Friedrich had gone over to the Major, in that hospital. He saw in his mind's eye as he moved toward his commanding officer, the downtrodden look of self-loathing on the Captain's face, Rip Van was crying, and Zorin was hissing in pain. The Major was sat, in his shirt and trousers, hunched over on the bed looking out the window. Friedrich came to his side, standing to the right and just behind the Major. He reached out a gloved hand but didn't touch him "Herr Sturmbannfuhrer?" he asked worriedly. He knew that he felt empty, indescribable, after last night. It was all the stranger because he didn't seem to feel anything one way or the other as if all emotion seemed to have been burned out of him.
To his astonishment the Major turned his head that smirk on his face, his eyes half concealed by the light of the gray day reflecting off of his spectacles his honey eyes swirled in delight "Ah Herr Craebel I'm so happy to see you are alright, how are the others?"
His warmth, his normality caught Friedrich off guard, and yet there was something different in his voice, something that had never gone away, something that had changed since between last night and this moment. At the time Friedrich had been frightened, he didn't know what it was, but he soon came to understand, it was knowledge, happiness even, a sense of having discovered the true meaning of life, of finally knowing how the world was supposed to be. The Major was at peace but only truly in combat, in war, and in the general atmosphere of it. But at the time Friedrich hadn't sensed this, he wondered instead if he was dreaming, if perhaps he had died, was this hell or purgatory? Did he believe in that anymore even? "The others are, I suppose alright sir, and apparently the two women have some sort of tearing. We've all been promoted and the Hauptsturmfuhrer doesn't look very happy, he looks miserable in fact."
The Major closed his eyes and the smirk turned to a placid expression "Tell me then Obersturmfuhrer Craebel, and I am pleased I can call you that, how do you feel? Hung-over? Guilty? Suicidal?"
Friedrich thought for a moment, he straightened his glasses "I feel absolutely fine sir" and it was the truth, it wasn't a lie, he remembered everything he had done and what had happened last night and his probable hallucination. He felt no need to grab any of the surgical implements and end it all, he felt quiet in fact, like he was at peace, why? It was troubling and he frowned at this.
"You are the one Friedrich who began to show me how to live life the way it should be lived and to see life the way it should be seen and to not subscribe too much to conventional ideas, especially ones of extreme individualism, inherent superiority" he chuckled in a then unfamiliar way "but we are digressing Herr Craebel, there is much to be done." He stood up grabbed his Feldgrau jacket, both he and Friedrich were still Grossdeutschland, they had only become SS immediately before the invasion of the Soviet Union. They had taken part in the atrocities of the Einsatzgruppen. "It is rare for VT SS to get into combat so much as you and I have Friedrich" he said as he finished buttoning his top button and smoothing out his hair. "You and I should go get something to eat" he said as he stuffed his gloves in his pockets then smoothed it out "then we need to wait for the now Hauptsturmfuhrer to join us for a special train to meet" he grinned "the Fuhrer!"
Friedrich made a choking noise his face froze up, his eyes bulged out and he took a step back "Adolf Hitler?" asked Friedrich incredulously "Herr Haupt…sorry, Herr Sturmbannfuhrer when did you get this news? What are we wanted for?"
"Let me explain, but for now let us go get something to eat." The Major put on his cap and walked past Friedrich. Friedrich followed him. The Major looked into the wing where the Captain was at Rip Van's side. Friedrich heard him say "I wouldn't have hurt you had I been in control of myself." Rip Van was cradling herself and sobbing in pain. Blitz was being attended by a nurse. Friedrich looked in blankly, and the Major smirked and waved his hand at them and they marched past. They faded out of the vision of the Dok, Rip Van, the Captain and Blitz. "The First thing we should do is eat, then get our weapons from wherever they are in this building." Friedrich marched just behind him, when the Major turned to look at him, the Major smirked at him "Do you know what time it is Herr Craebel?"
"No Herr Sturmbannfuhrer" responded Friedrich.
"It is already two o'clock in the afternoon and I have been awake a full hour before you."
Friedrich hissed "I'm so sorry Herr…"
"Nonsense" said the Major putting up his hand "We all got drunk last night, you no worse than anyone else, in fact all that water you drank saved you, even if they were flushing your stomach, so I'm told. They did the same to me, but I really cannot tell if it happened for truly I feel fine." He looked forward again as they walked in the direction of the canteen, following the signs "No more than fine, I feel happy."
