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This story is No. 2 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The second (much longer) installment in the Waifs and Strays AU. Covers season 1. Please READ THE SERIES INTRODUCTION!

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1598780,0851591498403,41728 May 115 Jul 14No

Electric showers and demonic hackers

Author’s note:

Well first hints at the first major crossover dropped yesterday… In case you had not noticed, I do not own Charmed or any related properties. In case you had, I hope you enjoyed the short appearance.

Now we continue the exciting ( I hope) adventures. I hope the developments in the familial way are still believable. A nasty cliffhanger, I know. You won’t have to wait long, if everything goes right the next chapter should be up tomorrow and the sequel will start pretty soon.

Do forgive the slow development, this mostly character driven AU after all. Reviews of all developments, private or otherwise, welcomed.

Chapter 21: Electric Showers and demonic Hackers

It was the next day. Buffy was worried and Xander was near frantic. Willow had been absent for the first four periods without notice of illness and Xander was about ready to head to the Rosenberg house and find out what was going on. Buffy had barely talked him down from doing so by calling Mom who’d promised to check. She was slowly changing for PE when Willow burst in, almost bumping into two girls at the door.

Buffy was relieved but also a bit annoyed and tried to keep it out of her voice. “Whoa! You're the Late Girl.”

Willow looked evasive. “I overslept.” She grimaced. “Mom called me.”

Buffy nodded knowingly. “Till fifth period? Talkin' to Malcolm last night?”

“Yeah.” Willow smiled dreamily. ”What?”

“Nothing.”

“You're having an expression.”

Buffy tried to look innocent. “I'm not. But if I was, it'd be saying, 'This just isn't like you.'”

Willow bristled. “Not like me to have a boyfriend?”

Buffy looked appalled and interested at the same time. “He's boyfriendly?”

Willow was obviously confused. “I don't understand why you don't want me to have this. I mean, boys don't chase me around all the time. I thought you'd be happy for me.”

Buffy tried to bury her growing concern. “I just want you to be sure. To meet him face to face. In daylight, in a crowded place with some friends. Y'know, before you become all... obsessive.”

Willow gave her a disappointed look. “Malcolm and I really care about each other. Big deal if I blow off a couple classes.”

Buffy pounced on the statement. “I thought you said you overslept.”

Willow sighed. “Malcolm said you wouldn't understand.”

Buffy gave her a cool look. “Malcolm was right. We don’t. And after school, I suggest you call Mom.”

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It was still warm in the computer lab. The windows were open but the light breeze was hot itself and hardly brought relief from the heat given off by the burring computers. Buffy came in, walking cautiously. She spotted Dave and went over to him.

“Dave?” Buffy sighed. *What is it with geeks and computers? He’s like Will!* She grinned remembering how Dave had looked at Willow in the library. *I wonder…Dave equals Malcolm? It might be a way for a shy guy to make an approach…*

“Hey there, Dave. Anybody home?” She lightly laid her hand on the boy’s shoulder and he jumped in his seat.

Dave gave her a shy smile while blinking at her. “Oh, what do you want?”

“I wanted to ask you something if you have a minute.”

Dave looked at the clock on his desktop. “What is it?”

“Well, you're a computer geek... genius, and, uh, I sort of have a technical problem. If I wanted to find out something about someone, i-if someone e-mailed me, could I trace the letter?”

Dave looked at her with a little pity for the not-really tech literate. “Well, you could pull up somebody's profile based on their user name.”

Buffy nodded. “But they write the profile themselves, right? And so they could say anything they wanted.”

Dave seemed a little impressed. “True.”

Buffy grinned at him. “Wow! I had knowledge!” Dave smiled at her enthusiasm and Buffy continued. “Well, is there a way to find out exactly where a letter, an e-letter came from? I mean, the actual location of the computer?”

Dave considered her question. “That's a challenge.”

“'Cause, you see, Willow's got this boyfriend, Malcolm, and to tell you the truth, I think...”

