November 26th, 2007

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After 314 Part 2 of 6

Disclaimer: Legal stuff, don't own characters, haven't made any money, this is for entertainment purposes, no profit earned, lawyers go away. –kisses-

Emails are welcome as are honest reviews. I respond to all correspondence.

Spoiler Alert: There are tidbits from past episodes and especially BTVS: Primeval.

Notes: Story number One in the Spanderverse-universe. This is VERY Riley-centric. This story has 6 chapters.

Everything from the television series through the defeat of Adam also occurred as depicted, in the Spanderverse.

People’s thoughts are depicted in italics. You’ll find emphasis depicted with an underline. Scene or POV switches are handled with a string of o’s.

Thanks to the authors of Fanfiction, wherever you may post. It’s probable that I’ve read at least one of your stories somewhere. I apologize for recycling concepts inadvertently from the plenitude of stories I’ve read.

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Spanderverse: After 314

Chapter 2/6: Return to the Initiative

 

POV: Riley Finn, mostly. A little Graham and various soldiers.

 
 

Riley sat in the lead Humvee as their convoy crossed through town toward the dorm that had been his temporary home. He hadn’t always been a soldier there. Sometimes he was just Riley Finn, PA to the psychology professor, Dr. Maggie Walsh. It seemed like another life time. Maybe it was; maybe it was from a life when he could still be naïve and believe whole-heartedly in his government and the integrity of the people supporting and directing him in his fight to stop the HSTs from snacking on the populace. 


Those days were long gone now, though. He’d discovered that Maggie, the woman he respected more than anyone in the Initiative, even Graham and Forrest, wasn’t what she had appeared to be. Oh, she was human, but sometimes they made the most vicious monsters.

 

His thoughts hop scotched across the last few months. Discovering Buffy’s special abilities was one of the most amazing things he’d come across yet. That this petite girl with the gorgeous smile could go toe to toe with anything Riley himself had fought was nothing less than amazing. The fact that she was excited to join his team, fighting side by side with him made him happier then he’d ever been. He wondered what his mother would think of her.

 

But then dreams tended to get shattered, and his did. It turned out that not only was Dr. Walsh creating a hodgepodge monster, not only was she experimenting on Riley himself, but she had tried to trick Buffy into getting killed. Seeing her stammering out that Buffy was dead, as sympathetic as she could manage, seeing her concern for him in her eyes and then to find out it was all a lie she had set up herself was almost more than he could take.

 

He’d stomped away from her after that and hadn’t spoken to her again. He couldn’t even imagine how Dr. Walsh thought she was going to explain it away while she was calling out to him. He’d never hit a woman, except in practice hand-to-hand with fellow soldiers, but he could have belted her at that moment. For just a split second, he'd wanted to see the look on her face after his fist crashed into her jaw. Mrs. Finn raised him right though, so he’d just gotten away from her as fast as he could without running.

 

The Humvees pulled into the dorm parking lot, gathering stares all the way. Riley shook the thoughts of Maggie and his hurt over her betrayal away. Like his grief for Forrest, it would need to wait.

 

There were mouths hanging open all around them as they leaped from the vehicles in full combat gear. The medical transports were already unloading personnel and stretchers. He could hear medics giving orders to other medics and orderlies so they’d be prepared for any trauma that was about to come out of the dorm doors.

 

In the meantime, he was having some of the greener looking troops evacuate all the floors of the dorm. He’d leave them to block access and to guard their rears as they exited from below, in case any monsters were chasing them as they escorted the survivors (and he still expected, no demanded, that there would be survivors) out. The instruction to the college kids was simple, this was a matter of national security and they were to exit without delay. They’d be kept out of the building until such time as they, Riley’s troops, allowed them back in. There’d be no wasting of time answering questions, or responding to indignant protests. Anyone trying to obstruct them in any way for any length of time would be placed in military custody and turned over to the F.B.I. (that part being a lie, but it seemed a good touch) for investigation. Sunnydale was pretty generous with the admission grants (gee, kinda obvious why in hindsight, he thought) and the threat of the F.B.I.’s involvement would probably scare the foreign students into complying without a fuss.

 

As the evacuation was going on, local law enforcement arrived to take over crowd control. Riley wanted to ask what they’d been told, but it wasn’t worth wasting the time trying to figure out a way to bring it up naturally that wouldn’t tip his hand that he didn’t know what the cover story was going to be. When he left the base, Colonel Jacobs was on the phone debating cover stories with some spook in D.C.

 

Probably was someone in the F.B.I., actually, it occurred to Riley.

 

Leaving two men and/or women behind from each team gave Riley eighteen soldiers to investigate the labs below their feet. He led the group single file down the dorm hallway to the wall mirror which acted as their elevator entrance. It had been smashed open recently by Buffy when she went into the Initiative after Adam and a double thick length of plywood had been placed over the breach. On the panel was a notice:

 

 

 WARNING: Government Property of the United States, No Trespassing, BEWARE: Falling Danger Present. Tampering with this notice is punishable by up to a $20,000 fine and 5 Years Imprisonment’.

 

 

Riley walked to the right side of the plywood while Mason took the left. They pulled hammers from the identical backpacks that everyone on the team wore. Prying the wood from where it had been nailed into the walls, Graham and a boy called Parsons pulled the wood from the opening. They passed it back along the line until it reached the back of it. These were the six that would remain here on the ground floor while the others rappelled down the shaft of the elevator. He’d placed a corporal, Melinda Danners from Seattle in charge of that group. From there, the plywood was manhandled into a corner to wait for their exit from the mission.

 

Riley took a look over the edge with Mason and Graham. He turned back toward the line of soldiers waiting for his order and placed a finger over his lips, signaling them to quiet the chatter they had going. He turned toward Mason who was leaning out over the shaft, listening for sounds of any kind.

