Sunday, October 20, 2013


A dear friend of mine once referred to our mutual place of work as a "ball of confusion".  She was quoting a song I believe.  I had laughed at her witticism but had not truly appreciated the concept on a personal level until now.

My final test on the Tortoise is today but instead of concentrating on my training, I have spent these last three nights trying to figure out what was going on with my hormones and why I had reacted so strongly to Walter during my shooting lesson with little to no success.

It had taken less than a second to decide that talking to Alucard was right out.  He either either knew nothing about it, in which case I would only be giving him further ammunition to abuse and exploit me or he already knew all about it, perhaps had even caused it but was choosing not to tell me for his own amusement.  In which case he would simply abuse and humiliate me for my "whiny ingratitude".  Plus, there was the almost certain chance that he would gleefully and quite publicly share this information with the party in question.

Alucard had made it clear on more than one occasion that he did not like the influence Walter had over me.  He would have no qualms about using this embarrassing revelation to drive a wedge into that relationship.  As awkward as I was feeling around Walter at the moment,  it would be nothing compared to what would happen if he were appraised of my new found, ahem, awareness of him.

He would, I am sure, be very polite and understanding about the whole thing.  He would probably try to attach a rational, biological explanation to it like he had with the tears.  What a horrid thought, even if it was what I was trying to do myself.  Worse yet, he might try to be kind and let me down gently thinking I had developed some ridiculous schoolgirl crush on him, which I haven't!  At least I don't think I have. I mean, I remember having stupid crushes when I was younger and even a few cases of unrequited lust but this thing that was happening to me held none of the ridiculous euphoria or anxious nausea that either of these states always seemed to entail.        

Regardless of the cause, the thought of losing Walter's respect and companionship fills me with dread.  It isn't worth the risk so I have shut my mouth and am running Alucard's mazes like the good little lab lab rat I am, baulking and complaining I hope just enough so he won't get too suspicious.

This however, has not stopped me from conducting a few little experiments of my own.  I have begun a covert operation to discretely invade the personal space of as many of the denizens of the Hellsing estate, especially the male ones, as time and circumstance will allow, so far with extremely mixed and not particularly useful results.

I began my research in the lab.  It seemed the logical place to start.  Plus, I had to be there anyway, might as well test them while they were testing me.

It was a total wash.  Dr. Levin smells of antibiotic soap and has the annoying habit of taking my temperature whenever I approach him and poor Andrew smells of acne wash, aftershave and fear (well he does work with Miss Pringle) and tends to start stammering when he gets close to cleavage.  Neither of them elicited a single spark of the warm and fuzzeys in me.

I decided to try the kitchen next.  I figured I could sniff the cook and bake some treats for the Geese at the same time.  The cook, a grizzled old Hellsing veteran by the name Garvel, tolerated my presence in the kitchen because I had introduced him to cream cheese brownies but if poor Seras so much as poked her nose in the door he would hurl blistering curses and saucepans with deadly accuracy.

At first I just assumed it was the usual prejudice against vampires until I realized he seemed to have the same visceral reaction to all females under the age of 40.  "Jezebels, the lot o' them!"  He was wont to inform me.  Even Sir Integra tended to avoid the kitchen when he was in a snit so I really wasn't too surprised when I leaned in a bit too close to him over the salmon croquettes, to feel the cold steel prongs of a toasting fork press against my ribs.  "Now then miss, we both know your a good gel so why don't you just step back a bit and I won't have to dent my nice new Calphalon pan 'ere."  I squeaked a bit and scuttled back to my brownies.  

"Women!"  He grumped. "Just can't help it I guess but you resist it ya hear gel?  Resist temptation and avoid damnation I always say."  I wasn't sure which temptation he was admonishing me to resist; him or the croquettes but nodded solemnly to avoid ejection from the kitchen.   He gave me a final glare before turning back to his salmon and muttering about Jezebels.  I was still within saucepan range so I suppressed my amusement and pulled the brownies from the oven.  Besides, I had my results which were, well, nothing really.  There was no weird awareness or urge to cuddle, despite Garvel's paranoid assertions, and he smelled like old man and salmon cakes which, while not horrible, certainly did not have me swooning with longing, just the heat.

I sighed and cut up the brownies.  Maybe I needed younger, less deadly subjects.  Paid mercenaries perhaps?   Hmm...Several handsome young test subjects all packed together in one spot.  Yes, the Geese would do nicely.   "Work, work, work."  I mock groused to myself as I piled baked goods on a tray.  I cleaned up my work area, bid farewell to the cook and scampered over to the barracks.     


Well that went over like a lead balloon.  My first victim/test subject was Zelig.  Not for any particular reason other than the fact that he pounced on me the second I walked through the door.

Unfortunately Griffin, Bulls and Sherman had spotted me as well and a brief melee ensued over possession of the goodies.  Zelig may be small but he fights nasty and so with a few carefully aimed kicks and punches he managed to set the other three against each other and escape with me and half the contents of the tray before anyone, me especially, knew what had happened.  That man really likes his brownies. 

"What am I going to do with you?"  I sighed as he dragged hiss prizes, myself included, into a defensible corner.

"I've already told you the plan."  He said through a mouthful of fudge and walnuts.

"I refuse to be either your death muse or a groupie."  I snapped.

"We both know I'm going to talk you into it."

"You most certainly won't."

"We'll see."  He said patting my hand.  He plopped down at a table and began sorting his horde.  I snorted then sank down next to him.  He gave me a suspicious look then seemed to remember I was the one who had brought his treats in the first place and relaxed. 

"So what are you working on today?"  I asked.  Watching in fascination as he built a twisting tower out of brownies.

"Well, I was working on my mural but my death muse,"  He said giving me the hairy eyeball.  "Is being stubborn and won't pose for me."

"Death muses can be like that."  I said unsympathetically.   "But Mr. Russell's daughter seemed quite keen to be a nymph for you."

"Oh yes."  He said.  "She's already agreed to pose."

"Yeah, that to."

"I do have this effect on women."  He said.  "Can't help it.  It's quite annoying sometimes when I'm trying to work."

I narrowed my eyes.  It's often hard to tell if Zelig is joking.  I'm not completely sure he even has a sense of humour by normal human standards.
"I'll sketch her in tomorrow but today..."  He said pulling a brownie, Jenga style, from the tower.  "I'm working on a side project combining natural patterns and fractal imagery onto textiles.  You see,"  He said, warming to his subject. "most mathematicians think of fractals as self-similar complex equations, that is to say, a reproduced detailed geometrical pattern that remains similar and repeats the pattern in finer and finer detail the more closely you examine it.  Making the structure very hard topographically to measure.  You may have seen some of the recently published photographs of Mandelbrot sets that are so popular right now.  Very sci-fi, very trendy.  It's what most laymen tend to think of  when you mention fractals but the thing is they are also very common in nature.  Fractal patterns are everywhere and people just don't see them often because they are so large or so small as to be easily missed."  He pulled a gel pen out from behind his ear and cast about for a writing surface.  "Take mountains for example.  From the widest range down to the smallest pebble, you seem the same shapes and patterns repeating over and over.  Look at the oak tree its branch its leaf.  The cauliflower, the fern..."  He had given up on paper and started drawing patterns on the back of my hand and up my arm.

I didn't mind though it was an interesting topic plus it gave me an excuse to lean in and get a good sniff.  Not bad.  For all his uncaring attitude towards most social conventions, Zelig was actually quite well groomed.  His black uniform was always impeccably clean and pressed his boots mirror bright and he wouldn't be caught dead out of his room if his goatee weren't closely trimmed and his midnight hair not gelled to within an inch of its life.  He was as handsome and sleek as a cat and twice as temperamental.

All things considered, I guess I should have been attracted to him but for some reason I always seemed instead to be torn between wanting to mother him or throttle him to death.  Besides, who wants to date anyone who spends more time in the bathroom getting ready than you do?  Still, if my hormones were acting up I should at least feel a bit tingly around him shouldn't I?

I leaned in a bit and gave him a sniff.  Not bad.  Sort of citrus and spicy like a cloven fruit but no strong urge to nuzzle him.  Zelig, oblivious as usual, simply used my proximity to roll up my sleeve and begin tracing lines along my biceps never missing a beat in the conversation.  "ah the fern is actually a favourite of mine, so beautifully complex in it's apparent simplicity."  He demonstrated by inking a sheaf of fronds down my triceps. "You see how nicely they all fit together like a beautiful nature puzzle, complementing and interlocking.  Now add some lighting and some frost.  See how jagged they are and yet they both bloom....Corrine!"  He yelped.  

"Sorry, but it tickled."  He had reached the inside of my elbow causing me to jerk a bit.

"Gah! I hate it when women move.  Why do they always want to wiggle when I am trying to work on them?"

"And now you know why Zelig's girls always leave disappointed." Said Sherman brightly as he slid up to us and tried to steal a brownie.  "Hey Corrine." 

Zelig blocked him with a snarl.  "Mine!  Go get your own." 

"Which, the brownie or the girl?"

"Both!  And I'll have you know the girls always come back."

"Cause ya pay them to."

"Of course I do they're professionals."

"They most certainly are."  Agreed Sherman with a smirk.  "Hard 'Working girls', each and every one."

Zelig frowned thoughtfully then perked up a bit.  "Is that you won't pose for me Corrine?  How bout I pay you a little something then you can say your a professional too."

Sherman barked with laughter as he reached over two fingers to gently ease my gaping mouth closed.  "I think you've just shocked Corrine."  He said.

"What, why?" Asked Zelig.  "Your not so bad looking, I've done worse...we would have to do something about your outfit."

"Is he..."  I whispered, struggling to find my voice.  "...comparing me to a prostitute?"  I asked Sherman.

"Um Zelig?"  Said Sherman carefully.  "Remember when we discussed how to talk to regular women?"

"Maybe."  Replied Zelig as he restructured the brownie tower.

"well, perhaps this would be a good time to dust off the memory."

"But Corrine's not a regular girl."  Snorted Zelig.  "She's...well, Corrine."

"Yes but,"

"And once I pay her she'll be a pro, just like the other's."  He slid a 20 pound note out of his wallet and placed in my hand.  "There."  He said with satisfaction.

I stared down at it, dumbfounded.

"Don't worry Corrine,"  Said Zelig patting my hand.  "I'll be careful with you as its your first time and I know your worried about those extra pounds but I've always preferred the Rubenesque figure."

I clenched my fist around the money. It made a dangerous crumpling noise.  "So now I'm a fat prostitute?"

"Don't worry," Chuckled Sherman.  "He often forgets to sleep with them so you might be OK."

