Corrado was proud of being FARC.
There was no other way of saying it. He was proud of fighting for a cause, fighting for a better tomorrow. He was like many in the ranks. He'd come from a poor farming village with even poorer parents. He had no illusions about what life held for people like him. He could work the fields harvesting meager crops, picking coca leaves for the cartels, or join one of the many private armies that dotted the Colombian region. That last option included working with the local police. They were little more then thugs paid to protect the wealthy and their interests.
Then one day, during a trip to the market to sell the monthly harvest, Corrado had been nearby when an explosion had ripped though a police van taking the men inside with it. He had jumped into his father’s truck and goosed the engine into life. He was traveling out of town when he was stopped by more local authorities. He was certain these were more paid thugs but right that moment they were playing their role of officers of the law. They asked questions. Then he had been shocked when they had pulled the tarp in the back aside and asked about the three young men in the back of his truck. Thinking quickly, Corrado sighed, admitting he was taking migrant workers back to his farm. They would, he hoped be willing to work for three squares and the possibility of being married off to some ones daughter.
The officers had laughed and sent him on his way. Of course the men had been FARC the bomb had been punishment they said for the local police harassing innocent villagers. Corrado had delivered them to the place they indicated leaving him with an invitation to a place where like minded men and women gathered to talk. First it was a few late night discussions. Then he started attending the occasional rally. All too soon, the young farm boy was accepting an invitation to join the Revolutionary Forces formally.
That had been a little over a year ago. A year of brutal training and drilling at the hands of almost sadistic task masters like Alberto. Almost every day they had been taught about the legendary Bloodhound. However fast you broke apart and assembled a rifle she had done it faster. Whatever score you posted on the assault courses and targeting ranges, she had done it better. The Bloodhound was used as a whip to drive the young recruits forward. Fight better run faster, jump higher be stronger. All these brutal daily training regimens and in the end Corrado knew, all the young recruits knew, they would never be as good as the legend was reputed to be. They had learned to both revere and hate this woman. Now here he was trying to hunt her down.
Corrado had heard the other stories about the strange things you saw here and there. He didn't believe in vampires and demons. The human monster was more then capable of bedeviling mankind without adding the tortures inflicted by an uncaring universe. Like many he thought this Alexander Harris was mad, or else some kind of liar. There couldn't be such a thing as vampires and demons, there just couldn't be. Still he had read the stories attached to the man Harris. He thought himself prepared for any surprise the American might have for him but he was completely unprepared for finding the boy crouched on a hallway loudly counting to himself.
Xander was at five hundred when he heard the solder moving through the hallway.
He quieted his loud counting and moved himself further up the hallways trying to avoid conflict if he could. "If I wanted to avoid conflict I shouldn't be running around with an elite assassin and terrorist with a price on her head so high the mob is willing to finance a freaking army to waste her." Xander thought to himself.
Xander reached a door and twisted the knob. The door opened. He saw dark shadows beyond. "Certain doom versus possible doom," He muttered. He was about to head into the shadows, when light from the hallways illuminated the dark figures within. Lying about the floor in various positions of rest were a dozen or so undead. Xander silently swore to himself. The crazy maid had not been kidding. The place was crawling with vamps and they would be waking soon. He backed out the door. And right into the FARC trooper who had been gliding up behind him.
"So there really is such a thing as blood sucking devils." Corrado whispered as he jabbed his knife into Xander's back.
Xander spun in place and threw his fist out. Corrado bobbed and launched a perfect right cross. Xander staggered backward and the trooper grabbed him and swung his body around hurling him at a far wall and punching him twice in the face in stomach.
Xander swore as he coughed air back into his lungs. "Just my luck all the soldiers in all the world and I get the UFC wannbe."
The Soldier stopped and looked at Xander smiling. "UFC, Spider Silvia number one!" He stepped back and assumed a fighting stance. Obviously he had seen a few octagon matches and read Xander's familiarity with UFC as invitation for a proper match.
"Oh that's just great." Xander sighed "Why does the universe hate me?"
Xander went into his best fighting stance. Corrado lashed out his foot in a kick that Xander managed to block. He also blocked the head shot but caught the body blow. The force of the blow thrust him back against the wall. He dodged out of the way of the next blow. Corrado's fist made a dull gonging sound when it crashed into the wall. Xander came in hurling body blow punches trying to take advantage of the situation; but he made the mistake of getting too close to the man who elbowed him hard in the side of the head. Xander staggered out of the way of the man's kick. Xander punched at his kneecap. The man grunted in pain as he was staggered by the blow. Xander thought he saw his chance not seeing Corrado grab at the knife he had slipped into his belt. Xander's shot at the trooper's head glanced off the man's skull. Corrado snarled turning slashing at Xander's body. The knife plunged deep into Xander's stomach and he gasped weakly realizing that he could feel the blade tearing at his deep innards.
