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Dawn Summers and the Ring of No Confidence.

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9.

Slayer Central, Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

“Bloody hell!” Giles cried as he ducked beneath his desk at the sound of the first explosion.

“Ditto!” Buffy headed for the floor only nano-seconds after Giles, her hesitation was due to having to drag her sister down with her.

The two members of the Slayer Organisation and one employee of the Cleveland Ambulance Service looked at each other as more explosions shook the air and they cowered under Giles', thankfully, heavily constructed desk. After the third explosion, Buffy spoke.

“Giles,” Buffy started to crawl from under the desk, “stay here and look after Dawn...”

“I don't need anyone to look after me,” Dawn complained, “I'm not fifteen anymore!”

“Whatever,” Buffy ignored her sister, “like I was saying, Giles...”

“Don't worry,” Giles interrupted, “Dawn'll be safe enough here.”

“Good,” Buffy was now standing up and heading for the door, “I'm gonna find out what the hell's going on and then kick someone's donkey!”

With those words Buffy opened the door and went out into the corridor.

0=0=0=0

Reception.

Screaming, Willow headed for the floor as shrapnel punched its way through the wooden walls of the Admin Block. A flower vase broke sending cut flowers, pieces of broken glass and water everywhere.

“Everyone okay?” Willow asked nervously as she looked up from the floor just as another explosion rocked the building and made more holes in the wall.

“Okay!” Faith called from behind the reception desk, “I'm hitting the ACM's, NOW!”

Standing up heedless of the danger, Faith hit the big red button that would activate the Active Counter Measures that were the camp's last line of defence. Now, if anyone who shouldn't be there entered any of the camp's buildings they'd be attacked by their own worst nightmares. Of course none of the slayers or staff on the camp would be affected and it would only work on any bad guys who actually entered a building. But until Buffy had her mysterious lasers fitted it was the best that they could do.

“Miss Rosenberg!” cried a voice from across the lobby.

Looking up again, Willow saw the three newbie slayers huddled around a still form on the floor.

“Oh my goddess!” Willow gasped as she crawled over to the little group of frightened girls, “Molly!”

The young slayer lay on the floor with blood oozing from several wounds in her torso and legs.

“Oh crap!” Willow gasped, she looked up at one of the girls, “First aid box, NOW!”

“What's up Red?” Faith asked as she crawled across the floor just as two explosions went off in quick succession making the building sway and causing dust to fill the air.

“It's Molly she's been hit!” Willow replied as she tried to stop the worst of the bleeding, “I could really do with Dawn's help, here.”

“Okay,” Faith nodded, “I'll go...”

“Faith! Willow!” Buffy's voice rose as she ran into the lobby and saw the mess and the blood covered body of one of 'her' slayers; someone was going to pay for this, she promised.

“Molly's hurt,” Faith called quickly, “we need Dawn and we really need to stop whoever's doing this.”

“Got that,” Buffy flinched as a bomb went off a little further away from the building, “DAWN!!” Buffy yelled, “YOU'RE NEEDED!”

Moments later, Dawn and Giles joined everyone in the lobby, Buffy directed her sister to where Molly lay. Seeing the girl lying bleeding on the floor, Dawn went into action. Forgetting her own fears at someone trying to blow everyone up she went to work on the injured girl with quiet efficiency.

“Looks like its you an' me, sis,” Faith announced quietly as she squatted down next to Buffy, “we've gotta stop these bastards before they blow us to hell an' back.”

“Actually its just me,” Buffy replied with a grin, “I want you to stay here and protect everyone...” Buffy glanced at the three frightened slayers hiding behind the couch, “...those girls can't do much, they're just girls who happen to have superpowers. We can't rely on them to do anything but get themselves killed if they try to fight these people.”

“Okay,” Faith nodded her head, “I've got that...”

“Hey!” Buffy looked at her sister slayer in surprise, “I thought I'd have a harder fight than that!”

“What can I say,” Faith shrugged, “after all these years, I guess I've come to realise that ya know what ya talking about.”

“Thanks for your vote of confidence,” Buffy smiled as she started for the door, “I'll kick their asses, while you look after everyone here...”

“Luck, sis,” Faith called as Buffy rolled out of the door and another explosion rocked the house.

0=0=0=0

Between Slayer Central and the Scapone Transport Deport.

Making her way across the grass between her father's warehouse and truck depot towards Slayer Central, Kennedy flattened herself against the ground as the first explosion shook the air. Festooned as she was with a number of AK47's an RPG and boxes of ammunition, her landing was noisy and uncomfortable.

“Ow!” Kennedy muttered angrily as she rubbed at one or two sore points, forgetting these minor pains she looked up and through the grass.

From her vantage point, Kennedy could see as well as hear the explosions as they threw up small clouds of earth and dust. Whoever was attacking the camp were only using weapons with a small payload. Obviously they weren't out to actually destroy the school; from the size of the explosions, Kennedy guessed that the attackers were using some sort of small mortar-like weapon. Pushing herself up a little more so she could get a better view, Kennedy looked around as she tried to work out where the fire was coming from.