I  whirled on him clutching a fistful of his shirt with my free hand.  "What did you just say to me?"

"Just having a little fun is all Corrine."

 I growled and twisted my wrist a bit.  He smelled of flannel,sweat and, dare I flatter myself, just a hint of fear.  No attraction there that's for sure.

"Ow! OK, now it's not so funny no more." He shifted a bit uncomfortably and frowned.  "And whatcha so mad at me about?  He's the one who said it."

"You started it. Besides Zelig doesn't know any better."

"True." Agreed Zelig.

"What?"  I asked confused.

"My last therapist said I had boundary issues, something to do with childhood trauma I think, plus an almost pathological inability to correctly read social situations.  Actually, he more shouted it than said it."  He tilted his head thoughtfully.  "'Course I'd just blown up his BMW."

I stared at him blankly. 

"Um,could ya let go now Corrine?"  Asked Sherman.

I glanced down to where my fist still clutched the front of his shirt. "I'm not sure that I should."  I mused.

"Geeze!  Why not?"

"Cause I really want to strangle someone at the moment and your the closest person."

"You know, you didn't used to be so violent."

"We have this effect on people."  Said a voice from behind me.  I tilted my head back to look into Stewart's smiling face.

"Hallo Corrine, you look like an Escher print."

"I know,  Zelig did it. Kinda nifty huh?" I wiggled my arm back and forth a bit to show him eliciting a grunt of displeasure from Sherman.  

"Dag woman!"  He protested.  "Yer rippen out the Love Rug...and who says 'nifty' any more?"

"I do."  I said tugging warningly on his shirt.  "Got a problem with that Mr. 'Love Rug'?"

"No Corrine."  He said smartening up.  "But it do kinda hurt a bit so if I say sorry could you just...let...go?"

"How bout we go over the your audio files from last week."  Said Stewart as he carefully pried my fingers away from the Sherman's shirt.  "I got some really freakish harmonic readings off your voice,
totally brilliant."

I nodded and started to walk away when I heard Zelig say.

"You see how she taps into her inner death muse to defend me?  Don't make me unleash her upon you again"

"Nah, that ain't it trust me." Replied Sherman.  "I've got seven sisters I know when a girl's 'on the ra..."  I whirled and stalked back towards him eyes blazing.  I felt Stewart's arm band about my waist.

"Zone's heating up." He said brightly as my feet lifted from the floor.  "Extracting subject from the situation." I grumbled and glared daggers at my almost victims as Stewart dragged me away.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Two and a half hours later, after I had memorized the drills and passed both the written and oral comprehensives (I'm not kidding), Walter finally agreed to let me touch a real gun.

"Very well ."  He said, neatly placing my two page essay on the scoring table.  "I think you are ready.  May I see your hands please Ms. Doyle?"

Curious, I held my hands out feeling a bit like a small child showing her mom she had washed her hands before dinner.  He reached out and positioned them between us palms up.  He flexed my wrists once or twice then laid two of his fingers across each of my palms.  I'm not that ticklish but shivered a bit at the sensation of the soft cotton brushing against my skin.  "Close your hands please, making fists."  Intrigued, I loosely closed my fingers about his own.  "Now squeeze."  I squeezed.

"Harder."  He ordered.  I squeezed harder.  "Come now Ms. Doyle, that wouldn't crush a carton of eggs, surely we can do better than that."

"I don't want to hurt you."

He managed to look both offended and amused at the same time.  "That is hardly likely Ms. Doyle."  He thought a moment.  "Perhaps if you were to pretend I was Nurse Pringle?"

My fingers spasmed and I felt bones grinding together.

"That's a bit more like it."  He said sounding pleased.  "Now hold...and release." He nodded

"Just as I thought."  He said.  He turned towards a gun locker bearing the Hellsing crest, unlocked it and drew out a small case.  "Both hands are reasonably strong and flexible and while your left is clearly dominant, I suspect that, like many left handed persons, you have attempted to develop a certain amount of dexterity in both hands to adapt to your environment.  I also suspect that these efforts have often been frustrating and only minimally successful."

"It is a right handed world."  I sighed.  "Even bread knives hate me."

"The issue Ms. Doyle is deciding when one should adapt to accommodate the environment and when the environment should be adapted to accommodate  you.  Determining which will give you the best results or better yet, the advantage."

I thought for a moment.  "Like with fencing?"

"Very good Ms. Doyle.  A left handed fencer does have a slight advantage over a right handed opponent."    

I looked down at the case.  "But I thought guns were ambidextrous."

"Not really, no.  The safety and release are more often than not designed for right hand use.  Even the sites and grip are an issue on some models.  Rifles are even more problematic."

"Oh dear."  I said.

"But this,"  He said opening the case and lifting out a pistol.  "Should help to level the playing field."

 "Oooo."  I breathed leaning into take a closer look.  I know next to nothing about guns but it was sleek and black with a burled wood handle that shone like satin.  It looked dangerous and sexy and I wanted to touch it.

"This," Said Walter  holding out the pistol.  "is a pre-production prototype for the forthcoming Cabot South Paw 1911.  It features twenty lpi front strap checkering, rear slide serrations, a skeletonized hammer with chamfers, beavertail grip safety, aluminium skeletonized trigger, a chamfered magazine well,  polished feed ramp and an eight round magazine."  I tried looking impressed but had really only understood the last bit.  

"This weapon"  Said Walter happily warming to the subject.  "is not just a standard model that has been modified to be ambidextrous or left hand friendly but has been designed and built from the ground up for left handed use.  It has a left handed extended thumb safety, left handed slide stop, left handed magazine release and a left handed lowered and flared ejection port.  All of its operations and controls are left handed and it is easy to dissemble, clean and maintain."  He smiled a bit and said.  "I've taken the liberty of customizing the finish and grip and adjusted the sites to account for the astigmatism in your left eye."

"What size round does it shoot?"


My eyes got big.  "I'll break my nose."

"I've made some modifications to reduce the recoil but it still has a bit of a kick.  I am confident I can teach you to compensate."

I frowned and nibbled my lip.

"There is no point in giving you a weapon Ms. Doyle that is not capable of stopping a ghoul from a comfortable distance."

 "You most definitely have a point Mr. Dollneaz a .45 it is."  I reached out and tentatively  ran a finger along the grip.  It looked perfectly smooth but there was definitely a texture.   "Is this rosewood?"  I asked.

"Cocobolo."  He said.  "An unusual specimen I picked up when I was last in South America. I thought it would suit."  

"It's lovely."  I said.  "I never thought I would use the word elegant to describe a gun but it really is beautiful."  I blushed a bit.  I never thought I would find myself gushing over a gun but Walter's enthusiasm was infectious and it really was terribly attractive in a dangerous, instrument of death sort of way. 

"Very kind of you to say."
I glanced up at Walter who had the same proud yet self-effacing look that a parent gets when someone complements their child.  Although the wire had apparently always been his weapon of choice in battle, Walter was an accomplished gunsmith.  There wasn't a revolver, pistol or rifle used by the household staff that he had not built or customized for Hellsing's singular needs.  He had even designed Seras' beloved Harkonnen cannon to suit her special talents and if Alucard had actually been capable of loving anything it would probably be his custom Jackal.  I ducked my head back down and ran my fingers lightly over the gun.

"I take it you approve of my selection Ms. Doyle?"  He asked.

"Oh yes Mr. Dollneaz." I agreed.

"Shall we try it out then?"

"Absolutely."  I enthused.  "Just one question though."

"Yes Ms. Doyle?"

"What's a chamfer?"


So after we got the terminology straightened out (just Google the bits you don't know I'm tired), Walter led me over to the lanes and showed me how to load and fire the weapon.

Walter's approach to teaching was professional but not un-enjoyable.  He was patient and never yelled at me even after repeatedly having to remind me not to squeeze my eyes shut while pulling the trigger.  I in turn, tried bravely not to flinch or scream slightly every time I saw that lovely sleek, weapon flying at my face from the recoil.

It seemed an impossible task but when I volunteered that perhaps some people, especially left handed with poor fine motor skills and a slight astigmatism kind of people, were never really meant to handle firearms, Walter firmly told me that he had taught far more hopeless pupils than me and wasn't about to allow the word failure to enter his vocabulary.  I offered to fetch a dictionary.  He did not reply, he simply employed his patented evil butler super-powered disapproving stare until I meekly turned back to my target and squared off for the next shot.

Walter's instructional methods were also, of course, not so nearly as "hands on" as Marks' had been.  For the most part he would demonstrate each point followed by verbal instruction, only occasionally stepping in to correct my grip or stance.

After a few near disasters, I finally managed to grasp the concept of absorbing the recoil into my body instead of trying to stop it entirely with my wrists and forearms.  With this threat to my poor, beleaguered nose nullified, I actually began to relax and enjoy myself.  My aim was still atrocious mind you but, as Walter pointed out, at least the screaming had stopped.

"Not,"  He said. "that your squeaks of terror aren't absolutely charming but our goal here is to shoot ghouls, not serenade them."

I humphed  and lined up another shot.

"Unless your goal is, in fact, to entertain in which case your insistence on closing one eye and squinting like a pirate in a pantomime when you aim makes a great deal of sense.  If not, I can but emphasise the advantages of binocular vision and depth perception."

"Yar!" I growled but tried harder to keep both eyes open.

I fired off a few more rounds enthusiastically blowing chunks off of my paper target.  One of them actually even hit the silhouetted figure.  "Oh look!"  I cried happily.  "I think I clipped his elbow."

"Very effective Ms. Doyle, were he a professional tennis player but a shot like that won't even slow a ghoul down.  Have you tried actually looking at the target before pulling the trigger?"

"Snarkey comments will not help to improve my aim."  I snapped, then fired off the last round in the clip.  It hit dead center in the belly.

"That, was a fluke!" I insisted as I loaded a fresh clip.  "It means nothing."

He ignored my comments and switched back to instructor mode. "Your stance is still off center" He said.  "and your grip not quite right."   He strolled up behind me and made a slight adjustment to my shoulders.  "Feet a bit further apart."  He intoned.  "Now, raise the gun a little higher but keep it on the center line.  Better,"  He said.  "but your grip is still off Ms. Doyle."

I moved my fingers around a bit.

"No, Ms. Doyle.  Hold it as I demonstrated earlier."

"I am." I protested.

"No. Not quite."  He said and reached around to adjust my fingers.

Something strange happened just then.  It was as if  the axis of my internal world had suddenly shifted.   Everything remained the same on the surface but somehow, in that moment, I became very aware of a man.

