Faith marched with single minded purpose up Santanam Street heading for a seemingly unimportant unremarkable building. No special signage adorned it, no security called attention to it. In every way it was just another business building on a block that had quite a few of them.
It was the home of Bougainvillea Trading Company. the headquarters of Hotel Moscow's Roanapur operations. Faith visited the building at last once or twice a week so she knew the route well and had made note of a couple of important things. For one thing, the payphone across the street that was in full view of the front door and then there was the pretty tree lined park down the block from the payphone. She stopped at the phone booth. Using a number Balalaika had given her for emergencies, she made a call.
"We need to talk." She said as soon as the line connected.
"Do we indeed?" The older woman asked, "aren't we talking now?"
"No I mean talk-talk," Faith insisted, "you know, really connect." She sighed in her mind, it was time to go big or go home.
"I see ..." Balalaika responded thoughtfully, "would you like our TALK to happen on the waterfront. That is where Chang and I like to have our ...talks."
"No Captain," Faith answered with cold finality in her voice, "we can talk in your office."
"Interesting, Are you sure you want to do this Miss Lahane?" Balalaika asked.
"I'll be there in an hour." Faith replied before hanging up the line.
Faith went to sit in the nearby park where she waited ... and waited. Her old watcher had tried to teach her how to meditate and find an inner stillness. She'd never been that good at it but damn if she wasn't being incredibly still right now. She watched the hour creep by, Hotel Moscow's HQ remained still and silent. When the hour was up she stood up, her resolve face firmly in place, and marched across the street. She pulled open a heavy oak front door, a match for several of the doors inside. She marched through the lobby. A young soldier she didn't recognize appeared in her pathway. He was dressed in full combat gear.
"I need to see her now!" Faith announced, her voice hard.
The boy raised his hand to halt Faith's forward movement. "The Captain isn't seeing anyone right now." He said nervously.
Faith grabbed his restraining hand, turning the wrist until she heard the bones groaning in protest.
She looked into his panic filled eyes. Another half an inch turn would bring the sound of snapping twigs that bones made as they broke. There it was, that shock, the sheer disbelief giving way to the dawning realization that the every rumor he'd ever heard was true. Little girls with super powers, the stuff of children's stories and comic books. He'd assumed she and her slaying sisters were just very talented fighters, good but certainly not magical.
She drove her fist into his shoulder. She heard the distinctive popping sound a joint makes when its dislocated violently. The boy grunted and dropped to the ground.
"That will let her know you tried to stop me." Faith hissed in the boy's ear.
Several more men had filed out to the lobby. Faith stepped over her fallen opponent, hand on the sword strapped to her back. Her eyes searched the crowd until she saw a familiar face.
"Boris," She called out to Balalaika's second in command, "I want to talk to her"
"I know Miss," Boris replied, "She told us to expect you."
"So it's a test is it, - see how badly I want to do this?"
"You called ahead Miss Faith. Why do that if you weren't prepared to go all the way."
"... And what about you Boris. are you really going to go all the way with this?"
"You're young Miss Lahane. Even if I could explain it to you, you'd not understand. best we just do this."
One of the men behind Boris laughed and said something in Russian. Boris swiftly cut his comment with a harshly worded command.
"What did he say?" Faith asked.
"He wanted to know why you'd bring a sword to a gunfight. He forgets perhaps that Slayers are seasoned close quarter combat experts. Your strength and speed giving you a vast advantage."
"Boris its not my speed or my strength that gives me an advantage, it's my brains. I told you all I was coming so you'd gear up. I love these cool as shit combat knives you all carry." She held up the ballistic knife she'd taken from the door guard. "...perfect weapon in an enclosed space like this." she pressed a hidden switch and the blade of the knife shot outward jamming deep into the meat of Boris' arm. while the rest of the spaznets opened fire.
Faith snatched a doorknob and swiftly swung open one of the oak doors to block and absorb the hail of bullets coming her way. One of the soldiers grabbed at the door so Faith smashed the heavy door into the boy's face, stunning him. Faith hurled her body over the stumbling boy grabbing HIS combat knife in the process. She spun the boy around and as she thought the other soldiers hesitated at firing on one of their own. Faith pulled the safety catch and triggered the spring loaded blade sending another razor sharp blade into the leg of yet another speznets trooper.
