A sharp shout cut across the air and Balalaika looked up. "What the hell do you think you are doing?" A floating woman cried out angrily.
Balalaika blinked, her disbelieving eyes were normally pretty reliable but the sight of a woman hanging in midair was shocking. Her red hair was shot though with dark tints that seemed to leak from eyes that looked like obsidian polished to a terrible sheen. Her clothes billowed in the slight breeze of the night air. Her body kept aloft by simple will alone as if the law of gravity was simply another annoyance to be overcome.
"If you think I'm letting you massacre Xander," Red Hair hissed, "then you're seriously playing out of your weight class." her arms crossed as if her pronouncement ended all debate.
One of Balalaika's troops reacted with shocked surprise pointing his weapon at The Floating Woman. Balalaika saw his finger straining on the trigger and yet there was no fire and no sound of thunder.
This was obviously Willow Rosenberg, Harris' magic-using friend. The girl smiled wryly, "Pro-tip hotshot," she snapped at the surprised sniper, "Guns as a rule are useless if they get too hot or too cold." She raised her hands. The right was wreathed with an ice blue aura while the left held a ball of flame.
The Russian Mob boss decided that debating the implausibility of a floating woman who could render weapons useless with a wave of her hand was waste of time they did not have.
"Ms' Rosenberg," Balalaika snapped, "In a few seconds a group of about a dozen hungry and angry vampires are going to burst though that door and if my men and I cannot stop them, Mister Harris is going to be a dead man."
Willow blinked and looked down at the Marines and Xander below. You mean you were..."
''Time is wasting Ms Rosenberg either undo what you did --save them yourself, or watch him die. You have six seconds... five...four...three..."
Willow waved her hand, "It's done."
"Fire!" Balalaika cried out.
Faith Revy and the rest of the mercenaries had been making good time since disposing of the last of the FARC opposing them. The Trooper they had tortured had reluctantly provided them with many details about what was in the strange vial. Not that the man knew very much but what he did know he repeated as many times as it took Sawyer to be satisfied at his answers. The Chemical was some kind of drug they had been told. It would make them better and faster though they had not been told how it worked. Faith was curious why they had been told it had to be self-administered. Had the drug been automatically pumped into the men the FARC might have done better against the small band who had up to this point managed to maul the hell out of the opposing force. Revy was unconcerned. If they had some kind of advantage, she maintained, but didn’t use it; they deserved to be slaughtered like cattle.
The team rounded a corner and Faith was shocked to see a body leaning on the wall. A blade sunk deep in the throat of a FARC solder was keeping the body propped against the wall where the young man had died.
Sawyer stepped forward and felt at the corpse. "Rigor hasn't set in yet this was done not too long ago I'd say our quarry isn't too far ahead."
"Who did this, the Maid?" Revy asked.
"Of course it was the Maid," Faith interrupted defensively, "you think Xander could do something like this."
"Actually he did." The Cleaner replied, "Look at the body. That was not a clean kill it was messy, panicked." Sawyer looked around the hallway and spied still more clues, "...and then there is this, Xander and The Maid are the only ones with The Devil's Root and she is dosing herself with small amounts. So this whole one must have come from Xander."
Faith felt her stomach churn with revulsion. IN the middle of a pool of vomit on the floor was a half eaten Devil's Root.
Sawyer continued dispassionately, "The Maid has killed many I doubt she would be as upset at a simple death as to throw up but Xander on the other hand. When you are used to killing things that fade away when they die, you tend to forget that death is a messy affair."
"Oh man Buffy is so going to kill me when she finds out about this."
"What, are you kidding me? Why would they give you grief?"
"You have no idea what B and Red are like when it comes to Xander. If he so much as chips a nail they want to unleash the hound on whoever is responsible."
"Such protectiveness is admirable if a little out of place, don't you think?" Rotton asked politely.
"I used to until I caught myself doing it too. Xander is the only one of us who has no real magic or special ability and yet he's been there since the very beginning. Even when some of us have doubted, he stayed the course. I guess by hanging on to Xander...it’s like hanging on to what we used to be before all the crazy shit started. When I'm around him I can sometimes remember the tough chick from south Boston; never thought I would miss her."
