Hellsing Fan Fiction ❯ Socius Criminis ❯ Socius Criminis ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
         &nb sp;  Wolfe Heinkel did not care for funerals.  Being as pious and devoted as she was, she understood their necessity and significance.  Still, she was not fond of them, in particular, this one.  Contrary to religious sentiment, funerals were for the living and not the dead.  They were a formality, and Heinkel was not one for formalities.           &n bsp; Later on, while she sat silently on the floor of her Spartan room, she allowed herself to mourn. It was quiet, and in her own way.  There was no use caterwauling like the pagan women.  Father McKenzie was dead and gone.  No amount of weeping could change that.  All she had left of her mentor was the old .44 Desert Eagle that rested in her lap.            &nbs p; It had been a routine cleansing.  If anything, it had been a rather mindless excursion.  Yet somehow, good old Father McKenzie, beloved of parishioners and fellow clergy alike, had managed to end up on the wrong end of a ghoul’s rotting canines.               Heinkel had put him down herself.  He had still been lucid at the time, and since suicide was expressly forbidden, he had very calmly and politely asked her to “do the honors.”  He had said it cheerfully, so as to detract from her guilt, but behind those kindly old eyes, there was the inconcealable shine of fear; in his sweet baritone voice, there was the indicative strained note of tension.               Heinkel absently examined her glasses for smudges and hastily dabbed her eyes with her sleeve.            & nbsp; God had called Father McKenzie back to him, she was sympathetically told.  You did all that you could do.             But it was not nearly enough.             < /i> Heinkel slammed her fist down of the floor.  A muffled howl of anguish died in her throat.  She had trained for so long, worked herself so hard, and when it came time to test her, she failed miserably.           &nbs p; Without much thought, she took a cigarette and clenched it tightly between her jaws.  Her memory of the lively old gentleman was juxtaposed with the cold, waxy, wonderfully mended corpse that lay in the flower-covered casket.  The mortician had done a commendable job patching up that rather nasty hole through the temple.  Not one of the innocents in attendance had noticed anything out of the ordinary.             ;  Heinkel covered her face.   *****           & nbsp;   A newly arrived Yumiko Takagi gazed wide-eyed at the architecture of the Holy See.            &nbs p; “Come along, Sister Takagi,” Father Renaldo prodded gently.             “It’s so beautiful,” Yumiko murmured in her slightly accented English.             Father Renaldo smiled patiently, touched by the young woman’s simple honesty.  “There will be time for this later.  Father Maxwell is waiting.”  The older priest guided the young woman toward the appropriate office, trying to ignore the katana strapped prominently atop her luggage.   *****          &nbs p;    Heinkel took a long drag on her cigarette and stared coolly out the open window.  It was a crisp fall afternoon, and the breeze was somewhat refreshing.           &nb sp; “You’ll have a new partner…plenty of opportunities to exhibit your potential…a chance to see the world…” Heinkel caught bits and pieces of Enrico Maxwell’s long-winded spiel.  He was trying to convince her to take a more permanent position in Section XIII’s ranks.  Lowly as he was, Maxwell was a shrewd bastard, she reflected as Maxwell continued to drone on about benefits.  Except he was a coward who talked too much, she reflected darkly.             “This is God’s will?”           &n bsp;  He stared at her, a little taken back by her outburst.             ; “Of course…”              She dropped the cigarette butt into the untouched glass of water he had offered.  “Then that’s all I need to know.”           &n bsp; His surprised expression turned to one of cunning pleasure. “I’m glad that you see things that way.  We are in need of an even-tempered person such as yourself.”          &nbs p;  Heinkel laughed harshly.  “Don’t laud me with honey-coated words, Father.  I am servant of the Church.  I will do my duty.”           &n bsp; Maxwell closed his eyes and massaged his temples.  His nostrils still stung for that accursed smoke.  That girl had just been referred to him by her a friend of a friend.  She had just lost her mentor.  He would tolerate her crass behavior so as to guarantee her services for Iscariot.             ; “Good, then allow me to introduce you to Section XIII’s trump card: Paladin Alexander Anders- ”             As he spoke, a hulking disheveled Scotsman burst into the office, panting heavily.  His overcoat was half on, his glasses were cracked, and there was something suspiciously like blood staining his collar.            & nbsp; “Am I late?!”  Anderson looked around wildly and gave Heinkel a quick nod.  “That business I had to attend to, it ran a bit longer than I expected…”         &nbs p;   “I see.”           &nb sp; Maxwell was quite certain that was sarcasm in the German girl’s voice, however he forwent jumping to conclusions, and proceeded with Anderson’s introduction.           & nbsp; “Father Anderson is a regenerator- a combination of science and magic ordained and blessed by God.  He is…very difficult to kill.”           &n bsp; Anderson gave a smile that barely passed for polite.  A maggot dropped off his sleeve and crawled into the shadows.             Heinkel raised a brow, but decided it best not to call attention to it.             “You will be accompanying Father Anderson to Poland to resolve some rather unpleasant business.  It involves-”          &nbs p;  Maxwell’s monologue was once again interrupted, this time by a knock on the door.  He inhaled slowly.  “Come in.”           &nbs p; Father Renaldo cheerfully greeted Maxwell and Anderson as a timid Oriental girl peeked into the cramped office.            & nbsp; “Father Anderson, Sister Heinkel, this is Sister Yumiko Takagi,” Enrico began as the girl waved shyly.  “She will be accompanying you to Poland as well.”           &n bsp; Anderson was the first to speak, “Do you mean to tell me that I’ll have two lassies with me on this mission?!  Sir!”           &nb sp; Heinkel glared at him from behind her shades.  “I doubt you’ll have to concern yourself with my well-being.”          &n bsp;   Anderson gave her a quick reappraisal.  “Do you have any “talents” for the Lord?”           &n bsp;  Heinkel shrugged.  “I’m no regenerator, but I can do God’s will.”  She drew her .44 Desert Eagle from its holster.               The Scottish priest shrugged.  “I hope you know what you’re getting them into, Maxwell.”            ;   Yumiko stared at the floor.  “I can’t really do anything like that, Sister Heinkel,” she confessed softly.            & nbsp; Anderson turned back to Maxwell, more than skeptical.  “You don’t, do you?”           &nb sp; “I know what I’m doing, Father Anderson.”          &nbs p;  The other priest snorted.             Heinkel somehow found that unruliness endearing, but she kept her eye on the timid girl in the middle of the office.  That pretty, innocent, little thing would not last five minutes against the creatures she and Father Mc-             She did not finish that thought.             “You’re coming as a humanitarian relief worker, aren’t you?”  Heinkel asked, rougher than she had intended.             ;  The doll in the nun’s habit regained her warm smile.             That child was so fragile…Heinkel shot a glare in Maxwell’s direction.  Why the Hell would he send something like that with the likes of Anderson and her?            &nbs p; “I…”         &nbs p;   “I have more business to attend to,” Maxwell interrupted smoothly.  “I suggest that you make your introductions over lunch and get to know each other during the flight to Warsaw.  Your flight leaves at 4:30.  All the information you need is provided in this folder.”              The trio of strangers gazed at him incredulously.  Maxwell held out a plain manila folder.  Anderson snatched it and stomped out, muttering under his breath.  Yumiko scurried after the priest, pausing to look back at Heinkel.  Heinkel slowly followed, only to be stopped by Father Renaldo.             “We can provide you with a better weapon.”              Heinkel glared at him momentarily.  “This one suits me fine.”           &n bsp; “It’s a Desert Eagle, yes?”  Father Renaldo continued without waiting for a response.  “A .44 magnum can be modified, improved to a .50 AE.  That might be better suited for your activities.  It’s no trouble at all!”           &nb sp; Heinkel stared blankly.  It would be practical to accept this offer.  She handed him her gun, and then hesitantly withdrew Father McKenzie’s matching one.  “Danke Schoen; they’re a set…”          &nb sp;  Father Renaldo nodded cheerfully.  “.50 caliber silver-jacketed hollowpoints or softpoints should be provided for these type of missions, depending your preference.  Of course, I’ll have it back to you right before the flight!”              Still smiling, he hastily edged Heinkel out of the office and slammed the door.  The somewhat stunned woman backed away from the door and turned to catch up with the others.   *****            ;    “Are you sure it’s wise to send those two out with Anderson?”  Father Renaldo asked thoughtfully.           & nbsp; “No,” Maxwell admitted honestly.  “But most recruits, at some point, have missions with the paladin. It’s kind of a test; trial by fire- if they survive, they’re Iscariot material.  Besides, it’s not a long-term arrangement.  And I’ve done my research.  They’ll do well, and maybe I’ll finally get that promotion I deserve.”            ;  Father Renaldo may or may not have agreed.  He was too busy tinkering with Heinkel’s guns to really listen to another of Maxwell’s monologues.           &nb sp; *****            &nbs p;  “I lost him,” Yumiko said sadly, looking up at Heinkel.  Her pretty brown eyes bespoke child-like heartbreak.  “I’m so sorry.”           & nbsp; “Father Anderson seems to be lacking manners,” Heinkel observed simply.  “It’s not your fault.”           & nbsp; “But I-”             ; “…Can’t blame yourself for everything that goes wrong.”  