The Right Technology
By Marcus L. Rowland
"Are you sure this isn't a Hellmouth?" asked Xander, shrugging off his coat and putting several bags of groceries on the kitchen table.
Giles and Robin Wood looked up from the builder's estimates they were reading, and Giles said "What have you done now?"
"Done? What have I done?"
"It's a question," said Robin. "Did you run into another demon girl wanting a date?"
"Hey, I resemble that remark. And no, I didn't. I just saw someone that looked kinda strange, and it got me wondering."
"We chose this town precisely because it's about as far from any supernaturally significant sites as you can get in Britain," said Giles.
"That and we could afford the building," said Robin. "Disused schools don't come cheap in a country this crowded."
"I know all that," said Xander, "and I know we need somewhere to train the Slayers. But if there are demons in town it could get messy."
"This demon," said Giles, "did it threaten you?"
"He kinda made me an offer."
"He?" said Robin.
"An offer you couldn't refuse?" asked Vi, coming in from the yard.
"Actually," said Xander, "he offered to clean the windows." He gave Wood the card.
"So what makes you think he's a demon?" Giles asked, trying hard not to laugh.
"Two things; he doesn't look quite human, and when I stopped to pat his dog I noticed that it was reading a book on quantum mechanics..."
. . . . .
"Eh lad," said Wallace, "can you think what I did with that copy of 'Neurosurgery for Dummies?'"
Gromit shrugged, then went upstairs to his room and came back with a copy of 'Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition', opened it to the section on DIYtrepanation, and handed it to Wallace. Wallace read a few paragraphs, paled a little, and muttered "Maybe not." Gromit furtively wiped a little sweat from his brow; he really hadn't fancied being the guinea-pig for implants. With any luck Wallace would find something a little safer to occupy his over-active ingenuity.
"First thing," mused Wallace, "is to start off with a really good camera." He looked in a couple of cupboards, eventually pulling out an old Box Brownie, a folding 1960s Polaroid, and a WW2 aerial reconnaisance 8" telephoto lens, about four inches across. "What do you think, lad?"
Gromit stared at him.
"For the prototype, lad. Build a large-scale model!"
Gromit looked at the parts, thought for a moment, then went down to the cellar, rummaged in a small mountain of junk, and came back with an old-fashioned brass ballcock, about the size of a grapefruit. He used a pair of compasses to mark a circle on it, about the same size as the Polaroid camera's lens.
"That's a good start, lad. We'll build the prototype in that, then we'll just need to scale everything down a little for the real thing. Right, that's the lens and the outer shell, we'll cannibalise that old wireless for the electronics, the valves ought to be just the job, after that we'll have to think about the neural interface. Something non-invasive, inductive coupling or something. Then we need to look at miniaturisation. Should be easy enough. But first let's have a nice pot of tea..."
. . . . .
"So this is West Wallaby Street," said Xander, looking out of the window of Giles' Range Rover. "Looks normal enough, I guess. Number 62 is the one over there."
From somewhere inside the house came hammering and the whirring of something that sounded like a circular saw. There was a sudden loud bang and a perfect smoke ring rose from one of the chimney pots, while two slates fell off the roof. The door was flung open and Wallace staggered out, covered in soot, groped his way blindly to the pond, and fell in. Gromit appeared in the doorway, standing on his rear legs, a welding torch in his hand, face covered by a dark visor, and threw Wallace a towel as he was climbing out. He staggered on the edge, then fell back into the water.
"What do you think?" asked Xander. "Demonic?"
"Gets my vote," said Vi.
"Not necessarily evil though," said Giles. "For all you know they might be building something useful."
Wallace climbed out again, toweled himself off, and went back inside. The noise resumed.
"Useful... yeah, like that's going to happen," said Xander.
"I'll admit it does seem unlikely," said Giles, "but we really ought to investigate properly before jumping to conclusions."
"I'll hit the local library tomorrow," said Wood, "see if I can find any stories about this Wallace."
"Or his dog," said Xander. "Anyone else think that he might be the brains of the outfit?"
"Maybe," said Vi. "That guy isn't the sharpest stake in the box."
"I doubt that there's any immediate danger," said Giles, "and it's getting dark, maybe we should head back to the school and aim to get an early start in the morning."
"Works for me," said Xander.
. . . . .
Across town, in a disused factory that had once manufactured meat pies and wool, something stirred in the basement.
"Okay," said a woman's voice, "you sure that there's nothing around here even remotely supernatural?" There was a mumble of confirmation.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, it's disgusting."
"Dump the rat and say that again."
There was a soft 'splat'. "Yes, mistress."
"Oooh, I like the sound of that. Okay, supernatural-free area, so it could be years before a Slayer comes through if we keep a low profile. Meanwhile we'll build up our strength, Understood, minions?"
"Yes mistress," said the same voice.
"Where are the others?"
"They've buggered off, mistress. Said they didn't want to be seen dead in a dump like this, and headed back to London."
"Okay, let's get this place cleaned up a little, then we can get to work on recruitment. Soon this town will learn to fear the name of Harmony Kendall!"