 

When Mason stood back from the edge and shook his head ‘no’, Riley turned to the line of soldiers again. This time they were all silent, waiting for his instructions.

 

“Alright,” he said toward them, trying to make eye contact with each. “Is anyone unclear of which team their on?”

 

When he received no response, he went on. “We’re going to rappel three at a time. Kirk, Graham and I will go first. The elevator is stuck on the sub-basement floor. We’ll go in through the ceiling hatch. You’re to wait until you receive an all clear from me. That’ll mean we’ve got the elevator doors pried open if we need to and that we have a defensive position around the car staked out.

 

“As each three man team exits the car, they’ll form another perimeter in a semi-circle around the car two feet in front of the team before them.” He took a deep breath, his mind running through scenarios and floor plans as he spoke again.

 

“My team will head for Operations, it’s the most heavily fortified and if they got the security doors down, there may be people there. Graham’s team will hit medical first, then do a sweep toward the armory. Kirk’s team: head off to the left, you’ll see a door marked 314 on it. You’re to get through that door however you need to. Do a sweep of the inner labs.

 

“Let me make this clear, rescue and escort back up here is our primary goal. But, some of these… creatures, animals, demons, whatever term you’re most comfortable with, can look human. You are not, under any circumstances, to approach anyone you find alive until they’ve been checked by your team lead or Mason. Anything looking non-human is considered hostile and you have authority to shoot to kill. Any vampires, i.e. humans with the bumpy foreheads and fangs can be hurt by your guns, but not killed as you’ve been briefed. Use water pistols (these were the only special equipment that Riley had insisted upon and they were far more powerful and had a larger reservoir then the toys kids played with). They have holy water in them. It’ll act like acid on the creeps. Now let’s go, no one is coming out of there less than in one piece… is that clear?”

 

He received a chorus of hearty, but whispered, “yes, sirs”. And then he was in the shaft with Kirk and Graham moving downward along their rappelling cables.

 

Kirk reached the bottom a few seconds ahead of Riley and found the door to the elevator slightly ajar. It was enough that he could see if anything was standing right outside the doors. It was clear. No sounds emanated from the cavernous space beyond, which in itself made him nervous.

 

There should be something… growls, shuffling, moans of the injured, something should be making noise out there, yet it remained silent. Like a damn tomb, he thought to himself.

 

As Riley reached the bottom, Kirk leaned in close, his lips nearly brushing his ear, “Too quiet. Nothing moving.”

 

Riley gave a quick nod of his head, then Kirk was kneeling in front of the parted elevator doors as close as he could get without the muzzle of the semi-automatic rifle he carried pointing through. He had a strange look on his face, which Riley thought might be disgust.

 

As Graham made it to the bottom, and he and Riley approached the doorway, Kirk’s look became understandable. Carried on the air that was still being automatically circulated by huge blowers hidden in the walls was the smell of death. A smell Riley unfortunately recognized. It was the smell of blood, and entrails, and human waste. Clearly, there were going to be a lot of bodies lying around. He’d known that of course, but somehow he’d been so focused on finding the live ones, that he’d just ignored the death they were about to wade through.

 

He thought again about the young men and women that would soon be following them down. He wished he’d thought to warn them that there were a lot of people dying when he left. They’d probably have had the same reaction as him though, not really giving it too much mind until this smell hit them. He could only hope that they’d keep their minds on the job, like they’d been trained.

 

He tapped Kirk and Graham on the shoulders and nodded toward the door. Immediately they took positions on each side of the doorway and reached their hands through the gap. Finding purchase they strained to open the elevator doors further to allow them to pass while Riley kept his gun ready. If it was a vampire, he’d hit it in the face and give one of the guys time to grab the holy-water to finish it off. As the doors screeched open, making far too much noise for comfort, no beasts assaulted them, however.

 

Once the doors were open, Graham and Kirk readied their own weapons. They glanced back at Riley, who gave a quick nod of his head. Kirk was the first through the door and he took three wide steps to the left and dropped to one knee. His weapon was sweeping the area in front of them, but there remained no movement.

 

Graham was right on the heels of Kirk, but he took three wide steps to the right. Dropping to one of his knees, he assumed an exact copy of the position Kirk was taking. Graham scanned the upper stairways and catwalks, but other than a few bodies, saw nothing.

 

Riley followed his two team members out of the elevator. Walking forward, he stopped a half foot behind his two soldiers. Scanning the area, he also found nothing moving. Although he was appalled at the bodies lying around, easily a dozen or more in his line of sight, he felt nothing. He was in full combat mode now and it would be unlikely he'd 'feel' anything until he was back on the base. He knew tonight there'd be nightmares, but that was for later.

 

He clicked on his shoulder mike, "Team positioned, all quiet. Begin your descents."

 

"Copy that." Mason responded from the floor above.

 

It took twenty-two minutes for the other fifteen soldiers to make it down, and then assume the semi-circle defensive stance Riley had ordered. He considered that pretty good considering the inexperienced team he was dealing with.

 

He was equally impressed when none of the 'kids' under his immediate command became sick. There were quite a few who looked a bit green around the gills, but they were holding it together.

 

Riley gave one last look through the team, tapped Kirk on the shoulder and waved him away. Kirk gave a short, sharp whistle and his team fell in behind him. They moved off toward the 314 labs. As they passed the "operating pit", Kirk pulled up short. His team began firing into the pit for several seconds.

 

 

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While this was occurring, Graham's team had also moved out. As they were moving into position, Graham had Mason take one 'man' with him and check the catwalks that ran along the upper walls surrounding the Initiative. They led mostly to alternate elevator accesses for the engineers. There were also a few personal offices belonging to support staff and the environmental and engineering monitoring rooms were off a passageway built into the walls up there as well. Graham wasn't expecting survivors, but it seemed like they should check anyway.

