Faith Harris P1
Z War: The Council Interviews
Beta By: Starway Man|()|()|MIDDLESEX COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS [A forty-five minute drive north of Boston, Alexander and Faith Harris' home is in a quiet area. Nestled within six acres of woodland, it’s the kind of place you go to get away from it all. After winding my way up the gravel road, I come to a partially-built, stockade-style fence, a perfect defense in the making against attack by the undead.
Soon after, I am inside a rustic, log cabin home, being escorted into the den by Mrs. Harris. Dressed in a plain T-shirt and jeans, she seems a far cry from the fearsome warrior woman so many have come to expect.] Thank you for allowing me into your home, Mrs. Harris-
Call me Faith, 'cause that particular label? Makes me think you’re talkin’ 'bout my mother-in-law. Not that I ever met her - but then from what Xander says, that’s no big loss. Uh, of course. Err…how shall we do this, then? [She gives me a wide, friendly smile.]
I thought the deal was you ask, 'n I answer? Yes, but I usually find that it helps if the interviewee sets the appropriate tone right from the start. Everyone has their own way of doing these things, after all.
Alright, whatever. Well, after all that shit with the First Evil was over 'n done with in the 'Dale, I spent six months at the Boston school, teaching all the girls there everything I knew. That was just a temp job, though - when it was done, Giles set me up with a bank account and back pay, and then I pretty much went freelance.
Watchers were in helluva short supply back then, and the one guy I would've tolerated on the road with me, he’d already set himself up in LA. I gotta tell ya, riding around the country on a motorcycle's got to be one of coolest things a person can do.
With all the cash I had banked, I bought me a custom-made American IronHorse, 'n I hit the road. I'd ride into a town, patrol the graveyards, and check the local papers for any weird murders. Mostly though, I just kept an eye out for any demon bullshit. Seems like wherever I went, I was up to my armpits in it.I was under the impression that before the war, the majority of demons kept close to large population centers...
Yeah, but with slayers setting up shop in so many of the big cities, the smart ones started to hit the small towns to get some privacy. I'd come in, bust up their plans, and leave one alive to tell the rest that they better watch it - or the Council would send in more slayers to wipe 'em all out.
It worked pretty good while it lasted. Had a job I loved, freedom to go where I wanted and set my own hours, plus a free place to crash in any city with a slayer school or safe house.Were you concerned when the reports about 'African rabies' became public knowledge?
Hell, no. First time I ever heard of it, I was in Washington State - and ya can't get much further removed from Africa than that. There's always something shitty going on in that place, look at those commercials with the starving kids that [Name withheld for legal reasons.]
Think about it; maybe if they didn't shove it in your face every time ya turn on the tube, people would still give a crap. Even the ones that did send 'em money, I bet a lot of them didn't care either. It's simple, send a check as your good deed for the month, then go out and fuck your neighbor over.No concern for your future husband?[She snorts.]
Back then, no. 'Cause Xander and I barely knew each other. Well, alright, I knew him pretty well in the Biblical sense of the word, when we were both teenage kids there was one night when we... y’know. But we'd had a... well, I guess you could call it a falling out back in the day, and I took off for LA during Y2K. I didn't see Xander again until right before Sunny-D became a fucking crater.
And hell, other than what comes from fighting on the same team, we didn't really have a lot to say ta each other then. Between him losing his eye and his ex-fiancée, and me trying to get a real relationship with Woody [Senior Watcher, Robin Wood]
going, I don't think we said more 'n five words to each other before we went our separate ways...So there was no contact at all between the two of you between then, and the liberation of Fall River?
Nah, that shit [She gestures to an enlarged photo of herself and Alexander Harris kissing on the cover of the first post-war issue of Time Magazine, hanging on a nearby wall.]
was literally how we met up for the first time after the whole Sunnydale thing.[Mr. and Mrs. Harris were the subjects of the now famous 'liberation kiss' photo, taken by photographer Gerald Simmons. The similarity to the VE Day photo of the 'kissing sailor' in Times Square, by Alfred Eisenstaedt in the August of 1945, unsurprisingly captured the hearts of the entire nation.]
