From Russia With Love
“This will be helpful,” Cameron put forth.
“Really?” Sarah said sarcastically. She was not happy at all with Faith’s sudden addition to the Baum family. “How so?”
“As one family unit, we can stick together and go unnoticed where a group of separate individuals might draw attention.”
“Makes sense,” John said reluctantly. “Just… Do I really have to call you ‘Auntie Faith’?”
Lehane just shrugged, but her grin was full of mischief. “Call me whatever you want, JC. Just remember that I seem to have kept my maiden name of… What was it again? Right: Solheim. Cute, Red. Very cute.”
“I seem to be missing the humor in this, Lehane,” Sarah hissed. “Is there a joke I’m not getting?”
Derek provided the answer. “Solheim means ‘sun home,’ which is probably a nod to Faith’s time in Sunnydale.”
Sarah huffed. “Is that supposed to mean something?”
Faith chuckled darkly. “Well, considering that it used to be a small town, is now a crater, and will be a giant pit of fire if we don’t stop this apocalypse, I’d say that it’s worth a note in the margins at least. That last bit is just what Derek tells me, but I lived in the town for a year or so.”
“A town became a crater?” John asked disbelievingly. “How the hell did that happen?”
Sarah wondered the same thing, and was more than a little angry that no one had thought to mention this to her before.
“I don’t know the how of it, exactly,” Faith said. “I was there when it collapsed into the ground, but I didn’t stick around. Had time to pay.”
“You were in prison? What did you do?” John asked carefully. His arms were crossed over his chest.
Faith shrugged. “The ‘dale sank back in 2003, and I was put away in 2000. A friend needed help in ’03 that only I could give, so I broke out, then helped out in Sunny D for a while. When it went under, I figured I still owed my debt to society or whatever, so I checked myself back in.”
“You broke out? Just like that?” Sarah couldn’t believe the bullshit coming out of this woman’s mouth. “How’d you manage that?”
A smirk preceded the answer. “It was during visiting hours. I had a visitor, he told me my friend needed me, so I somersaulted through the glass, took out the guards, then jumped out the window and let the cars in the parking lot break my fall. Hurt like hell, but had to be done.”
Before Sarah could interrupt with the impossibility of such a thing, Cameron beat her to it. “Faith is a Slayer. Such a feat is well within her capabilities.”
“Ditto that,” Derek put in. “Even so, I always cringe whenever I see you pull one of those crazy stunts.”
“Aww! You’re worried about me, husband-mine. I knew I liked you for a reason.”
“Oh, God!” Derek cringed. “Do we really have to pretend to be married?”
“We’ll talk about that later,” Sarah interrupted, trying to get them back on track. “Now, that weapon of yours, Lehane: how do I know you won’t use it against us?”
Faith laughed. “Says the woman who points a gun at me every chance she gets. Don’t you worry, Connor. With rare exception, this baby won’t be used against a human being.”
“She’s telling the truth,” Derek put in. “She hasn’t done anything to harm us yet, and she’ll help us out if you’ll let her.”
Sarah threw up her hands, not wanting to argue the matter any further. “Fine! Just forget it for now. You never answered John, though. What were you in prison for, Lehane?”
Faith took a minuscule step backward and turned her head downward by just a few degrees, but Sarah thought she caught a bit of shame on that face. “I… I was part of a gang. I did some stupid shit and fell in with the wrong crowd. I paid for it, and I’m still paying for it. S’part of the reason I’m here with you. I’ve done wrong, and I gotta make up for it somehow. You’re fighting the good fight, and I want to help with that. Don’t think I can do enough good to balance out the bad, but I gotta try, y’know? Givin’ up and just sitting in a cell isn’t gonna help anyone, and dying’s the easy way out. So I’ll help you stop these machines before they can get started. And if I can’t, then I’ll take out as many of ‘em as I can before I go down.”
Sarah looked at the self-proclaimed ‘Slayer’ as though seeing her for the first time. Faith put up a façade of being cool and badass, but she was actually vulnerable underneath. Yes, she was a hard ass, but she really did have a heart in there.
For a moment, Sarah could have sworn she was looking in a mirror.
“All right, then. Let’s go over these documents your friend sent us and make sure we have our stories straight. John, I need you to look up an address for me after we’re done here. I need to pay my old friend, Doctor Silberman a visit.”
“Your shrink from Pescadero?” Faith asked. “What’s up with him?”
