Willow slowly opened the door nearest to her. She took in the details of the sparsely decorated room - a statue of a woman holding a water bowl stood in its center, and a dresser blocked what looked like an entrance to an alcove in the back. On the same wall as the alcove was a door, which she headed for and tried to open. The handle refused to turn. Hmm...I think it's locked from the other side. It's too bad I don't have a gun or something I could use to blow the lock out. Or I could kick it, since it's pretty flimsy, but then I'd scuff my shoe. Ah, well. Fortunately I'm not in a hurry or anything.
Whistling, she grabbed hold of the dresser blocking the alcove and dragged it across the floor. Good thing this was empty and made of particleboard. This dresser's half as tall as me - if it was made of real wood, I'd never have been able to move it. She stepped into the darkness and was confronted by another of the creatures she'd seen earlier. "Aah! Hooker! I mean, zombie!" she yelled, backing away and pulling her gun from its holster. She quickly fired three rounds into its chest and watched it fall. Snorting, she turned to walk away - and it grabbed her ankle. She stomped on its head, which popped like a melon. Well, that's just disgusting. Plus I'll never get that out of my shoe. Grabbing another ink ribbon from the shelf that was the alcove's only notable feature, she sighed and headed back into the main room. A bright flash caught her eye and drew her gaze to the statue's bowl. She positioned the dresser and stood on top of it until she could see into the bowl.
"Ooh, a map!" Wait a minute...maps don't flash! She checked the bowl again. Nope, nothing else. How odd. She climbed down and unfurled the map, which was unlabelled but provided a nearly complete blueprint of the house. Orienting herself, she notated the rooms she'd already been in. Then, casting another longing look at the locked door, she made her way back into the hallway - only to find it empty.
"Faith? Faith?" Well, that's just great. Fine, I'll just explore the whole damn house myself. Sure, I could just go out the front door and use the radio in Bravo team's helicopter to call for help, but then I'd have to share the credit...
Looking around and choosing a direction at random, Willow walked up the main stairs until she came to a double door on the landing. Shrugging, she pulled it open and walked through - to find herself in a graveyard. Whoa. Was that on the map? This is creepier than the zombies. I get not wanting to drive far to visit the relatives, but burying them in the backyard? That's just...wrong. She made a quick survey of the cemetery and quickly found that the only exit was through a heavy iron gate. For form's sake, she pushed it - and wasn't at all surprised when she found it locked. Wandering back toward the house, her gaze found a casket that stood out from the others - there was an arrowhead-shaped indentation on the lid that was obviously a lock of some sort. A locked coffin? No way am I opening that - I saw the Mummy. She turned back toward the mansion - and nearly jumped out of her skin when she found someone had snuck up on her.
She looked the newcomer up and down. Dressed in an expensive suit, carrying a fancy leather attaché case...oh, no. No no no no.
"Who are you?" she asked resignedly, already knowing the answer.
"My name is Trent. I-" he howled in pain as she calmly aimed her pistol and shot him in the kneecap.
"No! You don't understand - I know things! White Umbrella! White Umbrella!"
"I know things too. I know that you're a hack writer's plot dodge." She shot out the man's other kneecap. From somewhere in the graveyard, a dog howled - and then another. "Fortunately," she said with a grin, "I think those dogs are hungry." She picked up his attaché case and walked back into the house, barricading the door behind her.
"No!" he cried.
She sat down on the steps and opened the attaché case...wait a minute...he was just keeping his lunch in here? God, I hate that guy. Tossing the case down the stairs, she made her way to the second floor.
Elsewhere, Buffy stood before a massive test tube and cackled evilly. "Yes..." she whispered, stroking the tube in a fashion that was mildly disturbing. "Soon, I'll-"
"Hey!" she cried. "You can't show this scene now! You'll blow the ending! Get out of here!"
Elsewhere still, Xander-no, wait, that's not the right scene either. Back to Willow, then.
Willow studied the plaque outside the single large room she'd found at the top of the stairs. "The Romeo dining hall? Doesn't sound too bad." She opened the door and peeked inside - then quickly shut it, the color gone from her features. She blew the dust from the plaque. "Right - Romero dining hall. That just ain't right." Dodging another zombie, she made her way down the hall, trying each door on her way - and growing increasingly frustrated with the enormous number of locked doors she encountered, each engraved with emblems: handcuffs, whip...and another that she couldn't identify.