Heinkel lowered her shades.  “Besides, you don’t belong in this mess.  Just…go to sleep or something while Father Anderson and I take care of what ever needs to be done.  You aren’t meant for this kind of work.”           &n bsp; Yumiko raised her eyes, and a slow sweet smile spread across her face.  “You’re very kind, Sister Heinkel.”  Her eyes darted across Heinkel’s nontraditional garb: black pants, priest’s collar, and overcoat.  “And very daring.”              Heinkel chuckled wryly.  “When you have clean up duties, traditional feminine clothes are impractical.”          & nbsp;   “Oh, I could never wear anything like that…” Yumiko blushed as soon as the words left her mouth.  “I meant…it’s not anything bad about you…oh…I just couldn’t.”         &nbs p;   Heinkel smiled comfortingly.  She silently questioned Father Maxwell’s judgment, intellect, and sanity.  This girl obviously couldn’t work for Section XIII.  Heinkel felt a strong moral obligation to dissuade the Yumiko from making this journey.  “I understand.”  She reached into her breast pocket and withdrew a cigarette.  “I’m going to go outside with this, would you like to come?”   *****                Anderson read through the file guffawing loudly.  Maxwell was a cunning, cunning bastard; he would go far.  Anderson shredded the personal profiles but left the mission sheet intact.            & nbsp; This might be fun.   *****           &n bsp;   “So after that incident with my family, I decided to come here.  I suppose I need to get out and see the world.”  Yumiko beamed at Heinkel.               “Section XIII believes that I would be more useful with more varied experiences.  I’m inclined to agree with them.”  Heinkel dropped the fag and scuffed it out.  After listening to Yumiko, Heinkel was more than completely sure that the girl would be useless in any sort of a conflict. She epitomized the stereotype of the kind, demure, innocuous nun.  She was a complete pacifist.  She winced when Heinkel said “Hell.”          & nbsp;  “There you are!”  Anderson slapped Heinkel on the back, earning a glower from the German woman.   “I’ve searched half the Holy See for you!  Father Renaldo has our equipment ready and loaded.  We’re ready to leave!”           & nbsp; “But we’re scheduled to-” Yumiko began.             “We don’t run on schedules, lassie!  We run on God’s time.”  The last two words were emphasized with a stage whisper.  The priest gave a jolly guffaw and ushered the girls along.  “Come on, we have holy Hell to raise!”    *****          ;      Heinkel inspected her improved weapons while Father Renaldo stood over her shoulder, looking very pleased with himself.             “They’re double or single action, semi-automatic, though I can make them fully automatic if you like.  I’ve also taken the liberty of procuring another holster for you.”           &nb sp; Heinkel found his enthusiasm more than a little creepy.             “No thank you, these are…superb.”         &n bsp;   Father Renaldo preened at the praise.  He gestured to a line of bottles 10 yards away.  “Go on, test them out.”           &nb sp; Heinkel was very aware of her audience, but quite unperturbed.  She raised the guns, clicked off the safety, and fired.             It was a wonderful rhythm, though the kick was much stronger.  She watched as the glass shattered.  She adjusted her movements and braced herself as she worked the two pistols.  It was almost like a juggling act; she had done something similar with less powerful weapons but-             Her line of thought was interrupted as she realized there were no more appropriate targets left.            &nb sp; Renaldo and Yumiko applauded.           &nbs p;  Anderson nodded approvingly.           &n bsp; “These should do nicely,” Heinkel stated needlessly.   *****          & nbsp;     Father Renaldo took them to the departure point and the trio boarded the small plane without incident.    *****         &nb sp;     Heinkel stoically watched Anderson and Yumiko chatter about everyday things like children, cuisine, and the clergy.   According to rumors, Anderson was a berserker- bloodthirsty, relentless, and quite mad.  If this was true, it was disconcerting how well he could shift between worlds.            & nbsp; It was a pity she was not more like that.  She was no saint, truth be told.  She had shed blood; she had even betrayed her Savior at one point.  She was fit to be one of the Iscariot.  Almost idly, she wondered what Anderson had done…no, it would be better if she did not know.   Everyone deserved to keep his or her secrets.  Wolfe Heinkel knew her sins and bore their weight with little complaint.  After all, they were hers, and whatever pain she received, she deserved.             ;  Desperately, she clutched the cross that hung around her neck till her knuckles lost all color.             * ****             &nb sp; Yumiko turned from her lively conversation with Anderson to see Heinkel slumped against her seat grasping a cross.  The blonde woman’s jaw was clenched tightly and Yumiko could see the rigid tension that possessed her comrade.               “Perhaps you should visit with our other companion.” Anderson’s eyes shone too brightly, as if he expected something.           &nbs p; Yumiko studied Heinkel.  One fist rested on the seat ahead of her.  The other still insistently clasped the relic.  Heinkel’s lips moved rapidly, though Yumiko heard no sound.  She was praying fervently.           &nbs p;  Yumiko stood and cautiously took a seat next to the other woman.  She felt a bit intrusive, but her concern for the German woman outweighed social conventions. Yumiko waited for Heinkel’s lips to stop moving before she spoke.             “If you want to talk about anything…I’d be happy to listen.”              Heinkel muttered something in German and turned away.            &nb sp; “Please, I don’t mean to offend…”              “I said it would be better if I did not share.”  Heinkel exhaled slowly, releasing her grip on the pendant.  She managed a weary smile.             “If you feel that would be best,” Yumiko looked beseechingly at Anderson, who seemed very absorbed in his Bible.            &n bsp; “I do.”           &nbs p; Yumiko sighed, wishing she had the ability to get through to Heinkel.             Heinkel sighed, wishing that she was not having this conversation.           & nbsp; “I suppose it’s time to read up on our mission,” Anderson interjected jovially.             ;  Both girls glanced at him quizzically.           &n bsp;  Anderson waved the file folder.            & nbsp; “I’d forgotten about that…”Yumiko nudged Heinkel with a sheepish grin.            &nb sp; “Me, too,” Heinkel acknowledged.           & nbsp;  Anderson slid the folder across the floor to Heinkel.  She gave him a curious look, but retrieved the object.   She opened it.  One sheet of paper lay there.  In clear, pretty script, it read:             We're apostles that aren't. Believers that don't believe. Followers that don't follow. Visionaries that can't see. We're servants of the Death, every one of us. And we await our Lord's forgiveness. We defeat His enemies, yielding the sword in the shadows of the night, poisoning the dinner. We're killers just like Judas Iscariot! We sold our God for thirty silver coins; we put an end to our lives hanging ourselves with a rope. Together we have fallen to the deepest pits of Hell. Together we rose and formed an army. We'll fight against the 7,405,926 demons of Hell until the Final Judgment Day! Heinkel stared.  Those words were painfully familiar.  She swallowed her discomfort and managed an annoyed countenance.  “That’s all?” Yumiko glanced at Anderson who remained unperturbed. “What does it say?” Heinkel read it aloud, a tense, confused note in her voice. “Oh.”  Anderson rolled his eyes knowingly.  “That means something suspicious is going on, and they want you to investigate it, but they really don’t have any information.” “You aren’t serious.”  Heinkel exclaimed. “I’m afraid so,” Anderson said gravely. “But isn’t Section XIII supposed to be one of the best informed agencies in the world?!”  Yumiko cried out in frustration. Anderson shrugged and winked, clearly enjoying himself.  “I just work here.”  He stifled a laugh. Heinkel cleared her throat.   “What do you suspect?” “Probably a routine ethnic vampire or ghouls- the usual unholy undead.”  Anderson displayed his blunt teeth. Heinkel watched Yumiko out of the corner of her eye, seriously wondering if the girl knew about any of these night terrors.  The girl bit her lip and looked down.  Her hands trembled.  “I see,” she managed to choke out and quickly turned away.   *****           & nbsp;   The next hours passed in awkward silence.  Heinkel allowed herself to doze off, trying to ignore the abrupt ending to her conversation with her companions.  It was exactly as Heinkel had predicted.           &nbs p; As Heinkel opened her eyes, stifling a yawn, the plane gave a dramatic lurch.              Anderson swore as he caught himself and Yumiko.  The younger girl squealed loudly, shaking in Anderson’s arms.              Heinkel clutched her seat, cursing just as vehemently as the Scotsman, albeit quieter.              “What’s going on?!” Anderson yelled towards the cockpit.             “Father Anderson, you should come see this…” No one could miss the underlying panic in the pilot’s voice.  Anderson strode into the cockpit with Heinkel close behind.  She heard Anderson inhale loudly.  When she managed to get a glimpse from behind his bulk, she did too.             The entire windshield was covered with maggots, scorpions, worms, and rats.             Anderson hissed loudly.  “Demon spawn!”           & nbsp; Heinkel took a step back, blocking Yumiko from entering.  The disgusting creatures obstructed any view of the skies.  “What the Hell?!” she snarled.             “Viesczy,” Anderson said in an insanely gleeful voice.  “Viesczy…”        &nbs p;    Heinkel reflected for a moment.  It was an ethnic vampire of sorts, Russian if she remembered correctly.           &nbs p; “I can continue flying using only navigational tools, but…”             “Land the plane,” Anderson snarled.             “But-” “Land it.”  Anderson was not in the mood to be questioned. The man bit his lip, probably wondering what he had done to offend the Almighty God.   “We’re nowhere near civilization, Father.  Assuming I can land the plane…safely we’ll be in the middle of nowhere- perfect prey for-” “Do it,” Anderson ordered impatiently. “We’re not all regenerators, Anderson,” Heinkel commented carefully. “If our friend chooses to jam the engine mid-air- you’ll have a lesser chance of surviving, Sister Heinkel.” Heinkel fell silent. “Go pray with Sister Takagi…perhaps before we land, you should have her take off her glasses- for safekeeping.  We wouldn’t want them to get broken.”  His voice was calmer, more polite.  Heinkel nodded dubiously, and backed out of the cockpit.  Yumiko sat quietly, wringing her hands.  She did not stir when Heinkel took a seat beside her.  “Would you pray with me?” Heinkel asked roughly, trying not to slip-up and inform the girl of the actual gravity of their situation.  “Of course,” Yumiko gave her a small smile.  “I’m sorry, I’m just a little bit overwhelmed.” “I’m not much help either.”  Heinkel tried to avoid Yumiko’s emotional gaze.  “So if you’ll…damn.”  Heinkel laughed sharply.  “Father Anderson says you might want to take off your glasses before we land.  We wouldn’t want them damaged.” Yumiko gave an abrupt gasp.  Heinkel interpreted it as an epiphany.  They could all very well die, except for Anderson, she though idly.  She didn’t quite believe it was going to end this way, now.  She caught the eye of the quavering Japanese girl.  Whether or not her own life was worth saving was not an issue.  That quivering pretty little girl certainly did not deserve to share her fate.  The plane reeled again, and as they descended.  Heinkel prayed silently for forgiveness, should she be unable to receive last rites.  She exhaled slowly.  Well, now that it didn’t matter, she procured a cigarette from her breast pocket and lit up. “My nerves,” she said apologetically. Yumiko laughed uneasily. “I’m not sure…but hold onto your cross.  There’s something ugly out there.” Yumiko nodded, still refusing to meet Heinkel’s gaze.  “I am aware of the existence of the malevolent things that walk this world.” Heinkel smiled dryly.  Well then, Miss Takagi was far more knowledgeable than she had thought.  It was too grim a moment for her to be properly surprised. Any more awkward conversation was interrupted by the sharp jolt of the small craft bouncing roughly across some unknown Polish field.  Yumiko kept her glasses on, but fell into Heinkel’s lap.  The latter was too busy holding onto her seat to care.  The plane continued to roll, albeit, slower, across the thankfully, smooth terrain.  As it eased to a stop, Yumiko released a sigh of relief.  Heinkel said an unvoiced “Hail Mary.”  “Are you lassies all-” Anderson’s voice was drowned out by the smashing of glass.  A chilling scream emanated from the cockpit.  As Heinkel drew her gun, there was the sound of a body landing somewhere on the ground outside.  A shrouded bulbous man, who reeked of decay, lumbered in.  Heinkel was almost positive that that was the pilot’s blood dripping from his stubby fingers.  He gave the women a terrible smile, revealing rotting teeth, and beneath his tongue, the telltale stinger of an Upierczi, better known as the Viesczy.  “Maidens,” he leered at them and spoke in heavily accented English.  “Don’t look,” Heinkel instructed tersely before firing both Desert Eagles at the Viesczy.  The large silver bullets tore into him mercilessly.  They ripped, gouged, and maimed, but aside from this, they had little effect on him. He chortled in an eerily high-pitched voice.  Swiftly, he seized Heinkel by the throat.  She was due for a reload by the time he had her and could do little besides fracture his already mutilated skull. “Leave her alone!” Heinkel swore inwardly as Yumiko vainly grabbed the vampire’s arm, trying to free Heinkel.  The bastard laughed again and backhanded the nun, sending her glasses flying.  Yumiko hit the ground and the Viesczy turned his attention back to Heinkel. Heinkel felt it.  The sweet demure aura of Yumiko Takagi was gone.  For one agonizing moment, she thought the vampire had broken the younger girl’s neck.  What came next surprised her more than a little. Yumiko opened up the overhead storage compartment.  Her movements were swift and confident.  She retrieved the katana, and without hesitation, sliced off the creature’s offending appendage. “Disgusting Hellspawn!” She roared, ramming her blade through his chest and twisting it viciously.   “You dare to lay a hand on God’s chosen?!” He gave a screech at the loss of its arm and at the madwoman before him.  He ripped through the thin walls of the plane and disappeared into the darkness.  Heinkel rubbed her throat as she discarded the rapidly decomposing limb.  She stared incredulously at the zealous Japanese girl who stood before her, shaking with rage.  “Yumiko?” she asked carefully. “Yumie,” the girl said coldly, removing her habit.  “Yumiko is asleep right now.” Heinkel stared at the ground where the glasses had fallen.  She stood shakily, but nimbly retrieved them.  “We don’t want these to get broken, do we?” An approving, insane smile spread slowly across Yumie’s features and she cleaned her blade on the hem of her robe.  “We don’t,” she said knowingly, retrieving a hard case from her pockets. Heinkel gingerly placed the spectacles in the case, which was quickly reconcealed on Yumie’s person.  Heinkel then reloaded and retrieved some essential items from the storage compartment.  “Father Anderson,” Yumie recalled.  “And the pilot.” Heinkel stepped into the cockpit.  Gore splattered the seat and controls.  The pilot had been disemboweled, his throat torn open, and face shredded beyond any semblance of recognition.  Anderson’s blades stuck out of the circuitry at odd angles.  The windshield was completely shattered.  Bits of glass covered everything.  The vermin that had covered the plane were nowhere to be seen.  A groan resonated in the darkness beyond the aircraft. Apologetically, Heinkel said a prayer and put a silver bullet through the remnants of the pilot’s head. She heard the door open and turned around in time to see Yumie disappear into the darkness.  Just what the Hell was going on?  Yumiko is asleep right now?  The German girl followed her comrade.   *****   It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, but with the salvaged electric torch, Heinkel found Yumie standing over a very sheepish Anderson a few meters away. “I see that you lassies are all right.”  He grinned and tried to fit his crushed glasses back on his face.  “It’s a pleasure making your acquaintance, Sister Yumie.” “It’s a pleasure to finally meet the Sword Dancer in the flesh,” Yumie returned edgily.  “That was a Viesczy,” Heinkel interrupted, lighting a cigarette.  She stopped and looked carefully at Anderson. He bit back a growl.  “I thought I’d destroyed it before meeting with Maxwell today.  They’re tricky bastards- they have no fangs, only a stinger beneath the tongue.  They have to be killed a certain way.  Your silver bullets,” he gestured to Heinkel. “Are useless.   You have to dismember them and burn the corpse.  The hitch with this is, that once they’re on fire, the body explodes into a mess of foul creatures- every one has to be killed, lest the Viesczy come back with vengeance.” The maggot in Maxwell’s office returned to her memory. “It followed you to Rome,” Heinkel said pensively.  “I remember, in Father Maxwell’s office, a maggot dropped off your sleeve.” Anderson cursed violently.  Yumie was not the least bit fazed by his language.  Instead, she grinned bitterly at Heinkel. “I’m quite positive that Father Anderson has been withholding some critical information from us.  After all, I doubt you were informed of my…unfortunate condition.”  Yumie seemed quite amused by her choice of words. “What’s our mission, Anderson?”  Heinkel inquired coolly. “What is the nature of our little adventure?” Anderson chuckled with embarrassment.  “I owe you that much, don’t I?”  He adjusted his collar and straightened his robes.  Idly, Heinkel watched his face finish mending.  He cracked his neck with startling volume.  “I was supposed to have killed that perversion yesterday.  I chased it…Hell, I don’t remember where, but it was a long hunt.”  He paused, deep in thought.  “You two were meant to come here to clean up whatever ghouls or fledglings it created.  Obviously, we still have it to contend with.” Yumie made a rude noise akin to a snort.  “A bit careless, were you?” “Yes,” Anderson admitted, eyeing at the wrecked plane. “He’ll be even more difficult to kill now,” he said, not sounding as disappointed as Heinkel might have expected.  “We should do something for the pilot, or what’s left of him.  He was a good man.” “I ensured that he will rest in peace,” Heinkel offered. Anderson nodded.  The lust for battle was overwhelming his better judgment.  “We cannot bury him here, anyhow.” “We are the servants of the Death, but not undertakers.”  Yumie looked amused.  “Anderson and I can dismember the fangless one, but can we create a large enough fire to contain him?” “The fuel tank,” Heinkel said, scuffing out her cigarette.  “And my lighter.” Yumie nodded, satisfied.  Though she was not on the killing fields, she retained that feral look of an unsatiated predator.  Heinkel found that she did not recognize the girl she had met this morning.    *****                Retrieving the components for the plan had been simple enough.  Anderson had siphoned the remaining fuel from the tank and mixed it with the cheap liquor he had stored in his bags.  Trying to keep Yumie from pursuing every snapping twig, calling owl, or gust of wind was another matter.  It was dark and in the country, night was almost pitch black.              “I can track it,” Yumie said, not lacking temerity.  “And by God’s gracious will; destroy it!”           &nbs p; Anderson agreed heartily.             ; Heinkel had removed her dark glasses.  They were a hindrance in the already inky blackness.  In the cold moonlight, she could make out shapes and shadows, but little else.  She was strangely unafraid.  Yes, it was night, they were in a foreign land, and demons lurked nearby…but she was a killer, just like Judas Iscariot.              “Yes,” Heinkel concurred, finding their zeal or madness infectious.  “We shall hunt it.”           &nbs p; “Sister Heinkel, Sister Yumie, you two should travel together,” Anderson ordered, his focus no longer with them.  And in seconds, he was gone, charging into the darkness.              Heinkel clutched her guns, no longer afflicted by the ache of past loss.             Yumie laughed, delighted.  “Run with me, Sister Heinkel.   Having a purpose eases the pain.”  Her eyes glowed with pleasure.             ; Heinkel straightened up and nodded at the radiant Japanese girl.  Her hair streamed down her back untamed and her eyes were wild, like a Maenad.  The gleam of cold steel reflected the light of Heinkel’s torch.  The German girl momentarily closed her eyes, savoring the afterimage.  She burned that figure in her memory.  Without another thought, she dropped the flashlight and they were off.   *****           &n bsp;   They faded into the woods, their black robes providing perfect visual camouflage.  They could both feel the taunting call of their foe, daring them to enter its domain.  They did so with pleasure.  Section XIII was not above making house calls.             The forest was surprisingly alive with the undead.  In the distance, they heard Anderson’s impassioned bellows.  Yumie tore through the ghouls beautifully, cleanly, mercilessly.  Heinkel was at a slight disadvantage; undaunted, however, she took down her fair share.             And while they hunted in the dark, it never once occurred to either of them that one might inadvertently strike the other.  Their movements were perfectly attuned and wonderfully matched.  What Heinkel did not take, Yumie slew.  What Yumie did not slay, Heinkel took.             And all at once, they found the band of low-grade leftovers…eliminated.              Heinkel reloaded and listened to the heavy breathing of her partner.             “You do well,” that fearless voice purred in the darkness.  “A worthy handmaiden of our God.”           &nb sp; Heinkel was certain that Yumie was smiling fiercely.  Her own voice betrayed her as well.  “Danke.  You are graceful as well.”           &n bsp; “Is it any wonder that our ancestors almost conquered the world together?”          &nbs p;  Heinkel did not answer immediately.  She ran her fingers over the lighter and flexed them.  “Ja, Fraulein Takagi.  But we serve the true God now.”           &nb sp; “Amen,” Yumie returned vehemently.  “And there is much more to be done!”  With that, the Japanese girl resumed the hunt, following the psychic trail of the cursed fangless one.             Heinkel was close behind, exhilarated by the adrenaline pervading her senses.  The slender figure of the nun ahead of her weaved swiftly through the trees.  Heinkel followed smoothly, leaping over logs and stumps.  Her guns were at her side and as much as she could tell, Yumie’s sword had not yet been sheathed.             ; “Tenacious Vatican dogs,” a familiar stridulous voice howled hoarsely.  “Sending unspoiled maidens onto my native soil!  I will display your defiled corpses to that thrice-damned priest!”              Yumie gave a low laugh as she raised her sword.  There was the sound of the Viesczy smashing into a tree.  Baying with insane glee, Yumie charged, her movements too rapid for Heinkel to see.  However, as soon as there was an opening, she doused the offending vampire with the concoction Anderson had created.  Without hesitation, she then set fire to the bottle and pitched the Molotov cocktail at the momentarily headless Viesczy.             There was a violent chemical reaction and Heinkel rather wished that she’d kept her tinted glasses on.  Yumie had begun stomping on the plethora of squirming filth that metamorphosized from the cadaver.              “Where is…” Anderson burst through the trees, drawn by the beacon, and was very nearly slaughtered by the girls.             “Start killing!” Yumie shrieked, slicing through the horde of flaming vermin. Anderson snarled and began crushing centipedes, rats, maggots, and their ilk.  Heinkel fired a few shots and joined in the mad dance, wryly wishing for bigger feet.             “Burn, burn Demons!  We shall show you Hell!”  Anderson threw back his head howling.             “Enter Hell,” Yumie hissed.  “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched!”          &nbs p;  Heinkel felt her blood stir as she saw the faces of her companions in the dying firelight.  Yes, this was what it meant to be alive!  This was the rapture God gave to His chosen templars.  This was what she had so fervently desired.  Her bright eyes met Yumie’s.              “Sic transit gloria mundi,” Heinkel murmured almost reverently, holding Yumie’s gaze.             “Amen,” both Yumie and Anderson replied.   *****          &nbs p;    No words needed to be spoken as they left the cooling ash and smoking embers.  But still, Heinkel felt the need to verbalize something.           &nbs p; “Danke schön.”          &n bsp;  The Japanese girl sheathed her blade and smirked.             “Excellent job!”  Anderson beamed, slapping both women on the back.  “We just need to set fire to this area, to ensure that our Bolshevik bloke stays dead.  