Disclaimer: I do not own either Half-Life
or Buffy the Vampire Slayer
. They belong to Valve Software and the First Evil (aka Joss Whedon) respectively.
James Erikson was nervous.
If Erikson had had his way, he wouldn’t even be
in City 24. He had hoped for an assignment to City 19, or City 23. But his superiors said he was one of the best – so they shipped him off to City 24. The city with the highest rate of dead or missing CPs.
Erikson had seen some statistics about City 24. Prior to the Seven Hour War, when the city had been called Cleveland, it had one of the highest missing person rates in the country. The only city with a higher rate had been Sunnydale, California – and that
city had been destroyed in an event that was never properly explained a year before the Combine invasion.
Worse, whoever was killing CPs wasn’t leaving much in the way of clues. Half the time, nobody ever found the body. If they did find the body, it had invariably been burned and mutilated, which ruined any forensic evidence.
The prevailing theory – and the one favored by the higher-ups – was that it was a Resistance cell trying to demoralize the CPs and discourage citizens from joining. It made sense – ordinary citizens would never dare do this kind of thing. However, why would a Resistance squad go to such lengths to destroy forensic evidence?
Another theory, held by a few native CPs and several citizens, was that whatever used to cause disappearances in Cleveland was now targeting CPs. Nobody knew exactly what that was, but at least one citizen was certain that it wasn’t human.
Erikson was distracted from his thoughts when he spotted a woman in an alley. Beating time!
“Citizen! Identify yourself!” he shouted.
“I’m lost,” she replied in an unfamiliar accent. “I can’t seem to find my way home.”
Erikson shined his flashlight at her. She wasn’t wearing standard civilian clothing. Instead, she wore a flowing black dress with embroidered patterns. It was very beautiful, and completely against regulations. She had a somewhat old-fashioned appearance, spoiled by the radio earpiece nestled in her long black hair.
“Please, sir, help me,” she pleaded. “I’m hungry.” She looked as helpless as a kitten. But Erikson had no mercy for her.
“Citizen, you are in violation of curfew.” He raised his stunstick, and brought it down on her head.
With lightning reflexes, the woman grabbed his arm, stopping the blow. She gripped his arm with uncanny strength. Erikson looked at her face again. It had changed into something… twisted. Monstrous. And her eyes were now yellow. She opened her mouth, baring a set of fangs.
It was the last thing he saw.
With one swift punch, Drusilla cold-cocked the CP. Another time, she would never have deliberately knocked someone out before feeding on them. Like any vampire, she had enjoyed feeding on live victims, so she could feel their struggles and hear their screams. It was delicious.
But now, it was important that her victims not scream. They had little radios in their helmets, and if one screamed, they all heard it. It was vital that they not have time to respond.
Drusilla had a radio of her own. It was special – it allowed her to hear what the CPs said, but they couldn’t hear what she said. It also allowed her to hear the sound of a CP’s heart monitor flatlining as he died.
Her feeding done, Drusilla prepared for the cleanup. She stripped the man of his gun, then picked up the body and placed in a dumpster. Then, she drew a small vial of special acid from inside her dress, and poured it over the body. By the time the Combine found it, it would be unrecognizable.
Drusilla’s mommy had taught her to clean up after her food. After she became a vampire, she stopped listening to what her mommy said. But now she had a new mommy. And she listened to her mommy.
After all, her mommy had given her back her soul.
Buffy always found the sight of Drusilla feeding fascinating. It was bizarre for a Slayer to even associate with vampires. Even more bizarre for her to love one. But even when she had been sleeping with Spike, Buffy never thought the day would come that she would be lookout while a vampire fed on a human.
Illyria had rationalized it to her. Drusilla needed blood to survive, and while Cleveland had almost certainly had a slew of butcher shops that didn’t blink at customers coming in at night buying pig’s blood, City 24 did not. So Drusilla fed off of humans now – but only those humans whom Buffy would have killed anyway. CPs were the enemy. They were traitors to the human race, having thrown in their lot with the Combine. If the Scoobies had their way, they would all be killed. So why not let them die so that Drusilla - now ensouled - might live? Had Angel or Spike been around, they too would probably have resorted to eating CPs.
“You ready, Dru?” she called over the radio Xander and Dawn had come up with. Dawn had placed some kind of charm that prevented the signal from being understood by any radio except others like it.
“All done. Cleaned up and everything,” came the reply.
“Then let’s get out of here.”
After nearly twenty years spent living and fighting in City 24, Buffy was used to the cautious, look-around-every-corner way she got around. The Scooby Gang had elected to live off the grid, which meant avoiding CPs wherever possible.
Ten minutes later, they reached the burned-out office building (formerly the Cleveland branch of Wolfram & Hart) that sat atop their headquarters. They descended into the basement, finally reaching the seal. Buffy stood before the seal, brought Angel’s image to mind, and uttered the words, “I love you.”
It was probably Dawn’s single most brilliant spell. The seal was the only way into the base. The words weren’t the trigger, the meaning was. It could only be activated by conjuring the image of a loved one and telling them those three words. Anyone with a loved one could use it – a category that probably excluded CPs, and almost certainly excluded Combine soldiers.
The seal activated. The five points of the pentacle folded inward, and the whole thing descended out of sight, leaving a steep staircase behind.
“You first,” Buffy gestured. Drusilla nodded, and the two of them descended the staircase into their base.
Also known as the Cleveland Hellmouth.