver side. Almost tossing the frightened girl into the passenger seat Dirge dived into the car and shut the door. "Wind the window up Zoe." the large zombie commanded and the girl obeyed even as he checked for the keys. They were in luck, the keys were still in the ignition and Dirge turned them. The engine spluttered but did not start.
Outside Seras heard the engine turn but it did not start and she cursed.
"Well dog." Seras spoke towards Cerberus, who eyed her unblinkingly. "Looks like we need to buy some time." With that said Seras switched her aim away from the zombies and towards one of the cars nearest the largest clump of approaching corpses. She pulled the trigger.
With a boom that sounded like thunder, the gun fired and the car closest to the shambling horde exploded in a giant fireball as the fuel cell she aimed for released its stored energy. Zombie and car parts rained down as Seras once again fired the gun hitting another car with the same results.
Zoe had covered her ears and shrieked when the explosions began, cowering in the seat. Dirge stared out the rear of the hearse, his eyes threatening to fall out of their sockets as Seras's guns once more went off with a noise that Dirge thought only belonged to a tank or rocket launcher.
"Get the car started!" Seras shouted over the explosions while Cerberus dived in the back. Seras proceeded to shoot into the still advancing crowd, one shot smashing through at least four tightly packed zombies.
Dirge turned the key once again and once again the engine spluttered but did not turn over.
"Damn it!" Dirge hit the steering wheel in annoyance. Outside he could see the shapes in the fog moving towards them, behind them the loud retort of Seras's guns echoed again. Dirge glanced at Zoe who was huddled in the seat holding her hands over her ears and staring up at him pleadingly. He had to do something. As he looked back, Dirge swore in anger and embarrassment. The car was in park. Quickly knocking it to neutral he turned the key once more and the engine finally roared into life.
"Get in!" Dirge shouted at Seras who jumped backwards into the hearse still firing her guns. Dirge marvelled at the accuracy of each shot she fired, even flying backwards like something from a John Woo film Seras hit a zombie or two with each shot.
"Go!" Seras roared as she landed in the hearse and Dirge threw the car into reverse and slammed his foot on the accelerator.
"Seatbelt!" Dirge suggested to Zoe as the hearse lurched backwards before slamming into the car behind. As the hearse hit the car and crunched to a halt, Seras was flung violently out to slam into the windscreen. Dirge swore and stepped on the brakes.
"Seras!" Dirge and Zoe exclaimed as the blonde-haired vampire sat up seemingly unaffected by the impact. She shook her head once before diving head first back into the hearse. She rolled over and disengaged herself from her backpack so she could rush forward and slam the rear door tightly shut.
"Drive!" Seras commanded and Dirge obeyed shifting into drive and once more slamming his foot down. The hearse lurched forward right into the waiting crowd of zombies. Bodies went flying and body parts went hurtling past the windows. Zoe screamed while Dirge swore as the windscreen became coated in thick black zombie fluids blocking his vision.
"Stop! The road's blocked with cars!" Seras shouted as she stuck her head through from the back, appearing beside Dirge's head.
"What!?" Dirge roared back in panic. "How can you tell?"
"Hit the brakes! Turn us around!"
Dirge knowing no better did as Seras asked and twisted the wheel violently. The hearse squealed to a halt as it spun one eighty degrees and stopped. He glanced past Zoe and out of the passenger window to see that Seras had been correct. The road was blocked with cars and he made a mental note to find out how.
A decayed face suddenly slammed against the window sending Zoe shrieking once more and prompting Dirge to once again slam the accelerator pedal. The car shot forward with a squeal as he yanked the wheel around to send them racing down the road the way they had just came.
Dirge was once again driving blind and hoped Seras could somehow see where they were going. The thud of bodies hitting the car echoed almost rhythmically as they shot down the road.
Seras stared ahead and saw a big problem approaching. The road curved and she realised they would not be able to stop in time.
"Oh crap." Seras stated as the hearse left the road, crossed the uneven grass and then shot off the edge of the cliff. Fortunately for them the cemetery road ran parallel to the highway and the hearse plunged straight through an overhead sign, glanced off the surface of an overpass and slammed onto the highway.
Dirge tried to push the brake pedal through the floor and fought with the steering wheel as the car spun in circles before slamming bonnet first into a barricade. Dirge and Zoe were both thrown forward in their seats but fortunately had their seatbelts on. Seras however was not so lucky and was thrown forward to smash headfirst into the dash, coming to rest hanging haphazardly between Dirge and Zoe.
Zoe righted herself gasping for breath in shock while Dirge stared numbly at Seras's unmoving body a sombre expression on his dead face. He felt a bolt of fear run through him as Seras twitched. Had he killed her?
Seras finally moved her hands placing them on the dash either side of her head and pushed herself up slowly with a groan. Her head hurt like hell from the impact and felt...squishy? She poked the damaged area experimentally and groaned again, this time in annoyance not pain. Her skull had caved in from the impact against the dash and she silently cursed zombie drivers even as she began repairing the damage to it, hoping to complete the repairs before Zoe or even Dirge saw.
Seras turned her head slightly to the right and her eyes met Zoe's. The girl stared wide-eyed as the blood on the dash evaporated, turning into a black mist that was sucked back into the blond and then the nasty looking indent on Seras's forehead slowly popped back into shape and even the bruise faded.
"Seras?" Zoe stuttered watching Seras enraptured at the bizarre sight.
"I'm fine Zoe." Seras stated as she pulled herself back and rubbed the impact site. Turning to Dirge Seras threw him a dirty look. "Have you even driven a car before?"
"Phew." Dirge finally let out the air he had unconsciously held in his dead lungs in a parody of holding his breath. His relief turned to indignation at Seras's accusation.
"Probably." Dirge stated indignantly.
"Probably?!" Seras repeated her voice like ice and pointed at Zoe. "Your crazy driving could have killed her."
"Hey!" Dirge shot back. "I'd like to see you do better when you can't feel the pedals! Or see out of the bloody, and I do mean that literally windscreen."
"Out!" Seras commanded with a glare.
"What?" Dirge replied dumbly.
"Move it. I'm driving from now on." Seras stated leaving no room for argument.
"Fine." Dirge grumbled unbuckling the seatbelt and popping the door open. Seras climbed over the seats as Dirge moved around the car grumbling the entire way. She pulled the driver side door shut with a deep thunk and put the seatbelt on as Dirge opened the backdoor and climbed in.
"Let's see if this car starts again," Seras stated turning the key and was rewarded with the engine spluttering back to life. "Guess it's true, they don't make them like they used too."
Seras placed the car in reverse and gently eased the hearse backwards, built a little more speed up and slammed on the brakes.
"Whoa!" Dirge was thrown backwards in the back and glared forward at the blond. "Okay, okay, you've made your point!"
"Point?" Seras asked innocently grinning over her shoulder. "I was testing the brakes, making sure they're still working after that stunt of yours."
Dirge grumbled away to himself in the back.
Seras turned her attention to the car controls and sought out the windscreen washers. Pulling a lever she was rewarded with the sound of motors whirling and the wipers began to slowly chew their way through the thick black tar-like mess on the windscreen.
"Well, looks like someone's wrecked the headlights." Flicking another lever Seras shook her head. "I'm surprised this is even still running after that drop."
"Yeah, yeah, keep rubbing it in." Dirge's grinning skull appeared in the corner of Seras's vision. "Check the glove box Zoe."
"This?" Zoe asked pointing at the compartment.
"Yeah that's it." Dirge confirmed while Seras put the hearse into drive, gave the engine an experimental rev and slowly allowed the vehicle to trundle forward. She decided to keep the speed down and listened out for any telltale signs that would indicate the car was about to breakdown. Zoe meanwhile had opened the glove box and rummaged around to retrieve a torch and a map which she passed to the waiting zombie.
"Thanks squirt." Dirge stated taking the torch and map. Pressing the button to the on position, he was rewarded with a dull light. It was not much but it was enough to allow him to scan the map. Dirge frowned as he studied the map. During the war against the zombies the military had used bombs on the cities and roads in a hope to slow them down. Dirge knew this and it made the map more than probably useless, as often nine out of ten roads would be blocked with debris.
"Where am I heading?" Seras asked watching the large zombie in the rear-view mirror.
"Head towards DC. We need to pass through there and go towards the mountain ranges. We'll be looking for a Longdarque Memorial Tunnel. The settlement should be beyond that." Dirge stated tracing what he hoped was a clear route.
The group fell into silence while Seras navigated the abandoned cars on the highway. They had been lucky so far that there were plenty of gaps to squeeze the hearse through. Seras hoped their luck would hold out.
Zoe was staring out the passenger window watching the dark and unfamiliar shapes as they passed by. Dirge placed the map down and looked out the windscreen. Squinting he could barely make out the shapes of abandoned cars without the hearse's headlight and yet Seras was easily manoeuvring them around them. Dirge began to watch her intently.
"What's up?" Seras asked noticing Dirge watching her from the rear-view mirror.
"Can you even see anything?" Dirge asked the blond driver.
"I see everything." Seras replied putting on an Austrian accent and a smirk.
"How? I can barely see anything." Dirge asked frowning. He began thinking on all the other strange little things he had noticed about Seras. "And you're way stronger than a normal human." Dirge stated picking up one of Seras's guns that was lying on the floor and examining it. Even he could tell it was heavy and the recoil? Dirge could not even begin to imagine what the kick of those beasts would feel like.
"I'll tell you later." Seras spoke inclining her head slightly towards Zoe. Dirge noticed the gesture and guessed Seras did not want Zoe to hear what she would say.
"You better." Dirge stated, his curiosity would have to wait he decided. At least until they got Zoe to safety.
'Maybe some kind of cyborg? Or genetic alteration?' Dirge thought silently.
"My mom told me about the wasteland." Zoe spoke distracting the others from their thoughts. The little girl was still staring out the window trying to imagine the shapes outside the way her mother had said they looked. "She said it used to be pretty and lots of green."
"Apparently." Dirge stated with a sad sigh. "I don't know myself. I can't remember."
Cerberus placed his muzzle on Dirge's leg sensing his master's sadness and let out a faint whine. Dirge patted Cerberus absently; neither could actually feel it though and Dirge was reminded of what he was missing.
"It was once." Seras spoke up. "It used to be very green, well in places where people had not ruined it. Full of life. Even so, it still had its darkness even back then. Just it was mostly hidden away from normal people, but now and then it would rear its ugly head."
"And you worked for a group that kept it that way right? A dedicated few that looked after the many." Dirge surmised.
"Yeah." Seras agreed. "At least before...London."
"The zombies came?" Zoe asked curious.
"In a way." Seras replied not mentioning it was not the same zombies.
"Why do zombies eat people?" Zoe asked.
"I once thought it was for survival." Seras spoke first. "You know, like people and...other things need to eat, but they rot anyway whether they find food or not. It's like their only purpose is to destroy life."
"It is their purpose. To eat people that is. Then fade away." Dirge spoke. "Some say it's the way the world heals itself, to start over again."
Seras glanced at Dirge in the rear-view mirror, his face hidden in the shadows but she could see the sad look on his decayed features. Seras felt an overwhelming sadness inside as she watched Dirge.
'Poor guy. He's worse off than even I am.'
"What's your purpose?" Zoe asked Dirge curious and slightly scared of how he might answer.
Dirge looked at Zoe intently causing the little girl to squirm before he spoke. "I'll tell you when I find out."
"Dirge?" Seras asked catching his attention. "How many people were in the city we're heading into?"
"I dunno. A few million to hazard a guess." The big zombie replied thinking.
"That's not very comforting." Seras said guessing you could probably cut that number into a quarter depending on how many had decayed beyond the point of being a threat. That still left a very large amount of possible zombies in the city.
"I know. It's amazing that there are any human survivors at all." Dirge shook his head in amazement. "How many would just give up knowing that no matter how hard they fought in the end they would join the zombie ranks when they finally died."
"That's humans for you. The human will to live, to survive no matter what the odds." Seras grinned, her fangs flashing in the mirror. "Only a human can destroy a monster." Seras then smiled at Zoe. "You should never underestimate a human right Zoe. They have a tendency to surprise you."
"Yeah!" Zoe agreed feeling embolden by Seras's speech.
"And what of me?" Dirge pondered.
"You're not a monster." Seras stated. "I know what a *real* monster is."
"Yeah Dirge!" Zoe spoke as her little hands and face popped over the seat to look back at the big zombie with a smile. "You're cool."
At Zoe's acceptance of himself Dirge felt a feeling he had never thought to ever feel. Happiness. He was happy for the first time since he woke to this existence. He felt happy knowing that there were two special people in the world who liked him.
"Thanks." Dirge said happily before speaking loudly and firmly to Zoe. "Now sit down and put your seatbelt back on. I'm not going through all this trouble just for you to end up flying through the windscreen!"
Seras grinned as the little girl yelped and rushed to put her seatbelt back on. A sudden flash of blue behind them caught her attention and she glanced back with a frown decorating her face. Dirge blinked and looked behind them as well and wondered what had caught Seras's attention. Whatever it was he was not going to dismiss it as nothing as Seras had already proven to be a better early warning system than even Cerberus was.
"What is it?" Dirge asked seeing nothing but darkened road trailing behind them.
"I could have sworn something was watching us." Seras frowned extending her senses but finding nothing unusual.
"A zombie?" Zoe asked looking out the window.
"No...I don't think so..." Seras spoke slowly, unsure herself if she had even sensed anything. "It's gone now whatever it was."
The drone hung high in the air and continued to study the moving car. One large, blue lens focused on the hearse that was making its way towards the city. The anomaly had joined up with one of the variants and had escaped with the sera. This problem required greater intervention than that the puppets could supply. The drone continued sending information back as it trailed the car.
Seras guided the now battered hearse down the darkened highway, avoiding the many abandoned cars, some overturned and others burnt out. Now and then she had to move the car around large craters in the road's surface; obviously left from detonations from large artillery shells, made even more obvious by the burnt remains lying nearby.
As she spotted something interesting up ahead, Seras slowed down to pull up beside an abandoned M1A1 Abrams tank. The tank had spots of rust and was half off the highway, a few dark stains covered the treads indicating it had been used to run over organic matter.
"What's up?" Dirge asked leaning to look out the window at the hulking shape.
"A very useful find." Seras replied shifting the car into neutral and leaving the engine running. She popped her seatbelt off and opened the door to get out of the hearse. Once out, she took a quick look around the area. There was nothing moving nearby. She leant down to look in at her passengers. "Watch Zoe for me. I'll be right back." Seras said to Dirge.
With that said Seras shut the door with a clunk and jogged over to the abandoned tank. With a leap that looked casual, Seras hopped up onto the tank and made her way over to the hatches. Popping her knuckles, She leant down, griped the edges of one of the hatches and with a grunt and a squeal of metal, ripped the hatch open.
The first thing to assault her was the stench of decomposition and even she felt a faint urge to gag. Obviously the crew was still in there, whether they were moving was another matter. Seras looked down to see the bodies. One twitched but the other three remained unmoving, too far gone. She tossed the hatch over her shoulder.
"Ah!" Seras grinned spotting what she was after and reached into the cramped confines.
Meanwhile in the hearse, Dirge took advantage of the stop to pop his collar open and laid it on the floor. Zoe peered over the seat curiously as the large zombie began to rummage in the small pack he was carrying.
Dirge pulled out a large syringe full of green liquid and with precision born through practice he jabbed it into his neck and slowly injected the fluid. Once empty he roughly yanked the syringe out and replaced it in the bag, zipping it up once more.
