Clark was a little worried that Xander might drink too much and say something indiscreet at the bar. Instead he showed the card and got the next free table, and ordered a twelve-ounce steak with a baked potato, salad and a Coke. Lois and Clark had a slightly longer wait, but were eventually seated a few tables away.
"Xander?" said a surprised voice. Lois heard it over her radio, Clark with his super-hearing.
A man about Xander's age was standing by his table, a blond wearing a convention badge and a head band with wobbly antennae on spring stalks. Clark focused on the badge, and read 'Andrew Wells, Sunnydale, CA.'
"Andrew?" said Xander, "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm here for the con, of course, same as you."
"Umm... actually... Hey, I thought you were headed for Italy with Buffy and Dawn."
"That's next month," said the stranger, sitting down opposite Xander. "Meanwhile there's a guy in the dealer's room with the rare Jabba the Hutt action figure. Jabba, Xander, the ultra-rare glow in the dark variant, it's boxed and immaculate. Can you lend me two hundred and fifty dollars?"
"Any idea who he is?" whispered Lois
"Andrew Wells," murmured Clark. "I've a feeling I saw the name somewhere... one of the news stories about Sunnydale, maybe."
Meanwhile Xander said "Not a chance. Although... that's actually pretty cheap, are you sure it's authentic?"
"Silly man," said Andrew. "That's the down-payment. It's twelve-fifty."
"No way. You need to hang on to your money, save up some, unless you're planning to spend the rest of your life sleeping on people's couches."
"But it's the ultra rare..."
"Andrew, you lost most of your collection with Sunnydale. Let go of it, find something else to obsess about."
"But... it's Star Wars," Andrew whined.
"So was Jar-Jar Binks," said Xander. "Find something else."
"He was one of the passengers on the last bus out," murmured Clark, searching his near-perfect memory, "when they reached LA he was arrested on an old theft warrant, but all of the evidence went down with Sunnydale, they had to let him go."
"That was cold, Xander," Andrew said after a pointed pause.
"Maybe I'm not in a good mood."
"Still nothing on your parents?" guessed Andrew.
"He doesn't look like a master criminal," Lois whispered, "are you sure?"
"He was an accessory," murmured Clark, "The ring-leader double-crossed everyone else involved, a year or so before Sunnydale went under. Nobody's seen him since."
"That's why I'm here," said Xander. "They're supposed to be staying here, but they don't want to see me."
"How come?" asked Andrew.
"They won a big jackpot, now they're living it up."
"Harsh. If you need help getting in to see them, I've still got some mojo. Just cast the right spell..."
"Andrew," Xander hastily interrupted, "this is my family, not a D&D game."
"But I could summon..."
"No you couldn't. Go away, go haggle for the Hutt. Show the dealer your badge, tell him how you lost everything in Sunnydale. Maybe he'll feel sorry for you. If you can get the price down below seven-fifty I'll lend you the deposit. But I'll want it back, plus ten percent of whatever you eventually sell the figure for."
"Cool!" Andrew got up and left before Xander could change his mind.
"Sorry about that," murmured Xander, "he's a nice guy but he's kinda obsessive, has trouble telling reality and fantasy apart. We really don't want him getting in the way."
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that," said the waiter, arriving with Xander's order.
"Sorry, I was just.. um.. talking to myself."
"Okay, sir," said the waiter, eyeing Xander uncertainly and leaving as rapidly as he could.
"Works every time," muttered Xander, and tucked into his meal.
"What do we do about Wells?" whispered Lois.
"Nothing," said Clark, "he isn't wanted now, and it doesn't look like he's up to anything crooked."
"Famous last words," said Lois, a little louder than the rest of their conversation had been.
"'The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.'" quoted Clark, spotting a waitress approaching with their order. "'And like that, he's gone.'”
"Umm... 'The Usual Suspects,'" said Lois, realising that he was getting back into his role as a media fan. "My turn. 'The unknown future rolls toward us...'"
"Too easy - 'Terminator 2,'" interrupted Clark. "Okay, let's try..." He pretended to notice the waitress for the first time. "No, let's eat."
"Works for me," said Lois. They tucked in, enjoying the meal and each other's company. At his table Xander ate alone, occasionally turning the pages of a paperback and muttering to himself in a foreign language.
"What is that he's saying?" whispered Lois.
"It's Swahili," said Clark. "I think he's trying to learn it, but he's not doing very well. His accent's terrible. 'Where are the... um... demons?' He must have meant to say something else."
