"Lex?" Lois whispered incredulously.
"Vampire?" Clark responded. He tried to look through the door and found that it was lined with lead like the walls.
Over the radio Lex's voice, now clearly audible, said "Mister Luthor, you insolent..."
"Uh huh huh," said Xander. "My guess is you want me alive and in one piece. Tearing my throat out isn't going to get the job done."
There was an odd noise, like ripping cloth, and Lex said "What do you imagine the job to be?"
"Well, everyone knows you want Superman dead, and the pretty green rock you have there tells me that hasn't changed."
"Xander's playing this beautifully," whispered Lois. "He knows we're listening, must have guessed we'd call Superman."
"Doesn't tell us how to rescue him," Clark replied. "If there's Kryptonite in there..."
"Go on," said Lex.
"You'd be one of the clones, right?"
"There is only one Lex Luthor!" Lex said emphatically.
"Clone!" whispered Clark, Lois nodded her agreement.
"Whatever," said Xander, his voice exuding disbelief. "Okay, so you got attacked by a vampire... no, I remember now, you clone guys die in a few months. You didn't want to die, so you found an alternative. Shame it meant losing your soul."
"My patience isn't inexhaustible," said Lex. "Are you going somewhere with this?"
"What you need me for, of course," said Xander. "Now this is where I'm a little shaky. You got my parents, and you're using them to get me. That cryogenic trick doesn't come cheap, I remember when the nerds used it to rob the museum... never mind. Anyway, obviously you want something, and it's probably something that comes from Sunnydale. It can't just be a vampire or a demon, you can find them other places. That pretty much leaves me and my friends."
Clark whispered "Find Xander's friend Andrew. He's probably still in the dealer's room." Lois hesitated, then went towards the elevator. Clark tried to adjust to the idea that vampires and demons existed, if it wasn't all some sort of elaborate trick, and ached to tear into the room. He forced himself to listen and wait.
"Now it isn't me, I'm just a carpenter, and I kinda doubt that you want a vampire slayer, so that leaves..."
"Rosenberg, of course," interrupted Lex.
"Willow? You want Willow to.. to.." Xander began to laugh. After a few moments there was a loud slapping noise, and Xander said "Hey! That hurt."
"Then don't try my patience. Superman is known to be vulnerable to magic. Willow Rosenberg is the most powerful witch..." Xander interrupted with "Wicca, not witch," and Lex said "Very well, the most powerful Wicca in the Western Hemisphere. With her help I could..."
"Rule the world?" said Xander. "Do I get a maniacal laugh now?"
"I was going to say kill Superman, you moron," said Lex. "Others can rule, provided that they do so as I wish."
"Why on earth would Willow help you?" said Xander.
"To save you and your parents, of course. I'm sure she wants to. Don't you, Miss Rosenberg?"
"Um... who are you talking to?" asked Xander.
"Miss Rosenberg, of course. Did you really think we wouldn't notice your transmitter? DeMarco, have you found her yet?" There wasn't an audible reply, and Clark guessed he was using the phone.
"Transmitter?" said Xander. Clark guessed that things were about to go downhill, and racked his brains for a way to handle the situation.
Lois looked around the huge dealer's room, trying to spot Andrew in a sea of similar-looking nerds. She had a feeling that Clark was about to do something dangerous, and wanted to be there to back him up. Would Andrew even be useful? She doubted it... though she was starting to wonder about his talk of magic, and suspected that he hadn't just been talking about Dungeons and Dragons. She put her feelings to one side and concentrated on the hunt, paying special attention to anyone with blond hair and antennae, muttering "No... no... there you are!"
Andrew was standing by a table loaded with Star Wars memorabilia, arguing with a heavily tattooed man dressed as an extremely overweight Han Solo. "...and then the bus started to skid across the road, and I could feel my whole life passing before me. And I remembered that my action figures were still in my apartment..."
"Eleven hundred and not a penny less," the trader said as Lois reached Andrew, who seemed on the verge of tears.
"Xander needs your help," said Lois.
"My help?" said Andrew, "He wasn't giving me much help when..."
Lois reached up, grabbed his ear, and twisted, pulling his head down until it was level with her mouth, and said "He needs your help with a vampire."
"Me? Uh... okay, I guess. And owww." Lois let him go.
"Come on, there isn't much time."
"Okay. Does he have weapons?" asked Andrew, following her towards the entrance.
"We need something made of wood... over there." He let Lois towards a table where a cheerful British woman was selling pyrographed wooden plaques, and grabbed a handful of carved walnut letter openers. "These ought to do..."
"That'll be forty-five dollars," said the trader, counting them. "If you want names on them, that's two dollars per name."
"They're fine as they are," said Andrew. "Pay her, I'm broke."
Lois grabbed a handful of bills and dropped them on the table, took Andrew's arm, and pulled him towards the elevators, saying "Cover your badge and keep your face away from the controls when we get inside, there's a camera. And don't talk, it's bugged."
"Okay," said Andrew. "Where are we headed?"
"One of the suites. Xander's parents are being held there."
"By vampires?" asked Andrew. Lois nodded. "That's bad. Do they know who he is?"
"I think so."
"Crap." The elevator arrived before Lois could ask him what he meant. The journey up was tense, with Andrew obviously itching to say something. As they got out he finally said "You're Lois Lane, aren't you?"
"Dawn and Vi and I loved 'Wanda Detroit', though I kinda thought you shouldn't have killed...."
"Maybe this can wait for another time." Lois said hastily.
