By Marcus L. Rowland
Gwendolyn Post 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!"
"Yes dear," said Miss Fritton, "I see you can. But aren't all those sparks and things awfully uncomfortable?"
Buffy picked up a chair and threw it at Post; it hit the glowing force field around her and bounced hard, thudding into a battered set of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica dating back to the 1960s. "Really, Miss Summers," said Fritton, "don't you think that this sort of horse-play belongs outside? You might damage some of the books."
"The books don't matter," said Post, throwing a fireball at Buffy, who dodged one way and pushed Willow the other. The ball hit a bookcase in the science section, setting some of the books on fire. Another fireball appeared in Post's hand, growing by the second.
"I must insist," said Fritton, "or I'll be forced to deduct any damage from your salaries." In reply Post threw the next fireball at Fritton, who ducked under it with the skill of someone who has dodged endless booby traps left by disgruntled children. It set fire to the ceiling.
A second force barrier appeared around Post, and Willow said "Get out, quick, I can only hold this for a couple of minutes." Post tried to throw another fireball at her, but it stopped a foot or so from her hand and hung there until she dismissed it with an angry gesture and lurched towards Willow, the exoskeleton moving her flaccid legs.
Willow backed away towards the door that led out of the building, with Buffy poised to throw another chair if either barrier went down, and Fritton hustled Honor and a half-dozen other students outside. Behind Post the bookshelves were burning, with flames spreading from shelf to shelf as though determined to do the maximum damage.
"One question," shouted Buffy, "why did you leave the Book of Moloch in Willow's office?"
"Post faIled my other self," said a pleasant baritone voice, coming from the chair someone near Post's waist, "she was unable to operate the scanner, and left the book behind when she fled the office."
"I thought I heard you coming back, but it was just some of the children. Before I could recover the book someone scanned it," Post added. "Now, enough of this nonsense." She raised both hands, one in a circling motion and the artificial hand holding another fireball, and threw the ball at Willow. This time it wasn't stopped, but Buffy pulled Willow out of the way. Both of them sprinted for the door, another fireball setting fire to the floor between them. The fire alarm was ringing loudly. Miss Fritton shouted "Keep her pinned down!" and ran back into the main building.
"Where's she getting the power?" said Buffy. "Is it just Moloch?"
"No," said Willow, turning back to stare at the burning building, "she's pulling it in, the lights dimmed when she threw fireballs."
Willow's cell-phone beeped, and she looked at the display and said "Moloch hit my firewalls and bounced. He'll be pulling in more power and getting ready to make his next move."
"Okay," said Buffy. "Time to pull the plug on him. Get on the phone to Kennedy, get her to take out the power lines."
"Now then, now then, no need for that," said a familiar voice from behind them. They turned to see Flash Harry holding another cellphone. He added "Do it now, Beryl," and listened. A few seconds later every light in the school buildings went out. "Good girl." He turned to Buffy and said "Won't get much power with the main fuses pulled."
"There's the UPS on the main file-servers," Willow said happily, "but without power the router won't be working, so he's still trapped. The cellphone network doesn't have the bandwidth he'd need to escape."
There was a loud crash, and the roof of the library began to collapse. A giant made of blue fire stood there, looked around, then threw an even bigger fireball down at Buffy. Willow got her hand up in the nick of time and deflected it back at the library.
"Bloody 'ell," said Harry. "Thought you said she didn't 'ave any power."
"She's taking it from the fire," said Willow, deflecting another fireball. "It can't last long."
Miss Fritton reappeared from the main building, carrying a loud-hailer, with a swarm of girls behind her, brandishing hockey sticks and other weapons. Behind them some of the sixth-formers were jogging along with a long green packing crate. "We need to get that fire out," said Buffy, "can you do anything?"
"Not without dropping my shields," said Willow.
"Okay, how much of that is Moloch, and how much is Post?" Buffy grabbed a hockey stick from a passing girl, snapped off the bent end, and threw it as a javelin. It caught fire a few feet from Moloch, crumbling into ash as it hit the main body of flame.
"Keep her distracted, I've got a plan."
Willow thought for a moment, and her eyes darkened as clouds began to swirl out of nowhere, and thunder boomed across the sky. There was a flicker of lightning in the cloud, and Moloch reached towards it hungrily.
"Won't that just give 'er more power?" asked Harry.
