Disclaimer: I do not own anything in relation to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the show and all of its characters belong to Joss Whedon and company. I'm just borrowing them for a joyride.
Notes: This story is set in season four. As usual, I'm changing the course of events to suit the needs of my story. Thus, I have completely abandoned the Adam plotline. The story doesn't relate to season four so much; I just needed the Initiative to be around. I'm working with a Buffy/Faith pairing around the premise that zombies have invaded Sunnydale; thus, I'm also borrowing ideas from 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Hope you enjoy.
Prologue: The Deserted Hospital:
Raymond Eckhardt had only been working for the Initiative for a month. After his rather successful career in the army had ended, he found himself unemployed and completely lost. However, within days, two very mysterious and vague officers had located him and offered him a job with a project called 'the Initiative,' which, as they claimed, fought against the real evil plaguing America. Human wars were trivial things when compared to the war that had been raging since the dawn of time against the forces of darkness. At first, Raymond thought that the officers were playing a practical joke on him. However, they had flown him to Sunnydale, California, a small town several hours outside of Los Angeles, and had shown him an underground complex where demons and every kind of monster were caged and tested.
From the moment Raymond had walked into the facility, he knew that he was home. The idea that monsters were real had freaked him out at first, but he was slowly becoming accustomed to the notion. Though he wanted to fight the monsters with the rest of his comrades, he was still in training. Thus, at four o'clock on a Monday morning, he found himself working the grave yard shift monitoring the security cameras in sublevel three, where the scientists conducted experiments using the DNA of what they called 'hostiles.' Taking a sip of the black sludge congealing in his mug, he grimaced.
"Tastes like shit," he muttered to himself, setting the mug down on the desk at which he sat. Raymond did not understand what the scientists did, or why the government thought that it was just as important to study the hostiles as it was to kill them. He did not believe that monsters belonged in the world, but he knew that the government searched constantly for new ways to improve weapons and the efficiency of its armed forces, and it believed that demons, vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of other abominations held the key to mastering the art of war. He tried not to inquire too deeply into the work of the scientists, as striving to saving innocent people from the unholy abominations of hell was enough to appease his conscience. The government could keep its secret labs and experiments for all that he cared, so long as he could kill some vampires now and again.
Raymond absently shifted his attention from the lukewarm coffee in front of him to the video monitors hanging from the wall in front of his desk. The hallways of the Initiative were dark and silent. Suddenly, one of the monitors turned black. "That's odd," Raymond muttered. Due to the dangerous nature of the hostiles, the Initiative was overly concerned with security. While the town of Sunnydale was occasionally plagued by blackouts, the Initiative never lost power, due to the back-up generators that the technicians maintained at a state of constant alertness. Grabbing his walkie-talkie, he rose from his seat, and walked out of the security room in Corridor B.
"This is Raymond Eckhardt," he spoke into the receiver of the walkie-talkie. "One of the security cameras blacked out in Sector Three. I'm going to see what happened." Static greeted his ears for several long moments until a stiff voice replied.
"Alright," it said, "report back once you've discovered the problem."
"Will do," Raymond answered. Clipping the walkie-talkie onto his belt, he strode through the empty hallways confidently. He had almost completed his training. Soon, he would be assigned to a team, and allowed to join them for patrols at night. He felt like he had finally discovered his purpose in life. The army had been a stepping stone to his real destiny. Finally, he turned a corner, and saw the camera in question positioned in the upper left corner of the ceiling, where Corridors F and G intersected. He slowed to a stop underneath the camera. Looking up at it, he frowned. It had been ripped out of the wall.
"What the hell," he muttered disconcertedly. "Who would have ripped that out…there's no one down here," he said to himself, glancing around. He was about to reach for his walkie-talkie when he heard a shuffling noise behind him. The hairs on his neck stood alert and a foreboding sense of dread washed over him. Shaking the feeling away, he sighed. All of the monsters brought into the Initiative had chips placed in their brains to stop them from hurting humans. He was worrying over nothing. Turning, he saw one of the scientists, who frequently worked on that floor, walking towards him. Exhaling a deep breath of relief, he smiled.
"Doctor, what are you doing here? I thought everyone had gone home," Raymond said amenably. The man did not respond. Raymond frowned again. During his time in the army, he had learned to listen to his gut instincts, which often told him when something bad was wrong. The man walked towards him and a knot twisted up in his stomach. He could not see the scientist's face; the hallways were dark, save for dim emergency lighting that lined the top of the walls, and cast elusive shadows on the floor. "Doctor?" Raymond asked, stepping forward. "Are you okay?"
