Tuesday, April 29, 2014

LETTERS FROM HELLSING LXIV

I continued to grumble as Stewart cheerfully dumped me into a chair by his station then grumbled a bit more just on general principle as he booted up his laptop until I remembered the primary purpose of my visit whereupon I slid my chair up next to his, pasted a friendly, interested smile on my face and leaned in on the pretext of better seeing the screen.  He raised his eyebrows but continued loading the program.  He began walking me through the analysis.  He made no comment when I shifted in just a bit closer but he did begin absently stroking my hair with one hand while hovering the other protectively over the keyboard.  When I asked him  later why he was petting me he mumbled something vague about cats and ex-girlfriends but in the meantime, I had a decent excuse to test my reactions to his close proximity and get in a good sniff.

Not to bad.  A sort of Old spice and copper penny smell mixed with just a dash of melted wire insulation thrown like an afterthought.   I glanced over at him as he synced up my EEG s with the sound files.

His skin was the colour of fine porcelain so pale that you could trace the thin blue blood vessels beneath the surface.  This went nicely with the deep blue streaks of dye he had running randomly through his midnight black hair which he wore in a short Mohawk styled at the front into a pompadour and a duck tail in the back.  The florescent lighting of the room glinted off numerous piercings and countless tattoos peeked out from the collar and ripped off sleeve holes of his bowling shirt. It was if somehow, he were the love child of Elvis Presley and Sid Viscus.

Stewart has this amazing affinity for both music and technology. There isn't an instrument he can't play or a piece of hardware he can't fix or re-purpose.  He mostly runs the tech and communications for the Geese but he can also blow the chest out of a ghoul with hip shot from his Browning at 600 yards.

He caught me peeking at him.  "Scientific experiment." I said cryptically.

"Well, if it's for science."  He said shrugging then flashed me bemused but accepting grin.

Very little fazes Stewart and he genuinely seems to enjoy a certain level of bizarre and eccentric behaviour in others which is probably why he gets on so famously well with Zelig...and the rest of us for that matter.  Besides, he's what, 22 maybe, we both know that I'm more likely to pinch his cheek and knit him a sweater than jump his bones.  Not that I'm old mind you or that he's not kinda cute in a weird pasty metallic sort of way and we both like a lot of the same music...but...no.  I definitely did not feel any sudden urges to jump in his lap and kiss him.  Not that I think he would mind.

My next unsuspecting volunteers were Griffin, Blaven and Bulls.  Stewart had gone off to his room to grab a CD he had burned for me leaving me to guard the laptop and I, of course, had immediately jumped onto Iwon.com to play mah-jong.  The three Geese, sensing a weakness in the defence of the coveted technology, had swooped in without hesitation.

They descended in a transparently casual pincher movement pretending mere interest in observing perhaps with the occasional comment or suggestion but within two minutes of matching my first tiles I was surrounded on all sides and forced to sit helplessly and watch as three overly ripped space marines battled it out with the demon hordes. It was like being in a testosterone well.

"I would think you would get enough of that in real life."  I said wryly. 

"Hoosh up woman, were training like." Said Bulls as he moved his Doomguy into a more defensible position.  

"Yeah, training." Affirmed Griffin.

Blaven simply grunted his agreement.

"'Sides," Continued Griffin. "Sarge locked us out of the World of Warcraft  account."

"Why?"  I asked from the depths of the man cave.

"Said we were spendin' too much time in the tavern."

"And with the bawdie gurls."  Said Bulls.

 "Mmmm...Betty" Added Blaven.

"God, Jet, don't you start in bou't  that she-male again!"

"Hey! your talkin' bout the woman I love."

"Ha!" Barked Griffin.  "Anyways,"  He continued.  "Turns out ya can run through a lot of cash real fast in places like that."

"Verra fast." Agreed Bulls. "tch, Watch yer flank there Jet."

"Yeah, yeah."  Groused Blaven.

"So you blew all your fake gold in a fake bar buying fake beer for fake women and perhaps a fake transvestite?"

"Tavern."  Corrected Griffin.

"Sorry, tavern."

"Pretty much yeah."

"So, what's the problem?"

