A/N: After finally getting (a little) more time these days - and having watched most of the last half of Hellsing OVA X- I was in the mood for a short, sharp adventure story rather than a collection of snippets. This will be the first chapter.
It's AU, diverging from canon sometime around the last OVA. A take on the fandom's "Integra finally tries for an heir" theme - with hopefully enough of the usual Hellsing weirdness intact.
It was that time of year again - the anniversary of the Battle of London.
I'd weaved my microfilament wires into a cat's cradle. They glinted in fading light. The sun had sunk low over the Hellsing estate, highlighting the pond's ripples in orange.
I inhaled. Young grass and dirt. Somewhere, a bird spat a rapid whit-whit-whit-whit, and I punctuated each of the bird's cries by flicking the wires across the yarrow. Yellow flowers jumped from their stems as I decapitated each in turn. It looked a little like a field of popcorn going off. Fifty or sixty in a few moments - a yellow carpet of petals.
A deep draught of home. I hadn't realized how peaceful it could be here. Definitely not as a kid, when I'd splashed across the muddiest paths of the Hellsing estate. It had seemed enormous back then, and still did - endless acres of trees, fields, and ruined buildings that separated us from the rest of England. Unholy ground.
I would be managing my first operation. Soon. That's what Mother had said.
Was that why my fingers twitched a little too eagerly, and heartbeats came a little too quickly?
...Seras called it England's largest park. The Hellsing estate, that is. No civilians had lived near the place since the Round Table Hearings. Vampires don't do much for property values. Just miles and miles of vegetation crawling through broken windows and cracking cement. Human civilization reclaimed by England's wilderness. Not many animals, though.
Everything grew quickly here. Pip had joked about it once, in the years before he'd started fading into something only Seras could hear.
The grass grows so quickly because it fears what's under the ground.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the pond. Watched my own eyes fall to the muddy Hellsing uniform. A branch must have torn the left lapel during the hike. One of the buttons was missing.
I sighed. The reflection sighed with me - a reflection with large eyes and a shock of black hair, like a kid who'd stuck his fingers in an electrical socket.
Neat-freak that she was, I don't think Mother had completely thought through the implications of experimenting on her own genetic material back in the late 2010's.
On one hand, implanting her artificially fertilized eggs into Seras for nine months should have given Mother the best of both worlds: a genetically human Hellsing who barely squeaked into dhampir status by being "born" to a vampire. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. No bloodline corruption. Better reflexes. Regeneration. Improved durability. The ability to track vampires like a bloodhound.
On the other hand, there were the messes.
The horrible, horrible messes.
Legends had said that dhampirs were filthy. They had neglected to mention that dhampirs were only filthy because the metaphysical embodiment of slovenliness stalked them like a plague.
Hair uncombed itself. Mud practically jumped out of puddles to get into socks and pant legs. If there was the tiniest bit of dust on a tabletop, you can bet that it would find an excuse to get under your fingernails. And may the Great Guardian of Clothiers and Tailors have mercy on your soul if you wanted to take a walk in the woods, because the greenery would have none. I'd shredded so many shirts that I was starting to wonder whether daffodils had retractible claws.
In Mother's defense, she hadn't been sleeping very well during the endless idiocy of the Round Table Hearings.
Still, the Hellsing estate had its attractions, as long as -
- you didn't sink up to your knees into nasty-smelling ooze of uncertain origin.
I thought I heard laughter somewhere in the trees.
My body's reaction came an instant later - a burning feeling traveling down my spine. Judging from its intensity, the source of the sensation was close. As if it had appeared out of nowhere.
Leaves rustled. I heard a growl, and saw a flicker of black moving in bushes. It was followed by the unmistakable glint of eyes. One after another, after another.
I grinned, and tossed up microfilament wire. It hovered around me like a gleaming halo. And my heart had finally found an excuse for its hammering.
"Any time, A-"
Bolts of shadow shot from the bushes. The adrenaline rush grabbed me by the throat. Almost panic. Almost frozen.