That whole thing ended up being such a huge pain in the balls, ya know? If I knew all the crap we’d eventually have to deal with back then, I'd have taken that camera and shoved it right up Simmons' ass. [She brings her palm down to the desk for emphasis.]But the photo has become iconic...
Well, big whoop! Simmons takes a photo of me and Xan in a private moment, and ends up making a fucking mint when he sells it. Even gets one of those delayed putz awards, or whatever the hell they're called.¹ And what did we get out of it? Our faces plastered over every re-opened gossip rag, because the world had run out of beautiful people to hound 24/7.
1. The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was re-established three years after the official end of the war.
And once they found out about the whole slayer thing, it wasn't just us anymore; it was anybody that was connected to the Council. Poor Red [Senior Witch, Willow Rosenberg]
wouldn't leave her house in Brazil for three months 'cause of how she looked, for Christ sakes.
Sometimes it got so bad it made us wish people like [Name withheld for legal reasons.]
and [Name withheld for legal reasons.]
were still around. Dumb-ass celebrities had all that cash and connections, but still couldn't stay alive. If they had, maybe the rags woulda left us the fuck alone. Like that mansion massacre on Long Island, that shit still pisses me off to this day.²
2. Refers to
[Name withheld for legal reasons.] who attempted to host a celebrity web cam at his mansion to ride out the war. The mansion was overrun by hundreds of people who learned of its location, and tried to gain access to gain safety from the zombies.
Ya know - I'da given my left tit and Xander's left nut to have digs like that during the war. Those assholes had it made, that place coulda held off a million
fucking zacks. They had enough water, food, fuel and guns to last for years. Instead, look what fucking happened...I was under the impression you did quite well in Fall River.
Sure we did, but you gotta realize - there wasn't nothin' to do there once the daily work was done. Thing about slayers is, they got a shit-ton of energy to burn and they get bored real
fast. A setup like that mansion? I woulda been good for a year, maybe two, easy.
That's why I got so much use outta that thing. [She points above her head to the M14 rifle hung on the wall near the ceiling.]
Long as we got our supply drops, with plenty o’ ammo, I was good.You said you were in the mid-west when you first heard of African rabies. Where exactly were you when the panic started?
I was in Hastings, Nebraska; I think that bum-fuck town was called. In some hole-in-the-wall bar when that reporter chick broke the news about zack. Soon as I saw it, I knew we were in deep shit.'We', as in the Council?
Nah, I mean us
, [She waves her hands around the room.]
as in the whole fucking planet. Most people in the world kept their heads up their asses when it came to the supernatural stuff. All of a sudden it's on TV, live in every house in America?
Still, you had a buncha dumb-ass rednecks laughing it up after hearing about it, asking 'bout what kinda drugs she was on... but I knew that wasn't gonna last long. If it was bad 'nuff to be on the tube, then it'd be knockin' on their doors soon enough.
So I paid my tab, packed up my shit in the motel room I was crashing at, and headed out for Beantown.There was a slayer school in Lincoln, why didn't you go there instead?
'Cause that's my hometown, born and kinda-sorta raised there. Plus that's where all the slayers I trained were, I wasn't 'bout to leave 'em hanging. But what shoulda been a pretty easy drive took fucking forever, even on a bike.
People were starting to head up north, and cause o’ that, sometimes it was real hard to find gas. [She smirks.]
I remember how I bagged this trio of vamps one night, hanging around this beat-up old Explorer.
Fucking creeps had this racket goin' on, see, they set out a buncha gas cans along the side of the road with a 'Free gas!
' sign next to 'em. Normally, people would see a bunch a shady-lookin' dudes standing there at night, and just keep on moving.
But so many people were desperate to get the hell outta Dodge, they took stupid risks...The vampires weren't attempting to evacuate as well?
