Roanapur Knights - A Black Lagoon / BTVS x-over

Author: B.H. Ramsay

Email :

Disclaimer: Characters appearing here belong to Mutant Enemy & Funimation Entertainment

Rating: Adult

Pairings(s) various

Spoilers: many

Dedicated to: The Shrine of Heroes...may she endure forever & Unclejoe who has great ideas save one ....Rock and Revy 4evah. Respect to Greydon Creed and Randomonium who helped make me better & of course Demona, because that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

Summary: YA Xander didn't go to Oxnard fic -- When The Lagoon Company's latest job takes a turn for the dark and deadly they'll need the help of an old friend, Good thing Xander is bringing Faith along for the ride. It means he might survive the wrath of Revy when Two Hands finally catches up to the Zeppo who got away.

Faith Lehane wrinkled her nose and, in a voice that would have done justice to Cordelia Chase had she been there, asked "So tell me again how it is you of all people know about this pig sty."

Faith was reacting to her first sight of Roanapur and Xander Harris had to admit the description was a fair one. True, he was a little more familiar with the place then Faith, but even he was surprised at how much. . . seedier the place seemed since last he had been here. Of course if the city had changed, so had he. His hair was cropped shorter and he was a lot more tanned and athletic then he had been that last visit . . .oh, and there was the whole missing eye thing. He was wearing the happy face eye-patch at Faith's request.

"Buffy ever tell you about the whole stripping in Oxnard incident?" Xander asked.

"I believe that tale was wormed out of her after I had poured an awesome about of booze down her throat," Faith's trademark smirk betrayed a very pleasant memory that Xander mentally noted he would have to get the details on later.

"I was lying," Xander sighed, "I told her that so she would tell Willow. They tend to get over protective when i do ... questionable things. I don't like it when they worry about me."

Faith cocked an eyebrow at this revelation. "Especially when you've been doing something stupid, dangerous or dangerously stupid," She reminded him.

Xander grimaced at her words, "Especially then, yes. Anyway, one of the stops on the magical misery tour that summer was The South China Sea." He gestured grandly for effect.

"I'm still fuzzy on why we are in this shit-hole following rumours of lost Slayers," Faith snapped as she gestured wildly to the town surrounding them. "I mean, this looks like a set from one of those bad B-grade crap-fest movies you and Andrew insist on calling movie classics."

"As it happens, you can buy almost anything in Roanapur, that includes people. If what we are looking for is anywhere, it's either here or there is someone here who knows how to find it."

Xander Harris was not the kind of person she would have thought would have insight into the seamy side. "Won't we have to pay for that kind of info?" Faith asked.

"That's the best part of coming here." Xander gave a cold smile, "Whoever has our Slayers has an enemy willing to back our play when we search and destroy."

"Hey, not to rain on your parade but you do know I'm still technically ducking a murder rap," Faith reminded him. "If anything goes FUBAR'd, as it usually does for us, local cops might give us trouble."

Xander snorted at the thought of the morbidly corrupt Chief Watsup trying to arrest the Slayer, "In this town the cops couldn't care less if you kill someone right in front of them as long as you can afford the bribes to make the problem go away. You're here because more then any of the others you can blend in."

"So Faith must be on her best behaviour in the new town?" Faith snapped pointedly.

"Actually the complete opposite, If anyone even breathes on you funny, drop them and move on. Trust me, no one will care and they'll assume whoever it was had it coming."

"My kind of mission. Complete freedom to kick ass and no wringing of the hands afterwards. " Faith then looked at Xander quizzically, "Still. I know why I'm here, why are you here? I mean, this seems like the kind of mission you'd want to leave to Robin or Giles to deal with. Busting human traffickers seems a little hardcore for you."

"I'm here because I know Roanapur. I spent some time here after Graduation. Trust me when I say that I got to know this place very well. I wanted you here because if I'm right and we are dealing with women who have been abused and enslaved, then even rescuing them won't be enough. They aren't going to listen to me, I need them to trust us and that means giving them someone who they can relate to. I want to get this right and that means you'll have to do the talking when we find and rescue these girls."