Looking over to her right, Kennedy saw a thin haze of grey smoke rising from a spot where she knew there was an old drainage ditch. If she was going to mortar the camp that's where she'd set up. Taking the AK's from around her body she dumped them in the grass before choosing one to fight with. Checking that the magazine was full she took the full magazines off two others, cursing herself for wearing skin tight jeans that day, she tried to push the magazines into her pockets. They wouldn't fit; reluctantly she left the spare ammunition behind as she made her way towards the old ditch.

Several loud, 'thunks!' in rapid succession made Kennedy duck down in the grass for a moment. Realising that whoever was out there had just sent several bombs towards the camp, Kennedy told herself she had to stop this before the school was blown apart. Jumping up from the grass and holding her rifle across her chest, she ran towards the source of all the noise. Sure enough, there in the old grass filled drainage ditch were about eight or nine men crouching around two small mortars.

Lifting her rifle to her shoulder, Kennedy realised that she couldn't just kill them. It was going to be hard enough explaining away why the school had been attacked in the first place. It would be doubly difficult to explain away eight or nine dead bodies. Reluctantly, Kennedy shifted her aim from the men to the side of the ditch. Firing single shots into the side of the ditch, she first grabbed the mortar-men's attention. They all turned to look at her, each with an identical look of surprise and fear on their faces. Shifting the selector to full automatic, she fired a short burst over the men's heads.

Laughing at the antics of the men as they tried to get away from her, Kennedy sent several more bursts cracking over their heads just to keep them on the move. Satisfied that these men weren't coming back, Kennedy lowered her rifle and looked towards the school. Her face dropped as she saw a thick column of smoke rising from where the admin block should be.

“Willow!” Kennedy gasped as she started to run towards the, what she'd convinced herself, smouldering ruin of the admin block; she was already regretting her choice of sparing those men's lives.

0=0=0=0

The Admin Block.

The first explosion blew Buffy off her feet and back through the doors into the lobby. The second bomb blew out a sizeable chunk of the lobby's wall. The third bomb crashed through the roof without exploding and destroyed most of the main conference room just down the corridor from reception. The forth bomb landed in the car park outside and did little damage to the building but drew a cry of pain and surprise from one of the new slayers.

Shielding her patient with her body, Dawn kept pressure on the worst of Molly's wounds as she attempted to staunch the bleeding. All around there was dust and smoke, she was vaguely aware of Willow crouching over one of the new girls and her sister flying through the air to crash into the wall on the other side of the room.

“B!” Faith called, once more she was down using the reception desk as cover, “Are ya okay?”

“Fine!” Buffy called as she coughed and took swipes at the dust and smoke in the air.

Crawling over to where Buffy lay against the wall, Faith checked her for wounds despite Buffy's assurances that she was okay. Just for a moment both women sat there and listened to the distinct sound of wood burning.

“Faith,” Buffy turned to face Faith, “Look I want you to get Dawn outta here...”

“But...” Faith started to tell Buffy what a bad idea that was.

“Hey,” Buffy forced a grin, “Whatever happening to me knowing what I'm doing? Now shut up and listen.”

“Wow!” Faith laughed, “Listen to B being all commandy.”

“Commandy?” Buffy frowned, “You've been living with my sister way too long...whatever, listen. They're after Dawn,” Buffy listened for a moment, “and by the sound of it they've stopped trying to blow us up so I'm guessing the guys with the red paint and sharp knives are going to show up any moment.” Buffy paused for a breath, she coughed as the dust caught in her throat, “I can deal with them as long as I know Dawn's safe and she's safest with you heading away from here, got that?”

“Yeah,” Faith nodded before adding, “under protest.”

“You really are trying to improve yourself aren't you?” Buffy gazed at her sister slayer in wonder.

“Yo,” again Faith shrugged, “I guess its time to grow-up...okay, I'll grab Dawn and get outta here, I'll call Red and let her know where we are...”

“Look after her Faith,” Buffy called as Faith crawled across the lobby towards Dawn.

“No sweat B,” Faith called back.

Climbing to her feet, Buffy ignored the angry whispered conversation that was passing between Faith and Dawn. Walking over to where the main doors used to be, Buffy couldn't help reflecting that Xander was going to be able to go somewhere really nice for his vacation with all the money he'd earn putting all the damage right again. Pushing images of Xander laughing all the way to the bank to one side, Buffy looked out into the main car park.

About thirty yards to her left a car was burning sending a thick column of smoke up into the air. Sweeping her eyes to her right, she saw several still smoking holes in the gravel of the parking lot and of course the gaping hole in the side of the hut. The sound of someone running towards her attracted Buffy's attention and she looked through the drifting smoke to see a figure running towards her. Squinting through the haze, Buffy could see that the figure was carrying something.

