Interval 1a: Hangover
The F.E.A.R. Point Man awoke with his face buried in a carpet, and immediately rolled onto his back to assess the new situation. The charred remains of his Blackhawk protruded through the crumpled wall of a rotting apartment kitchen, its rotors conspicuously missing and its engine still freshly burning out columns of smoke that blotted out the sun outside. The pilot lay beside the Point Man's feet, missing his clothes, head and flesh – a clear sign that SHE was still loose. Directly above him lay a hole in the ceiling, where two shuddering figures were coming to. The Point Man assessed his own body, satisfied to find no serious lacerations, bruises, broken bones or tears in his uniform. Even his red goggles remained intact atop his balaclava, medically assuring him that he was at 100%.
The Point Man got to his feet, body feeling as though it had just survived a helicopter crash, and struggled to recall the events immediately preceding said mechanical failure. That pale woman, that stringy-haired walking skeleton, that infernal giggling specter, that tormented victim of scientific advancement, Alma, had revealed herself to be his mother. He'd just repelled her in a twisted memory of his birth, using the last remaining clip of his sidearm, desperately attempting and failing to escape the thermonuclear blast he had created. He had awoken hours later, barely breathing but fully assured the mission was over. Then, (he scratched his head) she returned to finish the job, and he could not remember what happened next.
"What a surprise," groaned Lieutenant Douglas Holiday, his black eyes peering down at the motionless super-soldier. "He survived." The African-American soldier pinned himself against a kitchen counter, holding a bleeding cast on his right leg, and evidently had incurred several superficial scars and bruises upon his dark cheeks and forehead. Even his moustache was split down the middle. However, he, and the slender Asian woman beside him, were not critically injured and that would be good enough to continue the mission.
"Oh, Bremmer…" sighed Jin Sun-Kwon, wiping the dust that liberally caked itself over her face and holding a thin gash in her belly. "Of all the times you could have slept, you chose NOW?" The Point Man glanced at the dead pilot once more – just what had Alma done to him?
"Hey, Silent Bob," growled Holiday, gently attempting to help up Jin and being flatly rebuffed. "Here's the situation: your team's helicopter pilot decided to fall asleep and die at the same time the chopper's engine went kaput and the rotors flew off. Communications are still down all over the city. I haven't seen anything alive here, aside from Jin – not even fucking cockroaches. We have no fucking clue what's going on." He sighed heavily, and Jin cut in.
"Betters should be sending in a rescue team any time now," she said, stretching her limbs and thoughtfully staring at the dark corners of the building. "That is, if Armacham isn't cutting us off…"
"Those bastards have enough on their hands," Holiday replied, moving away from the hole and gesturing for Jin to follow. Without looking back, he called out to the man beneath him.
"We'll meet up at the bottom of this building. I can't be assed to jump down a hole and break my leg again."
The Point Man nodded, activated his headlamp, and moved to escape the smoldering kitchen. He paused, then rifled through the fridge. His rabid kleptomania was rewarded with an inexplicable, fully loaded AT-14 pistol, which he eagerly took. He traversed the crumbling building in a matter of minutes, noting that while there were hot coffee mugs and recently worn sneakers lying around the premises, the ancient complex was practically a disaster waiting to happen. The lack of civilians became a secondary concern when he crawled out of a hole in the cardboard walls and found a brilliantly hazardous electrical current dancing out from a burning fuse box. Ten seconds later, he found the power room and opened the door.
There she was. Not woman, not girl, but both – a twisted horror caught in the crossroads between life and death, a being unsure of her own identity but certain about her love for hating everyone and making little angels in the ground with their blood.
And there she wasn't. The Point Man shrugged, shut off the power, and kicked down the fire exit door. He blinked reflexively at the sad grey morning light that bathed an absolutely dead street avenue. Dead in the metaphorical sense – the rotting bodies of blue-clad Armacham thugs and collapsed Replica soldiers lay crumpled over a pair of strategically placed crown Victoria cars, tarnishing an otherwise inoffensively dull street with streaks of crimson and flecks of scattered brass. A church lay at the far end of the street, overly large and almost distracting the Point Man from the far more enormous figure that loomed over the entire sky. He frowned at the sheer impossibility of the colossal thing, and dismissed it as he policed the ammo dropped by the dead soldiers.
Mushroom clouds weren't supposed to look like gigantic hearts with an A in the center.
To his left lay the back lot of the burning apartment building, where a live Replica soldier stood before him – loudly snoring as his prone figure was propped up on a pile of discarded top parts. The Point Man held his fire, training his pistol on the two figures who were gracelessly making their way down the fire escape beside the unconscious clone. Jin peered fascinatingly at the soldier, running her hand up his body as though he were a new car model, while Holiday regarded it with the same respect afforded to a slug.
"Why's he asleep?" he muttered.
"Dormant," Jin said, smiling as she tried to wrench off the Replica's helmet and found it to be impractical. "When Fettel was eliminated, the Replicas deactivated."
Holiday brought his assault rifle up and fired two bullets into the back of the clone's skull. The corpse let out a weak giggle before falling silent, and Jin shrieked quietly. "I wanted to examine him!" she pouted, . Holiday shrugged, and then pretended to see the Point Man for the first time.
