Thirty Pieces of Silver (Heinkel Wolfe)
|Thirty Pieces of Silver (Heinkel Wolfe)|
|Date of Cutscene:||11 December 2016|
|Synopsis:||Heinkel awakens from a trip to the Vatican's finest ranks of sawbones to a living nightmare, but no matter how bleak things might look, she's not yet ready or willing to cast her thirty pieces of silver...|
|Cast of Characters:||Heinkel Wolfe (Dropped)|
— 11 December, 2004 — Late Morning, Early Afternoon —
The first inkling that something was wrong reached her when she noticed all the news stations airing the same stories.
A report filmed from helicopter showed a sprawling wheat field in Russia. Stalks stretched on for what seemed like miles until they abruptly segued into foul, gangrenous-looking soil. Corrupt earth reached out to the horizon, and the reporter spoke in hasty Russian about how it had appeared quickly and spread even quicker.
Then she started seeing other news stories. Most of them were different, but they shared common themes: Nightmare plains of corrupt earth, sometimes set aflame; people beset by shambling ghouls, and huge throngs of ghouls fought against by armies of military and paramilitary from around the world.
Different reports showed major cities aflame; set alight by rioting. A few cities appeared to be overwhelmed by ghouls.
Most of them were timestamped the previous day. Right after she went into surgery, she realised.
Heinkel Wolfe stared at the cheap wall-mounted television numbly; in a state of shock.
She pushed the button on the remote one more time.
This one was different. The scene opened onto the courtyard of St. Peter's Basilica, its colonnade painted in harsh floodlights. A podium was set up, surrounded by a knot of clergy amidst lights and half a dozen different microphones on booms. She recognised the impeccably-dressed Enrico Maxwell; behind him loomed Alexander Anderson, half in shadow.
Heinkel fumbled with the remote and turned up the volume.
"—deed, that is why Vatican Section XIII was created. Fear not, my faithful, for the Soldiers of Judas Iscariot will protect you from these abominations against God. Perhaps many of you may not agree with our methods, but this is why we exist. Effective immediately, Section XIII will have paladins supplementing the Swiss Guard in Vatican City, as well as population centres throughout the Catholic world." Maxwell spread his arms in a gesture of entreaty. "We will stand against this menace, rewarded by our faith and our—"
Her eyebrows just about disappeared into her ragged bangs, but before she could reflect on that bombshell, her door clicked open. She glanced over and shut the television off.
"Ah, Heinkel, you are awake. Good, very good." The familiar rich baritone and Italian accent of Enrico Maxwell brought her back to reality.
Her voice emerged a croak. The bishop closed the door behind him, settling into the room's lone chair and crossing his legs almost casually. He looked... smug, she decided.
"How are you feeling?"
Heinkel stared at the ceiling and considered. "Like death varmed ofer, I think."
"I'm told you'll be making a full recovery. That is good. We will have need of every able hand in the days to come."
"Vhat the hell ist going on?" Heinkel jabbed a thumb at the television. "The news feeds are going insane."
"According to whom you ask: The Apocalypse, some manner of multiversal disturbance, or a collective nightmare." Maxwell spread his hands in a gesture of fatalism. "The real answer? It would seem the Lord looked down upon His creation, and found it wanting. The geography of our world is now thoroughly mingled with a sprawling realm of corruption so foul the Devil himself would compliment it." He sighed. "I think another flood would have been preferable, really."
"I saw the news." She shook her head, wincing a little. "I still don't understand."
"Geography has rewritten itself. God has taken His hand, and smashed together worlds like so many clay models. A world like ours may find itself dropped down next to several immediate neighbours on all sides, not all of whom may be friendly. Or, in our case, the corruption spreads rampantly throughout our known world." Maxwell sighed, almost morosely. "It's really quite disappointing, you know. Just imagine the abominations and the heretics killed by this calamity! Yet we too have lost a great deal of our number, which makes it impossible to savour such a victory. We will be forced to fight a defensive battle."
Heinkel found herself vaguely encouraged that Maxwell had lost none of his insanity. There were some universal constants.
"Now you know as much as I do." Maxwell leaned over to pour a glass of water, offering it to her. "It became immediately obvious that we will need public support if we are to survive this trial. We also have desperate need of allies. To that end, I have allied Section XIII with the Hellsing Organisation, by order of the Pope himself."