“From what I can tell, your buddy, Agent Ellison, is headed there next. I want to intercept him if I can and see if he still has the hand. We’ve already burned most of that thing, and I want to get the rest of it over with. While I’m there, you and Cameron should go back to the ballet class and get the instructor alone if you can. John, you’ll be in class. Derek, hold down the fort. Everyone clear?”
Sarah looked from face to face as the four others silently acknowledged and accepted her plan.
“All right, then. Let’s get to work.”
Faith sat in the front passenger seat of the Jeep and kept repeating silent thanks to Willow for her gifts. Hidden in the guitar case had been a soft and sleek case for carrying the pseudo-Scythe with a strap on it so that Faith could have easy access to her weapon while carrying it around in comfort and discreet-but-fashionable style.
Cameron was driving, and the two of them hadn’t said much on their way to the ballet studio, but something was gnawing at Faith’s mind.
“Hey, Cam? You got a sec to talk?”
“Yes. What do you need?”
Faith chuckled at Cameron’s literal and all-business attitude. “I don’t know if you have the answers, but I was just wondering if you know what Derek’s deal is with me.”
“I don’t understand,” Cameron replied, not taking her eyes off the road. “Derek has been supportive of you since you arrived. Without him, Sarah might have shot and killed you.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” Faith said hastily. “He’s a great guy, and he’s stood up for me, so I owe him that much. But whenever I try to flirt with him, he gets all disgusted. Did you see his face when he saw we had to play at being married? Something’s going on that I’m not getting, and I was hoping you could fill me in.”
Cameron was silent for a few seconds before replying. “Has Derek not told you about your relationship in the future?”
“He said he knows me, and he’s given me some info that makes me think he knows me well. But that’s not all of it, is it?”
“No, it’s not,” Cameron said flatly. “Dennis Reese and Mary Shea-Reese were killed on Judgment Day at their workplaces. Derek and Kyle Reese took refuge in the tunnels beneath the Los Angeles City Hall. Before Terminators were widespread, there was infighting amongst the survivors for food, water, and other resources. You saved Derek and Kyle Reese from one such encounter in late 2011 and stayed by their side until you all joined the Resistance, where you took separate assignments.”
Faith nodded. “Okay, so that’s how he knows me. Why does that make him cringe whenever I flirt with him?”
“You were thirty years old when you first met the Reese brothers. Derek was sixteen and Kyle was nine.”
“Shit! Why didn’t he say something earlier? Damn, I was old enough to be his… Oh, my God. Does he see me as his mom or something? I am so not the motherly type.” Faith wanted to believe this very badly, since she had a mental self-image to maintain. “Am I?” she asked with a tinge of fear.
“You kept both brothers alive and prepared them for the war. The three of you were some of John’s best soldiers. By those standards, you were an exceptional parental figure.”
“Damn!” Now it all made some kind of sense. “So when Derek looks at me, he doesn’t see a hot chick who can rock a pair of leather pants. He sees, what? His second mom? That’s… Okay, now I’m
having trouble with being married to him, even if we’re just fakin’ it.”
“Will it be a problem?” Cameron asked, the hint of a threat in her voice.
“Shouldn’t be,” Faith said, hoping to convince herself. “I mean, I’ll have to clear the air with him and stuff, but I can deal if he can. If I raised him, then he’d better be able to deal.”
“That’s a positive attitude. Thank you,” Cameron said.
Faith looked at the cyborg, wondering about her soul or lack thereof for the umpteenth time. “You’re welcome.”
Cameron nodded and pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall where the dance studio was located. “We’re here. Are you ready?”
Faith took a deep breath. “Five-by-five. Let’s do it.”
Maria Shipkov had no classes to teach until the evening, thank goodness. She was still at the dance studio early in the afternoon, working on her technique. Dance was particularly relaxing at times like this. After everything her brother had done for her, there was a very real chance of them both losing everything. Dance helped her to escape for a small time, at least.
A soft, slow melody played in the background, and Maria let her body flow to the tune of the music. She wasn’t following an established routine at this particular moment, just stretching her body and taking solace in the movements of her arms and legs and torso.
As she leaned backward after one maneuver, Maria noticed one of her students from yesterday’s beginner’s class. It was the student who had a sharp eye for dance, but whose movements had been a bit stiff. Another student was with her. Were they related?
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Watching you,” the younger one said softly.
Maria felt very self-aware all of a sudden and looked down at the floor. “I’m a little out of shape,” she admitted as the two women came into the studio proper. “Teaching takes all my time.”
The younger girl smiled. “My brother says that if you want to be good at anything, you have to practice every day.”
