The jeep turned out to be a good move on several levels. For one thing it was tough little thing that had survived its close encounter with the third story window mostly intact. It was indeed the property of the notorious drug fiend Leigharch and in tribute to its owner the glove box had a generous bag of cannabis and the key to a foot locker in the back that was crammed full of weapons.
Xander was driving, that allowed Roberta and Revy to take out the many zombies filling the streets with gunfire while Buffy took the more visceral approach of hacking down anything that came too close to the speeding vehicle.
Suddenly another car spun around a corner and slipped in close to the jeep, gunfire began raking the sides. The thing was filled with zombies howling taunts in the various languages they had used in life and firing at the jeep.
"Señor Harris, the Mossberg if you please?" Roberta asked politely.
As Xander handed The Maid his Shotgun, Buffy said calmly "You know I could take them out it would be easy."
Roberta held up a hand "We have no time for your theatrics." She pointed the shotgun at the other car's tire and unleashed a blast. She chambered another round as the car began skidding and shot again at the back tire. The car began fishtailing, and then flipped into the air. Roberta chambered another round and tracked the moving vehicle and when the rear of the car was in sight shot at it again. The car exploded with a roar, raining fiery metal into the street.
Buffy pouted, "Wow, somebody's a show-off."
The Jeep was approaching an intersection at speed. Two more of the fiends were standing there blazing away at them one wielding a mini gun, the other, a RPG. Xander down shifted and spun the jeep so that its armoured back-end was facing the zombie's weapons fire.
"I got these two." Revy screamed. She fired her paired weapons at each and both creatures became twin pillars of writhing flame.
"Drama Queen." Buffy snapped while Roberta sniffed contemptuously.
"Fine you get the next one." Revy cackled
As if on cue another squad of prowling undead appeared cutting the air with fire and heat.
"I need some speed," Buffy cried out climbing into the back.
Xander nodded and powered the jeep into a controlled fishtail. The momentum hurled the slayer high into the air she passed over top of the squad beheading three in the first pass. She landed with a sliding stop and cut down another two chopping the last one in half. With a final jump she landed on the front of the jeep and crawled back into the shotgun seat.
"Thank, you, thank you; I'll be here all week be sure to tip the wait staff." Buffy said proudly,
The other women made noncommittal grunts.
"Hey I got three at once." Buffy whined
"I got five and mine were in a moving vehicle." Roberta sneered
"Hey mine were the most heavily armed including an RPG." Revy snapped
"Fine, We'll let Xander cast the deciding vote." Buffy growled and three sets of eyes turned to look at him.
"OH come on, do I look that stupid?" Xander snapped.
"Don't be such a pussy, sport;" Revy snapped, "it’s just a question, what’s the big deal?"
Xander smiled, "Any question a man is asked that involves him commenting on a female's appearance or actions especially in comparison to any other female is guaranteed to end with him being dead no matter what he says. And you guys are a little too well armed for that."
"You're forgetting that not answering the question is just as dangerous as answering it." Buffy smiled sweetly while showing way too much teeth.
Xander seriously wondered if he should be taking his chances with the undead hordes.
The Jeep continued to thunder through the Roanapur’s war torn streets with Xander now trying to avoid taking them into any more conflicts. The ladies were suspicious about the sudden lack of enemies on the streets to oppose them.
"If our enemy is no longer on the streets in force," Roberta insisted grimly. "That means the vast majority are at the Church by now."
"I hope the guys are alright." Xander fretted
"Willow can handle it till we get there." Buffy smiled grimly.
Xander nodded but goosed still more speed out of the Jeep rounding a corner on two wheels. They saw a mixed group of Woman fighting an attacking crowd of Zombies. The women were surrounding and obviously protecting Dutch and Benny who were sheltering a cringing large afro-haired black man in cheap looking seventies regalia.