“Oh darn,” Buffy sighed, “freaking guns!”

Buffy cursed the object that made a normal person equal to or better than a slayer. Having been shot and nearly killed, Buffy didn't like guns, but just now she wished she had one. Looking around for some cover she happened to glance back at the figure and see the shape resolve itself into the familiar shape of Kennedy, fellow alcoholic and just at the moment the one person in all the world that Buffy most wanted to see. Kennedy's watcher had taught her all about guns and it looked like she'd been putting that knowledge to good use.

“I never thought I'd say this,” Buffy called as she stepped out into the open, “but I'm glad to see you Kennie.”

“Right,” Kennedy slid to a halt in front of Buffy, “everyone okay? Willow?”

“Everyone's fine except the people who aren't,” Buffy looked for any sign of anyone following Kennedy.

“If you're looking for bad guys coming after me,” a murderous smile spread across Kennedy's face, “they won't be.”

“You didn't...” Buffy was just about to check that Kennedy hadn't killed everyone, but the younger woman shook her head.

“I didn't kill any of them,” Kennedy looked at all the damage caused by the attack, “but I'm beginning to wish I had.”

“Yeah,” Buffy sighed sadly before turning back to the ruined admin hut, “we better get everyone out and phone the police, fire and ambulance.”

“Dawn?” Kennedy asked.

“Faith got her out of here,” Buffy replied adding, “I hope.”

0=0=0=0

“Come on kid,” Faith dragged Dawn down a corridor and away from what was rapidly turning into a charnel house in the reception.

“Faith!” Dawn struggled ineffectually against Faith's grip, “I've got to go back...the wounded need me!”

“Red'll manage 'til the police an' ambulances arrive,” Faith explain, “but if ya don't get away you'll never be able to help anyone again.”

The cold realisation that what Faith was saying was true stunned Dawn into silence for a moment, but only for a moment.

“Okay,” Dawn admitted, “but you don't have to drag me...I've had loads of practice at running away.”

“Cool,” Faith let go of Dawn's wrist, stopped, turned around to face her and then kissed her full on the lips, “Love ya Dawnie!”

“And this is not a good time to show that,” Dawn replied, “but its nice to know.”

“Okay,” Faith brought them to a halt next to a fire exit, “we go through this door an' we should be in the back parking lot where we left the car, you still got ya keys?” Dawn nodded, “Okay, when we get outside you run for the car, don't stop for anything...” and evil grin came to Faith's lips, “...get in the passenger side, I'll drive.”

“Oh nooo...” Dawn moaned.

0=0=0=0Outside the Admin Block.

Hiding behind some dumpsters, Clang looked around at the two men with him, the attack hadn't been quite as effective as he'd hoped. Now it appeared he only had these two followers left to finish the task. Shrugging, he resigned himself to following the dark goddess to the bitter end. Just as he'd almost admitted defeat, a fire door burst open not fifty yards away from him. Looking up in surprise he saw the Chosen One and her friend burst from the door and run towards the only parked car in sight.

Sending heart felt praises to the goddess for giving him this last chance of redeeming himself in her eyes. He ordered the two men with him to prepare their weapons. Taking the disposable rocket launcher off his shoulder one of the men prepared it for firing as the other covered the two women with his pistol.

“Hurry, hurry,” Clang encouraged the man with the rocket launcher to move faster.

Already the two women had reached the car and were climbing in, any moment now the engine would start and they'd drive away and out of his reach. Glancing at the man with the launcher, Clang breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the man with the weapon on his shoulder.

“Fire when ready!” Clang ordered as the car shot across the car park, gravel flying from its wheels.

With a great 'whoosh' the rocket leapt from the launcher and sped towards the car. Just as it hit, the driver must have tried to take evasive action, but she was too late. The rocket hit, its warhead easily defeated the metal of the car's body work and exploded with an ear numbing 'BANG!'. The car swerved into the ditch next to the road and started to burn fiercely. Jumping for joy the two followers celebrated another successful sacrifice to the Dark Goddess, as Clang sent his heart felt thanks to the goddess.

0=0=0=0

Sensing something coming towards them from her left, Faith swerved and drove the car into the roadside ditch, grabbing hold of Dawn, she opened her door and rolled out onto the grass just as the rocket hit and blew up their car.

“Fuck!” Faith cried as she lay on top of Dawn and watched their car go up in flames, “That's gonna be difficult to explain on the insurance claim!”

“What?” Dawn crawled out from under Faith.

“Come on Dawnie we gotta move,” Faith climbed to her feet pulling Dawn up behind her, using the smoke from the wreaked car as cover they made off across the field towards the path that led down to the beach.

“Where are we going?” Dawn called as she followed Faith through the long grass.

“I don't know,” Faith called back, “but there's gotta be somewhere safe on this damn island!”

0=0=0=0