Frozen in Time
One year later.
She was on the ground panting, her arms felt like rubber, her legs strained under the consistency of movement. Panting heavily, the woman on the ground barely had the strength to grip the sword, let alone stand with it. Training everyday for hours; this was her routine for these last few months, but with how rigorous, dynamic, and intense the segments and lessons were she felt she had improved at least some.
Despite being at the bottom of the program for nearly every subject and segment, there were one or two she excelled at. Nevertheless, mastering less forms and techniques than are fingers on a single hand will not allow one to survive a fight. Luck was not something she could ever and would ever rely on, but this was brutal. In her years surviving, she did not realize how skills of surviving the social chess of the Game, were drastically different than not only surviving a battle, but also achieving victory.
The Reich was different than she imagined them to be at first, they were secretive, hiding in the shadows. Their small, but effective organization truly was a greater adversary than the Last Stand. While the human resistance know as the Last Stand Army, or LSA for short, were freedom fighters, using guerrilla tactics to fight the Empire, the Reich was its polar opposite. Where some battles are won in the light, others are fought in the shadows.
“Get up, Harvey!” Commanded the instructor, a man of advanced age.
He was once a comrade of the Special Forces operations in Russia, but has lived far longer than than most modern day countries. Turned in the later years of his life, he was in his late forties, his silver nearly white hair distinct in his braided beard and on the boarders where his face meet his hairline. The harsh winters of Siberia aged him greatly, giving him an unnecessary decade in his appearance that would have the unknowing believe him to be even older.
His name was Yuri, but if one did not call him ‘Sir’ then they would be sorry. He was brutal, merciless, it did not matter the age, race, or sex, he was quite an equal opportunist in his training. Despite this, whether or not his trainees noticed or cared to notice, he was very careful in his instruction. His control of his power and strength varied from one student to the next. As they improved, he would adjust accordingly, but would always push someone to their absolute limits. Yuri wanted them to be prepared for as many outcomes as possible...he has seen far too many people fall because they were not ready to fight. If they did not have his approval, they would not be given missions.
“Fight!” Instructor Yuri shouted as he swung his sword at her, she narrowly parried him.
He only used one hand, intending to antagonize his student, taking one step at a time.“Fight like your life depended on it!”
She was tired, her finger strength drained, her body at its limit, “Do you think they will show you mercy?” He asked swinging at an angle to send vibrations into her arms, “If you cannot control your power, you are weak and it is weakness that is the cause of death, not in yourself, but in your comrades!”
He swept his feet under her legs, tripping her. She rolled on the ground, then was kicked into the wall. His student rose to a knee, colliding with his steel, “If you do not take this fight seriously, then out there, you will be the one who has killed your comrades.”
She gritted her teeth, pushing against the sword, slowly forcing her way up—she pivoted, let go of her two-handed grip on the handle. Instructor Yuri’s blade slid down the length of her blade, sticking into the ground. She reached with her free hand, aiming to grab the back of his neck—an elbow shot into her gut and sent her flying twenty feet.
“Not good enough!” He shouted, stepping on the blade of the dropped sword, “You would be dead right now if I had taken you—!”
He looked at his hand, realizing it was much lighter than before—he wielded a sword much less than it was before. Broken, the blade had remains of blood, but he was unharmed. Instructor Yuri looked to where his student had been; she was in front of him, swinging the broken blade in her bloodied hand. When she had reached for him, her target was not his neck after all—she anticipated being over powered and used her angle and his strength to snap the blade. She thought three steps ahead, but even with skill and power, if one lacked conviction all is for naught.
Instructor Yuri kicked up the sword at his feet with the dirt that accompanied it. Distracted, his student missed, allowing him to come behind, push her to the ground and place the remaining blade of his sword at her neck.
“Yuri!” Called the masked Pureblood King, leader of the Reich and a man the student had little trust in, “Thank you for training our little sparrow, however—I would advice you let me take over at this point.” Gestured the King.
