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Willow... my one and only...



TITLE: Hardwired
AUTHOR: The WILLFIC group
SUMMARY: Willow's having strange dreams-- could her old "boyfriend", Malcolm, be involved...?
RATING: G
DISCLAIMER: We don't own Willow, or BtVS-- Joss Whedon and the WB do!

Intro by ElaineMc

It was, without a doubt, a glorious SoCal day.  Birds sang, the sun 
shone, she could hear teen-age voices shouting back and forth to one 
another, making plans to meet.  She could hear them subliminally, 
anyway; her conscious mind was fixed soundly and securely on hacking 
the California DMV.  Not from any actual, active hostility; more to 
see how long it would take her to do it.

It was starting to seem as if she *couldn't* do it, though.  Gambit 
after gambit, from Fake-Twice to Shakethatthang, failed.  

Willow pushed keys a bit aimlessly, growing more and more frustrated.  
Not even a beep.  The whole terminal was locked up, again.  Was she 
losing her touch?  

If she couldn't hack systems, would she be any good to the Slayerettes?  
Surely not.  *Then again,* she thought, *everyone has a bad day.  I 
bet even Ada Lovelace had days when she had to use paper and pencil to 
do quadratic equations.  So I'm having an off day, so what?   Maybe I 
ought to just go outside, take a walk, get some fresh air.*

With that in mind, she got up from the computer, grabbed a jacket, 
and left.

Roughly 23.183 seconds later, she came back into the room, reset the 
terminal, and waited for it to re-boot.  A hack was a hack, after all, 
and there would be more sunny days ahead.  

As she began to type, *something* stirred in the 0s and 1s of her 
programmes, moving along the solders of her motherboard.  

*Willow....* hissed a thin electronic voice.  *My one and only....*


Part One by Anya



"Looking good," Willow murmured around the pen in her mouth.  The
programming snake was starting to take shape, finally, despite her
earlier frustration.   With a few more lines left to add, and a dash
of proof-reading, she'd finally have the hacking tool needed.

The California DMV must have been altering some of their security
subroutines, she had concluded after resigning herself to this
battle.  And the old program just lacked the ingenious levels needed
to circumvent the state's programmers.  Investing an hour or two into
such high level programming, and Willow had a product she was certain
that even the government elite couldn't outsmart.

"Willow, your friend, the blond whacko, wants you in the library."  A
snot-ridden voice intruded from the doorway into the computer lab.  
Immaculate in her designer clothes, and perfectly manicured nails,
Sierra leaned on the doorframe, looking down arrogantly at the
computer nerd she'd normally never address.  But Cordelia had said
that Willow was to be acknowledged nicely, and Sierra was not going to
risk social ostracism to refuse.  Besides, Sierra could appreciate
Cordelia's point.  Occasionally, a nerd of Willow's calibre could be
useful.

"Buffy?"  Willow pushed her chair back, reluctantly standing up. 
"Oh.  Okay.  Thank you."

Sierra sniffed, pushing past Willow and sitting down at the terminal. 
"What-EVER.  Just, go already."   Polished mauve nails reached out to
the keyboard.   Her pinkie hit the delete button even as her two
thumbs found the CTRL and ALT.  "I'll just finish up my science
report, since you have the computer all nicely warmed up."

Willow watched the computer flash, flicker...and three hours of work
vanish with absolute horror, dismay and despair.  

"I hope that wasn't anything important."  Sierra said with a snide
laugh.

"No."  Willow said faintly, turning to leave.  "Nothing important."  
Sighing, she left Sierra at the terminal, and shambled through the
mostly empty school hallways.  Most of the students had long since
vanished, what with it being a half-day, to enjoy the beautiful
weather.   The school so emptied, and no distractions or impediments, 
it took remarkably little time to reach the library.  

Willow used her shoulder to push the heavy wooden door open, and
walked into a rather dark room.  "Hello?"  She looked around, but
there was no sign of Buffy anywhere.  "Buffy?  Xander?  Giles? " 
Walking further into the room with the feeling of dread growing in her
chest, she called out again.  "Anyone?"

"Oh...Willow!"  The Watcher suddenly appeared from the general
direction of his office.  "I didn't hear anyone come in.  What can I
do for you?"

The redhead blinked twice. "For me?  I was told Buffy wanted to see
me....in...oh god."   She spun on her heel and bolted from the room,
wishing for just a heartbeat she had Buffy's strength of will, and
assertiveness to beat the living crap out of a confirmed bitch.

                          ******************************

Sierra carefully opened nerdy Willow Rosenberg's stored work from the
hard drive.  This was possibly her most BRILLIANT plan ever.  Why
bother do that boring assignment Ms. Calendar had given out when you
could just steal it from the duly acknowledge school nerds.

'Okay, let's see.' She ran a manicured finger down the screen,
frowning at the complex file names Willow had allocated on her files. 
"Can't you call it something simple?  Geez, nerds.  They can't even
save a file without making it some sort of complex equation."

Her eyes lit on the dates each file was saved on, and a smile asserted
itself on her full lips.  "If I was her, which I'm NOT, thank God, I
would probably have done the entire thing the day it was assigned,
right?"