Dave interrupted her, his face and tone annoyed. “Leave Willow alone.”

“What do you mean?”

Dave’s tone became insistent and aggravated. “That's none of your business.”

Buffy blinked. *Heh. So he is Malcolm. Well that’s not so bad. A bit of coaching…* “Dave, are you Malcolm?”

Dave turned back to his PC. “Of course not.” He started typing quickly, barely looking at the keyboard or the screen, his eyes seeming far away as lines of code developed on the screen.

Buffy was more than a little started at the sudden dismissal. “Dave, what's going on?”

“Look, I'll talk to you later, okay? I've got work to do.”

Buffy left, letting out a breath as she exited the lab. “So do I.”

Fritz, seated behind his own computer watched her go as she passed him, his face empty but his eyes full of suspicion.

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The library was cool and full of the scent of old books, as well as the glue and the paper Giles used to treat his wounded babies. Buffy followed Giles down the stairs to the counter.

“I'm telling you, something is going on. It's not just Willow. Dave, Fritz, they're all wicked jumpy.”

Giles sighed. “Those boys aren't sparklingly normal as it is.”

Buffy had a sudden flashback to the mantis woman and the difficulty he’d had to convince, and the Hyena possession. “Giles, trust me.”

Giles nodded encouragingly.” I-I do! Y-Your track record for sensing supernatural problems has been excellent. I- Its just… I-I-I really don't know how to advise you. Things involved with a computer fill me with a childlike terror. Now, if it were a nice ogre or some such I'd be more in my element. Well, I-I suppose you could, um, tail Dave, see if he's up to something.”

Buffy looked at him as if he’d suggested she paint herself purple and dance naked in the middle of the campus.  “Follow Dave? What, in dark glasses and a trench coat? Please. I can work this out myself.”

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After school Buffy waited outside in an ancient ford while Hurst very calmly pretended to tinker with the engine. Buffy was pouting but an innocent question to the bodyguard had resulted in her mission being pre empted. Dave got into his car, started it and drove off.

“Can’t I wear a dark coat? Sunglasses? I mean isn’t that sort of traditional for tailing people?”

Hurst gave her a pained look. “Miss Buffy… I may not be as good at this as Lewis, but I assure you that dark coats and glasses in California make people think ‘weird Goth following me and wanting to mug me’. It’s hardly an inconspicuous look.”

“Buffy. You throw me stakes, you watch my six; you call me Buffy.”

Hurst smiled. “I don’t watch your six, Miss Buffy. Mr. Liam does that. Ms. Summers had some very distinct words about us watching her daughters’ sixes.”

“M- Mr. Liam?”

“Watches you like a hawk Miss, always there when you go into combat.”

“Oh…Hurst? Do you have a first name?”

“None that you need to know, Miss Buffy.”

“Can I drive?”

“Miss Buffy… I’ve seen you drive during lessons… and your mother left very clear instructions on that as well.”

Buffy sighed and pouted. This whole servant and bodyguard thing was going to take time to get used to.

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They drove past the fenced in building, with a large sign saying CRD on it at every gate.  Hurst instructed Buffy to use the binoculars he had with him and looked the place over himself, not stopping for very long and taking note of the security around the building.

Dave had driven up to the loading dock in back, getting out to talk to a technician before going inside.

Hurst noted that a camera was angled to catch cars driving by on the road but assumed they were far enough away and of too little significance to register with the security personnel.

Fritz sat in the school lab and watched as the old Ford with the Summers bitch in it passed by the factory of the glorious lord, her image captured by the camera at the lord’s will. She was clearly recognizable in the close up and Fritz almost snarled at her image. “She's too close. What do I do?”

The lord gave his answer on the screen of his computer. Kill her.

Fritz smiled coldly. “Party.”

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Buffy swung her legs as she sat on the library study table. “Whatever Dave is into, it's large.”

Giles ran a hand through his hair. “What was the name of this place?”