"Does that hurt?" Zoe asked wincing at the sight.
"No." Dirge told her. "Nothing hurts anymore when you're dead."
"Really?" Zoe asked. "I wish my head didn't hurt."
"You've got a headache?" Dirge asked the girl while clamping his spiked collar back on.
"Good." Dirge exclaimed as if it was the best thing in the world.
"Why?" Zoe asked confused.
"Because it means you're still alive." Dirge told her comfortingly.
It was right then that the rear door of the hearse was yanked open making Zoe jump and causing Dirge and Cerberus to glare. Seras's grinning face appeared and she began unloading all the anti-personnel shells she had recovered from the tank.
"What are you doing?" Dirge asked Seras who looked like a kid in a candy store. Dirge picked up one of the shells in confusion.
"Found some ammo for Harkonnen." Seras continued grinning manically. "I ran out a while back and you *wouldn't* believe how hard it is to find suitable shells."
"Dare I ask? Who or what is Harkonnen?" Dirge wondered if he really wanted to know.
"My *big* gun." Seras grinned and indicated the backpack, to which Dirge in his curiosity reached over and unzipped to come face to face with the business end of a barrel that was large enough to put his fist down. Dirge's jaw dropped open once again. Seras seemed to have this effect on him.
"I had to get him altered over time. He's in quick to assemble pieces now as carrying him about in one piece looked too suspicious when people were around. He's rather large." Seras explained reaching down and lifting into sight the salvaged .50 calibre M2 machine gun and the relevant ammo. This too was dumped in the back with Dirge who slowly zipped the back pack up.
"That's...that's...you...crazy...guns." Dirge mumbled in shock.
"Cute isn't he." Seras kept grinning before shutting the door and skipped happily around to the driver side. She opened it and got back in. She soon began humming merrily as the group once more headed towards the city.
In the back Dirge looked at the weapon that Seras had dropped in, while Cerberus sniffed it in interest. If he did not know any better, he would swear the gun had been twisted off whatever it had once been mounted to.
A few more minutes into the journey, a loud gurgling growl echoed around the car and it did not come from Cerberus. All eyes turned to Zoe who held her hands over her stomach and shied away under the attention.
"You're hungry right?" Seras asked the little girl who nodded.
"When did you last eat something?" Dirge asked.
"I don't know." Zoe replied.
"You must have something to eat in your pack right Seras?" Dirge turned to the driver.
"No...nothing that a human can eat." Seras stated slowly. "Well, nothing suitable for Zoe anyway."
"You walk around outside and have nothing to eat?" Dirge pointed out. "Nothing at all?"
"Sorry." Seras stated. "I don't need to eat much myself, just enough to keep going."
"Why?" Zoe asked.
"Most normal food makes me ill." Seras said with a shrug. "I've got a very narrow diet that I can actually digest. Most liquids are okay though."
'Definitely genetic alteration.' Dirge decided upon hearing Seras's explanation.
"Seras, look out for a drive-in or gas station." Dirge told her moving over to look out the side windows.
"What about a circus?" Seras asked pointing in the distance. Dirge glanced that way and saw a lit sign flicker in the distance, one that read in bright letters the word circus. He stared interested as the power still seemed to be on.
"That'll do." Dirge stated. "If no sappers have already trashed the place."
"What's a sapper?" Zoe asked looking back at Dirge.
"A human or group of humans that roam around the wastelands," Seras explained. "Sometimes they attack other groups for fun. They're like gangs from the older days." Seras thought back to some of her own encounters with the crazies that lived outside. Some of them had ended up on her menu after they mistook her for someone vulnerable. "I've had...experiences with them."
"Me too." Dirge stated. "It's never pretty."
The circus was easy to find as there were plenty of signs indicating the greatest show on earth and all the usual promotional stuff. Seras was soon slowing the car down as they crossed the almost empty lot that must have been set up for parking. As they drew closer they could make out the brightly coloured tents and rows of empty dark stalls. Above most tents flags flapped in the wind, making the only sound heard.
Seras parked the car and switched off the engine sending the area silent once more, aside from the faint clicking of metal cooling.
'Spooky.' Seras thought as she took in the atmosphere. It was a stark contrast to what it should have been. A bright colourful and full of fun place that should be filled with noise, music and shrieks of laughter was utterly silent, dark and dead.
"I'll check it out." Dirge said getting out the back. He wandered around to the driver side and tapped the window lightly. Seras wound it down.
"You two stay in the car. There's bound to be zombies about and at least keeping the windows shut should buy me enough time to find anything edible." Dirge explained.
"Are you sure there'll be something she can eat?" Seras asked. "I don't want to give her food poisoning by eating anything past its sell by date."
"Hey, the stuff sold at these places is just full of e numbers and preservatives. If we can't find edible food here we'll not find it anywhere else." Dirge explained nodding his head.
"Fine, but if she starts bouncing from the roof, you're looking after her." Seras groaned imagining Zoe on a sugar rush.
"Whatever." Dirge stated. "Cerberus, guard the girl."
The zombie dog padded over to place its large ragged muzzle over the seats between Seras and Zoe at Dirge's command.
"Stay in the car." Dirge commanded as Seras wound the window back up. Soon the large zombie disappeared from sight around one of the tents leaving Seras and Zoe alone with the unblinking zombie dog.
Seras found that now she had nothing to concentrate on, with not driving and just waiting became acutely aware of the young girl next to her. She could hear the blood rushing through Zoe's veins, the pure virgin blood that called out to her. Seras groaned in annoyance as her vampiric hunger came back on full force. She needed to feed.
"Where're you going?" Zoe asked warily as Seras popped the seatbelt off and pulled on the door handle.
"I need to find something I can eat before I do something I'll regret." Seras stated not looking at Zoe and getting out the car. She did not want to leave the girl alone with the dog but she had no choice. Seras prayed that Dirge was correct about Cerberus.
"But Dirge said-" Zoe began but Seras cut her off.
"He was talking to you. Now stay in the car." Seras growled before glaring at the dog which stared back. "You better guard her or else you'll see hell." Seras warned slamming the door with a little more force than she meant. Cerberus whined. The strange undead lady actually scared him. Zoe heard the rear door open and the rummaging noises as Seras rummaged around in her backpack, seeking something. Once she found what she wanted she shut the door and then disappeared into the night.
Seras quickly placed some distance between herself and car, almost running into what must have been the main area of the circus. She looked about and spotted the bigtop standing silent in the darkness. Deciding to stay out of sight in there, she entered it and stood in the darkness inside. The floor was littered with rubbish, as were the seats.
Various once bright coloured cartons and packets now lay a soggy mess and Seras could smell old dried blood, rubbish and decay. Not paying attention to the area she ripped the packet of chilled blood open and guzzled it down. She could have gone for a while longer before feeding but being so close to a living person was speeding up the process, especially a young and healthy one. The blood was cold but at least it took the edge off of her hunger.
Soon, too soon for Seras the blood pack was empty and she tossed it away. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and stiffened in surprise as she realised she was not alone.
Slowly turning she saw the various shapes moving in the centre of the tent that shambled towards her. She cursed; the smell of blood must have attracted them. Looking at the approaching horde of zombies Seras sighed. They were mostly dressed in tattered, brightly coloured clown suits aside from the various stains that decorated them. Their faces decayed, but still covered in their makeup giving them an even scarier appearance than a normal zombie. Bright smiles covered in dried blood.
A zombie that must have once been an acrobat shambled forward to grope for the blood pack, its head hanging at an angle that should be impossible. It managed to pick the pack off the ground, examined it curiously before dropping it and turned to face Seras. The group seemed to sniff the air as if wondering what was standing before them. Then as one, they lurched forward to charge her.
Seras sighed again as they seemed to have mistaken her for a living person again.
'It must be the fresh blood.' Seras thought as she turned to exit, but the loud growl and the huge undead animal she came face to face with blocked her path.
"Oh bloody 'ell." Seras stated staring into the glassy eyes of an enormous undead Bengal tiger. The tiger sniffed her once before it roared and pounced on her.
Dirge paused. For a moment, he had thought he had heard a roar echoing on the wind. Well whatever it was that made such a noise made it even more important to find the food and get out of dodge. He had seen many shambling shapes in the distance as he wandered around the brightly painted stalls, covered in stuffed toys of various descriptions.
Finally spotting what he was looking for Dirge let out a triumphant "Ah ha!" and picked up the pace. He trotted over to the large building with a large plastic ice-cream cone above it. He walked around to the rear and saw the door. He tried the handle and found the door was locked. That was good. It meant no sappers had been in there yet as they generally would not bother to leave a door locked.
With a good, swift kick, the door flew off its hinges and allowed Dirge access to the inside. The large zombie stepped inside and looked around. Lots of sweets, cakes and various flavours of chips lined the shelves most in seal bags.
"Bingo!" Dirge exclaimed as he set about collecting as many random packets as possible. He actually felt ill at the thought of eating this stuff and yet the thought of a dying bleeding human made him salivate.
Dirge knelt down and stuck his head under the shelf to get at some packets of gelatine shapes.
"Can I have the pink ones?" Zoe's voice rang out behind him sending Dirge standing up to bash his head with a dull clonk on the shelf above.
"What the?" Dirge retracted his head and spun on the purple-haired girl. He stared in surprise before taking a palm and slapped it to his face. He pulled it down in frustration.
"Didn't I tell you to stay in the car?" Dirge growled.
"You left me with a zombie dog!" Zoe glared in indignation, hands on her hips.
"I left you in a car! With Seras!" Dirge glanced around looking for the blonde-haired woman. "Where is she?"
"Seras left me." Zoe mumbled.
"What?" Dirge asked again not believing what he was hearing. Did no one listen to him? "Why?"
"She said she was hungry and had to find something before she regretted doing something." Zoe explained trying to remember the words Seras had used. Dirge paused at hearing those words and wondered. They seemed frightfully familiar to himself.
"Where's Cerberus?" Dirge asked and a muzzle popped around the doorway. The huge zombie dog look almost apologetic towards its master. He whined pitifully.
"Here." Dirge said thrusting the bag of pink cotton candy Zoe had asked for into her hands. "Don't tell your mom. Now let's get back to car and find Seras."
Zoe giggled as she found her way into the packet and began shovelling handfuls of the years old pink fluff into her mouth. Dirge glanced around in readiness as other zombies would surely have picked up the girl's scent by now. He hoped the multitude of tents, booths and rides would slow them down. Zombies were not usually very good navigators.
There was a definite roar in the distance this time and Dirge turned towards the sound. Cerberus was growling his fur stuck up like spiked railings. A second roar this time of a different timber went off and Dirge decided it would be pertinent not to hang around. He picked up Zoe and tucked her under one large arm.
"What is it?" Zoe asked as the large zombie began to run back towards the car. Cerberus loped along beside them.
"I don't know and I have no intention of finding out." Dirge explained as he rounded a tent and spotted the hearse. He rushed over, yanked the door open and placed Zoe back in the passenger seat.
"Stay in the car!" Dirge commanded sternly and shut the door. Cerberus looked at his master while Dirge glanced around for any signs of Seras.
"Cerberus, find Seras!" Dirge commanded seeing no sign of the blond. Cerberus began to sniff around the area before he took off following her scent. Dirge followed with a look back over his shoulder at the hearse. Zoe's face was staring out the window at them, a blurry pale patch within the blackness and he felt extremely worried about leaving her alone.
Cerberus skidded to a halt and began to growl, zombie dog drool dripping from his fangs, which caused Dirge to pull up and reach for his shovel. A shape stumbled towards them into the light and Dirge gasped.
Seras stood on wobbly legs as she stumbled forward, her eyes unfocused and her skin very pale. Dirge could see what appeared to be black veins running across her face and she groaned. She seemed to have sensed them and turned towards them.
"No." Dirge dragged out in abject horror as what appeared to be a fresh victim of Nekrosis stumbled towards them. He gripped his shovel tighter and hoped Zoe could not see this from the hearse, as he got ready to put Seras down. The only thing he could do for her now he thought.
Seras suddenly stopped and her eyes seemed to focus on him, seemingly to stare right through him before she shuddered and coughed.
"Seras?" Dirge asked as Seras clutched her stomach in pain and retched. Dirge took a step forward knowing zombies did not feel pain but before he could move closer Seras's eyes bulged as well as her cheeks before she spewed forth a massive load of black tar-like substance that splattered thickly onto the ground.
"Urrg." Dirge exclaimed glad for once he had not eaten for a long time as Seras dropped to her hands and knees and continued retching and coughing up black globules. Her shoulders shook as she spat the last pieces on the ground and glared at the offending mess she had produced.
"Seras?" Dirge asked stepping up to her.
"Urrrg." Seras groaned. "That...was...not...fun."
"What the hell was that?" Dirge asked reaching down to help her up. Seras struggled to stand and it was only through Dirge's help she managed. Cerberus sniffed at the steaming mess that bubbled and slowly shrank in curiosity before deciding it was not nice and walked away from it.
"I ate a lot of somethings well past their sell by date." Seras moaned leaning against Dirge. Her skin was still pale and covered in blackened veins but she seemed to be returning to herself. She stared in wonder at the slowly evaporating black pool she had thrown up. "That's...never happened...before." she coughed.
"What the hell did you eat? Zombies?" Dirge asked as a joke to try to lighten the mood not knowing how right he was. "I thought you'd died."
At Dirge's question Seras gagged again, being reminded did not help. "You're gonna have to drive." Seras groaned out as Dirge began helping her across the empty lot towards the hearse. "I'm gonna be out of it for a while."
"Right. I'll put you in the front between Zoe and me so you can see for me." Dirge said.
"No!" Seras said firmly. "Not near Zoe."
"What? Why? Are you contagious?" Dirge asked worried for Zoe's health.
"Yeah actually." Seras stated. "But it's not that. Just put me in the back...you'll have to make it without me for a while."
After what seemed an agonisingly long time they finally made it to the hearse and Dirge opened the rear door. Seras struggled into the vehicle and collapsed against the side lying limply. Dirge stared, a look of concern decorating his face while Cerberus hopped in and curled up at the back of the front seats and watched Seras.
"Seras?" Zoe asked questionably looking into the back. "Is she ok?" Zoe asked Dirge when Seras did not answer.
"I honestly don't know." Dirge stated watching Seras carefully.
"Dirge." Seras finally moved. Her voice was little more than a whisper.
"What is it?"
"Go in my pack." Seras asked. "There's a coolbox with some packets in there. Please get me one."
Dirge frowned but climbed in to reach the back pack.
"Not that zipper. The other." Seras stated raising her hand limply to point at the correct zipper.
"This one?" Dirge asked and Seras nodded in confirmation. Dirge unzipped the side compartment and found the box Seras was wanting. Drawing it out he opened it and let a gasp of surprise out at the sight. He knew what blood looked like and the packets in the box were full of it.
"What is it?" Zoe asked.
"Nothing." Dirge lied as he picked one of the packets up and examined it. Property of Greenhill Hospital, blood type A. Dirge stared. He checked another. It was type o. He shut the box lid in a slow, carful movement. Seras held her hand out greedily as Dirge passed the packet to her and stared in wonder and shock as she bit into the tube at the top and began sucking on it like it was a juice drink.
"Are you going to explain?" Dirge asked with narrowed his eyes as Seras devoured the blood like, well a zombie devouring flesh. Seras finished the pack, leaving not a drop in it and tossed the empty packet out the car before speaking.
"You've probably guessed by now." Seras stated her voice sounding stronger already. "I'm not human."