Nah, but at the time, why would they? People didn't really know nothin' about the virus back then, didn't even know about a little scratch bein’ enough to get ya infected. Hell, some people was still convinced Phalanx was still the real deal.
Vamps don't age, 'n they heal from just about anything. That dick Spike, I heard tell how he was in a wheelchair for months with a busted spine after B crippled him way back when. If they can heal from somethin' like that, they musta figured, what the hell did they have to worry about?
People learned about that carrier shit the hard way, we all
did. When vamps were jumping the walls of safe zones and stuff, draining people and infecting them... zack was bad enough, but the infected vamps could bypass every defense that kept 'em out, and that's some scary fucking shit.
If it weren't for Dawnie [Senior Translator, Dawn Jacobs nee Summers]
spreadin' the word to everybody 'round the world like she did, we mighta lost the whole damn war. Lucky fer us, people were willin' to believe that vamps were real by that point. Kinda hard not to, with zack moaning for yer blood all day 'n night.[She stares off into space for a moment.]
Ah, shit, where was I?You were talking about the vampire trick with the gas sign.
Oh yeah... so anyways, these vamps musta been raking it in - blood, money, and whatever supplies they were taking offa people. When I pull up, they're practically drooling over me; which ain't surprising, I do that to just about any species I come in contact with.
I didn't wanna tip 'em off yet, so I'm playing it real ditzy, doing my best Buffy act, ya know? [She chuckles at this.]
If you're reading this B, put the damn phone down, I'm just kiddin'...
So I get up close, act like I'm gonna show how grateful I am to 'em - and boom, before ya know it, there's three dust piles in the grass and I got all the gas I need. After siphoning off the Explorer's big-ass tank to fill mine, I did all the gas cans I could too, and left 'em by the sign.
After that, I just kept heading east, and I saw a lot of fucked-up shit along the way too. People getting dragged out of cars and beat up, shootouts... all the nasty stuff you'd expect when the world’s crumblin' down all 'round you.
I never saw many zacks back then, though. I just kept going east, heading fer the old home town.As a slayer, wouldn't you have been a huge asset in helping those communities you were passing through?
Sure I could have, but you gotta remember - this was all during the first month of the panic. Most I ever saw at once back then was four of 'em, chowin' down on some poor sap. The rest of the time, it was ones and twos. Was I supposed to stop 'n get off my bike every single time I saw one? I’d have never managed to get outta Nebraska if I did.
Besides - by then, everybody knew ya had ta brain 'em. Anybody with a bat, crowbar, or hell, even a fucking rock
coulda done them real easy. People are always bitching these days, why didn't the slayers do this or do that? Maybe if those people had gotten off their asses and done more for themselves, it wouldn't have gotten so bad.Isn't it the Council's, in particular, the slayer's mission to protect humanity?
Sure it is, but that don’t mean everyone else can’t contribute. Hell - how many apocalypses did B and Fang's [The ensouled vampire known as Angel]
crews save the world from, before the war? We all did our part, but people were expecting us slayers to just run into a horde of zacks and tear 'em apart like some kinda Terminator or whatever?
They think just 'cause the chosen crowd got the whole slayer package, none of 'em can touch us, or we couldn't get infected... hell, some people think it was our fucking duty to do it, and if we got our asses killed saving some dumbass who coulda saved himself if he’d had the balls to fight back, so what?
Sure we're stronger 'n move faster than the average guy, but that doesn't mean we can't fuck up like anybody else. All it takes is a second of distraction, and zack's got his teeth in ya. Every time I woulda got off that bike, I was risking my life.One little slip
...believe me, I’ve seen how much damage something like that can do, and I never wanna feel that again.Is that ‘something’ you're speaking about anything in particular you’d care to share?
Sorry, but that's real personal, ya know? Happened when I was in Sunnydale way back before the war, and I don't wanna talk about it.That's fine, please continue.
