"I wonder if Las Vegas has a leash law," said Xander. "You're probably gonna have to muzzle him too. And make sure he can't get his hands on anyone, he's stronger than a gorilla."
"What?" said Lois. Most of her attention was on the mirror over the bar, which reflected all of the contents of the room except Lex. Looking back at the real.. whatever he was... was like looking into the past. He seemed little older than when they'd first met, ten years earlier, and still had all his hair. But of course this had once been a clone, not the original man. Meanwhile Xander was talking again.
"Well, if Superman's going to keep dangerous pets he has to take responsibility. You'll need a litter tray, a big one. Then the food's gonna be a bitch..."
"When I get free," shouted Lex, "you'll take a month to die!"
"Reminds me," said Xander, holding up his hands, "any chance of getting me out of these cuffs?"
"Do you promise to behave?" said Clark.
"I guess. But you're making a big mistake. He's already dead, he just isn't lying down yet."
Lex laughed harshly, and said "He's too noble to kick a man when he's down. Sickening, isn't it? As for her, the woman that betrayed me... where is your precious husband anyway?"
"Calling the police," said Lois.
"That's not such a good idea," said Xander. "The police aren't really set up to handle vampires, neither are the courts. Mostly they try to pretend that they don't exist."
Clark carefully broke the cuffs without hurting Xander. As he was working on them there was a shout in the corridor outside and four security guards burst into the suite, guns in their hands. Andrew and Xander dived for the floor. Before the guards could aim the pistols were red hot, and they dropped them with yells of pain. Three fell harmlessly, the fourth was hot enough for the the bullet in the chamber to explode, and the recoil made it fire a half-dozen shots. Clark managed to field five of the bullets without anyone getting hurt. The sixth somehow evaded him and hit the full-length window, cracking it from top to bottom. There was a momentary hush as everyone waited for it to shatter, but nothing happened. Clark quickly finished disarming the guards and tied them with more of the cords.
Andrew picked himself off the floor and began to draw complex markings on the cylinders with a felt-tipped pen. "This is gonna take a while," he said, "try not to interrupt."
Clark said "I'd better round up DeMarco. Were any of the other hotel employees involved?"
"I only saw the bellboy," said Xander, "but they've got the whole building fitted with tinted glass, there could be an army of vampires here. Probably some humans helping them too. And a few more prisoners, they'd want a source of fresh blood." Clark was horrified by the implications. Xander added "But it's more likely he was using the casino as an all-you-can-eat buffet, he'd just need to get people outside, drain them, and dump the bodies somewhere."
"I can check the lower floors and casino for vampires easily enough," said Clark, "now that I know what to look for. But these top three floors have lead in the walls and floors, I'd have to break into every room."
"DeMarco probably has a master keycard," said Lois.
"Don't forget the basements," said Xander, "if he has any minions or prisoners that's where he might keep them."
Clark nodded and streaked off outside. Xander turned to Lois and said "Wow! He's kinda... um..." and trailed off into silence.
"He sure is," said Lois, with a smile.
"I suppose he'd object if I took care of things," said Xander, picking up one of the knives and giving Lex a hostile look.
"I think you can count on it," said Lois. "Superman doesn't kill."
"And that's why I'll win," said Lex. Brass creaked as he tried to bend the rail away from his body.
"Shut up," said Xander, "or I'll be tempted to risk annoying him. And you know that I know you're already dead."
"How does that work, exactly?" asked Lois.
"For publication?" asked Xander.
"No idea what you're talking about."
"All right, off the record."
"He's dead, and a demon is animating the corpse. Looks like him, has the same memories, but there's nothing left of the original soul. It's just a monster, a vicious killer held together by magic. You break the spell if you stake them through the heart, then they just crumble to dust."
"I guess it isn't really that much of a personality change," said Lois. Lex glared at her.
"That's the way the demons like them," said Xander. "They kinda boost the nastiest traits of the people they take over. The more vicious the original guy, the nastier the vampire."
Out of the corner of her eye Lois glimpsed something, and spun round to see the bellboy entering the room, gun in hand, leaning on the door frame to support himself. His face was bloody from the impact when Clark had broken in, and there were foot-marks on his jacket where he'd been trampled by the guards as they entered. Xander threw one of the knives at him; it hit him hilt-first in the shoulder, and spun off into the wall. The bell-boy aimed the gun at Xander with a wavering arm, ignoring Lois. She dodged to one side, then tried to kick the gun out of his hand. There was a 'crack' as it fired, and a much louder crack as the second bullet finished the job the first had started, shattering the window that ran along one side of the room. Glass hailed down the side of the building, and harsh desert sunlight filled the suite. Lex screamed and writhed in his brass prison, then began to smoulder, black smoke pouring from his hands and face.
"Do something!" said Lois, following up her first kick with another to the bell-boy's stomach. He doubled up and vomited on the floor.
