Xander shivered. It certainly wasn't cold outside, but Balalaika's icy stare put a chill in the air he could feel, or was that chill running down Xander's spine? Faith was standing beside her looking nervous.
The cargo vessel wasn't in port exactly, it was moored further out but its imposing bulk was still easily visible.
Balalaika marched down the dock pointing an accusing finger. "What is that?" she asked. Her Russian accent was thick , a well known danger sign that The Mob Mistress was pissed off enough that your next ill chosen word could be your last.
Xander's survival instinct kicked in alerting him that cracking wise would be a fatal mistake. "There was a complication." he explained quickly.
"The Lagoon springing a leak is a complication Alexander" Balalaika roared, "...You being caught by local authorities is a complication. Bringing the ship I told you to sink in the bay and parking it off shore so everyone knows you stole from Hotel Moscow is beyond mere complication, it's an act of goddamn war...are we at war Alexander?"
"There were people aboard," Xander snapped back, "what was I supposed to do - sink the ship with them still alive?"
"Are they worth the unholy mess you've unleashed for yourself?" Balalaika sneered.
Dutch cleared his throat, "Sofiya, - a minute if you please?"
Balalaika startled at Dutch's words. He gestured to her and she stepped over where they conferred quietly.
Faith looked at Xander anxiously, "Xander what happened, I thought you were going to scuttle the ship."
"Carlin and his people were in the hold. I don't know why but I'm thinking finding out the answer is worth our time." Xander explained.
"Who is Sofiya?"
"Sofiya Pavlovena - at least that's what they called her before she brought down all kinds of hell in Afghanistan. Sofiya is Balalaika's real name. Dutch is one of very few people in this whole city who even knows it or would try and talk to her when she's in the mood she's in now. Chang would do it but he has an army of thugs to back HIM up."
Xander decided it was time to listen in on the conversation since his life might depend on the substance thereof.
"... Dutch - You know as I do how this plays out" Balalaika was saying, "Anyone who disrupts the operations of Hotel Moscow MUST pay the price - the ultimate price, if their offence is serious enough." Balalaika hissed. That's why I told them not to leave a trace ...any trace."
"Let's not BS each other Cap-i-tain," Dutch said with gentle mockery, "The kid came to you looking to make trouble for Leptev and you jumped at the chance. If it was drugs, weapons or anything else like that the boat would be at the bottom of the sea but it was people. You know as well as I do what that means."
Balaiaka nodded, "My God," She sighed, "what is that little KGB weasel up to now?"
Dutch continued pressing her, "You and I also know its not Xander's fault Leptev might be desperate enough to pull a Hail Mary Pass like trafficking. Maybe you recall whose responsibility that actually was?"
"Yes fine, I screwed him over during that idiotic gambit he pulled to start war between myself and Chang and now this is his last desperate clutch at staying in power and alive ...But now I'm up against it." Balalaika snarled. If Moscow finds out about this...or worse, all the small timers. it will be like the bad old days again."
"It's Alexander Harris," Dutch replied as if that was an explanation in-and-of-itself, "Don't pretend your really that surprised that he decided to save someones life even if it makes his more complicated."
Balalaika breathed a heavy sigh, "What do you want Dutch?"
"... A day and a half - let us get the people off the boat and treated. We can make them disappear, after that the boat goes down."
Xander stepped up to her, "If that's how we are playing it then I want one more thing." He asked boldly.
Dutch's head dropped like a rock into his open palm, "Is this really a GOOD time Kid?" he sighed.
Xander ignored him looking Balalaika in the eyes, "If this goes pear-shaped then it's all on me, agreed? No collateral damage, no scorched earth - you leave Faith and girls out of it."
Balalaika looked at Faith and then back at Xander, "Fine, you have till end of the day tomorrow to sink that boat yourself, after that I take official notice of your attack against Hotel Moscow and will respond in kind - don't disappoint me Alexander, and for their sake, don't make me have to come and find you." The mob mistress turned on her heel and marched to her Mercedes.
Faith watched them depart, "What the hell just happened?" she asked.
"Situation normal Faith," Xander gave her a dismissing wave, "... clocks ticking Faithie, if things get hairy I'll need you to look out for the girls for me OK? Tell Buffy and Willow whatever you have to to keep them from doing anything stupid."
"Xander, you have till tomorrow - what's the deal?"
"If we scuttle that ship before we've learned everything we can, our only link to finding out what the lawyers were really up to and stopping them will be gone."
"Are you insane," Faith snapped, "are you telling me you made that deal knowing you'd have to renege?"
"Relax Faith, I'm not committing suicide if we can crack this in twenty-four hours we can sink the boat no harm, no foul. I just made that deal to protect you and the girls. That's all that matters."
"Do you really think I'm going to sit back and LET her kill you?"
"You won't have any choice Faith, I told you before, I warned you when you came here ... Never forget what Roanapur is and why it is what it is. Roanapur is not a nice city and there is a reason only a precious few can survive here."
"If it's that bad, why not just get out of town?" Faith asked.
"You heard her. If I run, Balalaika will be obligated to come looking for me. You'd have to lie to her which means she'd have to make it worth your while not to."
"She's human, OK she's one hell of a dangerous woman but she's still human. I can handle her."
"...In a fair fight. Do you really think Balalaika would fight fair. She'll put the other Slayers in the firing line and make you choose who to rescue and who to let die. By the time it came down to just the two of you, you'd be fighting over a pile of corpses. I know you Faith, you won't be at your best in that situation. She's had nothing to do for the last few months except think about how to get in your head and take you down, can you say the same?"
"Take her out?" Faith sputtered, "What the hell are you talking about?"
"That's what i thought, she and Chang like you Faith. They even respect you, but don't think for a second they haven't been planning what to do if things go very badly and they had to take us all out."
Faith was shocked but in her heart she knew he was right. It wasn't malicious not really it was business. Balalaika would be a poor warrior if she didn't have a hundred scenarios planned for how to deal with a potential feud with the Slayers.