"Yeah, you do a lousy job of hiding it." Dirge stated folding his arms and glaring. "You ain't no zombie so what the devil are you?"
"I'll tell you while we're driving okay. We're putting Zoe in danger hanging around." Seras stated and let her head lean back. She closed her eyes and for the first time that night, Dirge noticed Seras was not breathing and wondered how he had missed that little fact.
Dirge shut the rear door quietly and walked over to the driver side one. Opening it he got back in the hearse and started the engine. Staring in front he was pleased that the moon had come out from behind the clouds again and hoped it stayed that way. Soon they were moving again, slowly as Dirge knew he could not see as well as Seras seemed able to.
"Well?" Dirge asked once they had rejoined the highway. In the back Seras sighed before speaking.
"I'll start at the beginning I guess." Seras stated. "My name is Seras Victoria. I joined the police force at eighteen wanting to follow in my dad's footsteps. One night we got a call about a terrorist that had captured a small village. We of course went in and found the entire village were dead." Seras sighed again turned to look towards Dirge. He glanced between the road and the rear-view mirror. Zoe stared intently over the seat at her. Even Cerberus seemed to be listening.
"I sense a but coming." Dirge said.
"Yeah, the villagers were all dead. But they weren't still." Seras confirmed.
"Zombies?" Zoe asked.
"Yeah. Zombies." Seras stated. "I don't really know how but I managed to escape into the woods for awhile until I ran into the vampire in control."
"Vampire?" Dirge spoke up his voice laced with disbelief.
"Yes. Vampire." Seras replied. "No more crazy than zombies right. Or intelligent zombies." she pointed out.
"I..." Dirge looked forward with a frown. "I guess."
"What's a vampire?" Zoe asked confused by the unfamiliar word.
"It's like a..." Seras pondered how to explain to the girl. "An extremely powerful, intelligent zombie but it looks like and can pass as a normal human. You need to know what you're looking for to spot one as they can be very cunning if they want. He was controlling the ghouls he had created and I was powerless to stop them and ended up surrounded. He was going to make me into a ghoul as well."
"What happened?" Zoe whispered.
"The Hellsing specialist arrived." Seras stated. "That was the name of the group I ended up working for."
"He saved you?" Zoe asked.
"No." Seras chuckled morbidly. "He actually killed me. Shot me through one of my lungs to kill the vampire. Bloody hurt too."
"But you'd already been infected right?" Dirge asked guessing how Seras still here telling them this.
"Nope. The specialist was actually an insanely powerful vampire, the No Life King. My former master. Bound through some sort of magic I guess to the Hellsing family who controlled him. After all, the best weapon against vampires is another vampire." Seras looked at the roof a faint smile crossing her lips. "He offered me a choice, I could die there or I could go with him and live. I chose to live. If you check the records you'll find my death certificate. I've been dead for over forty years."
"Forty years?" Dirge repeated in shock and looked back at her. Seras still looked ill as she lay leaning against the side of the hearse. "You're in good condition for a corpse."
"As long as I get a constant supply of blood I can heal and repair all damage to my body." Seras stated. "The more blood I get the stronger I am."
"Like your head?" Zoe asked remembering what she saw when Seras banged her head.
"Yep." Seras nodded.
"Head?" Dirge asked.
"When we crashed!" Zoe exclaimed excitedly. "Seras made her head pop back into shape! I saw it!" Zoe smiled and puffed up in pride.
Dirge looked over his shoulder at Seras, his eyebrow ridges raised.
"Yeah. My skull was caved in by your crazy driving." Seras smirked.
"So...let me guess. Being near Zoe makes you hungry? That's why you insisted on being placed in the back." Dirge stated.
"Yes." Seras said looking away in shame. "I've had to ration myself these last few years. I'm normally good at resisting the hunger but being this close after years of avoiding people is hard. It makes it worse that she's so young. To be honest, if I was not so starved at the moment I could control myself enough to take just small amounts of blood here and there. It's how I've lived for years before the outbreak."
"I guess we're very similar." Dirge said. "We both have a hard to control hunger."
"Yeah." Seras agreed.
"So will you decay if you don't get blood?" Dirge asked, curious to the answer.
"I think so." Seras stated. "I believe I'll end up starving and more than likely going insane with the hunger. Eventually I'd go into a state of hibernation known as torpor. To all intents and purposes I'd be dead unless something living woke me up."
"And the way the world is going that's...unlikely." Dirge said saddened.
"Yeah. Without humans or living creatures I'm eventually doomed as well." Seras agreed.
"Do you want some of my blood?" Zoe asked offering her arm toward Seras. The vampire sat up almost instantly, her eyes flickered a deep red. They could see she had to visibly struggle to control herself; her fingers tearing through the upholstery gave it away. Seras shuddered before she got control of herself, shut her eyes and turned away.
"Don't...don't go offering things you don't understand." Seras hissed in anger and glared out the back. Zoe was the only one that felt the temperature in the car drop a few degrees, raising Goosebumps on her arms.
"But...you can just take a little right? Then you won't be weak." Zoe stated.
"Don't Zoe." Dirge said pulling the girl back into her chair. "Doing that is making it worse for Seras."
"Trust me you won't be helping her if she kills you in hunger right?" Dirge told the little girl.
"If you still feel that way when you're older then I'll accept your offer." Seras spoke quietly. "But right now I cannot guarantee not to kill you. You're only little and I could easily take too much from you. I want to see you get home, not have your death haunting me. I'm a monster but at least I can still do some good with my time left."
"You're not a monster you know." Dirge smirked. "A monster would not think like that."
Seras glanced at Dirge and a smile covered her dark veined face. "Thanks. You're not bad yourself."
"By the way..." Dirge spoke. "Why'd you get so sick? Did you really eat some zombies?"
"Seras ate zombies?" Zoe asked, her eyes went wide at finding out there was something that could eat zombies.
"Yeah, I forgot my guns and there was a lot of them...plus a tiger." Seras said with a grimace. "It caught me by surprise and...well, I kind of snapped. By the time I realised what I was doing I had devoured the lot."
"And it gave you indigestion." Dirge remarked.
"Yeah." Seras sighed. "It was stupid of me. To take in that much Nekrosis...I've seen vampires become mindless from the virus...little more than physically strong zombies."
"It can do that?" Dirge looked back at her in surprise.
"Why not." Seras responded. "Despite how I look I am a corpse as well. I guess vampires do have more immunity to the effects, but get enough in you and it's still game over."
"Curious." Dirge pondered and continued to guide the hearse towards the city. They had just passed a sign saying "Destiny City, 5 miles."
Seras continued to stare out the rear deep in thought. She shouldn't be here right now. In her weaken state, the virus should have overwhelmed her as it had many other vampires she had seen infected with the disease. She knew she wasn't like other vampires, being descended from the No-Life King guaranteed that, but to be immune to Nekrosis?
Was it Alucard's blood or something else that had saved her?
Dirge swore quietly under his unnecessary breath as the moon was once again hidden by cloud cover, plunging them into almost absolute darkness and he found himself cursing the fact they had hit that barrier head-on. They were currently following the main route through Destiny City, the towering skyscrapers, only completed a few years before the outbreak stood silent and darkened, the black windows watching like empty eye sockets. The once proud city, a pinnacle of engineering and design now lay in dark ruin, only inhabited by the dead.
"Awww perfect." Dirge slowed the car down to a crawl. The road ahead was littered with debris and now he could barely see. "Seras, I could really do with some help here. You feeling any better yet?"
"Not really." Seras groaned before gathering the strength to drag herself over to the front seats. She leaned over the back of them with her arms crossed and rested her chin on them. "You need me to guide?" Seras asked as she stared ahead.
"Please." Dirge watched the vampire in concern, hoping she had her cravings under control. Seras was looking pale, but most of the black veins had seemed to have faded away. He still found it slightly surreal to think she was as dead as he was, had been for far longer too. She looked so much like a normal human and Dirge felt a twinge of jealousy.
"Hmmm, stay to your left. The road's mostly clear." Seras stated. "Careful around fifty yards in though. Looks like a bomb went off leaving a large crater."
"Exactly *how* far can you see?" Dirge asked in wonder.
"Without my using my abilities, my eye sight is generally five times greater than a human and I can see in almost complete darkness." Seras told the zombie driver. "Using my abilities I can generally keep track of a target up to a few miles and can see in zero light. Makes me a crack shot with any weapon."
"Wow." Dirge rumbled. "Is your sense of smell as good?"
"Yeah," Seras nodded and added. "And hearing too. We are predators after all."
"Can you feel?" Zoe asked curiously. The girl was currently eating something with frosting on it, easy to see as her face was covered with the powder. "Dirge said zombies don't feel."
"Yeah, I feel just fine." Seras smiled at Zoe, amused at the messy sight of her sugar coated face.
"Seems I got the short end of the undead stick." Dirge mumbled.
"Let me tell you though it's not pleasant getting skewered with blades when you can feel it." Seras stated. "It's not all good for me though. I have a few weaknesses that can be used against me."
"Really? The whole sunlight thing? Is that real?" Dirge asked.
"Depends on how strong or old the vampire is." Seras stated. "I'm low on blood so staying out in the sunlight is getting harder for me, which is why I prefer to avoid it nowadays. There are also blessed weapons, but I've not run into anyone who used those for years now."
"What happens in sunlight?" Zoe asked.
"I get really bad sunburn."
"Garlic?" Dirge pondered. "Is that true?"
"Only if I ate the stuff. I'd just throw up." Seras laughed. "Dunno where that came from. But I am allergic to silver, it really burns. Silver bullets are buggers if they get stuck."
"I thought that was werewolves?" Dirge stated.
"Move to the right Dirge." Seras spoke seeing an obstruction. "Nah. They're tough but an ordinary bullet to head stops them."
"Wait! They're real too?" Dirge gasped turning to look at Seras before he shook his head. "I don't believe it."
"They were." Seras stated. "They're now extinct."
"Nekrosis got them too?"
"No I did." Seras grinned and showed her fangs off again.
"Dare I ask..." Dirge mumbled as the hearse began climbing a steep hill. As they crested the hill Dirge hit the brakes.
"Awww perfect." the large zombie mumbled. He did not need Seras to tell him about the devastation lying in front of them. One of the skyscrapers lay shattered across the highway blocking their route.
"Not really surprising." Seras started talking as she stared at the ruin. "The humans panicked as more and more zombies were created. They set fire to their own buildings to try and destroy them. It only caused more destruction and death."
"Guess we'll have to go around." Dirge sighed turning the wheel right and guiding the hearse off the highway and deeper into the city. Dirge had hoped they could have just followed the highway all the way, avoiding having to go far into the city, home of many zombies.
Row after row of dark buildings passed them until Dirge suddenly hit the brakes as he spotted something peculiar. To their right stood the Destiny City Natural History Museum, a massive white building with a long set of steps leading up to it and huge Corinthian columns decorating the front. That was not so unusual, but the light that had just been switched off inside was.
"What is it?" Seras asked as she had missed the light.
"I thought I saw something." Dirge stated killing the engine.
"A zombie?" Zoe looked outside the hearse, fingers splayed against the window and stared into the darkened streets.
"Doubtful." Dirge replied staring towards the now darkened window. "Zombies don't turn off the lights when they exit a room."
"What are you planning?" Seras asked as Dirge he opened the car door.
"There may be someone alive in there. They might have a radio and if they do we can call for help." Dirge climbed out the car. Placing his hands on the roof he leaned down to glare in. "Stay in the car. And by stay in the car I mean, stay in the car. Translated into English that means stay in the car."
Dirge shut the door and from inside the passengers watched him walk past and then make his way up the steps towards the museum. Seras glanced at Zoe and Zoe looked back at Seras and an unspoken agreement passed between them.
Dirge slowed as he neared the top steps. One thing he had not factored into this was the fact that humans usually welcomed undead with guns. Reaching back he pulled his shovel free and held the metal blade near his face like a shield. He was not worried about bullets hitting his body as anything short of a headshot would not put him down. May make him into a right a mess but at least he would not lose consciousness.
"You forgot the flashlight." Zoe's voice stated from behind Dirge. The large zombie's shoulders tightened and when he turned around the look on his face made Zoe flinch. Seras stood beside the girl and Cerberus beside her.
"Didn't I just...? What in the hell are you two...?" Dirge stuttered in rage. "Do you have any idea how many zombies are out here?"
"Approximately seventy seven point two zombies per city block." Zoe stated reciting what she had been taught in school. "Which is way more than it takes to break a car window."
"Precisely, and in my current state Zoe's safer with someone watching me." Seras spoke as she poked Dirge in his board chest.
"Fine. But what makes you think you're safer out here instead of in the car?"
"Because you're out here with us." Zoe explained. Dirge blinked and stared as he felt his anger drain away at the little girl's proclamation. It felt nice to be wanted. Turning slowly Dirge shook his head. "You two are gonna be the death of me." he joked.
None of the group noticed the small black drone crawl out from under the car. Neither did they see it fly up into the air above the plaza to meet up with the three large, vaguely robotic shapes standing on the roof of a nearby building. They stared down emotionlessly as the human girl, the variants and the vampire entered into the museum. Observing.
Dirge pushed open the glass door carefully and the group stepped into the museum. The entrance way was huge and circular. Large fancy white marble pillars stood around the outside and there was more than one floor above them. Balconies that could be used to get a different view at the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that stood proudly in the centre. Off to the side a reproduction of a woolly mammoth stood and it was obvious the exhibit was something to do with the Ice Age.
Cerberus sniffed at the air curious at all the new smells while Seras stepped up beside Dirge. The pair glanced around checking every nook and darkened doorway for trouble.
"Are there any zombies in here?" Zoe asked placing herself behind her two protectors.
"Just two and a bloodthirsty vampire." Dirge joked looking serious.
"Not funny!" Zoe glared while Seras began to move over towards the centre, her booted footsteps on the checked floor tiles echoed around the entranceway. She was certain something was moving in here and slowly reached for her guns.
"Hello?" Dirge bellowed out his voice echoed around the museum. "Hello! Anybody home? Preferably living?"
"Thank you for visiting Destiny City Natural History Museum." a recording of a female voice began to speak over the loudspeakers that hung from the roof causing the group to glance up. "The end of the Tertiary period saw a great cooling of climates throughout the world. The result was the Ice Age of the Quaternary period. During this time the ice caps spread outwards from the South and North Poles, and the glaciers crept down from the mountains. The lowlands of northern Europe and North America had a chill tundra landscape - barren lands with frozen ground - like modern Siberia."
"Hmm, didn't know that. Did you know that?" Dirge asked. Zoe shook her head.
"Ice Age animals were often buried and preserved in frozen mud, such as mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers and even small dinosaurs. Imagine what life would be like, if these creatures were alive today."
"I'd rather not." Dirge mumbled as visions of zombie-dinosaurs danced through his head. Thankfully that was not possible he thought.
Seras half listened as she stepped up to the Tyrannosaurus skeleton, certain she had spotted movement. As she moved around the exhibit she came face to face with something so surprising that she did not even think about firing her guns.
Seras blinked and the four and a half foot tall, Velociraptor blinked back at her. It chirped like a bird before it lashed out with its wickedly clawed foot, catching Seras across the stomach instantly disembowelling her. Before Seras could even register the pain it had leapt onto her chest sending her crashing backwards onto the floor, her guns clattering away as it gripped her shoulders and reared its fanged head back. Seras grunted as she caught the creature's snout and jaws and forcefully held it away from her face.
Dirge swore out loud before running towards the grappling pair. "You've got to be kidding me!"