I mean of course I've known for over two months now that Walter is a man.  I just hadn't been particularity  "aware" of  the fact.  I know it sounds ridiculous but I guess I'd spent so much time trying to untangle the who of Walter the uberbutler (jailer, babysitter, protector, friend?), that I had failed to pay attention to the what. But in that moment, with him standing so very close I was experiencing an acute awareness of his being quite male.

His height of, approximately,  6'4" belied broad shoulders and long arms which easily wrapped around to encompass me.  I am 5' 6" and even with the weight I've lost, still a big girl but he suddenly made me feel small and fragile and acutely female.

'Oh dear.' I thought.  'Oh, dear.'

Now?  My hormones decide to kick in again now, in the middle of a shooting lesson!  I berated myself.  But no, this was different wasn't it?  This wasn't the same giggly girlish adolescent flutter I experienced around Sargent Marks.  This wasn't that awkward combination of pleasure and dread  I knew so well.  This was....I'm not sure what it was but it wasn't that.

In my distraction I allowed my gun to dip downward and Walter, who had begun to step away, reached back out to correct it.  Definitely different, I thought as that singular awareness washed back though me.   Something else too.  Relief.  My body was relieved to have him back.  It wanted him near.  Craved the quiet strength of his frame and the physical warmth I could feel radiating from him all along my back.

I inhaled deeply, taking in his scent.  Oh my but he smelled good.  Like fresh linen and spray starch and...Walter.  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I had to lock my muscles to keep from shivering with pleasure.

Oh my God, I thought.  This is it.  My hormones have finally pushed me over the edge.  It was all I could do not collapse back into him and wallow in his heat.  To throw myself into his arms and bury my nose into his neck right where his shirt collar met his throat and....

Walter stepped back and frowned at me.  I was bereft.  I bit my lip to keep from whimpering.  I felt disoriented and a bit dizzy and my fingers tingled.  Strange I thought.  It was almost like the time when...  I snapped my eyes shut and cast about suspiciously but could find no trace of the supernatural. 

"Ms. Doyle."  Asked Walter.  "Are you quite well?"

I blinked up at him to clear my vision.  I shook my head, then nodded, then shook my head.  "I don't know."  I whispered.  "I think I have a headache."  I evaded, then realized I wasn't lying.

He gave me a long assessing look.  "We've covered a great deal this evening, perhaps this would be a good place to stop."

I chewed my lip with indecision.  My body really, really wanted to stay and figure this thing out but my mind really, really, really thought this was a bad idea and that we should leave before making a total cake of ourselves.  I cast the deciding vote in my brain's favour and forced myself to nod in agreement.

I turned without prompting to unload and clean my pistol.  Walter gave me an approving look then began tending to his weapon as well.

We continued our tasks in companionable silence and oddly enough, even though I remained acutely aware of Walter's masculinity, I felt neither awkward nor uncomfortable.  Quite the opposite actually.  Even when he came near to inspect my work, I just felt a bit of a happy buzz.

It wasn't until he handed me a glass of water and some pills and had turned away to secure the cases in the gun locker that it occurred to me that the very fact that I wasn't flustered or panicking despite my new found appreciation of Walter the male was in and of itself a suspicious anomaly to my general reaction to the gender bordering on the, dare I say, unnatural.

I sighed and looked over at him.  He was very handsome and not just in an uptight English butler sort of way.  Perhaps it was the accent I've always found British accents quite sexy.  But then again, I was hardly pining over Stewart now was I?  Perhaps cultured English accents... I thought but became pleasantly derailed when he turned to me with a look of kind concern and I turned into a puddle of goo.

Must exit the situation I thought, giving myself a mental shake.  I popped the pills and swallowed down a big gulp of water.  I made my apologies and fled as quickly as possible.  Declining his offer to escort me back to the main house.

I had to think about this.  No brownies tonight, no party, not even Seras. I had to be alone for awhile.  I had to think.  And if I found out Alucard's tinkering was behind this, I would...I would...well that was something I would have to think on as well.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


We finished early at the motor pool so Bulls and Anders offered to walk me over to the firing range where I was to meet Walter for my first shooting lesson. As we entered the concrete bunker, I could hear the sounds of jeering laughter and smack talk interspersed with the crack of small arms fire.  Apparently the Geese were still at their drills.

When we asked why they they were running so late, Burnadett made some crack about Marks looking for an excuse to show off his big, shiny weapon.  There followed  a lively and extremely ribald discussion between the sergeant and the captain over who's weapon I should be shown first along with detailed  descriptions of what each thought of the "range", "Caliber" and "barrel length" of the other's weapon, not to mention power and technique.  They even managed to make the topic of "rimfire" vs. "Centerfire" sound dirty and I don't even know what that is.

 I was doing a pretty good job of pointedly ignoring the exchange until Sherman, who had shown me just  the other evening how to field strip, clean and reassemble his Varmint, had to open his big mouth and mention that I was already pretty good at handling a weapon.  Not fire it mind you, he helpfully added but I could strip it like a pro.  The ensuing comments such as; "Liebst, you wound me, handling another man's weapon.", "He let you touch his Remington? you are a special girl."  and of course my favourite, "Why don't you come over here and strip my weapon." made me wish whole heartedly that  I had a loaded gun in my hands at that very moment.

I crossed my arms and sniffed disdainfully, commenting that little boys with delusions of grandeur might often boast but real men did not have to.  I then stuck my nose in the air and, tossing a request over my shoulder to please let me know when the actual men arrived,  prepared to flounce gracefully from the room but Marks simply chuckled and herded me instead towards the lanes.  "God I love a feisty woman."  He rumbled as he crowded me into a shooting booth.

While the others looked on with great interest, Marks showed me how to load and insert the magazine but stepped back a bit warily when I clicked off the safety and pulled back the slide.  They had all heard the story of my first and only ill fated attempt to learn to fire a gun so I could hardly blame them.

I could, however, blame them all, especially Marks, for the embarrassing farce my second lesson became.

Oh yes, I could definitely blame Sgt. Marks.   

The first few rounds I fired actually hit the target but that was mostly because Marks was wrapped around me like a second skin and doing most of the aiming.  When I finally elbowed him off he proceeded to do everything in his power to distract me such as brushing imaginary dust from my back and shoulders and leaning over to whisper "helpful" little suggestions in my ear while I tried to take aim.

The rest of the Geese were almost as bad.  They never laid a hand on me but kept hollering out tips and making rude animal noises just as I prepared to pull the trigger.  When I informed them in no uncertain terms that they were not helping, they enthusiastically agreed.

I should have been annoyed but the noises were actually kind of amusing and Marks' over the top flirting was making me blush and go all giggly girlie, which is so out of character for me that I could appreciate the novelty.   So no big surprise that the majority of my shots were wildly off mark and even when I did hit a target it was just as likely to be one from a different lane.  Of course, on those rare occasions when I actually managed to hit my own target,  just the paper mind you not necessarily the actual figure, the Geese all cheered enthusiastically and belted out snatches of the theme from "Rocky".

I was actually managing to tune out Zelig's surprisingly realistic rooster crows and Griffin's repeated shouts of 'Adrian!'  and was just squinting down the sights to line up what I was sure would finally be a spectacular kill shot when a large male hand swooped down to squeeze my bottom.  I squawked and fired off my spectacular "kill shot" into the ceiling.  Unthinkingly, I rounded on Marks and began poking him furiously in the chest.  "Just what do you think your up to?" I shouted indignantly.

"Careful Chanson,"  Called Burnadett.  "you could hurt someone with that thing."

I squeaked in alarm and looked down my empty hands and then up at Marks who stood smugly in front of me holding the gun he had obviously plucked from my fingers without my noticing.  "Looking for something?"  He asked innocently.

The Geese burst out laughing.

"You...You!..."  I snarled poking him even harder in the chest.  "Urhug!"  I said giving up and shoving him away.

"Ow."  Said Marks rubbing his chest where I'd poked him."

This just made the Geese laugh harder.

"Oh, I hate you all."  I said without much venom, more embarrassed than angry.

"Come now just a little fun liebst.  Let's try again, I promise to behave."  Said Marks with an insincere gleam in his eye.

He reached for my waist and I slapped his hand away.  "Yeah right."  I muttered stepping back.

We all laughed at that one.

A quiet but firm clearing of the throat rang from the doorway, effectively silencing the room.

Walter walked in placid as ever on the surface but psychically radiating disapproval in that way only English butlers can.  Even Zelig looked impressed.

His gazed locked on Sgt. Marks and the temperature of the aether notched down a few more degrees.  "Interesting training technique sergeant."  He said.  "Quite....unconventional."  

Marks grinned with false humour.   "I find it useful to train my men to be able to fire accurately regardless of the distraction."

"I see."  Said Walter coolly.  "And the fondling, is this one of the standard distractions you use on your men or just your special brand of bonding within the ranks?"

Marks' grin remained fixed but his eyes flashed with anger.

"Their aim may not improve,"  Continued Walter.  "but they will certainly learn to watch their backs."

My jaw dropped. 

"Du alte Sau."  Said Marks quietly, stepping forward with blood in his eye his grin now a death rictus.

Burnadett quickly stepped between them.  "Come now m'sieur Walter, it was just a bit of fun."  He said jovially.

"Ah,"  Said Walter looking pointedly at the gun Marks had snatched from me.  "with a loaded weapon no less.  How very...jocular."

Burnadett's expression managed to remain friendly but firmed.  "M'sieur Walter, you and I both know that not one man in this room, would ever endanger a hair on our Chanson's head."

There was a brief, tension filled pause then Walter nodded.  "Not knowingly, no."  He conceded.  "But I must insist that future, Ms. Doyle's firearms training be left to me.  I find your Sergeant's methods a bit too avant-garde for my peace of mind."

Burnadett held up a hand to stay Marks' retort.  "Of course."  He agreed.  "Just as you have never interfered with training and discipline with my men, I can but extend you the same courtesy."

The two men nodded their agreement.

"Speaking of which, I believe we had a run through the obstacle course scheduled for this evening did we not Sergeant?"

Marks nodded stiffly.

"Well perhaps we should go and leave them to it.  Sooner started sooner finished."  Said Burnadett  briskly.

"Thank you Captain."  Said Walter.

"Of course."  Said the Captain brightly.  "Because the sooner Corrine finishes her training, the sooner she can join tonight's party in the barracks no?"  He asked glancing at Marks.

"Why of course,"  Said Marks expansively without missing a beat.  "As I recall Corrine, you were to bring.."

"Brownies!"  Shouted Zelig excitedly.

"Precisely."  Marks agreed.  "Wasn't that right Corrine?"  He asked me with an expectant look on his face.

