❯ Fratello – Chapter 3
Henrietta did not understand the feelings she was experiencing.
In the time that she had been with the Social Welfare Agency’s Section 2 and been partnered with Giuseppe, she had felt the full gamut of emotions young girls feel; happiness, sadness, joy, depression, excitement, boredom. Even when she was on missions, she still felt some fear, nervousness, and anger.
What she was feeling in this new body was totally new to her.
After the green light had faded, and she saw her handler laying at her feet unconscious, she automatically reacted. Stumbling over her Amati violin case, she slung it without a thought and picked up Guiseppe in her arms. Even though he was twice her mass, the cyborg was able to easily carry the older man. That is when she realized that something was different.
Once she lay the unconscious man on the ground safely behind a wall and checked his pulse and breathing, Henrietta began to examine herself. She really could not say how she knew, but her arms and legs seemed longer, as though a couple of years of growth had happened all at once. She felt lighter on her feet, as though with one jump she could leap into the sky. But there was one more surprise.
She apparently had bosoms now.
Henrietta was not the youngest of the girls at Section 2; that distinction belonged to Rico. But even Triela, the oldest of the girls, was barely starting to develop in the chest area. Triela and Claes still wore training bras, as their chests had not required much support yet.
Not only did Henrietta have a chest now, she was wearing a brassiere as well. She could feel the straps on her shoulders and back.
Looking down at the twin mounds under her green jacket and white blouse, Henrietta stared at them for a moment before snapping out of it. Her new body’s exploration could wait for another time. Giuseppe needed her help.
Kneeling down, Henrietta checked his pulse and breathing again. Hearing cries and screams far off in the distance, she pulled her violin case around and opened it, intending to retrieve some extra magazines for her pistol. The sight of the amount of arms and munitions in the case brought her to an abrupt halt.
The normal carry load for a cyborg was a pistol, two spare magazines, and a knife. Shoulder weapons were kept nearby if trouble was expected. The amount of ammo in this case however, was only carried if they were going to perform a large-scale raid, or if they were going to away from resupply for a while.
Hearing the screams getting closer, and what sounded like the howls of wild animals joining in, Henrietta was starting to get very nervous. She was alone with her unconscious handler, in an unknown location, with what appeared to be an altered body.
Crouching down to get close to Guiseppe’s face, Henrietta was struck by the changes. The kindly slightly rounded face under his dark brown hair was now thinner, with what appeared to be the beginning of laugh lines at the corners of his eyes.
As the howls got closer, Henrietta placed her hand on Guiseppe’s shoulder and began to gently shake him awake. « Guiseppe, Guiseppe, please wake up, » she pleaded, frightened by the possibility that the inbound hostiles might overrun them if she was slowed by carrying Guiseppe.
Hearing Guiseppe groan as he began to wake up was one of the most welcome sounds she had heard. She watched as he opened his eyes and focused them on her. They opened wide for a few moments before he focused on her again and giving a short, abrupt nod, as if mentally confirming what he was seeing.
Once he had gotten up and asked for her to report, Henrietta felt to be back on safe ground. Covering the high points, she felt warm inside as he asked about her. She never failed to feel that when he showed his concern for her well-being.
But this warmth felt. . . different. It was not happiness that Guiseppe approved of her actions. And when she thought about it, it had not started when he asked about her. It began when he had taken her hand to help him stand up.
And after she did her experimental back flip, the warmth got worse. She had not realized that he would see under her skirt, and the realization was almost caused her face to burn brightly. It was only after a discreet pat revealed that she was wearing tight shorts under the skirt did she calm down. Thinking quickly, Henrietta showed Guiseppe the violin case with the extra weapons and munitions to get her mind off of her inadvertent show.
When Guiseppe asked why she had not investigated the activities around them and she had replied that her primary duty was to protect him, she began to realize something. The warmth she was feeling was somehow linked to her protection of her handler. And it seemed to have something to do with the close proximity between the two of them.
Were these feelings a physical reaction? It seemed that now that they were close or touched each other, the warmth in her chest would occur. It was not a warmth like she was overheating or had been out in the sun too long. It was like a warm blanket, something that felt good on a cold night.
Could this be part of her apparently rapid development? Henrietta had read how girls going through adolescence began to feel and experience emotions differently. She had not expected to go through this herself, as her operations before and after she was taken into the Social Welfare Agency had removed parts of her that would have been involved in her development.
Henrietta had always sought Guiseppe’s approval; his smile or praise would have her walking on air. But now she wanted more, she wanted this physical warmth that she was now feeling, a warmth that came from his touch.
Hearing that Guiseppe wanted to investigate what had happened to them, Henrietta pushed all this to the back of her mind. As always, protecting Guiseppe came first. Completing the assigned mission would take precedence after that. Sorting out these new feelings she was experiencing was something she could do later.
Slinging her violin case over her shoulder, Henrietta drew her SIG 239 and held it in a low ready position. Seeing Guiseppe look at the pistol in her hand with no expression on his face, she looked back at him and in a voice totally at odds with her appearance, stated with utter conviction, “My duty is to protect you Guiseppe, and I will do so.”
Guiseppe smiled faintly, and replied. “I know you will. And I will protect you as well.” Drawing his Five-seveN pistol he looked off toward the left, missing the blush that came over Henrietta’s face. Looking back at her, he said, “Let us go and see what that commotion is all about, shall we?”
