"Master Chief? There's a Yawn to see you, sir."
"A Yawn, sir."
"Jan? Tell him I didn't know his sister was only sixteen, and send him on his way."
"Not Jan, sir, Yawn."
"What the halo kind of name is that? Send him in."
Yawn slithered into the room.
"AAH!" Master Chief screamed girlishly. "It's a big fucking snake! Wait - a snake named Yawn?"
"Don't start with me," Yawn snapped, "you drive something called a Warthog and spent an entire game talking to a computer-generated woman."
Master Chief paused and looked around thoughtfully (at least, we can assume it was thoughtfully - it's not like we could see his face). "Wait - wasn't this a Resident Evil story?"
Tara's radio crackled to life as she and Willow chased the boy down the hall.
"S.L.A.Y.E.R. teams Alpha and Bravo, this....Spike!"
Willow grabbed the radio from her. "Spike? Listen to me, you asshole. Get that chopper down here or so help me, I'll-"
"Almost...gas. Going....7-11 for some...snacks. If...leave a voicemail."
"Spike! Spike! Aww - it's broken!"
"I think everyone kind of figured that, what with the static and him not hearing you."
"I know - I just felt this odd urge to say it out loud. Do we have any batteries for that thing?"
Tara looked at the back of the radio and cursed. "I hate these screwed-on battery covers!" she fumed. With a pen, she turned the screw enough to pull the cover off. "What the - this runs on "D" batteries?"
"Yeah," Willow said shamefacedly. "S.L.A.Y.E.R. spent all its budget on those helicopters, so we couldn't afford really good radios."
"What kind are they?"
"Uhh...fisher price. They're actually baby monitors."
Tara shook her head. "Willow - you know baby monitors only work one way, right? Only one end can transmit?"
Understanding dawned on Willow's face. "That's why the radios have never worked? I'll be damned."
Tara covered her face with both hands. "Goddess, I'm going to die here," she muttered.
"And so," Buffy said, "then I told Ashford she was a big wanker, and - oh, for god's sake! Could you please keep the story straight? Is it my scene yet? No? Then get out of here! Omniscient narration, my ass."
Willow and Tara finally caught up to the boy just as he was about to dive into another of the mysterious tunnels. Willow grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and lifted him up to eye level.
"Okay, you little bastard - what's going on here?"
The boy remained stubbornly silent.
"If you don't talk, this won't go well."
"I'm not going to shoot him. So - what's it going to be, kid?"
The boy stared impassively at her. Finally, after a short staring contest, he reached in a pocket and pulled out a key - the chain that held it engraved with a whip. Smirking, he tossed it behind him into the tunnel.
"Son of a..."
"Leave him, Willow - we need that key."
"Leave him! We'll find him when we get back."
"You got lucky," Willow told the boy sternly as she followed Tara into the tunnel. I'm gonna...oh, I hate that frigging kid!
The strains of Sum 41's "Still Waiting" greeted them at the other end of the tunnel, which emerged into a high school gymnasium below a banner reading "Welcome to Leafmore High." Tara closed her eyes and winced.
"It would have to be here, wouldn't it?"
"What? You've been here?"
"Er...sort of. Just try not to talk to anyone."
"Because we'll be here all day. Just don't, okay?"
"Fine, I - DIE, ZOMBIE!" Willow screamed, pumping bullets into the girl nearest her.
"Willow...that wasn't a zombie."
"But she's dressed just like one!"
"You're thinking 'hooker,' Willow. Not zombie."
"Oh, right. I keep mixing those up - will she be okay?"
"Uh...yeah. I'm sure the school nurse'll fix her right up. Let's go - and try not to shoot anyone else, okay?"
"Okay - but are you sure she's not a zombie? She's so pale!"
"You killed Shannon!" someone screamed. "Why?"
"It was an accident?"
"An accident?" the young man repeated.
"Oh no - here we go," Tara muttered, walking away and leaving Willow to carry on the conversation.
