At various times everybody who had ever staked a vampire idly wondered what it would be like to see oneself with the yellowed eyes and fangs. Xander still remembered with chills the vision of the Vampire Willow and he even recalled his brief encounter with a nightmare version of Buffy that had become her worst fear, a vampire. Still, the sight of a female vampire who had once been a Slayer was still a pretty scary sight, at least to him. Faith was obviously unimpressed.
"Maybe you weren't paying attention to what happened to your little friends," Faith snapped. " I'm a Slayer, as in Vampire Slayer, I was born to kill what you are."
"What I am now," the creature reminded her. "Because what I was, what I used to be, was like the rest of them." She pointed at the Slayers huddling behind Faith. "Weak, small, insignificant. What I am is so much better, so much more powerful."
"She was the Slayer they turned," Xander realized.
"Yes, she was." The vampire cruelly laughed. "Now that you have gotten rid of some of the competition, I'll be taking over this camp. I liked how things were and you aren't changing it. Now you animals get back in your cages, none of you are going anywhere."
The team was amazed as the Slayers began a dispirited walk back toward the cages they had so recently been rescued from.
"You see, they have no will of their own," the Slayer Vampire cackled. "No desire except what they are told to do and if you aren't strong enough to take advantage of that, I am."
"Fuck that!" Revy cried out.
"Revy. . ."
"Rock." Revy held up a cautioning finger. "Remember Glasses Bitch."
Rock sighed. "You're a firecracker, once you go off, it’s over."
The Gun Woman and Vampire paced around each other.
"Come on, Bitch," Revy taunted. "I'm just a little old mortal with a couple of guns and you're an undead motherfucking engine of death. Come on, show me what you got under the hood, baby. Show me what kind of a monster you really are and I promise, I'll show you what kind of monster I am."
The Slayer Vamp screamed and charged Revy, twined machetes in both fists spinning and whirling. This fight was different from the last time Revy had taken on a Slayer. The last time, she had stood her ground. This time, she moved like a ghost, flipping and arching, her guns blazing a trail of chaos around the camp. The Slayer Vampire danced and skipped around and through the hail of gunfire and yet she was not avoiding it as much as she was being herded by it. The Vampire was too busy dodging to notice, but the others did. Revy was herding her quarry closer and closer to a set of tanks with some ominous looking warning stickers plastered on them. Revy suddenly stopped moving and the Vampire came at her like a steamroller. Suddenly Revy holstered her guns with one move and pulled out the shotgun with another in one smooth twitch. She fired off a round that sheared off the vampire's arm and sent her spinning backwards.
"What fuckers like you don't get is . . .you become monsters ‘cause you want to live." Revy shot her again, shearing off her other arm. "You prey on us ‘cause you're afraid to die." She shot her again, sending her stumbling back against the tank. "I didn't need magic to make me a monster." Revy shot her again. "I didn't need a vampire bite to make me a demon. I'm already a monster. You were turned into a killer by accident. I choose to become a killer; I trained in it, revelled in it and practiced everyday until I was better at it then practically anyone else in the planet." She shot the vampire again. "Someone like me just likes to find greater challenges, stronger enemies. . ." She blew off the vampire's kneecaps." Something like you isn't a threat, you're not even a distraction. You're nothing, and very soon you won't even be that." She fired a last shot. . .or at least tried to, but the shotgun clicked empty.
"Stupid bitch, you ran out of bullets," The vampire cried out.
Revy grinned wolfishly. "Only in this gun. There is a reason they call me Two Hands, you know." She tossed the shotgun high into the air. While it was airborne, Revy pulled out her pistols and shot at the tank, causing it to explode with a roar of heat and twisted metal. She holstered her pistols as the shotgun began its journey earthward. She caught it causally in one hand while she pulled another clip for the automatic shotgun from her backpack with the other.
"If I had not been standing here seeing you do that I wouldn't have believed it. Feel better?" Faith asked.
Revy calmly lit a cigarette. "You ever have really good sex? I mean mind numbingly good where you just had to stop afterward and check to see if you were dreaming cause nothing in the waking world could be that good."
"Been there, done that."
"Killing that bitch was better. Hey, Xander, you say you guys do this kind of thing all the time now. Dutch, I got an idea. . ."
"Screw that," Dutch countered, " I'm not taking up demon hunting. I deal with enough monsters of the human variety; I don't need that kind of stress."
Revy tried to convince Dutch of the wonders of hunting and slaying monsters of the night while Faith backed her up amusingly.
This left Xander and Rock to finally converse. "So you're Rock, huh?" Xander asked.