Xander slid the jeep into a controlled skid, while Revy and Roberta unleashed a blizzard of gunfire that took down several of the zombie soldiers. Buffy launched herself out of the jeep again and dashed at full speed toward the remaining forces. They tried to track her movements but she was so unearthly in her speed that one soldier watched amazed as she hacked off his arms and the rifle they'd been holding. The creature watched as his severed limbs squeezed the trigger of his weapon causing it fire uselessly even as it fell to the ground. Buffy grinned wolfishly at the fiend as she cut him in half.
Benny looked at the imposing Roberta and then at Buffy and sighed. "What the hell did I ever do to get stuck in a town filled with freakish super women?”
"You ripped off the mob, remember?" Revy cackled "They were going to fry your ass till I go involved."
Dutch was more to the point, "Xander have you any idea how screwed up things have been the last day or so because of you." The Captain snapped.
Xander shrugged, "Yeah I think I might have heard something about that."
"Xander Harris, " the other man said "Well damn it boy what's with you coming back to Roanapur with some fine-ass women in tow and you don't pay a visit to your old pal Rowan." He was looking at Buffy especially as he said this and Xander moved quickly between them.
"Xander,” Buffy asked with a dangerous look in her eyes,” who is this; and why does he make me feel like I should be using a wire brush and lye soap when he looks at me?"
Xander made introductions, Roan "Jackpot" Pigeon... Buffy Summers." He gestured toward the Bloodhound, "I'm sure you recall Roberta by reputation if nothing else. She torched The Yellowflag and about a dozen Cartel thugs the last time you might have seen her. Rowan please be smart and do not say or do any of the things that you normally do around women."
"Now Harris, that wounds me. I am both a gentleman and a businessman."
"You're a whore mongering pimp." Revy snapped
"She means that in the nicest possible way." Xander said quickly.
"Ah Lady Rebecca," Roan smiled insincerely, “as always you're the epitome of charm and civility."
Revy ignored him turning to The Black Lagoon's captain, "What are you doing here boss man?" She asked, "Everyone's hauling ass over to the Rip-Off Church."
"We'd be over there as well but Pigeon's got a crowd of people holed up at the 'Fest. He's hired us to escort them to safety. I was going to check out the place and see if we could transport them without getting our asses killed in the process."
Benny looked around nervously "Considering we couldn't get three blocks before we ran into trouble, I do not like our chance of getting anyone moved to someplace a little less..."
"-- dangerous?" Buffy asked,
"I was going to say repulsive, but yeah dangerous works just as well." Benny replied,
"I run a class establishment." Roan whined.
Revy snorted at his words, "You got a theme night where the losers can watch lookalikes of me and Chinglish shaking ass on stage." She reminded him.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
"So that means there's a Balalaika-imitator," Xander pointed out innocently, "Has the Boss Lady seen her?"
Roan looked at Xander as if he was insane, "What, do I look like I want to end up at UG Pork on The Cleaner's table --of course there's no Balalaika."
Xander smiled triumphantly, "Well if we are going to transport your dancers and clients to the church I'd advise getting the girls changed into something a little less likely to get YOU killed."
"Who are we helping and what about them. Their Slayers I can tell that much." Buffy asked suspiciously, But Xander didn't answer. He was looking at the other women with dawning realization.
"Master Harris you've returned to us." one of the girls said to the Watcher who realized that the women were several of the Slayer Slaves he had rescued.
"What are you guys doing here?" he asked
"When the Chinaman's army came to the island to take us we fought back we realized the Chinaman's forces might be here as well. The best of us volunteered to come here to fight them. We hoped that we might earn our place."
"Earn your place?"Buffy asked awkwardly.
"We know that Master Harris left us before because we were not great fighters who could stand with him in the Great War." The girl turned to Xander, "We hoped to have another chance to prove ourselves worthy of the effort you made to save us."
"Not worthy to fight with me," Xander asked sadly, "You thought you weren't good enough to fight."
