A/N: Well, take a look at this! A fanfic for another Joss Whedon show! I simply can't help myself-I fell in love with his series Dollhouse. Sadly, the show was canceled midway through the second season, and so, he was forced to wrap up what needed, at the very least, another season to finish, in a few episodes. While he did a good job at doing it...let's just say this authoress had a little something different in mind.
A fair warning: The first few chapters are going to be taken straight out of the episodes "Getting Closer" and "Hollow Men" from season 2. It may be boring. I beg you to bear with me. After I reah a certain point in the episode "Hollow Men", my story will split from the story arc of the show. I'll also try to add some additional scenes in between to keep things lively, I promise.
Why the title I gave it? Well, seeing as this will involve events that are essentially the apocalypse, I figured it needed a apocalypse-worthy title. And then, while musing over titles, I came to be torn between "As We Know It" (as in the song "It's the End of the World" by R.E.M.) or "Apocalypse, Please" (as in the song "Apocalypse, Please" by Muse). Of course, I was also contemplating the title "Apocalypse Now-ish", which was the title of an episode of Angel, but...yeah, no. So, "As We Know It" won out, "Apocalypse, Please" will probably be a chapter title somewhere down the line.
Enough of me babbling, I'll let you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the characters. They're all Joss Whedon's. Of course, I don't think half of them would let anyone "own" them in the first place...
"I've been changing, but you'll never see me now
(I've been changing, but you'll never see me now)
Now I'm blaming you for everything
No more holding it in
How many years can I pretend
That nothing ever goes the way it should
No more sitting in this place
Hoping you might see it my way
'Cause I don't think you ever understood
That what I'm looking for are the answers
To why these questions never go away."
-"So Far Away" by Crossfade
Chapter One: Of Two Minds
Echo didn't quite know how to feel about the scene before her.
She'd head the bang of a single bullet while she had been down in the lobby, poking around to see if any of the other Dolls were left. She'd rushed back, passing a brown-and-white blur that she swore might have been Claire Saunders, and hurried back to the room, where she found a blood-smeared Topher in a state of shock, Adelle at his side, and Ballard placing Bennett on the couch. Blood oozed down her face from a small bullet-sized hole in her temple.
So that was who was shot.
About that, Echo didn't know how she was expected to feel. She didn't even know she really felt. After all, hadn't Bennett been trying to restore the disc that held that wretched, spiteful Caroline girl, the one she'd abandoned roughly three years ago, the one she never wanted to go back to being?
Bennett hated Caroline as much as Echo hated her. Echo didn't blame the brilliant scientist one bit-she would hate someone too if they'd left her for dead and were now the reason she only had one functional arm. And their hatred of Caroline wasn't the only thing the two women had in common.
The Active was sure they had been on the road to becoming friends.
Adelle's crisp, commanding voice cut through Echo's reverie.
Still no response from the shocked scientist. He only continued to stare forward, at the spot where Bennett had been sitting when she died.
"Topher, I need you to focus."
Still nothing, just silence.
Ballard took a spare blanket, which Mellie had handed him, and unfurled it, before draping it over Bennett's prone form. Echo watched as he worked, and before she had even realized it, three words had escaped her.
"Saunders did this."
"Rossum got to her," Ballard stated, nodding. "Probably months ago, right after she left this place."
"A sleeper?" she inquired.
That struck a chord in Echo, particularly when she remembered something. "Boyd loves her."
"He'll have to adjust."
"I'm going after her." Echo swiftly stood to her feet, just as the wail of an alarm permeated the air. "Or not."
Adelle gave the shocked scientist a gentle shake. "Topher?"
"We can bring her back," he murmured at last. "We can bring Bennett back. We can bring…we can map-"
Adelle cut him off. "There's nothing left to map."
As if to echo her final, almost ominous words, the lights in the building died, only adding to the chaos in the Dollhouse.
"The person we need to bring back now is Caroline," she continued, her voice still stern, but quiet, almost as if Topher were a small child and she was trying to urge him to do something without scaring him. "Can you do it?"
Slowly, he bobbed his head up and down.
"Good," Adelle stated, getting up. One hand was clasped around the scientist's upper arm, which served to drag him to his own feet. Almost like a zombie, he staggered to his desk, taking a seat and staring down at the pieces of the Caroline imprint scattered across the desk. Ivy, the partner he'd left in the dust when Bennett had come to town, moved to take a seat beside him.
"Okay." He fiddled with a few pieces of the imprint. Ivy sniffled loudly, catching his attention.
"I can do this," she muttered. "I can do this."
In a move that surprised-and stunned-everyone who was watching, Topher's hand reached out, resting over Ivy's. It was one of the few times they'd ever seen him make a gesture that could be considered even remotely kind.
"I got it from her," he informed her. "You get the chance, you slip out. In the real world, you can write your ticket anyplace you land."
"I really want to help you," she protested.
Topher's hand snagged her wrist, clasping over it tightly, and he stood, pulling Ivy to her feet as well. "Then live. You have a remarkable brain-I think it should stay in your head. Ivy…don't become me." She didn't move, and he gave her a light shake. "Go. Go!"