Instinctively, Henrietta fell in beside Guiseppe as he started to move. The two began to walk toward what appeared to be the center of this town.
One of the first things Guiseppe learned when he was being trained as an member of the Carabinieri was to not show fear.
That was not to say that one could not feel fear. Fear was your body’s way of saying that you were in danger. What one had to do was to work past fear so that you could do what was necessary even when you were feeling that emotion.
But not showing fear was almost as important as intelligence. Because there were situations where you could not show that you were afraid.
Dealing with sources, so that they continued working for you.
Dealing with enemies, so they would not be emboldened to run roughshod over you and yours.
And perhaps the most important, dealing with your people. Nothing brought down morale and inspired panic like having a commander who was visibly afraid.
In Guiseppe’s case, there was a consideration beyond that. The cyborg girls were protective enough as it was. Seeing that their handlers were afraid was something that they did not want. It had not happened before, but it was believed that a situation like that could drive a cyborg into a killing frenzy, destroying anything and anyone they deemed a threat.
Guiseppe had seen something close to it when Henrietta wiped out a Pandania terror cell almost single-handedly. At least six confirmed kills in a minute and a half. And that was triggered by one of the terrorists pushing him around when he trying get some information by posing as a journalist.
So Guiseppe pushed his fear down to where Henrietta would not see it. He knew what they faced now and they would deal with it.
They were on the Hellmouth, and they were fighting vampires.
All Italian intelligence and security officers were briefed on the supernatural. What it was, what they were capable of, how to defend yourself. Responsibility for dealing with them was given to a special Carabinieri (paramilitary police) unit that worked closely with the Vatican. If any other agency made contact with the supernatural they were to withdraw and report it to headquarters, which would call out the special unit.
But according to that strange red-headed ghost girl, they were on a mystical convergence in California, that the energy given off by the convergence attracted supernatural creatures. Like vampires.
They had been walking for only a few minutes when a scantily clad red-headed girl had come up running up to them. Given how she was dressed, Guiseppe was reminded of some of the stories Hilshire had told them about working the Interpol child sex crimes unit in Amsterdam. He could see that she was no threat to them, but that did not keep Henrietta from turning so that she was between her and Guiseppe.
“Xander! Dawn! You’ve got to help me, there is strange magic going on and it’s affected most of the kids trick or treating tonight!” The girl came to a halt a couple of steps in front of them and managed to get her words out in one quick breath.
“Young lady, I do not know what you are talking about.” Both Guiseppe and Henrietta spoke fluent English, although they both still had faint accents.
“Ohmygod, you are under the spell too. First I turn into a ghost and Buffy turns into a noblewoman and now you two are. . .” The girl waved her hand at the two of them, unable to say any more.
“Look, magic exists, and you are on a mystical convergence called the Hellmouth, it puts out a lot of bad magic and it affects magic spells too. I think someone cast a spell on our costumes, and that’s why we were all affected.”
Guiseppe and Henrietta were looking at her in disbelief when they heard growling coming from the side. Turning, the three saw a small group of what looked to be miniature monsters coming toward them. It would have been laughable if the small wolves and Frankenstein monsters didn’t have real faces that showed wicked looking teeth and fangs.
Guiseppe and Henrietta had been bringing their guns to bear when the ghost screamed at them. “No, don’t hurt them!!! They’re little kids, they don’t know what they are doing, don’t shoot them!!!”
Guiseppe decided to give the ghost the benefit of the doubt. Looking over at the cyborg, he softly said, “Drive them off, non-lethal force only, Henrietta.”
Henrietta did not look happy at the order, but she carried it out anyway. With a shout, she jumped into the group and started to kick and punch at them, not using her full strength, but enough that the enspelled children were soon running off.
Once the young cyborg walked back to Guiseppe, they both looked at the red headed ghost again. “What was this about magic turning people into their costumes?” Guiseppe asked.
The girl explained that the two of them were under the same spell, that people wearing costumes were turned into what they were wearing. Henrietta did not take this well.
“You mean to say that were are not who we really are, that we are just. . . magical constructs?” Henrietta was turning pale. The red-headed ghost looked worried but nodded.
Henrietta dropped to her knees, hugging herself as she began to shiver. « I am not magic, I am a real girl, » she began repeating to herself. It looked like the events were causing the young girl to go into shock.
Slowly, Guiseppe dropped down beside her and put his hands on her shoulders. Seeing his charge’s tear streaked face turn up to look at him, he whispered « You are a real girl, my real girl. » With that Henrietta stopped shivering and hugged him tightly in return, a smile on her face.
After that, the ghost asked for their help. A friend of her’s had been transformed into an 18th century noblewoman, and was helpless against everything that was running around that night. The ghost had tried to lead her to safety, but the girl had screamed and run off.
Now Guiseppe and Henrietta were jogging at a ground-eating pace, following the red-headed ghost as they searched the area for her friend. The occasional monster they came across was driven off with some warning shots or a flying kick from Henrietta.
But now they had found the friend, and the situation did not look good. The girl was surrounded by a group of what looked like real vampires, led by a bleached blond male that looked like a punk rocker.
The red-headed ghost gasped as she saw who was holding her friend. « That’s Spike, he’s a Master Vampire. »
« What do we do now? » Asked Guiseppe, holding his pistol low. So far, the vampires had not seen them.
The red-headed ghost looked at them with fear in her eyes as she spoke.
« These ones you can kill. »
End Part Three