Over the radio she heard Xander say "Well, okay, maybe Willow is around somewhere, but she's not just gonna walk in without knowing the score."
Andrew said "If you're here, does that mean that you're with Clark Kent and Supe..." He stopped, mouth open, as they turned the corner and saw the corridor that led to suite 2004. At three points security cameras dangled down from recesses in the ceiling, half-melted, and a blur of red, yellow and blue was moving along the wall, somehow removing the plaster without damaging the layer of lead foil underneath. Before either of them could say anything Superman went through the door of another suite, leaving a wrecked lock behind him, used diamond-hard fingernails to cut a section of grey glass from the window, then flew back to the wall and began to peel off the lead, rolling it up like wallpaper. Somehow he was doing it with no more noise than a vacuum cleaner.
"That's..." said Andrew.
"Superman," whispered Lois. "Clark must have called for help."
Clark suddenly stopped in front of them and quietly said "Clark's gone to to call the police from outside the building. You're Harris's friend?" Andrew nodded. "His parents are in some form of cryogenic suspension. From something Harris said Clark thinks that you might know something about it."
"I helped build a freeze ray once. The hard part's thawing people out afterwards, but there's a nifty spell we used..."
"So if I keep them frozen they'll be all right until you can revive them?" Clark interrupted.
"I guess so."
"Okay," said Clark. "Show time." Faster than the eye could follow he used his nails to cut the lead into pieces, and in seconds had them formed into an oversuit, similar to the style worn by fire-fighters, with lead mittens and a grey glass face-plate. He folded and crimped the seams with his fingers then climbed in, saying "Fold the back opening closed, I can't reach it by myself." He tucked the rolled remainder of the lead under his arm.
Lois started at the top, Andrew at the bottom, and betwen them they managed to get the suit shut. He strode to the door and knocked, waited for the light coming through the peephole to darken slightly, then punched through the door.
Clark levitated over the unconscious bell-boy, lying on the floor with a pistol by his side, and into the suite's lobby. He couldn't move too fast without damaging the lead or tearing it open, so the Kryptonite had to be his first priority. There was another door, then he was in a room that looked like a cross between a lounge and a laboratory, built to a grandiose scale. To one side four couples stood, apparently paralyzed and frozen, in transparent plastic tubes bathed in an eerie blue light. To the other were comfortable couches, a coffee table, and a bar. Xander sat on one of the couches, bruised and handcuffed, Lex stood over him, holding his shoulder, turning to look at the door as Clark entered. Above the bar, in a mock-antique lantern, was a small chunk of glowing green rock. Clark braced himself for the impact of the rays, but felt nothing worse than a mild ache, the lead and lead-loaded glass absorbing most of the effect. He flew towards it at a fraction of his normal speed.
The thing that had once been Lex Luthor's clone snarled, eyes yellow and mouth suddenly fanged, and leapt at Clark. To anyone else it would have been blindingly fast; to Clark it seemed to move in slow motion. Somehow that added to the horror. He swerved to dodge it, getting closer to the Kryptonite and feeling the first real pain, slowing a little as the rays seemed to drain his energy, and snapped the roll of lead foil open like a roller blind, forward and up so that it wrapped around the lantern, then quickly rolled it into a ball. The pain faded as the layers of lead built up.
Meanwhile Lex turned and smashed his hand through the plastic wall of the tube containing Xander's parents, and the light bathing all four couples flickered and died. Lois ran in, with Andrew stumbling behind her. Andrew shouted "Xander!" and ran forward with the knives, while Xander was trying to wrench a leg from the coffee table. Lois looked around, saw a heavy silver tray on a side table, and hurled it at Lex like a frisbee.
Clark had ripped his face-plate off and was blowing cold air and ice into the tubes, cooling the prisoners to cryogenic temperatures, as Lex batted the tray from the air and turned on her, snarling his anger. Andrew tried to duck to one side, but Lex easily caught him and grabbed him by the neck, shouting "Surrender now or he dies!" Andrew tried to stab him in the heart, but succeed only in cutting Lex's arm.
Lois grabbed another tray, but Xander shouted "Silver doesn't work! Use wood!" There was a 'snap' and he ran forward with the broken table leg clutched in both hands, the sharp end towards Lex. About six inches from his back it stopped, shattering to splinters against Clark's hand, while Clark clapped his other hand against the nerves in Lex's elbow. Andrew fell from Lex's limp hand. Before Lex had a chance to react Clark tied him with cords torn from the window blinds.
"That won't hold him for long," said Xander. "He's stronger than anyone human." There was a 'whoosh' as Clark flew to the bar, ripped off the brass rail that ran the length of it, wrapped it around Lex's arms and torso, and welded it with his heat vision. "That ought to work," said Andrew.
"Curse you!" shouted Lex, and tried to bite into Clark's arm, ripping the lead a little before his fangs shattered. Clark peeled off the rest of the lead and wrapped it around the Kryptonite, compressed it to a ball, then flew back to the room where he'd damaged the window, scanned the sky for planes and satellites, threw it into space, and zipped back to suite 2004, just in time to stop Xander from stabbing Lex with one of the letter openers. Lois had an arm lock on Andrew, who'd had the same idea.
"Okay," said Xander, giving in to the inevitable. "If you're not gonna let us finish him he's your problem. His fangs will grow back in a couple of days, then he can start killing people again. What are you planning to do with him?"
Clark stared at Lois, and Lois at Clark. Neither of them had any idea.
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