"We're looking for a key, and-"
"Yeah...my name's Willow, and-"
"You're kind of creeping me out now."
"Creeping you out?"
"I need to leave."
"Yeah - you know, go somewhere else."
Tara rejoined Willow, covered in black ichor and carrying the key. "Let's go, Willow."
"Go?" the young man parroted.
"What's wrong with him?" Willow asked quietly.
"Josh? He's...a victim of badly translated dialogue," Tara whispered.
"Well...sometimes when writers don't know English that well, their characters need to repeat everything that's said to them before they respond to it. It's tragic. We need to leave now, though - he could keep doing this all day."
"Where'd all that black goo come from?"
"Big...uh...plant monster in the high school basement - long story. Not a good story, just a long one." Tara climbed into the tunnel they'd emerged from and Willow followed, leaving Josh by himself.
"Why'd they leave?" he asked himself.
"Oh god - they killed Shannon!"
"Are you okay, Tara?"
"Yup! As long as the next one doesn't lead to some generic creepy location with a girl and her dog, I'll be happy."
"Nothing - I'm fine. Now let's go try this key out!"
They went back up the stairs to the second floor, looking for any doors that had the whip emblem on them. Finally they found one and gleefully unlocked it to find -
"No, I'm not a traitor!"
"Uh...nobody said anything like that, Faith," Willow said slowly.
"Oh. Okay - thank god you're safe! I got trapped in here by these crazy monsters. The door was locked, and I couldn't get out!"
"Uh...the door was locked from in here, Faith. All you had to do was unlock it."
"What's that in your hand?" Tara asked. Faith froze. Willow looked down to her hands, where she held a journal with several pages torn out. One page was curled up in her hand.
"Oh - I was hoping you'd get here so we could read this! It looks really interesting, but there's pages missing..."
"What's on the one in your hand?" Tara asked with a raised eyebrow.
"What one in my hand?" Faith crumpled the page and stuffed it in her mouth, chewing quickly. "I dnt haff anthing in y han!" She swallowed and passed the book to Willow. "You check that out - I'm going to have a look around."
"Don't you want to stick with us?"
"No, no - three's a crowd and all that. I'd just be in the way. See ya!" Faith pushed past Tara and took off down the hall.
"That was strange," Willow mused. With a shrug, she began to read the journal aloud.
"Let's see...day 21. I hope the big scary virus doesn't leak. Day 22. The big scary virus still hasn't leaked. Day 23: I don't know what's happening - my skin is falling off, and the doctor would only look at me from behind a sealed glass door. He says it must be something I had for breakfast - what a relief. I thought maybe it was the big scary virus. There seems to be lots of people in hazard suits around - odd. Day 24: Me eat brains. Day 25: Extra brains have given me an extraordinary grasp of mathematics. On the verge of disproving Einstein's E=MC2. Need more deodorant - I may be smarter, but the "dead flesh" smell is becoming a problem. Day 26: Disappointed with the intelligence drop of my colleagues. I do wish they'd eat brains instead of...well, what they're eating. Day 27: Unified string theory complete. Day 30: Offered tenure at Cal Tech. Some of the professors objected, but apparently United States law prevents discrimination against zombies. Goodbye, creepy mansion, hello sunny California! P.S. My dearest Ada - if you find this journal, always remember one thing: Claire Redfield is prettier than you."
"Willow - do you realize what this means?"
"I could be prosecuted under hate crimes legislation for killing that zombie?"
"No - well yes, that too - it means that there was a virus that turned all these people into zombies!"
"Oh. Right. So..."
"So we need to find proof that whoever created that virus knew what it would do - then we can bring them down!"
"Yeah, but they'll just keep coming back anyway. Or drop a nuke on the proof, or something."
"That doesn't matter! It's what we have to do!"
"Why? If we had any brains at all, wouldn't we just try and escape? Why keep wandering around this house waiting to get killed?"
Elsewhere, in various places around the mansion, every exit locked itself.
Behind the next door they could unlock was a small library. On one of the bookshelves, Willow spied a red valve wheel. She held it up and examined it. Why is this thing in a library?