The large zombie grabbed the zombie-raptor from behind yanking it off of the bleeding Seras and tried to pull it away. The raptor hissed and kicked out with its hind legs making it a struggle for Dirge to hold the beast.
"I can already tell, we're not gonna get along." Dirge stated as the raptor continued thrashing. With one particularly powerful thrust the raptor knocked Dirge backwards sending him crashing to the ground. His head bounced off the floor rattling his brain. The raptor was back on its feet before he had even gathered what had happen.
With high pitched shriek the raptor took off straight for Zoe. The girl shrieked herself and ran away so she could dive behind a pillar. The raptor skittered to a halt, its claws raked scratches in the marble floor as Cerberus dived into its path. The two zombie beasts circled each other hissing and growling. At an unseen signal, the two dead animals charged each other.
While this was happening Dirge had climbed back to his feet and ran over to Seras. She was struggling to roll herself over, gore hanging from her midsection and dark blood spreading in a pool around her. Dirge stared at the sight feeling disturbingly hungry.
"Seras?" Dirge prompted.
"Bastard." Seras hissed in pain at the raptor as bits of her insides moved around and became bits on the outside that should not have. "Protect Zoe! I'm fine!" Seras shouted at Dirge spraying speckles of blood in his direction. Dirge taking her word for it took off towards the warring animals.
Cerberus dived at the raptor only to receive a kick from the dinosaur that caught the dog in the face, tearing Cerberus's face clean off. A second vicious kick sent the dog spinning away to smash through another glass exhibit. The raptor roared in triumph only to have a shovel clang onto the top of its head sending the raptor snout first into the floor.
Even as Dirge raised the shovel for a second whack the raptor was moving. Back on its feet in a flash it leapt at Dirge and kicked out with both feet catching him in the chest. Dirge was propelled like a rocket across the museum and smashed through the leg of the Tyrannosaur to slam against a pillar. The exhibit swayed dangerously before giving in to gravity and toppling with a loud clatter, bones spinning everywhere.
The raptor turned once more towards Zoe's hiding place but a movement it saw out the corner of its eye made the beast leap away. Good thing too for the pillar behind where its head had just been exploded as it was hit by a thirty-eight millimetre round. Chunks of marble flew around the area even as the echo of the gun firing continued to bounce around. Zoe had her hands clamped over her ears at the noise, Seras's gun that she had retrieved sounded like a cannon in the area.
"Damn!" Seras swore not believing she had missed and rotated her arm tracking the dinosaur as it scampered around the pillars. She grimaced in pain at moving. She was on her knees now, gore trailing from her as she had crawled across the floor to get her gun. The gun went off again and again. The raptor seemed to have a supernatural ability to dodge bullets as each shot hit the area the beast had just vacated. Seras soon realised the raptor was circling in towards her, using the pillars as cover.
The raptor burst from behind one of the nearest pillars and rushed towards her, black spittle dripping from its gapping maw. Seras grinned, she had it now. The click of the hammer hitting an empty chamber echoed.
'Maybe not...' Seras thought just as the raptor leapt towards her claws first.
Seras had resigned herself to more pain, getting ready to catch the descending beast when the chain Dirge carried wrapped around its neck with a crack. The raptor's eyes and tongue bulged from its head comically as Dirge yanked on the chain.
"Get over here!" The raptor's direction was reversed and it now flew backwards towards the large zombie who swung his shovel back. "Fore!"
Shovel met raptor with a clang and the dinosaur had its trajectory altered once again to end up skewered on the ivory tusk of a fake woolly mammoth, where the beast hissed and spit like a demented cat. Zoe seeing the coast clear ran over to Dirge but drew up short when she spotted the mess Seras was in, staring wide eyed at the bloody vampire.
"I'm terribly sorry about that." a heavily Egyptian accented female voice stated from behind them causing Zoe and Dirge to jump in surprise. "Millions of years of genetic programming are hard to erase. Not even a glacier could take the fight out of her."
The group looked around as one to find a slender shape of a woman standing in the shadows behind them.
"Her?" Zoe asked to which Dirge grumbled. "Figures."
The large zombie cast a glare at the raptor which glared back at them from its skewered position.
"True, she makes for an effective security system. No human has ever made it past those doors in one piece. The problem comes in turning her off."
'No human?' Dirge thought hearing those words. "Something tells me you're not the curator."
"No." the woman replied stepping forward, her high heels making clicking noises as she approach stepping into the light. "An exhibit."
Dirge stared at the woman in wonder. She was stunning he supposed, slender and curvy. Tall with long black hair that hung down past her shoulders and was wearing what could only be rolls of black electrical tape wrapped around her body, leaving only her hands, face and midriff shown. Her face was decorated with the Egyptian symbol of Ra around both eyes and cheeks. Yep, she would be stunning if you ignored the six foot scythe she carried and the unhealthy green pallor that indicated she was long dead.
Cerberus limped over after finally pulling himself from where he had landed. Zoe did a double take as she noticed the dog's face was missing. Dirge noticed too while Seras hissed climbing to her feet.
"Your lizard broke our vampire." Dirge pointed out. "And my dog!"
"A blood drinker? I was led to believe her kind were myths." the woman inquired fixing Seras with a curious stare. Seras returned the look with one of annoyance.
"Why do all the intelligent zombies think *I'm* impossible?" Seras mumbled pulling herself back together. They all looked on in wonder as the blood and other bits of Seras crawled across the floor towards her. Cerberus sniffed at the moving mess as it passed him by. Soon the vampire was whole again, even her clothing had repaired itself and Dirge shook his head.
"Now I *really* feel like I got the short end of the undead stick."
"A most useful ability." the dead woman stated as she appraised Seras before she turned her attention to Dirge. "So you are a variant."
"A what?" Dirge boggled. In the background, Seras picked up her other gun and wandered back over.
"Hmmm. Not a very smart variant." the woman stated turning on her heel and walking off. "Come with me!"
"Who *are* you?" Dirge called after her, annoyed with her know-it-all tone.
"Quickly! Before she frees herself."
Dirge glanced over his shoulder; the raptor was gradually pulling itself free. Grumbling he gave Zoe a little push to get her moving and the group followed the woman into the back.
As they followed the dead woman into the off-limits area of the museum, Zoe's eyes were drawn to all the glass jars that lined the hallway. Each contained some pickled specimen, whether insect, body part or sea creature. One such specimen caught her eye, a small squid stared out at her and as she stared into its dead empty gaze she was drawn back into her recently forgotten memories.
Zoe found herself standing on the boat, bobbing around on the darkened waves of the sea. In her hands was her teddy bear, Wolfgang she remembered the name. The sound of rotor blades coming from above sounded dulled as if coming through a haze as the black shape of a helicopter descended towards her.
Zoe glanced up as the rope ladder was unfurled and voices shouted for her to jump. Above her she could just make out the dark shape of her mother. Zoe reached for the ladder, caught it and slowly began climbing. Halfway up she slipped, dropping Wolfgang into the waters below and she was forced to grip the ladder with both hands.
Below her, there was a sudden explosion of water as the tiny boat she had been on seconds before, vanished under the waves. As she looked on in fear a huge unblinking eye of a giant squid rose to the surface. Massive undead tentacles shot up towards her and caught the flapping rope ladder she held precariously onto. She fell as her fingers lost their grip, down, down into the water and the corridor suddenly rushed back into sight.
"Zoe?" Seras asked the girl as she placed a hand gently on her shoulder. She had notice Zoe pause and stopped herself to watch the girl stare hypnotically at one of the specimen jars. Seras noticed it contained a pickled squid.
"I remember a helicopter and a boat. There were monsters." Zoe whispered as she turned to look up at Seras.
"That's good. Your remembering that is, not the monsters." Seras congratulated the girl before taking her hand once more. "Let's catch up with the others okay."
Zoe nodded as Seras led the girl after Dirge who had just disappeared into a room with their newest acquaintance. Seras read the sign above the door, Egyptology Research Lab, before she pushed the door open and entered herself.
"So let me get this straight," they heard Dirge speaking. "You're a reanimated Egyptian mummy on loan from the British government."
"Permanent loan as it were." the woman replied while collecting a few tools from the various benches around the room. "And not a mummy exactly, it wasn't unheard of for an Egyptian king to have the living buried with him. Wives, slaves, cats. All left to die from either heat or starvation."
"How thoughtful." Dirge grimaced and grabbed an industrial stapler off the desk. He handed it to Zoe. The girl looked up at him curious as what the gift was.
"Here," Dirge handed Zoe the remains of Cerberus's face. "Patch him up. I've got a few questions for Queen Tut here."
"You flatter me." the zombie in black tape said. "If I were royalty, my insides would have been extracted. My brain taken out through my nose with a sharp metal hook. Obviously I was not treated to such a procedure."
"Remarkably well preserved for someone not put through mummification." Seras spoke up examining the woman and noted the stitches across her forehead just under her hairline.
"A curiosity I suppose." the woman replied approaching Dirge with the tools she had collected.
"You got a name?" Dirge inquired and pondered what Seras had just pointed out. Just how did she keep herself in such condition?
"Nephthys." she answered. "Not my given name obviously. After all we don't remember those do we?" She fixed Dirge with a knowing stare.
"Not exactly, no." Dirge replied. He wondered just how many other oddities he would run into tonight. Finding another zombie blessed, or was the cursed with intelligence? A vampire and finding out that other creatures once thought myth may be real as well. He still felt the raptor was pushing it though.
Nephthys began stabbing a metal spike into Dirge's chest. He looked down; she was stitching a fresh tear in his skin from the battle with the raptor.
"And what, if anything should I call you four?"
"I'm often called an abomination from the darkest pits of hell." Seras joked. "But anyone who knows me just calls me Seras."
Nephthys let out a short amused sound as she continued to repair the damage done to Dirge.
"The girl is Zoe. The dog is Cerberus. I'm Dirge." Dirge stated.
"A mournful lyric." Nephthys sighed. "How depressing."
"Mind explaining to me how a couple of thousand years old corpse speaks English so well?" Dirge inquired sceptically towards Nephthys.
"Network-Enabled Phonetic Translation of Hieroglyphics." Nephthys stated indicating the large quad screen computer nearby. "Used to verbally catalogue and cross-reference tomb inscriptions. The humans called it NEPHTHYS for short."
"You don't say." Dirge stated examining the large system as Nephthys finished stitching. Seras walked over to examine the device as well. She knew a bit about computers but this one was more advanced than she had seen before. Fancy logos, data and graphs flashed past depending on which of the screens you looked at.
In the background sounds of a staple gun clicked as Zoe tried to fix Cerberus's face back on.
"Mind filling us in on this variant business?" Dirge sent a questioning look towards Nephthys.
"There isn't much you should not already know."
"It's what you call what you and Dirge are?" Seras asked. "An intelligent zombie?"
"Correct." Nephthys said. "We both are anomalies. A billion to one chance."
"I guessed that. How? Why?" Dirge asked.
Nephthys clicked a couple of buttons and the screen changed to show a zoomed in view from the high-tech microscope positioned on the end of the desk. The screen showed a black structure that wiggled around, various nasty looking barbs stuck out from its body.
"The parasitic organism responsible for reanimating the dead." Nephthys stated as Seras leaned in to get a closer look. She decided that the virus looked evil.
"Nekrosis." Dirge stated as he studied the screen curiously.
"Correct." Nephthys confirmed.
"Evil looking buggers aren't they." Seras interrupted. "So that's what it looks like. Now that I've seen it up close, I can see how it can make even me sick. Vicious looking thing."
"How do you mean sick?" Nephthys asked curious as to what the vampire meant.
"She means that literally, as in the all over, head spinning kind of way." Dirge remarked.
"Thank you for the graphic reminder." Seras muttered. She turned to address Nephthys. "What I mean is it can even overwhelm a vampire's mind if one gets infected with enough of it."
"Overwhelm?" the Egyptian zombie enquired.
"I have some immunity to it." Seras explained.
"Curious." Nephthys pondered tapping a finger on the desk. "Would you mind taking part in an experiment?"
"What kind of experiment?" Seras asked.
"Place a drop of blood on this." Nephthys passed Seras a thin strip of plastic that had a faint indent in the centre. "I'm curious now about what happens with your body on the cellular level when Nekrosis is introduced."
Seras took the plastic strip, stared at it for a moment before she shrugged and bit the end of her thumb. She let a single drop fall onto the strip and then she passed it back to Nephthys, who took it and wandered over to the microscope. She slid the sample under the lens, swapping out the Nekrosis one.
The three turned as one to look at the screen.
"Interesting." Nephthys stated. "At first glance your cell structure looks normal. However, it becomes obvious it is not when you notice there is no movement, division, nor breakdown going on. I wonder how they stay stable."
"Immortal monster." Seras pointed out proudly.
"True. Shall we introduce Nekrosis to the mix?" Nephthys said picking up a dropper that contained samples collected from her own flesh and carefully dropped one single drop under the microscope. The reaction was not immediate as at first the Nekrosis cells floated about slowly before they picked their targets and moved in, barbs stabbing the nearest cells. There appeared to be no reaction to the attack. The three watched the virus attach itself to the cells and held on, wrapping around the cell with its barbed tentacles.
"Hmm, nothing strange. Not as yet." Nephthys remarked.
"That's it?" Dirge stated with his eyebrows raised in disappointment. He had expected something...more somehow.
"Well, that's a bust." Seras muttered as they turned away from the screen.
"Getting back to us then," Dirge spoke. "How did we keep our minds?"
"At time of death, this organism assumes executive control of the brain...restoring basic motor function and coordination. This usually happens anywhere between one and five minutes after passing, allowing the brain enough time to shutdown." Nephthys stated to Dirge's question. "Once awakened, Nekrosis atrophies both the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, rendering memories inaccessible to the victim."
"It forces us to forget." Dirge stated.
"Yes. The parasite evolves quickly, repressing the limbic system, thus interrupting characteristic and emotional response."
"Sounds to me like ours never finished the job."
"Or were hindered."
Dirge turned his eyeballs to Nephthys a frown decorated his face. "You think someone did this to us?"
"I prefer to think the gods smiled on us." Nephthys smiled. "Gave us a second chance."
"A chance to do what?" Dirge said sounding more than a little angry. "Watch ourselves rot from the inside out?"
Nephthys frowned as she addressed Dirge. "To attend to unfinished business. Perhaps serve some greater purpose. Not many people get a second chance you know."
"Lucky for them." Dirge stated with sarcasm dripping from his voice. He folded his arms and stood with an annoyed expression.
'Greater purpose. What a joke!' Dirge thought to himself.
Seras kept quiet choosing to stay out of the argument and instead chose to study the computer screen, which continued to show the Nekrosis virus wrapped around the blood cells. She almost shuddered at the thought of that going on inside her, eating away at her until she was weakened enough to zombify herself.
"So tell me," Nephthys asked folding her arms too. "What business does a vampire, a dead man and his dog have with that little girl? I assume she's still among the living."
"Of course she is. And I intend to keep her that way." Dirge snapped.
"Who is she?"
"We don't know much apart from her name." Seras spoke up. She turned away from the screen. In doing so, she missed the sudden change as the virus's tentacles broke apart and the remaining barbs dissolved inside the cells. Soon after the rest of the virus broke down, melting away as if acid had been poured onto it. This repeated on each and every other virus on the screen.
"I found her washed up on the beach about to become zombie bird food. We're taking her home."
"And where is that?" Nephthys asked.
"The Acropolis." Dirge stated.
Nephthys almost laughed in Dirge's face but managed to control herself. "Hmmm. That's nice. Tell me the other one."
