A van cruised slowly down a lonely street of Roanapur's hotel district. The occupants were visitors. Each one was a trained veteran of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC. Officially they were revolutionaries, trying to change the socio-political landscape of South America. Unofficially, they were terrorists and dog soldiers of the and of late they had branched into taking control of drug production themselves. Why work for another when they could work for themselves and keep the money in the vast organization. They still hired themselves out for guard duty and occasionally settling scores on behalf of various Cartel bosses. Each one saw themselves as trained and elite killers. However, even combined, their ability was at best only a close match for their single most famous veteran. The woman who had helped to make them a force to be reckoned with, feared and respected in places as far a field even as this South China Sea paradise. Yet their target, their focus, was this very same legend. These luckless men and women would be the heroes who would at last bring down the infamous Bloodhound.
Their leader Alberto looked at the two squads of killers arrayed in front of him He thought about what to tell them. What he could say about their target, about the American accompanying her. Should he build their hopes of success, convince them that as a team these two fugitives could not beat them. In the end though Alberto went with the truth.
"Our target is Rosarita Cisnaros, once she was one of us, The Bloodhound of Florencia. They say that she was second only to Carlos The Jackal himself in skill. Every way of killing a man you know; she knows, and she is better then you. An American travels with her. His name is Alexander Harris you will have heard a lot of wild stories connected with him; stories of demons and monsters and the like -- believe them. This man has faced the horrors of hell itself and survived. You must be stronger and better then the furies of hell if you even want him to notice you.
Use your heads and survive and you will be remembered and rewarded as Gods and Goddesses. Underestimate either one of these two and you'll be lucky if all that happens to you is death."
"You know most people just fill out the comment card when they are checking out of a hotel they didn't like." Xander mused,
"I am not most people as I am sure you have observed." Rosarita stated plainly as she looked through a powerful set of binoculars.
The Maid had insisted on dousing their rooms in gasoline and setting fire to the whole thing. They had torched an entire floor of their hotel in the process. Rosarita seemed comfortable with the plan while Xander...well Xander was in go-with-the-flow mode.
"Tell me again why you wanted Bren's people to lead the attack." He had been complaining about dealing with the assassin since the deal was forged and Rosarita for once was not badgering him or berating him for it. She was apparently aware of the fearsome reputation of the Order of Taraka and having Bren as much as confirm that Xander was one of the more embarrassing hiccups in their history of perfect kills had impressed her.
"I doubt he is sending his own people to confront the Americans. He has no doubt hired street trash and is sending them to their deaths against The Marines We have only to wait and our dogs will come running to us." In response to her words there was an explosion across the distance between the building the duo were standing on and the hotel the Americans were hiding in. The first explosion was followed by two more culminating in a massive discharge that collapsed part of the roof.
"I guess our guests just checked out." Xander quipped.
Rosarita grunted in affirmative and tossed him the binoculars. "Let me know if your farm boy or the Slayers are among the ones fleeing to the roof."
Xander watched her yank the cover off of one of her many weapons purchases she had been carting around. It was a heavily modified Barret Rifle. Someone had mounted a powerful grenade launcher on the bottom of the already fearsome gas powered weapon. She hefted the cumbersome rifle easily as she swiftly attached a powerful scope to the rifle portion.
Turning his attention back to the building, he looked through the binoculars and focused on the distant roof. He could see the Marines positioning themselves across the roof; securing the area. They had that swaggering air that comes from having dealt with a potential threat. They had obviously kicked ass and took names and were enjoying the afterglow of their success.
"Well?" Rosarita snapped
Xander scanned the forms and faces that he could see while shaking his head. "No Finn and no Slayers. I 'm guessing their still inside. When you open up they'll rabbit; you'd better wait."
"I want them running!" Rosarita snarled before opening fire, taking five of The Marines in the first few shots. The rest scrambled for defensive positions.
Rosarita barely needed a second to switch modes on her weapon before firing an explosive charge across the roof, blasting the sheltered marines. She fired twice more. Xander could see the survivors retreating back into the dubious safety of the burning building.
