It's a Russian thing…
Part 1: All alone in the night
Susan Ivanova stood in the middle of CIC and took a deep breath, trying to let the tension that was building up inside her drift away. She could probably get away with yelling at Lt. Corwin again, just on general principle, but the last thing she needed was to put her hand through a computer screen again.
The last time that had happened, it have taken two transfers in as many weeks to get clear of the gossip.
Finally, after what felt like an eon, her link chimed, signalling the end of her shift. Mumbling something incomprehensible under her breath, she headed for her quarters, intent on spending the next hour or so under the shower.
"Hey, Susan, wait up!" Garibaldi called out as the transport tube doors started to close. "I need to talk to you."
"What ever it is, Mr. Garibaldi, I'm not in the mood."
"I just wanted to give you the heads up in case any of the ambassadors ask you about it. We've had a couple of weird killings in Down Below the last few days. Stephen says it looks like the killer or killers drained every last drop of the victim's blood out through two holes in the neck. Personally, I think he's been watching a little too much late-night TV, but…"
"Did you say the blood had been drained from the neck?" Susan looked round, the fatigue she had been feeling only moments before disappearing in an instant.
"Yeah." The security chief nodded. "Why, what's up?"
"Nothing, nothing." Susan shook her head. "Just reminded me of a dream I had the other night, that's all."
"Yeah, well, didn't mean to frighten you." Garibaldi smiled as the lift doors opened and he stepped out. "See you later."
"Yeah, sure…" Susan nodded, her mind already working overtime.
The door to Susan's quarters opened with a gentle hiss, but she automatically tensed when she smelled freshly brewed coffee. Real coffee, from her secret stash, not the freeze-dried instant kind the commissary sold.
She dropped into a fighting stance, her hand reaching for her PPG.
"You really should change your access code." A voice called from the darkness of the small living room. "Anyone could just come in and…"
"You bastard!" Susan let out the breath she was holding. "I should never have invited you in in the first place."
"Yeah, well you did." There was the sound of a coffee cup being put down and something moved in the darkness. "I take it you've heard."
"That we have a rogue on our hands? Yeah, just now."
"So, what are you going to do about it?"
"Why should I do anything? You're here. You deal with it."
"That's not my job. I'm a Watcher, I watch and record. It's the Slayer who does the slaying."
"Don't start that again." Susan hit the lights. "You're the vampire with the soul."
"Watch it, luv!" Spike shielded his eyes. "And you know you can only get away with that because of who you are."
"Yes. A direct descendant of Willow Rosenberg. I know my own genealogy, thank you."
"Then you know how much of a big thing it is for you to try and shirk your duty."
"OK! OK! OK!" Susan raised her hands in surrender. "I'll go kill the nasty vampire, but can I at least have a shower first?"
"I think that can be arranged." Spike nodded, heading for the door. "I'll go get a head start on tracking them."
"Good." Susan headed for her bathroom. "And stop drinking my goddamn coffee!"
A short shower later, Susan was at least feeling human again. She walked back into her bedroom, ignoring her uniform laying on the floor and opened her wardrobe. She selected a pair of black leggings and a blouse that gave her the maximum range of movement.
A locked box in the bottom of the wardrobe yielded a spring-loaded punch dagger that she attached to her right wrist. A small throwing knife was quickly concealed in her left boot, while several stakes found themselves attached to her belt.
Grabbing a long, black coat from a hook on the inside of the wardrobe door, Susan looked at herself in the mirror. The weapons were hidden perfectly by the flowing outline of the coat but were easy to get to in an emergency.
She grabbed her PPG and pocketed it almost as an after thought. Down Below had its share of human devils, as well as the odd demon masquerading as an alien. Susan pulled her still slightly damp hair into a ponytail as she left, already psyching herself up for the hunt.
"Susan!" A familiar voice called out, and the Commander looked round to see Marcus Cole heading down the corridor towards her. "I was hoping to talk to you…"
"Not now, Marcus. I'm busy." Susan turned walk away, but the Ranger reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder.
Susan reacted instinctively, the years of training taking over.
Grabbing Marcus by the wrist, she flipped him over her shoulder and onto the floor. Twisting his hand sharply, she forced him to roll onto his stomach rather than risk breaking the joint. A heavy boot came to rest on the back of the startled Ranger's neck, almost choking him while surprisingly strong hands twisted his arm up behind his back.