"Xander I know you're not that bright so I'll use little words." Dutch said, "Slaves do not think rationally. That's why they need so much attention after they've been freed. It’s very easy for them to assume that someone who’s off crusading around the world has, in fact, abandoned them."
"I did not abandon them." Xander sighed "I mean...I didn't mean to abandon them. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize to me apologize to them," Dutch said gently but firmly, "they are the ones who need to feel worthwhile."
"They are ..." The Lagoon's captain grabbed Xander and turned him firmly toward the Slayers Xander nodded and started again, "You are worthwhile… and as soon as this is over we'll get you girls into A-one shape for Slay-age. In fact I brought the best of the best with me." He gestured to Buffy.
The Slayers looked in amazement at her. Several of the ex-slaves bowed their heads. Some even dropped to their knees on the ground trying to show reverence.
"Stop that!" Buffy snapped.
In a more gentle voice, Buffy reached out and picked up the closest girl, "I'm not your master and neither is Xander. He's your watcher, your guide, your friend. He'll help train you and make you strong so that when the darkness comes you won't ever have to be afraid again." She looked at Xander meaningfully, "He won't be doing it alone of course. No one ever stands alone when they stand with us."
"But we saw him in danger we saw him at the side of the mad hunting dog."
Buffy gestured to Roberta, "She's on our side now." the Slayer paused,
"Wasn't she just trying to kill you before?" Dutch asked looking at the Maid wearily,
"That's just how we roll, Boss man." Xander smiled brightly.
"Besides," Roberta said grimly, "it is clear that Senorita Summers barely knew what you were up to let alone what the Slayer woman was involved with."
"Well duh, I only explained that like sixty-zillion times." Xander sighed
"Men say anything they need to get what they want from a woman. You cannot trust a man's words only his actions. "
Amen, preach it sister, preach it." Buffy said jokingly.
"Hey, you are supposed to be leading by example, “Xander scolded her, "that means not exposing these impressionable girls to your screwed world view on men."
Roan snorted, "I hope you guys aren't expecting that I’m gonna pay more. I paid for Lagoon Company. To me that includes everyone currently or previously employed by Lagoon Company."
Dutch smiled at Rowan, "Xander is an independent contractor now as is his friend. I don't think you could afford what Roberta could charge for her services."
"Does nobody do anything out of simple human kindness in this town?" Buffy asked. The wall of bewildered looks facing her including from Xander answered her question more eloquently then words ever could."Right, stupid question; OK, how are we going to do this?"
"We're going to get ourselves a convoy." Xander smiled.
Garcia barely remembered his mother. She had died when he was very young. Still, as open-minded as his recent adventures were forcing him to become, his first instinct upon being confronted with the image of his dead mother was denial. "My mother is dead; you can't be her." The young scion stated cautiously.
"You are half right," The Old One stated simply, "I meld the flesh that remains to this vessel to appear as I wish but if you mean, am I the one who carried and birthed you? -- then no I am not your mother."
"I've done all that you asked," Manuela said desperately, "You promised that I might receive your blessing if I frustrated your enemies’ plans and brought the boy to you. He's perfect."
"Indeed Little Slave-girl, I have not been so faithfully served in so many, many centuries."
"So what happens now am I going to be killed and sacrificed."
"You have a part to play but it is not as a sacrifice. You soul's just a little too pure for my taste. You are here for her."
"What does that mean exactly?"
"An ancient rite so-to-speak; you decide her worthiness to receive my blessing based on what you learn of her life. If her deeds merit it you shall decide her fate."
"You don't seem much like a god of evil "
"That would be because I'm not evil."
"...but you’re supposed to be the spirit of corruption. What is corruption if it isn’t evil?"
"Life begins and life ends, Young Master, but what comes in between. I am the answer to that question. You live in a near constant taste of decay. Perhaps you've heard the saying, that as soon as you're born; you start dying?"