“It said CRD. But, I couldn't get close enough to see what it was. Hurst promised to call it in and do some checking.”

Xander piped in. “Calax Research and Development. It's a computer research lab. Third largest employer in Sunnydale till it closed down last year.” He smiled a little bitterly as the others looked at him in surprise. “What, I can't have information sometimes?”

Giles cleared his throat. “Well, it-it's just somewhat unprecedented.”

Xander shrugged “Well, my uncle used to work there. I-in a floor sweeping capacity.”

Buffy ran her sweaty palms over her jeans. “But it closed?”

Xander nodded. “Uh-huh.”

Buffy scowled at her swinging feet. “Looked pretty functional from where I stood. I don't have a clue what they were doing.”

Xander sat down next to her. “And what do they need Dave for?”

Buffy looked at Giles and then Xander. “Something about computers, right? I mean, he is off-the-chart smart.”

Giles leaned against the counter. “We still don't know an enormous amount. Whatever is going on there may be on the up-and-up.”

Xander shook his head and spoke decisively. “No, if CRD opened, it would've been on the news. It would be way too important for the local economy.”

Buffy nodded in agreement. “Besides, I can just tell something's wrong. My spider sense is tingling.”

Giles gave her a look. “Your... spider sense?”

Buffy gave him an apologetic shrug and grin. “Pop culture reference. Sorry.”

Giles suppressed a groan at her irreverent attitude to her Gifts. ”Yes, well, ahem, I think we're still at a stand still. Uh, uh, short of breaking into the place, I don't see...”

Buffy grinned. “Breaking in!” Buffy slid of the table. “Then this is the plan!”

A dry voice came from the door. “I think not.”

All three slewed round. Simon walked to the table.

“Your mother would have words with you if you tried that young lady, certainly if you involved Xander.”

Buffy gulped. “I-I ummm… Sorry?”

“I won’t tell…this time. As nothing happened yet…”

Buffy let out a relieved breath.

“Whoever this Malcolm Black is, he seems to have a record that is only a record. Nno one recollects him at his school and even my best techs can’t chase his location down. And for the past two weeks there’ve been concerted attacks on my company’s systems.”

Gilles took off his glasses. “Oh dear…have you suffered great losses?”

“Well, he got through the outer defences…which no one has ever succeeded in doing, but the troubling thing is we can’t find him…that’s never happened as far as I understand.”

“I can help with tonight’s dilemma…”  Simon smiled then leaned against the lending desk. “I owned a lot of stock in Calax, still do actually…I warned them because of their breaches of numerous ethical boundaries. The direction of their research worried me and they assured me they would discontinue their work…when I found out they hadn’t, I pulled their funding and loans and the directors skipped with the remaining liquid assets and some of the experimental work… And they went into insolvency and shut down. As the primary owner of the debt, the buildings belong to me…so getting in to them hardly means breaking and entering.”

Buffy sighed. “I suppose you’re going to do this?”

“You can come along. The new keycards you have will open most buildings, at least the ones not containing national secrets.”

Xander and Buffy gaped. “W-What?”

“I doubt I’d get you on the National security register at your age, no matter if you’re my children.”

Buffy took out the hard plastic card that had replaced the plasticized one she’d gotten earlier.” Really?”

“Yes. You might need it some day. I admit that I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for your… line of work.”

 

Giles looked relieved. “Well at least I won’t have to condone that you illegally enter the…”

Ms. Calendar entered the library.

Giles continued without a stumble “...data into the file so the book will be listed by title as well as by author.”

Jenny gave the group in the room a wary look, and then turned to Giles. “I just came by to check your new data base, make sure your cross reference table isn't glitching. 'Cause I'm guessing you haven't gone anywhere near it.”

Giles glared at her. “Uh, I'm still sorting through the chaos you left behind you.”

Ms. Calendar returned his glare. “Hmm.” She turned her attention towards the pupils. “You're here again? Kids really dig the library, don't cha?”

Buffy tried perky. ”We're literary!”