He collapsed on the ground holding his belly. He could feel the tear in his stomach. He grunted weakly rolling on the ground waiting for the world to go dark. He could feel his heart beat. The strong rhythm was booming in his ears, louder and louder. Was this death? Did every sound become super loud at the end and wasn’t his heart supposed to be slowing down. The thundering beat was getting faster. Xander could feel an almost unbearable itching. Xander looked down at the knife still sticking out of the gash in his guts. However, the blade had not just pierced his body; it had also rammed its way through the Devil’s Root he was keeping in the pocket of his hooded sweater. He drew his hand away from the deep wound in his stomach and saw his hands not just covered in blood but a thick sticky liquid. The juice from the Devil’s Root was seeping into the wound. Drawing the pierced root from his pocket, he looked at the plant then recklessly shoved the thing into his mouth; biting down and tasting the acrid juice flowing down his throat. Xander grimaced in pain forcing himself to swallow the chunk of plant in his mouth. He bit viciously into the plant again, sucking more of the foul tasting root.
Xander felt his insides starting to churn and hot lava flowing through his veins. This was not death. He was sure of that now this was something else, something that felt worse then death. Finally unable to bare the insane itching or the hot pain Xander screamed loudly. The trooper walked over to the man he thought was dying only moments before.
He reached down to pick up his discarded knife and marched over to the writhing boy and prepared to stab him again. The blade swept downward, however this time Xander’s fist was there gripping his arm in an iron hold. The man kicked out at the arm holding him punching at it but Xander's grip would not break, in fact it began to get tighter.
Xander rose from the ground and punched the trooper hard sending him rocking backward. Xander began pummeling the man holding onto him with frenzied strength. Corrado’s knife and fist were crushed relentlessly by Xander’s now freakish power. The FARC trooper’s hand and arm started going numb. The Trooper reached out trying to gouge at Xander’s eye but the boy swept the man’s feet out from under him with a swift kick. Xander watched fascinated as Corrado’s body seemed to rotate in slow motion in the air. It was like one of his John Woo movies brought to life. Some part of him knew this was the Devil’s Root. The arcane power within was forcing his mind to process information more quickly; so quickly in fact that the world had slowed to a crawl.
Xander rammed his fist into Corrado. The boy’s body smashed brutally backward into a wall. Xander pummeled him; his drug-addled sense caused a bestial scream of rage and pain to echo though the hallways.
The Trooper shoved Xander backward. He jumped up, coming at Xander again, cursing as he threw punches left and right. Xander caught or deflected each blow. Corrado’s movements had become slow and watching him fight was like watching a man swinging a fist underwater. The knife in his hand was sweeping around in a wide arc. Its course was Xander’s throat and Xander thoughtlessly caught the attack; breaking Corrado’s hand with a vicious snap. The knife flipped out of the desperate trooper’s mangled hand glittering dangerously as it swirled through the air. Xander caught the arcing blade and rammed it back into Corrado’s neck. The boy’s eyes rolled lifelessly back in his head and the poor and foolish farm boy sagged back against the wall.
Xander stumbled backward; his heartbeat still screaming in his chest. "Oh God, I am dying." He muttered breathlessly to himself.
"Well duh," a familiar voice sarcastically snapped. Xander glanced around and saw Spike leaning incongruously against the wall smoking. "Didn’t Red warn you about what might happen if you actually ate the stuff raw? I mean it’s partially magic and it grows in prime drug field land."
"I'm OD'ing" Xander asked weakly.
"Your first clue might have been the fact I'm standing here talking to you."
"Why you; Why not Angel?"
"I guess because I piss you off more which means you won't ignore me."
"So what, I'm dying and I have to spend my last moment listening to William the Bloody awful poet?"
"Perfect time I think you are a captive audience I think I have something about the creeping claw of death in here." Spike began searching his coat pockets.
"Hate to be a bitch but could we get back to the whole Xander dying thing I'd like to avoid that."
Spike puffed out smoke in annoyance. "Well genius,” The Vampire snapped, “if what’s killing you is the stuff you ate; the solution to the problem seems straight forward enough." Spike reached down and grabbed his head and faced him toward the body of the trooper splayed on the wall. "Look at it tough boy, Look at him he's dead now because of you that’s no vampire or demon or monster that is a real human being. That life was snuffed out because you had to live you had to defend a killer and murderer. You know once you’re dead that crazy Bitch will find Buffy and the others. She'll kill them all and you saw she has the stones and the skills to do it too. Buffy Red, All of them will look like this except maybe nicer because this was your work you did this look at it that’s death Harris ugly horrible death you made it happen how does that make you feel."
Xander screamed and puked his guts out on the floor. When he finished heaving his guts out he fell to the ground weak as a kitten. "Thanks, I think." he said to the phantom Spike.
"No problem mate, now that you've purged, all you need to worry about is riding out the rest of the high. Relax it will be fun."
"This must be some new version of fun I was not previously aware of." Xander looked at the body again and found his eyes drawn to a small vial in the dead trooper's pocket. "What the hell is that?"