I drew the wires up. They weaved themselves into glittering mesh. Shadows splashed against them. Some exploded into red light, which licked the outer edges of the shield like tongues of flame.
When this failed, they drew back and coagulated. The shadowy mass shot forward again, and my wires bent with the impact. They didn't break. The shadows must have hammered against my shield three or four times - like watching the tide come in.
At last, the shadows withdrew. More blackness gathered. More glowing red wisps of energy hung around the shadows' edges. Dozens of eyes opened, and the narrower part of the mass warped until it became a muzzle.
A demon dog grinned. Saliva dripped on the ground from hundreds of teeth, and its wormlike body uncoiled. I mentally screamed at my fingers to loosen.
...Which wasn't working.
Oh shit. Loosen. For the love of-
The creature lunged. It was like watching a fifty ton centipede skittering toward you on fast-forward. I threaded wires as quickly as I could, and threw them into the creature's path. They cut with a wet schlick. The creature's snout parted down the middle. Fluid splashed from its bisected brain. Open jaws passed each side of my head without closing.
My own blood was flowing from the soft skin on the back of my fingers, where a regular human's fingernails would have been. Warmth dampened my gloves.
Another dhampir symptom, and an inconvenient one.
The demon dog snarled. Collected itself. Lunged again. The creature's body slid around a tree so quickly that it stripped the bark, giving off a shriek like a buzzsaw.
I managed to jump away. My fingers danced as they tried to attach the hooks. And kept bleeding.
For the thousandth time, I envied Mother's long-dead butler. Even when he'd been my age, Walter C. Dornez's mastery of microfilament wires must been unreal. My fingers' sensitivity and lack of fingernails only formalized an already existing disparity - sending it from "mismatch" to "you can't be serious".
I curled my index finger. The demon-dog's mouth was pried open. It yelped.
Thumb. Middle. Hooks yanked the creature's face to the left. It careened into a tree. A loud crack followed, driving splinters into its body. Its emotions were filtering down the wires. I could sense...joy, and mounting pain. Wait. Correction. Joy from mounting pain.
The creature growled and pulled on its leash. Hard. It nearly sent me sprawling. I dug in my heels, and hissed as the wires cut deeper into my fingers.
It pulled again. I redirected the movement into a building, which exploded in a shower of concrete.
The sting in my fingers sharpened once again. They were leaden, and burning from the strain. And then, the sting intensified into insistent pain - the kind you get from putting your hand on a hot stovetop. My eyes were tearing up, and I couldn't see quite as well.
With an almighty twwaaang, the wires bit through my fingers until they reached bone. They were yanked down again, toward my fingertips, shearing off any tissue in their way. It was like watching someone peeling off a glove.
The creature howled, and flew toward my throat.
I jammed my right hand into my holster, and forced the remains of my trigger finger into its proper place.
I wasn't fast enough. Not by a long shot. The creature slammed into me. It wasn't a tackle as much as a bullet train to the chest. My misdirected shots sent a couple silver bullets skyward.
And then, twelve rows of fangs were hovering over me. The creature's breath was dry and hot, like standing next to an open oven. Shadows pinned my arms to the ground.
Baskerville's image. A creature that looked just like the phantom that had terrorized the English moors - but wasn't.
The shadows morphed again.
The hundred-eyed dog melted. Shrank. Paled.
Fur became sheeny black hair. The muzzle retracted into a human mouth, high cheekbones, and tiny nose. Arms grew from the creature's sides. Shadows folded around the body, until they became a white suit and fur hat. The "girl" grinned, showing off a mouthful of fangs.
Only the eyes remained unchanged. Large and red, like an animal's.
The "girl" looked about my own age - and remained a couple inches from my face. She was panting. Her shadow aura still pinned me to the ground, pulsating with each breath. Tightening.
"Well," she said. "Looks like I've caught you, 'squirrel'."