"Too late," Xander said calmly. Suddenly Lex was engulfed in flames then disintegrated, first to a skeleton, then to dust. He added "I guess he got away. Must have jumped out the window while you were fighting the bellboy. Maybe he had a miniature parachute or something."
"You know that isn't true," said Lois.
"Really?" said Xander. "It's a lot more likely than vampires."
"Do you expect me to lie about this?"
"No... but you can be selective about the truth. Or work for the National Whisper or the Weekly World News, because they're the only ones that'll print the story."
Clark appeared at the window while Xander was speaking, his arms full of shards of glass, and said "It's a good thing I was checking the terrace just then. Where's Luthor?"
"He was kinda allergic to sunlight," said Xander. Clark stared at the circle of ash on the floor and the empty knot of brass pipe, and said "Who did this?"
"He did," said Lois, pointing at the bellboy. "He was going to shoot Xander and I kicked his arm..."
"Luthor was dead anyway," said Xander, with a shrug.
"I've got to finish checking the building," said Clark, dumping the glass in a corner. "Try not to do too much damage before the police get here."
"Is Clark okay?" asked Lois.
"He's fine," said Clark. "He's waiting downstairs for the police."
"Before you go," Andrew said nervously, "I'm kinda ready to thaw these guys out now."
"Are you sure they'll be all right?" asked Clark.
"Not really... but I've given it the best shot I can. They need a lot of heat now, spread evenly through the body until they're back at normal temperature but no higher. Can you do it that accurately?"
"Of course he can," said Lois, "he's Superman."
"I've done it before," said Clark, "but it doesn't always work. A lot depends on how quickly they were originally frozen."
"The spells ought to help," said Andrew. "They strengthen the cell membranes, keep things from turning to mush. Kinda like anti-freeze."
"Let's try," said Clark, sweeping his heat vision backwards and forwards across the first tube. The couple inside sagged to their knees, coughed, and looked around, confused. Lois hastened to unlock it. Satisfied, Clark quickly repeated the procedure on the other tubes, checked that everyone was alive, and flashed off to look for DeMarco and finish searching the hotel.
Xander went to the second tube, found the control that opened it, and said "Hi mom. Dad. Feeling okay?"
Hovering in the atrium, slowly rotating as he used his special vision to scan the hotel for DeMarco, vampires and their victims, Clark was attracting a lot of attention. Dozens of cameras flashed and whirred. Gradually he eliminated the upper floors, working his way down towards the convention areas and the basement. Nothing... Eventually he spotted DeMarco in one of the offices behind the reception desk, dressed as a cleaner and shovelling money from a safe into a large mop bucket on wheels. Clark kept an eye on him as he finished checking the building, then streaked round to intercept him as he headed for the car park. In the distance sirens were howling, getting closer by the second. Clark grabbed DeMarco, leaving the mop bucket to fend for itself, and flew back up towards Lex's suite.
"...If I find out you had anything to do with this," Tony Harris shouted at Xander, "I'm going to press charges. You and your friends are a menace to... to..." His jaw dropped as Clark flew in through the broken window, carrying DeMarco.
"I think you owe your son an apology," said Clark. "If it wasn't for him you'd all still be frozen. If you want to blame someone, I think that mister DeMarco may have some explaining to do."
"I'm gonna sue!" said Harris senior. Clark sighed. He had a feeling that clearing this one up was going to be complicated, and that it would be a while before he could take off the suit and get back to being himself.
"I think you owe us an apology," said Clark, catching up with Xander as he was waiting for a cab outside the hotel.
"I know," said Xander. "I should have called for backup, instead of getting you guys involved, I underestimated what we were dealing with. It's a good thing that Superman helped us out."
"He's pretty good at that," said Lois. "So... what really happened today?"
"You probably know more than I do," said Xander. "Didn't DeMarco give you some sort of explanation?"
"He hasn't said a word," said Lois, "apart from asking for his lawyers."
"Let me guess," said Xander. "Wolfram and Hart?"
"How did you know that?" asked Clark.
"Call it a wild hunch."
"We could talk to Andrew," said Lois. "He's really not the strong silent type. Wouldn't you prefer to give us your own version of things?"
Xander sighed, and said "Off the record?"
"No guarantees. If you can convince us, okay."
"Want to go back inside?" asked Xander. "This is going to be a long story..."
"...and that's about it," said Xander, taking a sip of his beer in the outdoor restaurant. "There's all kinds of weird stuff going on, but it stays pretty much hidden. Clone guy must have learned about it somehow, my bet is that someone in Wolfram and Hart told him. Wouldn't surprise me if they supplied the vampire that turned him. But there's no way to prove that, you can't even ask because he was probably one of their clients."
"They're really that bad?" asked Clark, nibbling on a pretzel.