They ate sitting across from one another, it was a strangely calm meal. Such tranquility and not like the first meal Friedrich had eaten, in the field near some nameless Polish village where he knew he had killed someone and had watched the two men die. He even thought at the time that he himself had felt the thud of the bullet, the dull brain, the organic matter that had never been separated never had anything like that happen to it before, leaving his body and yet somehow he could still feel it. Again it had only been after he had collected himself and eaten that he had felt guilty, at the time he had, almost fearlessly carried on with his duty. Friedrich this time was not zealous or ravenous in eating, he was just recovering from an ill-advised alcohol binge after all, and so was the Major, but both men ate their entire plates.
After the meal it was to the Armory where they signed off on their weapons. Both men reclaimed their Walthers and MP-40s, ensuring to do safety checks on them. All this time, the bits of the conversation variously being over the meal and the time in the armory. "Did I ever have the good manners to tell you that I have been a member of the Thule Society since my 18th birthday Herr Craebel?" the Major had asked.
"You mean the Occult nut jobs who believe in Ragnarok, Thor, undead corpses, ghosts, summoning demons, conjuring black magic from intricate circles sometimes carved into human flesh with a knife or in granite with mason work? You cannot be serious Herr Sturmbannfuhrer!" exclaimed Friedrich.
"Friedrich" the Major had said calmly "You forget, until that day in France I was a devoted Nazi, I believed it all. I believed in my natural superiority to you because I had blond hair and devoted myself to boxing as the Fuhrer commanded, you on the other hand got yourself 'transferred down' to Grossdeutschland because of your refusal to practice boxing or go shirtless on exercises whereas I believed that it was showing off my masculine…" the Major had broken down laughing pounding the table with his fist at the ludicrousness of it all. "Truly Friedrich only an artist, one with flighty romanticism and delusions of aesthetic beauty could come up with that one. It's just like you said." He had giggled some more then went on. "I also believed in all the Nordic myths and…" there was a malicious knowing gleam in his eye "I can promise you Friedrich very little of it is fantasy."
"I'm sorry Herr Sturmbannfuhrer?"
"Tell me Friedrich, have you ever read Abraham Stoker's novel Dracula?" the Major asked.
"I seem to recall sir I read it when I had nothing else to do and I can't say I found it to be particularly entertaining or frightening" responded Friedrich "are you saying that the Thule Society uses that rubbish instead of some patterns drawn in a yellowing book to theorize about vampires Herr Sturmbannfuhrer? That group is more foolish than I thought."
The Major sighed and shook his head chuckling slightly. It was gentle, indulgent and yet unnerving, it suggested knowledge and above all that you had no idea what you were in for. Indeed Friedrich had not been "Ah you are correct that our principle study material comes from those ancient texts, mercifully it is no longer required for membership that you know how to translate them. However that novel, all of its mediocrities and infantile Victorian fright about women aside, it is unfortunately the only source we have on the vampire king himself and the accounts of any humans who survived contact with him." The look of shock and disbelief was readily discernible on Friedrich's face. The unnerving certainty of the Major, his changed attitude, apparently orders to meet the Fuhrer, all of it was pushing out Babi Yar, beyond the normal horrors of war and opening up something much more terrifying. "Yes indeed Obersturmfuhrer the Vampire king himself exists, and yes you heard me correctly exists, for Dracula did not die in that snowy Carpathian pass! He appeared to fade into dust, but that was only a distraction for those present, do you really think one such as he, with such history, and such a long time, who could do all those things that Abraham Van Helsing laid out really be so vulnerable as to not be able to defend himself when his very existence depended upon it? No! No that one is far more devious and more importantly, something else is at stake. Have you ever heard of the Royal Order of Protestant Knights Obersturmfuhrer?"
"No, no sir, what on earth is that?"
"Ah indeed what on earth, for they, that is this 'order' deal with things which are not thought possible to exist on this earth except in the fevered dreams of frightened children and mad men. They are somewhat like the Thule Society, but whereas, until I received this telegram from the Fuhrer in Greece, yes I said Greece, we have only had feverish imaginations of what they might do, and for us being able to do what we long have suspected they do do." He looked up the glare of the lights leaving his glasses to reveal his knowledgeable, happy, insane swirling honey eyes. "Obersturmfuhrer Craebel I wonder if you feared the vampire when you were young, perhaps a young child, afraid of it coming to bite you. I am onto something or was it just me?"