We all knew there was no party planned and I would normally resent being placed in such an awkward position but Walter's comments had moved beyond high handed to, for lack of a better word, downright catty.  One glance at Marks confirmed that he fully expected me to back him up and I just hadn't the heart to ding his pride any further.  "Um, yes?"  I said trying to sound sincere.  He reached out and patted my shoulder to show he appreciated the effort.

"Well I do not care if you bring brownies or no, just as long as you remember to bring me mon carotte."  Said Burnedett.

"I'll ask her."

"Bon.  Then, let us go."  He said looking at his men and jerking his head toward the door.  The Geese began to shuffle out.

"Tonight then."  Said Marks brushing my cheek with a finger.  He narrowed his eyes at Walter.  "butler." Sniffed Marks barely civil.

"Sergeant." Intoned Walter.  So civilly as to be just this side of insult.

Burnadett elbowed in to take my hand and, removing the cigarette from his lips, bent his head to brush a kiss across my knuckles.  "Please do not forget to bring my snack."  He winked.

"Or my brownies!"  Demanded Zelig.

Marks made a disgusted noise and grabbed Zelig by the collar.

"With walnuts!"  He shouted as the sergeant hauled him out the door.

"My boys, they do like their treats no?"  Chuckled Burnadett.  He waived his hand in lazy cheerful salute and strolled out the door to join his men.

A few last comments rang down the corridor to us.  I managed to catch: "Your not going to serve that pig piss you call beer again are you Sherman?", "I did tell her walnuts didn't I?", "Party?  No one told me about no party.  Ow! Searg. What was that for?" and a growling "Shut it, the lot of you!" before the sound faded away up the stairs and silence descended upon the range.

There's been many the occasion when Walter and I have shared a comfortable, companionable silence.... This was not one of them.

I tiled my head and looked at him, wanting very much to ask him why he had said those things to Sergeant Marks.  I mean I knew they did not much care for each other and Walter's comments could, on occasion, be biting but he had never been so openly rude not even when Alucard baited him.  It just seemed so unlike him.  But one glance at his steely countenance told me my enquiry would be most unwelcome.

I turned and started to tidy the scoring tables as much to avoid his stare as to give myself something to do but I could still feel him watching and waiting.

The tense silence stretched out between us until I thought I might scream. 

Once the scoring tables were immaculate, I turned my attention to the firing booth only to be caught out by Walter's laser like gaze.

 "Fine!"  I said. Throwing up my hands in surrender.  "I'm sorry OK?"

"Ms. Doyle,"  Said Walter on an unvoiced sigh.  "My intention was not to wring that sincere if grudging apology from you but to give you time to emotionally separate yourself from the situation and decide you are ready to hear what I have to say."

"Which is?" 

He eyed me for a moment assessing then said, "I have spent a lifetime Ms. Doyle around guns, both making and using them and have trained countless others in their use and do you know what the most important thing I teach them is?  First and foremost I teach them to respect their weapon so as not to be a danger to themselves and more importantly, the other members of their unit.

A poor shot is a waste of ammunition to be sure but a careless shot can do just as much damage as the enemy.  More if you consider the impact on morale."  He paused a moment for emphasis.  "What I witnessed tonight was a shocking lack of respect for the weapon you held in your hand."

I almost apologized again then thought better of it.

"Now, while you are no fool, your actions tonight were both foolish and dangerous.  But, much as your behaviour distressed me I feel compelled to point out that I found Sergeant Marks' actions in this matter wholly inexcusable" 

He held up a hand to still my instinctive defensive reaction (he so has me pegged).  "While I would have hoped for you to know better than to handle a gun in such a manner, I know Sergeant Marks knows better.  He chose to step in unbidden and act as your instructor.  He chose to indulge in that ridiculous farce of a lesson encouraging sloppy and dangerous habits.  The fact that he felt he was in control of the entire situation only makes matters worse.  His disregard of safety protocols shows a lack of respect both to you as his student and to himself as an instructor.  His overall ambivalence to his continued existence aside, he selfishly  exposed you and others to unnecessary risk and that, Ms. Doyle, I find unforgivable.

"What you must now decide Ms. Doyle is whether you wish to staunchly defend your friend, right or wrong, telling me as you have been longing to that I was unforgivably rude before you leave or accept that, likeable as you find him, his actions were counter-productive and unsafe and we can move on."

 I chewed my lip thoughtfully then sighed.  What could I say?  'You're wrong Walter.  Goosing a student is a perfectly standard and widely accepted method of training on the firing range.' ?   I'm sure Marks had meant no harm but, gads!, swinging about with a loaded gun in my hands, what had I been thinking?  Walter, drat him was, as usual, right.

"Yes Walter."  I said.  "I think we can move on."

"Very good."  He said.  Feathers no longer ruffled. placid demeanor restored in full.  "This, I must say,"  he said nodding towards my hands. "Seems an excellent start."

I glanced down a the table where, to keep my nervous hands busy during Walter's lecture, I had stripped, cleaned and reassembled the .22 without really thinking about it.

"May I?"  Asked Walter.

I nodded and he picked up the pistol, broke it down and examined my work.  "Not bad."  He said.  "If you please."  He said gesturing to the broken down gun.

I reached down and quickly reassembled it.   "I am impressed."  He said.  "Where did you learn this?"

"Billy taught me."

"Corporal Sherman?"  He asked.

"Yes."  I grinned.  "He says I'm like Forrest Gump when it comes to weapons."

Walter gave me a blank look.

"You know, Forrest Gump as in Forrest Gump?"  I prodded.

"Never met the man."  Said Walter poker faced.

I narrowed my eyes, unsure if he was messing with me.  He did that a lot.  Still, mass market entertainment was probably not a high priority on his to do list.  I sighed.  "Real good at taking them apart and cleaning them but your not sure if you should let him shoot one?"

"I see."  Said Walter non-committally.  "So Corporal Sherman is equating you to this gentleman?"

"Well, yes."

"The man shows hidden depth."

I Humphed. "He's very picky about his weapons is all.  Treats them like they're his babies."

"As well he should."  Said Walter.  "They are not just the tools of his livelihood, for him they can mean the difference between life and death."

"Yes, I know but he names them."

"Not terribly uncommon."

"And sings to them at night."

"Ah."  Said Walter.  "He sounds rather attached."

"Mmmm."  I agreed.

"I am surprised he let you handle them."

"Long story."  I said.  "Let's just say Trudy, Basil, Squirrelly and Esther Mae all now have a new line up of bedtime songs."

He gave me an incredulous look.

I gazed back with wide eyed innocence.  'Never met the man.' My foot.  Let him wonder for once.

"Hmmm."  He said neutrally but the tension in the room had defiantly decreased.  "Well then Ms. Doyle, shall we begin your lession?"

"Yes Walter!"  I said happily reaching for the pistol.  Walter deftly removed it from my grasp and carried it over to the gun locker. 

"I thought perhaps we might start with some safety drills."  He said holding up a headset and a pair of shooting glasses.

I groaned inwardly.  "Yes Walter."  I said with slightly less enthusiasm.  This was going to be a long night.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Seras yelped in terror and dodged behind Dr. Levin who had entered the room with her, just in time to avoid the plasma bag Alucard threw at her head.  It hit the door frame with tremendous force and ruptured, spewing blood everywhere.

"But she burned me with..."  Protested Seras.

"I don't care if she hacks off your arm with pruning shears. Your duty, first and foremost, is to protect her physical well being even at the cost of your own miserable existence.   She is expensive and breakable and she is not, I repeat not ever to be hurled, tossed or bowled like a cricket ball at the bails!  Is that completely understood?"

"Yes master."  She she mumbled petulantly then squeaked and ducked back behind poor Dr. Levin, who was wiping gorey splatter off of his face and looking thoroughly confused, as a second plasma bag flew through the air.

"Now see here."  Sputtered Levin, as he peeled the bag's carcass from the front of his jacket.

"I suggest you step aside Dr."  Said Alucard reaching for another bag.  "Someone's attitude needs adjusting."

"Leave her alone, this is all your fault not hers!" I shouted.  Then it was my turn to squeak as a hand reached out and yanked me to one side just in time.  The plasma bag sailed past just inches from my right ear and hit the bulletin board with a sickening splat.

"Ms. Doyle, I believe we've had this discussion about your temper."  Said Walter as he deftly inserted me behind his back.  "Miss Victoria is more than capable of fighting her own battles.  The sooner she learns to do so, the fewer civilian casualties there will be all round."  He said gesturing towards Dr. Levin.

"Speaking of casualties Walter,"  Said Alucard.  "unless you wish to become one, I suggest you no longer be standing between me and my mouthy, insubordinate little creation."

Walter stared stonily at Alucard.

"Move Walter, I'm suppressing a rebellion here."

"We both know I can't do that Alucard."

"Can't or won't."

 "They are one in the same for me."

"Bit long in the tooth to play Sir Galahad aren't you old man?"


"You know better than to step between me and what is mine Walter."

"When in training, she is yours but in these rooms, in this house she is in my care.  I suggest you stand down."

"Do you now?  How, interesting.  And if I refuse?"

"Then we are at an impasse."

"Interesting."  Drawled Alucard.  His body language was absolutely relaxed  but there was a wicked, gleeful glint in his eye.  "However shall we break it?"

"I think perhaps...Stay where you are Ms. Doyle."  Said Walter, thwarting my attempts to step out from behind him.

"Please Walter, this isn't necessary."

"I believe it is."

"No, really.  This is getting out of hand."

"Quiet lab rat, the adults are talking."  Said Alucard.


"Don't meddle in things that are not your concern."  He added, waiving off my protest with a casual gesture.  His eyes never left Walter's.  He smiled with insincere politeness.  "Now, where were we?"

"At an impasse as I recall."  Replied Walter in an equally calm and dispassionate tone as if they were simply discussing the weather.

 "Ah, yes."  Purred Alucard.  "I do so enjoy a good impasse Walter don't you?    When the possibility of civil discourse falls away and the only recourse left is the creative and strategic use of brute force.   To strip away at that false patina of the opponents humanity until there remains only the snarling ravenous beast.  That is where you separate the wolf,"  He said indicating himself.  "From the dog."  He flicked his fingers in Walter's direction.  "That,"  He said straightening up from the wall with an evil grin.  "is where you decide who is the alpha."

"That,"  Came a cool voice from the doorway.  "Would be me."  Sir Integra stepped into the lab, gingerly skirting the plasma splatter.  She surveyed the occupants of the room with a critical eye then continued.  "I am in charge.  I am the wolf, the alpha bitch and I am not...pleased."