He gestured vaguely with one hand as he continued. "The Paladins... he considers it a clever move to formally assign you there, in fact. It shows we are not above the laws of men any more than we are above the laws of God." Something twitched near Maxwell's left eye. "Except when it involves heretics. Appealing as it may be to crush the Protestant mongrels while they're weak, we are not in a position to do so now."
"Paladins?" She felt her brow furrowing. "I haf no idea vhat you're talking about."
"You'll have a parcel delivered to your apartment in Vatican City. It should explain everything you need to know about your new orders, and the entity you are now assigned to."
"Vell, if you say so. But I can't really read it from here—"
"You're not supposed to," Maxwell pointed out, a little witheringly. "You're supposed to be resting and recovering, Heinkel, not rushing off to have another half a dozen bullets put into you."
"Ja, sorry," she offered, in a tone utterly bereft of remorse. Taking a drink of water, she mulled the issue over. It felt a little surreal to know she was now allied with the closest thing to an arch-rival that Iscariot could claim, even though she herself was generally fatalistic more than fanatical. "That's it?"
"One last thing. "I do not know if you have heard, but we are no longer beholden to the Union." Maxwell steepled his fingers, regarding her with an air of neutrality. "I'll give you the quick version; I believe you were in your third or fourth surgery when this happened. When reality rearranged itself, the Union and the Confederacy both collapsed. Other groups have leapt forth to fill the void. We felt it necessary to look into alternatives, and the Paladins is the most logical choice among those."
Heinkel arched a brow.
"Ja. Didn't you authorise that mercenary's contract, too?"
"That I did. I suppose that contract is still valid, if the mercenary is alive. But the Union as it was exists no longer."
"Chief... ist vhat happened really that bad?"
"If you think the news feeds are bad, signora, you should see what it looks like beyond the bounds of our own worlds. Reports are reaching us slowly, but none of them are good. They do not paint a flattering picture. I have reports that London is unscathed, and there are no problems within Italy. France remains strong as well. But, we will be facing a crisis with refugees of the faithful flocking to safe harbour."
"That's...." She whistled, low; not impressed so much as horrified. "Chief, vhat could haf done this?"
"An act of God." Maxwell smiled, an unsettling expression, and she was reminded that this man was generally not given much authority within the church for a reason. "This is an expression of His wrath. What other explanation can there be?"
"The Day of Wrath. Dies irae." She laughed, weakly, eyes drooping behind her lenses. "Poetic justice, I guess. Alright. Vhat are my orders, Chief?"
"I'm not assigning you to active field duty until you've fully recovered." Maxwell reached out and patted her hand. "Rest and recover, Sister Wolfe. You will need all of your strength for the days of ruin before us. You should be released some time tomorrow." He smiled crookedly. "A record for a victim of multiple gunshot wounds, to be certain, but the physicians here in Vatican City ask no questions of their brothers and sisters in arms."
Heinkel made an exasperated sound in the back of her throat. "I can't just sit here vhen there's so much to do. Ve haf to shore up the Italian borders, and ve should be offering aid to the stricken—" Cold fear crawled down her spine. "I haf to get ahold of Yumie—"
"Don't worry yourself about that. I have matters well in hand. I've taken the liberty of sending a message to your partner and informing her that you're alright. Yumie survived the... incident. She's stationed in South America for the moment, looking into a few leads on this freak chip business."
"Danke. I appreciate that." She grunted. "This vasn't too high on my list of things I vas expecting vhen I voke up today."
"Iscariot will do what it must, as it has always done. Our daggers and poison will be needed more now than ever." Pushing himself to his feet, Maxwell headed for the doorway, pausing to half-turn towards her. "I have business to attend to. You understand. I will be in contact."
"Chief, vait. A favour," she called after him. He paused over the threshold, door held open just a crack. "Tell Yumiko I vant to talk to her. Or Yumie. Whichever of them is avake. Father Anderson, too."
"Certainly. Ciao, Heinkel."
The door closed with a click, leaving Heinkel alone with her thoughts.
So much to do, she thought to herself, unable to help but turn the television back on again. Stories of ruin and loss faced her. I have to get in touch with the people I know. I've got to get ahold of Yumie. Alex is alright; he was on the news with Maxwell. But the others... Psyber and the Agency; probably anybody else I have reason to work with...
She tried her multiversal radio, but it yielded only static. Heinkel closed her eyes.
I'm not ready to cast my thirty pieces of silver. Not yet.
Sighing unhappily, she sagged back onto her shapeless pillow.
The next few days, she decided, were going to be very, very long.