When she came across another set of stairs, she took them down to the main floor and finally found a door that opened. She peeked her head in - and was fogged with a can of bugspray. Choking and coughing, she flailed her arms until she struck something solid - something that yelped in a high-pitched voice.
"I'm s-sorry!" the voice cried. "I thought you w-were one of them!"
"Hey," Willow consoled the speaker, "it's no big deal. I mean, those chemicals I just inhaled are probably going to kill me, but other than that it's fine!"
"I'm over here," the voice said quietly. "You're t-talking to the aquarium."
Willow furiously rubbed her eyes, trying to clear them of the bug spray. When she finally had clear vision she turned around to find a woman roughly her own age dressed in a S.L.A.Y.E.R. uniform similar to her own. Willow looked her carefully up and down.
"Thanks," Tara said shyly.
Why in the hell can everyone else hear my inner monologue?
Hey! Can you still hear me?
"Nope," Tara said brightly. "I m-mean...what?"
"I'll have to keep that in mind," Willow sighed. "You're, uh...the new girl from Bravo, right?"
"I'm from Alabama."
"No - Bravo team."
"Oh. Right. Yes. I'm Tara."
"I'm Willow, from Alpha team. They sent us in to find you."
Tara shook Willow's outstretched hand.
"First mission?" Willow asked.
"Have you been stuck inside this house the whole time?"
"Yes!" Tara replied enthusiastically. "Just in this h-house. Nowhere else. Nope."
"What's hanging out of your jacket pocket?"
Tara looked down at herself and saw the metal chain Willow had noticed. She quickly shoved it back in.
"Were those dog tags?"
"Why w-would I have dog tags?"
Willow thought for a moment. "No reason that I can think of. Must not have been, then. Anyway, the rest of Alpha team's missing too, so I think we should stick together from here out."
"S-Sounds good. Ready to go?"
"Wait...I should save my game first."
"I mean, save our spot. So we know we've been in this room." Willow pulled out the typewriter ribbon she'd found earlier and loaded it into the room's typewriter. After she'd typed for a minute, the keys of the ancient Underwood typewriter clacking loudly in the quiet room, she waved Tara over. "See?"
Willow and Tara were here, the paper read.
"Now, if we come back to this room we'll know we were here already."
"That, um...really d-doesn't make any sense."
"Makes as much sense as any other use for a typewriter in a creepy mansion. Ready to go?"
Willow looked back to see Tara loading a rocket launcher with explosive rounds. "Where did you get that?" she asked.
"Uh...it was under that desk," Tara pointed.
"Is there another one?"
"I, uh, didn't see any m-more."
"Damn. Okay, let's see what else we can find around here."
They eased the room's lone door open, and their attempt at stealth was destroyed quickly as its hinges creaked loudly enough that anyone in the mansion could have heard it. A zombie popped out from a nook in the hallway, and Tara snapped off an explosive round that sent wet zombie chunks flying everywhere. She grinned - until she noticed Willow looking at her.
"L-Lucky shot," she said bashfully.
Willow raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. The two of them searched the rest of the house, but found only one more open door - it led into a bathroom. Shrugging, they entered together and gasped in unison at what they saw. A tunnel, big enough to easily fit a person through, was carved into the wall - but it didn't seem to go into the next room. Instead, defying all laws of physics, it seemed to stretch on at least forty feet - then it turned sharply, and they couldn't see what was around the bend.
"That's a big hole," Tara muttered.
"Yup. What are we going to do now?"
"See where it goes?"
"Why would we do that? Why would any sane person do that?"
"Well, what if you were stuck in an apartment, and you couldn't get out, and the only way to go was through a tunnel like this? Wouldn't you go through it just to see where it went?"
"I guess, but how often is that going to happen?"
With a shrug, Tara climbed into the tunnel and began to crawl along. Willow sighed and followed behind her.
I could get used to this view, she mused.
"Hey!" Tara called.
They emerged into a poorly lit forest, with birds chirping and only a few scant rays of sunlight breaking through the canopy of trees. Looking behind them, they saw the tunnel's entrance on this side was bored into a solid stone wall. They spared a brief glance at each other, then shrugged and proceeded down the forest's only obvious path. They'd walked thirty feet or so through unremarkable scenery when they passed a deep well, next to which stood a small boy in dark clothes, looking forlorn.