"No sir" said Friedrich "When I was young, I was told my, well an associate, I haven't really ever had friends, that if you were bitten by a female vampire and were a virgin, you would become a vampire yourself, if you were bitten by a male, you would become a mindless zombie that would devour any living flesh. I was scared of both, both because the woman biting me seemed anathema compared to my mother and…"
The Major held up a hand to stop him "And you spent sleepless nights crying, wondering if at any moment a shadow or not even a shadow would, without warning, appear and you would be defenseless. Do not worry Friedrich I too did that when I was young. However what puzzles me is how children learn such things for…" he looked up "that much about vampires is true. So much else is fiction."
"Wait a minute sir, are vampires real or fictitious then?" asked Friedrich, he still couldn't believe it, but part of him believed that if the Major believed it, then it must be so.
"Very real Obersturmfuhrer, very real, so is much else in fiction that you would not have believed possible. Indeed it is hard to believe, but yes where was I? Ah yes The Royal Order of Protestant Knights otherwise known as Hellsing."
"Helsing sir? As in the protagonist from Dracula?"
"Not quite Obersturmfuhrer Hellsing as in Hell sing, which is what the family changed its name to after their encounter with the Count all those years ago. You see while everyone else was celebrating their victory over a many hundred year demon, Abraham Helsing had a fear that the Count was in fact not dead. Although Mina Harker, as you may or may not remember from the book, had stopped turning into a vampire, none of the signs were receding, she was in affect frozen. At first the members of the group that had supposedly killed the Count thought it would go away, as soon as they had buried the American, Quincy. However Abraham was very, very paranoid and he knew the most about the nosferatu. He sped away the night before they left Romania. He made his way to Castle Dracula and what did he find? But the count himself, weakened, but very much undead. What happened next nobody knows for sure and the one alive who still knows will not tell us nicely and probably wouldn't even tell us if he were about to kill us, which he has great capacity to do. Some details are clear. Abraham Hellsing defeated Dracula and probably some henchmen, whether or not they were undead nobody knows for certain. What is also clear, from the observations of Graf von Brühle written in his Journeys in the Carpathians which is available only to members of the Thule society in clubs, for they may not bring it home, is that Abraham van Helsing must have had access to magic and many more holy artifacts than he let on for Castle Dracula's lands were put to ruin and there was a crop of garlic surrounding the castle itself, more than that, an unusual abundance of the sealing marks and holy symbols were present, in effect making the place uninhabitable for vampires, every conceivable entrance had crosses of the best possible quality, along with rosary beads hanging in them, but what of the Count himself? I do not mean Hans von Brühle of course. There was no trace, no trace, save for what we do know or at least suspect, it is impossible to confirm."
Friedrich was now eager to learn more about the story but also fearful, fearful of where this was taking him. Even though he had seen and done many horrible things in the past two years, this more than anything else scared him, nowhere were you safe, things really did go bump in the night and now, he guessed, they would be going where they lived.
The Major went on now between mouthfuls of food, as Friedrich ate and listened "You may or may not remember Jonathan Harker's diary entry, that is after he escaped from Castle Dracula, seeing the Count on the streets of London, intensely regarding a beautiful woman. You may or may not remember the physical description of the more youthful Count which Harker gives and indeed, it must be clear to someone of such intellect as yours, he did actually give it. I'm sorry I'm not staying on topic, what had prompted von Brühle's trip to the Carpathians was wandering the streets of London, in 1924, and seeing a man who matched the Count's description exactly and who wore an odd set of white gloves, with what appeared to be an occult seal on one of them. The Graf took a photograph, but due to a mysterious need to "quarantine" certain items, he was not allowed out of the country with it. He did have the foresight to sketch down some approximate details of it. From what we have gathered, the pentagram in a circle, typically denotes a doorway or an access to something that humans normally do have or cannot fathom. After visiting Castle Dracula, and seeing this man in the street, the Graf had good reason to believe the man he had seen was in fact Count Dracula." Friedrich wondered how this could be, this all seemed very unrelated.
He did not doubt his commander. The Major, after his 'renewal' in France had set about what seemed to be tactical and strategic madness, yet he had always been proved right and unlike most successful SS commanders he was not reckless or even particularly aggressive, but methodical and constant, never letting the pressure up on the enemy, never breaking momentum when in attack as long as it could be helped and always somehow minimizing casualties while inflicting maximum damage on the enemy. Friedrich would have thought that having two platoons of Grossdeutschland (even though they were in an Army unit they had been made SS Verfügungstruppe in March 1941 but were exceptions to the rule as the SS spread its sinister diseased tentacles into the German Heer) pinned down, purposefully by Greek machine guns was the height of foolishness. However his misery and that of three wounded men (half of the casualties the company incurred in the Greek campaign) were justified by the fact that the act of firing on his men had exposed the gunners to snipers and well aimed shots from 20mm flak guns the Major had brought up to fire on the Greeks. Not expecting such a terrible and sudden turn from one of complete superiority to sudden possibility of losing the Greeks had not been able to cope as the soldiers under Friedrich stormed their position, killing some and capturing many more. So he knew that if the Major said this mysterious stranger who he could not really visualize was Count Dracula, it must be so, and even so it was incredible.