 

After Mason had taken Jacqueline Alvarez and departed, Graham led the remaining three members of his team toward the medical bay and physician's office. He glanced back as they proceeded to see Riley's team half way across the huge expanse of the Initiative main floor, headed toward Operations and the small prisoner cells off a hallway nearby. Graham knew Riley had been held back in those cells until just before everything went to hell. Frankly, he was worried about what was going to happen to Finn after this operation. Was he going to stay, maybe rebuild a special unit? He didn't know. He expected, and feared, that he'd leave the military to stay behind with his chick. Ever since he'd gotten involved with Blondie, Riley just wasn't thinking like the soldier he'd come up through the ranks with. He didn't like the direction he was taking.

 

He wouldn't say any of these things to former-agent Finn, though. He was a quiet guy who kept his own council, but that didn't mean that a lot of stuff wasn't going on under the cool exterior. He genuinely respected Riley, but thought that he was acting really whipped lately. He'd seemed to have gotten worse since the Forrest thing and the revelations that they'd all been taking some sort of experimental supplements unknown to them.

 

Graham was a bit pissed at Walsh too. On the other hand, he'd always been pragmatic and whatever she was working on, it had made him a better soldier. His physical fitness tests under the Doctor's command had shown incremental improvements in strength, reflexes and endurance so he could forgive her (may she rest in peace) for not telling them about it up front.

 

Graham reached the doorway that would lead to the medical bay. He knew they'd reach the dispensary first and then a series of examination rooms. He didn't expect to find anything in those rooms, but they’d have to be checked.

 

 

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Riley's team trotted across the expanse of the main section of the Initiative. Behind him he heard a few of his men falter in step as they tried to see what Kirk’s team had been firing at in the pit. He already knew. When he and the Scoobies had run out this same way, he'd looked in the pit to see Dr. Cantelli lying in a pool of blood. Around him were the barbed coils of a Rah-Shansee demon's tentacles. The creature had been dragging him toward the wall of the pit. Even as the gang was racing toward the elevators to get out, the Rah-Shansee was trying to use those tentacles to haul itself out of the pit it was trapped in. It would never make it, he didn't think at the time. That particular demon had topped nine-hundred pounds and they'd had to use a crane to lower it into the surgery bay. It was just assumed that the creature would be coming out in dissected parts. He didn't think it would have the leverage to pull itself up along the wall and he felt a little bit of satisfaction at having been right.

 

After a handful of seconds to give the soldiers a look at what they were going to be facing in living color Riley yelled back at them to keep moving. As he approached the doorway leading to the operation's suite, he saw with relief that someone inside had been able to lower the heavy steel security door.

 

Someone's alive. At least one person is going to be rescued. It's probably not the Colonel. I think I saw him go down out here, wonder where the body went? It could be Samuelson, maybe Brubacker or Destuvic too.

 

Riley ripped the emergency panel away from the wall. Behind it was a series of wires and circuitry. He studied them carefully, calling up his memorized plans of the layout of the doorway's controls. The panel had been installed shortly after the first vampire had been brought into the facility. The fact that the beast could 'morph' their visage into a human's had upset Dr. Walsh and she'd insisted on extra security precautions to protect operations and that would give them someplace to retreat in case of a containment breach by the hostiles.

 

She and Doctor A. never got to use it though, Riley shook his head.

 

The panel was designed to resist tampering with a small explosive charge hidden deep in the wall. It would blow outward, taking out an opponent's face while leaving the bulk of the protection for the room behind intact. Riley was going to have to disconnect and reconnect a series of seven wires in the right order, without accidentally disconnecting any of the other wires or damaging any of the sensitive circuits they attached too. Either action would lead to him being taken back upstairs without his face.

 

After a tense five minutes, the security door slid up out of the way. He tried the office door handle, but it was, of course, locked. He was readying to try to kick it in, despite its reinforced lock, when a young redhead, Private Banks stepped up to him.

 

"'Scuse me, Sir. I don't think you’re gonna be kickin' that there door down. If'n you let me in there for a few, I'm sure I c'n get us in there right quick," he said.

 

A black and heavily built guy, Lemont Washington, said low, "Show him how it's done Pick."

 

Riley glanced back, then looked again at Banks, "Pick?"

 

"Jus' a lil' knick-name from a misspent youth, Sir." He had what Riley could only describe as the grin of the cat that ate the canary.

 

Returning the grin, Riley stepped aside with a wry "I'm glad you've decided to use your powers for good."

 

Banks, still grinning, knelt down beside the doorknob. From his boot he pulled a small black and supple leather case. When he opened it up, Riley saw about a half dozen lock picks that were definitely not regulation.

 

Banks glanced up at Riley, "Never leave home wit'out 'em Colonel. Like 'Merican Express. Ya' never know when you'll need 'em."

 

Banks turned back to the doorknob while the rest of the soldiers milled about. Riley himself was keeping one eye on Bank's progress, and the other on the rest of the room. He hadn't seen any demons that weren't already dead and that bothered him. He knew Adam had found a way to get into and out of Maggie's secret lab behind 314, including via the ducts. He wanted to believe that the other demons hadn't also found a way out, but he might be wrong. He'd fully expected the demons to be milling about out here, eating the corpses or fighting among each other… whatever demons did when they weren't busy killing people. They hadn't gotten out through any of the elevator entry points along the shaft. Graham, Kirk and him had checked on their way down.

 

It seemed less then a minute, but may have been all of two when Banks gave a triumphant sound and twisted the door handle open. Riley grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back as he was about to walk in. He didn't want his shot by whoever was still in the control center.

 

"This is Riley Finn," he shouted into the room, "I got soldiers with me. We're going to be coming in to escort survivors to the surface. Don't shoot!"

 

He glanced back at his team. Making sure they had their guns drawn, he led them through the door.