"Well,"  Hedged Griffin.  "Turns out that in addition ta fake gold, this particular tavern and those particular girls accept Visa."

"What?"

"And MasterCard."  Added Blaven.

"Boot noot Discover." Finished Bulls.

"Your kidding right?"

"Nope."

"But...why?"

"Why not?"  Griffin shrugged.

"Dare I ask how much?"

"Bout 8,000 last month."

"Dollars?"  I gasped.

"Nah, pounds."

"What?  That's more than $12,000!  That could almost pay my mortgage for a year and you idiots spent it all on pretend beer and fake women?"

"Well, mostly on the women."  Said Griffin.  And they ain't so much fake as virtual...'cept mabey 'Betty'.  That chick's definitely fake.

"You should show more respect for the future mother of my virtual children."


"Still say she's a dude."  Said Griffin.

 "Not in Azeroth she wern't." Sniggered Blaven.  "Don't care if she's a hairy plumber in the normals she still gave the best b.."

"I really don't think I need to know this."  I said loudly.

"I was going to say, um, back rubs."

"If I say I believe you, can we please move on?"  I asked hopefully.

"Yuz one sick dude Jet." Said Griffin.

"Says you Porn."

"Damn straight says me.  And if I think somthin's sick then you know it's really got ta be twisted."

"I am actually willing to pay you money to stop talking about this right now."

"Don't see why we need to be punished."  Whined Blaven.  "Captain spent more than that all by hisself just at the bawdy house and Sarge didn't block his account."

 "That's because the Captain didn't use the company's credit card to pay his bill."  Came Sergeant Mark's voice cutting through the haze of testosterone.  "You idiots can piss your pay checks down the Thames for all I care but keep your thieving fingers off my bottom line or next time the bits I chop off won't be virtual ones starting with your teeny, tiny little di..."

Unfortunately, just at that moment, the Doom war demon assault escalated causing both Bulls and Griffin to jerk back on their controllers while simultaneously driving their elbows into my chest.  I squeaked in distress.

"What?  Is that that you in there Liebst?"  Asked Marks.

"Yes. Oof."

"Why?...Dress up your flank there Blaven."

"Sir!" 

"Well, I was playing Mah-jong but..Ouch!  Hey! Mind where you put those elbows guys."

 "Posh! Yer a nicely squishy gel Corrine."  Observed Bulls.  "Quite braw. My elbows doon't mind it a bit." 

"Yeah,"  Agreed Griffin.  "But I can kiss and make it better if you'd like."

"Try it Griffin and I'm going to help Marks start chopping off your teeny tiny..."

"Ain't nothin' teeny about me sweetheart."  Growled Griffin.  "For example my..."

"That's It!" Shouted Marks.  "Get the hell off her!" His right hand came down to grip Bulls' collar jerking him up and back while his left hand shoved hard on Griffin's shoulder toppling him sideways out of his seat.   Blaven, it seems, had ghosted away at the first hint of trouble.

"No more second chances Griffin,"  Growled the sergeant.  "Next time I'll take your head off."

"Wern't like that Sarge I swear."  Whined Griffin.  "We was just messin' about wasn't we Corrine?"

"Um. Yes?"  I hazarded.  Unsure what was going on.

"It had better been."   Said Marks sternly.

"It's true Sergeant." Confirmed Bulls. "Naught but a bit o' teasing. Ye know we'd ne'er harm our Corrine."

"Aww." I said touched.

Marks looked mildly mollified.

"Side's," muttered Griffin. "she started it."

"What?  I never!"

"Aye, ye did gel."  Said Bulls. "Ye led oos on."

"In your dreams!"

"So yer sayin you aint been playn' snuffle bunny with all of us tonight?"

"I, um, well.." I glanced up at Marks who was looking a bit shocked. "It's not like it sounds."

"Do tell."  Said a grinning Burnadett.  When had he come in?

"Well..."   I started.  "Well..."

"Someone has exactly 30 seconds to tell me what the hell is going on before I kill Griffin."

There was dead silence in the room.

"And Bulls."  Added Marks.

"Corrine brought in brownies and started a fight." Offered Zelig.

"Then Zelig called her a fat prostitute so she assaulted an innocent bystander."  Complained Sherman rubbing his chest.