"That seemed too easy." Xander muttered, suddenly as clear as if it was an actual voice came a cry from his back-brain "Get Down!" he screamed as a hail of auto gunfire raked their position. The Marines were fighting back. "We're too close. They can still nail us from there."
"We are right where we need to be. They are too close to us." Rosarita said coldly, "Right about now their commander is realizing that the range of the Barrett keeps them in my sights for a full thousand meters in any direction."
"You want them to retreat to the streets. But the only thing close to the hotel district is...the warehouse district."
"Your Slayers combat instincts make getting close them virtually impossible. I'm not even going to try sneaking up on them. I'm going to overload those instincts."
Xander scanned the area below them. Disused warehouses spotted the district. Their dark and vacant corridors reminded Xander of only one thing. "Vampires, that area has got to be lousy with vampire nests "
"Once their inside, the Slayers won't sense us following them and if there really are blood suckers in there, you can be sure at least some of the Marines will blunder into them."
"Cute," Xander sighed bitterly, "Let them do the hard work of thinning out the ranks of the Marines."
Rosarita glanced at him wryly, "Unless you fancy taking on a fully armed and trained squad of Marines. This way they won't know who is hunting them until it is too late." She smiled coldly.
Xander watched from a protected spot as the marines predictably scrambled across the rooftops and disappeared downward. Finally he caught sight of the familiar farm fed physique of Riley Finn scrambling across a hastily set-up plank board. Xander watched as the man sheltered two of the fleeing grunts from the flying debris of the Maid's attacks. These would be the Slayers that Finn was assigned to handling.
"So Captain America," He muttered bitterly, “Still got a thing for Slayers do you? Guess bedding two of them wasn't enough for you."
Rosarita heard his whispered words and slapped him lightly. "Focus, this is war and war demands focus. Lose sight of that and you lose everything."
"What about you? Those pills you're swallowing cant be doing any favours for your sense of mental balance."
"Never you mind about my balance," The Maid snapped and pulled a bottle from her pack. She opened the bottle but only a single pill fell into her mouth. She shook the bottle helplessly and cursed in Spanish.
"What now?" Xander asked,
"Now we see what your magic plants can do." She pulled one of the Devil's roots from her pack carving off a slice with a combat knife. Her face screwed itself in a mask of bitter distaste as she slid the slice unto her mouth. She blinked and her eyes began to water. Xander backed away from her as her teeth clenched furiously and tremors began wracking her body as veins popped out all over her arms and face. Then just as quickly the tremors seemed to pass. Suddenly her lips curled into a grotesque smile her eyes dark with mad blood lust. "Much better." she hissed.
As the battle raged in the rooftops, Rock's car pulled up in the alleyway below. Shenhua and Sawyer were waiting for them. Beside them was a handsome blond who looked more like a rock and roll star then a mercenary. His fully loaded weapons belt looked more then a little out of place. Yet, it served as proof that this man was indeed one of the city's many professional trouble busters. His name was Rotton and Faith was amazed as the man glanced around the alleyway anxiously before turning to Shenhua. "The fire escape," He asked in a hushed tone that compelled attention, "if I made my entrance from there would I look ... Cool?"
Faith's mouth dropped open, Revy seemed ready to put a bullet into him which would have been ironic, since according to Shenhua and Sawyer she had shot him once already. Revy, whose ability to recall defeated foes seemed about as spotty as her ability to recall people's proper names dismissed the man as a posing gun toting gigolo.
Rock was ordered to remain with the car. Revy felt her skills would be hard pressed enough keeping Garcia alive in the firefight to come. Faith knew without being told that her job was to separate Xander from the Maid as soon as they made contact and then keep him alive.
The news that they would have to fight their way to and possibly through old allies annoyed Shenhua who snapped peevishly " What stupid Surfer Boy doing with Maid anyway I hope no one expecting me to hold back if he come at me."