Xander floundered. “To read makes our speaking English good.”

Simon snorted. “You must be the inestimable Miss Calendar. Buffy, why don’t you take your brother and feed him? I think lack of nutrition is interfering with his speech. There are some things I need to discuss with Mr. Giles.”

Buffy looked embarrassed and grabbed Xander’s arm. “Yeah. We'll be going now.

Giles spoke at their backs. “I-I’ll be expecting to see some progress on English composition.”

Buffy nodded. “Sure Giles. Thanks!” The door closed behind them ands she gave her brother an annoyed look.  “Makes our speaking English good?”

Xander hunkered down defensively. “I panicked, okay?”

Simon turned to Giles. “Strange that he can be so eloquent at times and suddenly fall into gibberish. I wonder what causes it.” He glanced at Jenny from the corners of his eyes and the young woman blushed a little. “But no matter, I realize you want no payment for the time and effort you spend on my children, but I’d like to make a gesture nevertheless. So a shipment of books will arrive for your use after I’ve been through the digitized version of the catalogue to see what your needs are.”

He winked at Jenny. “And for the time you spend with Willow… I believe a few of your computers in the lab could do with replacement?”

Jenny gaped. Giles blinked. “I thought so. Good day to you both. If you’ll forgive me, I’ve got to get back to work.”

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It was hot in the computer lab, but Willow had chosen her usual cubicle below the open window and she was quite cool. Her biological parents would not be home until late and she had time enough to chat with her boyfriend. She felt an internal glow as she contemplated that word and concept: Boyfriend.

I've never felt this way about anyone before, Willow.

I know what you mean. I feel like you know me better than anyone.

I do.

Do you think we should... meet?

I think we should soon.

I'm nervous.

I'm not. Isn't that strange?

That's what Buffy doesn't understand, how comfortable you can make me feel.

Buffy just makes trouble. That's why she got kicked out of her old school.

Willow paused in the easy flow of typing, puzzled at how he knew that. How did you know that?

It's on her permanent record. Willow did not answer, still confused and puzzled. You must have mentioned it.

Willow typed again, her touch hesitant as doubt still played on her mind. I guess.

Let's not worry about her anymore.

I have to sign off. I'll talk to you later.

Don't.

Bye.

She turned off the monitor, getting up and leaving quickly, a worried expression on her face.

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The library was still fairly cool, but the atmosphere was heated.

Jenny Calendar was to say it, mildly, annoyed and exasperated. She’d never, ever met a man as firmly grounded in the middle ages as Rupert Giles. “You're a snob!”

Giles voice was incredulous. “I am no such thing.”

“Oh, you are a *big* snob. You, you think that knowledge should be kept in these carefully guarded repositories where only a handful of white guys can get at it.”

“Nonsense! I simply don't adhere to a, a knee-jerk assumption that because something is new, it's better.”

Jenny laid a protective hand on the computer, almost caressing it. “This isn't a fad, Rupert! We are creating a new society here.”

Giles replied pithily. ”A society in which human interaction is all but obsolete? In which people can be completely manipulated by technology, well, well... Thank you, I'll pass.”

“Well, ahem, I think you'll be very happy here with your musty, old books.” *Actually this one looks pretty interesting…and old…and hmmm a touch of magic? Oh yes, I’ve got to pick up that Ritualis Cretanensis and Hexen im Schwarzwald.* She picked up the hefty old volume and felt a tingle of power.

“These musty old books have a great deal more to say than in any of your... fabulous web pages.”

Jenny leafed through the book and she sensed the magic. For some reason her othersenses were getting stronger again and she was worried. She hid her discomfort and paged through the volume, running her fingers lovingly down the smooth parchment. “Hmm. This one doesn't have a whole lot more to say.”

Giles stared at the singularly blank volume.

Jenny looked up at him. ”What is it, like a diary?”

“How odd. I haven't looked through all the volumes yet, I didn't, um...” Closing the book he noted the etching of Moloch on the cover. His eyes unfocused a little as his mind skipped through the possibilities.