"She's smelling us for science."  Shrugged Stewart.

"Traitors."  I hissed at them and was treated to a collective shrug.


"I see."  Said Marks flatly.  He glanced at me with a raised eyebrow.

"I was collecting data for an important experiment."  I sniffed defensively.

"Well,"  He said, lowering himself into the chair from which he had just extracted Bulls, a slow smile spreading across his face.  "If it's for science then..."

"Non!"  Snapped Burnadett. "I will not have this.  Mon Dieu!  Experimenting on my men?"  He wagged an accusatory finger in my direction.  "Treating them as you would a guinea pig.  It is contraire a l’éthique!  Shame on you Chanson."  I blinked at him nonplussed until he added.  "If a pretty lady is going to conduct inappropriate experiments on the men of this squad," He grinned and tapped me on the nose. "she had best be conducting them on me first!"   

"Ah,"  I said "Brave man."

"Of course."  He said sliding smoothly into Griffin's old chair.  "What kind of commander would I be if I were to allow my men to face such danger if I am not willing to face it myself?"

"Oh ho?"  Quipped Marks from my other side.  "Since when?"

"Ignore the ugly man on your right Chanson."  Said the captain airily.  "We are wasting time." He gripped my shoulders and tugged me gently but purposefully towards him. "I insist on being nuzzled immediately!"

"So you're volunteering to be my guinea pig?"  I asked playfully.

He leaned in closely.  "Mais oui-eeek."  He murmured into my ear.

I laughed and, blushing profusely, proceeded to assess the scent of the fearless leader of the Wild Geese.

He smelled quite pleasant actually, especially when you consider how many of those god-awful cigarettes he smokes each day, sort of a cherry wood smoke and Sen-Sen under-layered by the woodsy scent of Rochas Man. I inhaled deeply so he knew I was taking the experiment seriously.  It was enjoyable in a warmth of human contact sort of way and he is wickedly handsome but I did not feel in the least bit um, interested.  He smelled good but there was just something missing.  Something, perhaps, like linen and spray starch and, well...shoot...I wasn't going to go there.

I sighed and tried to lean back but Burnadett had taken advantage of the situation and slid over and leaned into me until I was practically sitting in Mark's lap.  "Excuse me sir,"  I said as politely as I could as I felt a moist warmth brushing my earlobe.  "Just who's nuzzling who here?  Eeep!  Hey!  No biting.  There is a definite no biting rule!"

"Well, that's disappointing."  Rumbled the sergeant against my back.

"Not biting."  Corrected the captain.  "Nibbling.  Guinea pigs like to nibble."  He whispered wickedly in my ear.  "Just...so."  He said leaning in for another nip.

"Bad guinea pig.  Bad!"  I laughed pushing him back with a finger against his chest.  "No nibbling on the scientists.  No carrots for you!"

He frowned.  "Not even one carrot?" His face became quite tragic.  "Not even my little special crunchy carrot for me to take back and nibble on in my lonely cage?"

"Especially not that carrot."

"She can nibble me back."  He said coyly.  I would quite like that."

"No."

"You are cruel Chanson, very cruel."  He said sadly.  He sighed and sprawled back into his chair.

"Ah well."  He shrugged.  He lit a cigarette and swung his feet up onto the table narrowly missing the laptop.  "C'est la guerre.  So Chanson,"  He said with casual disinterest, tilting back his chair and frowning at an imaginary speck of dust on his scuffed boots. "how went the experiment? Did my fresh, yet manly scent please you?"

"Fresh yet manly?" Grinned Marks.  "You lose man points for that one Burnadett."

The captain waived a dismissive hand. "It matters not, as long as it pleases the ladies."  He  tilted his head and beamed charm at me.  "And it does please the ladies does it not Chanson?"

"You smell quite nice Pip."  I assured him.  "Both fresh and manly."

"There, you see?  Man-ley." He said smugly.  "And irresistible to Women.  I believe that is double man points to me Marks."  

"De-lusional more like."  Snorted Marks.  "But we waste valuable scientific time.  Come liebst,"  He said tugging playfully on my ponytail.  "I will be the next to volunteer."