Maria found herself smiling in return. “Your brother is right.”
The older girl crossed her arms across her chest and grinned impishly. “So, if you’re out of practice, then you must be really
good when you’re all tuned up.”
“Do you have a brother?” the younger girl – Cameron was her name – asked.
Oh, why did she have to mention that? “Yes,” Maria confessed.
“Is he a dancer like you?” Cameron asked.
Maria was able to chuckle inwardly at the thought of Dmitri dancing. “He plays chess.”
Cameron smiled brightly. “So does my brother.”
The niceness of the moment was interrupted by the opening of the door, and a man who Maria knew to be part of the Russian mob entered the dance studio. Surely he wouldn’t make a scene with innocent students here, would he? Of course, he would,
Maria reprimanded herself.
“Excuse me,” she said to her two students, and she went to try and fend off the man whose name she did not know but who kept harassing her.
He wore a brown casual suit and had a mustache and goatee that combined to give an overall appearance that just screamed ‘gangster.’ He said, in Russian, “I can see to it that you never dance again.”
Maria had never seen herself as an overly brave individual. She was a dancer, not a fighter. The thought of this man not only hurting her, but taking away her life’s joy, was more than a little intimidating.
Before she could respond, Cameron stepped between her and the gangster and said back to him, in fluent Russian, “I can see to it that you will never dance again.” Either the girl had Russian ancestry or else she was a very good mimic.
The nameless gangster seemed more than a little amused. “Get lost,” he said in heavily accented English.
The young woman in front of Maria did not get lost, however. She raised one leg and kicked the man so hard that he stumbled backwards into the wall and fell down from the impact, all the while staying balanced on her other leg.
Covering her mouth with her hand, Maria looked on in shock as the gangster got to his feet and reached for his gun, all the while thinking, of all things, how perfect the girl’s balance had been.
In an instant, the other woman was there. “Sorry, bud, but no.” She then took a black bag slung over her back and smacked the man on the head with whatever was inside. He fell to the ground and did not get up.
“Do you have any idea who this is?!” Maria asked the two girls, frightened beyond belief at what would happen when the rest of the mob found out about this.
“No,” Cameron said simply. “Do you?”
“Who are you?” she asked, feeling more than a little scared. “You are just a girl. How did you do that?”
“I’m looking for your brother,” Cameron said, and now there was no trace of a girl or a dancer in her face or voice. There was only something else that Maria didn’t want to think about.
“Are you police?” she asked suspiciously. “I’ve already told the police everything I know.”
“We’re not cops,” the other woman said. Faith was her name, Maria remembered now.
“But we do find them useful,” Cameron added.
Too stunned to think straight, Maria could only ask, “What do you want?”
“I can help your brother,” Cameron said with simple conviction. “Tell me where he is,” she said, and Maria did not mistake the statement for anything other than the command that it was.
“You can protect him? Protect both of us?” she asked hopefully.
“Maybe,” Faith said as she frisked the unconscious gangster’s body. “Why d’you have the mob after you?”
Maria sighed, feeling quite exhausted. “My brother owes them money. They helped me to come to this country, and now he cannot pay them back.”
“Huh. So, Cam: let’s go pick up Maria’s brother and then we’ll take them someplace safe, okay? We’ll take care of business once we’re all a bit more comfortable, all right?”
Cameron tilted her head to the side, reminding Maria of a curious dog. “We can’t take them with us,” she said coldly.
“We won’t,” Faith said in a way that managed to make her sound like the proverbial ‘good cop.’ “I have an idea. Just get them there, and the rest’ll take care of itself.”
Faith sat in the back seat next to Dmitri Shipkov while Cameron drove and Maria sat beside her up front. “So, this computer – the Turk – you made it lose so that you could get to it and fence it easier, right?”
“Yes,” Dmitri said, looking quite nervous after being taken from his hiding place in a small apartment. It had taken a lot of coaxing to get him to come out, but Cameron’s steely persistence had won out in the end.
“What can you tell me about the guy who bought it?” Faith asked him. “Take your time, breathe a bit. Think carefully, okay?”
Dmitri nodded quickly and put his hand to his forehead quickly. He looked sweaty and excitable, and Faith guessed that his speedy head movements had made him light-headed. “He runs a small gang, but tight-knit and not people I want to mess with. His name’s Sarkissian. He operates out of a wi-fi club as a front for whatever it is he does that I don’t know about, I swear.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Faith said, putting a hand on the guy’s shoulder. She’d never really played the comforter before, so she hoped she was doing it right. “Just take a moment. Breathe, okay? Don’t move your head too fast. Just calm down.”