Rock took his hand then, recalling what had happened the last time he was friendly to a stranger around here, asked, "Are you going to turn into a monster as well?"
"It's been that kind of day has it?" Xander sighed. "You hang around with our gang long enough this will seem like an average day to you."
"I already at the point where mayhem, chaos and treachery are everyday events to me. I'm not sure if I'm ready to add full on demonic action to the mix."
"Oh, come on, Rock," snapped Revy, finally giving her boss a break from her ranting. "Don't be such a pussy, especially after you impressed everyone with that right cross."
"Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about," Faith said as she clapped Rock on the back. "Nothing sexier then a man who knows how to bring the pain when he has to."
There was much joking about, everyone avoiding the discussion of how they were going to transport all the girls off the island on board the Lagoon when an unnatural scream rolled though the campground.
"The fuck was that?" Revy asked, her shotgun reloaded. She was obviously aching to point it at something.
"That sounds like trouble."
"By the way," Xander asked quietly, "I meant to ask. Did anyone happen to see a tall white guy with an accent, answers to the name Ethan Rayne. He would have been the one ordering everyone around."
One of the girls raised her hand nervously and supplied that she had seen Rayne fleeing the camp earlier but had not mentioned it as it had not been her place to say anything.
"I'm thinking escape plan, are you thinking escape plan?" Faith sighed.
"What are you guys talking about?" Revy asked.
"When Ethan escapes, like most cliché bad guys he usually leaves something behind to keep us busy. I assumed it was the vampire army but I guess he had a Plan B."
"Would that plan consist of a huge demon creature with claws and horns? " Rock asked, pointing across the clearing at the creature that had just stepped from the trees.
"Now that is big." Revy whistled approvingly. She fired off a few shotgun rounds that glanced harmlessly off the thick hide of the creature who howled at the group of humans.
"It doesn't seem to like getting shot," Rock replied.
"Alright. Rock, Dutch start moving the ladies out of the camp."
The demon raged and stalked toward them.
"Ideas would be good right now," Faith snapped.
"Revy, you got anything left in the bag o' tricks?" Dutch asked.
"Nothing. What about you, Xand?"
"I'm working on zero here, unless. . .crap, won't work."
"What won't work?" Faith snapped.
"Giles installed image recognition software in the computers back at HQ, but I'd need a picture of that thing and I don't have a camera with the phone I got with me."
"I have camera," Xui Han said helpfully.
"Excuse me?" Xander asked the defeated commander
"I have camera in phone, please take." The man handed his cell phone over eagerly.
Xander snatched the man's phone and dialled Scotland. "You better have a good international plan or your really bad day will get much worse."
The line connected and Xander didn't hesitate for second. "Hello, it's Xander. I know it’s an unknown phone and I know that means there is a long and stupid verifications check that you should be going through, a procedure I plan on changing at some point, but I really need access to the image recognition software."
"I'm sorry. I have no idea what you talking about," the female voice said with cool and practiced professionalism. "I think you have the wrong number."
"Bonnie. Bonnie, is that you?" Xander asked.
"There is nobody here by that name. I'll have to ask you to. . ."
"Bonnie, I swear it's Xander, but if you don't believe me put the phone on speaker and I will prove it's me by singing the hit song belonging to the star whose picture you hide from everyone for fear that you will be rightly and justly ridiculed."
"Image recognition software on line . . .sir."
"Awesome work, X-man, who's she like?"
"Faith, I was sworn to secrecy, I respect the confidences of my staff. No matter how creepy their taste in music happens to be." Xander took a picture of the beast and hit the send button. Thanks to the miracle of technology, an answer was forthcoming.
"I have a positive match," Bonnie said quickly.
"Skip to the important part, Bonnie, how do we kill it?"
"Stab it in the neck, there are two breath apertures there that should work nicely. Problem is, it only opens those apertures when it's taking a breath."
"And how often does it breathe?"
"Every three hours," Bonnie said quietly.
"Great, any more good news," Xander grumbled.
"If you choke it out, it will open the holes itself but the only way to do that would be compressing the cranial tissue."
"English, Bonnie . . . speaka da English." Xander snapped.
"If you squeeze the horns on its head it’s like having a choke hold on a normal person. It will start to lose consciousness and it will take a breath."
"Faith, you following this?"
"I'm on it."
Grabbing Shenhua's beloved paired knives, Faith ran in close, avoiding the creature's talons, and started trying to get behind the thing.
Revy decided to rake the creature's back and side with more shotgun fire.
"That isn't going to work, all you're doing is pissing it off," Xander cried out
"That's the point, it's pissed at me which means Faith can get close and do her thing."