"Oh, you always smell good."  I said absently a bit distracted by his actions then clamped my mouth shut when I realized what I had just said. 

"Well now."  Chuckled Marks.  "I am very glad to hear it.  Very, glad."  He rumbled into my ear then looked up at Burnadett.  "You catch that 'Pip'?"

"Hmmmm, interesting."  Said the captain. Raising his eyebrows and leering.  "And how often is it that you are smelling our sergeant Chanson?"

"You heard her, always.  I always smell good.  And that,"  He crowed, punctuating his message with my ponytail.  "means triple points for me!   Now don't start blushing liebst."  He said, tickling my nose with the end.  "You have simply proven to be a woman of discerning taste and shall be properly rewarded."   He wrapped his arm around my shoulder.  "Shall I take you out to dinner tonight?"

"Oh.  Um..."  I said disconcerted.  It was odd, I liked Marks a lot and he would seem to be a prime candidate for my experiment.  So why did I hesitate?  He was terribly handsome and, yes, always smelled good but there was something about him that would never let me relax.  We laughed and joked and flirted outrageously at times but somehow, it always seemed a bit stilted as if we were running lines in a play.  It never felt completely natural.  There was something almost calculating in his courtship. I was attracted to him but always felt a bit like prey.

"You are assuming she will still be talking to us later."  Pointed out the captain.

"Well, there is that."  Mused Marks.  "Bah, she's a good sport aren't you liebst?  Not the kind of girl to hold a grudge."

"Why would I be holding a grudge?" I asked.

"Because of how badly we are going to pound you into the ground at this afternoon's exercise." He replied.  "Not that I want to mind, but needs must."

"What makes you so sure your going to beat me?" 

"I always have before."

"Well don't get too cocky."  I said.  "Lukas and I have been practising and we've got a few tricks up our sleeves."

"That's nice but it won't make a difference because I'm already in your head Corrine.  No matter what you try, I'll know it first because I'm right, in, here."  He said jovially tapping my forehead with the end of my braid.

I growled and managed to finally wrestle my hair from his grip but my triumph was short lived as used the opening to cop a quick feel. I slapped away his hand and scrambled back in outrage only to land in Burnadett's lap.  The Capitan responded by wrapping his arms around my waist and resting his chin on my shoulder, all the better vantage point to watch the show.  Pip, being, ironically, the lesser or two evils at the moment, was ignored so I could turn the full force of my anger on the sergeant.

"You arrogant....jerk!"  His eyebrow rose mockingly at the lameness of my insult which, of course, just made me angrier.  "Argh!  That's it. You know, up until now, I was just hoping we'd make a decent showing of it but now...."  I said, poking him in the chest to emphasise each word.  "we're just going to have to kick your butt!"

"Butt?"  Sniggered Griffin.  "Christ, your bad at this Corrine."  I spared him a venomous glance but he simply shrugged and grinned.  "Well, ya are."

"Shut it Griffin."  Said Marks mildly.  He tilted his head and looked me up and down.  "So," He said with amusement.  "you think you and Häkchen here"  He indicated Anders, who had pointedly been ignoring us behind his newspaper, with a lazy hand.  "can  take me?"  He laughed.  "Well, you can't.  I've had his number for years."  Anders sniffed and rattled his newspaper feigning indifference but I noticed his eyes narrow and his lips thin in annoyance.  "Besides,"  Continued Marks.  "It isn't just me you're going up against this time,  it's the whole squad."

"The whole squad?"

"Precisely."  Said Marks.

"I am afraid it is so."  Said the captain, giving me a gentle squeeze.

"What! Why?  Get off me!"  I said breaking from Pip's embrace and standing to confront the room.

 "Orders from on high."  Said the sergeant gesturing towards the manor house.  "It's to be the Armageddon scenario tonight."

I made a small strangled noise.

"Apparently there is a bit of a wager going on between Sir Integra and Herr Nosferatu and you're it."

"There, see, someone has faith in me.  Which one is betting I will win?"

"Neither, they're just betting on how far you you can get before you're toasted."  

"Oh now that's just wrong."

"Trust me liebst, no one's betting on you to win.  Not even Jet here and can never resist the long odds."