He thought that he heard the doctor groan. Grabbing his flashlight from his utility belt, he flipped on the beam, and raised it to the doctor's face. "Holy shit," he exclaimed, rushing forward as the man stumbled towards him. The man's face had been ripped open and his white lab coat was covered with dark, red blood. "Hang on, sir. I'll get some help," Raymond said, reaching out to steady the stumbling scientist. Clipping his flashlight back onto his belt, he reached for his walkie-talkie. Looking down, he pushed the talk button, and glanced back up at the scientist. The man was staring at him with a peculiar glint in his eyes.
"What?" Raymond asked in confusion.
"Is something wrong?" A voice crackled through the walkie-talkie. Raymond opened his mouth to respond when the scientist suddenly lunged forward and knocked him to the ground. The walkie-talkie flew out of his hands and skidded down the hallway.
"What are you doing?" Raymond shouted. The man had landed on top of him. "I'm trying to help you!" He tried to push the other man off, but he lay like a dead weight on top of his chest. Suddenly, the scientist lifted his head, and growled. Raymond's blood ran cold. Before he could move, the man had grabbed his arm, and sunk his teeth into his flesh. Raymond screamed in pain, struggling beneath the weight of the other man. "Let me go!" He shouted. With the security guard's arm lodged firmly in his mouth, the scientist ripped his teeth backwards, and tore a chuck a flesh away. The motion caused him to topple off of Raymond, who scrambled away from him. Stumbling down the hallway, Raymond grabbed the walkie-talkie, and lifted it to his lips.
"Somebody help me," he said. "I'm in Corridor G of Sector Three. One of the scientists has gone crazy. He attacked me." Raymond turned and saw the man sitting on the floor behind him, chewing on the mouthful of skin he had bitten off of the security guard's arm. Raymond looked down at his wound and paled. He could see the bone of his arm surrounded by wet, bloody flesh. The crackle of static greeted him through the walkie-talkie. Something was not right; he had just spoken with the man on the other end. He wavered slightly, a wave of dizziness overcoming him from his loss of blood. Sinking to the floor, the struggled to stay conscious, and mumbled into the walkie-talkie despondently, "Is anyone there?"
The world became a dark place, full of memories and dreams that she could not understand. Things flitted in front of her eyelids; strange images of a life she barely recognized, yet knew had been hers. She watched with horror as she tumbled down into a dark abyss, where nothing made sense to her anymore, everything was in shadow, and everything was evil. She wanted desperately to climb out, to take the hands that were offered to her, but she could not. Something held her back; perhaps it was pride, perhaps it was love. She had always been too proud to accept help from anyone and too afraid to love anything other than the cold of the night, ever since her father had died, and her mother had turned against her. However, she thought that perhaps there was something more to her refusal than simply pride and fear. Maybe she really was evil at heart.
She knew that she was not a good person, but she liked to think that she was a decent person. She had done her share to help the world, though she had never gone above and beyond what her calling had required her to do. Perhaps that was what separated her from Buffy Summers. The name shot like daggers through her heart. In the darkness of her mind, she could feel her heart breaking. Her chest swelled with a strange pain and, for the first time in years, she wanted to cry. Despite the pain, no tears came to her eyes. The inky blackness remained, haunting her and mocking her. Desperate snatches of images flew in front of her eyes. She felt like her mind was dividing into two and the pain was more than she could bear. Suddenly, one image flashed before her and lingered, growing until it was all that she could see – Buffy.
The blonde Slayer was standing on the opposite side of a chain link fence. The burned out shell of car was sitting beside the older girl and Faith could smell smoke. Everywhere around them, fires seemed to be burning. She desperately wanted Buffy to climb over the fence, but the Slayer would not. Instead, she stood sullenly, and reached her hand out towards the dark haired girl. Tears began to cascade down her cheeks. Faith felt her heart breaking; she wanted to dry the other girl's tears, but, somehow, she knew that she could not. Something greater than they was pulling them apart. Faith found herself reaching forward, until she and Buffy's hands were linked through the fence. Buffy began to speak, but the words did not reach Faith's ears. They fell into the silence of her dream. As Faith watched the older girl, she noticed that her dream was oddly devoid of any sound.
She could smell the smoke of the burning car and she could see the fear and love shining in Buffy's eyes, but she could not hear anything. Faith gazed with fascination into Buffy's emerald eyes. At first, she thought that the love she saw shining there was a mistake. But it was starting to grow, until it had erased the fear, and all that Faith could see shining back at her was the deepest of care. Then she heard it. A hungry, wailing cry pierced the air and the fear rushed back into Buffy's eyes. Faith felt, rather than saw, something, or someone, pulling her backwards. Strong hands gripped her shoulders and pulled her from the fence, pulling her away from Buffy. She started running and felt a strange wetness strike her cheeks – she was crying. The wind wiped past her face, drying her tears nearly as soon as they fell, and the last thing she heard was a sudden, desolate gunshot.