Indeed, the demon screamed and moved toward Revy. Faith used the distraction to leap on top of the demon’s back, wrapping her legs around its shoulders and arms. With its arms pinned and no longer flailing dangerously, Faith wrapped the cord tethering the Kukri blades in her hands around the creature's horns, pulling the tether tight. The demon immediately began to rage and swipe the air trying to dislodge Faith, but its movement began to slow. The demon ran around before finally dropping to its knees. Two holes at the side of its neck opened. Faith unwrapped the knives before plunging them home in the neck holes, giving the knives a savage twist as they slid in. The demon screamed again, a high and choked sound, before finally collapsing to the ground.
"Sawyer, can I borrow your saw?" Faith screamed and tossed Shenhua's knives to the cleaner in trade for the huge chainsaw. A savage jerk brought the chainsaw up to speed and Faith commenced to cut the demon's head from its shoulders. When she finished, she grabbed the head. Holding it aloft, she stood in front of the still cowering Slayers. Xander quickly motioned to Rock who stepped forward to translate for Faith.
"This is what we are, this is what you are. You are not weak. You are not slaves. You are not tools. You are powerful and you are strong. Creatures like this fear you. They fear you because you have the power to take their lives and end them. This is my power and it is yours as well. There are things out there. Dark and strong, and they will hunt you but they hunt you and hate you because they are afraid of you, afraid of what you are and what you can do. Join me if you choose or return to your homes and defend those you care for. From this point until you die, your lives are yours to choose, so make your choice but know this: From here on out, it will be your choice what you make of your life, not anyone else's."
"Awesome work Faith," Xander whispered.
"Thanks. You think we actually accomplished anything good today?"
"We saved some lives and once Giles sends a team down here we can start tracking the girls who might have already been sold."
"Well, I know someone who will be inclined to help us, now won't ya?" Faith looked meaningfully at Xui Han who assumed an innocent face.
"I know nothing. I was just in charge of the guards. The white man, the Brit. . . he ran it all and made all the decisions."
"You know, I'm having my doubts about that but not to worry. It’s not me you have to convince."
Xander gestured to Sawyer. "Sawyer is a very sceptical person, something of a Doubting Thomas, and I'm afraid she tends to only believe you after she's really gotten to know you, the real you. How you think. How you scream. How you bleed. You know, the person under the skin."
Xander turned to Sawyer. "Feel free to keep asking him 'till you’re satisfied he's telling the truth, or he isn't capable of lying to anyone ever again."
With a grotesque smile, Sawyer went to work. A surprising number of the girls watched as she went about her gruesome task-they seemed to find it therapeutic.
It was a week later, and the Yellowflag was the scene of a farewell bash. Giles had sent a team consisting of a few Slayers, excluding Buffy who was insane with annoyance that she had been left out of the loop for this operation. Xander was sure that would come back to haunt him at some point, but as he pointed out to Satsu, who was leading the team, it was occasionally the best way to deal with Buffy. Her reaction was a textbook example of why he had kept his actions a secret.
The team had downloaded every scrap of information from the camp’s servers, and with Benny's help they had done quite a bit of computer forensics and figured out where the camp had gotten most of the girls and where they had sent the ones they had managed to sell off. Teams were being organized to find and retrieve these girls.
It was Satsu who eventually noticed that the island was a natural source for a drug not unlike the one the old Watchers Council had used on occasion when they needed to remove temporarily the powers of a Slayer. Rayne had apparently had the girls regularly given low doses of the drug to keep their powers from becoming a problem.
The ex-slaves were still getting used to their freedom. The plan right now was to get a few back to Slayer Central and train them to help the rest. In this way, they hoped to undo as much of the trauma and damage that had been done to the Slayers as possible.
Both Balalaika and Chang made a show of welcoming the girls to Roanapur. Chang offered to use his resources to make sure the girls remaining behind were comfortable. Balalaika also offered to take time away from her normal duties to run the girls though some basic training. She assured Xander that once the girls were comfortable she would get some of her subordinates-including Boris-to work with the girls, getting them in shape and teaching them how to fight.
Xander was not fooled for a second. He was sure that the girls would be approached and offered opportunities to work for the syndicates. He already knew Buffy and Giles would have an issue with that, but he had promised Faith that he would give the girls the choice of how to live their lives. If he went back on that now, it would be the end of the aura of trust and detente Xander was trying so hard to build.
The truth was, one way or another, the resources of the Triads and Hotel Moscow would be required. Balalaika was a far better tactical genius than practically all the Scoobies and if the girls could absorb even the basics from someone like her, the war that everyone knew in their hearts was coming would be a lot easier. From Xander's point of view, they no longer had the option of blind innocence. Survival, both their own and the world's, was the bottom line. Anything in service to that goal was permissible.