"It's the only settlement within a hundred miles of here. If her family is anywhere, it's there." Dirge reasoned while he directed a glare towards the Egyptian zombie.
"I know the Acropolis. Outside the city, through a darkened tunnel...hidden in the face of a mountain. It's swarming with tower guards. Robotic defence systems. You'll be blown to pieces before you even see the main gates."
"Trust me," Seras laughed. "There's no building I can't get in. That defence system will not stop me. I'll get Zoe home easily."
"Have you seen the defences they have? You should not take them so lightly."
"Heh, heh, heh." Seras laughed deep from her chest, an almost evil sound. The vampire faded slowly from existence to the surprise of both variants. "Do you really think any defence system can stop this?" Her voice seemed to echo from all around them.
"S-Seras?" Dirge looked around in wonder.
The vampire faded back into existence; she stood upside down on the ceiling face-to-face with Nephthys, their noses almost touching.
"Still think I can't get in?" Seras asked and grinned like a Cheshire cat. She dropped off the ceiling, faded from view and then reappeared before the Egyptian zombie standing on the floor and no longer defying Newton's Laws.
"I...see." Nephthys stated trying unsuccessfully to not sound disturbed.
Dirge was about to speak but Zoe interrupted him. "All Done! What do you think?"
The group turned as one to examine the repairs Zoe had done to Cerberus with surprise. The dog's face was back on...mostly. Cerberus's face was covered in a multitude of staples seeming chosen to be placed at random. Seras guessed Zoe had used up all the staples in the stapler. As they looked on a staple pinged off and disappeared behind a cabinet.
"Good as new." Nephthys stated first with a smile, lying not to hurt the girl's feelings. Zoe swelled with pride at a job well done.
"We should go." Dirge said. He was acutely aware of the time being wasted with this little side trip. "If we want to reach the settlement before dawn."
"Which way will you take once you leave the city?" Nephthys asked.
"North, towards the mountains. There's only one road in or out...the settlement supply line. It hasn't been used since the humans fixed the mag-rail, but I'm guessing the rubble's still clear." Dirge replied turning to leave.
"Just be aware that the settlement is nearly inaccessible."
"Good thing too." Dirge glanced back. "There's monsters out there."
Nephthys watched the strange group leave the lab, Dirge first followed by his dog. Seras had taken Zoe's hand and the girl had paused to look back and wave before they followed. Nephthys raised her hand to wave back but they had already left and dropped it slowly. An unfamiliar feeling of regret bounced around her head and she quickly followed to stand in the doorway.
"Be careful," Nephthys called after them. "Not all monsters in this world are of the undead variety."
"Thanks." Dirge called back flippantly. "I'll keep that in mind. Good luck with your higher purpose."
Nephthys lowered her arm sadly as they left her alone. She turned back to the lab and looked around what had been her home for the last few years. She walked slowly towards the computer, deep in thought. That was when she noticed the screen showing the virus was not how they had last seen it.
The Nekrosis virus was gone.
"What?" she exclaimed and leaned over to double-check. "Is...Is this a cure?"
Nephthys turned in surprise to stare at the doorway. She made her mind up quickly and rushed after them.
"That was just a tad rude don't you think?" Seras pointed out to Dirge once Nephthys was out of sight.
"Maybe." Dirge admitted feeling a bit of guilt as they retraced their steps to the lobby. "But we do need to hurry up. We can drop by afterwards and apologise or whatever once we get Zoe home."
"We?" Seras blinked.
"Yeah." Dirge responded. He stopped to turn back when Seras's footsteps came to a sudden stop. "Something wrong?"
"What do you *mean* we?" Seras stood with her hand in fists and resting against her hips.
"Well...I just thought that you'd want to hang around...or something." Dirge mumbled in surprise. He had gotten use to Seras's company in just the few short hours they had together. She was good to talk to, but the most important part to Dirge was she talked to him as an equal and not some monster.
"What makes you think I was going to hang around?" Seras pondered with a frown.
"I just...aww forget it." Dirge grumbled feeling a sudden emptiness at Seras's words.
"You just thought eh?" Seras glared. "Oh, I see. You expected me to just return with you to that crypt? And do what? Wait for the end of the world? Sounds like real fun."
"I said forget it!" Dirge snapped in growing frustration.
"No I won't!" Seras growled angrily and Dirge spun on her. Whatever he was going to say caught in his throat at Seras's red eyed glare. Collecting his wits Dirge was about to restart the argument when Zoe spoke up.
"Please don't fight!"
Seras and Dirge both looked at Zoe and paused at the sad look on the girl's face. She looked almost ready to cry which brought out feelings of guilt at upsetting her in both of them.
"We're not fighting." Seras comforted Zoe before she gave a smile. "Dirge is still in one piece."
"Yeah." Dirge mumbled and Seras sent Dirge a look that said we *will* have words about this later. The group fell into an uneasy silent as they covered the last few metres towards the lobby.
As they approached the lobby, Dirge indicated to them to slow down and he slowly pushed the door open. He checked around for the undead raptor. Part of him hoped for a repeat performance as he had some frustration he wanted to work off. The area seemed to be just as they had left it, sans one impaled raptor. The beast had freed itself from the tusk, leaving behind in a black substance covering the tusk.
"Careful. The dino's gone." Dirge stated as he stepped carefully into the area, followed closely by Cerberus. The zombie dog began to sniff around warily for the raptor. Seras led Zoe out and kept the girl close by. She drew one of her guns, just in case.
The cloud cover must have broken as the centre of the lobby was bathed in the light from the full moon, pouring in from the round skylight five stories up.
"Looks clear." Dirge stated.
"I don't see anything moving." Seras replied with a glance around, her eyes penetrating the darkness beyond the moon lit area.
"C'mon, let's get out of here." Dirge said wholeheartedly as he wanted to put this place far behind them. He led the group across the room, past the wrecked tyrannosaur skeleton. It was as they were passing through the moon lit centre that the light vanished as a large shadow fell over them and blocked out the light.
Dirge and Seras both noticed the shadowy shapes cast on the floor, drew to a halt and glanced up just in time to see the glass skylight shatter as three black shapes dropped through the glass.
Seras reacted instantly. She swept Zoe into her arms and sprinted out of the way. Dirge and Cerberus moved just a fraction of a second behind her both leapt to safety as three black shapes landed with loud, thudding impacts that shook the room and shattered the tiles below them. A cloud of fine dust exploded upwards even as the glass from the skylight rained down, bouncing off of the ground and the black shapes that crouched in the centre of the destruction.
Seras crouched protectively over Zoe, holding the girl close as tiny glass particles bounced harmlessly off her back. As the last sounds of glass hitting the ground faded, Seras unfolded herself from around Zoe. She stood and turned quickly to face the shapes, ensuring that she kept her body between whatever had dropped in and Zoe. Dirge already stood facing the unexpected surprises that had just dropped in.
The three black shapes began unfolding from the crouching position they had landed in. Whatever they were, they were big, big and bulky. Standing around seven feet tall and covered in bulky black armour plating they resembled giant humanoid beetles. The large armour on their shoulders gave them a hunched over and even more intimidating look. Rising from their backs was a large antenna like spike that gave them even greater height. Every few seconds a blue energy would pulse down the grooves etched in the armour plating, sending a low vibration through the air that was felt in the group's very bones.
The armour plated things stared impassively at the group before them with their three triangularly arranged blue glowing eyes. The sound of heavy breathing as if the three massive creatures were deep-sea diving filled the room, sounding strangely ominous and out of place.
Dirge stared back and wondered just what kind of weird dream he was actually having tonight. Vampires, dinosaurs, zombies and now some kind of robots?
Seras was pondering the same thing. She had already decided which of the three was the leader and most dangerous. The one standing closest to them was just a little bigger and bulkier than the two towards the back.
"Seras? Dirge?" Zoe asked peeking out from behind the vampire's legs.
"Variant has taken a name." observed the leader, its voice immediately made Seras think of Darth Vader gargling mud. The tentacle like appendances attached to its face plate wriggled with each word.
"A functional contrivance." offered the second.
"Chosen by compulsion to distinguish itself," the third one stated.
"From the dead." the leader finished.
"I don't believe we've had the pleasure." Dirge stated calmly even if he was not feeling that way. These things had just called him a variant, just what Nephthys said they were and he was now really getting confused.
"Memory remains destabilized."
"I beg your pardon?" Dirge gaped. That had gotten his attention.
"Variant recalls nothing."
"It preserves itself," The creatures stated, taking turns to speak. "Tissues saturated with methanol...ethyl alcohol...formaldehyde." They then spoke as one. "A clever one."
"Not clever enough." Dirge frowned. Whatever they were they seemed to have sensors built into that armour. "Who *are* you guys?"
The three observed him silently, like a curious scientist who had just discovered a new species of insect before speaking. "An irrelevant detail."
"I'd answer him if I was you." Seras stated making sure her guns made a lot of noise as she drew the second one and held them casually against her legs. This drew the three creatures' attention to her and they began examining her much as they had with Dirge.
"Creature appears deceased. Zero respiration. No heartbeat detected."
"No indication of cellular degradation."
"Lack of Nekrosis present in anomaly's body."
"Classification unknown. Retrieve for examination."
"I think you'll find that harder than you expect." Seras growled narrowing her eyes.
"Awfully evasive for a bunch of can openers aren't they." Dirge stated to Seras who nodded. The three creatures seemed to think or perhaps discuss between themselves silently.
"The Hands of God have been summoned."
"Uh huh." Dirge deadpanned.
"I once met people who claimed to be the hands of God." Seras stated casually. "They died. Painfully."
"They appear regarding a matter of...weapons disposal." The creatures continued ignoring Seras.
"Sounds to me, like they're after your guns Seras." Dirge joked.
"Incorrect." The leader spoke pointing its arm towards Dirge. "You are the weapon."
The two at the back copied the leader's movement. Their forearms opened up and a bladed disc, looking very similar to a shuriken rose out with a clunk.
"Have we met before?" Dirge frowned as he felt consumed by a sudden intense feeling of déjà vu. A memory had almost dislodged itself inside his head but vanished before he could fully grab hold of it, like sand running through his fingers. The three creatures exchanged a knowing glance before once more facing the group.
"Propagation of the sera cannot be facilitated."
"Impediments to renewal."
"Why do I get the feeling I've been here before?" Dirge stated to himself.
The projectiles on the creatures' arms exploded off heading straight toward Dirge who quickly raised his shovel in front of himself in a desperate hope it would deflect them.
Three loud booms came from Seras's guns and the projectiles deflected off course missing their intended target by a wide margin. One disappeared into the darkness above. Another one was sent spinning away to embed itself deeply into one of the pillars in the room. The third crashed into the white and black chequered tiles and cut a large groove before coming to a rest.
"Whoa!" Dirge exclaimed still holding his shovel in front of his face and observing the smoke drifting lazily from Seras's guns barrels.
"Dirge! Get Zoe out of here!" Seras commanded moving to place herself between them and the creatures, all the time keeping her guns aimed at them. "I'll handle these uglies."
One look at Seras's face indicated to Dirge she was deadly serious for once. Trusting the vampire knew what she was doing he grabbed Zoe and tucked her under one arm.
"You better not get killed." Dirge stated before taking off towards the main doors with Cerberus in pursuit. By this time the three large armour plated creatures had reloaded their forearm weapons and were aiming at Dirge's retreating back.
"Too late for that." Seras stated even though Dirge would not hear her. She did not have enough time to shoot all three.
'Aim for the big one Mignonette.' Pip told her. 'They seem to aim as one.'
Seras took aim at the leader's weapon and fired, hoping Pip's observations of these things were correct.
The gun's retort echoed around the lobby and the leader's bladed disc was shot off its arm with a metallic ding, where it vanished into the darkness beyond and clattered onto the ground. The leader reacted as if the blow had hurt and as one the three turned back to glare at her, eyes flared brighter for a moment.
'Bingo!' Seras thought in triumphant.
'The other two seem to under the leader's direct control or are linked somehow.' Pip confirmed.
"Not so fast boys." Seras grinned evilly and revealed her fangs. "You need to get past me first."
Dirge slammed open the museum doors with a clatter and sprinted out into the darkened city. Behind them, he heard a single shot fire from Seras's guns. Not looking back he took the steps two at a time as he raced towards the parked hearse as quickly as possible.
"Seras!" Zoe screamed out.
"Don't worry about Seras, Zoe." Dirge stated as the hearse drew closer.
"But-" Zoe started to say.
"She's too tough to be taken down by a bunch of overgrown bugs." Dirge explained ripping open the rear door. Dirge pushed Zoe into the back as quickly as he could without hurting her.
"Get in." Dirge commanded Cerberus who obediently jumped in the back with Zoe. Dirge slammed the door shut and stared back towards the museum for a moment. The sounds of gunfire could be heard and he knew Seras was the source. He turned towards the car's front and paused for a second as he saw the shapes stumbling in the distance towards them.
"Aww perfect." Dirge groaned spotting the zombies approaching. "This is all we need right now. At least things can't get any worse now."
He moved quickly towards the driver's side door grabbed the handle. With a powerful yank the door opened and he ended up stood stock-still, jaw hanging open and dumbfounded as he stared at the zombie in the driving seat; an Egyptian zombie to be precise.
"Get in." Nephthys stated as she turned to look up at Dirge.
"Wha...What the hell are you doing?!" Dirge shouted in frustration at something else surprising him again.
"Helping you escape." Nephthys stated. "Now hurry up and get in the car."
"Get out of the car!" Dirge waved his shovel threateningly towards her throat which was promptly ignored.
"Please." Nephthys asked waving the shovel away dismissively. "She won't be able to hold them off forever."
Dirge ground his teeth in frustration for a couple of seconds before slamming the door shut and hopping over the hearse's bonnet. He got in the passenger side.
"Are you coming with us now?" Zoe was asking Nephthys while holding onto the back of the front seats so she could see over.
"Apparently." Nephthys stated while gunning the engine. "Hold on." The Egyptian zombie told them just as Dirge shut the door.
Nephthys slammed the accelerator into the floor and with a squeal of tires the hearse shot forward pinning Dirge to the seat. The few unlucky zombies to be standing in the way of the hearse were run over.
"What the hell were those things?" Dirge asked as she stared at the rapidly shrinking the museum in the side mirror.
"You tell me." Nephthys stated while she manoeuvred the hearse expertly around obstructions at high speed. "They were after you."
"I've never seen them before in my life!" Dirge shot back at her and gave her another glare.
"Afterlife." Nephthys corrected him calmly.
"Anomaly facilitates the sera." The fractionally smaller armour plated creature to the leader's left stated aiming at Seras.
"Impediment to renewal." The one on the right concluded aiming as well.
"Impediments unacceptable." The leader stated another bladed disc popping out of its forearm.
"So you've already stated. I thought you wanted to capture me?" Seras pointed out still grinning. The three paused a moment before the leader replied. "Anomaly is not required to be whole."
"Less talking more shooting." Seras's grin seemed to widen and her eyes were blood red as she felt the excitement of battle fill her. She looked forward to seeing just what these creatures could do.
"Our sentiments exactly." The leader replied seconds before three bladed discs shot towards the vampire.
Seras aimed and fired twice knocking the smaller creature's attacks off to the side and with a casual step to her right allowed the leader's disc to pass close by her ear. A grin still plastered to her face Seras fired once again. The shot impacted against the leader's right shoulder armour, which seemed to flex slightly absorbing the impact. Even with the force of the bullet hitting it, the leader did not move.