The two of them moved purposely though the town. Xander avoided making eye contact as much as possible. They went past Club Heart; Xander didn't recognize any of the girls out front, which didn't stop some of the more brazen from waving to Xander as though Faith wasn't walking right beside him. They passed the Yellowflag. Faith wanted to stop in for a drink but Xander vetoed the idea. He claimed they were in a hurry but in truth, he had left a rather large bar tab behind on his last visit and Bao the bartender would almost certainly want to take it out of his ass. Xander also hurried Faith by the rocking Goof Fest. The last thing Xander needed was for Faith to get noticed by 'Jackpot' Pidgin, who owned the strip club slash whorehouse. Pidgin had always been obsessed with finding new and interesting talent. You could not find more new or interesting then Faith. They passed the bombed out remains of a building that Xander recalled had been the main centre of operations for the Manisarera Cartel. Xander idly wondered who or what had so completely displaced The Colombians.

They eventually found themselves in front of a quaint looking church. Faith looked doubtfully at their destination. "What's the deal, X-man. I thought we were looking for unsavoury types."

"Yes we are and the Church of Violence is the best place to start." Faith looked at him doubtfully so he shrugged his shoulders. "OK in truth its a little down the list. With the Black Lagoon not in port the only other people we can talk to are the local Syndicate Bosses, Chang or Balalaika and without Dutch there to keep the peace well… things might get ugly."

Xander knocked on the front door repeatedly but nothing stirred the silence of the church courtyard. Harris checked his watch and rolled his eye. He knocked louder but that only produced a muffled curse from the other side of the door.

"What's wrong," Faith asked, "Is it closed?"

"No, they're open, it's just early."

"It's the afternoon. "

"Which for them is early." Xander pushed Faith back out of the way of the door. "This time of day, surprise guests aren't very welcome. I guess I should have called first."

He then moved off to the side himself and knocked hard on the door. There was a louder and more pronounced curse followed by two gunshots that punched through the door almost, but not quite, where they had been standing.

The door was yanked open and a blonde haired nun wearing angled shades poked her head out. "When I say go the fuck away, I mean go the motherfuck away," She cussed before looking at Faith and snapping at her, "What the fuck do you want?"

"Jesus Christ," Faith yelled, "What the fuck was that about? What kind of church is this?"

"It's the kind of church that don't like people bothering us so fucking early!" The blonde roared.

"It's actually the middle of the afternoon, Eda," Xander sighed.

The nun looked around at the man, staring at Xander head to toe before snatching off the shades that hid her eyes. "Xander Harris, un-fucking believable. Guess I win that bet."

"What bet?" He asked suspiciously.

"Oh, I wouldn't want to spoil it." Eda grabbed at Xander's bottom, giving it a healthy squeeze. "Yummy, somebody went out and got nice and buff. I hope you aren't planning on running off again like last time. You look like you've got some real stamina now."

"Yeah, that reminds me; no slipping me funny drinks. I had a headache the size of Mount Rushmore all the way home last time."

"Which head was aching, sweetie?" Eda smiled rakishly. "I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't forget me anytime soon and apparently it worked 'cause here you are."

"Actually I'm here on business. I was hoping to talk to Dutch."

Eda's face fell and a dangerous tone slipped into her voice."If you're back to climb Mount Revy," she growled, "I might have to get jealous."

"I like breathing a little too much to get between you and Revy," Xander responded sarcastically. "Speaking of which; where is the 'goon? They weren't in port when I arrived. They on a job?"

"Yeah, for Fry-face, though frankly with what they make these days they really don't need to be slumming for that bitch."

"I'm not following. Hotel Moscow and the Lagoon Company are like super tight, what's changed?"

"The Lagoon picked up a sailor since you were here last. A salary-man name of Okajima. Balalaika loves his ass something huge and Dutch has been reaping the benefits. Of course I can testify that the guy could negotiate with the Devil his own self if he had to. Half the syndicates are fighting to hire the crew to handle everything from simple fetch and carry to more delicate stuff."

"Dutch must be happy."

"Like a pig in poop. But they still do jobs for Madame Fry-face and she keeps them real busy these days . . .say, bet you she'll be happy to have you back in town."

Xander shook his head, "Don't bet on it. The business I mentioned, it might bring me into conflict with Hotel Moscow and I want somebody to run interference if I have to go twenty rounds with Ms. Balalaika."

