***Guest Starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer***

“Hey, Lis, could you come into my office for a few minutes?” Taylor called from his door.

Lisa Lansing hopped up happily from her desk and walked towards the editor’s office. She was in a good mood. During the two weeks of vacation that she had taken after her encounter with Legs, she had been busy redefining herself...BOTH her selves, actually. As Lisa, she had stopped wearing her glasses, and had let her auburn-highlighted hair regain it’s natural chestnut-brown hue. This had worried her, especially the glasses, but it seemed that nobody noticed that Lisa Lansing and Miracle Maiden looked virtually identical! Of course, Lisa thought wryly, with her costume, not many people spent a lot of time looking at Miracle Maiden’s face!

That costume had been where Lisa had redefined Miracle Maiden. Her briefs had been replaced by a blue miniskirt, and the whole outfit was treated with a series of chemicals that made them impervious to acid and flame. Of course, there had been some sacrifice; with all these changes in the costume, Lisa’s autoswitch device had stopped working properly. Reconfiguring it proved to be so difficult that she just gave up and went back to wearing her costume under her street clothes. She grinned as she entered Taylor White’s office, feeling the bustier comfortably cupping her breasts beneath her blouse.

“What’s up, chief?” Lisa asked before she noticed that Taylor wasn’t alone.

Looking over the pictures on Taylor’s wall was a very attractive young girl. Lisa guessed her to be perhaps 17 or 18, with stunning blue eyes, golden hair that was piled atop her head, and the body of an athlete. The girl had long, muscular legs, a thin waist, flat stomach and full breasts, all packed within black pants, a low-cut white blouse, and black jacket. The outfit was completed by a silver crucifix on a chain around her long neck. Lisa thought she looked like an average high school gymnast or cheerleader, except for her eyes. The girl had the serious, soul-searching eyes of someone who had seen and dealt with a great deal of pain.

“Lisa,” Taylor said proudly, “I want you to meet my sister’s little girl, Buffy... Buffy Summers. She and her mom live out in California.”

“Nice to meet you, Buffy,” Lisa said, shaking the girl’s hand.

“Same here. Uncle Taylor, you really don’t have to bother her...”

“Don’t be silly, Buffy,” Taylor interrupted. To Lisa he continued, “Buffy is on a break from school, and asked her mom if she could visit me, because she’s interested in learning the newspaper game. And, if you’re not busy, I figured you’d be the perfect person to show her the ropes!”

Lisa knew that she should be upset over this glorified baby-sitting job, but she really liked Taylor. She also knew that he really felt that Buffy could learn from her, and things HAD been quite since her return, so why not? “I’d be happy to,” she said. “Come on, Buffy, I’ll show you my desk, then I have to go to pick up some paperwork at City Hall.”

She couldn’t help but notice that Buffy seemed less than thrilled at the prospect, but smiled weakly and followed Lisa, anyway.

* * *

Buffy was polite during the course of the day, and did her best to feign interest. However, it soon became apparent to Lisa that, whatever her motives for this visit were, Buffy had little, if any, interest in learning to be a reporter. Still, Lisa grew to like the girl, despite her growing conviction that Buffy was hiding something from her. When she finally took the teenager back to the office, the sun was just beginning to set. Lisa went to her desk and found a note:

“Lisa—got called to a stock-holder’s meeting. Could you be a doll and take Buffy out to dinner, then drop her at my place? You’ll have my eternal gratitude... Taylor”

Lisa showed Buffy the note. “Looks like it’s you and me, kid. Do you like pizza?”

Buffy grinned, “Uh, hello? Teenager, remember? I HAVE to like pizza!”

“Great. I know a terrific pizza place..."

Buffy glanced at her watch. “Well, I’d like to get home soon, but I suppose a quick slice wouldn’t hurt..."

* * *

Since it was a nice night, Lisa and Buffy decided to walk to Taylor’s place after eating. While night was pleasant, Lisa couldn’t help but notice a couple more clues to the mystery of Buffy Summers. The girl had been obsessed with time during the meal, and now her eyes were constantly roving, with the look of someone on the hunt... but for what?

Suddenly, as they strolled down a fairly quiet street, a large black van raced towards them and screeched to a stop. The doors flew open, and five young men dressed in jeans and leather jackets leapt out, assaulting the young women.

