Chapter Twenty Two
They were strong. Stronger than the last vampires Dawn had encountered. Their hands sizzled as they touched her, but the pain didn't drive them off. Sam's device blinded them, but didn't make them turn away.
Still, Dawn and her group managed to get down into the basement, with minimal casualties.
Dawn ran to the storage room that held the TARDIS, opened it, then raced towards the ship. TARDIS key in hand, she jammed it into the lock. The TARDIS gave a soft, scared moan.
The key didn't turn.
"Come on," Dawn pleaded with the ship, trying the key again. "Open up!"
But the ship must have been sicker than Buffy thought, because the TARDIS wouldn't yield.
A rush of screams behind her, and Dawn turned, to discover a group of vampires mowing through the crowd of humans Dawn had been trying to rescue, the invasion force moving into the basement from the ground floor.
Dawn slammed her hand against a panel of the TARDIS door, shouting, "Open up!"
This time, the key turned.
But before Dawn could get inside, herself — let alone getting anyone else in — she was grabbed from behind and dragged away by a vampire, his fangs by her throat. Her TARDIS key was still in the lock — no protection from it, now. She struck out, but the vampire was unaffected.
"Hey!" shouted Sam.
The vampire spun around, then recoiled as a bullet punctured through his chest, and dropped Dawn. Dawn scrambled away, leaping back towards Sam.
"They're everywhere," Riley said, beside them, gun in hand. He spun around, shooting randomly into the crowd of vampires.
Sam yanked the gun out of his hands. "There are non-vampires in there, too!" she accused. "You'll hit the humans!"
"Those humans aren't going to be alive for very much longer if we don't get rid of the vamps!" Riley retorted, grabbing the gun back.
Kennedy was swinging her sword at the vampire nearest them, trying to protect Willow and Xander. The vampire grabbed the sword from her, and twisted its blade into a knot around Kennedy's wrist. Then tossed her over his shoulder.
She thudded against the far wall.
Dawn grabbed Sam's arm, and tried to pull her back towards the TARDIS. The open door, spilling light into the basement from the console room, was repelling the vampires a little. But it didn't abate the death and carnage around them.
"We've got to get people to the TARDIS!" Dawn shouted at Sam. "We've got to…"
But she trailed off, as all the vampires around them dropped into a sudden silence. Pausing in their actions, as if listening.
In the blink of an eye, half of them disappeared.
Jack's little coming back to life act had
unnerved the vampires. They hadn't expected to see him, again. Or for him to continue to come back, every time they killed him.
That was one point to the Slayers.
(A zillion to the vampires, for getting in in the first place.)
So, yes, Jack's resurrection trick had distracted the TBVs for a little while. But not nearly long enough, as Buffy could see them pouring down into the basement.
She lunged out, trying to stop the rush down towards the others, but the other vampires, getting sick of Jack, had now turned their attention on Buffy, and struck out at her, full force.
Buffy dodged, ducked, and rolled, trying, desperately, to stay alive.
She knew she couldn't kill the TBVs. Could barely even hurt them. But at least she could provide a distraction. Make sure she was strong enough, quick enough, sure-footed enough to avoid their blows, so that at least some were up here, fighting her, instead of down there.
Buying Dawn enough time to get as many people as she could into the TARDIS.
Buffy ducked, dodged, weaved through the vampires, following her every instinct, thinking on her feet, doing her best to distract them and delay them. Except… the weird thing was, they already seemed kind of distracted. Like they could sense something else, going on, something far away, something that worried them…
Then, they all fell silent. And paused, as if listening for something Buffy couldn't hear.
Then half vanished. Just like that.
"Okay, then," said Buffy. She turned to the other vampires. "Anyone else feel like vanishing, or…?"
Then it struck her.
The sword tumbled through her fingers, clanging to the floor. Jack shouted in alarm, as Buffy doubled up, her hands clutching her head, her pulse racing, her breath coming rapidly.