"Xander is covering The Maid's tail." Faith supplied before looking balefully at the Shenhua, "As for carving yourself some ground round Harris, I'd advise against it I'm going to be the least of your worries if you lay a finger on the Xander's head."
"Southie talk big with big sword in her hands I wondering if you can back up big talk with big skill." Shenhua sneered,
"Don't worry about my skills. Worry about what Xander's other friends will do to this town if he gets hurt and Worry about what they'll do to you if I need to keep them from flaying me alive by ratting you out as the person that killed him."
"I remembering you talk about freaky skin ripping bitch." Shenhua muttered, Faith's stories of Willow and her sinister past had impressed Roanapur's jaded killers.
"Relax Chinglish," Revy sighed, "Xander's wired and wild but he isn’t stupid. It’s the Maid you need to worry about. Not only is she crazy as a loon but she is pissed."
"Make for more interesting hunt." Shenhua hissed with a gleeful smile.
"Whoa, hold on there sister." Revy reminded, "The Maid is the destination on this mission; not the target. We get the kid to her and he talks her down."
"Why do I suspect things aren't going to be nearly that simple?" Faith gripped,
Revy grinned wolfishly, "Cause you got two brain-cells to rub together."
"That having been said," Garcia stated quietly, "I want to thank you especially Ms. Faith, I apologize for my earlier suspicions. I assure you it was only my grief at my fathers death which lead me to be so mistrusting."
Shenhua seemed impressed by the diminutive gentlemen and immediately offered to take him home. Faith, who had in her time been the recipient of several second chances including one from Xander himself, wondered if it was karma coming back at her that she was now somewhat obligated to grant a second chance to someone else.
She sighed and stuck out her hand toward Garcia, "In truth little guy I've been suspicious of the Watchers Council a time or two myself and they had it coming in my books."
"Ahh ain't that sweet." Revy sneered " Are Southie and the Little Master kissing and making nice. Where’s my camera I don't want to miss this Kodak moment."
Faith flipped her the finger, "No way I'm take'n crap from someone that got sucker punched, and then had her ass handed to her."
Shenhua looked up at this, "Who got punched, you mean loud mouth gun whore got ass kicked. By who?"
"By the very maid we are hunting today." Faith snickered, "I'd want to shake her hand for that alone."
The Taiwanese assassin laughed cruelly, "Shenhua liking this chick more and more. Crazy, skilled and she kick Revy's skank ass."
"Hey Chinglish," Revy smiled dangerously, "I'm right over here. Anytime you think you want to take your shot, I'm ready to rock and roll."
Shenhua smiled demurely, "Carving meat off your ass something I save for fun. Is time for work."
Xander was still keeping close the roof surface. He glanced worriedly at his partner in crime. Despite her consumption of the root fragment, she was more or less unchanged in appearance, but all the same there was something altogether more -- bestial about her. Her sudden twitchy glancing around while sniffing the air did not lessen that impression.
She responded to his unasked question, "Someone is coming."
"The Marines, how did they get over here without you spotting them."
"They did not. This is someone new. Cover the roof access I will prepare our departure." Rosarita slung the Barrett over her shoulder and started snapping together a long pole.
Xander scrambled over to the doorway and looked down the staircase. Coming up the stairs were masked soldiers who opened fire on him as soon as they saw him. Xander pulled out twined auto pistols. Rosarita had insisted he use some kind of weapon and his monocular vision made aiming something of an issue. She elected to get around that problem by arming him with weapons that did not require much if any aiming.
Xander sprayed gunfire down the narrow staircase cursing as he kept the soldiers at bay. He was running out of options but he refused to give up, refused to give in. He would get to the Slayers. He would find a way to talk Rosarita down off her Slayer-hate. "You hear me you bastards -- You tell Dylan Thomas, Xander Harris says hello "
"We're ready to leave." The Maid snapped and tossed him a brick-like object.
"Jesus," Xander whistled looking at the pound of Gelignite, in his hand." You sure that's enough explosive." He asked snidely,
"I purchased more then enough that I can afford to waste some, now set it and let's go."