It was an old, not-so-affectionate nickname from Mother - back when I was a toddler, and used to climb up Hellsing's walls. A play on "Cyril", my actual name.
"I'm seventeen now, not-"
"She" dragged her fangs down my neck. Just softly enough not to break the skin. A warning. Goosebumps prickled up where she touched.
"I'm over six hundred," 'she' whispered. "And I'll call you what I bloody well please."
The creature placed her index finger under my chin, and pushed until we were nose to nose. Her eyes flicked down to my uniform, which had become a tattered canvas of mud, blood, and grass stains. A few weeds had somehow gotten tangled in my hair.
"You're all dirty again, Cyril," she said. "And before the anniversary dinner, too. Your mother be so displeased."
"Memorializing the time you ate London," I said. "You just want your annual treat."
The creature raised an eyebrow. Frowned.
"Memorializing the humans who gave their lives against monsters," she said. "Or perhaps you're jealous of the affections I lavish on Sir Integra? Mmh?"
Those red eyes were boring into me again. I looked away.
"Don't be ridic-"
She leaned close to my ear.
"As well you should be, boy," she said. "Your mother ages like fine wine. You're not there yet - and may never be. Hellsing's vampires are inherited. My respect is earned."
"I chopped your fake Baskerville in half, didn't I?"
She glanced at my hands. A new layer of pale skin had already formed over my fingertips. Tissues and veins were growing under it. Like watching a sack getting filled.
She ran a glove along my arm until it was smeared red, and then daintily licked the blood off her fingers.
"You seem to have forgotten that I'm not as forgiving as Seras," she said. "Are you dead yet, boy?"
"Because if you're not, I'm wondering why you stopped fighting five minutes ago...with your enemy still on your chest."
She clapped one hand over my mouth. Her other hand drew back, near her head. Her fingers went rigid. Like a spear. My eyes widened, and I tried to kick her off.
She moved. Her "spear" cut through my shoulder. And hurt. Shit, did it hurt. I screamed into "her" glove. Blood sprayed. Not content with the damage, she wiggled her fingers around in the wound, while I writhed like an insect caught on a hook.
And then, she leaned back.
The girl's body rippled. Grew. Shadows expanded around "her" until a lean man in a red duster towered in "her" place. But he had the same smirk.
He removed his hand from my mouth.
"AAAAAAAGGH!" I said.
"I promised your mother that you would be prepared for your first mission, Little Master," he said. "Hellsing operatives do not spar with vampires. They kill them."
My head was swimming a little - not just from the blood loss, but from my frantic attempts to regenerate. My body sensed panic. Blood, regrowing muscle, and adrenaline oozed to my shoulder in record time.
"You-agh-you can't be killed," I hissed.
Alucard smirked, and stood up. That ridiculous fedora appeared from the shadows over his head.
"Who knows?" he said. "Someday, you may be the one to pull it off. Oh...and your mother wanted you home twenty minutes ago. They're serving the hors d'oeuvres."
"You tell me this now-"
But Alucard was already gone. Vanished, courtesy of his omnipresent quantum weirdness.
Well, that had been even more disturbing that usual. I lay there for a while, waiting for flesh to reknit.
Finally, I staggered to my feet and headed for the Manor. The skin around the wound had already numbed. I still must have looked paler than a three-day-old corpse, but at least I wasn't bleeding anymore. With luck, I could sneak inside and clean up before any of Mother's guests could see me.
And it would have to be an epic cleanup. Messed-up hair, a shredded uniform, mud everywhere, bloodstains, demon-dog saliva (which I noted, with some annoyance, that Alucard had failed to dematerialize), foul-smelling gunk on my legs -
I stopped. A furry creature blocked my path. It snarled. I noted the white stripe down its back.
"Oh, no," I said. "That's not...wait a minute. You're not even native to England."
The skunk, heedless of its theoretical geographic range, snarled again. An escaped pet? A descendant of one of the London Zoo's former residents? Not that it mattered. Whatever the explanation, my personal daemon of uncleanliness deserved points for creativity.