Dmitri took a few deep breaths and steadied himself. “Thank you. Here, let me write something down.” He took out a small pad of paper from his coat pocket along with a pen and scribbled down a phone number and an address. “This is how you can get in contact with him.”
“Thanks, Dmitri. So, is this guy the kind of person who we should just walk right up to, or is he gonna pull a fast one on us if we try this the easy way?”
“I don’t know, but he seemed eager to have that computer. He is quite fond of technology, so I would guess that he will not let go of it easily, if at all. If you really want something, you cannot look desperate. That was how I got into this mess. I got in too deep, and when I had the smallest chance to get out, I begged and pleaded for help. Sarkissian took advantage of my desperation and paid me a pittance for the Turk.”
“You said you were paid twenty-thousand dollars for it,” Cameron said from the driver’s seat. “That doesn’t seem like a pittance.”
Dmitri snorted. “That computer is the most sophisticated piece of hardware I have ever seen. Andrew Goode made it to play chess, but it has the potential for so much more. When I was programming the chess protocols, it started to teach itself different scenarios faster than I could input them. And it was not just a simple input-output engine, but something that had preferences. It would run certain protocols and declare victory even when it lost after trying something random. It was almost like it was enjoying itself after trying something new.”
“But it’s just a machine,” Cameron said, clearly fishing. “How can it enjoy anything?”
A shrug was Dmitri’s best response. “Who can say? Not Andrew Goode, rest his soul. The boy was a genius, and I only hope that he was not killed in an attempt to get to me.”
“Is this the place?” Maria asked as Cameron pulled the car into a parking spot on the side of the road.
“I don’t know. Faith, is this the correct address?”
Faith looked outside at the ritzy building across the street. “Yeah, this is it. Come on, let’s get you inside.”
Exiting the car, Faith checked to make sure she had her Scythe over her shoulder and looked both ways before ushering Dmitri ahead of her across the street. Cameron guarded Maria, and they made their way up to the front door, which had the words ‘Hyperion Academy’ painted onto the glass in a professional fashion. The exterior of the building had a small yellow sign that designated it as a nuclear fallout shelter.
Cameron went in first, followed by Dmitri and Maria with Faith bringing up the rear.
“This looks like a hotel,” Maria said as they looked around the lobby with its marble walls and deep red carpets.
“It used to be,” Faith remarked. “Some friends of mine bought the place and have revamped it a bit since then. Still has plenty of rooms. Stay here.”
She walked up to the front desk, which was staffed by a girl who looked no older than twenty and had to be almost six feet tall. She wore her platinum blonde hair in a bob cut, and with her pale skin and dark blue eyes, she somehow managed to pull off the look. “May I help you?” she asked in Russian-accented English.
Faith chuckled to herself. “Today seems to be my day for meeting pretty Russians. Sorry, uh, Anna, is it?” She gestured to the girl’s name tag. “Yeah. I need to see Angel, and I need to see him yesterday.”
Anna the lobby clerk smirked as though Faith were some know-nothing kid. “I’m terribly sorry, ma’am, but the Headmaster is a very busy man, and he cannot take time out of his day for just anyone who walks in off the street.”
Faith could only focus on one word. “Headmaster?! Shit, who made him take that title? Oh, this is too good. But as for who wants to see him, I think I’m part of the club.”
Taking her loose case off her back, she put it on the lobby desk and unzipped the bag to show the black bladed weapon to the ‘receptionist.’ “I’m an old student of his. You might have heard of me, Anna. I’m Faith.”
Anna’s navy blue eyes widened in shock as the enormity of the situation dawned upon her. “Ah, yes. I’m sure the Headmaster can make time for you. Let me ring him up.”
The blonde girl – probably a Slayer, given her reactions, Faith guessed – picked up a phone and dialed a short number. “Hi, Angel,” Anna said, dropping all pretense of formality. “There is a Slayer down here to see you who says she is Faith.” A brief pause. “All right,” Anna said before hanging up. “He’ll be right down. And I just want to say that it is an honor to meet you, Faith. Also a bit of a fright, but mostly an honor.”
Faith smirked. “They have any good horror stories about me?”
“Only the best, I promise you,” the tall blonde said impishly, giving Faith a not-so-subtle once over.
Faith gave the beautiful blonde a look with some elevator eyes of her own. “You and I, let’s chat once business is done with, okay?”
“Very well,” Anna purred.