As Xander was finishing his dessert a bell-boy came into the restaurant with a note. Xander read it, and from a distance so did Clark. 'Your parents are willing to see you. The bell-boy will escort you to their room.'
"Okay," said Xander, "Want to give me five minutes to finish here, or is this a now or never thing?"
"The boss said now," said the bell-boy.
"Thought so," said Xander, taking a last spoonful of ice cream and draining his coffee. "Well, it was nice while it lasted." He followed the bell-boy out.
Lois had already paid their bill, so she and Clark followed as soon as they were out of sight. Over the radio Xander's voice said "I thought they were on the twentieth floor, why are we going down?" Looking across the atrium, they could see Xander in one of the glass elevators, heading down towards the lobby. The bell-boy said "Gotta take the express elevator." They took another elevator, and arrived in the lobby only seconds after Xander.
"We'll lose the signal as soon as he goes past the lead shielding," muttered Clark. "We need to get up there now."
"There," said Lois, nodding towards a group of men leaving the express elevator. Clark's eyes widened, but he said "I'll just get the brochure," and wandered across the lobby towards the reception desk, somehow failing to notice that they were on a collision course. One of the group fended him off, and for a second Lois thought that she glimpsed several hands moving towards guns, but Clark simply said "Sorry, man, wasn't looking where I was going," and went on innocently towards the desk. By the time he came back Xander was in the elevator and on his way up.
"Any luck?" asked Lois.
"Had to settle for what I could get," said Clark, "but I think it'll be okay." He lifted the brochure to show a key card underneath, gold rather than the silvery-grey they'd been given. "We ought to be all right," he added, "I doubt that the Sultan uses his card much, those bodyguards probably open doors for him."
"You stole the Sultan of Brunei's personal key card?" Lois whispered incredulously, pushing the elevator button.
"Borrowed," murmured Clark. "He seemed the best bet, he wasn't as alert as his bodyguards. Though I was a little worried he might recognise me, I interviewed him last time he was in Metropolis. Cover your name badge before we get in the elevator, there's a camera inside above the buttons, and keep your cap low."
They got in as soon as it returned, and at super-speed Clark used his breath to coat the camera lens with a little ice, enough to reduce the image to a soft blur. "Don't look up," he said, "there's another camera in the ceiling, if I take that one out too someone's sure to notice, but it can't see our faces under the caps." He pushed the key-card into the slot, and pressed the button for 20.
"Any bugs?" murmured Lois.
"Couple." They stood in tense silence as the elevator rose rapidly to 20. As the door opened Lois began to hear Xander's voice again, although the sound seemed muffled and distorted. "There's more lead in the walls," said Clark, trying his special vision. "You were right, Lex must have planned to use it as one of his headquarters."
"..so what's wrong with my folks?" asked Xander. "They look kinda paralyzed." Clark tried to focus on the source of the sound, confused by the lead and the soundproofing of the luxury suites, and pointed in the general direction, down one of the corridors.
"It's a form of cryogenic stasis," said another voice, so distorted as to be unrecognizable. "Quite safe, provided you know exactly how to free them."
"And if anyone else tries they die?" Lois and Clark stopped in the corridor, listening intently.
"Exactly, mister Harris."
"And my guess would be that you've got some kinda fail-safe, that's going to kill them if anyone tries to hurt you?"
"Good guess," said the voice. "But you've been in situations like this before, of course."
"Not exactly," said Xander. "To be honest, I'm a little disappointed."
"With all this build-up, and the elaborate plot to lure me here that never actually got around to doing any luring, and the necro-tempered glass on the windows and everything..." Lois looked at Clark, confused, and he shrugged to indicate his own lack of comprehension.
"Actually," said the voice, "I was expecting Miss Rosenberg to find your parents much earlier. Though the money has been useful."
"Miss Rosenberg?" muttered Lois.
"Another passenger on the bus," whispered Clark.
"She's been kinda busy," said Xander. "Took her a while to get round to it. Anyway, as I was saying, with the big fancy plot and the necro-tempered glass in the windows, keeping out those nasty old rays, I was expecting some sort of evil overlord, I just never figured it would be you."
"Sure. Vegas, didn't really think it'd be your scene. I was thinking more Elvis, or maybe Howard Hughes."
"Both of whom are dead," said the voice.
"Well, not really a problem for some people, is it? You ought to know. So tell me, Lex, how's being a vampire working out for you?"
Comments please before I post to archives.
Next part probably tomorrow evening.