Father Maxwell will be quite pleased to hear about your actions…”   *****                “You demolished one of our private planes, managed to kill the pilot in the process, and set incinerated a forest reserve in Poland!  What exactly do you have to say for yourselves?!”          & nbsp;  Heinkel and Yumiko stared blankly at him.             “But the Viesczy…”           ;   “Father Anderson said…”          &n bsp;  “Father Anderson is not the one balancing the budget!”  Maxwell shouted.             Heinkel and Yumiko took a step back.             “Out of my office!  Out!”           &nb sp; The pair retreated into the waiting area.              “I-” Heinkel groaned in frustration as she looked despondently at Yumiko.  The mild-mannered alter ego had returned once the glasses came back on.  “Damnit Yumiko, it’s my fault!  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s my ineptitude that precluded this!  If I’d simply smashed that maggot or damnit…You…Father McKenzie would not have…Damn my innate worthlessness!” Heinkel struggled to control her rage and despair.             “You’re not worthless!” Yumiko grabbed Heinkel’s arm.  “Please don’t talk like that!” The Japanese girl pleaded almost tearfully at a surprised Heinkel.  “Good, bad, we were in that together.  Us.  Not Father Maxwell.  Not Father Anderson.  Us.”              “Yumiko…” Heinkel sounded so weary.  “Yumiko, you shouldn’t be concerned with this.  You, you’re kind.  This is not your business.”          &nbs p;  “…So you won’t listen to me, not about this anyway…” Yumiko said sorrowfully.  “Fine.”          & nbsp;  Before Heinkel could stop her, Yumiko had taken off her glasses.   *****          &nbs p;    Talking was secondary; Yumie swung first, and caught Heinkel in the jaw.  Heinkel staggered and went down.  Yumie was on her instantly.           &nbs p; Somewhat shocked, Heinkel found herself staring up into the eyes of a rather pissed off Yumie Takagi.             “I see everything Yumiko sees,” she hissed, yanking Heinkel up by the collar.  With one hand, she took Heinkel’s shades and flippantly tossed them aside.  “I can see the guilt and grief in that mask of stoicism.  I can hear it your words.  I can feel it permeate your being.”  Her calloused fingers stroked Heinkel’s cheek.  There would be a bruise there.             “What the Hell?” Was all Heinkel could muster.             Yumie ignored the exclamation and continued.  “We fought side by side, Wolfe.  For the first time ever, we fought together, and we achieved harmony.  We seem to be equals, Wolfe.  And I am by no means, worthless.”          &nb sp;  Heinkel closed her eyes, remembering the seductive feel of the invitation Yumie had proffered.  She could still hear Yumie’s husky voice in her memory.              Run with me, Sister Heinkel.  Having a purpose eases the pain.            &nb sp; Yumie held Heinkel there, but waited, sensing Heinkel’s revelation.           &nb sp; “The pain is but a symptom,” Heinkel choked out, unable to avoid Yumie’s piercing gaze.              “The medicine of the Great Physician alleviates the source and the symptom.  Stop your pathetic self-pitying, Wolfe.  Live up to your namesake.  Don’t let this be your ruin.”  Yumie released Heinkel and got off her chest.             Heinkel lay on the floor panting.             “Run with me, Wolfe.”  Yumie extended her hand.             It seemed like an eternity.  Heinkel felt the truth in Yumie’s pitiless words.  If God was offering another venue…           &n bsp; She accepted Yumie’s hand; she clasped it firmly.   The younger girl pulled her up, smirking with approval.   Heinkel allowed herself to smile back, despite the pain.  She rubbed her tender jaw.             “I owe you for that.”           &n bsp; Yumie laughed, but never had a chance to retort.  Father Maxwell’s office door opened and Father Renaldo stepped out.             “You’re still here?  Good!  Please come back in.”   *****          &n bsp;    Yumie and Heinkel found themselves standing in front of Maxwell’s desk, again.  Heinkel contemplated how Yumie would react to be chewed out by Maxwell.             This time however, Father Anderson stood by Maxwell’s side, grinning victoriously.  Maxwell sat massaging his temples, looking somewhere between amused and aggravated.  As he looked up, he tried to conceal any evidence of his good humor.             “Ignoring the great expense to our coffers…” Maxwell began.             Anderson cleared his throat.             “In light of some other details,” Maxwell continued, giving Anderson the evil eye.  “It has been seen fit to make you two mobile operatives for Section XIII- if that’s what you want.”              The pair looked at each other, and then nodded.              “All right, then time must be allotted to find each of you a suitable part-”           &n bsp; “We’d like to work together,” Yumie said forcefully.           &nb sp; Maxwell raised a brow and glanced at Anderson who shrugged.             ; “Well then…I suppose that is workable.  We can avoid a troublesome delay.”  Maxwell smiled broadly.  “Sister Heinkel, Sister Takagi, welcome to the elite division of Section XIII, codename: Iscariot.”