"So if you didn't exist everything would just remain constant "
"Constant, and unchanging, never realizing its potential you would remain a charming if opinionated little boy instead of the heroic and steadfast man your Father wanted you to be or the ruthless and cold opponent that your enemies fear you will become."
"You know my future."
"I can perceive the pathways that your life will take not true knowledge fate more an insight as to what the gradual decay of your mind body and soul will produce. I have to say that you are going to have a far more interesting life then ever your father did."
"Ok then why are you sleeping in the middle of Roanapur, why here?"
"I did not make Roanapur; Roanapur made itself I just have sustained myself on the drifting from light to dark and from life to death."
"It's not just the death that feeds you; it’s the bitterness and coldness that seeps in from living in this dark and evil place."
"Can't you feel it Little Lovelace. Already your heart and mind are changing from what they were. Your ideals are decaying and from that decay will spring new ideals, new priorities. Who knows, one day you will come to see that sweet innocence your Maid adores so very much, as a burden to be discarded. Birth, life, decay, death and rebirth; that is the truth of the universe here in Roanapur that truth is expressed in fashion that some, might consider grotesque.
Fine you want me to absolve her or something, I absolve her. I forgive her, whatever it is you need me to do."
"Forgiveness," The Old One chuckled, "True forgiveness is rare. It comes from seeing the actions of others in context to the great flow of life. "
"I don't understand how can I know the truth of what she did or didn't do I have only her word for that. It's not like I was actually there."
The Old one smiled, "Take her hand Young Lovelace.”
I’m kind of tied..." Garcia looked down at some point he was not sure when, his bonds had disappeared.
"Take her hand."
Garcia reached out and took Manuela's hand. Sparks arced between them. Garcia jumped back "What just happened?"
"You have for a time stolen the woman's gift of sight beyond sight. Now you Garcia Lovelace can see all that was seen and will be seen by those of the Slayer bloodline. I don't need to lie or use evil to corrupt and distort souls. A soul like yours will respond to something as simple as the truth. Let us see if you can be so forgiving once your lies of innocence have been replaced by truth and knowledge."
If there was a good part to the devastation on the streets of Roanapur it was that a surprising number of people had fled their vehicles while in transit. This saved valuable time since they could pick the two biggest trucks they could find and didn't even have to hotwire them.
Dutch and Benny each took the wheel of the large trucks they "borrowed" and together the convoy pulled up in front of the Goof Fest. The neon lighting seemed almost satirical given the doomsday scenario.
Xander was surprised to find music still pumping out into the streets. "Are you kidding me Roan, you're still open in the middle of this nightmare?" He asked sarcastically.
Roan looked at Xander, "It may be judgment day, but people are still people. They'll always need to get drunk and look at tits and ass." the man said with a sage voice.
"Wow Xander you bring me to such amazing places." Buffy snapped
"By the way Harris; is your girlfriend going to make trouble?" he mimed the use of a stake, “I do not need her killing the staff."
Xander positioned himself in front of Buffy to keep her from throttling the club owner, "Buffy will be fine as long as we aren't taking the v-girls to the Church."
Roan nodded and went running into the building wailing about his precious babies.
Xander was nervously glancing around at the large number of people gathered inside the main foyer. A mix of customers, dancers and assorted refugees who's escape from the zombies had brought them to the brothel.
Roberta approached Roan. "May I assume that you possess a stock of iconic fetish wear?" The ex-terrorist asked politely.
Roan nodded proudly, "Of course, you can't run a place like this without some outfits."
"...and that would include maid's uniforms am I correct?"
"Well I might, what's it worth to you?" Roan asked.
Roberta produced a wad of cash that made the club owner's eyes light up.
Xander was mildly curious. "Do I want to know why you need a Maid's outfit?" he asked cautiously.
"If I am meeting Master Garcia again, I should be dressed appropriately." Roberta answered.