Yuri placed more of his weight into his student, seeing the glow of the Stigma. He looked to the King, “Keep the damage to a minimum please—it took three days to clean up her mess last time.”
She began to push up.
“Keep an eye on this one—she may not be trouble, but the other one is.” The instructor advised disappearing from on top of the student.
Shooting up, the fanged student growled at the King, the Stigma glowing bright and hot at the vines because to stretch across her neck.
“Your sister is not here to tame you and so it falls to me, but this cannot go on forever.” The King said to the pacing woman.
“You Purebloods are all the same.” Harvey huffed, “You think you can control everyone, that you can control me—I won’t go back! I won’t be chained down!”
The King held out his arms, “I am not here to confine you, I am here to teach you to control yourself. If you let your vampire run rampant you will cause the same pain and suffering onto others that was inflicted upon you.”
Harvey clenched her fists.
“You cannot control your vampire because of your fear.” He collided with the vampire’s fist, “Fear is what controls you.”
The vampire vanished, coming from behind, “I’m not afraid!” She growled kicking at him, her attacks parried every time, “Not of you—” She glared, “Not of anyone.”
The King grabbed her, pushed her into the ground and stood on her.
“Then why did you not kill Carmilla?”
He was thrown off, grabbed mid-air and slammed into the wall, “Now now, you should know better than to mention that name.” She said clicking her tongue, “Your very existence is aggravating, but you’re digging yourself a deeper grave—”
A fist slammed into her gut, she cringed, curling over to her knees. The King brought his knee up into her jaw to bring her back up. He grabbed her, spun them around and threw her across the ground.
She got back up, “Fucking—” Harvey was grabbed by her face, she jumped, rotating her arms and legs around the King’s twisting violently until he lost the muscle and bone to hold her.
Jumping back, she grabbed a sword discarded from earlier, “Think again.” She said spitting out blood.
She watched the King’s arm twist back and heal rapidly, but did not wait for it to finish. Rotating the sword for its blade to face the back of her arm, she charged, dropping low and swing high. The King dodged the blade, but the vampire had grabbed him by the belt and pulled him off balance. He crossed his forearm, his arms covered in diamond, cracking the blade.
“Hmph.” The vampire sounded annoyed, she stepped up her speed, bouncing zig-zag all around him, quick, shallow strikes to chip away at the rock shield.
Her foot was caught by rock, locking her in place, making her off balance by the sudden stop. The King fronted her, grabbed her by the throat he rose her then slammed her into the ground causing her body to make a crater. She hacked blood during the blow, her body reaching its limit. Stepping on her chest, the King did not allow for Harvey to move, but at the same time, he succeeded in beating down the vampire.
“Are you alright?” He asked lifting his foot.
Coughing, the Stigma began to darken and retract its influence, causing noticeable changes in her appearance.
“Fuck—” She responded, causing a small smile on the King’s hidden face, “That hurt—”
He offered his hand, gently helping her to her feet. Rubbing her chest, she coughed more, feeling her broken ribs healing, “How long this time?”
“Eight minutes, thirty-seven seconds. You beat your old time by fifty-three seconds.” He explained, supporting her as her body healed.
Sighing, “That’s it? Shit...its been six months and I still can’t control it.”
“Do not make light of your accomplishments—a few months ago you could not control your vampire without Lily or myself, now you can when given the time.” The King noted aloud for her not to doubt herself, “You do not have an ordinary circumstance: one’s vampire is usually the instinctual desire of that person, yours was formed from the emotions you felt as you turned. Anger and hatred are harder to control than desire.”
Able to stand straight, without support she looked around, “Instructor Yuri is gonna kill me—”
“Do not worry about him, he knows what he must about your condition and has done well to train you accordingly.” The Pureblood assured when leaving the training area, heading into the halls of the hide out.
Knowing the woman to be in low spirits, he shared with her news he knew would do just the thing.