"Would if it was real," Willow murmured. Behind her Buffy was racing towards the nearest building. From all sides girls were throwing things at Moloch; bricks, bottles, cricket and croquet balls, and an occasional rotten tomato. They melted or burned before they reached him. Buffy ran inside, and came out a moment later dragging a fire hose. Within seconds she was back by Willow's side, and twisted the valve to operate the jet. A slow trickle of brown water dribbled onto the lawn. Moloch howled his derision.
"I don't believe this," said Buffy. "What the hell's wrong with this place?"
"No dosh for servicing the plumbing," said Harry.
"Perhaps I can help," said Miss Fritton, raising her loudhailer. "Miss Post, please stop this at once. This is your last warning!"
"Burn in hell!" shouted Post / Moloch, throwing another fireball at her. Willow tried to extend her shields to cover Miss Fritton, but couldn't summon quite enough energy. Buffy tackled Miss Fritton, knocking her to one side, and did her best to shield her. Overhead the illusory thunderstorm vanished; at the last second the fireball swerved over the prone Slayer and the headmistress and flew across the grounds, detonating on the roof of the chapel and starting another fire.
Miss Fritton said "Thank you, Miss Summers," raised the loudhailer again and added "Right then... Potts, fire at will!"
The group of sixth-formers around the packing crate split apart, revealing one of the beefier girls with a long pipelike device on her shoulder. There was a gout of flame, and a streak of fire hurtled across the lawn to strike Moloch. There was a loud explosion, and metallic debris and chunks of burning flesh began to shower down. With a last scream the giant figure disintegrated into flame, and the remains of the library began to collapse. Hundreds of burning pages spread out from the debris, carrying the fire to the surrounding trees and more of the buildings. Some of the girls began to sing "Another one bites the dust," others were improvising flaming torches and setting fire to the parts of the school that weren't already ablaze.
"Okay," said Buffy. "Where the hell did they get the missile launcher?"
"I'm sure I told you," said Miss Fritton. "Potts bought it back from her holidays three years ago. I had a feeling it might come in handy."
"Hadn't we better do something about the fire?" asked Willow.
"Hmmmm... and miss out on the insurance?"
"Might be a bit difficult to claim with bits of missile lying around," said Buffy, watching the fire spread.
"I'm sure that your friends in the Watcher's Council have the influence to deflect any enquiries."
"Harry has a big mouth," said Willow.
"Harry's grandfather, actually," said Miss Fritton. "I've known about the family sideline since the seventies."
Harry smiled sheepishly, and wisely said nothing.
"Wait a minute," said Buffy, looking at the main building, now firmly ablaze "my clothes are in there!"
"Mine too," said Willow. "But Kennedy ought to be here soon, and her parents give her a very generous allowance. Not to mention a platinum AmEx card."
"Oooh, shopping. I can relate to that. Do we need to do anything more about Moloch?"
Willow concentrated for a moment, and shook her head. "He's gone. So's Post."
"I guess that's the end of our teaching practice," said Buffy. "Do you think we'll get good grades?"
"I think you can count on it," said Miss Fritton. "After all, I'm sure your Council will be making a very generous donation to the school rebuilding fund."
"I guess," said Buffy.
"Then everyone ought to be happy," said Miss Fritton.
"They're off then," said Flash Harry.
"High time too," said Miss Fritton, looking out across the assortment of tents, prefabricated cabins and caravans that now accommodated the students and staff. "I do hope that they like travelling with horses, and that there won't be any awkward questions from the Watcher's Council when the bills come in."
"Don't worry about that, they're rolling in it, and I've used some very creative h'accounting with them and the insurance. Even after rebuilding costs we stand to clear about fifty grand apiece."
"Well done, Harry."
"You know," said Harry, "if we'd realised what Post was up to we could 'ave stopped all this, long before there was any damage."
"I'd imagine so," said Miss Fritton. "Such a shame..."
"Bloody 'ell," said Harry, realisation dawning. "You knew, didn't you?"
"Once you told me that Miss Summers was a Slayer I realised that there might be... complications. Gwendolyn tried so hard to be secretive, of course, but it really isn't that easy in our small community, especially when you're making long telephone calls about extremely rare magical books. I might have had to do something about it myself, if Summers hadn't been here, but that could have been qute messy. It's so difficult to fake up a convincing... accident... at short notice. Fortunately it wasn't necessary."
"Language, Harry. Don't forget that there are impressionable young minds around."
"Now then, a small gin and tonic, I think, then you can tell me who you fancy for the three-thirty at Aintree..."
Comments please before I post to archives.