"Thank God you guys take your blade care so seriously," Faith cried out, "Guys back home don't know shit about caring for a decent blade but you Ivans really know your stuff. "
Several men converged on Faith who punched the first man to reach her. She stole his blade and with the two in hand, lashed out using the two in concert, slashing and stabbing anyone who got too close.
These men were seasoned professionals, they'd fought in the hottest of hot-spots, but for all their experience; they were men, mortals - and Faith was a pissed off Vampire Slayer who knew her way around a good knife.
She moved fast and sure. She punched one young looking soldier who collapsed against a wall. His eyes filled with rage, the man stood up pulling a weapon. Faith tracked his movements. She lashed out with a kick that sent the soldier crashing back against the wall. Faith came in fast ramming one of her knives into his shoulder. The soldier screamed high and loud, pinned to the wall. The room went silent.
Faith was breathing heavy her rage and excitement almost pliable. "I want to see her." Faith growled giving the blade in her fist a twist while shoving it further into the boy's shoulder.
He wailed in pain.
"What do you intend to do?" Boris asked her calmly
"If this was the bad old days and it was the old me, he'd be dead." Faith sighed, "But it's not the bad old days and I'm not her anymore." Faith pulled the knife out of the boy's shoulder and watched him sink to the floor. "...for some guys humiliation is worse then death. When he wakes up, remind him I made him scream like a little girl."
Boris nodded "Not much I can do to stop you without violating her orders."
Faith nodded and pushed open the door to the inner study. Balalaika was sitting at her desk with Bella at her side. The young Russian Slayer, her body tensed and coiled watched as Faith crossed the floor to finally flop unceremoniously in an over stuffed chair. The same one she usually sat in when Faith and Balalaika had their regular meetings.
Faith sat at the desk, a thousand thoughts and scenarios playing out in her mind. In the end, only one that made any kind of sense..She laid the white scabbard across her lap and simply looked at Balalaika.
"Funny story I was talking to Xander and would you believe He wants me to believe you and Chang are planning some big ass final solution to the Slayer Question. He's being stupid isn't he?"
"I only heard my people's gunshots." Balalaika asked coldly, "Did you really not kill any of them?"
"if I had there'd have been hell to pay. You wanted to see how far I'd go - now you know."
Balalaika nodded, "The question Miss Lahane," She said as she regarded Faith,
"... is not if I'm planning to deal with you, the question is why Alexander wouldn't share his plans to deal with Chang and myself."
Faith shook her head "Xander is committed to making this arrangement work."
"Do you really think he isn't right now planning what to do if I turned on him. Never forget..."
"... what this City is and why it is what it is. Xander told me that when I first got here. But you've already turned on him."
"Faith the day I turn on you, you and your demon slaying children will know it ... assuming I decide to be that merciful." Balalaika snapped. The mob mistress tossed a set of photos on the desk they landed in front of Faith fanning out so she could see them all. They'd been taken with a Polaroid. The shots, including several that seemed to be so close you could count the strands of Faith's auburn hair, showed Faith sitting in the park. "... for one thing, I wouldn't let a challenge like today go with such a causal slap on the wrist."
Faith looked at the photos then at Bella, the only person that might be able to get close enough to take them "... Not bad kid, you oughta lead our next lesson on moving stealthy."
"I trust we've reached a new understanding - you and I?" Balalaika asked meaningfully.
"Yeah, I guess we're good." Faith rose, "I guess I needed a reality check is all."
"Faith do be a good girl and lets not have a repeat of this ... talk ... You're supposed to be the practical one, the one we can deal with. Don't let naive ideals distract you."
Faith startled, "Thanks Boss Lady, I'll keep that in mind." she replied.
She walked past Boris and several soldiers still on the ground. She almost stopped to apologise but thought better of it. Instead she turned on her heel let bold strides carry her out the building and down the street.
She made a turn at the corner and saw a rickshaw idling. Sitting in the backseat was Shunsi.
"Did you take care of it?" Faith asked
"Five by Five." The little Slayer said to Faith.
" A quick in-and-out and you're sure nobody saw you?"
Shunsi grimaced, a look that conveyed an Are-You-Kidding-Me even more effectively then any words.
"Good, since Chang is out of his office we'll assume Team Two had no worries. I hope this crazy plan of Rock's actually works cause if it doesn't ... " Shunsi snorted, it was obvious she thought the idea of Rock having anything less then the perfect idea was inconceivable.
Faith sighed, "...Fine tell Mister Perfect I'll be at the Yellowflag. I'll meet him in thirty beers."