Jenny almost prodded him in frustration. “So? What is it?”

Giles gave her a puzzled look. ”Uh, nothing, um, a, a diary, yes. I imagine that's what it is. * Please let it not be what I think it is.* “Well, it's been so nice talking to you.” He hastened into his office carrying the tome.

Ms. Calendar looked after him in bemusment. “We were fighting.”

Giles gave her an absentminded look. “Must do it again sometime, yes... Bye, now.”

Jenny murmured to herself as Giles disappeared. “Okay…that was just weird.” She shook herself and left the library.

Buffy was walking out of the school when Dave came up to her.

“Buffy!”

“Dave! How're you doing?”

“Okay. Uh, look, I'm sorry about yesterday. I haven't been getting much sleep lately, y'know?”

“Don't sweat it. ‘S Happened to me too.”

 Dave gave her an awkward look. “Willow was looking for you.”

Buffy grinned internally. *Bingo! Talks to Willow and behaves better… Dave has got it bad.* “Good, I need to talk to her. Do you know where she is?”

“She said she'd be in the, in the girls' locker room.” Dave got a slightly hunted expression on his face as he mentioned girls’ locker room in the same sentence as Willow and Buffy had to stifle a giggle.

“Great. Thanks.” She looked at him for a moment, amused at his uncomfortable expression. *Good grief. Is he actually thinking about Willow in the locker rooms right now?* She left and Dave stared after her, thoughtfully.

The Locker room was deserted and Buffy wended her way through the lockers until she reached their aisle.

“Will?” Walking on a bit further in case Willow was under the shower Buffy called out again. ”Willow?”

Fritz turned on the water in the shower, observing that the exposed wires he’d prepared would be in reach soon. Then he left, quickly.

Buffy approached the showers, hearing the water running. *Weird. Wills avoids showering here like the plague.* “Will? You taking a shower?” She saw the empty showers and the running water. “I guess not.” She went into the shower to turn of the water, missing the exposed wires and called out to the empty space. ”This is how droughts get started. Responsibility guys!”

She turned the water off. The water crept toward the exposed wires. Buffy was startled by a male voice in a place where that should not happen. Dave’s voice.

“Buffy! Get out!”

Buffy turned swiftly, noting the wires out of the corner of her eyes and jumped. A scattering arc of electricity followed her as she flew through the air, to land heavily on a changing bench and roll off onto the floor. Dave ran out, leaving Buffy to stare at the empty showers, the flickering lights and the smoke coming of her shoes.

 

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It was hot and dark in the computer lab. The computers hummed softly, ready to respond when the monitors were turned on. Dave came in and did just that. He gestured agitatedly at the video link up.

”I can't do it! I'm not gonna do it.”

But you promised.

Dave faced the screen desperately. “Buffy isn't a threat to you! Stop with it.” *She’s Willow’s friend.*

The project is almost complete. You won't have to do it again.

Dave dropped his bag, whimpering. “Oh, I can't!” *Willow’d never forgive me.*

I've shown you a new world, Dave. Knowledge, power... I can give you everything. All I want is your love.

“No. This isn't right. None of it is. And you can’t give me what I really want.” *You want her yourself. And I can’t let you do that to her.*

The scratch pad flipped up on the monitor and letters formed words and sentences as Dave watched, with eyes widening in fear.

I'm sorry. I've been a terrible person.

I'm a coward, and I can't go on living like this.

Forgive me, Mom and Dad. At least now I'll

have some peace. Remember me.

Love, Dave.

Backing away from the computer trembling Dave failed to see the waiting figure of Fritz by the window.

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It was cool in the library and only a few lights were on. Buffy sat at the table and Xander paced.

Xander growled. “I'm gonna kill Dave!”

Buffy tried to calm her foster brother down. “He tried to warn me.”

“Warn you that he set you up?” He turned to Giles. “Is she gonna be okay?”