She looked around the lab once more.  "Walter, I believe I instructed you to prepare the samples for Dr. Levin's arrival, has this been done?"

"No ma'am."  Said Walter.  "My apologies."

She sniffed disdainfully.  "Then perhaps you should do so now?"

"Ma'am"  Said Walter, stiffly turning on his heel and striding over to the lab table.

I opened my mouth but she flashed me a warning look that had me shutting it right back up again.

 "And you."  She said to Alucard.  "Why is it that I can not seem to leave you alone in a room with others for more than five minutes without some sort of carnage ensuing?"  She sighed.  "At least no one died this time."  She glanced at the blood spattered walls.  "Did they?"

"Alas no, master."

Her mouth twitched a bit but then she fixed him with her narrow glare.  "When I find out what happened here and I will find out what happened, I had better not hear that this was some sort of power play between you and Walter.  We have had this discussion more than once.  While you will always be treated with every courtesy do not forget your place.    I am the master, I say who is in charge.  The house is Walter's, the battlefield is yours.  I will not have my servants holding pissing contests on my rug.   You will learn to deal with it or I will do it for you.  Is that understood?"

"As you say.  You are, for now, the master.   I can not but obey."

She nodded briskly and turned back to me.  "Somehow Doyle,"  She said coldly.  "I just know this is your fault."

"Now just a minute here..."  I began but was interrupted by a small voice which said:

"No ma'am, it's mine."

Sir Integra turned to look at Seras.  "You said something Victoria?"

"Yes ma'am.  I said that it's my fault."

"What is your fault?"

"This."  Said Seras.  "All of this." She waived her arm around the room.  "If I hadn't of panicked when Corrine's tears burned me Walter would not have had to step in to protect her.  Everyone would have been less upset.  The master was right to be angry with me."

"No Seras, "  I cried.  "It's his fault, not yours.  It's him and his stupid games!"

"No Corrine."  Said Seras sadly.  "Don't you see?  He's right.  I am a vampire it doesn't matter the provocation, I can not afford to overreact and I must never raise my hand against a member of this house."  She looked down at her afore mentioned hands and said quietly.  "Especially you."

"But he."  I began but she raised a hand to stop me.

  "No Corrine."  She said firmly.  "There are no excuses.  You are my sister."  A wistful expression crossed her face followed by firm resolve.  "I have a sister and I will die to protect her."

Sir Integra raised an eyebrow.  "Die?"

"Well, again."  She said sheepishly running a hand through her hair.

"Aww, Seras,"  I said choking up a bit. "come here."  She rushed over to hug me then dangled me at arms length.

"You're not going to cry on me again are you?"  She asked suspiciously.

"No."  I snuffled.

Sir Integra gave me a very hopeful look.

"No."  I said with more conviction.

She shrugged.

Pounding steps sounded in the corridor moving toward the lab.  I could just make out Andrew's voice echoing off the walls.  "....won't tell a soul Miss Pringle I swear so call him off!  Please Miss Pringle I swaaaarr!!!"  Andrew had burst through the doorway running at full speed.  Unfortunatly, he had his head turned back towards his pursuit and did not see the mess all over the floor.  He slipped on a particularly gruesome puddle, fell on his behind and skidded to a halt right at Alucard's feet.

He shook his head a couple of times, reached up to brush his hair from his face and just then seemed to notice the blood covering his hand.  "Gah!"  He said.  Then, "Gah!" again even louder as Alucard reached down to lift him up by the front of his shirt.

Alucard sniffed then cocked his head.  "B negative."  He sighed.  "Not really one of my favourites.  Pity."  He winked at Andrew and grinned.

"Glick."  Replied Andrew.

"Alucard," Began Sir Integra but she was cut off by a skull splitting shriek.

Nurse Pringle stood in the doorway, hat askew, eyes round as dinner plates and mouth wide open in a scream.  And what a scream it was.  The noise emanating from her was both piercing and grating and very, very loud.  I am sure dogs across three counties were howling.

Which would explain why she probably didn't respond to Sir Integra's shouted.  "Shut it Pringle, your making our eyes bleed!"

Griffin, who must have been guarding the lab level this evening, charged through the door weapon drawn and blood in his eye.  He stopped short next to nurse Pringle, looked around with a puzzled frown, holstered his gun and clapped a hand over the banshee's mouth.

"Well done Griffin ." Drawled Sir Integra.  "Our eardrums owe you a debt of gratitude."

"Any time ma'am."  Said Griffin looking down at nurse Pringle and smirking.  He hissed slightly and pulled his hand from her mouth, then smiled and gently kissed the deep bite marks on his palm.

Nurse Pringle growled then humphed and began straightening out her hat.

Alucard chuckled and gently lowered Andrew to his feet.  "Ah,"  He said.  "Young love."

Andrew blanched and sank down onto a stool.

Griffin smiled lazily and idlely scratched  his cheek while glancing round the room again. He squinted at the bloody bulletin board and stiffened.  "Shi-ooot."  He swore softly.  "Zelig is going to go totally freakin mental when he sees this."


Saturday, May 18, 2013


I bent down to look into the eyepiece.

"Oh"  I said.  Then, more softly. "Oh."

I was looking at a slide quite similar to the first with the notable exception of a blurry area in the upper right hand corner as if someone had smudged the lens.  As I watched, the blurry section expanded and flowed out over the sample.  As it spread, it seemed to be coating those horrible "spinners" with a shiny, opalescent film.

Thus hindered, the spinning of the pathogens slowed, then stopped.  Their scythe-like protrusions shrinking back into their bodies as if attempting to escape from the coating, squeezing themselves smaller and smaller until they resembled tiny glass beads glinting in the bloodstream.

 The shredded white blood cells appeared to be healing themselves, gathering their tattered remnants together then surrounding and absorbing the now disarmed and tiny pathogens at a leisurely pace.  The few remaining red blood cells began to plump up and grow bigger turning a healthy bright red, shiny and full of life.  Soon not a single spinner, alive or dead, remained.

Words failed me so I settled on saying "Oh."  one last time, feeling a bit of a moron but my head was spinning with the implications of what I'd just seen. I gripped the the table with my free hand to steady  myself.   "I'm doing that?"  I asked pressing the hand still holding my iPod against my chest.  I looked up from the microscope and tapped the iPod against my chest nervously.  "My tears are doing that?"

Three heads nodded in unison.

A thrill of joy shot with terror ran through me.  My tears had done that?  I touched my cheek thoughtfully.

"But how?"  I asked with a bit of a tremor.

I should be over the moon happy right now but...  But I could speak telepathically to vampires.  I healed faster than I should.  When I sang, I made others feel my emotions not to mention tap into, even blow up, electronic equipment.  And now, when I cried, my tears burned vampire flesh, killed the deadly pathogens they mutated from their blood.  Cold, cruel, vampire blood.  Some of which ran through my veins.  What was I becoming?  What was Alucard turning me into?

Not dead.  Not undead.  Not necessarily human.

Alucard chortled smugly through my mind.  "That's right Angel."  He sent. "I may not be remaking you in my own image but I am remaking you."  Aloud he said.  "Love."

"What?"  Asked Sir Integra.

"Love."  He repeated.

"I don't understand."  She said.

"Of course not."  He smirked.  "We are, after all, talking about love."

 "Oh as if you possibly could."  

"Ah my dear master, that is where you are wrong.  I may be incapable of love but that does not mean I do not understand how to manipulate it.  I need not feel an emotion to wield its power in others.  And love, for humans anyway, is a very powerful emotion."

 "So she blubbers love all over people and this will cure a vampire bite?"  She sneered. 

"So cynical."  He tsked.  "Your own God used love to create the world yet you fail to believe that I could use love to de-construct a molecular fragment?  I am distressed by your lack of faith."     

She snorted.  "I doubt it.  Now tell me how does this love-fest work?"

He pretended to look hurt but complied.  "It's quite simple actually.  As you know, it is the initiation of blood lust, not the vampire's saliva itself,  that triggers the mutation.  The saliva acting more as a medium for storage and delivery.  My blood blood runs through the Angel's veins which means the potential trigger lies within her as well.  Just one of many gifts I have given her."  He smiled at my involuntary shiver and continued.  "It was a mere matter of altering her hormones and brain chemistry to activate the trigger during certain heightened emotional states but instead of mutating a pathogen she generates antigens and instead of saliva I used her tears." He spread his hands as if he has just explained he obvious.

"Those 'certain' emotional states being?"


"Back to that are we?"

"Of course."

 "But why?  Wouldn't it be easier to have made negative emotions the trigger?  It would certainly be easier to generate the tears."

"No, tears of pain or self pity are just that, tears but tears born of love, these hold power.  Power that I can manipulate, power that I can use.  Besides,"  He said smiling smugly.  "What challenge is there in making sadness the trigger?  Pain and sorrow are all to easy.  I never do easy."

"Hmmm."  She said sceptically.  "I still don't see you voluntarily doing positive emotions, regardless of the challenge."

"He's not."  I said.

He raised an eyebrow at me.

"It's part of the deal isn't it?  Part of the bargain that was made that night?"

"There may have been a few ground rules, yes."


"But I gladly accepted the challenge.  Just think,"  He sent cutting off my triumph.  "How much sweeter it will be to crush your spirit using your own capacity to love against you and do not doubt me Angel, I will."

I narrowed my eyes but refused to look away.

"You say production of the antigen is triggered by heightened positive emotions?"  Asked Walter.

"Yes."  Confirmed Alucard.

This would explain the first instance this evening when Ms.  Doyle expressed her happiness over her gift earlier but..."

"Joy."  Corrected Alucard.

"I beg your pardon?"  Asked Walter.

"She was experiencing joy."

"Very well then, I understand then how the trigger might have activated when Ms. Doyle expressed joy but this would not explain why the antigens were still present in her tears after Ms. Victoria was injured and we had brought them both to the laboratory.   Do the antigens continue to be produced for a period even after the emotion has ceased?"

No, it is quite transient."

"Then how is it there were antigens still present in the samples that were taken after Miss Victoria's unfortunate reaction in the bedroom.  Surely Ms. Doyle was not experiencing any positive emotions after being hurled against a wall?"

"In fact she was.  He tears were not for herself but for the Police girl.  She was crying for Seras' pain."

"So her concern over Miss Victoria..."

"No, not concern."

"Compassion then."

"No, no!  Not 'compassion', empathy."

"Are the semantics so important then?"