Fingers picking the keys out without confidence, Sierra opened the
most likely candidate for her theft.  "Aha!"  She scrolled down the
page, very pleased with her findings.  "Looks good, Willow. 
Thanks!"   

The diskette that had been hidden on her snugly clad body was fished
out, and carefully inserted into the 3.5 drive.  "Now, how does one
save on this thing?"  Her index finger still touched the disk drive
door, as she thoughtfully studied the screen for a miraculous answer.

The screen flickered, flashed and suddenly....a new message had
appeared.  "My Beloved, join me...."


                          ******************************

Willow stormed through the halls, more annoyed with herself than at
Sierra Lauzen.  "How can I be so gullible."  She muttered, "I know
what people see when they look at me, I should KNOW better than to
follow for these things.  Sierra wants something, so she chased me
away."   

Willow frowned. "She couldn't ASK for what she wanted, could she? 
Noooo...she had to go off and destroy a lot of hard work, the snot.  I
almost wish that whatever she wanted from the computer she screws up
so bad it gets fried."

"Aiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeee" The shrill bloodcurdling scream ripped
down the hallway, stopping Willow dead where she stood.  

"What?  The computer room!"  Willow broke into a sudden unthinking
run, even as the lights over head all cut out, going dead. 'Great. 
Now I can run into the walls as I go!'

Long-time familiarity with this corridor made her stop precisely where
she needed to, and she threw the door open even as the emergency
lights clicked on.  Dashing inside, the smell of ozone and something
worse filled the air.  It only took one look to make Willow to turn
around and run out into the hallway, retching violently.  "Oh my God!"

Part Two by The Avatar

Willow could not believe what she saw before her eyes.  Sierra had been 
splattered all over the library.  Her head had been split open, and 
Willow's stomach wrenched in horrid knots when she noticed the head 
dangling from the body by a mere strand of muscle fibers.  Her limbs had 
been bent in strange directions, and Sierra's ribs had torn through her 
flesh and clothing, revealing sharp, jagged, lood-stained bone.  Her 
hands and feet had been cut off and were lying on the floor.

Willow heaved lunch all over the floor and her shirt.  The putrid stench 
of her vomit burned her eyes, only making her tears of horror worse.  
The auburn-haired girl fled the library, running to the bathroom.

When she made it to the stall, she leaned over and lifted the closed 
toilet seat cover.  When she leaned in to wrench, she saw something she 
didn't want to see.

A human hypothalumus.  One that was half-eaten.

Willow threw up again and ran for Buffy.  {Oh, god, oh god, oh god, what 
the hell is going on . . . .}  

As Willow exited the lavatory, she bumped smack into the slayer.  

"Willow?  Are you okay?  You smell like you just tossed your cookies."

Willow tried to formulate the words on her lips.  "Sierra . . . She's 
dead . . . in the library. . . All over, Buffy.  And then," she panted, 
trying to swallow the deep swell in her throat, "in the toilet, there 
was. . . . it, Buffy,  a . . . half eaten part of a brain!"

Buffy shivered.  "Get Giles.  I'm going to the library.  Ask him if he 
has any clue what's flying."  Buffy left the poor, terrified girl in 
search of the library.

Buffy slowly entered through the heavy wooden doors.  She looked around 
and was surprised by the ghastly carnage that was displayed before her. 
{No wonder Willow heaved her guts.}

The putrid stench of blood and vomit revolted Buffy.  {What could have 
done this?  Why would someone want to eat brain-guts?  A better 
question:  How come nobody but Willow heard what was going on?  Whatever 
went on in here must have made a helluva lot of noise, and ---}

Something slammed against Buffy's back.  Hard.  

A monotone, computer-like voice rang out from the desk by the computer 
terminal.  "Welcome, Buffy.  You don't want to end up like Sierra did, 
do you?"

Buffy managed to get the heavy pile of books off her back and turned 
around to face her attacker.

A tall man clad in a black robe with a black bandanna hiding his lower 
facial features, the strange adversary was holding two very sharp 
klaives.  The figure attacked her once again, but Buffy kicked him 
squarely in the groin.  

To her surprise, she hit something metal, shattering her shin bone.  The 
figure before her barely took the blow and slashed at her again. 

Buffy felt the warm blood trickle down her cheek.  She lashed back with 
a slug to her attacker's face, which connected and knocked in the flesh 
of the man.  

Buffy looked in utter confusion as the man tumbled backwards, his human, 
flesh-and-blood face smashed in.  He fell back to the ground, and 
vanished in a cloud of smoke.  

"What the hell is going on?"  Buffy panted.

The computer terminal spoke again.  "Holograms can be very real, can't 
they, *Slayer*?"

Buffy, while attempting to stop the bleeding on her face, hobbled over 
to the desk where the terminal stood.  Pain shot up her leg with every 
step.

On it, the face of Moloch stood.  And next to him, in sheer horror, was 
a distorted picture of Willow.  But it wasn't really Willow.

Willow's eyes burned solid red and a demonic smile curtailed her lips.  
A smile so terifying that Buffy shut off the monitor, trying to forget 
the macabre sight that was now embedded in her head.

...tbc...


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