 

 

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End Chapter 02

 

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After 314 part 3 of 6

Disclaimer: Legal stuff, don't own characters, haven't made any money, this is for entertainment purposes, no profit earned, lawyers go away. –kisses-

Emails are welcome as are honest reviews. I respond to all correspondence.

Spoiler Alert: There are tidbits from past episodes and especially BTVS: Primeval.

Notes: Story number One in the Spanderverse-universe. This is VERY Riley-centric. This story has 6 chapters.

Everything from the television series through the defeat of Adam also occurred as depicted, in the Spanderverse.

People’s thoughts are depicted in italics. You’ll find emphasis depicted with an underline. Scene or POV switches are handled with a string of o’s.

Thanks to the authors of Fanfiction, wherever you may post. It’s probable that I’ve read at least one of your stories somewhere. I apologize for recycling concepts inadvertently from the plenitude of stories I’ve read.

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Spanderverse: After 314

 

Note: I used some adult language in this chapter. Read responsibly.

The point of view in this story shifts between Alan Mason & Jacqueline Alvarez.

 

Chapter 3: Mason’s New Recruit

 

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Mason and Alvarez climbed the first, short, flight of stairs toward the upper reaches of the Initiative. As they reached the first landing they spotted another body, adding to Mason’s mental count. This would be number eight that he and Alvarez had passed. Glancing down, he saw it was a woman… one of the scientists by the way she was dressed. Her name tag read: DANICA. She had two puncture marks clearly visible on her neck with a few trickles of dried blood that had run toward the floor of the landing she lay upon. Mason glanced at Alvarez to see how the recruit was managing. He was impressed with what he saw, she didn’t look the least bit phased by what they had seen, just watchful and cautious.

 

Jacqueline Alvarez joined the military seven short months ago and this was her first “real” mission. She knew when she became an enlisted man that a lot of the dirt-jobs would fall on her shoulders, but this was something else. From the time she had stepped out of the elevator shaft and had seen the bodies strewn around her she had slipped into robot mode. Jacquie was a paramedic before she decided to enter the military and she’d been to more then a few gruesome scenes. She’d found early on that the way to deal was to not deal, so to speak. Everything was on auto-pilot and that way you didn’t have to deal with emotional breakdowns, or sick stomachs or jumping nerves. You just shutdown the more human parts of yourself and focused entirely on what you had to do the next second after this one, and the next after that one. One step at a time until it was over and then you could go through the shakes and the barfing.

 

Alvarez looked down at the pale woman before her. She had been pretty, even with the thick dork-glasses she wore. Her brown eyes were half-open, but she wasn’t seeing anything anymore. Her dark chestnut brown hair was worn in a bun the way Alvarez used to wear her own hair before she’d just cut it all off. Now Jacquie’s hair was more of a helmet that sat on her head than an actual hair style.

 

She leaned down toward the body, glancing up the next flight of stairs for hostile activity as she did so. Noting nothing above her, she placed two fingers on the carotid artery of the body. She didn’t expect a pulse, it was pretty clear this lady was dead, but habit had her checking for vitals anyway. Feeling nothing but cool skin, as she had expected, she lifted the corpses glasses and thumbed the eyelids closed the rest of the way.

 

As she returned to a standing position, she noticed Mason watching her. If your looking for me to upchuck, this ain’t nothing compared to some of the auto accidents I’ve picked through, she thought. Aloud she just said, “Vampire?”

 

Mason shook his head in the affirmative. He quickly kneeled beside the prone form and slipped a holy wafer into her mouth. He then stepped past her body and Alvarez. He mounted the next flight of stairs without a word. As she fell in behind him, she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end.

 

Vampires! I suddenly feel like we should be calling in Dr. Van Helsing to take care of this mess. Jacquie continued to follow him up the next flight of stairs. As they reached the top, she saw over his shoulders that there was a catwalk suspended above the floor below and circling around the wall to her right for thirty feet or so.

 

She tried to move quietly, but the catwalk was steel and she couldn’t completely silence her footfalls. Mason also appeared to be struggling to keep quiet as they walked toward the first body of two.

 

The man on the floor had his eyes closed and was far more peaceful looking than the lady they just left. He was probably in his 40s with a bit of a paunch around the middle. His hair was dark and slicked back with gel. It was apparent from his uniform that he also wasn’t military. He had been a civilian engineer, judging by his grey overalls. His name patch stated that this used to be O’NEILL. Alvarez could see a simple gold band on his left hand and idly wondered what the government would tell his widow.

 

Mason gave her a short nod in the direction of the other body on the walkway. As she moved past him to check on that corpse, she saw him reaching into his bag of holy wafers again.

 

She walked in a cautious crouch with her gun ready toward the second corpse. It was lying in a sitting position just outside of a corridor leading deeper into the rock face. She didn’t need a superior to tell her that it was possible that this was a set up for an ambush from anything waiting in the corridor.

 

Even being prepared, she nearly lost her head when a heavily furred claw swung at her from the corridor. She barely ducked lower to miss the full swing of the creature, but the top of her head was still hit by a meaty fist and she felt herself flying downward into the steel walkway. Even as she hit the steel grate under her, she was twisting her body to get her rifle pointed at her target.

 

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Mason was just completing the placing of the wafer into the engineer’s throat when his peripheral vision caught Alvarez diving into a crouch. Looking up and already raising his gun, he saw her sprawl out onto the walkway. He admired that she was already in a position to fire, when the report of three shots sounded around him. The creature, and he couldn’t remember what this one was called, was huge.

 

Easily standing over 7-foot and probably in the neighborhood of 300 pounds, it looked like a shaggy, rust-colored behemoth. The three slugs from Alvarez appeared to hit it as it stumbled backward, but then it just roared and began to charge toward her. He stood up and released a round of his own at the creature’s head, hitting it squarely in the back of its skull. The animal gave a surprised whine and then pitched over right toward the prone form of his fellow soldier.