“Relocation will begin in a few days, Lily and the forward party have already secured the next location, but there are reports of possible probes in the area.” He continued, “I thought you may go ahead and join your sister in verifying the truth of these reports.”
Harvey looked at him, “You sure that’s a good idea? I haven’t even finished the training program.”
“Sometimes the best training is experience, but despite Yuri’s best intentions, we do not fight on the front lines. We exist in the shadows, something you are already ahead of your peers in.” He explained seeing the Doctor Sanders walking toward them.
“Ah Alucard, good to see you didn’t beat her to death.” She said sarcastically, looking to the tears and dried blood coming from the other woman, “Just halfway.”
“Don’t hate on him too much.” Harvey defended, “Its not like I can control it.”
Frowning, the doctor rolled her eyes and looked to Harvey, “If you’re done there is something I wish you would assist me with.”
Nodding to the doctor, the Pureblood King, who few know his name to be Alucard, took his leave. They would meet later, when her task was finished to get the details of her mission and head out with another advance team to meet with her sister. Emily watched the Pureblood walk away, waiting until he was far enough to allow her professional demeanor to drop like a stone in water.
“What an aggravating man.” She rolled her eyes, “Come on, time for a check up.”
Groaning, “Seriously? That’s what you wanted me for? We just had one last week!”
Strutting to her office in her heels Emily gestured for her to follow, “Come on, the sooner we get done, the sooner you get to go run off and play solider.”
Jogging to catch up, “You confuse me with my sister, I’m not the ‘follow orders blindly’ type.”
“Thankfully you still have some common sense. I take it that’s a sore subject between the two of you?” They turned the corner and the door slid open automatically and locked behind them per Emily’s own programming.
Nodding as she removed her training shirt, “Lil trusts and believes in Alucard completely. Believes his every word and practically worships the ground he walks on. He saved her, raised her, hell he’s been more of a father than our own ever was.”
“Does that worry you?” Emily asked, placing her hand on the woman’s bare neck.
Shrugging, “I don’t know, maybe its just me being paranoid. Its just...I really don’t know how to deal with this still, I mean she’s my sister, but...”
“She’s a complete stranger?”
She was quiet at that questioning statement. Emily grabbed out a bottle and gave it to the bare-chest woman sitting on the examination table. Looking at the label, it was surreal to see her name on it, to see it spelled out.
Noticing the woman’s staring, Emily continued the conversation when behind, “Still getting used to it?”
A year had passed and still she had not gotten used to being called by it.
“Yeah, it doesn’t feel real.”
“Lily still gives me a dirty look every time I mix the names up.” Emily said causing a chuckle from the woman in front, “Its a pain in the ass, I spent almost fifteen years knowing Kira now I get to know Avery.”
“I’d like to think I’m the same person, but...”
Avery was a child who was born in Missouri to two loving parents. She lived with her twin sister and those same parents on military bases until their father took them all away. Avery was immortalized as a seven child who was frozen in that single moment. From that moment, for the next thirteen years she was locked in that moment while Kira Nightraven lived in her place. And now, free at last, the world she knows, the people she loved are not frozen in that moment. They grew up, changed and now Avery seemed to have become more of a stranger to herself than even Lily.
Her sister was much like how they were as children: protective, caring, motherly almost, but she was also drastically different. She was not frozen as Avery had been. More reckless and quick to violence, she was without fear against an enemy and was seemingly unaffected by the environment of a battlefield.
When she fought, she was not the sister the younger twin remembered her as. Confident, powerful, she was merciless against her enemies, but also a motivating leader to her comrades. She was not patient, that however had not changed, but preferred violence to diplomacy when handling vampires. Most of all, she hated any and all Purebloods not Alucard; the Tepes family in particular she held a burning hatred for, but that was for the state of the world, not for what happened to her sister. Avery, choose to spare Lily many details, defending the Tepes almost, that her treatment was quiet good.