Giles nodded. “She was only grounded for a Moment.” He sat down, handing Buffy a mug. “Still, if you'd been anyone but the Slayer...” He ran a hand across his face. “I took the liberty of calling Dr. Meier…”

Buffy winced. “Who’ll no doubt tell Mom…I’m gonna be grounded for a month.” Then she looked at them with a sad expression. “Tell me the truth: how's my hair?”

Xander smiled encouragingly. “It's great! It's your best hair ever!”

Giles agreed quickly, knowing his Slayer’s sometimes obsession with her looks. “Uh, oh, yes.”

Buffy looked comforted. “I just... I don't understand what would make Dave do a thing like that.”

Giles gave her a worried look. “I think perhaps I do.”

Getting up he retrieved the empty book from the bookcage and held it up for them to see.

“Does this look familiar to either of you?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. Looks like a book.”

Xander nodded sagely.  “I knew that one.”

Giles sighed and sat down on the table. “In the dark ages the souls of demons were sometimes trapped in certain volumes. They remained locked within the book, harmless, unless the pages were read aloud. Unless I'm mistaken, this is Moloch, the Corrupter. A very deadly and seductive demon. He draws people to him with promises of love, power, knowledge. Preys on impressionable minds.”

Xander pulled at his lip. “Like Dave's.”

Giles responded glumly. “Dave, and who knows how many others.”

Buffy pointed at the book. “And Moloch is inside that book?”

Giles opened the book displaying the empty pages. “Not anymore.”

Xander gawped in disbelief. “You released Moloch?”

Buffy added her two cents. “Way to go!”

Giles countered with irritation in his voice. “I didn't read it! That dreadful Calendar woman found it and, and it was already blank.”

Buffy felt the etching on the front. “Okay, so a powerful demon with horns is walking around Sunnydale, and nobody's noticed? That’s going a bit far even with the Sunnydale ability to ignore the Wiggy”

Xander pulled his lip again. “I-if he's so big and strong, why bother with Dave? I mean, why didn't he just attack Buffy himself?”

Giles’ shoulders slumped.”I don't know. And I don't know who could've read that book. It wasn't even in English. And the alphabet used is a special code.”

Buffy rubbed the front of the book again, scowling. “Where was it?”

Giles pointed. “Uh, in a pile with others that were, um, uh, scanned.”

They looked over at the PC. Giles and Buffy exchanged a worried glance.

Xander ran a hand through his hair and frowned. “And that released the demon? Wouldn’t understanding be necessary for such a release?”

Giles gave him a look. “Interesting point…but apparently not.”

Buffy nodded. “And not really released…No, he's not out here. He's in there.” She pointed at the PC.

Giles added a clarification. “The scanner read the book. It brought Moloch out as information to be absorbed.”

Buffy nodded grimly. “He's gone binary on us.”

Xander groaned. “Okay, for those of us in our studio audience, who are me? You guys are seriously saying that Moloch is in this computer?”

Buffy gestured expansively. ”And every computer connected to it by a modem.”

Giles ran a hand through his hair. “He's everywhere.”

Xander groaned again. “What are we gonna do?”

Giles rubbed his chin. ”Willow scanned him into her file. It may be... a futile gesture, but I suggest we, um, uh, delete it.”

Buffy nodded. “Solid!” She went to the PC and sat down, hand reaching for the monitor.

Xander looked worried. “Don't get too close, we don’t know what he can do.”

Buffy nodded. “Okay. Okay.” She turned on the monitor. “So which file do you think it is? Willow?”

She typed. “That's probably it, right? I'll just delete the whole thing.” Dragging the icon to the trash folder she reared back on shock as Moloch’s face appeared on screen.

The demon snarled at her. “Stay away from Willow! It is none of your business!”

Buffy shuddered. “So that's what Malcolm looks like. Well, so much for delete file.”

Giles looked worried. “This is very bad.”

Xander ran his hand over his face. “Are we overreacting? He's in a computer! But what can he do?”

