Part 11: Willow

#

"So this ... voice, she is ... what, a computer?"

I look at Buffy, sitting across from me on Giles' living room couch, and try to imagine what it must look like inside her head now.

Confusing, that much is for sure.

"Not exactly a computer, Xander," Buffy answers. "More like a ... I guess the term is artificial intelligence."

She has relayed what her voice has told her. The voice she is calling 'Anne' now. Apparently she was supposed to go by the name 'Adam' at first, but seeing as she is now very much female, I guess the name wouldn't fit, so Buffy sort of christened her with her own middle name.

Apparently Professor Walsh was building ... I still can't believe my psych professor is mixed up in this. She was always so . well, not nice, but . anyway, apparently she wanted to build some kind of ultimate warrior thing. Xander kinda hoped it was a reference to wrestling, but I'm afraid that's not it.

"This thing was ... well, it was a robot, I guess," Buffy says. "Big mix-up of magic and technology, sort of the best of both worlds. Or maybe the worst. Anne was supposed to become its mind. But only after ... well, after she took mine."

Walsh wanted the best mind for her super soldier, or so Anne says. So she figured she'd take the mind of the greatest supernatural warrior around as a template. She wanted to take Buffy and ... suck all the fighting instincts and stuff right out of her, feeding it into Anne.

I still can't believe we're talking about Professor Walsh here.

"The technology Walsh had at her disposal must be astounding," Giles muses. "To build something like this generator and an artificial intelligence that actually assimilates someone else's characteristics ..."

"Yeah, she's a real Borg Queen." Xander remarks. "But I want to know what went wrong with the whole assimilation thing. I mean, obviously Buffy didn't get her mind sucked out. Which I'm glad about."

"Glad to hear it." Buffy says with a smile on her lips, but it looks kinda fragile. "Anne figures that, when this pan-dimensional converter thing overloaded, there was a lot of demonic energy surging around. It caused the explosion and it also messed up Walsh's experiment in a big way."

"So instead of your mind being transferred into this android," Giles muses, "the android's mind was transferred into you."

Buffy nods.

"I remember it, only I didn't really now what it was. There was this whole thing with two voices screaming inside my head, only one of them my own. And then there was this ... this feeling of someone coming awake. Someone who embraced me, sung to me."

A smile plays across her lips for a moment.

"Anne says that I pretty much imagined the singing part. Apparently that was the moment she used my mind as a blueprint for her own and, sort of, first became aware. To me it felt like someone was holding me."

I shake my head. Buffy was never a normal girl, that is for sure. Heck, none of us are all that normal anymore. Me, a witch. Xander dating a 1000- year-old vengeance demon. Giles a Watcher, or ex-Watcher, so many others. Why should it seem strange that my best friend is not only the Slayer now, but has some kind of super-intelligent computer mind living inside her head. One that behaves like her, too.

This is too strange.

For the first time since we came back I look at Angel. He is just standing in a corner, watching. I don't know where Faith went, but since she helped out and seems genuinely repentant, I guess she's off the hook for the moment. Angel says we can probably trust her. Angel, who has done nothing but look at Buffy for the last hour or so.

Not hard to tell he still loves her. As if there ever was any doubt.

Giles clears his throat. "Does ... Anne have any clue what we can expect to happen now? I can't imagine that the government will leave something like this converter just lying around. And there might be a lot of things still intact in what is left of the Initiative base. Does she know what they will do? How much they know?"

Buffy cocks her head to one side and I'm starting to recognize the gesture for what it is. Listening to someone only she can hear. Will she have Anne living inside her head for the rest of her life? Won't that get extremely irritating after a while? Always having someone inside with you who knows what you're thinking and makes off comments that only you can hear?

Have to stop thinking now, I guess. Makes my head hurt.

"Anne only has the information that Walsh chose to include in her ... well, her programming. Apparently Walsh played things pretty close to her chest. Eventually someone will notice that she isn't reporting in anymore, but Anne figures we may still have some time before that happens."

"We should probably try to find out more," Angel speaks up for the first time. "Learn more about what exactly this Initiative was planning."

"I agree," Giles nods. "We should also make another expedition down into that base, whatever is left of it. Maybe some data or equipment survived that will tell us more."

Angel nods in turn and then looks at Buffy again.