Gotcha. Well, I didn't come up against any serious numbers till I hit Ohio. I'd come up through Indiana and took the back roads to avoid most of the trouble. At the time, there was a lotta people tryin' to head north and get ta Canada.
When I passed between Lima and Toledo, it was like a big-ass caravan. You'd see a lot of zack bodies around, with crushed skulls, or bullet holes. The first-wave people had started to wise up by that point, so I figured we might have a good chance to end it all quick and clean.
So I just kept going, I didn't realize how deep the world was truly in it till I got to Norwalk. I wasn't a big town, heck, Sunny-D was bigger than it was. People from all over the place were heading west around Lake Erie and into Michigan.
A lot of 'em coulda just used the boats that were goin' back and forth, but I guess people didn't wanna risk getting stuffed in some cargo hold with an infected. Couldn't blame them for that, look what happened to Cari [Slayer Caridad Santiago, Ret.]
'n her girls on that cruise ship...
Man, Norwalk was a fucking mess; lotta people had left Cleveland and were heading the same way. Still, it didn't seem all that much different at first from any other city I passed through, and I didn't notice it till I hit the downtown area.
Zack had been tagging along behind the Cleveland peeps. Since it was one of the last places to get supplies, you had riots in the streets, and zack had an all-you-can-eat buffet. That's when I had to ditch my baby...Excuse me, baby?[She gives me a glare.]
What, ya thought I meant a kid or somethin'? I meant my Softail! Me 'n her had a lotta good miles together, but I just couldn't risk it. In 'tween people lookin' for a fast ride outta town, and zack numbers, I knew I needed somethin' bigger.
So I got off, and laid her down on her side real gentle, then I knifed the tires. If I couldn't ride 'er, nobody else was goin’ to neither. After that, I went to town on zack with the short sword I had strapped to my saddlebags.I thought you were avoiding the zombies?
I was when they were just wandering 'round. These ones were attacking people, I wasn't gonna just stand by while that's
happening. I was doin' half-head decaps, right around here, [She places the side of her palm against the bridge of her nose horizontally.]
so's the heads wouldn't be still alive on the ground.
Kept doing shit like that all the way to Framingham, Massachusetts. I'd take the back-roads, but if I saw people that needed a hand, I tried to help. Usually, it was just takin' care of zack, or moving abandoned cars out the way so's people could get their rides through.
Most of the time, it worked alright. People would be holding out in their house, and I'd take out a group of zacks tryin' to get in. They'd be grateful, give me some food and a place to crash for the night.
Even with all the shit that was going down around the world, people were comin' together. It was kinda nice, ya know? After all that time slayin' in the dark, it was cool to have people really show appreciation for what ya were trying ta do.
Wasn't always like that, though. Even when it was us versus zack, there were still motherfuckers out there that just wanted to take advantage o’ the situation. Robbin' anybody they came across, and generally doin' whatever they could to make people’s lives worse than they already were.Does anything in particular come to mind?
Yeah. I was somewhere in Seneca County, New York when I came across this fucking mess. Heard a woman screaming, so I got out of the little compact I'd been using and found her. She was just standin' there yelling, zack wasn't even anywhere in sight.
She was all busted up, bruises all over her face an' shit. Before I could ask what was wrong, somethin' cracks me across the back of the head. Let me tell ya, I got pissed
I turn around to find this jerk-off standin' there with a piece a pipe, lookin' all bug-eyed wondering why I didn't go down when he hit me. Turns out, he'd promised this girl he'd get her to Canada. 'Stead, he beats the crap outta her, rapes her, not to mention some other really sick shit too...She'd somehow managed to escape?
Nah, that was the real twisted part. He told her that if she didn't help him find a new playmate, he was gonna feed her to zack. That point, she was so scared outta her mind...I didn't blame her for helpin' to lay a trap.You blamed him for-
Fuckin' right I did. I snatched that pipe right outta his hands and kicked the crap outta him. While he was moanin’ and beggin' for his life, I looked back at the woman – 'n she was just standing there, staring.