Buffy looked at him, craning her neck. “You mean besides convince a perfectly nice kid to try and kill me? I don't know. How about mess up all the medical equipment in the world?”

Giles chimed in. “Randomize traffic signals.”

Buffy continued. “Access launch codes for our nuclear missiles.”

Giles added thoughtfully. “Destroy the world's economy.”

Buffy sniffed. “I think I pretty much capped it with that nuclear missile thing.”

Giles leaned against the bookcase and conceded. “Right, yours was best.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “What I meant was, does he have access to those things. This guy’s a fourteenth century demon right? What does he know about encryption? Anyway what can we do about it?”

Buffy and Giles looked at him in astonishment and he shrugged. “Willow’s been talking to me about computers for years…”

Buffy shook herself. “Right I think the first thing we do is find Willow. She's probably talking to him right now. God, that creeps me out!”

Xander looked at Giles. “What does he want with Willow?” He paled. “Something sacrificial?”

Buffy shuddered. “Let's never find out.” She got up. “Okay, I'm gonna check the computer lab, and you guys call her home. Try her mobile, but she may have left it behind or not charged it.”

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It was dark in the computer lab and stiflingly hot. Buffy’s nose wrinkled. Something smelled like…urine? Her heart started beating a touch faster.

“Buffy?”

She whirled around. Simon was standing there, medical bag in hand. “Giles said you’d be here…” He looked her over. “I’ll want to give you a complete check over after this; partial electrocution is not something to joke about.”

Buffy growled. “Oh, and how are we going to explain that to Mom?”

Simon gave her a calm look. “With the truth, someone tried to kill you. I’m an M.D. and I think you’d prefer me over the hospital?”

Buffy did not answer and entered the lab, followed by Simon.  “Willow?”

The PC's suddenly came on, startling both of them. Simon crinkled his nose and grabbed her arm and hustled her out.

“Simon!”

“No Buffy. I don’t want you to see what’s in there.”

Buffy gasped. Simon took her arm. “I’ll tell you…but you shouldn’t see it.”

She nodded and he entered alone, exiting shortly after, phone in hand. “Hurst, I need you inside. Comp Sci lab. Hurry.” He turned towards Buffy and handed her a note. “It’s a young man, called Dave. Go tell Giles and find Willow.”

Buffy nodded and ran. Simon went back into the lab.

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The library was well lit and cool, the skylight windows open.  Xander was on the phone trying to reach Willow. She hadn’t answered the previous three tries and her mobile was not responding. ”No answer.”

Giles swore. “Damn it!”

Xander hung up. “Well, it wasn't busy either, so she's not online. The Rosenbergs only have a phone connection and not a dedicated extra line like Mom and Dad.”

Giles smiled in spite of the gravity of the situation as Xander referred to his foster parents in that manner.

Buffy ran into the library, Xander turned to her, fear in his eyes. “She's not at her parents. And she doesn’t answer her mobile.”

Giles took in the slight tremble of her hands. “What did you find?”

Xander worriedly walked up to her, hands reaching out to gently clasp the blonde’s upper arms, giving her support. “Willow isn't...”

Buffy shook her head. “Dave. He's… dead. Simon is taking care of it.”

Giles swallowed. “How?”

Buffy gave him a sad look, handing over the suicide note. ”Well, it looks like suicide.”

Xander read it and winced. “With a little help from my friends?”

Buffy nodded. “I'd guess Fritz. Or the other zomboids from CRD. Okay, Xand you and I are gonna go to Willow's house. Giles, you need to come up with a way to get Moloch out of the 'Net.”

“I, I have records of the ceremonies, but, but that's for a creature of the flesh. Th-this could be something completely different.”

Buffy gestured impatiently. “Then get Ms. Calendar. Maybe she can help you.”

Giles gave her an irritated look. “Well, even if she could, how am I going convince her that there's a demon on the Internet?”

Buffy glared. “Okay, fine, then you can stay here and come up with a better plan. C'mon Xand.”
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