"I may have some contacts that can make some discreet inquiries into what the government knows. I'll speak to them when I get back to L.A."

Buffy's face falls when he says that. I look away, having expected this. Of course Angel would come when he thought Buffy was in trouble, but that doesn't mean he'll stay. I hate him for how much he hurt Buffy by leaving her, but I can understand it. After all, nothing has changed for them. Curse and everything is still there.

I wish there was something I could do about that.

Buffy and Angel go outside to talk. I don't want to imagine what's going on inside Buffy right now. After what happened with Parker and now with Riley I think she might be getting desperate. Her first love left her for her own good, that swine Parker just used her for a fun night, and Riley wanted to suck her mind out to use it in an android.

And I thought I had relationship troubles.

I can see them talking outside the door, Buffy desperately trying to keep herself from crying. I would smack Angel for doing that to her, but it wouldn't help. I know he would want to stay and be with her if only he could.

Maybe I can talk to Tara about this. Maybe with two witches instead of one ... I'll have to look into this.

"I want you to keep a close eye on her, Willow," Giles says suddenly, startling me.

"What?"

"We don't know what else the Initiative might have done to her. Or what this 'Anne' might be doing to her even now. Just keep a close eye on her, okay?"

A part of me is furious that Giles wants me to spy on my best friend, but he's right, I guess. We averted an apocalypse by hitting a button labeled 'Emergency Shutdown'. I guess that was much too easy.

This isn't over. I'm sure of it.

#

Epilogue:

"Is this confirmed?" Quentin Travers asks.

"Yes," the female Watcher in front of his desk says.

"Which of them?"

"We don't know yet. We won't until one of us goes to investigate."

Travers nods, unhappy with this new development. Since Buffy Summers turned her back on the Council many plans have been made. Some call for assassinating the current Slayer, one of them at least, in order to have a new Slayer called. One that will be loyal to the Council again.

With the unique situation of having two Slayers at the same time, though, no one is sure what would happen if one of them were to die. When Kendra died another Slayer was chosen, but if Buffy dies, what then? Would another new Slayer be chosen or would the power inside her go to Faith?

The Council of Watchers has been the Slayer's guiding institution for several millennia now. Council and Slayer are connected in ways not even Travers fully understands. The Watchers always know when one Slayer dies. They always know which girls have the potential to be called as a Slayer, should the current one die, though they have been known to miss the odd candidate now and then.

Now they know that something has happened.

"The signs are clear," Travers sighs, leaning back in his chair. "One of the Slayers died and we need to know who, how, and what will happen now."

He looks across the desk at his subordinate. Rose McNamara is a young Watcher, eager and enthusiastic. She has scored the best test results in the Watcher exams since Rupert Giles. She is an expert in Slayer lore and has read up on everything concerning Slayers' deaths and the process of the Calling.

"Very well, Rose," Travers finally says. "You will go to Sunnydale on the next available flight. Find out what happened with Buffy and Faith! Should it become necessary you are allowed to contact Rupert Giles, but we want those answers."

"I understand," Rose nods.

"Then go!"

#

General Robert Allen looks at the report on his desk and shakes his head.

"This is a disaster," he mumbles.

He has never been particularly fond of Margaret Walsh. Actually, he is sure there is a picture of her in the dictionary right next to the term 'Mad Scientist'. He can't deny she is brilliant, of course, but that doesn't make her any trustworthier in his mind.

Or didn't, actually, seeing as Walsh is in all probability dead now.

"This is all we have?" he asks his aide.

"Yes, sir. The live feed from the surveillance system in the Initiative stopped shortly after the initial explosion. Observers are in the vicinity, but there is still too much activity going on around that crater to mount any kind of recovery operation. We are currently busy bringing in fake FEMA orders and uniforms to cover our troops."

What has Walsh been thinking, Allen wonders, putting this base below a college?

"Any update on the status of 314 or the Converter?"

"The Converter seems to have been shut down, probably the automatic safeguards kicking in. No danger from that point for the moment, sir. As far as 314 goes, though, we don't know."

Great, Allen thinks. The greatest weapon ever developed and they have no clue where it is.

"Run that recording by me again," he orders.

The monitor in front of him flares to life and General Robert Allen watches as the experiment called Adam One walks out of the flaming debris of the Initiative and disappears.

THE END OF CHAPTER 1