Lisa, as was her habit in these situations, held back. This was a mistake. The attackers were almost impossibly strong...and they weren’t the only ones! Out of the corner of her eye, Lisa saw Buffy executing amazing acrobatic and martial arts moves. In the end, however, it was no use. The fight ended with Lisa being shoved down an alley, and Buffy being dragged into the van.

Lisa picked herself up off the ground, slid back into the darkness of the alley, and began to strip off her clothes, revealing the costume of Miracle Maiden! “Sorry, suckers, but losing Buffy could cost me my job!”

Then she fired her cable gun at the rooftops, and swung into action...

* * *

Inside the van, Buffy’s brilliant blue eyes glared over her gag. She was furious, and more than a little scared. She had been in tough spots before, but never like this: trapped in a van with four vampires, her wrists tied behind her back and lashed to her ankles in a tight hog-tie, a rag stuffed in her mouth and a scarf pulled between her teeth to complete the gag. This was one of those times when she wished Giles had let her read that damned Slayer’s Manual...

“Say, she looks like a tasty little morsel,” one of the vamps said, sliding his had along Buffy’s shoulder, his fingers touching her neck. “Why don’t we all have a little snack?”

The biggest of the group smacked him away from Buffy. “Are you insane? Do you have any idea what Master Darque would do to us if we harmed her? He wants her AS IS!”

Before the conversation could go any further, they heard a scream from the driver. “Damn! What the...” The van spun out of control, the window suddenly covered with a black, paint-like substance, and one of the front tires punctured by a long, narrow spike that had been thrown from above.

The van plowed into the side of a building, near an alley, with such force that even the normally indestructible vampires were shaken. Before they could react, the rear doors were yanked open, and they saw a beautiful woman in an odd costume leap in and begin to cut their prey loose!

She was a chestnut-haired beauty, who’s soft sexy curves still exuded a sense of strength and power. She wore a red bustier, with a silver “MM” flowing over her ample breasts, a blue miniskirt, a blue cape, red boots, blue gloves, and silver wristbands and headband . Around her waist was a wide silver belt, from which she pulled the knife she was using on Buffy’s bonds.

“Stop her!” the largest vampire yelled as Miracle Maiden freed Buffy’s legs and pulled her from the van, yanking her towards the alley. She planned to stop the kidnappers, but first she had to be sure that Buffy was safe.

The two young women had only gone a few steps down the alley when Miracle Maiden felt herself being thrown forward. When she hit the ground, she rolled over and saw the largest of the kidnappers advancing on her and Buffy; the other three were just getting out of the van. That’s when she noticed that there was something wrong with his face; it almost looked like he had a lion’s snout instead of a human nose. His eyes were bright, and his teeth glistened. Damn! She hadn’t considered that they might be paranormals, but their strength and appearance made that seem a distinct possibility.

Before Miracle Maiden could move, Buffy ran at the man, her hands still bound behind her back and her mouth still gagged. She leapt at him, her legs out in a perfect flying kick. As she slammed into his chest, she flipped up and over, her legs moving smoothly through her arms so that her hands were now in front of her. She pulled off the gag and went to work on the knots with her teeth, while moving towards a pile of wooden crates along the alley wall.

Miracle Maiden leapt to her feet and pulled a glass globe from her belt, tossing it at the advancing kidnappers. It shattered, throwing up a cloud of choking gas at the attackers. She could hear them coughing and cursing. She turned to grab Buffy so that she could get the girl to safety. She was surprised to see that Buffy had freed her hands, and was using her martial arts kicks to shatter one of the crates. Then she snatched up two of the hunks of wood and moved towards her assailants.

“Buffy, no!” Miracle Maiden yelled, racing towards the teenager.

“They’re vampires,” Buffy replied grimly. “That makes ‘em my territory!”

Convinced that Buffy’s mind had snapped due to the strain, Miracle Maiden watched in stunned amazement as the girl battled the first two that emerged from the gas cloud with the skill of a martial arts mistress. Then she slammed the wooden stakes into the men’s chests...and the villains evaporated into a cloud of dust! A third ran at Miracle Maiden, who executed a spinning back kick. Even though it felt like her foot connected with a brick wall, the big man stumbled backwards and fell onto the crate Buffy had demolished. He screamed in agony, then dissipated like his two friends. That left only the largest of the would-be kidnappers, who growled at the duo and ran off.