Faith's eyes flew open and she blinked rapidly. She was staring up at a white ceiling, but a dark stain was growing across it. It looked red. Taking a deep breath, Faith coughed, choking on the horrid smell that greeted her. Something smelled rotten, like decaying meat. Turning her head, she squinted as the bright light of the afternoon sun struck her eyes; the light was pouring in from the window. Faith quickly noticed, however, that though the room was lit brightly, the only light was that of the sun. The fluorescent lights in the ceiling were dead. She quickly discerned that she was not in her apartment or the motel. Closing her eyes again, Faith tried to remember what had happened. She remembered lying on her bed, listening to music, and reading a comic book. Buffy had kicked open her door. Everything that happened after that was a blur, but she distinctly remembered the cold feeling of metal sliding into her gut, and the rush of air that flew past her as she fell from her balcony.
Faith opened her eyes again, confident that she was in a hospital. If she was lucky, she would heal in time for graduation. Still, though she finally knew where she was, the smell seemed out of place. She had been in hospitals before and they had all smelled the same. They had never smelled like the dumpster behind a butcher shop. Similarly, she could not hear anything. She had expected to hear the sounds of machines beeping and whirring, televisions spewing out afternoon talk shows, and the constant crackle of the hospital's intercom system. But the room was absolutely and devastatingly silent. She felt weak, but nothing physically hurt her. Her lips were chapped and her throat felt raw, but she was able to life herself up onto her elbows. Before she was able to congratulate herself for that victory, however, she saw the source of the rotten smell, and almost vomited over the side of her bed.
A nurse sat in a chair by the foot of her bed, but the woman clearly had been dead for some time. The left side of her face was missing; a cavernous hole gaped where her mouth should have been. Smeared and splattered across the wall behind her was dried blood that had dripped down onto the floor. Chunks of flesh stuck in the blood on the wall. "Jesus," Faith muttered hoarsely, looking away. She felt something urgently tugging at the back of her mind – her Slayer senses. Clearly, something horrible had happened at the hospital. Faith wondered how long she had been unconscious; perhaps the high school's graduation ceremony had already taken place. If so, the carnage that lay before her could have been a result of the Mayor's ascension.
Faith suddenly felt a deep pang of regret strike her heart. Tears blurred in her eyes and she rubbed them away furiously. Somehow, she had always managed to forget what would happen when the Mayor ascended. The Slayer in her had rebelled against her joining him from the first, but she had learned to ignore it. Now, however, as she gazed upon the dead woman sitting before her, she realized how wrong she had been to join the forces she was supposed to fight. Originally, she had joined the Mayor as a way of proving her worth to Buffy. She knew that if she was able to provide the blonde girl with information about the Mayor's plans, she would finally see Faith as being good for something other than the second string Slayer. However, as Buffy pushed her further away, the Mayor accepted her with opened arms. He treated her like she really was something special, unlike Buffy, who had treated her like every guy she had ever been with – something to use and something to throw away when it was all said and done.
Her plan slowly began to dissolve until, one day, she found that she had begun to associate herself with the Mayor, instead of Buffy, in her mind. It was over then and Faith simply shut down any part of her that disagreed with her choice. However, Faith's eyes were finally opened, and she could see fully the consequences of her actions. "I'm not evil," she whispered desperately to herself. Her voice sounded scratchy and raw. "I'm not evil anymore." Slipping her legs over the side of the bed, she shakily rose to her feet. Her hospital gown was itchy and smelled like it had not been changed for weeks. Ripping the tubes out of her body, she took a few hesitant steps forward. When she was confident that she was not going to topple over, she strode forward, stopping a few feet from the nurse.
A gun lay on the ground beside the chair. "Shit," Faith muttered, realizing what had happened. The nurse had apparently shot herself in the mouth. A folded note was taped onto her chest. Faith reached forward with a trembling hand and plucked the note from her shirt. The paper was stiff from the blood that had dried on it. As she unfolded the note, a silver key fell to the floor with a clang. Faith ignored it, for the moment, and read aloud. "If you wake up, I've left this for you. I locked the door from the inside so that they could not get in. The key will open it. There's one bullet left in the gun. I suggest you use it." Faith folded the note and looked down at the gun and the key. She reached down and carefully picked them both up, glancing warily at the gun in her hand.
A steady panic was growing in her heart, causing her chest to tighten, and her breath to come far too quickly. Closing her eyes, she took several deep breaths, trying to steady herself. When she opened her eyes, she turned, and looked at the door to her room. She walked over to it slowly and pressed her ear against it. She could hear nothing in the hallway outside, which provided both relief and concern. Whatever had caused the nurse to kill herself was not waiting for her outside of the door. Yet, Faith was beginning to realize that the hospital must have been abandoned, as she could not hear any sounds of life from without. She tightened her grip on the gun as two thoughts ran wildly through her mind – she needed to find a change of clothes and she needed to find out what had happened.