Previous parts are here
By Marcus L. Rowland
"Did I hear your phone really late last night?" Willow asked over breakfast the following Sunday.
"Yeah," Buffy said quietly. "Giles called. Tell you about it later, it's kinda private."
"Oh. Something I should be worrying about?"
"Is there a problem, Miss Summers?" Miss Fritton asked a few minutes later. "You seemed a little upset."
"My little sister's been staying with an old friend in Cleveland, he... um... phoned me last night." Buffy didn't say why.
"Oh dear. If I can help in any way, I do have some experience of the problems girls can encounter."
"I think it'll be okay," said Buffy. "It's kinda delicate, Willow knows about it so if you don't mind I'll just talk it over with her for now. But if it escalates at all I'll certainly ask your advice."
"And my door is always open, of course. Well, locked, I have to keep the riff-raff out, but you can knock."
"So what's wrong with Dawn?" asked Willow, when they were alone in her office. Buffy moved her hand to her ear, and Willow activated a cloaking spell that would muffle their voices to an unintelligible mumble. "Okay, it should be safe to talk. What's wrong with Dawn?"
"Nothing," said Buffy, "I just kinda let Miss Fritton draw her own conclusions. Giles had some news about the Book of Moloch."
"He finally found something?"
"Yeah. Or rather Wesley did, and Angel passed the word back to Giles. Seems that Wolfram and Hart London imported a copy from the world with giant hedgehogs about a week before you found it."
Willow asked "Who bought it?"
"Angel doesn't know, that kind of information doesn't get passed around, and he has no way to get at it. It was just mentioned in passing in the company quarterly report. Nobody from Angel's crew noticed at the time, it was buried in with a whole load of acquisitions and transactions."
"Darn. Is that it?"
"No," said Buffy. "A few days after we found that copy, Wolfram and Hart London put out a request for another one. But again it was kinda low key, nobody told us."
"Someone still wants it? What the hell for?"
"Someone did want it. That's what I'm getting to. On Wednesday Wolfram and Hart Berlin emailed all of the other branches, told them to stop looking, they'd found a copy in one of the troll dimensions. This time Wes spotted it. But it's probably already in Britain, he didn't see the message until Thursday."
"Wait a minute," said Willow. "Getting back to the original book... Wolfram and Hart London imported that copy a week before I found it?"
"About that, yes."
"Then we've been all wrong about this. I was assuming that someone had the book handy and decided to use it on us, but if it was a recent import it must have taken weeks to find a copy, the order must have been placed before we even applied at the Searle agency. It wasn't originally aimed at me at all, someone wanted to summon Moloch."
"So why dump it in your office?" asked Buffy.
"Now that," said Willow, "is the million-dollar question."
"No, the big question is what's happening to the new copy."
"Do you think we need backup?"
"Not yet," said Buffy. "No... wait a minute, let me think. Give me your phone, I need to make a couple of calls."
"Any packages?" Buffy asked the following morning, as the day's mailbag was unloaded from a Post Office van.
"There's always packages," said the grumpy postman. "Bloody kids get dozens of them. Magazines, clothes, that sort of thing."
"Oh, right," said Buffy. "What I'm looking for would be a book, sent from London, kinda heavy." She outlined the approximate dimensions of the previous book. "I need it for a lesson this morning, it'd help if I could grab it now."
"Nothing like that," said the postman. "Biggest is half that size."
"Okay," said Buffy, "maybe it'll turn up tomorrow. Wait a second... it didn't come in at the end of last week, did it? Maybe it went to the wrong person?"
"Not that I saw, and I did every run here last week."
"Okay... thanks, anyway."
She followed him to the school office and had a quick look at the post before admitting defeat. There was nothing even remotely large and heavy enough to be the Book of Moloch. But for some reason her spider sense was tingling, and she didn't quite know why. She went back to the dining hall and joined Willow for the end of breakfast.
"Anything?" asked Willow.
"You don't look happy about it."
"I've got a feeling we're missing something, and I can't quite pin it down."
After lunch Buffy had a free period, and went down to the library to make a few notes on the rules for cricket. She was beginning to suspect that the game must have been invented by the Watchers - she couldn't think of another sport played with sharpened wooden rods, easily usable as stakes, and heavy wooden bats, which would make neat clubs if she ever had to use one that way. She was wondering if it would be worth writing to Giles and asking him when she heard a faint whirr behind her, and Gwendolyn Post said "Miss Summers... could you help me for a moment?"
Buffy stood and turned to see her wheelchair at the bottom of a ramp that led between two different levels of the library. "Sure, what's the problem?"
"I think my battery needs recharging, the motors can't quite manage the slope, and the recharging point is behind my desk. If you could help me up the ramp..."
"Sure," said Buffy, gripping the handles and trying to pretend that it was moderately hard work.
"It can't have charged properly last night."
"Here we are," said Buffy, stopping at Post's desk. "D'you want me to plug it in for you?"
"That's all right," said Post, using a little joystick to manoeuvre it behind the desk. "Once I'm at the right spot it sorts itself out. It's quite a clever machine." There was a whining noise from under the seat, followed by a click, and an amber light lit on one of the arm rests. "There we are, it's recharging now. Ought to be done in an hour."