Buffy sighed and wiped the sweat off her brow as she turned to her companion. “Thanks for the assist, Lisa. By the way, nice outfit!”

* * *

Back in her civilian clothes, Lisa Lansing sat opposite Buffy in the back of a small diner, where they could talk without being overheard. She sipped her coffee thoughtfully. “Okay, let me get this straight. You’re the ‘Chosen One,’ picked by some nameless mystic force to be the Slayer of vampires, demons and things that go bump in the night?”

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Y’know, it sound’s a lot worse when you say it like that...”

Lisa stopped her explanation by raising a hand. “Look, Buffy, you’re talking to a gal who became a superheroine when she got a computerized message from a Roman goddess. Nothing you’ve said sounds impossible. I’m just trying to get it straight in my mind!”

Buffy smiled and nodded. “Sorry. Keep forgettin’ that you might actually UNDERSTAND this stuff... So anyway, Spike & Drucilla sent this vampire friend of theirs, Master Darque, to contact some vampire high priestess of some killer demon to move their plans forward.”

Lisa nodded. “And those plans are?”

“Oh, the usual. World domination, end of the human race, that sort of thing.”

Lisa dropped some money on the table to pay the bill. “Come with me. With what you know, and my resources, I think we can find your Master Darque. One last question... How did you recognize me in costume, when nobody else does?”

Buffy shrugged. “I guess that I’m so used to protecting my own ‘secret identity’ that it was easy for me to see through someone else’s. Don’t worry, though, I think your secret’s safe…”

* * *

The Miracar slid noiselessly to a stop behind the old Collins-Stoker Funeral Home. From behind the wheel, the now-costumed Miracle Maiden turned to her young companion. “Well, Buffy, this seems like our last hope, based on my computer analysis.”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, the first two were wash-outs...but I have a good feeling about this one. Or maybe a bad feeling. But they’re here.” She took a deep breath. “Okay, your city. How do you want to handle this? Split up?”

Honestly, Lisa wasn’t happy about letting Buffy out of her sight. But the girl had proven herself very capable, so it might be best... She nodded and pulled out her cable gun. “I’ll go in through the top; you take the bottom.”

Buffy nodded and grabbed her shoulder bag, full of wooden stakes. The duo left the car and, keeping to the shadows, advanced towards the building.

* * *

Buffy moved through the dark hallway, her senses alert for any hint of danger. She came to a door that had a sliver of light under it. She gripped a stake firmly, took a deep breath, and lunged inside.

Whatever she expected to find, it wasn’t an elderly black woman with a bright smile. “Hello, dere, girlie!” she said. “I been waitin’ fo you! You shore took your time!”

Two figures moved towards Buffy from the shadows. She kicked one, then plunged the stake into the heart of the other. To her surprise, it had no effect. Then more figures came at her, threatening to overwhelm her by numbers.

Buffy felt the cold, clammy hand grabbing her, holding her, and finally binding her. All the while, the old woman laughed. “Oh, my poor little Slayer girl! Didja t’ink dat da only guards da High Priestess of Lanoe would have would be vampires! Ha ha ha!”

* * *

The shutter finally broke open, giving Miracle Maiden access to the upper level of the funeral home. She slipped inside and flicked on her flashlight. She moved silently despite the stiletto heels on her boots. The top floor, she quickly discovered, seemed to be deserted. She moved towards the steps to go down to the next level.

Suddenly, a man appeared on the steps before her. He was, to use the old cliché, tall, dark and handsome. His clothes were sharp, but seemed a bit out of date. He smiled at her, a dark, evil smile.

“So, our little Slayer brought her new friend, did she? Good, that fits in our plans very well...”

Without a thought, Miracle Maiden launched herself at the man, prepared to deliver one of her devastating sidekicks. Suddenly, however, she felt his hand grasp her ankle and swing her, with impossible strength, over his head. Her own head connected solidly with the wall, dazing the courageous beauty.

The man yanked Miracle Maiden’s hands behind her back and began to bind her wrists. “In my day,” he said, “women didn’t wear such revealing outfits. I suppose that this age does have its advantages, after all! In fact, I’ll probably miss the human race, once they are reduced to cattle...”