"They are vital.  The difference between life and death."  Alucard turned to me shaking his head.  "Poor Walter, he just does not understand but how can he?  He is rarely happy and I doubt he has ever experienced joy. He is noble enough to understand compassion but hasn't the humanity to experience empathy.  No Angel, of the occupants of this room, I fear you alone are able to feel true joy or empathy because you alone have the capacity to love."

Sir Integra opened her mouth to object but Alucard held up a finger.  "Unselfishly."  She frowned and compressed her lips but said nothing.

"No dear master, do not frown.  I have handed you the key to your self imposed prison.  No more ghouls wearing the Hellsing badge.  No more fear of turning.  No more having to shoot your own men."  He locked gazes with her.  "We may be heartless you and I but we can rejoice in your triumph.  You faith in me has led to this."

 Her eyes blazed with an almost unholy ferver.

Walter frowned slightly but quickly smoothed it over.  "This is a major breakthrough."  He agreed.

"Even now,"  Said Alucard gesturing to me.  "The Angel is not certain whether to yell at me for calling you heartless or cry over Walter's never feeling joy."

Sir Integra looked over at me her eyes still glowing with that intense light.  "Cry."  She said emphatically.

I snorted derisively and sent a mental apology to Alucard for doubting his 'heartless' comment.

He chuckled quietly and said.  "I am occasionally truthful, when it suits my purpose."

"What is that supposed to mean?"  Asked Sir Integra as she continued to glower at me.  "And why isn't she crying?"

I crossed my arms and glowered right back.  "It means you need to work on your people skills."

Alucard grinned widely and I swear I saw Walter's mouth twitch slightly with amusement.

Sir Integra blinked once then said drily. "Not really part of my job description."

I bit my lip to keep from laughing.

She turned to Walter.  "Make her cry."


She glance disgustedly at Alucard then added.  "But in a positive way."

Walter tilted his head and looked at me. "Perhaps,"  He said soberly. "a sad story involving a puppy?  Or, I could tune the radio to a country and western station."  

I pressed my hand to my mouth to hold the giggles in but several escaped out around my fingers.

"No!"  She shouted.  "We're going in the wrong direction."

That did it.  I burst out laughing stumbling back to collapse onto a lab stool.  I laughed so hard tears began leaking out of my eyes.

Relief flooded through me.  Who cared if Alucard's blood ran through my veins?  He, himself had said I was still capable of love.  As far as I was concerned that made me human enough, sod anyone who said otherwise. And if Alucard's blood gave me the ability to save others from the vampires curse, well that was a blessing, something to be grateful for not feared.   As the weight of this evening's events lifted from my shoulders, I felt the tears begin to flow in earnest, tracing a hot, stinging path down my cheeks.  I didn't try to stop them this time.  I just laughed and let them go.

"Ah ha!"  Cried Sir Integra triumphantly then she leapt forward to hold me down while Walter deftly employed several pipettes to catch the tears streaming down my face.

 I tried to protest but the situation was just so ridiculous and when Alucard shook his head and said "Humans!" in a disgusted voice it only made me laugh harder.  Even Sir Integra was grinning albeit in a very disturbing manner.

Finally, the lack of oxygen forced me to wind down.  Sir Integra released me at my gasped "Please." and I sat quietly hiccuping a bit as Walter sopped up the last of my tears.

"I must confess Ms. Doyle,"  He said, handing me a handkerchief to dry my cheeks.  "That while I have made many people cry over the years, this was quite the most novel."

I grinned weakly up at him then wobbled my glance over to Sir Integra.  She stood a couple of feet away watching Walter place the last of the pipettes into a plastic bin.  Her face once again an emotionless mask.  Well, so much for that.  Warm and fuzzy moments just do not last long around here.

As soon as Walter sealed the lid, she turned her blank stare on Alucard.  "Will these work?'

He looked up from a bag of plasma he had been idly toying with and said in a bored tone.  "They won't be as strong as the first samples but they should do for your initial testing."

"Hmmm."  She said drumming her fingers on the table top.  "We shall have to work on getting more."  She narrowed her eyes sizing up her project.  I squirmed a bit.  "Best keep her hydrated.  Walter please make sure she drinks plenty of water."

"Of course ma'am."  Said Walter who was already handing me a glass.

"Very good."  She said.  She pulled pulled out a cigar and glanced at the lab equipment then up at the digital clock on the bulletin board.  "Dr. Levin will be here shortly.  Prep the slides and have a demonstration set to go within fifteen minutes. I shall return in ten."

"Very good ma'am."  Said Walter.

She nodded the, placing the cigar in her mouth and pulling out a lighter, turned on her heel and exited the room. 

Walter looked pointedly at my still full glass.

I sighed resigned to my fate of a chronically full bladder.  I took a sip.  "I still don't see why you had to wait this long to tell us about this." I grumped at Alucard.  I rubbed the aching spot between my eyes then tossed the pills Walter pressed into my hand into my mouth and washed them down with more water. "Seras was hurt and Walter and I could been killed."

"Bah!"  Said Alucard disgustedly.  "Are you still blathering on about that?  I make you into a medical miracle and you sit there whining over my methodology?  You are a pig headed, ungrateful little worm.  I often why I  even bother with you."  He paused mid-sneer then said.  "You are right about one thing however...  You stupid, useless twit!  HOW DARE YOU THROW YOUR SISTER ACROSS THE ROOM LIKE THAT!!!"  He roared as Seras bounced into the lab.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


We all turned to Walter who was rolling down his sleeve, a syringe of blood on the counter before him.

"Finally."  Breathed Alucard.  "Someone brings something sensible to the game.  Think you've figured it out old man?"

"Some, not all."  Said Walter as he reattached his cuff link. He picked up the syringe and turned to a set of blank slides.  "I am still uncertain what you mean by redemption, beyond being provoking and blasphemous that is, but I  believe I know how you intend this new revelation to be used defensively."

"Do tell."  Said Alucard sarcastically.

"Shut it."  Said Sir Integra.  "I'm still annoyed with you."

Instead of getting angry,  Alucard looked mildly pleased.  I guess we were finally trending in the direction he wished us to go.  Or maybe he just likes mean women.

Walter simply ignored the rude remark.  "While Ms. Doyle's tears most definitely have an extremely caustic effect on vampire flesh," He said as he continued to process the slides.  "They seem to have no negative effect on normal human tissue and only a mild irritation, similar to rosacea, on her own.  Quite the opposite actually, her tears may possibly contain certain healing qualities." He paused a moment to retrieve one of the pipettes and Seras' samples.

We waited expectantly for him to continue.

"What,"  He asked as he added a small drop of some clear liquid to the blood on two of the slides.  "is the gravest danger our officers face when fighting a vampire or a ghoul?"

"Being bitten."  Said Sir Integra her eyes flashing with some unholy emotion.  "Or chipped."  She continued with distaste.

"Precisely."  Said Walter, his steely eyes reflecting Sir Integra's.  "Once infected, however they are infected, there is no saving them.  They will turn."

"Yes."  Said Sir Integra flatly.

"There is no cure Ms. Doyle,"  He continued, catching my eye.  "Only living death or the mercy of a bullet to the head."

"You suspect..."  Began Sir Integra.

He nodded.

Her face and demeanour were absolutely calm but I could practically feel the emotions boiling beneath the surface.  "Could it  be possible?"  She said almost absently to herself.  She watched intently as Walter added my tears to one of the two 'infected' slides and slid them both into place in the microscopes.  Then, practically vibrating with tension, she strode purposefully over to where Walter stood.  He made room for her and they silently took turns peering into the different microscopes.

Finally, they looked up from the eyepieces and at each other.  Sir Integra laid a hand on the microscope containing the treated slide.  "This could mean..."

"Yes."  Said Walter.  "There of course must be more research but..."

"Yes."  She said.

Their eyes locked and they spent several moments in wordless but obviously meaningful conversation.   

"So it's actually possible."  She said with wonder bordering on awe.  "I had almost given up."

Walter's eyes softened a bit then he murmured something too low for me to hear.

"...Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."  Finished Alucard.  "Yes, yes"  He said.  "Very moving.  Father would be so proud."

Indifferent mask back in place, she turned to Alucard.  "Feeling neglected are we?"  She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Well,"  He said philosophically.  "Not that I mind throwing the old dog a bone once in a while but I believe the triumph is in fact mine."

Her lips quirked a bit and she turned to Walter.  "Well old man, apparently the light we currently bask in is Alucard."

"A wonder one can see at all for the glare."  Said Walter driely.

"Better?"  She asked Alucard.

It was an oddly relaxed moment.  Old and comfortable, almost a reminiscence. Even Alucard seemed inclined to play.

"Well, I did in fact make her."  He grumbled with mock petulance.

"My parents might disagree."  I muttered.

"Ah, but that is where you are wrong my sulky little lab rat.  Your parents may have conceived and birthed a child named Corrine Doyle but she perished that night in the theatre and was reborn.  You, Angel, are my creation not theirs and the sooner you stop clinging to that poor, dead, pathetic creature you were and embrace what you have become, the happier we shall all be."

"As always, trying to remake us in your image Alucard."  Chortled Sir Integra.

"Oh no,"  Said Alucard earnestly.  "That is a privilege I reserve solely for you my dear master. Others, I simply 'improve'...or destroy."

"Hmmm" She said non-committally.  "It's hard to know whom to feel most sorry for in that scenario."

He grinned.  "The ones I improve, most definitely."  He said winking at me.  "Of course, it is often fun to do both."  His grin broadened to a leer.

"Pft."  I said, waiving away the remark.  Death threats were old news to me. "Yes, yes, wretched, ungrateful, balanced on the knife's edge between death and pain I know but will someone please just tell me what's going on?"

"Saucy little baggage this evening aren't you?"   He smirked.  "And slow.  Are you sure Walter didn't drop you on your head earlier?  Your tears, dolt, are the weapon!"

"Yes I know my tears are a weapon."   I said patently refusing to rise to the bait.  He, after all, called me 'dolt' so often that one might justifiably begin to suspect it merely a mispronunciation of my last name.   "It is a fact that has been graphically demonstrated to me this evening thank you but how,"  I said emphasizing each word.  "is this to be used as a defensive weapon?"

"Oh I despair of you at times Angel. We just explained it all to you.  Did you not hear a word?"

 "What explanation?"  I demanded.  "Walter said my tears burn vampires but not humans."  I said jabbing my iPod in Walter's direction. "Sir Integra," I said swinging the device over towards her.  "confirmed that being bitten or chipped is literally a fate worse than death. He"  I swung my arm back to Walter.  "Said, 'No cure Ms. Doyle.  Best shoot them in the head.'  Then they,"  I swung my iPod to indicate both Walter and Sir Integra.  "both got really excited over the slides.  There was a warm and fuzzy moment, then you two,"  My iPod glinted in the light as I swung my arm back and forth  between Walter and Alucard.  "quoted Hamlet!"