Xander stuck the brick of gelatinous nitroglycerin to the door slamming it shut before joining Rosarita at the roof's edge. "You neglected to give me a detonator. As I recall that stuff doesn't explode without one."
"I neglect nothing, that is why I was the best." she unleashed the Barret Rifle, aiming at the door and putting a fifty caliber round through it. There was an answering roar as the nitro exploded, rocking the roof and sending the door rocketing into the sky.
"Who were those guys anyway?"
"My guess is the Cartel hired them to kill Me."
"Great," Xander groused, "The Cartel wants to kill you which means I guess they now want to kill me. Any other details you want to share. I mean those guys seemed a little disciplined for cartel thugs."
"That is because they are Colombian Revolutionaries." She was watching him so she saw the colour drain from his face at her words. “I see that you have heard of FARC."
"Are you kidding me," Xander cried out hysterically, "If even half of what I remember about the FARC is real, those guys are no joke. How in hell are we supposed to fight FARC troops and the Marines?"
"WE need not worry. The FARC will be concentrating on me. Assuming they even know about you I doubt they consider you little more then collateral damage or a target of opportunity. I am their primary target. The Marines still do not know whom they are facing. If I plan this right I can herd all our enemies together and let them kill each other."
"Oh that’s just dandy. Any other good news, words of encouragement."
The Maid smiled evilly, "Sunset is approaching, soon the vampires in the warehouse will begin to stir. All being well there will be massive casualties on both sides."
Xander bleached, "How in hell are we supposed to survive a three front war with the Americans, your old comrades and Vampires tough enough to survive in Roanapur?"
"By being better then they are. Concentrate your thoughts on only one thing -- survival. Once you are focused on survival and victory then all else becomes subordinate to that goal."
Rosarita hefted the pole in her hands testing its weight; Xander looked at her actions and realized what her plan was. "No way, absolutely not. I'm not pole-vaulting over the damn rooftops. That is just stupid with a capital dumb-ass."
"Then stay if you wish. I'd be insulted if the FARC sent anything less then two squads to track me and everyone of them are skilled information retrievers just as I am "
Xander shook his head in resignation "I am in it so deep if I could breath through the top of my skull I'd still be in trouble."
He watched as The Maid dashed toward the roof edge and pole-vaulted perfectly. He sighed as he bent to pick up the pole that she tossed back toward him.
Xander dashed toward the roof edge jabbing the pole's end into the rooftop. The pole catapulted him skyward with a decidedly unmanly scream. He flew across the impossibly long distance between the two buildings. Instinct made him tuck and roll, managing to soften the crash when his body slammed into the rooftop.
The Group downstairs heard the roar of fire and sound that was the explosion from the rooftop. As they headed down the hallway, Revy caught sight of soldiers stationed down the hall.
The Gunslinger looked at Faith critically. The Slayer was fingering her sword anxiously, "You know for someone who walks around with a label like Slayer you don't seem that comfortable with killing." Revy muttered.
"Slayers are trained to kill monsters and demons. The things I kill normally go poof in the daylight." Faith looked at Revy, "Killing people doesn't actually give me the warm and fuzzies, At least not anymore."
Revy snorted dismissively, "You did good on the island. This is the same thing. These guys ain't nothing but obstacles. Think of them as billboards, old and rusty billboards."
"You know B and the others used to wring their hands over this kind of thing, hell so did I..."
"...Now I'll be seriously pissed of I don't keep up with Shenhua when the final head count is tallied."
Shenhua smiled sweetly, "Now why Slayer sister be worried about that we already know you lose to Shenhua."
"You want to lay some cash on that?" Faith whispered before Revy cut off the chatter and called their attention back to the men down the hallway. She indicated by motion that she would lead the charge and the others would follow after.
Revy rounded the corner blazing away with her Cutlasses; her shots taking the first guard before he could even turn. Revy bent low allowing Shenhua to use her as a jumping off point for a graceful leap that allowed her to land in the midst of several of the guards. The Assassin viciously slashed with her razor sharp kukri blades cutting down two men at once.