"True." Agreed Blaven.

"How long?"

"700 to 1 against."  Said Zelig consulting his book.  "Course the odds are slightly better on you making the first quarter mile."

"Oh yes?"  I said sarcastically. "Your faith in me is warming."

"Mmm."  He agreed.  "We got you in there at 250 to 1 against."

"You know I hate you all right?"

"Aww, don't hate the playa baby.."

"You do know you're white don't you Griffin?"  Interrupted Sherman.  "I sometimes wonder."

Anders, still pretending to read his newspaper, began drumming his fingers impatiently on the table.

"Now Corrine," Continued Sherman.  "you know it ain't personal.  We're mercenaries, the boss says to pound people, we pound them.  It's what we're paid to do."  He shrugged.  "And tonight the boss says to pound you."

"Only not so's you'd like it." Brayed Griffin.
 
I opened my mouth to say something scathing but  could only come up with, "Oh, as if."  which sounded lame even to me.

"Course,"  Mused Griffin scratching his massive chest.  "someone up at the big house must have a real hard on for you seeing as how they're lending us one of their own senior officers as back up.  Not as we need it but still..." He sniffed and grinned evilly at me.  "Damn."

I squeaked, cleared my throat then turned towards Burnadett and tried to ask calmly.  "Which ah, senior officer would that be?" I asked with feigned indifference.  Not Walter. Not Walter. Oh please, oh please, oh please not Walter! 

"Ah."  He said with mock sadness.  "I am being forced to work with the delicious mademoiselle Victoria, much to my consternation."  He grinned mischievously.

I visibly sagged with relief, then straightened with indignation.  "What!  you're using my Seras against me?"

"Non, Chanson."  he said.  "She is assigned to us for the evening so technically, I am using my Seras against you.  Désolé de ce" He said looking not in the least bit sorry.

"Oh!"  I said.  "Now how is this at all fair?"

"It isn't fair."  Agreed Zelig.  "How am I supposed to make book on odds like that?  I'm having to lay bets by the meter.  Ridiculous!"

"Hmm, hadn't thought about that."  Said the captain.  "Sorry about that Zelig, I'll make it up to you with a bonus."

"The hell you will." Muttered Marks.

"But Karl, he's the only one who does not try to cheat the numbers. Surely you do not wish Sherman to start keeping book again.  Remember Syria?"

"Fine."  He sighed.  Then more firmly.  "A little one."

Zelig beamed sunnily.

"Oh nice."  I said sarcastically.  "Let's all make sure Zelig's not inconvenienced. What about me?"

"I told you,"  Said Marks.  "I'm taking you out to dinner."

"Yeah right, like I'm going to... excuse me" I said distracted as my pager went off.  I frowned down at the message then grinned "Ooo good one."  I muttered then looked up and said coolly to the Sargent.  "Well that's my punishment for losing.  What do I get  if I win?"


There were a couple of suppressed guffaws and a snigger from Griffin.

"Ha, got you there." The Capitan smiled.

Marks' lips twitched up a bit.  "Decided to join the party have you Anders?"

"Sir."  Said Lukas, pocketing his Blackberry and crossing over to where I stood.

"Interesting choice of dates."

"You assigned her to me sir.  That makes her a part of my team.  A good commander supports his team sir," He said pointedly. "always."

"Well, well."  Said Marks grinning. "Doesn't that just take me back?"  He narrowed his eyes at us both.  "Still, I'm a bit surprised."

"Never could just lie back and take it sir."

"No Häkchen,"  Said Marks as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  "I guess you never could."   He gave Anders a look that could almost be described as tender.  "Still going to pound the snot out of you boy understand?"

Luckas' hand trembled slightly against the small of my back but his gaze remained calm and steady "You can try old man, you can try."  He glanced around the room slowly cold blues eyes glinting out from behind his raggedy, blond bangs.  "You can all..try." 

A couple of the geese looked decidedly nervous at this statement. Marks grinned evilly, the captain looked bored.

"Well,"  Said Burnadett, as he exhaled a plume of blue smoke.  "That's decided then.  Anders,"  He said languidly waiving his cigarette in our direction.  "I am sure you and your ah, team have a lot to do to get ready so off with you now."