"This sounds serious. You'd best come inside and we'll see what we can do for you."

The three entered the church. It was well maintained. A consequence of the enormous wealth that The Church of Violence possessed due to their infamous smuggling operations which managed to transport products of varying degrees of legality from everywhere on earth to anywhere willing to pay for them. By using the cover of a church doing God's work they could pass through checkpoints and under the notice of authorities both criminal and official.

"Yolanda. Hey, Yolanda," Eda called out, "Guess who came back for more fun."

An elderly nun looked up from a large leather bound ledger. "Eda what have i told you about sue of firearms in the church when you are hung over. Your next bonus will be paying for that door." She was sporting an eye-patch like Xander and for a moment Xander felt uncomfortable about his frivolous choice in eye-wear but Yolanda rose to embrace him before stepping back to look him up and down, "Alexander, You've filled out my son. The eye patch is a new look, what happened?"

"Someone wanted to send a message," Xander answered skating over the tale of his mauling at the hands of the demented preacher Caleb.

"Did you send them one in response?" Yolanda asked,

Xander smiled with grim amusement at the memory of Buffy's ruthless vengeance against Caleb. "Of course, ma'am," he answered "I'm told that a person cut in half from crotch to head dies in a very unpleasant fashion."

"Indeed they do." She looked at Faith critically. "Would this noble soul be the person I have to thank for spreading the message of the Church Of Violence?"

"What message is that," Faith asked sarcastically"'guns don't kill people; The Church of Violence does'?"

"I prefer the more descriptive 'Payback is a bitch and so am I'," Eda snapped. She tossed herself into a chair with her feet up and chewing her ever-present bubble gum. Xander recalled this was one of the many quirks and fetishes she practiced that had made their first encounter far more enjoyable.

"This is my partner, Faith Lehane. Faith, meet Sisters Yolanda and Eda of the Church of Violence."

The blonde laughed cruelly. "You're kidding, right? This is the cheerleader slash ass kicker you were always yammering on about?"

"That would be Buffy, I'm the non-cheerleader ass kicker."

"Yeah well, you don't look that tough to me. I bet I could take ya." Eda smiled evilly.

Xander whipped out his hand and rested it gently but firmly on Eda's shoulder bearing her back down in her chair. "Lets not test that shall we. Faith's a Vampire Slayer and while Slayers aren't much for gun-play but I can guarantee that they can hold their own in a straight-up melee fight."

"Oh Xander, how cute," Eda said with mock affection, "thinkin I would actually fight fair when fighting dirty is so much more fun."

"Good," Faith said with a too familiar smile on her face, "Since i doubt I'd break a nail, it might be nice if I could at least break a sweat."

"Indeed. I think a spot of CALMING tea as we get down to business, no need to be uncivilized." Yolanda smiled.

Xander smiled. "Excellent, I miss the way you make it."

Yolanda went off to make and prepare tea while Xander kept Eda and Faith from ramping up their obvious hostility. The one-upmanship would have continued until punches were thrown, shots were fired and the building was reduced to kindling. Still, Xander reflected that at least it wasn't Faith and Revy. He shuddered once again at the thought of how that meet-up would go.

Yolanda, bearing the tea and a selection of cakes, eventually joined them. Helping her serve was a tall man who identified himself as Apprentice Priest Rico.

"So, what exactly brought you back here, Mister Harris?" Yolanda asked when they were settled and drinking sociably. "As impressive as Eda's tales of your evening together were, I assumed it was a one time thing."

"How much do you know about the traffic of girls?"

"More then I'd like to. Why?" Yolanda asked dispassionately.

"A few weeks ago a contact brought us a video from a new S&M site. I'm warning you now, it's pretty strong stuff."

Xander opened a laptop computer and hit a button. Faith had already seen the footage and it disgusted her. She knew Xander had felt the same way. So much so that he had ordered all knowledge of the video suppressed with everyone, Buffy especially, on a need-to-know basis.

Eda and Yolanda looked at the video feed with critical eyes, looking for the tell tale clues that what they were seeing was fake or staged. They watched as a young girl was brutally dominated by a succession of fetish wearing gimps. This was no well-produced fake. The video was horrifyingly real.