The sisters were getting to know one another for the first time. Despite the years apart, the differences in how they were raised by who; appearance was not the only thing they shared: foods, habits, they seemed to know what the other was thinking when together. Still, Lily often complained how Avery was too considerate of vampires; not everyone deserves a chance to do good. To Lily, Alucard is the only one she believes is the definition of a ‘good vampire’. This leads partly into why the Kira, does not trust Alucard, but Avery wants to.
The child that was frozen in time, never had a chance to grow up.
“You can still call me Kira if you want.” Emily heard when placing her hand on the woman’s back.
She had gotten more muscular since they came to the Reich. Their vigorous workout and training regiment forced her to physically develop more than when among the Palace. Thought Lily and she were twins in appearance, physically their muscle development varied—Lily had a great deal of build up in her core and forearms, but the ladder had her traps and laps increase. Despite their emphasis on sword training, Avery preferred and focused more on her mastery of the bow and arrow.
Emily traced the outlines of the woman’s muscles, mesmerized by the hard work and pain she endures for power. It was a genuine reason, one not seen, especially for those who have experienced great suffering at the hands of the vampire. This woman seeks only to protect her sister, her family miraculously brought back from the brink of death by Alucard. She aged, an ex-human who had not fully transitioned as an immortal. Perhaps it was for the principle of the Reich, but there are plenty of ex-humans who have fully transitioned. Maybe it was to stay the same as her sister, wanting to age, hoping that one day they would be together.
It was a poetic tragedy.
Would she have a place among the lines of the song of this woman’s life?
The doctor came back to her full attention, realizing how low her hand had gone. She was beginning to become more and more as a vampire; living, sculpted marble. And yet, even these scars on her back seemed to be a detail to the canvas that was unique and beautiful in their own way.
After opening the first lock, Avery’s vampiric abilities had been allowed to circulate more freely in her body. The second lock however, proved to be difficult for her to control, too much in fact, for a critical amount of time. Emily had noticed how hard she tried, but these examinations were not only for her personal entertainment: she was the first person to have survived the Stigma, especially this long. Everything she does; every change of hair, every increase in power, is uncharted waters for the doctor.
She set down the tablet to the table beside her, wanting to perform a closer, hands on, examination.
“I quite like it.” Emily said tracing between the woman’s shoulder blades, “It suits you. Your name, do you know what it means?”
Avery shook her head slightly.
“In French it means wise.” The doctor frowned, “They were cruel to name you ‘Kira’—it means dark; killer.” Her hands traced the raises of the scars on her back. “I like knowing the ladder, being the only one of them to know and call you by your true name. Its like a secret only I know.”
Chuckling, “We don’t have much of those anymore do we?” Avery stretched her arms forward as instructed when the doctor came around front.
“Enough to make a girl feel special.”
All her life whether as Avery or as Kira, she has gone to Emily for nearly everything. Well beyond the scope of a doctor’s duties, they were very close. Enough so that there were things she told Emily, that no other soul would know about, expect of course, many details about her childhood. Those she allowed Eona to know even before Emily and it annoyed the doctor, like sand caught in one’s underwear, constantly aggravating at the most inconvenient of times and places. Thankfully, there was no further chance of that.
“What?” Emily asked, noting the stares she had from the half-naked woman in front of her.
“I was simply wondering how long you’re going to play the doctor card.” Avery said lightly.
Smiling, “Oh, that was partly true, I did have to give you your new medication.” Explained the doctor, watching as Avery stood and approached her.
“But?” She asked with a raised brow
Emily chuckled, “You also seem to know when I’m hiding something.”
“Don’t we all?” Asked Avery with a smirk.
Shrugging nonchalantly, “Indeed, unfortunately there are somethings we are not ready to share with another. I hope one day there will be no need for that.”
“You know me better than myself, what could I possibly have left I haven't told you?” Avery asked huffing in amusement, “Hell you’ve probably seen me naked more than anyone else.”
The comment made the both of them laugh. Having no further need of a physical examination Emily reached into her lab coat and removed the box of smokes. She popped one up to grab with her teeth.