'So, they're exceptionally strong and tough,' Seras thought pleased. 'These might just be fun to fight.'
'Careful boss!' Pip's warning came seconds before the leader's bladed disc changed direction by itself and headed back at her. Caught by surprise by this development, Seras was unable to avoid the weapon and it cut through her right upper arm, leaving an inch deep gash.
"Huh?" Seras exclaimed in surprise.
The second and third disc also had somehow corrected their directions as well and spun towards her. One caught her in the thigh and the last slashed by her left cheek before all three discs returned to the three creatures and landed with a clunk back on their forearms.
Seras stared at the creatures, whose body language indicated they were probably smirking under those faceplates while still aiming at her. She lowered her head letting her hair cover her eyes from sight and she began chuckling. As Seras's chucking turned to laughter the three creatures exchanged confused glances.
"Yes!" Seras exclaimed lifting her head quickly revealing an insane grin. "Amazing strength! Reactive armour that can take a shot from my guns! And coordination far beyond human abilities! This will be fun!"
"Anomaly is clearly, insane."
"This indicates it is likely not to care about receiving damage."
"It will fight unpredictably."
"Anomaly is dangerous." All three stated together. "We must end this quickly."
The creatures and Seras both moved then. Three discs shot towards the vampire again as Seras began rapidly firing her guns. The sound was deafening as she moved around the room keeping her aim precisely on the creatures. Each shot that impacted against their armour was barely registered as they too tracked her. Blades whizzing past her as she weaved around them easily now she knew their capabilities.
'I'm running out of bullets.' Seras thought to herself as the guns were not hurting the creatures in the slightest.
'Go for the joints.' Pip suggested. 'Armour is only as tough as the weakest section.'
Seras changed her aim to target the nearest creature's elbow and fired. She was rewarded with the creature having to clutch at its arm in pain. Black liquid began dipping from the damaged portion of the armour distracting the other two and Seras slipped behind the nearest pillar and began to reload her guns.
"So," Seras stated loudly catching their attention. "Seems you guys can be hurt easily enough."
Using the position of Seras's voice, the three immediately sent their disc weapons flying towards her. They shot towards the pillar and just before impacting spun around it and turned back to slam into the pillar where Seras should be.
The three armoured creatures rushed over to find the discs embedded in the pillar but no sign of their target.
"I've got a question for you guys." Seras's disembodied voice floated around the entire lobby. The armoured creatures glanced around in confusion as they tried to pinpoint her position but it was like her voice was coming from every direction at once. When they could not locate her the leader made a motion towards the other two and stepped forward.
"Very well. We will allow an exchange of information." The leader stated while staring into the lobby.
"You claim to be the hands of god." Seras's voice was now coming from behind a pillar across from them. The two behind the leader aimed in that direction while the leader turned to stare. "Are you Catholics?"
"Negative. We follow no religion." The leader replied. "Was the anomaly created by Nekrosis virus?"
"Negative." Seras mocked her voice now coming from behind a different pillar. The leader once again turned towards that while only one of the smaller creatures aimed at the pillar, while the other kept aim towards the first pillar still. "I've existed for decades before Nekrosis appeared. What's your name? I like to know the name of who's for dinner."
"Xar Ggothua." The leader answered with a slight movement of its head. "Identify anomaly's species."
"I'm a vampire." Seras's voice was now coming from behind a different pillar. Xar Ggothua once again turned to face that direction. "Sired by the No-Life-King himself and a former officer of the Hellsing Organisation."
Xar Ggothua paused in thought before replying.
"Vampire. Hellsing. Indicates the human work of fiction by author Bram Stoker. No-Life-King can only refer to the fictional character of Dracula. Anomaly proves it's insanity by believing such fiction is real."
"Believe what you want creature." Seras stated her voice once again coming from a different pillar. "You keep mentioning the sera? What is that?"
"Anomaly is not authorised for that information." Xar Ggothua stated and then aimed towards the back of the room. Behind him the other two also changed their aim.
"And how do you guys know Dirge eh?" Seras asked leaning back against the pillar she had moved to. She held a fresh clip halfway loaded into one gun and waited to slam it home.
"Anomaly has no need of that information." Came the reply. Seras smirked, now she knew they were definitely after Dirge for some reason. Now all she needed to do was kill and eat one and she would know what they were and why they were hunting Dirge. This night was proving very interesting.
Seras slammed the clip home with a loud metallic click and immediately answering was the sound of the disc's once more being fired. Seras grinned and vanished to another pillar before diving out right into the path of the discs.
"What the hell?" Seras exclaimed before dropping into a roll and avoiding the spinning weapons. She was forced to scrabble away on all fours to the side and dive behind another pillar as the discs began tracking her. Raising her guns she fired three times knocking the discs off course. She swore. They could track her somehow and now she had wasted three more rounds.
"Anomaly is capable of short range translocation." Xar Ggothua's voice stated. "However its energy signature is highly disorganised and unique."
Behind the pillar Seras gave a toothy grin. This was turning out to be quite exciting. It would be challenge not be hit by these creatures. Unlike her sire she did not enjoy allowing her opponents to blow her to pieces, before turning the tables and showing them just how outclassed they were.
She heard the noise of the discs once more being fired and waited a second before bursting into movement. She sprang to her feet and raced past the gap between pillars, the discs missing her by millimetres before they corrected themselves and began closely following her.
Seras kept her eyes on the three armour plated ones in the centre of the room. All three tracked her with their eyes and adjusted their stances as she moved around the room.
'Let's see how much force that armour can take.' Seras thought to herself getting ready to run towards them and turn this into a fistfight. It was then that the zombie raptor decided to make its reappearance and leapt out at Seras as she passed by.
"Oh bloody 'ell!" Seras exclaimed as the raptor clamped its jaw around her left arm and bit down, severing her arm just above the elbow. Being distracted by the zombiesaur she was unable to continue avoiding the bladed discs and she was hit.
The first took off her other arm at the shoulder eliciting another bout of swearing. Seras attempted to twist out of the way but the second disc tracked her perfectly cutting her in half at the waist. The third disc missed her and instead caught the raptor slicing it in two much the same way as Seras had just been.
The moment she hit the floor, Seras heard the sound of the discs being caught and the thud of heavy footsteps approaching her. From her position, lying on what was left of her back Seras stared up at Xar Ggothua and his friends.
"Anomaly is disabled. Suggest retrieving at a later date."
"We have wasted too much time. Primary target is escaping."
"Propagation of the sera must be prevented. We must hurry."
With that said the three creatures made for the museum exit leaving Seras glaring at their retreating forms.
"Hey! Get back here you overgrown bugs!" Seras yelled at them and was promptly ignored. "Well this is just bloody typical." She turned her head to glare at the raptor that chewed happily on her arm, oblivious to its own legless state.
"You are *really* gonna get it dino." Seras growled and prepared to pull herself back together, but before she could a very low vibration passed though the floor. Even the air seemed to resonate and there was a build-up of energy.
"What is that?" Seras contemplated as every bone in her body vibrated with the throb. As suddenly as it started it ended leaving the area once again silent. The raptor had paused in its chewing, probably wondering the same thing Seras was.
"Weird." Seras stated aloud. "I hope Dirge has managed to put some distance between Xar and pals. I better get moving."
Giving the raptor one last glare that promised pain Seras's pieces seemed to dissolve into a wriggling black mass before bursting into hundreds of small bats. The swarm of bats circled the lobby once looking not unlike a black tornado before they shot upwards and out of the skylight and into the night.
"I would like to know exactly what you have done to attract the attention of one of their generals." Nephthys stated towards Dirge as she drove the hearse down the highway. They had exited the city just a few minutes ago and were making steady progress towards the tunnel that would lead them to the Acropolis.
"I told you, I ain't seen them things before!" Dirge growled. He turned his attention to Nephthys, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. "And what do you mean by one of their generals? You seem to know an awful lot about what's going on."
Nephthys glanced at Dirge from the corner of her eyes. It was obvious to her what Dirge was thinking.
"I assure you I know barely more than you do." Nephthys told him. "I became aware of their existence around four years ago and since then I've hunted their scouts. However every time I get close they vanish into thin air like ghosts. It is most...irritating."
In the back Zoe tuned out the conversation and crawled over to look out the rear in a vain hope that she would see Seras running to catch them up. All she could see was the highway vanishing into the darkness beyond and the huge black shape hovering in the sky behind them. A flash of blue light pulsed down the wings of the shape and Zoe's eyes widened in fear.
"You've hunted those things?" Dirge exclaimed in disbelief.
"Dirge." Zoe spoke and turned back to face the large zombie.
"Their scouts are much smaller." Nephthys answered. Both paid the little girl no attention as they were deep in conversation.
"Dirge!" Zoe stated with more force trying to get his attention.
"How come I've never seen them about?" Dirge asked and continued to ignore Zoe. He wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery. What were those things and how did they know him?
"Dirge!" Zoe shouted.
"What?" Dirge bellowed back in annoyance as he turned towards the rear of the hearse. "Oh..." Dirge's face showed his shock as he spotted the large craft rapidly gaining on them. The only way he could describe the craft was like a giant black manta ray hovering silently towards them.
"It would seem your friends have taken care of the vampire." Nephthys stated with a check in the rear-view mirror.
Dirge blinked his eyes in the hope that he was seeing things. Yep, there was still a huge black alien-looking craft hurtling almost silently behind them, rapidly closing the distance between itself and the battered hearse. Grabbing the window winding handle he quickly lowered the passenger side window and stuck his head out to get a better look.
The sleek black craft drifted closer and as he watched a pulse of blue energy began gathering around the three prongs, two placed at the tips of the wings and one above what he guessed was the cockpit. Energy began to leap off the prongs like lightening.
Dirge pulled his head back in quickly and turned to Nephthys. "Not good. I think they're going to fire on us."
"I noticed." Nephthys stated. She sounded calm even if she was not; after all, she had appearances to keep. She watched the energy building up on the craft's weapons through the rear-view mirror, waiting for the right moment. "Hold on to something." she warned and twisted the steering wheel to the left just seconds before the craft fired.
Tires squealed in protest as the hearse lurched to the left. It narrowly avoided the lighting like blast of energy that struck the road where they had just been moments ago. In the back Zoe and Cerberus were thrown around, the zombie dog managed to place itself between the side of the hearse so Zoe landed against him and not metal.
Dirge who was gripping the roof with one hand stuck his head out the window once again and observed the road behind them vaporise. It was as if a whole section of the highway had evaporated.
"Awww perfect." Dirge groaned as the craft began gathering more energy for a second blast.
Nephthys stared up ahead at the shapes that rapidly approached in the distance. It looked like some more abandoned cars. As the shapes began to become clear she noticed the big tanker ahead. A glance in the rear-view mirror showed the weapons on the craft were almost charged.
"Brace yourselves." Nephthys informed her passengers as she steered towards the abandoned tanker.
"What are you doing?" Dirge yelled as he realised what was up ahead.
"Trust me." Nephthys said. She carefully watched the craft readjust its aim. The Egyptian zombie paused a fraction of a second before hitting the brakes and the blast from the craft passed overhead barely missing them. The tanker up ahead was not so lucky and exploded in a red mushroom cloud even as Nephthys once more slammed the accelerator down.
The hearse had avoided the main force of the explosion but was still buffeted by the winds that rattled and shook its passengers about before diving into and through the flames. The abused vehicle burst out the other side of the flames as they began to turn into blackened smoke. The bonnet of the hearse was covered in small fires that quickly began to disappear as the wind whipped past. Inside the hearse Cerberus had dived on top of Zoe when the flames had come bursting in through the open windows and Zoe was now frantically patting the small fires on his fur out.
"Are you trying to get us all killed?" Dirge yelled at Nephthys while his nostrils were assaulted by the smell of singed flesh, fur and upholstery. At the back of his mind he absently wondered where exactly Nephthys had learned to drive like this.
Nephthys's cocky reply about them already being dead died in her throat when she noticed the craft was building up for another blast. Having had to hit the brakes had allowed the craft to close the gap and she knew they probably would not be able to avoid a third blast with their pursuers being almost on top of them.
"If you have any bright ideas, now would be the time to use them." Nephthys stated and eyed Dirge. Dirge glared back at her before he turned to the rear. He saw Zoe looked pale and frightened in the back as she watched the two zombies in the front.
"Just one." Dirge stated as he climbed over the seats into the back of the hearse. Once there he rushed over to the rear door and with a brutal kick knocked the door off its hinges. The hearse was filled with the sound of air whipping past as the door bounced off the road with sparks trailing behind them.
"What are you doing?" Nephthys asked as she watched in the mirror. Dirge gripped the sides of the doorframe and braced himself.
"Hold her steady!" Dirge shouted with a look back over his shoulder. With as much strength as he could muster Dirge launched himself out of the hearse and right at the black craft. His fingers just managed to catch hold of the craft's front end and he desperately clung onto it. The impact of him landing sent the nose pointing down enough as the weapons fired again, to harmlessly hit the highway. Dirge knew his fingers were slipping off as the craft rose higher into the air, adjusting itself to avoid slamming into the ground from the unexpected extra weight.
As the craft realigned itself Dirge's grip finally slipped off and he was sent tumbling away. As he fell past the wings he managed to pull the chain he carried off and whip it to catch onto one of the prongs. Dirge was left hanging onto the chain like a zombie shaped kite.
Back in the hearse Nephthys stared at the sight of Dirge pulling himself slowly up the chain towards the craft. The Egyptian zombie was impressed by his bravery but would not admit to it just yet.
"No wonder your friend is dead." Nephthys said to Zoe as the little girl watched Dirge in fascinated horror. "He's an idiot."
Dirge climbed the chain until he came within grabbing distance of the craft and caught hold of the prong that his chain was wrapped around. The body of the craft where he was currently gripping had surprised him when it had flexed under his grip, not at all like the hard shell it appeared. He slowly pulled himself onto it and with his free hand began pounding on the prong with his shovel.
The pilots of the craft must have noticed him as it began bucking up and down in an attempt to shake him off.
"You won't get rid of me that easily!" Dirge stated holding tighter onto the weapon. While he was pounding on the craft the middle weapon began crackling with energy and turned to aim directly at him.
"Awww perfect." Dirge moaned again and tried to think of something that he could do to avoid being hit. Just when he was about to attempt to knock the weapon's aim off, the craft and Dirge became engulfed in a swarm of tiny black bats. Hundreds of the tiny creatures swarmed over him. The sound of hundreds of bats squeaking filled Dirge's ears as they seemed to gather around him and some even landed on him.
"What the hell?" Dirge yelled in complete confusion as some of the bats separated off and lifted him up and off of the craft, then proceeded to carry him away and back towards the speeding hearse.
The bats carried Dirge right into the hearse before he was dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Zoe and Cerberus ducked down to avoid the swarm as the bats flapped around the rear of the hearse just above their heads. Nephthys would glance between the road ahead and the rear at the swarm of bats. Despite wanting to know what was going on and her concern for the little girl she had to keep the speeding hearse from crashing. She just hoped Dirge could take care of what this was.
"What the hell?" Dirge repeated in shock once again as the bats began to gather in one spot.
"That is not natural." Nephthys stated the obvious while she steered the hearse between the narrow gap left between two abandoned cars. Behind them the craft began gaining height trying to lose the swarm of bats that surrounded it. The bats followed closely keeping the craft from getting a clear shot.
Dirge watched in confusion as the swarm of bats in the back began merging together like oil pouring into an invisible mold and began to form a shape. First a pair of boots appeared and then legs covered in combat fatigues. The bats continued merging into the legs forming a torso and arms before the last few bats were absorbed to create the head and a wide brimmed cowboy hat.