"What do you do while it's recharging?"
"In the library there's usually paperwork and records to organize. Upstairs the recharging point is next to my bed, it usually looks after itself while I sleep, but I've had this problem a couple of times before, I think the socket needs repairing. I'll have to get someone in to look at it."
"Right. Kinda clever really, I guess."
"When it works."
"I guess." Buffy went back to her books, with a feeling that she'd seen something important and missed its significance.
"There's still something bugging me," Buffy said that evening over tea, "a feeling at the back of my mind that I'm missing something. It was bad this morning, it's screaming at me now. Something I've seen, or that someone said, but I can't think what."
"Who have you talked to today?"
"Um... you, the postman, and the kids I was teaching before lunch. A few people while we were eating. Then I was in the library trying to get my head around the rules of cricket and talked to Post for a minute, after that there was fourth year netball, and I had to speak to the ambulance guy about that kid they were taking to hospital. That's about it, I think."
"And you were worried this morning?"
"Yeah. But the book couldn't have been delivered today, no way were any of the packages big enough."
"I wonder if they had some way to shrink it?" mused Willow. "Make it small enough and you might not have noticed."
"I doubt it," said Buffy. "About the largest thing in today's post was a package of CDs, and that came from Amazon."
"For one of the kids?"
"No, for the... oh crap."
"What?" asked Willow.
"When I was talking to Post I noticed there was some packaging in her waste basket, and there were a couple of CDs still in the box. I meant to say something, but we were talking about her wheelchair and I forgot."
"Don't you get it?" said Buffy, "When the kids scanned the book the first time around, they burned him onto a CD-ROM. It was a couple of days before he infected the computer network."
"Goddess. You think..."
"That Wolfram and Hart scanned the book and sent him to their customer on a disk, disguised as a package from Amazon."
"Okay. If you're right there'll probably still be some magical taint in the packaging. Let's get over there fast and check it out."
They gulped down the rest of the meal, and got out of the dining room as quickly and unobtrusively as they could. Seeing them go, Miss Fritton drained her own cup, went outside, and used her own cellphone. "The game, as they say, is afoot."
"Right you are then," said Flash Harry, "I'm on me way."
"Act nonchalant" said Buffy as they approached the library. "We don't want to tip her off we suspect anything."
"Especially if it isn't her," said Willow.
They walked in together, pretending to talk about an incident in Willow's chemistry class, and went towards the desk. One of the prefects was sitting behind it, reading a copy of Vogue and chewing gum."
"Is Miss Post around, Honor?" asked Willow.
"Gone out," said Honor.
"Upstairs. Said she needed to get something."
"Where's the elevator?"
"Lift? There isn't one."
"She's in a wheelchair," said Buffy. "There has to be an elevator to get upstairs."
"No there isn't."
"There must be," said Willow.
"It goes upstairs by itself," said Honor. "Dead clever, it is. Got gyroscopes and things."
"Then she could go anywhere in the building," said Willow. "We really got it wrong."
"There's the package," said Buffy, pointing at the bin. "But the CDs are gone."
"What CDs?" asked Honor.
"The CDs that were in that package," said Willow. "Hand them over."
"Hand them over," said Buffy, "or wrestling class tomorrow is gonna be even more painful than usual."
"Bloody hell." Honor reached into her bag and pulled out three jewel cases. Two contained rock albums, the third, labelled as a selection of Bach's masterworks, was empty. Willow ran her hand over it, nodded, and said "It was in here, all right."
"What was?" said a familiar voice.
Buffy and Willow looked around, to see Miss Fritton standing there watching them curiously.
"We lost a disk," said Buffy, "the case ended up here, but the disk's missing."
"Where is Gwendolyn anyway?" asked Miss Fritton.
"Went upstairs," said Honor, "should be back in a minute."
"I think I can hear her coming," said Miss Fritton. She opened the swing doors at the back of the library, revealing a flight of stairs. Gwendolyn Post was coming down it, her wheelchair somehow balancing on its rear wheels and the seat leaning forward to compensate. There was a whine of motors as several smaller wheels moved down to the step below and supported the chair as it came down a step, and repeated the process until she reached the bottom. When she was down the chair tilted back to its normal position with a final whir of servo-motors.
"My word," said Post, "Quite the reception committee."
"We were wondering..." began Willow.
"What I've done with the disk?" asked Post.
"Yeah," said Buffy.
"Oh, he's quite safe," said Post. "In fact, he's right here, and anxious to meet the people who killed him in this dimension."
"Buffy, get back," Willow said urgently.
"Where's 'here?'" said Buffy, retreating a step.
"In the most powerful computer in the school," said Post, "and one that already has all the motors and sensors he could possibly want." The arms of the wheelchair suddenly changed shape, and dozens of cables wrapped around her, cradling her as the wheelchair transformed into a metal exoskeleton, and raised her to stand upright. A shimmering aura surrounded her, and there was the smell of ozone. "Far better than anything you had in Sunnydale."
She laughed, and added "Did you really think those bungling idiots could suppress my memories forever?" A glowing ball of energy appeared in her artificial hand, growing larger and brighter by the second. "Miss Fritton! I can walk!"
This is probably the penultimate part, comments please before I post to archives.