With him not goin' anywhere, I sat her down, gave her some food 'n water. That's when she told me what all he'd done to her. By the time I'd got the story outta her, zack had shown up, so I broke that bastard’s legs and left him there.Do you know what happened to him?
No. But I hope they started at his legs and worked their way up...prick
. I usually just beat the shit outta guys like that. But considering all the crap he did to that lady, I had no sympathy for his dumb ass.
Me 'n Nancy, that was her name, took off in my car. Couple of hours later, we ran into a group of survivors from Georgia, trying to hit Canada. Couple of 'em were former sheriff's deputies, so I left 'er with them.Why didn't you take her with you?
'Cause I was headin' straight into hell, and I knew it. All the small towns I’d been through were trashed 'n zack was starting to take over. I figured Boston was gonna be a helluva lot worse, I wasn't gonna drag her inta that
...If you thought it was going to be that bad, why did you continue on to that city?
Dude, there were days back then I didn't know what the hell I was thinking! At the time, I was just on a mission, and Boston was my goal. I didn't have some big plan in mind or anything, it was just get there
. I figured once I saw what the situation with my girls was, I'd come up with what to do next.Wasn't it possible they had abandoned the city, much like slayers Sanders-Johnson and Williams had?
I didn't know that had happened at the time. Some of the old farts in the Council say they were cowards fer checkin' out like that, but not me. Vi and Rona saw the writing on the wall; those big cities, with millions of people...how the hell were they supposed to even put a fucking dent
in zack numbers?
It ain't like they ran and hid either, Rona 'n hers fought zack from Chicago all the way ta Canada. Vi cut through 'em from New York City into Pennsylvania. How many people do ya think they saved in the process?
And people fuckin' forget that there were plenty of slayers that stayed too. Look at Mitsuko in Japan, Janessa in Australia, or Mireille in France. All those girls led slayer teams that kept safe zones in major cities or the surrounding areas.
But Mika [Slayer Tamika Lawson 1986-2008]
'n her girls waited too long to get out. That's why she took on those three hundred zacks. Bein' head slayer, it was her call to stay, so it was her job to get her people out when things went to shit. She knew the cost, but that was one she was willin' ta pay.I was under the impression that the watchers were in charge?
Used to be, they had the final say in everything. I remember how before the war, those creeps had this sick ‘test’ they used to put the slayer through, if she ever managed to live long enough to hit eighteen. But after most of 'em got blown up by the First’s minion Caleb, things changed.
With Giles runnin' the show, we made things equal; head slayer and head watcher of the school were in charge. Watchers ran the research 'n magic side of things, slayers handle the tactical stuff.And if there was a disagreement about one, or the other?
Then it goes higher up the ladder, far as it needs to till things got settled. Hey, I’m not sayin’ there weren’t problems sometimes, people couldn't get along either 'cause the watcher was one of the old fucks who thought he or she could still treat us slayers like robots or whatever. Or 'cause the slayer kept tryin’ to hit on the watcher, 'n wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. But mostly it worked okay.What about the case of whether or not to leave a city?
Far as I'm concerned, that's strictly a judgment call by whoever’s in charge on site. Big cities around the world turned into fucking slaughterhouses almost overnight. Every slayer on the planet, pre-war, couldn't take on millions of zacks 'n win, no matter what Andrew wrote in that stupid fucking book of his - it just wasn't possible.
Shit, look at what happened in Yonkers, the Army's big stand... They had tanks, missiles and helicopters... and they got their asses chewed up, on account of the higher ups couldn’t figure out what kinda enemy they were dealing with until it was too fucking late.
And we didn't have any of that stuff, we had swords, axes and crossbows. None of those girls stood a chance against those kinds o’ numbers, and anyone who says different is a friggin’ moron.When did you realize you weren't going to make it into Boston?
Framingham, 'bout twenty miles outside the city limits. [She shakes her head sadly.]