Faith had just arrived at the Yellowflag. Shenhua was there and waved to the Slayer as she entered the room. As Dutch had predicted, Roanapur had worked its insidious magic on her. Over the last week, both Chang and Balalaika had invited Faith to lunch and dinner respectively. Both had made it clear that she would be made welcome in Roanapur and that she should feel comfortable calling upon them should she need to
Xander was a little concerned about this chain of events but even he had to admit, it was a far better outcome then he might have expected had he brought any of the others. Faith steadfastly did not seek his approval of her new friends, save for one conversation they had during which Xander said simply, "Never forget what this place is and why it is, what it is." By mutual agreement they did not discuss it further.
Rock promised to keep an eye on her if she stayed, but Xander pointed out he had more then enough trouble on his hands. His act of bravery had endeared him with several of the girls, including Shunsi. Giles spoke with Rock on the phone and, acting on Xander's recommendation, extended Rock an invitation to join the Watchers Council, albeit in a loose and appropriately mercenary capacity. Dutch saw the new source of income as a potential boon and even the more cynical Balalaika found herself enjoying her diplomatic conversation with Rupert Giles. Nothing was decided right away. As Xander pointed out, first Shunsi would have to be given some training but the advantages of having both a Watcher and a Slayer who were comfortable in a place like Roanapur might be useful indeed. Besides, if Balalaika was really going to start training the girls herself she had made it clear she would need Rock to aid in translating for her. Few of the girls spoke English and only one spoke Russian. Balalaika felt she owed it to her fellow countryman to personally supervise her rehabilitation.
Revy had, true to her word, forgiven Rock for getting caught only because he had battled so hard. It helped that Xander had heaped praise on Rock's head. Praise that was entirely genuine-in fact the two had, as predicted, become fast friends. In fact they were deep into yet another argument over films and anime. A discussion which was all the more animated because they had already had a few. Revy and Eda were also seated at the table, alternately sniping at each other and occasionally mocking the boys. Faith knew all too well the amused look on their faces. It was the look of women who are enjoying the company, if not the conversation, of their men. Eda was comfortably installed on Xander's lap. A position which was apparently uncomfortable to judge by the amount of wriggling and shifting she was doing. Xander, normally the first to help a lady in distress was doing nothing to aid her. Indeed he seemed to enjoy her wriggling and occasionally hugged her close.
Local scuttlebutt had it Eda and Xander had spent every night of the last week at the Ramsap Inn getting to know each other again. What was truly shocking for Faith was not the rumours of their passionate exploits, as she was well aware of what Xander could do when he was properly motivated. What was really bizarre about their relationship was its sheer normalcy. For all her bluster, Eda apparently enjoyed the old fashioned touch from time to time. Xander had actually managed to take the woman out on several proper dates including an impromptu fishing trip aboard the Lagoon which had been spiced up by a local pirate's ill advised attempt to steal contraband from the vessel. As Revy was saying to anyone in earshot, 'The couple that kills together also does some truly deviant crap together.'
Rock was glad of it, since Xander's presence meant that Eda and Revy no longer seemed intent on fighting over him. Unfortunately this meant that Rock had Revy's undivided attentions for a few days and she took full advantage of this by forcing him to finally learn how to handle a gun. She had also loudly proclaimed how tired she was at his pretending to be so girly when he could obviously throw a real man’s punch, so she insisted on his learning a little self-defence. Xander helped out a little and even Rock had to admit that if he was going to keep plunging himself and the Lagoon into situations like this he had better learn to defend himself either from their various assailants or more likely from a pissed off Revy, who assured him if he ever did anything as stupid as taking on a group of armed slavers while weaponless again, she would shoot him in the ass.
Dutch joined Faith in watching the animated discussion at the table. "Those two are so done and don't even know it," she commented.
"Ah, they're enjoying it. I'm sure you know Xander better then me, but Rock and Revy haven't been this great in a long time."
"You know, I thought this place was a pit when I first showed up but it’s starting to grow on me."
"It does that. You should see it from offshore."
"Is that an invite, El Captain?"
"Why not? Word is we might be seeing more of you."
"Don't you love small towns?"
"Roanapur is what it is, most of us wouldn't want it any other way. As long as you can abide by its rules and appreciate it for what it is, you'll never be disappointed."
Faith smiled. "I could get used to that."
As the two of them slipped out into the night of Roanapur, Faith couldn't help but think it was already feeling more like home than any place she'd ever been before.