"The signal had encryption like God in his heaven doesn't use. It took a full team of techno-pagans to penetrate the firewalls surrounding the site and even then they were chasing bounced signals through more then a couple dozen servers scattered around the globe. The video clip was one of several rigged to fry itself after a few viewings. Then I got lucky." Xander stopped the video to point at a small unnoticeable window. The Ladies focused on the opening and eventually Eda whistled finally catching sight of what had drawn Xander's attention.

Xander produced a photograph. It was a blown up image of the window. Yolanda could just make out the Buddha statue that sat in the harbour of Roanapur. its distinctive feature, the eyes which someone had shot out made the thing instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Roanapur.

"The video was obviously shot somewhere around here from the angle of the stature i would guess it was one of the small islands in the area. I thought it might be a good idea to come personally and see what some good old fashioned detective work can dig up."

Eda glanced away from the screen. "How can she take that much punishment and still be alive?"

"She can't," Yolanda snapped, "Either it's special effects or it's a new kind of snuff film."

"No, it's worse then that," Xander remarked grimly. "That girl can take the punishment she can because she is a Slayer like Faith and the rest of my friends. "

"A Slayer? What are you talking about?

"We had a major situation to deal with. The stakes were high, end of the world high. The solution was to change a few rules of engagement. Had we really known what we were unleashing on the world . . . well, we might still have done it, but we would have prepared better. Ever since then we have been fighting to find and rescue these girls from themselves and more frequently the people who would try and hurt them or take advantage."

Sister Yolanda looked inquisitively at him. "Last time you were here you said there was only one Slayer, what happened?"

"Technically, I was right. Usually there is only one. I had a hand in the reason why there were two for awhile, now there are more."

"How much more?"

"A very conservative estimate pegs the number at being about one percent of the female population of the planet."

"That's still over 16,350 odd women," Yolanda pointed out.

"You ever read Wonder Woman as a kid?" Xander explained, "Imagine waking up tomorrow with those kinds of abilities?"

"Imagine waking up beside a someone you've been abusing who now has those kinds of powers," Faith countered.

"Don't get me wrong, guys, most of these girls can take care of themselves but this video proves that some does not mean all. As long as any girls are in danger it's my job and the job of the new Watchers' Council to figure out how to get to them and help them out."

Eda saw where this was going it was time , she thought for someone to be practical. "Aren't you making the broad assumption that this little chickie is an unwilling participant at this party. You and I both know some peoples tastes run to the extreme when it comes to fun and games." She pointed out.

"How well I recall " Xander agreed, "I even know how naive I sound. I would still rather err on the side of caution as would you."

"Why us?"

"These guys aren't just selling dirty pictures or a fun party guest, for a small fortune you can rent yourself a Slayer for combat purposes. I can testify that Slayers properly trained make for a crude but effective military force. Imagine sending someone who can take that kind of punishment after your foes, whoever they may be."

"Interesting," Yolanda muttered. "Rico, contact Fourteen K make sure you are talking to Chang directly. I've heard rumblings from the other Triad Bosses and you know they've never appreciated his ... stubborn views regarding the profitability of the flesh trade. Tell him we might have information for him."

Rico nodded and stepped away from the table. Yolanda turned back to Xander and Faith. "The human trafficking network is large and finding any one type of cargo can be difficult. Most of the world's countries are starting to take official notice of such activities, making the profit margin versus risk factor prohibitive."

"Nice to know you all take such an interest in the welfare of others," Faith muttered sarcastically

"Faith!" Xander snapped

Yolanda held up her hand. "I'm guessing you're early to mid twenties, Miss Faith. No doubt your . . .abilities came to you during your teens and since I can tell you're from South Boston and I can smell the gutter mud on you, girl, clear as day, I'm betting you didn't rush out and start fighting the good fight as soon as you realized how much more capable you were. You did what most of us would do; you tracked down some 'old friends' for a little payback. Tell me Miss Lehane, how good did it feel when you showed them how much stronger you were. Did you enjoy making them grovel and beg for their lives like they tried to do to you?"

"Yolanda, that's enough," Xander snapped, but Faith cut him off.