"Precisely."  Said Alucard.  "I am not sure how one could make it clearer than that."

"Maybe if you repeated it all in Morse code."  I snarked.

"You know, I'm beginning to like her."  Said Sir Integra. 

"One has to admit she was listening."  Said Walter drily.  "Although I think the accent was a bit over the top."

"Do you think so?"  She asked.  "I found it rather spot on if you ask me."

Walter sniffed his opinion then said.  "Perhaps, Ms. Doyle, it would expedite matters if you simply came over and examined the slides."

I jumped down from the table  and crossed over to the microscopes giving both Alucard and the first set of slides a wide berth.  "All of them?"  I asked, giving the first slides a look of distaste.

Sir Integra frowned at my lack of scientific curiosity and Alucard, of course, sneered at my cowardice  but Walter simply said; "No Ms. Doyle, not if you do not wish to.  These," He said gesturing to two fresh slides he was preparing. "are the ones pertinent to your question."

Cautiously, I peered into the eyepiece.   I had seen blood sample slides before in biology class with their rubbery tire-like red blood cells,  puffed, pollen-esk white and raggedy jaggedy  platelets.

But this slide had something more: For mixed into the bucolic blood stream were several horribly disturbing small objects.  They were round but not quite circular as they had two scythe like protrusions extruding from their perimeter.  They arched out then back in towards the body like scimitars or a satellite view of the arms of  a hurricane the ends tapered and tipped cruelly like claws or thorns.  Their colour was that of old, dead blood.

They seemed to spin on some unseen current separate and faster than the other cells and as I watched, one of these "spinners"  bumped into a red blood cell.  Instantly, it spun itself until one of its scimitar arms slashed at the larger blood cell, its thorn-like tips easily penetrating and sinking into the surface.  The object continued its rotation until it had spun itself completely inside the red blood cell.

Within moments, the rich opaque red became transparent and the deadly object could be seen turning within.   Faster and faster it spun the blood cell becoming clearer and clearer, rapidly draining from red to pink to blush until no colour remained.  The spinning became blur of motion then suddenly, the empty shell burst apart and there, where moments before a healthy red blood cell had been, were two of those terrible objects rotating in unison.  I gasped in horror as this little scene was repeating itself over and over throughout the slide The objects doubling themselves exponentially every few seconds.  Any white blood cells attempting to halt the attack were shredded like tissue and the hapless platelets simply shattered on contact.   

"Dear God what are those things?"  I asked. 

"They are a pathogen, mutated blood cells actually, which are carried within a vampire's saliva and introduced into the victim's blood stream upon being bitten. As you can see, they spread quite rapidly destroying the blood cells until the body can no longer carry oxygen and the tissues suffocate."

"How horrible."  I shuddered.

"Yes." Agreed Walter.  "It is the fortunate victim who is actually drained by the vampire as death occurs more swiftly."

I shook my head and stepped back from the microscope as Walter prepared another slide.  

"The broken down components of the victim's blood are ingested to feed the vampire and the pathogens are simply reabsorbed into its blood stream whey they revert to their dormant form until they are needed again at which time they are pumped into the saliva glands to be re-activated.  A quantity are left behind in the victim's body which is how we believe the vampire can control their actions after death.  Quite an elegant system actually."

His mouth quirked slightly at my look of horrified disbelief. "Terrible, but highly efficient."

"It's evil is what it is."  I said

Walter's hard stare bored into me.  "Yes Ms. Doyle,"  He said.  "it is evil.  It has long been this house's mission not to just destroy the vampire but to also find a counter agent to its bite.  For decades we have risked lives to study and obtain samples of every stage of the turning.  We have subjected infected human tissue to every test and substance imaginable and while we have gained a great deal of understanding of the process and can even tell you the biological conditions that will trigger the creation of a vampire instead of a ghoul, we have not, despite all of our research, been able to find a way to stop it.  Nothing, I repeat nothing has ever come even remotely close to counteracting the pathogens once they are introduced."  He placed the new slide under the microscope clips and stepped back gesturing to the eyepiece.  "Until now."


Thursday, January 03, 2013


It all happened so quickly, I didn't even have time to be terrified, much less scream.

I would have been dashed against the wall had Walter not moved, faster than I would have thought humanly possible, to insert himself between me and the mortared stone.  I slammed into him hard.  His only outward reaction was a small wumph of air as we hit the wall and he bore the brunt of the impact.

Seras' wailing cry cut across the room. Walter quickly righted me and strode over to where she stood sobbing and clawing at her neck.

"Ahhh! Walter it hurts, it hurts, make it stop!  No! Don't touch it!"  She screeched as Walter reached towards her.  "Ohhh it hurts so much!"

"Miss Victoria.  You need to hold still"  Said Walter calmly.

She screeched and began clawing at her neck again.

"Miss Victoria!"  Said Walter in a loud commanding voice.  "You will cease this caterwauling immediately and stand to.  Is that understood?"

Seras ceased screaming and snapped to attention. 

"Right."  Said Walter briskly.  "Now remove your hand so I can see."

With a small whimper she dropped her hand to her side revealing her injury.

Walter frowned and I gasped.

Her skin was raw and bleeding from her scratches and in the centre was a red, angry hole with black edges.  There was a whiff of smoke and burnt flesh in the air.  Her right hand was twitching and I noticed her palm was red and coming out in blisters.

"My God!"  I said reaching for her.  "She's burned!"

"Fetch the pitcher please Ms. Doyle."  Said Walter nodding towards the food tray as he removed the water bottle from my night stand and upended the contents over the wound.  She flinched a bit as the water hit her but otherwise remained still.

"What could have possibly caused this?"  I asked, handing him the pitcher and napkin from the tray and wiping absently at the tears streaming down my face.

"It's odd."  He said pouring a bit of the water on her hand then dipping the napkin into the pitcher.  "It almost appears to be a silver or even a holy water burn but neither of these items are present that I can see.  Try holding this Miss Victoria."  He said handing her some ice wrapped in the wet napkin.  "Are you under any geas of which I am unaware?"

She frowned.  "Just the blood thing."   She whispered morosely.

He eyed her shoulder  again critically.  "This will probably be wanting some grave dirt."

"Seras will be OK won't she?"  I asked still swiping at my stupid tears.

"Most likely."  He said.

"At least no killer bees this time."  Said Seras, wincing a bit as Walter sluiced her wounds with the rest of the ice water from the pitcher.

"Well that's a relief then." I said sniffling and trying out a watery smile.  "Bee bites are the worst."  I reached out to comfort her but was brought up short as Walters hand clamped onto my left wrist.

"Perhaps,"  He said.  "you should tell me about these bees."

Bewildered, I stumbled through an abbreviated version of the 'Killer bee incident'.    While I was speaking,Walter placed the empty pitcher on the night stand and flexed his free hand.

"Tell me Ms. Doyle,"  He asked quietly once I'd finished.  "did you happen to be crying at the time?"

"Um, yes?"  I said.

He looked at Seras' angry wound then back down at his hand thoughtfully.  He flexed it once more and looked back at me.  "I think,"  He said.  "we should proceed immediately to the lab."

"But Seras is going to be OK?"  I asked as he tugged me towards the door.

"Don't,"  He said firmly, when I reached up to brush at my tears.  "touch your face...Please."  He added almost as an afterthought.

"But, I, um."  I said cleverly as he steered me down the hall.

We arrived at the lab just as Andrew was packing up to go  home.  Walter strode across the room and over to the examination table with me in tow.  Seras followed looking almost as confused as I felt.

"Saline eye wash kit and two sterile pipettes please Mr. Young."  Said Walter without preamble.  "Ms. Doyle, on the table."  He ordered, unshackling my wrist.

"Me?"  I asked, becoming more and more confused but still hopping up onto the table.

"Don't touch your face."  He admonished, a bit more gently this time.

"Very good Mr. Young."  He said as Andrew brought over the requested items.  "Now please assist Miss Victoria in flushing out her wound."  He took the pipettes and turned back towards me.  "Please hold still Ms. Doyle."  He said, raising one to my face.

Andrew gave a low whistle as he looked over Seras' burn."Holy water?"  He asked, opening the package and shaking the bag.

Seras shook her head and craned her neck  and stared intently over at Walter as he carefully dabbed a  pipette under my left eye.  "What are you doing Walter?"  She asked.

"Playing a hunch Miss Victoria."  He said.  Placing the first pipette on the instrument tray and picking up the second to repeat the process under my right eye.

"Well that's ruddy informative."  Grumbled Seras holding the eye cup against her shoulder  as Andrew squeezed out the contents of the bag. 

"One does one's best Miss Victoria."  He said coolly.  "And seeing as how you seem well enough for sarcasm I think you are sufficiently stabilized to go to your room and apply some fresh grave dirt to your wounds."

"But, what are you do-"

"Now, Miss Victoria."

"I'm not a child you know."  she said petulantly.

"Then stop behaving like one and follow the protocols."

She looked as if she wanted to say something snarky then slumped a bit.

"Be sure to pack plenty of it on Miss Victoria."  He said a bit more gently.  "And I want you to rest for at least forty seven minutes, I will be checking."

She gave a curt nod and, clutching the towel Andrew handed her against her damp chest, turned to go.  She stopped by the table and gave me a searching look.  I felt the brushing of her mind against mine, soft as a butterfly's wing.  Normally we don't indulge in our silent communications when others are around as it seems as rude as whispering but she wasn't sending words just emotions.  I felt her pain and confusion over what had happened and I felt here sorrow and fear.  Fear of losing control and hurting me fear of losing my friendship.

I raised my arm to take her hand but was brought up short by a warning look from Walter so I instead reached out with my mind trying to send comfort ant reassurance.  I crooked the index finger of my partially raised hand and bent my wrist down to make 1/2 of the ASL sign for friendship.   She smiled wistfully and mirrored my gesture upside-down to make the other 1/2 of the sign. Then, before Walter could chastise her again, she was out the door.

I narrowed my eyes at Walter as he placed the second pipette down on the tray.  "Any particular reason you just gave Seras the bum's rush out of here?"  I asked.

"Oh, most definitely."  He said unmoved by my glare.  "Mr Young I am going to need several blank slides and the freshest of Miss Victoria's samples you have available." 

"So, are you going to tell me or kick me out too?"  I asked switching to pouting.