Revy had a strange look on her face and Faith snorted derisively. "Relax; I already know what a whine-ass bitch that made me sound like." The Slayer snapped.
Revy didn't say anything and wouldn't have. Faith's speech about Xander made her think of Rock. Was that why she was always letting Rock drag her into crazy crap like this hunt for The Maid? Rock had referred to himself recently as the bullet to Revy's gun. A simple useless lump of lead awaiting the strike of a hammer to cause the explosive force that turned the lump of lead into a deadly force to be reckoned with. Revy wondered if Rock realized the implications of his words. A gun was useless without a bullet and bullet's single purpose was in the service of the gun.
They all shook off the moment and headed onward.
Soon enough, they came across more bodies. Shenhua shuddered as she looked at the carnage.
“Maid devotion to master one thing -- but this..." The Hardened Assassin focused on a corpse grotesquely splayed up against the wall. He had been garroted with what looked like an ordinary household wire clothes hanger. His was the cleanest least brutal death that could be seen. The rest had died with a silent ugliness that Shenhua found frighteningly efficient. "This is -- overkill." She said with a disgusted whisper.
"If you think that's bad,” Faith whispered, “Wait until you check this out." She beckoned them around the corner. A scene of more carnage awaited them. Someone had left a broken body that had been reduced to state rendering it barely identifiable as human.
"Let me guess," Faith whispered, "trauma?"
"Very blunt force, --very, very blunt force." Sawyer said dispassionately. “This was the Maid, look at the pattern of violence. His hands were broken then she took her time. This was done with both passion and precision.
"Please tell me Xander was not standing around watching as she did this." Faith snapped angrily, "I don't care what her damage is; this is ...wrong."
Xander might not have but someone was.” Rotton muttered looking at a discarded crowbar.
“It’s still wet with sweat.” Sawyer reported grimly.
"The Bitch is an artist, I'll give her that." Revy surveyed the scene with wary admiration.
"Where did the Head Housemaid go from here?" Fabiola asked fretfully,
Faith pointed down the hallway at a damaged wall that lead to a dark room beyond. The Group climbed into the darkness and Faith looked around. Her senses were tingling. "This place, the place was crawling with vampires."
"It still is," Revy gestured toward a body that had been pinned to the wall by metal rebars. The vampire had been impaled strategically to ensure maximum pain but minimum chance of him dissolving. Bullet holes in the wall and casings on the floor told the rest of the grim vignette that had transpired here. The Maid had crucified the vampire to the wall and then used gunfire to remove its arms and legs.
The moaning the vampire was doing became words that none save Shenhua could translate she reported that the vampire had been one of several sheltering in the room. The Maid had crashed into their hideaway after a brutal fight in the hallways outside. The Bloodhound had quickly and lethally disposed of the vampires attacking her before cruelly interrogating the vamp about how many of its brothers and sisters were located in the warehouse.
"Why would she leave him alive though?" Revy asked critically
"To attract the rest," Faith shuddered with comprehension. "Vampires have good hearing, and sense of smell. If they smell the blood and violence in the air and hear our friend they'll start to swarm like sharks." Faith looked around the Room.
"What do ya need?" Revy asked
"A Stake" Faith nodded toward the Vamp, "I don't want to leave him like this."
Rotton dipped inside his coat and removed a stake from it that he passed the surprised Slayer who plunged the stake into the crucified vampire's heart. The creature dissolved with a grateful sigh.
A quick examination of the weapon revealed a distinctive metallic sheen.
"You keep silver etched stakes on hand...just in case?" Faith asked the silver haired mercenary.
"I believe in being prepared." Rotton shrugged,
"There are six warehouses on this block and they all connect through underground passages." Revy mused thoughtfully;
Rotton tapped his fingers against his cheek in thought. "Simple math would imply that with six warehouses with say a few dozen vampires to each warehouse..."
"Don’t, " Faith pleaded, “please don't. That kind of thing we don't want to think too hard about. Let’s just find Xander and the Maid before the vampire buffet starts. "
"Then lets get our asses in gear;" Revy snapped, "I don't know about he rest of you but I'm on the clock and Little Lord Moneybags is gonna get his money's worth out of me."