"Oh, it felt good, it felt really good. Yeah, I enjoyed it, especially the fear. Xander has no idea how good it feels, but you do, don't you? What it feels like when someone who lived off of your fear and the fear of others looks up in your eyes with terror, knowing that you can do anything to him and he can't fight back. Problem is, I started liking the fear more then the payback. I liked it when they were afraid of me. I liked it so much that one night when a good friend came to me trying to help me, I decided I needed to see that look of fear in his eyes. I needed to see it so bad that to this day I wonder why he trusts me enough to work with me."

Yolanda smiled. "I've noticed Mister Harris seems to have that effect on people like us." Yolanda turned to Xander. "I assume you are looking to Lagoon Company for assistance in finding these lost lambs of yours."

Xander sighed. "That and the money behind these guys is huge and since the trail leads me here, that means I am either going to be working for or against someone I owe a favour to from the last time I was here."

"You suspect one of the syndicates is behind this." Yolanda asked plainly, Xander nodded.

"All the the Syndicate Bosses prefer to steer clear of the Human Trafficking business." Eda reminded Xander, "what's good business elsewhere attracts needless attention to this city and attention is the last thing anyone in this city likes."

Xander shrugged, "Look my priority is the Slayers My friends and I feel a responsibility to them and if retrieving them requires . . . an aggressive response I would hope to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with anyone especially Boss Chang or worse Hotel Moscow."

Yolanda laughed. "Listen to the diplomat. You've certainly learned a trick or two since last you walked these streets, dear, but you know how things are in Roanapur. You want to rescue these girls; Balalaika won't stop you unless it's worth it to do so. However if it is in her best interest to stop you, it will take a lot more then your clever turns of phrase and your tough little friend to keep you alive."

With Sister Yolanda's ominous warning to further unnerve Xander, he and Faith got a car back to town. Their destination was the headquarters of Hotel Moscow. When they arrived, a Russian male who looked vaguely familiar to Xander ushered them inside and walked them through the hallways toward Balalaika's office. Several people fell into step with them. Thus by the time they arrived at the Mafioso's inner sanctum; fully a dozen souls including Boris, Balalaika's number two, were waiting with them for the woman's eventual appearance.

"So who is this bally-lichen again?" Faith whispered.

"Bal-al-ai-ka," Xander pronounced slowly. "She's head of the local branch of the Russian Mafia. She's dangerous."

"Xander, no offence, but demons, vampires, supernatural beasties-those things are dangerous. A thug with delusions of grandeur isn't high on my list of things to be concerned over."

Xander sighed. It was this attitude, he reflected, that most of the gang had nowadays. Still, Faith didn't know and, until someone educated her, she was entitled to her ignorance.

"Ever hear about a little thing called the Soviet-Afghan war?" Xander explained," I don't know what you were doing during it, but Balalaika and her team of Special Forces perfected their ability to fight and win World War Three in some of the most hellish hot spots of that war and when she decided that she wanted to be a Russian Mafioso they joined up with her. Any one of her team is better trained in warfare and combat then anyone you've ever met and combined with Balalaika leading them, they are a force to be reckoned with. I am a fan, Faith, and I'd back you against some of the darkest hounds of hell, but if you are ever stupid enough to throw down with this woman, you better hope you kill her quick because otherwise she will destroy you."

The door to the room opened and Xander rose to greet a cigar-smoking woman who entered.

Faith was not expecting a statuesque blonde with long wavy hair and a tailored business suit that complimented her figure without being grotesque. A pea green military great coat hung around her shoulders and the smoke from her cigar hung around her. The only thing that marred her features was the series of scars that worked their way down the right side of her face, neck and chest. Now the Slayer knew why the Russian had been referred to earlier as 'Fry-face'. Faith had no doubt that use of that nickname in her hearing would be a monumentally stupid thing to do.

Faith immediately saw why Xander treated the woman with such respect. Her every movement and physical nuance bespoke of a trained killer. Faith might have been stronger and faster but the Russian was someone who was not to be screwed around with. She was a warrior and had chosen that destiny, embracing it with all her being right down to the core.

Balalaika smiled at Xander who shook her hand warmly greeting her in Russian.

Faith looked agog at him, The Xander Harris she knew ordered Chinese food by quoting numbers. Such a person should not be able to speak Russian, imperfect Russian to judge by the reactions of some of the men in the room including Balalaika herself who smiled indulgently even as she lectured him. "Dear, dear, Mister Harris," Balalaika said. "You haven't been practicing. You can't expect to make the Moscow women swoon if you speak like a uneducated peasant."