"Sir."  Said Anders turning me towards the door.

"But,"  I began.

"Aller maintenant, shoo!"

I huffed and started towards the door.  

"I will come by you room later Chanson and kiss you for luck no?"

"In your dreams Pip."  I sniped.

"Constantly, but not quite so often as I am in yours."

I tried to turn and reply but Anders was forcibly pushing me out the door. 

"God!"  He said closing the door behind us.  "You really are terrible at trash talk Doyle."  

"No, I had a really good one this time."

"No, trust me, you didn't."  He said striding down the hall.

"I did, I really did you see I was going to say.." 

"No time,"  He said "Besides that's not the point." 

"It's not?"

"No."

..."So what is the point?"


"Do you want to argue with them Doyle or do you want to win?"

"Oh,"  I said.  "I want to win but."

He stopped short and spun around to look down at me eyes blazing.  "Do you?"  He asked.   "I mean really want it?  Because I do.  I want it so bad I can taste it."  His eyes grew a bit distant.  "I hate losing."  He said softly.  "Always have.  As a kid, I never could walk away from a fight even if it meant getting the shit kicked out of me."  He smiled wryly and continued.  "Remind me sometime to tell you about how I met the Sergeant."  His eyes focused back on me and he said.  "Maybe not, you'd  be horrified but the point is I've never beaten him.  Not once.  He gets in your head, knows what you're thinking.  You can't fool him and it really pisses me off sometimes you know?  To have him always one step ahead?"

I smiled a bit at that one.  "Yeah,"  I said.  "I think I see.  Even if you like them, it can get kind of annoying."

"Exactly!"  He said.  "Exactly.  Even if you like them, even if you, love them.  You want, no, you need to show them, even if it just that one time, that you can be the best or the strongest.  That maybe he's not always the smartest person in the room." 

"You seem to have thought about this a lot."  I said.  Keeping the word 'obsessed' smartly to myself.

"I have."  He agreed.  "I think and I look and I listen.  And this time, I have a chance."  He leaned down and gripped my shoulders.  "I've been watching how that vampire works and how he trains you and I'm pretty sure I know why he and Sir Integra decided on the the Armageddon scenario tonight.  I even think I figured out why they are loaning that Victoria to the squad.  They want to use the stress and fear to force you to take the next step.  To get you so angry you break through the pain and move your powers to the next level.  But what if,"  He said, his eyes taking on a speculative gleam. "we beat them to it?"

"I don't understand."

"What if we triggered your breakthrough early, before they expected it?  At the beginning of the exorcize when there's still a chance to win instead of at the end when it's hopeless?"

"I suppose that would give us an advantage."

"Advantage, hell, we'd mop the floor with them."

"But how can you say that when I don't even know what the breakthrough will be much less if it is useful."

"I told you, I watch, I listen and I am pretty sure I know what it's going to be and if I'm right it's going to be spectacular."

"Oooo, what is it?"

"I'll tell you."  He said.  "But then you have to promise to do as I say, when I say it because if we move too soon it will queer the deal but if we time your breakthrough just right,"  He smiled beatifically at that point.  "it will be a thing of spectacular beauty."  He sobered up and looked at me intently.  "Either way, I will get us through this as best I can but I ask you one last time Corrine, do you just want to 'make a decent show of it' or do you want to win? 

I looked up at him sombrely searching his gaze.  "Oh,"  I said softly, a slow smile spreading across my face.  "I want to win.

He grinned like I had just given him the best Christmas present ever.  "Excellent!"  He said throwing his arm about my shoulders and ushering me towards the barracks exit.  "Come on, there's a lot to do!"  He glanced down at me.  "Corrine, remember the other night when we tracked Victoria through the catacombs?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you think you could do it again?"

"I think so but.."

"Good!  Now here is what we are going to do...."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LETTERS FROM HELLSING LXIII

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

LETTERS FROM HELLSING LXII

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?"

".45"

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 Walter...as 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

LETTERS FROM HELLSING LXI

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 ...at 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

LETTERS FROM HELLSING LX

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?"

"Perhaps."

"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.

"But..."

"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."