F.E.A.R. Consequences

Disclaimer: I own nothing that's recognizable as the intellectual property of someone else.

Summary: Based off of the "F.E.A.R. Itself" and "F.E.A.R. Nothing" fanfic snippets of MidknightJ's ficlet collection "Stream of Consciousness" over on Twisting the Hellmouth.

Interval 00: Prelude...

For the umpteenth time, Xander coughed up a small glob of blood, wincing as his ribs sang of their injuries. Armacham Technology Corporation... that old bitch Genevieve Aristide really seemed to know how to make things hurt. Hell, he wouldn't be surprised if D'Hoffryn offered her a job. A near-blinding surge of pain to his jaw knocked him back, his eyes seeing stars as words rang in his ears as though they had been spoken through mud.

"Answer the questions!" a voice snapped. A haymaker crashed into his jaw and nearly sent him to the floor. Tasting iron in his mouth, the one-eyed man barely resisted the urge to spit up blood. That one had turned his vision white briefly.

What did they want? He couldn't remember their question in between all that punching. Blinking heavily, desperately trying to keep himself conscious, he noticed one of the Armacham commandos crouching down in front of him.

A split-second decision made him stop sawing away at his zip-tie bonds, just as the crouching commando hissed, "We know you're the prototype. We know you killed your brother." Then the hinges of his cell shrieked. That other commando was closing his cell door. Wincing to himself, he prepared himself for an even nastier beating than usual.

And in all that, he probably would've laughed at how the universe just seemed to be out to get him. Well, that is, if he had the inclination.

For as long as he could remember, Xander had desperately wanted to have had a better family than those two drunks, Tony Harris the abuser and Jessica Harris the neglectful. He thought he had found it in Buffy's mom, Joyce Summers, and her Watcher, Rupert Giles.

But Joyce had died of an aneurysm and Giles had grown distant, having become far too busy running the administration of the new Watcher's Council. So when he'd left to join F.E.A.R., he thought he had a family in the groups' special forces detachment.

And then he learned that he actually did have a biological family, that Tony and Jessica weren't his real parents. So why had he been sideswiped by the fact that a psychotic, homicidal psychic like Alma Wade was his mother? That he had been the failed prototype of a project designed to create powerful psychics capable of using their extraordinary abilities in combat? That a psychotic cannibal commando like Paxton Fettel was his brother?

It was as though someone high up actively had it in for him. Of course, he really wouldn't have put it past those fuckin' Powers-That-Be to have arranged it somehow. Whatever he'd done in a past life must have been something really bad for him to keep on getting the short end of the stick right now.

A punch to the stomach had him desperately gasping for air. Barely able to keep himself from coughing reflexively, Xander barely managed to catch the static-garbled voice issuing from the hand-held radio in the crouching commando's outstretched hand. Blinking, he realized that the voice was female. "Come in! Armacham is everywhere! I need help!" Wait a minute... that was Jin! His new... something, his comrade-in-arms Jin Sun-Kwon.

Now he remembered. He'd been sneaking around when Jin had talked into the radio at exactly the wrong time and had caught the attention of Armacham's commandos. Coughing, it was only at a distance that he heard Bastard Number One, as he called his interrogator, demand, "Where is she hiding?" He really had no idea, but his silence prompted Bastard Number Two, the commando who'd been trying to soften him up, throw a haymaker that forced his head flying to the right, his mouth involuntarily coughing up a mouthful of blood that splattered across the floor.

Coughing, he could hear a sibilant voice hiss, "Brother..." and Xander felt his eyes widen. He raised his head, just in time for Bastard Number Two to throw a roundhouse punch that made him see lights and threw his head to the left. A little change in routine, perhaps? But... that had been Paxton, he was sure of it. And Paxton was dead. He had a bullet in his head, courtesy of the Xan-man himself! How could-? Oh, shit.


It had to be freakin' ghosts.

Bad enough that mama Alma was so strong that her soul refused to pass on, but she was also the classic 'unfinished business' ghost. Of course, her version of 'unfinished business' meant slaughtering everyone who'd tortured her and then seeing the world burn for letting her being tortured. Of course, good old mama's boy Paxton suddenly falls off the deep end and decides to be her little herald. But, in the end, Paxton had his brains blown out. It had be about par for the course that this psycho cannibal resurrects himself as a fuckin' ghost. Yup, just another bad day in the life of Xander Harris.