Roan gestured to the back room and Roberta followed him shouldering the bag of weapons she had managed to hold onto.
Buffy looked at Xander and his nervous twitching and poked him. "What wrong you look like you’re going to jump out of your skin?"
"This seems too perfect." Xander said nervously, "I keep waiting for the other shoe. I mean the Lawyers are pretty hardcore and I wouldn't put any of this past them but it seems a little too easy, too convenient."
"We'll deal," Buffy said dismissively, "Now what are the v-girls and why are we leaving them here instead of taking them to the Church."
"The V-girls are vampires who work upstairs." the young man admitted.
Buffy sighed and cracked her knuckles meaningfully, "OK well vampires I know how to deal with; what's the problem?"
"You can't kill these vampires Buffy." Xander held up his hand, "Just trust me for now and accept that."
Buffy cocked her head to one side. "Vampires; you mean aside from the drug lords, gangsters and psychos this place also has ..."
"Not all of them are strippers or hookers," Xander quickly explained, "and not all are female. They work in the host clubs around the city."
"Are you kidding me?" Buffy snapped, "So what? You didn't think it was significant enough to tell me this before."
"Buff, you have a rather infamous stake-first; ask-questions-when-it-dawns-on-you policy."
"I know," Buffy agreed sharply "it’s one of the reasons I'm still alive; you too as I recall."
"No argument there but since I owe the v-girls my life I'm kind of obligated to keep them from being the next notches on your scythe."
Buffy folded her arms "I'm waiting." She said grimly.
There was a sudden scream from the top of the stairs leading to the upper rooms of the club and a young looking blonde hurled herself down the steps. "Buffy Summers, my god it has been ages I haven't seen you since God I don't remember when." She said excitedly.
Buffy was shocked because she not only recognized the short girl with a waspish figure as a vampire she also remembered her from high school. Buffy cocked her head to the side. "Maddie, Maddie Larkin? I had chem with you at the start of grad year; then you vanished."
"It was Scott Tanner," Maddie shrugged, "we went parking late one night. He said the danger would make it more fun. He was really, really wrong about that." She opened her mouth to show her vampire fangs.
Buffy shrugged, "I staked him about a year or so later. So whets doing with you?"
"I hooked up with some older vamps. They were the ones who told me about the whole slaying thing which I got to say was such a head trip. I mean you, of all people, fighting demons. I mean that has to be like the all-time biggest shock of like, forever. Anyhow my new friends told me about the Mayor's Ascension. They said I had best get out of town. I thought --where did I always want to see before I died; and bought a ticket to Asia."
Buffy cocked her eyebrow critically, "No offense Maddie but... a hooker?" she asked delicately.
Maddie waved her hand dismissively, "I don't actually have sex. Most of the guys get off on the feeding. I spout a little Anne Rice dialogue, you know that whole lonely-and-ancient-soul thing; and then I drain off about a pint. I get to feed and they get off on being fed on its like sex, drugs and food all at once."
Buffy recalled the pain of finding her ex-love Riley engaging in such activity but she reflected that it made a twisted kind of sense. "So how did you end up meeting Xander?" She asked not expecting an answer.
Maddie paused, "One of the Syndicate money men stole a bunch of cash for one of the dancers here and then got himself killed. She tried to get out of town and ended up running into Xander. He took up for her not knowing she was like a total bitch and had half the city's hunters on her ass. Xander only found out what bad news she was after she tried to have him killed by some of the new vamps who don't know he was the best friend of THE Vampire Slayer.
"Really, would any of those girls still be working here?" Buffy said coldly,
Xander noticed a few familiar faces fading further into the background.
"Anyhow," Maddie sighed, "I stepped in and told them that killing the best friend of the Vampire Slayer was about the surest way to end up dead."
"Smart girl," The Slayer said "Xander has managed to never speak of his time in Roanapur; I suspected he was doing something insane but he's been covering his tracks very well."