 

He rushed forward to grab the critter before it could tumble on top of her, even knowing he’d never be able to hold its dead weight. He didn’t make it far.

 

As he began to pass in front of the corridor, he wasn’t paying heed to anything but stopping the demon from falling on the woman struggling to roll out of the way. A heavily booted foot came out of the corridor’s entrance, catching him full in the face.

 

Mason’s gun flew out of his hands as he fell back, it now being his turn to slam into the steel-grated walkway. He felt the air leave his lungs in a mighty ‘whoosh’ and his face felt broken just before the back of his head slammed against the flooring of the walkway.

 

His viewpoint shrunk in seconds to a pinpoint of pain as the world around him grayed out. He knew he couldn’t afford to black out, but the force of the kick to his face and the hardness of the metal meeting his head had him stunned. As he struggled to clear his head, he heard Alvarez scream his name and then an animal growl followed by a nasty laugh.

 

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Jacqueline was lying prone on the floor of the steel walkway watching as a towering shag carpet came falling toward her. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. The towering monster was falling… falling… closer and closer toward her, but he was going so slowly that it didn’t seem he’d ever reach her.

 

She was moving just as slowly, she realized. She was trying desperately to roll her body out of the way of the creature, but she didn’t seem to be moving fast enough. In fact, a sudden and bizarre image of the ‘Bionic Woman’ flashed through her mind.

 

Here I am, Bionic Soldier, rolling out of the way in slow motion.

 

Alvarez had just stopped herself from laughing hysterically at the image, when time seemed to snap to normal. One second she was rolling toward the wall, the next she was face first into it and there was a tremendous bang behind her. There wasn’t room for both her and the monster to lie down though, so her body was still supporting some of the creature’s weight, effectively pinning her down.

 

She struggled against the weight, and was craning her head up to tell Mason that she was alright, when she heard a second bang further down the walkway from where she lay gasping.

 

Craning her head with renewed vigor, she saw him lying on the floor. Between them stood a man dressed in an orange jumpsuit. She screamed out to Mason then, and the ‘man’ turned around to reveal it wasn’t a man at all. Oh, it looked pretty human, but the face was distorted and its eyes were yellow and menacing. From its open mouth projected two canine fangs and it was doing a weird combination of hissing and laughing at her predicament.

 

As she struggled more violently to get the behemoth’s weight off of her, the vampire strode toward her.

 

“Shit!” she yelled, knowing she wasn’t doing well at getting unpinned. She looked desperately behind the vampire, but Mason was still struggling to pull himself together after his tumble to the floor.

 

Looking back at the vampire now towering over her, laughing at her, she felt really afraid for the first time since the assignment started.

 

Mary, mother of God, please grant me an opportunity here. Just give me an opening and I may live through this yet, she thought.

 

The vampire effortlessly rolled the bugbear on top of her off, then reached down and grabbed her before she could move away. Lifting her by her camo-armor, he laughed again in her face. His breath was fetid and foul. She found herself gagging at it, it was so putrid. He pulled her in even closer, her toes a good two inches off of the ground.

 

“Well, well, little chica. Looks like you got yourself into a mess now, doesn’t it? I gotta tell you girlie, I’m pretty full. I don’t know if I got enough room left to eat another bite. You look so good though… be a shame to just let you go”, this last was followed by a chuckle.

 

“Tell you what, maybe I’ll just throw you over the side, huh? See if your big-bad-ass self bounces or not? ‘Course I could just eat a bit more maybe, maybe even feed you a bit from me, turn you. What’d you say to that? Would you like to be immortal, little chica? Of course, I’d be your Sire… it’d mean doing what I say to do. And you know what, I can come up with a lot of things I’d love to do to a hot, little cunt like you.” The sneer on his face made Jacquie want to bash his nose in, but she stayed calm instead.

 

While he was busy ‘intimidating’ her, Alvarez was pulling a short, but sharply pointed stake out from under her armor. She had taped it to the small of her back after the briefing she had received about the ‘demon’ she’d be facing. It seemed at the time that if you were actually going to be facing vampires, of all things, you should have a stake handy.

 

Smiling at him now, she said in her most disarming voice, “You know what I really think? That first of all, you need a toothbrush stat. Secondly, that you should EAT THIS YOU SON OF A BITCH!"

 

She jabbed savagely with her stake right into the vampire’s heart. In shock, he released her and looked down at the wood protruding from his chest. His head came back up and he locked his eyes on Alvarez. His hands came up and wrapped around her throat, but they were already disintegrating, along with the rest of him to dust.

 

She waved the air in front of her, trying to keep from breathing in the vampire’s remains. She looked over at Mason, to see him sitting up again. He looked a bit the worse for wear, but didn’t appear to be about to pass out, to her.

 

She quickly grabbed up her rifle and pointed it toward the corridor entrance but it was empty. Returning to the second corpse, she gingerly tugged at the red-haired man’s collar looking for the tell tale marks of the vampire. Seeing these, and feeling how cool the man’s skin was, she didn’t bother looking in vain for a pulse.

 

“We’ll need another wafer over here,” she called over to Mason.

 

“That was really nice work. I’m glad someone was paying attention in briefing. You may be the only one, our superiors at the base included, who thought a wooden stake might be appropriate,” he returned as he struggled up to his feet.

 

“Thanks, sir.” She offered up a silent thank you to Mary as well. It looked like her prayer was answered once again. “You gonna be ok, or should we head back to the exit? Maybe you should return to the surface.”

 

“Nah. I’m alright. I’ve had after-bender mornings that made me feel worse than this.”

 

Alvarez had taken up station just inside the corridor by this time. It was a simple tunnel with a large open doorway at the end about twelve or fifteen feet away. “Alright, but if you start feeling wonky, let me know. Don’t be a hero just to show up the girl.”