"Who...what...?" Dirge stated dumbly as he stared at the man who had just seconds ago been a load of bats. The man grinned towards Dirge, who noted absently that the latest weirdo to appear had an eye-patch over one eye. Pip flipped his long braid around his neck and lit the cigarette he held between his lips.
"The name's Pip Bernadotte monsieur zombie." Pip smirked putting his lighter away and glanced around the hearse, searching for something, until his eye rested on the salvaged weapon from the tank that Seras had retrieved earlier that night. Kneeling down he began checking the weapon, expertly loading and checking it was working. "The boss sent me ahead to keep you guys safe while she distracts monsieur Ggothua and buddies."
"Boss?" Dirge asked warily as he faced the stranger on his knees.
"You really are slow." Pip sighed and Dirge bristled at the guy's mocking tone. "Seras sent me and she's just told me to get you to put Harkonnen together for her. She won't be able to keep em distracted forever."
"You know Seras?" three voices asked at the same time as Pip stood up brandishing the gun.
"I'm her number one familiar." Pip stated giving Nephthys a roguish grin and wink to which the Egyptian zombie rolled her eyes. "We're real close." Pip smirked and cast a warning glare towards Dirge. "Now if you'll excuse me I've got a distraction to create."
Pip dropped to the floor and braced himself against the sides of the hearse, one foot against the rear door frame and aimed at the craft. He pulled the trigger and the weapon began spewing bullets.
The bats had pulled back from the craft as the bullets began pelting against the craft's body. Sparks flew from the impact zones and the craft was rocked but stayed in the air easily enough.
Zoe covered her ears from the noise and Dirge crawled over to Seras's backpack. He quickly unzipped it and began to extract the pieces of Seras's gun. Dirge stared at the parts in disbelief.
"This thing's huge!" Dirge exclaimed in surprise. "How the heck can anyone fire this?"
"Heh! The boss can fire two of em at once my decomposed friend." Pip shouted over the noise of the gun. Dirge shook his head as he began to match the parts up, fortunately Seras was right about it being easy enough to assemble.
"Not to worry you men." Nephthys stated from the front. "But the tunnel is just up ahead. If you don't stop them soon we'll be leading them right to the humans in the Acropolis!"
"What?" Dirge's head appeared over the back of the seats and he grimaced as they entered the darkened tunnel, plunging the car into darkness. The only light was the bursts of gun fire coming from the rear of the hearse as Pip kept a steady stream of bullets flying towards the craft as it followed them effortlessly into the tunnel.
"Hurry up with Harkonnen monsieur zombie!" Pip stated noting he was almost out of rounds. "Wonder what the heck that things made of." Pip stated to himself as the weapons on the craft began charging again now that Seras had vanished.
"Hey buddy! I can't see anything now and you try putting this thing together without being able to feel anything!" Dirge shouted back frustrated.
"Quit bickering guys." Seras's voice stated right beside Dirge, which caused the large zombie to flinch in surprise. "I swear! I can't leave you alone for five minutes."
"Seras!" Zoe's voice rang out in answer as the girl rushed over towards the sound. Zoe tripped over Dirge's legs but Seras caught her easily and held the girl who hugged Seras tightly around the neck.
"Good to see you too Zoe." Seras smiled although the girl could not see it.
"Nephthys." Seras turned to the driver. "The tunnel ahead is completely straight and the road is clear. Keep going straight full speed."
"How can you tell?" Nephthys asked with a glance in the rear-view mirror at the pair of faintly glowing red eyes that she guessed was the vampire.
"Trust her." Dirge stated as two pieces he was trying to assemble clinked together. "She can see perfectly fine in the dark." Dirge's voice dropped to a mumble as he continued to fumble with the cannon. "Unlike me."
Nephthys pressed the accelerator to the floor and the hearse slowly began to pick up speed again, although it was almost at its limit now. In the back Pip took careful aim at the sparking weapons and fired catching the prong on the craft with the last few rounds. This luckily seemed to discharge the weapon buying them a few more seconds.
"I'm out!" Pip stated tossing the gun out the back.
"Here." Seras thrust Zoe into Dirge's arms causing the zombie to drop the barrel end part of Harkonnen on the floor. "Keep her out of the way."
Seras reached down and grabbed the barrel, flipped it around and began screwing it into place while Dirge retreated to lean against the back of the front seats holding Zoe close.
"Now we're cooking." Seras stated popping Harkonnen open so she could load a round. Reaching down she grabbed one of the retrieved rounds that were rolling around in the hearse and loaded it. With a clunk she snapped Harkonnen closed and calmly walked over to the rear of the speeding vehicle. Seras held the cannon under one arm and took careful aim.
"Cover your ears." Seras told the group and Dirge plugged his fingers in Zoe's ears. Having a couple of cold leathery fingers plugged in your ears was not actually very pleasant Zoe decided.
With a huge roar from the cannon Seras fired at the craft. The kickback from Harkonnen rocked the hearse and literally gave it a boost of speed as the rear was filled with gun smoke, which set Zoe off coughing.
The black craft was struck head-on by the large shell blowing most of the front of the craft completely off. It went into a spin before crashing into the ground and exploded with a gigantic boom that echoed through the tunnel. Dust and debris flew in every direction, and some bits of shrapnel caught Seras as she made sure nothing would hit Zoe behind her.
Nephthys let out a sigh of relief as the craft disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel and she eased up on the accelerator. Up a head she could finally see moonlight.
"Take that!" Seras grinned at the destruction of Xar Ggothua and his friends, even though she was disappointed that she had not been able to find out what they actually were. "Consider that payback for earlier Xar."
Soon the hearse exited the tunnel and Nephthys slowed the car down and finally parked up at the roadside. Up ahead was the Acropolis.
Seras hopped calmly out the back and easily held Harkonnen across her shoulders. Dirge followed her out and glanced around in confusion.
"Hey, where'd Pap go?" Dirge asked while Zoe climbed out the battered and burnt vehicle. Cerberus hopped out after her and shook himself.
"Pip, Dirge." Seras corrected him and tapped a finger against her head. "He's back in me now."
"You're going to explain that?" Nephthys asked as she got out the driver's side door, taking her scythe with her.
"Blood is the currency of the soul." Seras stated as she turned to face the group. "Every person or creature that I kill taking their blood becomes a part of me. I'm able to call upon them whenever I require."
"So...who was he?" Dirge asked curiously.
"A good friend." Seras stated sadly. "He sacrificed himself to give me the strength to fight our attackers. We're a good team." Seras looked up and smiled while pointing in the distance. "Enough of that, we're here though! Is that the Acropolis?"
Everyone turned to look in the direction Seras was pointing. There it was, the Acropolis. It was a former military base situated in a mountain. The only way in or out was over a narrow bridge that spanned a deep ravine, or the mag-rail line that exited both sides. The structure itself was a fortress, huge and pretty much a square. Large walls surrounded the main compound and mounted on top of the walls were row upon rows of guns, mostly electric powered and auto-aiming Gatling guns. Behind the walls and towards the back of the compound was the main building, standing high above the walls and right at the top was the Blackhawk helicopter parked on a helipad.
"Yes. We are here." Nephthys stated stepping away from the car and shutting the door.
"Finally." Dirge breathed gladly and walked over with Seras and Zoe to stand beside the Egyptian zombie and stare at the structure. Lights could be seen coming from various windows.
"Mom." Zoe whispered.
"The sentries' sights are tuned to body temperature, or lack thereof." Nephthys stated. "They will not fire at the child, but they will fire at you and..." Nephthys looked at Seras quizzically.
"Yeah, I'd guess they'd fire at me too." Seras stated.
"And how do you know that?" Dirge asked Nephthys with a sceptical glance. Nephthys just pointed towards a sign by the bridge. A cartoon zombie had been drawn onto it with the words: Already Dead? Watch your head!
"Oh." Dirge stated. He looked back at the bridge. "If we follow too far..."
"You cannot follow her, at least not past the first bio-scanner." Nephthys interrupted Dirge and pointed at the metal scanner halfway across the bridge. After the first scanner there were more arranged a few metres apart from each other. All were lit with a faint blue light; anything wanting to cross the narrow bridge would have to pass through them.
"It's actually a brilliantly simple defence against zombies." Seras stated with a nod as she placed Harkonnen back in the hearse. "At least your normal garden variety. That bridge is damned narrow and most would fall over the edge due to their lack of coordination. Any that don't, get picked off by the guns."
"True." Nephthys agreed.
"Are you sure there's not a side door?" Zoe asked as she turned back to face the group of dead people. Her face was utterly serious as she asked the question.
"I'm afraid not sweetheart." Nephthys said with a sad smile. "This is where our paths part."
"B...but..." Zoe stuttered her eyes misting.
"Zoe..." Seras knelt down to put a hand on the girl's shoulder. "We can't go with you."
"Why?" Zoe asked quietly, her throat felt sore for some reason. Seras looked up at the sky, searching for the right words to explain to a six year old why living people would not accept them.
"I'm a vampire, a creature people have feared for hundreds of years because we prey on the living. Even though I seem nice, I'm still dangerous. If I was around lots of people, something bad might happen. I have certain instincts and cravings; I might lose control and kill. It's tempting fate."
"I don't want you to leave me." Zoe sobbed and clutched onto Seras. "Or Dirge. Please stay!"
"Zoe..." Seras sighed feeling saddened and felt a liquid run down her cheek which surprised her. Wiping her cheek she realised it was blood, a tear of blood. She felt surprised that the thought of leaving this little girl could move her to tears so easily.
"You mom is waiting for you." Dirge stated patting the little girl's head and drawing her attention to him. "Real people, all waiting just behind those gates." He pointed towards the gates. "They're gonna be so happy to see you Zoe. Probably have a party waiting and everything."
"I don't want a party. I want you guys to stay with me." Zoe sniffed seeing through Dirge's attempt at distraction.
"I'm...we're not real people," Dirge stated with a glance at Seras who nodded slightly letting him know she was going to play along. "Not anymore. There's no place for us behind that wall."
"I'll make one..." Zoe stated seriously.
"No! I'll make you guys a place. You can stay with me! I'll make them see you're real people!" Zoe promised.
Nephthys stood at the back and watched the scene playing out before her. It saddened her to watch but the truth was plain to see. They could not go with the girl. As she held the scythe in one hand, her eyes caught movement behind themselves reflected in the blade. Movement and a pulse of blue energy.
"It would appear your friends survived the crash." Nephthys informed Dirge and Seras.
Dirge stared over Seras towards the tunnel just in time to see the three armoured beings step out of it and into the moonlight, seemingly unharmed from their encounter with Harkonnen.
"I don't believe it." Seras stated standing up and turning around to face Xar Ggothua and his cronies. Behind her Zoe back away.
"Impediment identified," stated the one to Xar Ggothua's left, they were staring at Nephthys.
"One of six." The one on the right continued.
"It facilitates the sera." Xar Ggothua finished.
"Mr Ggothua!" Seras growled in anger as she stepped forward causing the three to exchanged glances in confusion at her presence. "Surprised to see me?"
Xar Ggothua stared at Seras, his head cocked slightly to one side before he spoke again. "Anomaly has reconstructed itself and gained distance upon us. Explain?"
"I told you before, I'm a vampire. Not my fault you didn't believe me." Seras stated with a smirk as she walked past Nephthys and placed herself between the zombies and Zoe and the three armoured creatures. "I was the bats that bothered you earlier."
"Perhaps there is credence to your words after all." Xar Ggothua admitted after a brief pause. "Vampire facilitates the sera. Eliminate."
"This will not end how you think it will." Nephthys told the creatures. She took a step forward and made her scythe very apparent.
"Damn straight." Dirge growled and pulled his shovel free.
"Back off." Seras whipped her right arm out indicating to the zombies to step back. "These guys are tough. Plus I owe them for earlier."
"But..." Dirge began to say but Seras interrupted him. "They're my prey now. Get Zoe out of here."
Dirge glanced at Nephthys and the pair backed away, both kept themselves ready for an attack.
"Vampire is now unarmed."
"Its chances of causing us damage are vastly reduced."
Three bladed weapons once more popped out of armoured forearms with clunks and were pointed towards Seras.
"Wrong." Seras stated with a nasty smirk. "This time I'm through playing with you guys."
"As are we." Xar Ggothua agreed and the three fired.
Seras charged forward, running straight towards them and right in the path of the weapons. She closed the gap, and with amazing dexterity reached out and caught a disc in each hand. One blade bursting through the back of each hand but she paid no attention to that. The third disc cut into her left shoulder but instead of passing through her a black wriggling, shadowy substance wrapped around the disc and held it tight.
The three beetle-like armoured creatures almost stepped back in surprise at Seras's display. The vampire's smirk turned downright evil as she launched herself toward Xar Ggothua, the ground behind her sunk into a slight depression from the force she exerted to jump.
Seras's right knee slammed into Xar Ggothua's face plate and there was a loud crunch as he was thrown backwards from the force of the impact. Seras followed him down and used his face as a springboard to launched herself up and over the heads of his subordinates who watched the vampire flip over them.
Landing just behind the two lumbering creatures, Seras whipped her arms out and spun around, slicing the discs towards the black armoured creatures backs. She aimed for the flexible portions of the armour just above their hips and was rewarded with the discs easily piercing them. Both creatures reacted in pain and moved as fast as they could out of the way. A black oil-like substance splashed onto the ground and Seras absently noted it swirled and shimmered.
Although they were quick for creatures of their size and weight, they could not outrun an angry vampire. Seras went for the one on her right first, closed the distance between them in the blink on an eye and thrust both discs she held in an upwards motion that crossed over as they passed through the creatures elbow joint, severing its forearm and hopefully its main weapon.
The creature stared dumbly at its missing arm, the black substance, which Seras guessed was their blood, dripped from the stump. Suddenly three black tentacles burst from the stump and tore towards Seras. Her eyes opened in surprise at this development; whatever they were under that armour, they were capable of altering their shape. Seras rolled to the right avoiding the attack and once again shot forward.
'Let's see if they need a head.' She thought to herself thrusting the razor sharp disc up and through the creature's neck. She paused and watched its armoured head fall to the ground, black blood spurting from the severed tubes she had just noticed that ran to a tank on the creature's back, filled with a bubbling black substance.
'Is that what they breathe?' Seras thought as the creature fell over dead with a crash.
Xar Ggothua climbed to his knees unsteadily as he felt the connection to one of his bodies was terminated. They had underestimated the vampire, if that was what it truly was. His faceplate had been damaged enough that he could feel the temperature of outside seeping into his armour and was unable to see out now. Through his connection to the other body he sensed it lose an arm just like the first body had to the vampire.
He calculated that their chances of surviving this encounter had dropped from over ninety percent to less than ten. He had to destroy the sera, it was a threat to their existence...if he failed...he did not need to be reminded their species would be destroyed. Sending a command to the remaining body to keep the vampire distracted, he decided he had no other choice than a suicide attempt. If he succeeded perhaps the Xin Jithoth would look kindly on his sacrifice and restore him to the hive.
He would rise again as three more; the Hands of God were forever renewable.
His path set Xar Ggothua reached up and tore off his face plate, exposing himself to the elements but allowing him to see once again. He did not have long to live now, they could only survive out on the surface for a short time without their armour. He would make these last few minutes count.
Dirge and Nephthys watched in stunned silence as Seras started to completely demolish the creatures with ease, the largest was sent crashing down and the second soon lost its head.