"I'd hang onto that, if I was you."
"We'll need it - take my word for it."
Willow put the valve wheel in one of the magically expanding pockets that every S.L.A.Y.E.R. uniform was equipped with, noting as she did that the bookcase seemed rather flimsy and unstable. With a gentle shove, she pushed it aside to reveal a trap door in the floor. With Tara's help, she pulled the trap door open to reveal a ladder leading down into the darkness.
"Well that doesn't look promising."
"Do you smell salt water?" Tara asked.
"Yep. I suppose we need to go down there, don't we?"
They descended the ladder, the smell of the water growing with each step. They reached the bottom and stepped down into a dark hallway filled with four inches of water. Grimacing as it filled their shoes, they made their way around the ring-shaped structure until they found a door that led to the inner chamber. Unconsciously, Willow's hand searched for Tara's and took it in her own. Tara gave it a squeeze as she pulled the door open - and a flood of water poured out the door, filling the hall until it was chest high on both women. Shivering, Tara gestured forward and they swam slowly, bogged down by their wet clothes, through the structure looking for another door.
Tara pointed to a set of steps emerging from the water that led to a heavy gray metal door. Willow nodded and they began to swim for it - when a blur of motion dragged Willow under.
"Willow!" Tara screamed, seeing no sign of her. Suddenly, ten feet away, she broke the surface, struggling with a monstrously oversized shark. She bashed it repeatedly in the head with the valve wheel, but the shark showed no sign of letting her get away. Just as Tara prepared the rocket launcher, Willow had an idea.
"Look!" she shouted. "There's Jaws!" she pointed to the other end of the structure.
"Jaws?" the shark squealed, letting her go and swimming away. "Jaws! Jaws! I'm your biggest fan!"
Willow rejoined Tara and they used the whip key to open the locked door, which led them into a control room with many impressive knobs and switches. "There!" Tara pointed, "put the valve wheel there and you can drain all the water." Willow did, and they watched through the window as the shark found itself on suddenly dry land. Willow grinned - until she noticed Tara's shivers. She found the temperature controls for the room and turned the heat up to full. With no modesty, she stripped out of her S.L.A.Y.E.R. uniform and helped Tara out of hers before she hung them to dry in front of one of the heater vents. She sat down behind the shivering blonde and gently embraced her. "So..." she whispered. "What should we do until those are dry?"
Meanwhile, Xander was-
"Hey!" Xander exclaimed. "You've got to be kidding - we're not even going to see-"
"You can't ignore me! I want to see the lesbian sex, dammit! It's the only thing this story has going for it - I haven't laughed in three pages!"
An assailant he couldn't see knocked Xander heavily about the head, leaving him clinging to consciousness.
"That's...cheating..." he complained. "Wasn't...part of the story..."
"I can't do this," Faith complained. "Oh, wait - is it my scene? We didn't do Xander's scene."
A giant fist materialized out of thin air, whistling down toward Faith's-
"Okay, okay!" she sighed. "I can't do this - it's not fair. They're my teammates."
"You can and you will," a quiet voice replied from around a darkened corner. "You know what'll happen if you don't."
"How could you be so cruel? Besides, how do I know this isn't some kind of hoax - maybe you don't really have-"
An 8x10 picture slid across the hardwood floor. Faith picked it up and began to cry. It showed a small pink teddy bear, chained to a post in the center of an abandoned factory. Beside it knelt a masked assailant, holding a hacksaw. "Wait..." she paused, looking at the picture more closely. "Where's her other arm?"
A pink appendage, trailing stuffing behind it, slid across the floor and stopped at Faith's feet. "NOOOOOO!" she wailed. "Polly Cuddles! WHY?"
"It's a reminder," the voice warned. "There's no need for any more reminders, is there?"
"No," Faith sobbed. "What do you need me to do?"
"Find the boy. Then-" Faith listened, an expression of dawning horror on her face.
"Then report back to me," the voice finished. "And be quick about it."