The Vampire of Steel
“Okay, Kara,” said Buffy. “Giles you’ve already met. He’s my Watcher. That means he’s in charge of my training and making sure I slay vampires in perfect form. I owe everything I am today to him. But I don’t hold that against him.”
Rupert Giles smiled. “Old joke. But it’ll pass, Buffy.”
“And the other outnumbered member of the opposite sex here is Xander Harris,” Buffy continued. “He’s my classmate at good old Sunnydale High and also one of the Scooby Gang, which is what we call ourselves. You know, after the group in Scooby-Doo.”
“And I’d have succeeded with her, if it wasn’t for those blasted vamps!”, Xander declared.
“Dream on,” Buffy replied. “Willow you’ve already spoken to. She’s our resident witch in training. But she’s a good witch...at least in terms of intention. As far as quality, she’s coming up pretty nicely in that department, too.”
“Hi again,” said Willow, somewhat shyly. “You’re like the first super-person I’ve ever met.”
“Well, you’re the first witch I’ve met. In Sunnydale, that is,” said Supergirl, with a slight grin. “If Zatanna ever needs an understudy, I’ll recommend you.”
“Gosh. Would you?”
“I think she’s being facetious, Will,” Buffy said. “There are a couple of members who aren’t present tonight. One of them is Cordelia, our resident fashion pimp and compadre. The other is Angel, and he’s a vampire. But a good vampire.”
“A good vampire,” said Supergirl. “Oh, no, I’m repeating your words again. Well. Why is this Angel person a good vampire?”
Xander said, “Because he’s really neat. He has good fashion sense, and he flosses daily. Also, he does his own laundry.”
“Xander, hush,” said Giles. “Miss Supergirl, unlike most other vampires, Angel has a soul. That means he helps us fight the forces of evil here in Sunnydale. You’ll be very safe from him.”
“Well, Supergirl ought to be safe from everything,” said Willow. “Except maybe Kryptonite.”
Kara shook her head. “No, Willow. Kryptonians are vulnerable to magic. If you performed the right spell, even you could hurt me.”
The wiccan girl’s eyes widened. “Then you mean, like...well...vampires...”
“Yes, dear. Vampires can hurt me. The last time I met Buffy, they did, several times. But I go where the job takes me.”
“Sounds kind of like a Slayer,” observed Buffy. “But anyway, Kara, I told them we needed you as a consultant. Has somebody like you, you know, a super-person, ever turned into a vampire?”
Supergirl sat on the couch arm and crossed her legs, dangling one over her knee. “Well, Kal—Superman—told me of a case he was on with Batman in which both of them and the Phantom Stranger fought a marine vampire...that is, a vampire at sea, not one who was in the USMC. Superman was briefly victimized and turned into a vampire, but he got converted back to his old self. There was another instance in which a dimensional portal was opened, and a king vampire from another world tried to drink Kal’s blood. But he didn’t manage to. Both Kal and Batman once fought a Kryptonian werewolf, too.”
“Aha,” said Giles. “So there is precedent.”
“There aren’t many of us left,” said Kara. “I don’t know of any vampire cases or lore on Krypton. But we are basically human beings, so, yes, it would be possible for one of us to become a vampire. A real one, not the temporary thing that Kal became.”
“Makes me feel more secure already,” Xander muttered. “Faster than a speeding crossbow bolt, more powerful than a funeral hearse, able to leap tall mausoleums in a single bound.”
“Oh, Xander, shut up,” barked Buffy. “So you can see where we’re at, Kara. If this really is a super-vampire, and not just one of that variety like in Chicago that can turn into a bat, we need your help.”
“Precisely,” said Giles, looking at Supergirl. “So, our question to you, Miss Supergirl—“
“Call me Kara.”
“—all right, then, Miss Kara, is this: how do we slay a vampire from Krypton?”
“That, Mr. Giles,” she said, “is a very, very good question.”
It was said that the residents of Sunnydale were always in deep denial of the doings in their fair town, or all of them would have made it more of a ghost town than it already was. That made things easier for the part of the population that didn’t pay taxes anymore.
The newcomer had no idea why things were the way they were. He wasn’t stupid, but he’d never been on this world for a very long time. True, he’d observed it. But observation and getting your hands into things directly were two different things.
He was so stupid at first. He’d been spat out like a seed from a pod into this place, staggered around for a while trying to get his bearings, get used to his new body and what it could do, and he’d been approached by someone who didn’t look savory. That, he could have handled. It was the one in back of him that he wasn’t expecting.
He hadn’t been expecting the pain, either.
If he’d been more used to what his body could now do, even that might have had a different ending. But he’d rarely set foot on this world before, and only for a couple of short visits. So the blasted leech on his neck was able to take from him what it wanted, though he managed to ram an arm straight through the body of the one in front of him, and it left him dry.
And he died.
Not permanently, though.
He’d opened his eyes in what passed for a preparatory place for the dead on Terra. It was ghoulish, seeing all the cadavers about him in various stages of dissection. But it was certainly better than what he’d been expecting.
Hunger filled him. Instinctual knowledge, as well. He knew what he was, from the moment he rose naked from his slab.
Even before the Terran in the white coat entered the room, he knew what to do with him.