* * *

“This is not good,” Miracle Maiden thought as she took stock of her situation. If there was ANYTHING positive, it was that she had at least found Buffy. The two were back to back, both bound in exactly the same manner. Their hands were crossed and lashed behind their backs, with more ropes tight around their elbows. Their legs were tied together at the ankles, knees and thighs. Their legs had been drawn up so that the women’s knees were against their breasts; ropes encircled their bodies to hold them into this “ball-tie” position. A final rope went from the wrists to the ankles, digging between their buttocks. Last, but by no means least, were their gags. Heavy leather straps covered the lower half of each girl’s face. A thick leather plug in the mouth made speech impossible, and a sponge-like coating on the inside of the leather straps muffled what little sound escaped the captive’s lips.

The bondage, while uncomfortable, was not the main reason for Miracle Maiden’s concern... if anything, she was getting used to winding up tied and gagged by criminals. The main problem was the fact that she and Buffy were suspended by ropes that went over a pulley set in the ceiling and was tied off to an iron ring set in the floor. Below the brave beauties was a bubbling pit, from which rose a foul stench. At one end of this pit was a large, rather ugly, stone statue, and standing along one wall were the eight zombies that had captured Buffy.

There was a large wooden table on one end of the room, at which stood the large Master Darque and the elderly black woman, with their backs to the distressed damsels. The woman was mixing something. After a few seconds, she turned and walked forward, holding two beakers. She poured the first into the pit, causing a new wave of foul odor to rise and assault the girl’s noses. Then she smiled and held up the second beaker.

“I wan’ ta t’ank you girls for the contribution of a bit of your blood,” she said. “It’s been a while since old Lady Gray been able to do dis... but our lord Lanoe shouldn’t be greeted by a grizzled old piece of meat, now, should ‘e? ‘Specially when his high priestess has dis power!”

With that, Lady Gray drank the potion. Miracle Maiden gasped into her gag as she watched the woman’s form flowed and changed. She grew thinner, taller, straighter. Her gray hair smoothed out and turned to a lustrous platinum. Her legs, breasts and buttocks filled out, and the skin all over her body grew firmer and smoother, darkening to a mahogany. In moments, she had become a stunningly beautiful woman who would have been at home on any fashion runway in Europe.

“Mmmmm, that’s much better!” she exclaimed.

Master Darque wrapped his arms around her from behind. “I’ll say, my love. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you like this! Did you take enough from these two to sustain you for a while?”

Lady Gray waved at the table, where two vials of reddish fluid sat. “Yah, my sweet. I got enough of their blood to keep me young for centuries. Now, should we tell these two the role they will play in the destiny of the world?”

Master Darque nodded gleefully. “Yes, let’s. You see, ladies, Lanoe, here, was turned to stone centuries ago by a white coven. With his help, Spike and Drucilla could easily turn this planet into a wasteland, reducing humans to mere foodstuff. So, all we have to do is bring him back to life!”

“D’ats where I come in,” Lady Gray interjected. “As high priestess of Lanoe, I can bring him back. All I need is a sacrifice: two living being dissolved in the acidic Pit of Lanoe, releasing their life force to reanimate our dark lord!”

Darque walked over and poured some cow’s blood on the rope tied to the iron ring. “This funeral home is NOT completely empty,” he said. “And the inhabitants LOVE blood, almost as much as I do!”

Rats came from the wall at the smell of blood, and begin to nibble on the ropes. “Have fun, ladies,” Darque said, as he wrapped his arm around Lady Gray and lead her from the room.

Buffy began to struggle wildly against her bonds, tugging as hard as she could. Miracle Maiden watched as the rodents ate away at the only thing that kept her and her young charge from plunging to their dooms. She was tempted to struggle with the lovely young blonde behind her, but past experience had taught her the need to examine her situation. And that situation was pretty grim.

The problem was that she not only had to get her and Buffy down, but she had to keep them out of the pit. If the delicious duo were suddenly freed of the ropes that held them, they would STILL plunge to their deaths. In all probability, nothing would be left of Buffy. As for her, only her acid-proof costume would be likely to survive. Everything else would dissolve...

That was it! The acid could dissolve the ropes, but not the costume. If she could somehow get some of the acid up here, she could get it on her wrist ropes, eliminating them, while her gloves protected her arms. But first she had to make sure they wouldn’t plummet into the acid afterwards. With that in mind, she began to move her body as much as the stringent bondage would allow, back and forth, trying to get the two of them to swing. After a few seconds, Buffy realized what Miracle Maiden was up to, and helped her.