"What we made us sure, or at least my father and other members of the Thule Society sure that this was Count Dracula is that in Great Britain, vampires and other creatures of nightmares were swiftly and" he chuckled unsettlingly, yet the chuckle made Friedrich smile and forget everything he had done "brutally. Almost nowhere else did this occur, it does on this continent but only because of the Vatican, a matter which we shall come to later. What better way to tame the monster, to know 'whither the vampire goes' that to own that vampire utterly. That is what we face and of course it is a grave threat to the Reich, but more importantly it presents an opportunity. You see Graf von Brühle did make one discovery, something that could change the course of human history and the nature of warfare forever, something the Reichsfuhrer SS is most keen on and something that could potentially prevent many mothers and fathers in Germany and maybe all over Europe from weeping." Friedrich frowned and the Major smirked and gestured to their cooling meals, indicating that they should finish, which they did.
As they walked to the Armory he continued "Mina Harker's corpse has been missing from its grave since she died a few years after giving birth to a second child in 1907. She also was said to become even more beautiful in death, you and I both know what that means."
"Ah yes because Lucy Westenra was said to become more beautiful when she died the first time, so who killed Mrs. Harker's second life?" asked Friedrich.
"We do not know, again, whatever the case, no trace of her was found since she died and her husband to this day refuses to speak to anyone about his wife. What if, since the Count was not killed but merely subjugated, she was in fact merely halted in her development as a nosferatu? Where would such a place be so as to bury the shame of it all, someplace no one would bother to look? The very place where her husband met the Count of course."
They had to go through normal procedures to get their weapons checked out and were of course obediently silent throughout the entire thing, unless speaking was required such as stating "This weapon is clear." When they were done and both had gotten back their MP-40s and Walther pistols they resumed talking "It is now time for me to tell you something even I was not aware of. You of course are by now familiar with the now Hauptsturmfuhrer. You even tried to stop him from executing Soviet prisoners of war. For that I had to expend much effort keeping secret, but this is even more secret and cannot be known by anyone, for if it is, all will be undone, by the very thing we are trying to emulate and destroy. The Hauptsturmfuhrer is not entirely human." Friedrich wondered if this was a reference at first to merely his cold hearted, methodical, intense way of killing, or his great strength or speed, but given what they had been discussing Friedrich doubted it. "I say not entirely human because as you showed me those weeks in France and as I came to rediscover, all human beings are one race and the Hauptsturmfuhrer has many of the same physical qualities of a human being and all the emotions, yet even though he may be Werwolf he is in reality a werewolf, a lycanthrope, like those of legend, except unlike in legend they can control their behavior and can only change in wolf form at the five fullest days of the moon. The second thing is that as you may or may not have noticed he has naturally dark skin."
"I had indeed noticed that sir, but given that he was in the SS and has such light blond hair, I merely assumed he had been given some extended leave on a beach somewhere" remarked Friedrich, trusting entirely in what he was hearing about the Hauptsturmfuhrer, only curious as to the exact details. "Where then was he found, how did he get to be in the SS? Furthermore if he is not a German then what is he?" asked Friedrich.
"The man you know as Hans Günsche, who you may or may not have noted has never mentioned family or where he was born, is actually Pasha Omar Hussein Akbulut, a descendant of Jannissaries and some mixing. Ethnically, as I understand it he is half German and half Turkish. I think in some war against the turks the buxom blond wife of an officer was captured, that is the mother of the man you know. Initially I thought, infected with the idiocies of National Socialism, that the Turks were of course an inferior race, who further committed slander by forcing better European stock into their blood, however that one of them can look, naturally, like the Hauptsturmfuhrer is evidence of strength from diversity, explaining how even at their most sickly they fought tenaciously, well and were the worthiest of our allies in the previous war. The Haupsturmfuhrer, I learned from my associates in the Thule Society who introduced me to him, was turned when he was separated from his unit in the Crimean War. As you may or may not know Obersturmfuhrer Craebel, Lycanthropes and vampires are opposed to one another, irreconcilably perhaps, but vampires and the murderous tendancies of those who usually become lycanthropes have skewed our 'preferences' in favor of the former. It is assumed vampires can be reasoned with, it is rarely the case. Both tend to become self-absorbed, over confident and narcissistic with power. Fortunately for us the Hauptsturmfuhrer is an exception. One becomes a lycanthrope when one is bitten by one and the only treatment is the bite of a vampire of the opposite sex with seventy two hours of being bitten, otherwise you are doomed forever more to walk the earth as such. However" the Major said as they walked back toward where the four others were, Rip Van, the Captain, Zorin, and the Dok "I will let him tell the story in his own words, on the train to Berlin of course, with all of us listening, for I myself have not heard all of it."