Xander was no longer trying to even hide his sheepish grin.
"After it was over Xander promised he'd intervene if you ever came calling as long as we kept a low profile." Maddie looked at Buffy nervously, "I'm guessing since we have a whole bunch of Slayers now, things are a little different."
"If any of us survive the current crisis we can deal with it then." Buffy looked at her former classmate squarely, "You helped Xander when he needed it and that counts for a lot in my book; consider this your get-out-of-slaying-free card, which has just been cashed in.
Maddie nodded. "Thanks, we're going to bunker down in the 'Fest. Good luck guys I hope you make it though."
"So do I.” Xander said
"I'm curious," Buffy asked the young looking Vampire. "How did Xander get out of his little crisis? I mean, He had a bunch of killers on his trail; how did he survive?" she asked.
"You mean before or after he blew up that Ramsap Inn?" Maddie asked.
Buffy was looking at Xander incredulously. "You blew up a hotel?!?" she asked incredulously.
"In my defence," Xander said, "I did not actually blow up the hotel. It was the other hunters who blew the hotel up. I just..."
Buffy cut him off, "Let me guess, you just MacGyver-ed a whole building." she mocked him.
"Hello, Damsel in distress." Xander reminded her "When damsels are in distress I tend to go with the gut."
Revy laughed cruelly, "Does that include when the Damsels rip off the mob for a few million.” She poked Xander in the chest, “You're lucky that Balalaika didn't chop you up for fish bait."
"So what did she do to you?” Buffy asked suspiciously, “I mean obviously she didn't kill you but..."
Xander knew where her questions were going, had known since he vowed never to speak of his time in this city of darkness. "She made me kill the girl." Xander said flatly.
"...And you did it just like that." Buffy exploded.
"She had the girl drained and sired." Xander explained with cold calmness, "Balalaika then locked me in a room with her overnight. You know as well as I do newly raised vampires are barely controllable and pretty much kill on sight. So yeah I killed her just like that."
Buffy looked at her friend unbelieving, "Are you kidding me, what did she get out of doing that?"
"I defied her Buffy, one of the big four. In this town, going against Chang or Balalaika or any of the other syndicate bosses is pretty much like cutting your own throat in shark-infested water."
Revy explained, "When Boss Chang or Balalaika want someone dead they are gone no questions asked. As near as I can tell, the only reason Big Sis let him live was because of his undeniably cute ass and because he impressed her. Not many people have had the top hunters in this city on their tail and lived to tell about it."
"What kind of place is this?" Buffy sighed in disbelief,
"Now you see why I had to come back," Xander explained, "why I had to bring someone like Faith who could deal with what this place is and what it can do to someone to live here long enough. Once I knew the Slayers were down here; I knew it was only a matter time. Imagine someone like Roberta running around with the powers of a Slayer.“ Xander muttered.
Buffy shuddered but she wasn't thinking of Roberta. Buffy's gaze was all on Revy; violent, sadistic, and barely controllable. She imagined her with the abilities of a Slayer and Buffy had to reluctantly agree with Xander, A bunch of Slayers educated by the kind of people that could comfortably call this place home, was too terrifying a concept to contemplate. This city was dangerous.
Roberta swept into the room. "I'm ready."
She was dressed head to toe in a Victorian maid's outfit complete with headpiece and immaculate white gloves. The black maid's dress brushed the floor almost concealing the combat boots she was still wearing underneath. She had even managed to find a set of glasses to wear. The only out of place touch on the outfit was the twin bandoleers of weapons strapped around her.
"Now that is a sight which brings back a lot of bad memories." Revy snorted, recalling this was how Roberta had looked when first their paths had crossed.
Xander ignored the gunslinger. "It’s time for us to go then. I'm getting worried about what's happening up at the Church." he cleared his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen anyone who is still breathing naturally and who'd like to keep doing so should move quickly and quietly to the trucks out front. We are saving your lives."