That's when I ran into a bunch of National Guard guys from the 182nd. They were trying to evacuate this nursing home, load the old folks into these huge-ass six wheelers and head north.
I remember, zack was coming in from all over for that one. They were head-shoting pretty good, but all the goddamn noise was just drawin' more of 'em in. Nothing they coulda done 'bout that, though, no such thing as Meg's yet...
Wasn't like a horde of 'em or nothing, ya know, just a steady stream - one after the other. I bowled over a few of 'em in my pickup, just tryin' to buy some time for those guys to get the job done. The guy in charge, Staff Sergeant Buckley, he was real appreciative of my efforts.
Goddamn, but I’ll never forget how he managed to keep it together with the guys in his unit. You could see how a lot of the younger ones, just outta basic training, were ready to piss themselves 'n run for it. But Buckley kept 'em focused, man had balls of fucking steel.
I jumped outta the cab with a sword in one hand, 'n a hatchet in the other. I was doing zack two atta time, and yelled at the Sarge to deal with the old geezers. Once he saw what I could do, he obliged.Did the soldiers question you regarding your abilities?
Nah, not with everything goin’ down. When they saw me tearin' zack apart like I was doing, what were they gonna do, ask if I was high on PCP or somethin'? Long as I wasn't bit, they were just glad ta be able to speed things up.
Was working pretty good there for a bit, then a couple o’ soldiers came runnin' out, one was clutching his bleeding right arm. You can guess how that
went...The nursing home was already infected?
Not when Buckley started. But the place had a small hospital on the other side of the building, and they were takin' in injured people. Someone that came in musta been infected and croaked real sudden. There'd been shooting back there, but that wasn't a surprise. That shit happened a lot, ya know?
Anyways...this kid, total baby face, couldn't have been more than nineteen or twenty. He's on his knees in front of the squad cryin', knowin’ he's in deep shit. Hell, everybody musta known. Nobody knew that cutting off a bit arm or a leg could stop the infection at the time.
So he's looking up at the Sarge, beggin' him ta do something to help, anything
. Now I hadn't known the man long, we'd only met like twenty minutes ago, but the look on his face said it all. That's when he did it.What did Sergeant Buckley do?
Told the kid to close his eyes, the medic would be over to fix him up. Baby face obviously didn’t believe it, but he does what he’s told anyway. Soon as he does, Buckley puts a fucking bullet in his head.What was the general reaction to that?
Didn’t have time to find out. Right after the body hit the sidewalk, zack came bustin' through the doors that the kid and the other soldier had come out of. Whole shit-load of 'em too. Sarge instantly yelled for everyone to get their asses in gear, he loaded up his boys and took off with the geezers they were able to save.Did the Staff Sergeant ask you to come with them?
Nah, he just gave me a quick salute and ran for it. We had each other figured out right from the start - he was gonna do everything he could to make sure those oldsters survived, and I was gonna be on my way as soon as we saved all the people we could.
So I took off too. Drove till I got outta that hellhole, and then I just sat there in the middle of nowhere for a while. The reason I didn't keep goin’ to Boston was simple; I was a fucking coward. I can make up all the bullshit excuses in the world, but that's the truth.But you had just saved-
Wasn't zack I was afraid of, never was. But seein' Buckley havin' ta shoot one of his own men like that? That scared the shit outta me, worse than zack ever could. All I could think of was seein' one of my girls looking at me like that. Begging me to do somethin' ta help, and knowing there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do but kill her like Buckley did with his guy.[She shifts uncomfortably in her seat.]
That's when I decided to head south. I told myself my girls were all either dead, evac'ed or infected. And yeah, the survivors had already left town by the time I hit Massachusetts, so it woulda been pointless to go into Boston lookin’ for 'em - but I didn't know that at the time.
That still fucks with me at nights, ya see. Sure I did what I had to, to survive - but what kinda example is that for the younger slayers? Cut 'n run, if you're lucky things'll work out...|()|()|END PART 1