He thought about it a moment and said.  "No, you should stay Ms. Doyle, we may need you but"  He said as he began arranging several blank slides on the tray.  "I must warn you, if my suspicions are correct, you may feel somewhat conflicted emotionally."

Both Andrew and I watched in open curiosity as  Walter quickly marked and measured out small daubs of Seras' blood onto eight of the slides.  He then picked up the first pipette and and added a drop of the contents to two of the slides.  He repeated the process with the second pipette on two of the other prepared slides then carried the tray over to the microscopes.

A horrible chill crept over me.  "You think it was me."  I gasped.  "You think I did this to Seras."

"I'm not quite certain but I suspect so."  He said as he placed the first slide under the microscope.

"No."  I whispered to myself.  "I would never."  I touched a hand to my face.  I had stopped crying but my cheeks were still flushed and damp.  That's why he wouldn't let me touch Seras earlier.  I had wiped my face and he thinks that my tears...  My thoughts drifted back to the night Alucard had pulled out my hair and woven that web. 

He compared a few more slides then looked up at me for a moment his eyes dark with some unreadable emotion then back down at the slides.  I started to open my mouth to speak but before I could say anything he had stepped back from the microscope and pulled out his cell phone.

"Ma'am, you may wish to come down to the lab.  There is something here I think you should see. Yes ma'am, right away."  He paused a moment then added.  "You may wish to summon Alucard.  Very good ma'am."  He snapped the phone off and turned to Andrew who had moved over to sneak a peek into the microscope.

"Christ!"  Swore Andrew in amazement.  "It's tearing through those cells like nothing I've ever seen!"

"Mr. Young, please page Dr. Levin immediately."

"They're actually exploding!  What?  Oh, yes sir.  Right away."  Said Andrew reluctantly tearing himself away from the eye piece.

I frowned down at my hands thinking.  I remembered  my tears that night, how they had looked like gleaming little jewels, sliding along the strands of the web.  What had Alucard said about them?  I bit my lip and thought harder.  I glanced up at Walter who was preparing several more slides.  My eyes slid over to the microscope and I shuddered a bit and looked away back to Walter who was now looking at me.

"Beauty from pain."  I whispered.

Walters hands stilled over the slides.  "Ms. Doyle?"

"He took my tears that night and said, 'You see Angel. How I can create beauty from your pain'."  I said sadly.  "I Thought he meant the way my they looked in the web he had woven from my hair.  But he didn't did he?  He meant that."  I indicated the microscope with an angry gesture.  "How is that beauty?  How is what I did to Seras beauty?"

 He paused as if parsing his words carefully.  "I believe..."

He was interrupted by a commotion at the door.  Sir Integra bustled in Alucard following breezily, a mildly amused look on his face.

"Report."  She barked, cutting to the chase.

Alucard leaned against the wall and crossed his arms smugly.

"I believe we've had a significant breakthrough."  Said Walter who then began a brief recap of Seras' injury and its probable source as he set up a fresh pair of slides.  "As you can see,"  He said, as she bowed over the eyepiece.  "The assault on the cell structure seems to emulate both the acidic effects of holy water as well as the incendiary qualities of silver."

"Ah, yes, lovely."  She said  sounding pleased.  "Those cells not dissolved literally boiling until they explode. Excellent."  She looked up at me with a speculative gleam in her eye.  "This could be quite useful."

I wrapped my arms around my waist and glared at her.  Of course she would find this 'lovely'.  I thought disgustedly.  Sick twists the lot of them.

"Your little experiment may prove some profit after all."  She said to Alucard with a hint of approval, either oblivious to or uncaring about my angry silence.  Probably the latter.  Oddly though, while he still looked smug, Alucard did not seem entirely pleased.

"If we can learn to synthesize this, the weapons potential could be enormous."

Alucard's eyes narrowed slightly but he remained silent.

"Doyle,"  Said Sir Integra  sounding almost cheerful.  "do you suppose your could provide some further samples?  I would like Dr. Levin to be able to begin his research as soon as he arrives."

I continued to glower at her in stony silence.

She dismissed me with an impatient waive and turned back to Alucard.  "How does one trigger the reaction?"

"I suppose, I could beat her,"  He said drolly.  "But she's gained quite a tolerance."

"Oh bother it!  you know what I mean.  Dammit Alucard, I need more samples.  This is no time for games!"

 "Oh right!"  I spat.  "And now you expect him not to play games?  That's all he ever does.  He's not ready for his grand reveal yet, can't you tell?"  I turned my glare on him.  "Some pawn not properly in position?  Deck not quite stacked yet?"

"Ah Angel, you are a fast learner."  He smirked.

I made a disgusted noise.

Alucard's lip twitched in amusement.

Sir Integra slammed her hand down on the examination table causing the instrument tray to rattle. "Spare me the theatrics Doyle,"  She said curtly.  "This,"   She said gesturing towards the microscope.  "is important."

I looked over to the microscope than back at her.   "That',"  I said calmly, coldly meeting her eye. "is Seras' blood.  That is what is burning and dissolving before your eyes.  That is what I did to her. " That, I thought to myself sadly, is what I'm turning into.  "Seras is hurt. Don't you even care?"

She looked mildly nonplussed.  "Walter would have informed me if her injuries were serious or debilitating.  Certainly,"  She said, her mouth twitching with slight humour.  "not life threatening."

 My jaw dropped and I emitted a high pitched growling-squeak  reminiscent, I am sure, of a rabid guinea pig. "Grr-wheek-rr!" 

"I don't think she appreciates your particular brand of humour, master."  Said Alucard sardonically.

"Few do."  She said wryly.  She glanced at my stony expression and sighed.  "Look Doyle, if this injury had been sustained on a human, it may very well have been life threatening or at the very least require hospitalization.  But you must understand that vampires can sustain a great deal of damage and still function and they heal at a remarkable rate.  She has most likely completely recovered by now"

"That didn't stop her from feeling the pain."  I said.

"Oh do stop being so maudlin." She sniped.  "Unless, of course, you think it might help you in providing more samples?"  She asked hopefully.

I glanced at her suspiciously, unsure if she was joking or not.  Knowing her, it could go either way.  I sighed with resignation.  She was who she was.  It wasn't as if she had ever even pretended to be a nice person.  Driven yes, kind no.  It just wasn't in her job description.

Besides, she wasn't the one with whom I really should be angry.  I darted a poisonous glance at the guilty party in question.

Him and his games!  I thought grimly and squeezed the iPod still clutched in my hand.   'He is what he is' wasn't going to cut it in his case.  Not this time.  He had pushed it to far and I had something they wanted.  Very much so if the gleam in Sir Integra's eye was anything to go by.

I couldn't challenge Alucard head on and ever hope to win but there was one person in the room who could and now I had a bargaining chip.  Sir Integra might never be my friend but she might very well suit as a protector.

I stroked the iPod thoughtfully for a moment, choosing my words.  If I was able to finesse it so that she thought it was her idea, I could gain a buffer from Alucard and still keep my bargaining chip.  Hmmm, what would Sgt. Marks do? I started to open my mouth then stopped.  No, much as I admired Sgt. Marks I had neither the deviousness nor the emotional armour to play hard ball with this group. I sighed again.  For better or worse, I was who I was so cards on the table and hope for the best. I squared my shoulders and began.

"Look, I honestly don't know how to feel about this new development." I said gesturing towards my cheek.   "But that's not really the issue here, it's happening whether I like it or not." 

Sir Integra lifted an eyebrow, indicating I should continue.  Alucard feigned indifference but I could feel his mind brush over mine, tasting my emotions.

"The issue is twice now, I have been placed in the position of injuring Seras, three times actually if Walter had not stepped in.  Scratch that, if Walter had not stepped in I would have been dashed up against the wall and it's doubtful I would have been conscious much less in any shape to cause her any further harm."

"Your point being?"  Drawled Alucard in a bored voice.

Sir Integra crossed her arms and frowned thoughtfully.

The point being, even if you hadn't anticipated the first incident,"  "which I doubt." I thought at him.  "There was no reason for allowing the second beyond sheer perversity."  I turned to Sir Integra.  "Surely indulging in his games is not worth needlessly placing Seras in harms way.  Even if you do not care on a personal level, I don't think you can afford to risk any of your senior officers not being at 100% should there be an emergency without good cause.  The time lost in potential research alone because of this delay should be enough to give you pause.  Not to mention the fact that had I hit the wall and broken my neck, all this,"  I said gesturing about the lab.  "would be rather moot."

Sir Integra's emotionless face turned towards Alucard.  "Well?"

"She wasn't ready yet." He shrugged.


"Meaning, the time was not right, she still needed to be conditioned, seasoned if you will, Her powers needed time to simmer, to intensify and blend."

"She's not a roast you know."

"No, but like a roast, she's no good if you you remove her from the fire too soon.  I would not serve my master such an unfinished thing at her table.  I would give you a feast, not scraps for the dogs."

She scowled.

"Humans!"  He said disgustedly.  "You constantly complain about my ignoring feelings and now, when I have finally found a way to take them into account, use them for the greater good, you complain about that.  There is simply no pleasing you!"

 "This grows tiresome Alucard."  She said dismissively.  "I am inclined to end this right now."

He looked at her intently. "I promised my master redemption."  He said quietly.  "If her God would not grant it then I would."

"You dare!"  Hissed Walter.

"Always."  countered Alucard smirking.

"Ma'am he is..."

"I know exactly what he is."  Said Sir Integra raising her hand to still Walter's protest.  "You tread a fine line."  She said to Alucard.  "Take care not to cross it."

"I seek to serve my master."  Said Alucard unperturbed.  "If she will not forgive herself the burden of souls she carries, I will create that forgiveness for her."

"By bringing me another weapon to kill vampires?"  She laughed.  "I fail to see how burning holes in vampires will redeem me where explosive bullets will not.  It's good and I'll use it but it is hardly unique."

"Besides,"  I interrupted with exasperation.  "I thought I was supposed to be a defensive weapon.  How is this defensive?  Am I to sob them to death?"

"That,"  Said Alucard.  "Is almost the answer."

"What, sobbing?"

"No dolt!"  He said glaring at me.  "How is this a defensive weapon?"  He turned to Integra.  "How can it redeem what the vampire has stolen?"

"I'm asking you!"  Said Sir Integra thunderously.  "For once will you simply answer a direct question!"

"That,"  He said calmly.  "would be cheating."

"Alucard."  She said warningly.

"Come now,"  Said Alucard.  "The clues are all before you.  I have,"  He said gesturing to me.  "given you the key.  Simply unlock her."

Sir Integra made ready to yell.

"I think,"  Came Walter's calm voice, cutting across the tension.  "I know part of the answer at least."