They first secured their weapons in the Major's Kubelwagen and walked back to the hospital room where they had been. Both the Major and Friedrich stood in the doorway to the wing where the Captain was now back in his bed, to the rear of Friedrich and the Major and the two women were both eating some sort of meal of mashed potatoes, carrots and spinach. Rip Van had stopped crying and instead looked forlorn, Blitz was scarfing down her meal and the Doktor was taking notes. Friedrich heard the Hauptsturmfuhrer saying "Oh dear God I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, oh God I'm sorry, Oh god what…" Friedrich smirked as had the Major when they heard this, maybe the Major wasn't thinking the same thing as Friedrich, that he deserved to be punished for daring to try and drown his guilt with depressants and procreation when no amount of procreation he could possibly do could undo what they had done, far less so with two of the condemned.
Despite their short statures, the Major's and Friedrich's glasses, the shining deaths head, the Feldgrau combat gloves on their hands, and blackness of their boots, above all their knowing, malicious, depraved and insane smirks gave them an unnerving sinister edge. That was how both Rip Van and the Hauptsturmfuhrer described it later. Before the Major had even spoken, Friedrich sensed, given all he had heard what the Major would need. "Herr Hauptsturmfuhrer, sit on the bed opposite Obersturmfuhrer Blitz, the Sturmbannfuhrer needs your undivided attention."
Even though he was a superior officer to Friedrich, so shocked, shamed and low was the Hauptsturmfuhrer at this point that he obeyed. The Major nodded his thanks to Friedrich. "Meine Damen und Herren" he began and so was born the Millennium Battalion. None of them believed it. Even the Hauptsturmfuhrer looked up from his dejected state, in disbelief at the two smirking officers, who had so quickly recovered and seemed to revel in what had happened. Blitz had spilled her meal and cursed, then stopped when both the Major and Friedrich chuckled and shook their heads in disapproval at her lack of control. "For reasons of Ideology of course, neither of you women can be presented as part of my core working group before the Fuhrer, but we are all to travel to Berlin by special train where all of you, including Obersturmfuhrer Craebel must catch up on the Occult, especially vampires and the humans who deal with them, you are about to enter a world you thought never existed and indeed one which I though familiar with, have never been in myself. Our lives will never be the same again."
He also told the truth about the Hauptsturmfuhrer, Blitz looked at both the Major and Friedrich as if they were insane, had the killings really affected them that deeply that they woke up delusional, suddenly with recessive genes that meant they could infect the German race if they bred? Rip Van seemed to recognize that it was the truth, she shrunk back, a choking, disgusted noise emitting from her mouth, the Hauptsturmfuhrer simply sat looking dejected and said "It is true. What they say of me is true, I am in fact a monster not a human being."
"Come now my dear Hauptsturmfuhrer, you can control when you are a werewolf, at least so I am told, you are a warm blooded, emotional being that doesn't seek out human company for food and has normal functional relations with human beings, for all intents and purposes, you are human, you have essentially the anatomy of one in your current state and the emotions of one. The same cannot always be said for a vampire, who by its very nature sees humans as food, that it could be otherwise only occurs in extraordinary circumstances." The Major said this smiling warmly, his head tilted up slightly toward the ceiling. He turned and smirked at Rip Van "What wrong? You are afraid you've lost your virginity to an animal, that you may be impregnated with demon children which will rip you apart from the insides? Do not worry Frau Winkler there is no biological possibility of a zygote even fertilizing anything, all supernatural creatures cannot reproduce amongst themselves, at least not in a way we know of, and you two are hardly the first to have intercourse with a werewolf and come out alive."
Blitz absentmindedly speared her food and Rip Van looked relieved if frightened. Friedrich knew how to break the ice "In any case we shall require that we have a select group of men with us when we travel" he turned to Blitz "Obersturmfuhrer Blitz, please get yourself dressed as soon as you are done eating."