"They were. There's new management, some guys who used to be in the demon-fighting business, and I'm hoping that they're gonna clean house. If they don't get corrupted first, of course."
"That still doesn't explain why DeMarco and the clone wanted to trap you," said Lois.
"My guess is that they got into it more or less by accident," said Xander. "Tony and Jessica really did win the jackpot, but they trusted exactly the wrong people with their money. Luthor had them put on ice and got to work siphoning the cash, then he must have found out that I'm their son, and that I'm a friend of Willow."
"She's that famous?"
"You'd better believe it," Xander said proudly. "Most powerful Wicca in the western hemisphere, maybe the world. Anyone who knows magic probably knows her name." He took another sip of beer.
"What I don't understand," said Clark, "is why the clone wanted magic at all. He had Kryptonite, it must have been one of the samples the original Lex stole from Star Labs. Superman said it was probably enough to kill him."
"Simple," said Xander. "Kryptonite's short range. Magic can hurt you at a distance, and it isn't blocked by lead. Willow could probably cast a spell on Superman without ever actually meeting him. Of course she wouldn't, but clone guy didn't know that."
"What would she have done if she'd been with you?" asked Lois, stirring her coffee.
"Rescued us, of course," said Xander. There wasn't a trace of doubt in his voice. "Of course she might have made more of a mess than Superman did, so it's probably just as well she wasn't here."
"Getting back to demons," said Lois. "Are there really a lot of them around?"
"I can't prove it here, unless you want me to get Andrew to summon one. I really don't recommend it."
"And you've been fighting them since you were sixteen?" asked Clark.
"Mostly fetching donuts for the people who were doing the fighting, but yeah, that's about it."
"It's an extraordinary story," said Lois, "but you haven't really given us much reason to keep quiet about it."
"I guess not," said Xander. "But do you really want to kill innocent people?"
"I don't understand," said Clark.
"Willow did the math once. Putting together everything we know about the breeding habits of demons, there's about a one in forty chance that anyone you meet, anyone human, has some demon blood. Maybe only from a great-great grandfather or something, but you do enough of the right tests and it's easy enough to detect. And most of them are just regular guys, nothing out of the ordinary, don't even know that there's a skeleton in the closet. But you get enough people stirred up and looking for demons, sooner or later they're gonna start running those tests. Won't be long before the first lynchings. And they could justify it because the people they'd be killing really wouldn't be entirely human."
"One in forty?" said Lois.
"Maybe one in twenty in a hundred miles or so radius of Sunnydale. And that takes in most of Los Angeles."
"So what are we supposed to do?" asked Clark. "Keep out of it? Surely Superman could... well, do something."
"Right now," said Xander, "things ought to go quiet for a while with Sunnydale gone. The only other Hellmouth in the US is in Cleveland, and that's near enough to Metropolis that the demons there keep a low profile, they really don't want to attract his attention. It keeps things managable, means that the ones who go on killing sprees tend to be the stupid ones, and my friends and I can handle them. But if Superman was actively hunting them that'd upset the balance of power. The Powers That Be couldn't stop them from calling in their big guns, the hell gods and demon lords that normally have better things to do than mess around with this dimension. And those guys are probably as powerful as Superman is, they've got magic to back them up, and they wouldn't go away once he was dead."
"Won't that happen now?" asked Lois.
"Shouldn't think so," said Xander. "That was pretty much a bush league operation, as far as the demon lords are concerned, They don't even like vampires much, so taking one out isn't gonna upset anyone. But start doing things on a bigger scale and you'd see one Hell of a reaction. And I really do mean Hell, with a capital H.
"You win," said Clark. "We'll try to come up with an explanation that avoids the supernatural, and persuade Superman to stay out of it."
"Are you sure?" asked Lois.
"It isn't just us," said Clark. "Think about the children. If something powerful enough to kill Superman invaded our world, what sort of life would they have?" Lois nodded her agreement.
"That's about the size of it," said Xander. "Okay... I guess that you're anxious to get home. If you don't mind I'll tag along, my car's still in Smallville. Share a cab?"
"Why not?" said Clark. "We'll need half an hour or so to pack and check out, if you don't mind waiting."
"No problem," said Xander. "And I'd better check that Andrew's okay, he had Jabba down to nine hundred dollars an hour ago, by now the guy's either killed him or caved in completely..."
"Well?" asked Martha. "Did you find out what really happened to Sunnydale?"
"Pretty much," said Lois, putting down her carry-on bag, "and you were right. It really was monsters."
"You're joking," said Jonathan.
"Not this time," said Clark, carrying in the rest of their luggage. "Vampires and demons. Oh, and witches and magic."
"Sounds like you've got a tale to tell," said Martha.
"After the kids are asleep," said Lois. She and Clark knelt to hug the children as they came running in from the yard. "After all, we don't want to give anyone nightmares..."
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