“You know second-hand smoke is bad for people.” Avery commented putting on her shirt.
The doctor shrugged, “I know, but its not like its ever been around a patient that could actually be affected by it.” She said dragging another pull of the cigarette, scratching her head when blowing it out.
“Thank you.” Avery wrinkled her nose when tightening her belt on her pants.
“If I had a list and two weeks I wouldn’t be done with the reasons I have to thank you.” The woman replied in half-joking seriousness.
Leaning her head on her knees, “Please, you’re practically my Guinea Pig, I say its a fair trade.” Emily jested, “Besides, that’s what friends are for.”
“Just friends?” Avery laughed, grabbing two water bottles and walking back to the bed, “You know I’ve never asked how you ended up in the Empire.” She offered a bottle and sat at the foot of the bed.
Extinguishing her smoke, Emily graciously took the offering, leaning back against the raised bed. Avery would be going to the command center after this, going ahead while the doctor was forced to remain back as senior medical chief. It was a responsibility she did not care to have, however, it gave her the liberty and resources to do as pleased, continuing to develop her drugs and carry out her experiments.
Avery was as much as a distraction for Emily as Emily was a relief for her. She did not like being apart from the other woman. Avery is the only one she associated with and trusted within the walls of the Reich, a feeling of being trapped in a box always hovered over her whenever here. The only relief was the company of a friendly, familiar face, even Avery’s sister proved to be a pale similarity, but enough to feel comfortable around.
“You tell me your opinion of the Tepes and I’ll tell you how I ended up in their service.” Emily flicked the cigarette bud at Avery’s head.
Emily kicked her, “Told you we all have secrets, hell Car—” It was too late, the name already came out and instantly soured the mood, “Anyway—I’ve done my daily annoyance of the king so you best be off, otherwise he may send a search party after you. Hell knows he rarely takes his eyes off you or your sister.”
Silently Avery nodded, throwing on her jacket she slipped the bottle into her pocket and unlocked the door.
“See you in a couple days.” She said over her shoulder before the door slid shut behind her, locking her out and Emily in.
For a moment Avery stood outside the door, pausing while staring at the wall in front. To think she was able to go a whole month without thinking about her, thinking about the last time she had seen the vampriess. Avery may have been frozen in time, but at that moment, her hands around the throat of someone she admitted to caring about, it was Kira who became locked in place.
Walking down the empty hallway, Avery pushed the thoughts of her, of Eona, Jake; her whole life in the Palace to the back of her mind. That part of her life was over, there was no going back, she made that choice when she fought to protect her sister. No one, not the Tepes, not Alucard, not God himself would have her change her choice to protect her sister.
Family would always come first. Avery was not a helpless child anymore, she was an adult, one with the power to protect. If only she could control it—at the very least, her vampire had a preference of Pureblood vampires and never attacked Lily. Stopping in the hallways, she looked out the window, to the hanger where hundreds of people were loading up supplies to make their move. Every month they would change locations, never digging in one place too long. It was no wonder the Empire could never locate the Reich.
Avery did not consider herself a part of the Reich, though she was trained by them, fed, sheltered and clothed—they were a benefactor. Her allegiance was to Lily alone, nevertheless, she kept close to Alucard, but only by Lily’s presence. Hunting Pureblood vampires and undermining the rule of the Empire was not her objective, she wanted only to be with her sister and help humans where she could. It was a false hope, that leaving the Palace would also allow her to leave the Game: the Game was everywhere and it never ended, you simply moved onto a different board.
Playing this Game, the Game of War, was not something Avery desired. Everyday was a risk to Lily, was a risk to more and more lives of innocent people. If she had to make a choice, it would be to go to the Last Stand, to fight for humans, to free them from slavery. Alucard and Lily, however, were ‘bigger picture’ people, Avery saw their actions as a zealous crusade against the Empire. They believed that by killing all Purebloods, by cutting off the greatest source of vampires, humanity would be safe.
To Avery and to Kira, this was a war where no one would win.