As the rats chewed on the ropes, Buffy and Miracle Maiden got themselves swinging until Buffy could finally hook her bound ankles over the edge of the statue of Lanoe, stopping the swing and holding the pair off to the side. Then Miracle Maiden went to work...

She fumbled with her belt, until she was able to get out a small glass evidence vial, and her cable gun. She wedged the hook from the gun into the vial, and slowly lowed the class container towards the acid. Her cable was treated with the same chemicals as her costume, and the glass was used to transport acid in laboratories. She prayed it would be enough, as she glanced over and saw that the rats were half-way through the rope.

After the vial entered the acid, Miracle Maiden slowly retracted the cable, bringing the acid up to her grasping fingers. Now came the hard part. She slowly worked the slippery glass upwards until she could tip it, spilling the acid on the ropes. Then she pulled as hard as she could, until the ropes snapped.

Things now would get tricky, and Miracle Maiden didn’t have much time. Looking at the hungry rats chewing on the rope, she saw that they were three-fourths of the way through. There wasn’t enough time for her to work her way loose as she had intended. Time to improvise!

With the limited freedom in her arms, Miracle Maiden fired her cable gun at the ceiling. The hook buried into the wood just as the rats ate through the rope. Suspended from the cable, supporting both her weight and Buffy’s, Miracle Maiden felt that her arms would be pulled from the sockets, but managed to hang on as the twosome swung in a wide arc and fell to the ground on the opposite side of the acid pit! Breathing a sigh of relief into the leather that silenced her, Miracle Maiden fumbled in her belt until she could reach her pocket-knife...

* * *

“I don’t understand!” Lady Gray said as she and Master Darque entered the room. “Dey fell into da pit, but Lanoe is still just a statue! Dat can’t be!”

“That’s because it’s not,” Miracle Maiden said as she and Buffy stepped from behind the door.

“Guess it’s just not your day, huh, Darkie?” Buffy added with a grin.

Darque’s face transformed from human to animalistic fury as he launched at the duo. Miracle Maiden dodged quickly to the side as Buffy swung her hand over her head and down, throwing something. Darque had a split second to notice the pointed wooden stake before it pierced his heart, causing him to explode into dust.

“No!” Lady Gray screamed. “Lanoe will not be denied! Get ‘dem, my pets!”

The mindless zombies lurched forward. Miracle Maiden did a quick backflip, her booted feet catching two of the zombies under the chin and knocking them into the pit. Lady Gray screamed again.

“Da pit can not be contaminated! Stay out of da pit!”

As the zombies dissolved into black smoke, large cracks appeared in the statue of the demon. Miracle Maiden and Buffy looked at each other, grinned and nodded. Working together, they quickly dispatched the remaining zombies in the same manner. The statue cracked, smoked, and vibrated. Lady Gray ran forward to embrace the stony form.

“Please, my Lord! Please stay wit’ us!”

Sensing trouble, Buffy and Miracle Maiden ran for the door. Just as they reached it, the statue exploded, knocking the evil high-priestess back into her own acid pit. Her scream of agony was mercifully short.

* * *

A week later, Lisa Lansing went with Taylor to take Buffy to the airport. After checking her bags, Buffy looked at her watch. “Say, I gotta go to the ‘little girl’s room.’ Want to come with me, Lisa?”

Sensing that she wanted to talk where her uncle wouldn’t overhear, Lisa agreed to Buffy’s request. They went into the bathroom, and, making sure that they were alone, Buffy turned to Lisa and leaned on the sink. She grinned awkwardly and wrinkled her nose. “Look, Lisa, I’m not real good at the whole... gratitude thing. But I want to say thanks for saving my butt the other day.”

Lisa waved it off. “I couldn’t have done it alone. And without you, I’d be dealing with a demon from hell tearing up my city while it tried to get to Sunnydale!”

“Yeah, well, still, it was nice to do the Slayer thing and not be alone...”

Lisa smiled. “Me too.” After a second, they gave a quick hug. “I know how hard it is to deal with a secret identity,” she added. “If you ever want to talk, just give me a call.”

Buffy nodded as they went towards the door. “Thanks. I just might. But it’s nice to just know that I’m not alone fighting the bad guys.”

Lisa nodded. “You’re not alone, Buffy. Neither of us is! Now come on, maybe we can get your uncle to buy us lunch before your plane takes off!”

Next Episode: Through a Mirror Darkly