It was like a thousand needles stabbing into her mind, all at once. No, more like… she'd been plunged into icy cold water! She struggled, tried to claw at the sensation, fight against it. But it swallowed her up, in an instant, transporting her to… A swordfight. Buffy could see a swordfight in front of her. No, not see, exactly, she could… know a swordfight right in front of her. The same way she knew the identities of the two men fighting it. The man with sleek, combed back salt-and-pepper hair, beady black eyes, and a cruel, smug smile on his face — Sebastian Grail. An immortal man, invulnerable to all harm, who had grown twisted and evil over the centuries. And the other was herself — but not herself. The body whose eyes she was peering out of. The body attired in a green frock coat, with shoulder-length, chestnut colored wavy hair. She was looking out through the Doctor's eyes. Sebastian sliced at the Doctor, taunting him, mocking him, shouting at him to surrender. Buffy could feel the sting of every blow of Grail's sword, biting into her own body. And then, without warning, the Doctor slashed back. Sebastian Grail cried out, clutching at his arm. "You… you only touched me," Grail protested, "but… it burns!" "It sucks the alien energy from your body, Grail," said the Doctor, raising his own sword in his hands. "It's a rustless weapon. The ancients knew what they were talking about. This is where the pure iron myths came from."
And in a flash, Buffy was back. Back in the real world. The message over, the pain gone, the moment of interference done. She glanced around herself, and realized that only a single second had passed, on the outside.
All Buffy needed.
Buffy kicked away the steel sword she'd been using, and grabbed one of the pure-iron swords that hung on the walls of the Institute as decoration.
She thanked her lucky stars that Dawn had gotten seriously bored, a few months ago, and had started sharpening all their display swords. Even though Buffy had yelled at her for doing so.
But Buffy had been wrong. Because now, thanks to Dawn, Buffy had a weapon.
(Just like she'd wished for, from the Doctor-Protecting Super Entity. A weapon that could defeat the vampires. And an army with which to wield it.)
One of the TBVs lunged at her, but Buffy darted out of the way. Pure iron sword in her hand, she slashed at the vampire, almost missing him, but still managing to scrape his arm.
He hissed, yanking the arm away. His eyes shocked. Scared. Worried.
It had hurt him. The weapon had hurt him. Really
hurt him, in a way he hadn't expected. But… no celebrating yet, Buffy. After all, she couldn't just start striking at random. It was a pure iron sword — against a vampire's thick skin, Buffy knew she'd only get one or two hits at the most.
Buffy circled the vampire as the vampire circled her, both eyeing one another. Then the vampire rushed at Buffy, hunched over so she couldn't strike the heart as easily. Buffy spun out of the way, then leapt on his back, and in one fell swoop, severed the vampire's head from its shoulders.
The vampire turned to dust, and Buffy thunked down onto the ground.
The moment Buffy's vampire dusted, every other vampire around her froze. No, every other vampire in the entire Institute froze. The vampire Buffy had just dusted hadn't made a sound — there had been no way the others would be able to tell. And yet, the moment it happened, they all snapped their heads around to stare at where the vampire had once been, their fallen colleague. And Buffy could recognize the look in every one of their yellow eyes.
It was fear.
As a group, the TBVs touched a button mounted on their belts, and vanished into the air.
Buffy grabbed at the newly-resurrected Jack, gasping back to life. Yanking him up off the floor, as he stumbled after her, trying to regain his footing as they both ran.
"They're gone," Jack gasped. He managed to regain his footing, then glanced at Buffy. "What did you…?"
"Explain later!" Buffy shouted back, as she emerged into the area where the other group had been ambushed.
There were bodies everywhere. Slayers wounded — dying or already dead — and others, normal human employees, struggling right alongside them.
Faith staggered forwards, looking pretty beat up, but still able to stand.
"Found out how to kill them," Buffy said. "Doctor told me. Telepathic message." She raised up the sword. "Pure iron sword."
All hope in Faith was extinguished, the moment she heard the solution. "You're joking," she said. "Pure iron
"Don't knock it," Buffy said.
Faith grabbed the blade from Buffy, staring at it. It had been bent, under the force of Buffy's blow, at a 30 degree angle.
Buffy grabbed it back, and did her best to straighten the blade.
"I thought pure iron swords didn't work," Dawn ventured.
"They'll have to," said Buffy. "We're not done, yet."
Faith looked around at the others. Then back at Buffy.
"The Doctor told me one other thing," said Buffy. "And I need everyone who can still stand to grab a pure iron sword, and come with me."
"There's no way we have that many pure iron swords just… hanging around!" Kennedy insisted. "They don't work
, Buffy. That's why mankind stopped using them, the moment we invented steel."
Buffy remembered the wish she'd made to that nameless Doctor-Protecting Entity. The one who altered the past, to give her what she wanted in her future.
"I've got a feeling," said Buffy, turning, "you'll find enough."
Jack caught up with Buffy, as she walked to the front lobby. "The Doctor. What else did he tell you?" he asked.
Buffy glanced at Jack. A genuine smile on her face, for the first time in what felt like forever.
"Where he is," she replied.