"Mate I wouldn't go eating or drinking anything else you don't know. I mean what do you think this is; Alice in freaking Wonderland."
Xander dipped a finger into the vial and tasted a small amount. The flavor was familiar if not a tad on the bland side.
"I'd love to stay and watch you work this mystery but you have company." Spike muttered and Xander indeed heard voices coming closer. Quickly he stuffed the small container in his pocket and headed away as fast as his still addled senses allowed.
"You might want to hide somewhere safe."
"Safe, in a vampire infested warehouse that has Killer Maids, marines and Revolutionaries running around inside."
"Don't be such a whine-ass Harris. This will be your chance to do the whole Dream Walking thing. I mean all the best dream walkers usually do it while high on something, why not you?"
"Sounds like fun how does it work?"
"Well walking would be a good place to start."
"You always were such a drama-bitch you know that?"
"If I didn't know that was the drug talking Harris, I'd kick your ass. Drug induced hallucination or no."
Garcia slipped through the dark hallways. (Unaware that he passed within a few feet of Xander puking his guts out)
The small boy was trying to be brave but even his courage was being tested in this place. Men and women, including those he traveled with and depended on living in a land of violence and doing the dance of death with their lives and the lives of those around them. He heard a rustling and thought it might be a yet another soldier on his way to join the battle from which he had fled.
Thinking quickly, he opened a random door and slipped inside hoping that he would go unnoticed. The rustling faded and the young boy breathed a sigh of relief. That was when his ears picked up a rustling much closer to him. He quieted himself and allowed his eyes to adjust to the gloom. The place was filled with sleeping people. They were lying randomly about the place. Garcia wondered at first if they were homeless. Then he looked closer their complexions were pale and underfed looking. Garcia looked at a young girl who looked to be almost his age. As he looked at her closely, her eyes suddenly snapped open revealing their unnatural yellowish colour. Her mouth opened in a yawn and Garcia could see the fangs in her mouth. Vampires, the floor of the room were covered in sleeping vampires. Garcia stumbled backward as the young girl quieted and her eyes closed. She was only shifting around in her unnatural day sleep. Fighting down a rising tide of panic, Garcia backed quietly away from the sleeping vampire and eased himself out of the door.
Back in the hallway, Garcia moved quietly now. He nervously realized that the warehouse was not just filled with enemy soldiers it was infested with vampires. Coming around a corner, Garcia saw still more bodies for a moment, he feared he might have stumbled across still more vampires. Then he realized the bodies were indeed dead, he wondered if the vampires had killed these men. However, these bodies had not been drained of blood.
FARC soldiers by the look of them. The method of their death was as efficient as it was brutal. Garcia had little doubt that these men had met Roberta. Trails of blood lead off around the corner. For whatever reason, Roberta had taken one of the men with her after she had disposed of these others.
Then he saw something that drew his eyes. Its desiccated appearance indicated someone had been chewing and gnawing on it. Reaching into his pocket, Garcia pulled out the photo he had been given of the Devils Root and compared the two. It seemed Roberta was cutting slices from the main plant and sucking on them. Garcia had been worried about Roberta's use of anti-psychotics but somehow this new development worried him more. The condition of the bodies in the hallway betrayed the truth; Roberta was slowing falling to the seductive lure of her alter ego. Slowly but surely The Bloodhound and her vicious brand of retribution was replacing the sweet and kind maid he had known.
A dark part of him sneered at his thought. Roberta was a fantasy it said. An artifact of Father's misplaced trust and Rosarita's well deserved guilt. The maid you knew had never existed outside of your childish dreams of a happy home. Had she not labeled herself as a hunting dog, relentless and fearsome? Had Roberta with her own mouth confessed to killing many innocents including children as young as you are now? Garcia snapped angrily at that dark seed of doubt. Father had believed in Roberta taken her into his home knowing what she was and what she had done and he had made her a part of the family.
Roberta was like a kind of replacement for the Mother he barely recalled. She was devoted and had always encouraged his tendencies to be kind and polite. Killers and monsters do not do that kind of thing. Whatever Roberta was or was capable of, there was something within her that reached toward the light with the same passion that had driven her to embrace and indulge her dark skills.
Making another turn down the endless maze of hallways, Garcia saw another group of bodies. The trail of blood he had followed stopped at a body that was lying face down. Garcia's young mind was too sharp not to fill in the blanks and reconstruct the events that made this scene. Roberta had guessed that the hallway he was standing in would be too long to allow her to get to the men standing at its end without them raising some kind of alarm. Garcia could almost picture it as Roberta took the body of the dead soldier, making it into a crude puppet. With this she had walked down the hallway unmolested by the guards at its end until she was close enough that they could do nothing to save themselves.
There was sounds of fighting up ahead and Garcia hurried along praying, no, knowing that Roberta would continue to triumph. She was strong she would overcome anyone. IT seemed fate was eager to taunt him. The sounds of fighting suddenly ended and a soft voice could be heard.
"The fight is over Rosarita, you are captured."