"When I say I'm busy, I mean I'm busy." Susan hissed into Marcus' ear. "Next time I won't go so easy on you."
"OK," the shocked Englishman gasped.
Susan released her grip; quickly making sure no one else had seen the display. Thankfully, the corridor was empty, and she was sure that Marcus would keep very quiet about what happened.
It was then she noticed that the punch dagger had shot out and was imbedded in the deck.
"Aren't those illegal?" Marcus looked at the weapon. "I'm sure Mr Garibaldi said he'd personally space anyone who was caught with one on-station…"
"It doesn't exist." Susan pushed the blade back in until it clicked. "You never saw it. This conversation never took place."
"I'm just a little worried. What have you gotten yourself into that you need something like that?"
"You Rangers are always going on about walking in the dark places?"
"I've seen darker." Susan spun on her heels and marched off down the corridor.
"She knows her destiny." A soft voice came from behind the Ranger.
"Good God!" Marcus jumped. "I wish you wouldn't do that. You're going to give me a heart attack one of theses days."
"I do what I must, as must she." Ambassador Kosh stood in the middle of the corridor. "She walks the path of death. A path she must walk alone."
"Do Vorlons always talk in riddles?"
"Thought so." Marcus turned and took off down the corridor after Susan.
"And so it begins…" Kosh stood in silent contemplation for a moment, before he turned and headed back to his own quarters.
Down Below was even more deserted than normal. No one had tried to pick her pocket yet, and that was something that instantly made Susan suspicious. Most of the local inhabitants seemed to be in hiding. Their instincts telling them that it was not safe to go out any more than needed. The very nature of the station's design meant that, as far as a vampire was concerned, it was always night, with no sunlight to keep them in check.
As stealthily as a cat, Susan made her way along the corridors and passageways, eyes always scanning for any sign of danger.
"You make about as much noise as a Rolling Stones concert," Spike smiled as he stepped out of the shadows, "and they're no where near here."
"You say that like it's a good thing. I want to get this over with so my life can return to what is laughing called normal." Susan relaxed slightly. "Have you found out where they're nesting?"
"I think we're dealing with a vampire who's passing through rather than one that's intending to stay. They like quiet places, and Babylon 5 is anything but quiet. Do you know how much trouble I had getting here now that you guys have declared yourself independent? Security is a nightmare for someone who needs to keep hidden…"
"Are you going to shut up and tell me where the vampire is or shall I just stake you and be done with it?"
"No, I'm going to shut up and throttle the guy who's been following you the last quarter of an hour." Spike leapt off of the crate he's been sitting on and into the shadows. There was a cry of surprise as he hit something, before rolling out into the light again, pinning a man to the deck.
"Marcus?" Susan blinked. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Finding out just how dark the darkness can be." The Ranger looked up at Spike, slightly worried about the vampire's 'game face'. "Kosh said something that got me worried about you."
"You understood something Kosh said?" Susan asked. "It's OK, Spike. You can let him go."
"Your call," the Watcher stood, changing back to his human face, "but I'm going to have to report this breach of security…"
"Just shut up will you?" Susan snapped, before turning to face Marcus. "This is none of your concern. Go home and forget about it."
"Rangers never let a comrade walk into danger alone. And if what I heard the two of you talking about is true, you'll need all the help you can get."
"Go home or I'll knock you out."
"Do that and the first thing I'll do when I wake up is tell the Captain what I've heard."
"Rangers never bluff."
"He's right, they don't." Spike lit a cigarette. "I've played cards with a few in my time, human and Minbari. They never bluff or lie. They let you mislead yourself, but they never lie." He pulled a denn'bok, otherwise known as a Minbari fighting pike from his pocket and extended it to its full length.
"You won that in a game of cards?" Marcus asked in disbelief.
"No, I picked it up during the Earth/Minbari war." Spike collapsed the weapon. "I spend my time off the grid, but even I got involved in that. A Watcher must do his best to protect his assigned Slayer, no matter what."
"Just what is going on here?" Marcus asked, still unable to believe what he had been told. "Are you trying to tell me that vampires and demons exist?"
"Give the man a prize!" Spike rolled his eyes. "You deal with this, luv. I'll go try and find our rogue." He disappeared off into the shadows.
"So," Marcus smiled at Susan. "Where do you want to start?"
To Be Continued…