 

“I have a feeling it’d take more than ignoring a concussion to show you up. Other than a hell of a headache, I’m ok. No dizziness, no sick to the stomach feelings.”

 

She took a quick glance at him before returning her attention to the corridor. He did look alright, she concluded. He wasn’t pale and there was no sweaty sheen to his skin. She’d keep half an eye on him anyway, but it appeared that a concussion wasn’t going to be an issue.

 

“Thanks for taking the big ape down for me, before it managed to take off a limb or three,” she said to him.

 

“Hey, fellow soldier and all that shit. It doesn’t need thanking for.”

 

While Alvarez advanced a few more feet down the corridor, eyes scanning the walls and ceiling, Mason shoved a Holy Communion wafer down the second victim’s throat. When he had rejoined her, they moved cautiously down the rest of the corridor without any incident.

 

When they were a half-foot from the doorway in front of them, he placed a hand on her upper arm stopping her. Looking over at him, she watched him make a series of hand signs, telling her silently what his plan was.

 

When they reached the doorway, she watched his fingers as he counted to three. On the stroke of three, she rushed in and immediately crouched on the left of the doorway, while he mirrored her moves on the right side.

 

Once in the room, Jacqueline swept the central console station with her weapon, but it was clear, assuming that something wasn’t crouched down behind it.

 

She brought her weapon back to her left to sweep her side of the room when she froze. Not a sound escaped her lips, and to her credit she didn’t immediately vomit, but she also didn’t move a muscle. She just stared in mounting horror at what awaited them.

 

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Mason swept from the central console as he stormed the room to the right. As he came down on one knee, his weapon followed his line of sight. First, his gun swept toward the banks of dials and blinking lights along the far right wall. Then up to the ceiling where air vents were located, and finally down toward the floor. Nothing moved and this side of the room was clear.

 

He glanced over at Alvarez to see if she had completed a visual sweep of the left side of the room and found her staring with her mouth wide open. She had significantly paled and there were tears moistening her cheeks. Glancing past her he saw what had placed her in such a state.

 

The demons had had their fun in this room. Hanging off of the floor, strung in the doorway between the engineering section they were in now and the environment monitoring section that opened off of engineering was strung a body by cabling. The body was dressed in the remains of a green jumpsuit, the standard uniform for the environmental monitoring personnel in the base. He hadn’t had a lot of reason to come up here while in the Initiative, but he had had the opportunity to say hello to a few of the civilian contractors they had working here. He couldn’t remember the woman’s name, and most of her face was missing, but he could recognize her sweeping, strawberry-blonde hair. That hair was stained with blood and was hanging to her slim waistline.

 

Her waistline itself was missing. Or to be more accurate, the contents of that waist, her intestines, were looped around her on the floor. They trailed up her legs and into the abdominal cavity that had been ripped open to allow them to escape. The color of what remained of her face was completely white as all the blood had pooled around her and ran back into environmental monitoring. Environmental lay at a slight gradient to engineering and the blood naturally followed gravity.

 

Mason was positive he didn’t want to enter the room that this cadaver was blocking entrance too. It was obvious that floor would be awash in gore.

 

The most horrible part of the tableau before him, however, was the contorted way her muscles had seized up in her death throes. She had managed to tangle herself up in the cable they had used to bind her and her limbs were splayed in every direction. It was clear she had been alive when the ‘fun’ had started.

 

Mason tore his gaze away to check on Alvarez. She looked calmly back at him, the shock having passed, but her eyes were still glazed with unshed tears she was holding back. She gave him a weak nod of acknowledgement and then started to duck-walk close to the floor toward the body and whatever horror was beyond.

 

He took a few seconds to admire the strength of this woman he was paired with, and then followed behind her. He knew their unit’s future, the one that was formed as a part of the Initiative, was still in question. He knew that they may simply be split up and fielded out to be regular soldiers. But he also knew that if the unit remained in some form of special ops to fight the Sub-Ts, he was going to make sure that Specialist Jacqueline Alvarez was invited to join the new group. The woman had balls and with Riley probably staying on in Sunnydale, they’d need a replacement they could count on.

 

As she approached the body, Alvarez jumped up to her feet and brought the stock of her rifle up to her shoulder. Mason immediately followed suit, though he didn’t know what exactly Alvarez was reacting to yet.

 

Circling around behind her to get a better look over her shoulder, he could see one of the most repulsive sights he’d seen yet in this house of horrors.

 

Before him were three vampires. All were dressed in Initiative clothing. Two were former scientists and one used to be an Initiative soldier, Jerry Cardwell. They were on their hands and knees, their faces pressed to the floor, lapping up the sticky and almost dry blood from the floor.

 

“Jesus H. Christ!”  Mason yelled into the room. The vampires immediately leapt to their feet, a feral and hungry look in their eyes. He took a step back and began to circle to the right. Moving backward to what would lead to behind the engineer’s console; he took up position to fight. He placed his rifle down on the console table and replaced it with the super-soaker of holy water he’d been issued. His peripheral vision caught Alvarez standing “in front” of the console across from him. She still had her rifle and was taking a shooting stance, aiming for the doorway.

 

A male scientist that Mason could barely recall having seen before was the first to barrel through the body in front of the doorway, ripping it and the cabling holding it up and letting both fall to the floor in a heap.

 

Mason let loose with the super-soaker, but the vampire dodged to its right launching itself at Alvarez. The female scientist directly behind the male did take a full load to the face and in a screaming blaze of steam, quickly fell away to ash.

 

When what-used-to-be-Jerry didn’t also come out, he slowly approached the doorway. He looked over to his left to see Alvarez in hand to hand with the vampire scientist. He performed a quick mental calculation and decided that if he took the chance of turning to shoot the holy water at the vamp-scientist, it would give too large an opening to not-Jerry to fang him from behind. Making sure that she was holding her own; he turned his attention back to the doorway and approached more quickly to end the suspense.