She nodded, taking off. Once he was sure she was well on her way out of the Dollhouse, Topher went back to piecing together the imprint. As he worked, and the others waited with varying degrees of patience, several loud booms rang out.
"We're breached," Ballard announced.
"That's one word for it!" Echo replied.
An explosion rocked the building; rubble from the lobby's ceiling came crashing down into the lobby itself. Several men, dressed in black and looking quite dangerous, rappelled down into the lobby from the busted-in ceiling.
"This won't do," Ballard stated, shaking his head. "I was loading the weapons reserve cache up in the handlers' quarters."
"Go!" Echo ordered him, passing him a pistol. He took it and ran, Mellie following after, while she turned to Topher. "How long?"
"This is going to take me as long as it's"-He snapped the last piece into place.-"Done."
As he gathered the imprint and other necessities, Adelle looked around furiously, watching as the assassins rushed, unchecked, throughout the building. "Where the hell is security?"
"Assume they're dead," Echo ordered. "Let's do this."
One of the assassins had crept up on them, and smashed a window near them, creating an entrance to the room.
"Damn, I just had that replaced," the leader of the Dollhouse groused.
Topher and Echo hurried into the server room, also known as Topher's inner sanctum, Adelle following after grudgingly and closing the door. Echo plopped herself into the chair, while the scientist loaded the Caroline imprint into the machine.
"You should go," he told their leader. "Server room service tunnels."
She scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous."
"You're our general. We can't lose you."
Without a word in protest, she took out a pistol, disabling the safety. "Good luck, all of you."
And she was gone. Topher went back to prepping the imprint, reclining the chair so Echo's head was in the path of the neuro-strip, ready to take the imprint. Just as he was about to hit the "download" button, one of the assassins flung the door open, eyes on the scientist with murderous intentions. He quickly hit the button, initiating the imprint, before facing the man in black.
"Stay back! I've imprinted myself with many useful skills!" he bluffed, raising his arms as if he was about to perform some move straight out of a bad kung-fu movie. "You don't even want to know!"
Unimpressed, the assassin sprang forward, striking him and sending him spiraling into unconsciousness. With him taken care of, the man turned his attentions to Echo, who was mid-imprint and utterly helpless. He started forward…until a pair of hands closed around his neck. With a sharp twist in the right direction, Boyd effortlessly broke the man's neck, letting his limp body fall to the ground immediately afterwards. Stepping around the corpse, he approached the chair, reaching out and covering Echo's hand with his own.
"Hang in there."
But she didn't hear him; she was too lost in the memories that were rushing about in her mind…
Distorted shapes, colors. Blurred faces from a past she'd all but forgotten.
Adelle's face, her sharp voice with its crisp accent. "Someone upstairs wants to meet you."
More faces, this time the ones of the people she'd found in the labs at Rossum's headquarters down in Tucson.
A man's voice. "Someone upstairs mistakenly let a woman in."
Boyd's gentle face, his voice. "Caroline's the only one who's ever met that snake."
Adelle's face again, this time on the other side of a closing elevator door. "Enjoy the ride…"
The elevator ride ended with a ding, the doors opening to a dark office. Caroline stepped out of the elevator, peering around-she thought she was alone, until she noticed a man sitting on a desk. A light shone down on him, the only light in the darkened room-perhaps for dramatic effect.
"Hello," he greeted pleasantly. "Hi. Hey, thanks for coming up. It's, uh, terrific." He paused. "Can I get you something? Tea?"
"I hate tea," Caroline spat.
"Okay, so not tea, then." He just stared at her for a moment, almost reverently. "Wow. I mean…look at you. Caroline Farrell."
She eyed him in disbelief and a bit of disdain-she'd expected the CEO of a company as big, bustling, and twisted as Rossum to be a bit more intimidating. "So you're Rossum?"
"Um, Rossum is-is just a name, actually," he confessed. "From a play. Although technically, you're not robots; it seemed to fit. Sorry. Clyde." He abandoned his perch on the desk and moved forwards to shake her hand. When she recoiled, he drew back as well. "Clyde Randolph." He cleared his throat with a small, awkward cough. "The second. Well, like, the fifth, actually. I uh, use a lot of bodies." A small shake of the head. "I'll explain that later. My partner and I have been quite eager to meet you."
"Because you're very special. You're going to help us in ways you can't even understand."
A new man spoke up as he walked out of the shadows-a man that, years later, she would come to know as Boyd. She eyes him with contempt as he approached her.
"You don't have a lot of options," Clyde informed her.
"So I'm going to be one of your zombies?" she growled. "Open up my brain like the rest of them?"
"You'll never be like the rest of them," Boyd assured her. "You won't be harmed in any way. You're…far too valuable."
"And I'm just going to trust you?"
He reached towards her, ignoring when she flinched slightly, tucking a stray lock of brunette hair behind her ear in a fatherly manner. His dark eyes bored into hers.
"With your life."