Faith sauntered back over to a bench where Cameron and the Shipkovs – Sounds like a crappy band,
Faith thought – were sitting, giving Anna a nice look at her swaying posterior. “All right. Now we wait. Won’t take long.
Only a minute or two passed before the elevator chimed and Angel walked out, looking just as he always did in his dark clothing and jacket. A pair of girls – probably Slayers – were doing a bad job of looking discreet in the background as they also exited the elevator.
Angel walked up to Faith and stood right in front of her, looking her in the eyes. “Faith,” he said neutrally. “I thought you were supposed to be in prison.”
“Something came up,” she said. “Potential apocalypse, I had the chance to help, cops wanted me to give ‘em a hand. Active redemption’s a lot more satisfying than a passive one, right?”
Angel smiled and pulled Faith into a bear hug. She embraced him back, and didn’t even stop to think about how cold he was.
Letting go, Angel looked down at Faith again. “You’ve come such a long way. I’m so proud of you, Faith.”
She smiled gently. “I had a good teacher. Or should that be ‘Headmaster?’”
Angel groaned. “Ever since Emily came here… You never knew her, but she was this great kid from Denver. She loved the Harry Potter books, and she kept calling me ‘Headmaster Angel’ as though it was the most normal thing in the world. The other girls haven’t let it drop since.”
“As well they shouldn’t. But I didn’t come here just to catch up. Met a nice brother and sister who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Come and meet ‘em. Angel,” she said, “this is Maria and Dmitri Shipkov. Maria, Dmitri, my good friend Angel.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Angel said, refraining from a handshake.
“They’re immigrants trying to live the American dream and all that wonderful stuff,” Faith explained, “but in order to pay for Maria to come over here, Dmitri got in bed with the wrong people. Not Wolfram and Hart bad, but mob bad, you know? They’ve helped us out with some stuff, and they’re good people who don’t deserve the hand they were dealt. I was hoping you could put them up until everything blows over. Maybe give a bit of encouragement to the mob to ease off on ‘em?”
“We would put in work,” Maria said quickly. “We don’t wish to offend, but we are desperate.”
“I wouldn’t bring this to you if I didn’t think it had to be this way,” Faith said.
Angel sighed. “All right. I’m sure we still have a few spare rooms somewhere. We’ll work something out, I promise you. Anna,” he called over his shoulder. “Find me a spare room for two guests!”
“Room 1208’s all theirs, Headmaster.”
Angel grunted at the use of his title. “All right, then. If you’ll follow me.”
“Just one moment,” Dmitri said. “How do we know that this isn’t some sort of charade to make us vulnerable.”
Faith sighed. “Angel, buddy, I’m sorry about this, okay?” Lifting a foot, Faith kicked out at Angel’s torso and sent him flying across the lobby to land behind the reception desk at Anna’s feet.
Faith’s hands were over her head in an instant as Anna and the two not-so-subtle bodyguards by the elevator went for their weapons. Angel’s unsubtle bodyguards drew throwing knives from behind their backs, and Anna looked to be going for a shotgun. “Chill, everyone! Sorry, but you see, Dmitri, if I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t have to wait to bring you here. If anyone in this room wanted to hurt you, they wouldn’t have to wait. These people will protect you, okay? It’s what they do.”
Maria’s hands were covering her mouth as Angel got to his feet and walked back over to them. “It’s okay,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.
“My God!” Maria exclaimed. “Are you all right? How did you do that?”
“It’s a long story,” Angel said, “but trust me, I’ve handled far worse than that. Faith was just making a point, and we’re all okay with that here. I promise that nobody will be making similar points with you. Faith just knows how much I can take. Are you going to be okay?”
Maria looked pale, but she nodded. “Yes, I think so. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything!”
“It’s my pleasure. If you’ll come with me?”
Dmitri looked cautious, but he looked to Faith. “I thank you for all that you have done, and I hope you find what you are looking for.” So saying, he went after Angel.
Faith took a deep breath and walked over to Cameron. “You were awfully quiet,” she said. “Something on your mind?”
“Yes,” Cameron said. “Why is Angel’s body at room temperature, Faith?”
Some dialog in this chapter was lifted verbatim from the Sarah Connor Chronicles episode, 'The Demon Hand.' I don't own that episode, or any other aspects of Terminator, Buffy, or Angel.
Special Thanks to Oxnate for beta-reading this chapter and many others. I owe you, my friend.
Any feedback you might have, things you like, things you don't like, things you think could be improved... I'd love to hear all of it if you're willing to share.
With all that said, enjoy the chapter! ^_^