"She is...impressive." Nephthys finally stated as Seras began to play with the second one.
"Yeah." Dirge agreed and frowned as the big one climbed to its knees and grabbed its face plate.
Zoe watched on from just behind Dirge's legs as Xar Ggothua tore his face plate and most of his helmet completely off. He tossed the now useless portions away. Eight bright blue glowing eyes blinked in a strangely robotic manner and fixed themselves on Zoe.
The young girl backed away, terrified at the look of absolute hatred that was suddenly directed at her from the monster.
"What the hell are they?" Dirge gasped at the sight of Xar Ggothua's true face. His head was ridged and tapered to a triangular point. Row's of sharp teeth lined his maw, his bottom jaw stuck slightly past the top. His eyes were arranged in two rows of four that ran down his large noseless alien face. Dirge was unsure whether he had skin or armour plating due to the creature's skin being completely black.
Xar Ggothua appeared to strain before a multitude of black tentacles burst from his armoured back, shattering more of the armour and sending a black substance flying. The tentacles began whipping around violently and with a powerful roar he charged towards them.
"Zoe! Run!" Dirge commanded raising his shovel, for all the good he expected it to do as Xar Ggothua thundered right towards them, his footsteps thudding. Dirge did not check to see if Zoe had listened, all that was going through his mind was they had to prevent this thing from getting past.
To his side Nephthys paused in shock, the sight of Xar Ggothua's face caused a memory to dislodge. She was facing one of them. Screams echoed around her head as the massive beast turned o face her, a body held in each massive clawed hand.
"Look out!" Dirge's warning snapped her back to the present just in time for a tentacle to whip across her torso knocking the Egyptian zombie flying backwards and off the cliff face.
"Nephthys!" Zoe was heard shouting and Dirge turned to face the girl.
"Get out of here!" Dirge bellowed at Zoe as the girl froze up in fright. That was when the tentacles burst from his chest. "Aww crap." Dirge deadpanned as he was lifted into the air. Zoe finally snapped out of her shock and took Dirge's advice, she ran towards the gates across the long narrow bridge.
Dirge was swung in a high arc before being thrown away to land with a crunch face first into the road behind Xar Ggothua. The black monster barely paused as he turned to his target that was attempting to escape, he lumbered after it only to have a zombie dog dive out of nowhere onto his back.
Xar Ggothua roared in annoyance as Cerberus bit down onto him. Tentacles reached down and grabbed the zombie dog and wrapped themselves tightly around his torso before yanking Cerberus off. Xar Ggothua raised the zombie dog above his head and with a triumphant roar tore it in two before discarding the pieces over the edge of the bridge.
Dirge was back on his feet and saw red at his dog being ripped apart like that. He rushed after Xar Ggothua, now sporting a gaping hole right through his chest. With a roar he slashed at the monster with his shovel.
Xar Ggothua spun around and bellowed his annoyance at Dirge. Tentacles lashed out once again. The variant and the Xar fought, each deflected the blows of the other. Dirge had to use all his skill to dodge and deflect the incredibly fast and accurate blows. He was forced to leap over a low blow and was slammed out of the air as a large bunch of tentacles caught in. He crashed away in a heap.
Xar Ggothua paused as he felt his second body die as the vampire thrust the second body's own disc weapon through its chest. He had to hurry and destroy the sera before the vampire caught up with him. He spun around and ignored the variant as he raced after the sera.
"Oh no you don't!" Dirge climbed to his feet and raced after the monstrosity. Before he could close the gap between them the armour plated creature passed through the first biosensor. The blue light was broken as Xar Ggothua passed though, outlining his shape before reconnecting and leaving the light whole again. The sensor gave a cheery beep indicating Xar Ggothua had registered as alive.
"Zoe!" Dirge bellowed in frustration as they were now beyond his reach. He looked around quickly for something, anything he could use to cross the bridge.
"Dirge where's Zoe?" Seras shouted as she raced over. She was covered in splashes of the black substance and one arm was completely coated in it.
"Crossing the bridge with the big one right behind her!" Dirge threw his shovel to the ground in frustration. "And they're beyond the sensors now. We can't follow!"
"We can't go through the sensors but I can go over them!" Seras growled before she exploded into a swarm of bats once more, and shot up into the sky, leaving Dirge by himself. The only thing he could do now was watch.
Zoe ran like her life depended on it, which it actually did. She passed through sensor after sensor; each beeped cheerily which she paid no attention to. The rhythmic thudding of heavy footsteps vibrated through the narrow bridge behind her spurred her on and the roaring would haunt her dreams if she got out of this.
Zoe risked a glance over her shoulder and wished she had not at the sight of the gigantic black monster chasing her, tentacles whipping above its head angrily. Eight hate filled eyes glared at her for reasons she did not understand.
A tentacle shot out and wrapped itself around her midsection and Zoe was lifted off the ground and dragged roughly towards Xar Ggothua who opened his jaws and letting out a pleased hiss. Zoe stared transfixed at the monstrous face as more tentacles moved towards her, intent on tearing her to pieces.
The swarm of bats that came out of nowhere caught both Zoe and Xar Ggothua by complete surprise. They battered around his head blocking his vision and a bunch grouped together right beside Zoe. They formed into Seras's torso and one arm. She held a certain razor sharp disc. Seras gave a smirk toward Xar Ggothua before slicing the tentacle holding Zoe clean off.
Xar Ggothua let out a bellowing roar, a cross between pain and anger while Seras fully formed herself. Catching Zoe out of the air she leapt high into the air and covered the last yards on the bridge to land safely in front of the Acropolis gates.
Seras let Zoe down gently before standing to face Xar Ggothua who was bellowing his frustration to the sky. His arms thrown back in rage and his tentacles flailed around even more violently than ever.
"Stay here Zoe." Seras said calmly already having decided how Xar Ggothua was going to die. "No matter what happens, I'll be fine."
"Seras..." Zoe gasped seconds before the vampire sprinted back towards the bridge and then leapt high into the air. She soon closed the distance to Xar Ggothua who whipped his tentacles right at the descending vampire.
Seras avoided all but one, which wrapped itself around her right arm and dragged her downwards. She landed on the bridge in a crouch and pulled back on the tentacle turning this conflict into a tug of war between herself and Xar Ggothua. Surprisingly Xar Ggothua held his ground even against Seras's immense strength and even more amazingly, the tentacle did not tear.
With a roar Xar Ggothua squeezed the tentacle wrapped around Seras's arm causing her arm to be crushed under the pressure before being tore clean off. Seras grinned despite the pain and stood slowly allowing another tentacle to catch her cheek leaving a nasty red welt.
"Is this it? Is this all the hand of God can achieve?" Seras mocked as a shadowy black formless shape grew from the remains of her shoulder forming a wriggling wing like appendage which began effortlessly blocking Xar Ggothua's tentacles.
"Show me the power of your God!" Seras commanded as she stepped forward and attacked Xar Ggothua with her own version of his tentacle attacks. Xar Ggothua was driven back, loosing another pair of tentacles to the vampire's copy of his own abilities. He was shocked when Seras began to turn into just a black mass and hundreds of red eyes opened in the darkness of her body that pressed forward, driving him back.
The pain of suffocating, the heat of the surface and the exertion had finally taken its toll on him. Xar Ggothua dropped to one knee in agony. He had been beaten, the vampire had won. He raised his head in a futile defiant gesture as Seras's head and torso reformed and she reached out to caress his face almost tenderly as she leaned in close.
"And now Mr. Ggothua, you'll tell me everything." Seras stated with a shark-like grin before she lunged forward to sink her teeth into what passed as his neck. The world around them seemed to vanish as Seras drank the foul tasting liquid. It was not anything like human blood that was certain, and the memories seemed to resist her.
Seras became aware of more than just Xar Ggothua's consciousness as hundreds of blue lights floated about them in the darkness. Seras paused in her feeding as whispers in a language she could not understand broke around them.
"Intruder has breached the hive." A voice stated in English and Seras knew it was talking to her.
"Xar Ggothua's defeat has revealed us to an outsider."
As the lights vanished Seras and Xar Ggothua were cut off from whatever that had been. Whatever it was Xar Ggothua reacted as if he had been doused in freezing cold water and an electric toaster dropped into it for good measure. He burst to his feet and dragged Seras with him, total and complete terror giving him renewed strength.
"No!" he roared in terror as for the first time he was completely alone, a completely alien experience for one such as himself. He was cut off from the hive. He would never have a chance to rise again now.
Xar Ggothua backed away shaking, right through the bio-scanner behind him dragging Seras who was still biting into his neck though with him. The sensor gave an angry beep and the light above turned red, seconds before every robotic sentry gun on the wall aimed at them. With each gun being capable of delivering three thousand rounds per minute both Seras and Xar Ggothua were to all intents vaporised as thousands of bullets tore them to pieces.
Soon anything left of them had fallen over the sides of the narrow bridge, which had suddenly developed the consistency of swish cheese. The section of the bridge creaked and groaned before collapsing into the ravine below.
At opposite ends of the bridge two very different people both screamed out one word. "Seras!"
Zoe dropped to her knees stunned at the sight of her protector who had seemed invincible being destroyed. So caught up in her shock she did not hear the gates open behind her and she barely felt the hands that grasped her and dragged her away.
Dirge could only stare at the spot Seras had just been in shock. He couldn't believe his yes and what they had just witnessed. Even though he had seen Seras's amazing ability to repair damage he suspected she would not be returning this time.
He felt hollow as he stared out over the bridge towards Zoe. He saw the gates behind her open and she was dragged from sight.
'At least she got home.' Dirge thought feeling that the victory had been hollow. He reached down and picked his shovel back up.
Thinking on how Seras had fought tooth and claw to save Zoe, Dirge made a promise. He would watch over the little girl and the humans in that place. Watch over the little girl that cared for him as a person. There were creatures out there worse than zombies as this night had proven to him.
He glanced around. There was no sign of Nephthys or Cerberus, both probably somewhere at the bottom of the ravine, maybe still aware.
"Well, I better see if anyone did survive..." Dirge stated and began the descent into the ravine in search of survivors.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Nephthys asked as the two zombies stood and watched the sunrise in the distance.
"No," Dirge replied. "At least not what I expected."
"What will she tell them? About the people that saved her?"
"Who cares? It's not important."
"She's with her own kind now. That's all that matters." Dirge stated and turned to the face Nephthys in the morning light as they stood on the roof of a hospital. The hospital had plenty of equipment that could be used to produce repairs to such as themselves. "She'll be safe as long as she stays put."
'Of course, how likely was that?' Dirge thought.
Beside him, Cerberus sat patiently. The dog had a fresh coat of fur that hid the repairs Dirge had had to make to him. Dirge patted the zombie dog on the head, of course neither felt it.
"Does it make it easier for you," Dirge asked. "Believing we're meant to suffer for some greater purpose?"
"The right path is rarely spacious. Which is how we learn where we're supposed to go."
"You're saying I was meant to help her?"
"I'm saying, everything happens for a reason." Nephthys stated. Beside her a certain zombie Velociraptor stepped up with a click of claws on cement. It too had been repaired.
The pair stared out across the silent city as the new day brightened in silence and Dirge thought about Seras. He pondered whether if she had survived, would she have been out here with them? Or would she have gone on her way? It didn't matter he supposed, he couldn't change the past now could he.
"Dirge." Nephthys spoke and he turned to face her. "The child may be home, but you know she will never be safe. Not while those creatures inhabit the earth. What happens when they track her down again? What happens when they find her?"
"Then they'll find me." Dirge stated with absolute certainty. He had his purpose now and Nephthys smiled, a true friendly smile.
"Hello, you must be Zoe's mother." A female voice with a British accent startled Zora Elgin awake in her chair. Zora blinked tiredly and brushed her purple shoulder length hair out of her eyes to see an unfamiliar nurse smiling down at her. Zora glanced quickly over at the bed where Zoe was sound asleep and let out a breath she did not realise she had been holding. The rhythmic beep of the monitoring machines Zoe was hooked up to sounded constantly around the room.
"Yes, I am." Zora replied hiding a yawn. With a glance down at herself she realised how wrinkled her grey dress stroke lab coat was. She must have fallen asleep watching over Zoe. The previous night had been hell for her. She thought she had lost her little girl forever and then just before dawn she was found right outside the gates. Somehow, she had travelled over sixty miles in nine hours through some of the worst cold zones (their designation of zombie infested areas) and arrived relatively unharmed. There were all kinds of weird theories running around the base about that, but all Zora cared for now was that Zoe was back and she was safe.
"It's a pleasure to meet you." The blond haired nurse smiled before continuing. "You must be tired to have fallen asleep in such an uncomfy chair. Why don't you go home and get some proper rest in your own bed? Zoe will be completely safe now."
"I can't not yet." Zora replied slowly as she studied the nurse. She did not recognise her and that was odd as they were such a small community that everyone knew everyone else.
"Zoe is safe. You're tired. You should get some rest in your own bed." The nurse stated slowly and Zora suddenly found the idea of sleeping in her own bed extremely tempting.
"I think...that's a good idea. Zoe is safe now." Zora stated standing up and with a last check on the sleeping girl and a quick kiss to her forehead, Zora walked past the nurse. She paused in the doorway and turned to look back and for the first time noticing the packet of blood the nurse was carrying.
"What is that for?" Zora asked confused.
"This?" the nurse pointed at the blood. "Just a small blood transfusion...nothing to worry about."
"Transfusion. Nothing to worry about." Zora stated a confused look on her face. "What was your name again?"
"Oh sorry." The nurse smiled and rubbed the back of her head. "I'm Seras. I'll make sure nothing happens to Zoe. In fact, while you get some rest I'll stay and watch her for you. You can count on me!" Seras nodded her head enthusiastically and Zora found something immensely comforting about the nurse's dedication about watching Zoe for her.
"Thank you Seras." Zora said as she walked out the small room and Seras waved her goodbye.
Seras's smiled faded once the door closed and she dropped into the chair beside Zoe's bed. It was still warm where Zora had been sleeping. Deep in thought, Seras automatically bit into the tube leading from the blood pack and began sipping it slowly. Inside her head, a certain creature was refusing to talk to her but it was only a matter of time before she broke it down and then she would discover exactly why those creatures wanted Zoe dead.
All she knew for certain was that there were a lot of them somewhere on the planet and they all hated Zoe. Sometime they would make another move to eliminate the girl. A smirk crossed Seras's face as she thought of the upcoming battles that were bound to occur in the future. She had decided this was far too big to walk away from and would stay and protect the little girl until such time that it was unnecessary.
Of course, the fact that they had a rather well stocked supply of blood in the medical area and they were required to keep it stocked for the wellbeing of all citizens had nothing to do with it. Well, she was a citizen now Seras reasoned with a smile.
"I can't wait to see your face when you wake up Zoe." Seras grinned and leaned back casually in the chair and enjoyed her drink.
End part 1
Well, here is the tweaked and cleaned up version. I kind of cringed at my writing in the first couple of chapters, but that's now better. I'm glad I did this as this fic is definitely my favourite in term of plot and characters.
Not too much has changed, aside from Seras' immunity to the virus has been tweaked. As she stated during the fic, vampires can be turned mindless by Nekrosis if enough of it infects them. She only "survived" the circus because of Zoe's blood she sampled earlier, something she suspects by the end. Could Alucard? Not by this point in time, as he has become something that exists everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Next, I'll fix up the second part and then finish off the third. I also have a standalone prequel of Seras' arrival in LA kicking around, although it may never see the light of day.