Another punch from Bastard Number Two sent him reeling back somewhat. He could hear the man snarl, "This is pointless!" Xander just kept on sawing away at his bonds.

Then Bastard Number One pulled out a knife. Xander stared down at the combat knife's blade as its owner taunted him. "You can't save her. She's a thousand miles away." Internally, Xander scoffed. If that was true, if Jin really was that far away, then why could that radio pick up her transmissions? A blur of red and motion off the corner of his eye caught his attention, while Bastard Number One propped the tip of his knife up against Xander's left carotid artery.

"If you're going to fight us... she's gonna bleed." And before he could do anything else, Xander noticed that Bastard Number Two had crept up behind Bastard Number One. Strangely enough, a waft of crimson trailed behind him. And before either of them could do anything, Bastard Number Two had reached out and snapped Bastard Number One's neck with a loud CRACK. It was something that both worried and encouraged Xander, especially since he'd just sawed through the zip-ties and ripped his hands apart.

As Bastard Number One fell, dead, his knife had gone flying. Using enhanced reflexes borne from years of fighting things faster and stronger than himself, Xander managed to snatch up the falling blade from out of thin air. A single backhanded swipe, and Bastard Number Two had his throat slashed open in a classic CQC killing blow.

But as he fell to the ground, that familiar hawk-faced visage of Paxton Fettel now stood before him. But Paxton was different now. Wreathed in blood-red energy, and with that bullet wound scar in the middle of his forehead... he definitely was dead. Just as he definitely was a ghost.

"Paxton Fettel." Xander said dryly. "I thought you were dead. I put a bullet in your human flesh-eating head and everything."

The hawk-faced psychic smiled thinly, before he spoke with that contemptuous drawling tone of voice that Xander had been loath to remember. "Did you really think that a bullet would be the end of me, brother?"

By now, the bullet wound scar in the middle of his head was really distracting. Xander tried to keep himself from staring at it by adjusting his eyepatch and scavenging for weapons and supplies from both Bastard Numbers One and Two. All that he managed to scrounge up was a ballistic armor vest, a combat knife, a fully-loaded Strader Mk. VII semiautomatic pistol with sixty rounds of spare ammo, and five N6A3 fragmentation grenades.

Finally kitted out, even if it was severely lacking in his opinion, Xander noticed a Bluetooth earbud lying at his feet. Looking up, he glared at Paxton. The ghost simply smirked, gesturing at the device. Condescension and laughter in his eyes, he rasped, "Go on. Pick it up." His one eye now narrowed, Xander put the device to his ear.

Almost immediately, a familiar female voice issued from it. "This is F.E.A.R. Operative Jin Sun-Kwon. Anyone friendly in the U.S. Military, please respond." Tapping it, Xander groaned as he realized that the microphone wasn't working. This was just one more thing to add to his list of problems.

"Fairport has been blown to Hell." This report update suddenly had his attention. He could only vaguely remember an explosion at Armacham's Project Origin facility, but that couldn't have been enough to destroy such a large coastal city. But as if that wasn't enough, Jin added, "Armacham cleanup crews are killing everyone they find."

Shit. Sterilization. That bitch Aristide or her Board of Directors must really be desperate to hide everything. Jin was panicked, out of breath. She did tend to hyperventilate somewhat, but that didn't matter. What did matter was that he had to get to her. "I'm hiding in the Fairport underground tunnels." Oh, good, a location. But, really, vague, much?

But then the clincher. "I can't make it out of here on my own." Well, that did it; he had to go and rescue her.

Then, of course, the downer. Paxton rasped, "I agree we must escape, but for her?" He made no effort to hide his contempt. Xander simply pulled back the slide of his Strader, but then the lights flicked and the sound of groaning metal could be heard. Blinking his eyes, the one-eyed man noticed that Paxton was gone. Even if that was something of a relief, he knew that the psychotic commando would be coming back, if only to continue tormenting him.

A quick look around his cell revealed nothing else that he wanted to take with him. Keeping his new Strader ready, he pulled open his cell door and turned right.