"Hey, good job on making them easy targets," he chuckled grimly, placing his fingers on the chain-link fence. He bit his lip, tested his weight on the fence, and then realized that Jin had already vaulted over the fence and was standing beside the Point Man. He swore, and with Jin's encouragement crawled over the 6-foot fence in a matter of seconds.
"Well," the Delta squad leader said, leading the group down the road. "Now all we have to worry about is-" He took a look at the sky and found that he was unable to speak coherently. Jin whistled appreciatively, and took a picture of the cloud with her camera.
"It's Alma. She's responsible."
Of course, the Point Man thought. She wasn't done yet. But why had she spared the three of them?
Holiday's legs were wobbly and he crouched down, holding his forehead in contrition. He glared up at the emotionless, unresponsive Point Man, and suddenly let out a cry of rage as he thrust his weapon at the soldier's forehead. The Point Man effortlessly dodged the attack and silently stared at him, incomprehensible and thoughtless.
"You idiot!" he roared. "You didn't do shit! You've killed hundreds of civilians and this fucking ghost bitch thinks it's a fucking riot! You FUBAR'd this situation!"
"Doug," Jin whispered, placing a hand on his shoulder. "We can court martial him when we get out of this." The Point Man tilted his head at the threat, and she gave him an ambiguous glare. "For now – we need to focus on better things. Like where to go next."
Holiday shook her off, and wordlessly led them down the road. Along the way, they found sleeping Replicas sprawled all over the place. Replicas silhouetted by the headlights of an idle truck, Replicas atop ledges, Replicas on the sidewalk, Replicas intimately holding each other. The Point Man took care to cave in the skulls of each and every clone he found – his knuckles were getting pretty sore. When they got to the church, Holiday finally spoke up.
"Thanks, God. You're doing a brilliant job at being an asshole. Keep up the good douchery."
An enormous airplane burst out of the clouds, its jet engines on fire, and crashed a few dozen blocks behind the church. The lack of any human reaction to the disaster meant that Holiday felt free to chuckle.
"That was our ride, wasn't it," the Delta said. "Yep," Jin replied.
"Should I just blame Alma for every spooky thing that happens from now on?"
The Point Man said nothing, instead kicking open the velvet church door and standing stock still. The other two ran up behind him, and found themselves frozen in dumbstruck confusion.
Ten or so Replicas lined the room, filling the church pews and training their weapons upon the trio. A willowy man stood behind the pulpit, his figure surrounded by a thin red aura. His leather jacket was scuffed and charred, his fingers were dirty, and his face was smeared with fresh crimson. Almost lazily, the man yawned and raised his face to reveal a gruesome hole in the center of his skull. He grinned, showing bloody teeth, and spoke.
"Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated."
"But…" Holiday stammered. "He shot you in the head."
"Yes. So what? I know it doesn't make sense. Not much does-"
"It does a little bit," Jin cut in. "Powerful psychics are capable of retaining their telesthetic signature even after physical death-"
"Silence, my dear, or you'll be the first to die. Or the last." Fettel licked his lips, and Holiday glanced at the Point Man. The soldier's body language was undecipherable, but Holiday prayed to the much-maligned God that he had a plan to get them out of this.
"How's being dead feel, asshole?" Holiday growled. "Couldn't handle this badass motherfucker, couldn't you?"
"I take offense to what you said about mothers, you mindless drone." Fettel felt his forehead, and grimaced at the pain. At that moment of confusion, the Point Man fired upon the specter and Holiday desperately swept a line of fire across the stack of Replicas. A horribly high-pitched scream cut through the air, and the Replicas simultaneously held their crotches and collapsed, rendered unconscious by an overwhelming surge of pain. Holiday quickly ensured that the downed clones were executed, and then angrily ran around the church, calling out for Fettel.
"Relax, big guy – he left crying for mommy." Jin was flashing a thumbs-up to the Point Man. Holiday looked at the soldier in confusion, and the F.E.A.R. Point Man innocently pointed to his gun and to his crotch. Doug grinned. The son of a bitch might be dead, but he could still feel pain.
Speaking of mommy, the horrible undead woman let out an ear-splitting shriek of anguish and the floor at the center of the church suddenly erupted, plummeting upwards into a gaping black void in the ceiling before suddenly disappearing without a trace. There was a hole in the ceiling now, and the Point Man immediately peered down into a creepy crypt. There were shelves below to shield his fall, and he dived down.
"That was a psychic outburst from Alma Wade," Jin replied helpfully. "She'll leave us alone until she feels like it again. Which, I guess, is pretty soon." The F.E.A.R. medic gingerly climbed down the hole, pausing momentarily to see Holiday nervously staring around.
"You okay, Douglas?" she asked quietly. Holiday looked at her for a few moments before smiling, and accepting her hand in making their way down the hole.
"Jin, do you always make bullshit up?"
"Only when the situation demands it," Jin smiled. The two held each others' arms for a moment, glancing at the mute killing machine as he fearlessly walked down the badly lit corridor. Then they followed him.