 

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Alvarez had assumed a shooting stance with the rifle fitted squarely against her shoulder. Her legs were slightly parted and she was staring down the sight of the rifle. She knew just from the brief view she’d had of the vampire’s eyes that they were hungry as hell. There was no way they weren’t going to come rushing through that entranceway. A quick glance at Mason showed her that he’d replaced his rifle with the holy-water shooter they’d been issued.

 

Alvarez’s own water pistol was a suddenly obtrusive weight tied to her back over her body armor.

 

You shoulda thought of that, dammit, her inner voice told her.

 

It was right too, she knew that her rifle wasn’t going to be much good against this particular enemy. It was too late to fumble with a switch of weapons though, and she reminded herself to aim for their face. Not even a vampire was going to be in fighting shape if it didn’t have eyes to see with.

 

When the first creature, a guy, came bursting through the strung up body she immediately squeezed the trigger of her gun. Unfortunately, the vampire was in the midst of a dodge from Mason’s water stream and he had launched himself right at her.

 

She was slammed to the floor for the second time in the past half hour, but this time the opponent on top of her was far lighter. He also hadn’t expected to collide with someone and he was a tangle of limbs trying to find his footing.

 

Jacqueline took full advantage of the fact to get a booted foot under the monster’s chest and gave him a shove. As he went flying back against the wall abutting the entranceway it had tore through, she was already leaping up to her feet. She reached around behind her to pull the water-shooter, but the vamp recovered quicker than she’d anticipated. As she brought the gun around, it was kicked from her grasp and went flying up and behind her head to hit the floor there.

 

She could hear the gun slide along the floor for several feet before stopping. Her rifle, which she’d lost a grip on as she fell, was lying in the entranceway that her and Mason had come through to enter engineering. It was a good foot away from her and she figured it was a slim chance in hell that the vampire would patiently wait for her to retrieve either weapon. That left one choice: hand to hand. She regretted that she had only packed the one stake, a stake that was now ash with the vampire she’d used it on. As she assumed a combat position, she tried to gauge the weaknesses in her opponent.

 

The problem was, the briefing she’d been given didn’t really cover a vampire’s preferred fighting styles. She knew it was stronger than she was, and the way that it evaded Mason’s water gun blast meant it was pretty quick. Was it supernaturally fast though? Could she have dodged the holy water too in its shoes? She didn’t know.

 

On the good side, she thought, I’ve been trained in hand to hand. This putz was an engineer. Unless it excelled in karate at the Y, I should be able to kick its ass.

 

The vampire made a few feints in her direction, but was obviously sizing her up as well. Alvarez knew that she needed to remember that whatever it was, it wasn’t just a mindless animal. It could think, it could probably anticipate her moves if she telegraphed them too far in advance of her actions.

 

The seconds ticked by while she and the vamp danced around each other before Alvarez thought, Fuck It. I’m going in!

 

Launching herself at the beast with a cry of, she hoped, fury, she landed a few quick blows with her fists to its face before it began to block her. When it returned a professional-looking snap-kick to the side of her head, she knew she was in trouble.

 

What Specialist Alvarez couldn’t know, what the army didn’t know, was that vampires were ‘born’ with the innate sense of combat already established in the demon that took over their human hosts. Engineer Thomas Caine Heldago didn’t need to know martial arts, because the nameless demon that infected him via his Sire’s blood feeding already did.

 

As the toe-steel boot of the engineer connected with the side of her head, Alvarez’s combat training took over and allowed her to roll with the hit. She could already feel the knot starting to form where the boot connected, but she stayed conscious and on her feet.

 

As she spun to the side away from the vampire, she could almost physically feel it behind her going to reach for her. Quickly, without bothering to think about options, she reared her elbow up and back, spinning on the balls of her feet at the same time. The elbow connected solidly with a satisfying crunch and the vampire stumbled back screeching in pain.

 

She took the distraction to shake off the remaining effects of the blow to her head and resumed a kick boxer’s stance in front of her opponent. The former-engineer glared at her, blood running down its face from the smashed nose it sported. It hissed at her, like some overgrown cat on two legs, and then launched itself at her again.

 

Alvarez brought her foot up into a round house kick that caught the vampire in the jaw and sent him flying across the room toward the banks of dials and flashing lights on the wall. It crashed heavily onto the floor and scant seconds later began thrashing about and screaming in agony. Before Jacquie could figure out what the hell was happening, the vampire burst into the now familiar ash-storm and was gone.

 

She took a step toward where the vamp had fallen and saw her holy-water shooter, now smashed, with a pool of water on the floor under it. The vampire’s weight had crushed the water reservoir and doused the hellish thing with holy water. Jacquie turned her eyes heavenward and mouthed a silent “thank you” to whoever was looking after her and then ran toward the environmental monitoring room. As she reached it, she pulled up short, seeing Mason standing covered in blood. No sign of the third vampire showed.

 

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The same time Alvarez was in her fight to the death….

 

Mason practically ran to the doorway. Not seeing the vampire in front of him, he figured that it was waiting against the wall on one side of the doorway. He was faced with the prospect of standing there in a Mexican standoff, abandoning the entranceway and joining Alvarez in fighting off her opponent, or leaping through the doorway.

 

In less time then it took to think through his options he had already made his choice. He’d leap through the doorway, do a quick spin, and fire the water-gun at anything that moved. If it was human (fat chance!) it’d be wet, but no worse for wear, while if it was vampire, it would be crispy despite the wetness of the water.

 

He took a deep breath even as he was in mid-air through the doorway. Landing in the sticky, tacky blood covering the floor, he spun around but never got to fire the water gun. He, like Alvarez, was unfamiliar with the rapidity that vampires were capable of hand to hand combat. In addition, this vampire had the memories of the human it used to be assimilated into its own knowledge and it used to be a soldier itself.