"I'm a product of the American educational system, Captain. It's a miracle that I can speak English."

"There's nothing wrong with you a few years serving in any decent military wouldn't solve, indeed it seems you've improved yourself tremendously since last we saw you."

"Except for the eye, you mean."

Balalaika laughed deeply. "Nonsense, such an injury adds character to a man's face. How do you young people say it -- Chicks dig scars."

"Miss Balalaika, may I introduce you to my partner, Faith. She is one of the Vampire Slayers I told you of and part of the reason I came out here."

Faith stuck out her hand. The Russian mob boss smiled while giving her a cold appraising look. Seemingly satisfied by what she saw she reached out to take Faith hand. Faith threw a little Slayer strength into the handshake but she was surprised that there was an answering level of power from the Russian's hand. As Faith looked in The Russian's eyes Faith had the distinct impression she was being judged and weighed.

"I've never met a real live urban legend before." Balalaika said in her thickly accented English.

"Well, I've never met a real live Russian mob boss before. I was expecting someone a little less Marlene Dietrich," Faith supplied.

The room went silent until Balalaika laughed sharply. "You have Xander's humour if not his pop cultural acumen. Dietrich was German."

"Sorry, she was the only foreign hottie I could think of."

"I shall take the implied compliment then." She turned to Xander. "So what brings you to our little slice of heaven? Did you really miss us that much?" Balalaika smiled and leaning back in her chair tapped the ash on her cigar expectantly.

"Faith and I are following the trail of human trafficking, specifically the enslavement and sale of young girls. You would have heard about these slaves because the people behind it will use this video as advertisement." He showed her the video feed and to her credit, Balalaika did not blink or shudder once.

"Is it real?" She asked when the tape was done.

"100 percent real, as far as we know."

"... And you think the trail leads here to Roanapur. Why are you concerned about these girls in particular?"

"The group I hooked up with, I'm remembering how well informed you are so I won't bore you with the details, caused a bit of collateral damage while ending a threat to . . .well, to everything. We activated every Slayer in the world, every girl of a certain age range who ever had the potential to be a Slayer became one. Ever since then my team has been tracking these girls and offering training when we can and giving them support when they can't or won't come to us."

"So you think these girls are some more of your vampire killers?"

"One girl in all the world, she alone will fight against the darkness . . .or at least that was the way until my friends and I decided our way was better. Of course there are drawbacks. Imagine being a ninety pound weakling one day and waking up the next with . . . oh say, your level of combat skill and ability, but no training in how to use it."

Balalaika whistled while the normally taciturn Boris piped up. "Assuming there are Vampire Slayers among the group producing these movies why would they continue to allow themselves to be treated and controlled thus?"

Balalaika answered him, "If they were in slavery prior to acquiring the abilities Xander is discussing, then they may no longer care what they have become. Breaking a will, enslaving a mind, it takes time . . .the process is best done early and as completely as possible. However once the process is complete, the slave is owned completely. The enslaved will sometimes ignore opportunities to escape, fight back or otherwise free themselves. Thoughts of rebellion or violence against their captors become foreign to them."

Xander nodded. "We've already seen what happens to Slayers who were mentally unstable before being activated. One girl in particular is responding to treatment but since she is several times as strong as her doctors, and has been known to kill or maim anyone she regards as threatening, her progress is slow and she may never be completely healed."

"I'm still waiting to hear why you think I can help you and why I should even care." Balalaika asked him simply.

Xander sighed. "I think you want to help us because the Japanese are still pissed over a recent visit Hotel Moscow made to Japan. I didn't get all the details, but word is you guys burned a lot of bridges. Funny thing about the Yakuza is, not all the full body animal tattoos are for shock appeal, some of them are to let people know which demon lord they secretly owe their souls to, or what their level of magical training might be."

Balalaika raised an eyebrow and stared at Xander inquisitively. "You think that having Slayers as allies would counter a potential threat like that. I thought I taught you better skills in negotiation and tactics then that, Alexander." Balalaika sounded coldly pissed. "No, you are here for one reason only, you wish to declare war. You respect Hotel Moscow so you would prefer not to fight me since you know what that would entail, so you tempt me with the possibility of an alliance in the hopes that my response will make it easier for you to know how much chaos you can cause here before I'll be obligated to deal with you and your little bodyguard."