I briefly considered reaching for my microfilament wires, but ultimately bowed to the inevitable.
When I finally reached the Manor, I scampered up one of the drainpipes. Thanks to a few scribbled Hermetic circles, Seras's aura didn't extend to my room. I climbed through the window.
The bath(s) took awhile. My skin burned from one industrial-strength cleaning product after another. Years of supernaturally enhanced messes had ensured that I had the tools for the job - and being a regenerator had its "advantages".
"Ow. Ouch. Agck..."
I emerged half an hour later, smelling like something the Germans had unleashed on Allied trenches at Ypres. I stumbled down the steps, and followed the scent of rare steak with my few surviving vestiges of an olfactory system.
If I could just sneak onto the veranda-
"Master! Where were you?"
I blinked the remaining stinging from my eyes. Looked up at the bannister. A blonde, crimson-eyed woman in uniform was doing her best to glare down at me.
"Sorry, Seras," I said.
She crossed her arms.
"That doesn't answer my question, Master. Sir Integra specifically sent Alucard to retrieve you, and you know how the-"
"Wait," she said. "How does that even-"
Seras sighed, and then phased through the bannister. Flickers of crimson appeared where she'd passed through the wood. She floated to the ground, and took my hand.
"Let's get it over with," she said.
Seras opened the door, and we stepped through.
The veranda was almost empty. No partygoers in black suits and ties. No trays overflowing with Champagne. Steam was still wafting invitingly from a few plates of barely-cooked filet mignon - except for Alucard's, which was a bloody mess.
"Cyril Quentin Arthur Hellsing! Where on earth were you?"
Mother, you see, was still under the impression that my mental development had stalled at age ten or so. Her glasses glinted dangerously. I've never figured out how they developed the same intimidating glare as their owner. Osmosis, maybe.
Alucard was kneeling at her feet. Mother's finger was still extended with Alucard's "anniversary treat" - a bead of virgin blood that hadn't yet dripped into his open mouth.
For just a moment, Alucard's face morphed into a girl's again. "She" leered at me.
"I...apologize, Ma'am," I said. "Unavoidably detained."
Mother's eyes narrowed.
"You were aware of this event beforehand."
I nodded. Swallowed.
"...We will speak about this later," she said "For now - and despite this negligent little display - it seems that circumstances have intervened to give you your first real assignment."
The whole room seemed to go into slow motion.
"Ma'am, you mean-"
"At seven o'clock this evening, a village in County Derry disappeared. Vampiric activity was confirmed at seven-forty, when Her Majesty's official anti-vampire taskforce lost a team and two drones."
My fingers twitched. I forced them still.
"Er...I was under the impression that the Baobhan Sidhe had gotten quieter after the bloodbanks-for-peace deal. Ma'am."
Mother's eye twitched. "Appeasement," she'd called it. But Her Majesty's Government hadn't been in any position to listen to Hellsing after news of the Battle of London had leaked out. Mother had barely avoided going to war with Parliament to "protect" her vampires.
(Not that they'd needed protection...)
"Evidently not," Mother said.
Was that a note of relish in her voice? Probably not. But something else bothered me.
"Are we sure it's not Section XIII?" I said. "Derry's right on our jurisdictional border."
Mother took a deep drag on her cigar. Smoke swirled upward into the evening air.
"We're not sure of anything," she said. "That's where you come in. It's about time you fully commanded an operation. Take Seras with you."
My eyes wandered. Seras was sitting on the edge of the veranda, staring across the Hellsing estate's misty fields. Mayflies flitted around the light above her. Little white ghosts. I caught the faintest outline seated next to Seras, leaning on her shoulder. A long-haired man in green. And then, it was gone.
"No human soldiers?" I said. "Other weapons?"
Mother permitted herself a thin smile.
"You must be confusing this operation with the days when we had a budget."