 

The vampire, with its keener eyesight, had already taken note of Mason’s leaped entrance, had anticipated his landing, had noted the holy-water gun in the human’s grip, and moved with preternatural speed to meet the challenge.

 

By the time that Mason had spun around the vampire was on top of his position. With a quick wrenching movement, the gun was grasped from the human’s grip and sent flying back out into engineering where it slid unnoticed under the console.

 

Used-to-be-Jerry then followed up with a head butt to Mason’s face that had him gasping in pain. He could feel at least two teeth break off in his mouth and the vampire was still in control of the fight. It swung him around and off the floor before letting loose of its grip.

 

He flew into a far wall with a bone-rattling crash that had him grateful for the body armor he wore. Pushing against the wall to regain his feet, Mason launched himself at his foe using a flurry of punching motions.

 

The vampire easily blocked these, and returned with a raking motion of its fingers toward Mason’s eyes, ready to claw them out. He followed the movement of the hooked fingers and before he consciously realized the vampire’s goal, he’d already pulled his head back and to the side. The claws of the vampire raked across his right face and nose slicing cleanly into his skin and starting a flow of blood down his face.

 

Not-Jerry pushed his attack with a few kicks into Mason’s abdomen, but these were largely absorbed by the body armor the soldier wore. This allowed him to shrug the blows off and concentrate on going on the offensive again.

 

Grabbing the vamp’s leg on an attempted kick, he spun not-Jerry away from him. Taking two large strides toward the vampire, following him, he returned a kick of his own to the beast’s back. The vampire was thrown forward, further off balance, where it bounced into another wall. This time when Mason approached, it lashed out with a back kick that caught him in the groin. He went down to the floor but even as he struggled to ignore the pain, he was rolling away from the vamp’s follow up assault.

 

The vamp howled in rage as its attempt to stomp on Mason’s neck with a heavy boot met only floor.

 

“Quit fighting the inevitable Mase…drag this out, and I’m just going to make you suffer more,” the creature with Jerry’s face yelled at him.

 

“Oh, please, Jerry. You were always such a lame-ass!”

 

Not-Jerry hissed at him and charged, hitting Mason like a linebacker sacking a quarterback. The soldier tried to roll with it, but his head hit a computer station and opened a wide gash in his forehead. Blood rushed into his left eye, sticky and thick, making it impossible to see anything out of it. He ignored it as best as he could, concentrating on faux-Jerry’s hands which were snaking their way up to his throat.

 

The vampire was lying across him, pinning him to the floor, while its hands tightened on his throat. He didn’t waste the strength grabbing the vampire’s wrists. Instead he balled up his fists and hit the monster in the head, each fist connecting solidly with the creature’s ears. The vampire reacted exactly as Mason had been hoping, rearing up with a roar, and grabbing the sides of its head in pain.

 

He followed this up with a double-fisted swing into the side of the vamp’s face, knocking him off. As the demon swung around on his knees to clutch at him, the soldier grabbed his boot knife and slashed the vampire in the throat. The sharp knife sliced through the thing’s throat like butter and Mason was ‘rewarded’ with a torrent of blood-spray across his face and down his body.

 

He didn’t know how quick the vampire would heal from the wound, or if it would be fatal. During his time at the Initiative he’d see demons come out of the scientist’s experiments looking pretty beat up, but a few days later they were good as new.

 

Taking control of the battle and ready to end it now, he pushed the vamp onto the floor and straddled him across the waist. With his knife he stabbed and hacked at the thing’s chest, feeling bits of bone break and fly over his hands. He did this for nearly a minute and then the heart was being cut to ribbons.

 

He didn’t stop hacking until the vampire gave a jerk and then disintegrated under him.

 

Standing up, he remembered Alvarez and the engineer-vamp. He was just turning to rush toward the entranceway, when his teammate was there in the door staring back at him.

 

“Damn, but you look like complete mierda,” she said to him.

 

“I’m going to pretend you just told me I look completely hot. Just go with it.”

 

She laughed at him, but then her eyes grew serious again. “You look like your bleeding pretty good from your head.”

 

“It’s just a gash. Minor, but bleeds like a damn artery. We’re done here. Let’s finish the sweep of the three offices off of the walkway near the end of the catwalk and we’ll call it a day.”

 

Alvarez looked at him a bit doubtfully, “We should get you to the elevator entrance on main floor and get you up and out. You can’t see out of your left eye and I know my anatomy; that cut on your head needs stitches.”

 

Mason wiped the blood out of his face as well as he could and slapped a hand to put pressure on the still bleeding head wound. “We only got three offices, which will be empty, to check; then we’re out of here. That’s an order Specialist.”

 

“Yes, Sir,” Alvarez returned, but there was a definite and purposeful sigh in her voice. Unspoken, but clear, was that she thought that was a really stupid way to go.

 

Rather than being pissed though, he was glad in a funny way. He’d been right about her. When they were in the thick of things, she’d follow orders, but she wouldn’t be an automaton. She’d make sure that they knew what her opinion was, even if she did have to swallow the acerbic remark no doubt dancing on the tip of her tongue.

 

Mason retrieved both his rifle and the water-shooter. Alvarez stooped to grab her rifle from the floor, at the same time pointing out the remains of her own water-blaster. They exited back down the corridor leading to engineering, and then explored the rest of the catwalk. At the end were three “offices”, to be generous. They were more like cubicles and barely had room for a small desk, a chair, and one person. As Mason had predicted, there was no other activity.

 

When they returned to the main staging area outside of the elevator, he had her report their condition. As he began the ascent, Alvarez reported their kill ratios and he heard Riley acknowledge her report. He felt the tug on the cable when she started climbing up after him.

 

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End Chapter 03