Balalaika pulled a gun and slammed it down on the table. Faith was already moving when a swiftly worded command from Balalaika had most of the guns in the room pointed at her. Faith wondered if she should take it as a compliment.

"Now ask me again," Balalaika growled "...And this time don't even think of trying to con me. Ask me like you remember what Hotel Moscow is and who I am." Her fingers excitedly drummed the table close to the gun. Her meaning was clear, there would be only one chance for things to go right or else they would start going very, very wrong.

Xander looked at Balalaika and then sighed. "Captain I apologize, I've been amongst civilians for so long I forgot my manners." Xander then stared directly into her cold eyes and Faith watched as his familiar puppy dog expression fell away to reveal...someone else. "Faith and I are here for the girls. You and Hotel Moscow can benefit from this or you can get caught in the crossfire. Either way, I'm going to destroy the organization that would profit from the slave trade of these women and anyone and anything that gets in the way of that objective."

"So these girls are your friends, are they? Close are you, did you buy them Christmas gifts perhaps?"

"I consider Slayers friends but even more important, I consider anyone that would do something like this to a person an enemy and I intend to completely destroy that enemy. What the girls do with their freedom once they have it is their choice, killing their captors and destroying the organization controlling them is mine."

"So you are committed to going to war then, no matter what, even if it places you at odds with me, with all of Roanapur. You will still fight this battle."

"No, I will win this battle. I've gotten better since the last time I was here, a lot better."

Balalaika smiled, then laughed. "There is the real you. I've missed him, that other clownish person you constantly pretend to be is occasionally amusing but not the kind of person I'd want to fight beside or follow into battle."

The entire room breathed a sigh of relief. "That was fucked up," Faith snapped.

Boris laughed and muttered something in Russian that caused Balalaika to laugh while looking at Faith who looked at Xander expectantly.

Xander shrugged his shoulders. "It's nothing bad, you just remind them of someone who lives here is all."

"Good someone or bad someone."

"Lethally bad ass someone, but you'll meet Revy soon enough and you can decide for yourself."

"Sooner then you think. I passed Dutch a cargo running job. The recent storms in the area wiped out the supplies of an encampment and they contracted to Chang for supplies. He was running short and so came to me. I had the materials but not the manpower for delivery so I went to Dutch. The Lagoon left this morning and radioed in just before you arrived."

"What's the connection?"

"Along with the usual staples they asked for, there was an additional request. Packets of whole blood, lots of it, type was not an issue."

"I'd say that was a confirmation," Xander replied grimly.

"I thought we were looking for Vampire Slayers not vampires?" Faith asked.

"Slayers need guarding even if they are slaves, the best way you can do that effectively would be to have something on hand that you know can take on a Slayer. Especially if she isn't trained to know how to fight back."

"I get it, the vampires watch the Slayers and the human guards control the compound."

"If your Slayers are guarded by vampires, would the vampires not simply feed upon the prisoners?" Boris asked

"They probably do from time to time to keep them weak, but Slayer blood is kind of potent and I'm sure nobody here needs to be told what happens if you leave an addict alone in a room filled with drugs."

"Still would this not imply that your quarry is rather knowledgeable about matters concerning your Slayers? They tracked them, located them, have corralled them and are using an effective force to guard them. Such knowledge should by itself narrow the field of possible suspects of who might be responsible."

"Oh, I have my suspicions," Xander said grimly "The list of people who would do this just to hurt the gang I run with these days is pretty hefty. I'll find out who was behind this before I leave here."

"Well you might have to ensure they survive Revy's wrath. It seems that your quarry ran afoul of Mr. Okajima for some reason. He became involved in an altercation during the transfer of cargo. A fight broke out and the Lagoon was forced to leave the area. Dutch didn't say much but some of what he mentioned jibes with what you have told me."

"Well then let's get out there and kick some ass."

"As I said, the Lagoon is on its way back here. There was an injury on board and Dutch was quite clear that without quick and possibly divine intervention the victim might die."