Faith got up a good run, dodging past the hail of gunfire coming from the remaining guards firing in a blind panic as death steamrollered toward them. She evaded their shots by ramping off the wall of the hallway; landing beside two more solders slashing their lives away viciously.
More guards came down the hallway and Shenhua and Faith went up both sides killing as they went. Their blades a shimmering counterpoint of quick and vicious death that took no mercy and asked no quarter. When the hallway finally fell silent Faith cursed.
"What is it?" Revy asked,
"I'm Even Stevens." The Slayer snapped,
"Well Slayer Sister not bad for newbie." Shenhua teased, "Maybe in a few years you be good as Shenhua."
Revy looked at the small army they had just carved their way through, "Actually I'm wondering why they were coming at us."
"I'm thinking they were trying to kill us." Faith pointed out,
Revy poked the Slayer to get her attention. "They're supposed to be chasing The Maid and yet this was at least one squad of FARC's what's the deal?"
Faith at last realized what Revy was getting at, "You're right, this makes no sense. These guys are supposed to be storming the building. Why are they running out instead of running in? This isn't normal; not normal gives me the wiggins."
"Maybe we should find ourselves a survivor." Sawyer suggested.
This proved difficult however owing to the heavy casualties the small force had inflicted.
Revy complained about Faith and Shenhua's tendencies toward near fatal decapitation. Faith snapped back that after a decade of killing vampires she was inclined to chop off the head out of habit.
Finally Sawyer found one man still breathing weakly and babbling in Spanish. Revy poked and prodded him back to awareness. Fabiola translated for her, promising the man aid and help if her told all he knew of the battle he had barely survived.
As he spoke Fabiola translated, "The Devil and her consort they attacked us unleashed hell on us. He was screaming curses -- Dylan Thomas says hello -- then they flew away. He keeps asking for some special medicine."
Revy ignored her as she said thoughtfully, "If their tracking the Gi-Joes then they'll be moving by rooftops to get close. The Dylan Thomas thing I don't get."
"Did your friend finish High School?" Rotton asked Faith quietly.
"Yeah, why?" Faith questioned,
Rotton sighed, "Its a poetic reference," When Faith looked at him blankly he struck a pose that for Faith was very familiar. "Dylan Thomas' most famous poem. -- Do not go gentle into that good night -- Your Friend is resigned to an inevitable outcome but seeks to fight against that outcome anyway."
Faith caught on to what the apparently poetic mercenary was getting at, "The Maid, Xander knows stopping her might be impossible but he's still trying anyway. Good boy, Harris, keep hitting her with the Xander-speak. Maybe that might buy us some time to get closer."
"How do you even know that." Revy asked Rotton
"I used to teach High School English." Rotton answered, "...I thought it would make me look cool."
"Are you certain his course of action can succeed?" Garcia asked worriedly,
Faith smiled confidently, "I've seen Xander do the impossible and survive I'm not counting him out just yet." The Slayer pointed at the wounded soldier, "What about him?"
"What about him? We clean up after ourselves when we make a mess in Roanapur Southie." Revy grinned as she chambered a round into one of her nine millimeter Barrettas. "Hey Beaner," She called to the weakened soldier, "You hurtin bad? Don't worry, I got something here that'll fix you right up."
Knowing what was coming Faith looked away and thus only heard the brutal double cough of Revy's Cutlass Special. Somehow only hearing it, made it worse.
Fabiola started arguing about the sanctity of life and Revy's appalling lust for blood and death. Faith had heard all her arguments before; years ago in fact as she stood in a lonely alleyway and Buffy had shook with righteous rage. Revy even sounded just like Faith had that night. Her voice was cold, dispassionate, unconcerned by a death either witnessed or inflicted.
According to Xander, Revy, Chang and everyone else she had met since coming here, death was the way of things in Roanapur. Xander had told her once. "Never forget what Roanapur is and why it is what it is."
Faith looked coldly at the body. This too she would learn to deal with, even this.