"What's your name?" Willow asked him gently. "Where's your mom?"
He stared at her silently for a long moment, looking her up and down. Willow turned to Tara. "Think he's lost?"
The little boy chose that moment to rear back and kick her in the shin. She yelped. "You little bastard!" The boy giggled and took off running down the path. Willow pulled her pistol and drew aim at his back - only to be interrupted by Tara's stepping in front of her.
"You can't shoot him, Willow."
"Why? He kicked me!"
"I see how you made Alpha team," Tara whispered. In a louder voice, she made a hopeful suggestion. "Let's just follow him, okay?"
"Fine." I'm gonna choke the little bastard.
They chased the boy, who was still running at full speed, through a small playground and past a large house with a plaque on the door reading 'Hope House.'
"Shouldn't that be 'Wish House'?" Tara asked as they ran by.
"Yup," Willow replied. They kept running until they reached a dead end, marked only by another of the mysterious tunnels. "Damn it!" Willow yelled. "Where did he go?"
"He didn't d-double back," Tara replied. "We would have seen him. I guess he went through there."
"After you," Willow waved her toward the tunnel.
"No, thank you - your t-turn to go first. And you won't get to hear my inner monologue..."
They emerged in a basement - dark, gloomy and dirty. When a zombie stuck its head into the room, they knew they were back in the mansion. Willow promptly blew its head off with two well-placed pistol shots, and they made their way down the dark hall into the kitchen. It was hideous, with zombie bodies all over the floor and several unidentifiable chunks of meat on the cutting boards. Feeling their gorges rise, they stepped over the zombies and found another hallway that led to a large, empty room marking a T intersection. Empty, that was, except the body in the S.L.A.Y.E.R. uniform collapsed against the brick wall. Willow ran toward it and shook its shoulder.
"Willow?" the body asked in a weak voice.
"Enrico? Oh my God, how did you get down here?"
"Listen, Willow - S.L.A.Y.E.R...we've been betrayed. There's a spy - Tara?"
"Hi Enrico," she smiled.
"How did you get down here? The last time I saw you, you were-"
"Hiding in the infirmary! I know - it's c-crazy."
"No, you were at the fac-" a gunshot rang out, and Enrico was no more. Tara spun around and looked down the hallway that formed the longest part of the T, which Enrico was sitting directly across from.
"Who was that?" she yelled, subtly tucking a smoking pistol into the waistband of her uniform. "Willow - s-someone shot Enrico! It must have been the traitor he was talking about - if only he would have t-told us who it was!"
"Shit," Willow said flatly. She knelt next to Enrico's corpse. "Whoever did this to you, Enrico - whoever the traitor is - I'm going to find them, and then I'm going to kill them. Unless they fake their own death and show up in the sequel, which is entirely possible. But there's only one way to find out!"
The little boy they'd been chasing picked that moment to appear at the end of the hall.
"Get back here, you little bastard!" Willow yelled, and she took off running. Tara knelt next to Enrico and closed his eyes. "I'm sorry, Enrico - but you were going to screw up the prequel." She reached into his vest pocket and snatched his wallet before taking off down the hall after Willow.
They'd only progressed halfway down the hall when a giant snake slithered of a highly convenient hole in the floor and reared up at them.
"Aaah!" Willow yelled. "That's a big fucking snake, all right! What the hell do you call that thing?"
"Hold on," Tara said distractedly, flipping through the strategy guide. "Apparently it's called 'Yawn.'"
"Yawn? Seriously? That's just lame."
"I dunno - that's what it says." Tara showed her the page. The snake's head bobbed as it looked back and forth between them.
"Yawn? What the hell kind of name is that? What does that even mean?"
"Hell if I know."
"And what happened to your stutter?"
"I got tired of typing it."
"Hey," the snake interrupted. "Are we going to fight, or..."
They shushed him.
"I mean, 'hiss,' or 'venom' or something would have been a much better name."
"Willow, why does it matter?"
"Because it would be like calling your main villain 'Walter!'"
Unnoticed, Yawn shrugged and retreated back through the hole in the floor. "You know," it muttered to itself, "I need a better agent. Maybe Halo 3 needs a snake."