They pounded down the hallway toward the sound of rustling and as they approached the entrance they caught sight of several running forms. One of the figures looked back at the running mercenaries and Faith saw a vampire in full game face.
''It's The Slayer -- go." the vamp cried out and turned to join his brethren as they burst out the doorway ahead. The group put on a burst of speed but pulled up short when gunfire rained down. Almost all the vampires were taken in the first volleys; the two who weren't, suddenly exploded in twin plumes of flame.
"That's magic it has to be, it's Red." Faith looked up and saw the young woman hanging in the air, "Rosenberg's here which means So is Buffy."
Faith looked up and saw Xander and Garcia standing with several amazed looking soldiers who were by the look somewhat freaked about the rapid deaths of the vampires.
"Perimeter defense, report” An older looking man cried out. He was obviously the one in charge of the soldiers.
Faith saw Buffy's old boyfriend, Riley Finn -- standing with the soldiers He was pointing upward to several shadowy figures lining the rooftops.
A radio flared to crackling life and Faith heard the dark rumble of Balalaika's voice. "Major General Claxton of the unit 114; I am addressing the head of the Grey Foxes, please respond."
Claxton picked up the radio and looking up at the roof spoke into the receiver. "This is Claxton with who am I speaking?"
"We are Vozdushno-Desantnye Vojska, I am Captain." Balalaika announced, "and right now I'm your best chance of getting out of this city alive."
"No offence ma'am but do you honestly expect me to believe that Russian Airborne Troops just happen to be stationed in this hellhole?"
You could almost hear the smile in Balalaika's voice. "This hellhole is our Purgatory Major, and like purgatory we are waiting for the final word -- will we find heaven or drop into hell."
"I'm told an elite Assassin is hunting us. I'm going to go ahead and say this is Hell as hot as any battlefield I've been on."
"... And like any battlefield you've been on Major you have no choice you must survive. The rules are no different if you want to beat the Bloodhound you will have to commit to survival. My men and I will escort you to safety and respond to any engagement in kind."
Claxton looked at his men and sighed. "Thank you Captain I'd appreciate any assistance you can be."
Xander walked over to Faith and threw his arms around her and hugged her fiercely. "Hey Southie Long time no see I was beginning to think I wasn't ever going to see a friendly face again."
Faith hugged him back as hard as she dared. “You stupid son of a bitch -- have you any idea how worried I've been about you? I've been scared out f my mind thinking you were going to die."
Xander replied softly, "So was I, Faith; so was I."
Xander met the rest of the gang saying hellos and exchanging banter with the ever-irascible Revy. "Have you any idea how much shit you've stirred up." she replied in a mocking fashion, Hey, How’s about I send Glasses Bitch on a rampage through the town I'm sure nobody will mind in the least."
Xander pointed back into the warehouse, "You saw the trail she left behind how much arguing would you have done with her."
Revy waved a dismissive hand at him, "I was the one that went one on one with her last time. I already know she’s a head case, but giving her wacky-weed so's she can fight Slayers that's just..."
"Self-preservation," Xander reminded her, "One of those Slayers tired to kill me and I'm kind of attached to not being dead."
"Well we can relax now can't we?" Faith asked, "I mean you guys are here and Ms. Balalaika's is taking the Marines to safety."
"Save for the odd behavior of the recently destroyed undead." Rotton reminded them, "They were fleeing the building and since I smell no smoke, I can only assume whatever they were scared of is worse then a fire."
Xander looked toward the darkened building, his neck hairs rising in nervous terror. He looked toward Faith and Maria who were both glancing around anxiously He saw the other Slayer Manuela looking skyward a beatific smile on her face. "She is coming; Death is coming for me "
"Finn, get 'em huddled up we are about to get stampeded."
"How do you know?"
"The Bloodhound is playing sheep dog," Xander snapped "She wanted the vampires to slaughter your people inside the warehouse. Now she’s herding the vampires. So they'll flee toward the only safe exit " The marines fell back and huddled together guns pointing outward and directed at the dark entrance way.
The first thing Xander saw were eyes, dozens and dozens of pairs of eye flying toward them. "Here they come!" Xander screamed out.