And now here he was, on the street, in a stolen overcoat, hat, pants and shoes...his own garments wouldn’t do at all, obviously...wondering what to do next. He’d already fed, despite that interfering girl who’d tried to put some sort of wooden object through him. There were a few hours till sunrise. Amazing what instinct would tell you, once you let it: he had known from his rising that sunlight would be deadly to him.
Noises nearby. He didn’t even have to turn up his hearing to perceive them.
A couple of other interlopers. This town had some interesting nightlife, to be sure. Both of them were humanoid, but not human. They had misshapen heads and hands that simply weren’t right, but both of them fit into Terran clothing. It seemed that both of them were smiling, but that was hard to tell.
“Hate to ask, pops, but you know how it is when you’re down on your luck,” said one. “Can I bum a quarter?”
“Actually,” said the other, “we don’t even need that. We’ll work for food. Of course, you’re the food.”
He turned his head two separate ways within the space of an instant.
Both of the demons had time to gape as they felt the bolts of heat searing through their middles. They also had time to look at the gaping red holes in their chests those bolts had made.
Then they crumpled to the ground and moved no more.
He surveyed them both for a second, then said, “Never hunt on an empty stomach. You get careless that way.”
He turned on his heel, and left.
He was smiling.
Supergirl was outlining what amounted to a plan for the rest of them.
“He might by Kryptonian, Martian, or Daxamite,” she said. “If he’s the last, lead will kill him as easily as Kryptonite would kill me. If he’s a Martian, which I doubt, fire will do the trick. I’m only telling you that because J’onn J’onzz isn’t on Earth anymore, so he won’t mind. Don’t tell anyone else.”
“We won’t,” said Willow.
“If he’s Kryptonian, it’s going to take magic or Kryptonite. Since I don’t want to handle Green K here, that means we’ll need your help, Willow.”
Buffy broke in. “Maybe. But the traditional wards against vampires, such as garlic, crosses, holy water, they ought to work, too, Kara. Even if I can’t shove a stake through him.”
“Good point, Buffy.”
“So I want to be there,” continued Buffy. “Even if this guy is out of my weight class, I know about vampires. I may not be able to stake him. But I can hurt him.”
“It seems to me,” Giles said, “that you’re ignoring something else. Most likely, if this is a superhuman vampire we’re facing here, he’s also out of Miss Kara’s weight class as well. Just as a normal vampire would be far beyond the strength of a normal human.”
There was a pause, as all of them looked at Supergirl.
Supergirl shrugged and said, “Maybe. But I’m a lot closer to his power level than any of you. So that means I take point.”
“And we’re all your support troops,” offered Xander. What he didn’t say, and what all the rest knew, was that for once, Buffy wasn’t going to be the lead warrior in this one.
“No,” said Kara. “It’s too dangerous, Xander. You have no idea of what Kryptonian strength, Kryptonian powers, are like. He could just look at you and burn you to a crisp. In fact, he could move so fast, you’d be toast before your brain could process the information.”
The black-haired youth swallowed. “It’s not like we haven’t gone against hairy, evil, death-dealing, life-eating, evil-worshiping things before. That’s kind of our job at Sunnydale. Actually, more like unpaid volunteer work.”
“One of these days,” said Willow, wistfully, “it would be nice if we could tell the city, so maybe we could get paid for it.”
Giles gave her a look.
“I’m just saying, is all,” Willow explained.
“Miss Kara has a point,” said Giles. “As powerful as the likes of the Master are, or were, a being from another planet is outside of our experience. But not outside hers. However, we have shown ourselves adaptable to many sorts of dangers, not a few of which, though you know it not, have threatened our very world.”
“Been there, done that,” said Supergirl, simply. “But thanks.”
“However,” Giles went on, “our very experience, and our resilience in battling this sort of evil, makes it imperative that we accompany her in whatever fashion we may. Our unit...the, ah, ‘Scooby Gang’, if you will...is a team, and used to fighting together. To leave any of us out without just cause would be a certain mistake.”
“How’s about getting your heads handed to you by a guy who’s more powerful than an Atlas missle?”, Kara retorted. “I think that comes under the heading of a mistake, too.”
“Kara.” Buffy stood up and faced her. “It comes down to this. We all go, or none of us goes. We have the knowledge. You have the power. Make a decision.”
The girl from Krypton and the girl from Sunnydale stared each other down for a moment.
“I won’t have anyone’s blood on my hands,” Supergirl stated.
“You will if we don’t get off our butts and find this Supervamp,” Buffy replied.
The Girl of Steel sighed. “All right. But only you and I take point, and I do the fighting. The others have to stay in hiding. If he even suspects they’re around, he could kill them in an eyeblink.”
“Eyeblink time might be a bonus,” said Buffy. “Compared to what some other playmates have had in mind for us. Deal, Kara?”
Supergirl grasped her hand. “Deal. On those terms.”
“Fair enough. So do we up, up, and away?”
“We do. In a moment.”
“Can you hear me now?” said Kara.
The voice in her earphone came through loud and clear. “Yes, yes, Miss Kara. The tracking device is working excellently. Is Buffy holding up all right?”
Buffy, being held aloft in Kara’s good right arm, said into her own throat mike, “I’m fine, Giles. Uh. Not that I like it that much, but at least I’m more used to it. Nothing here is as tall as the Sears Tower.”
“Thank God for that,” Giles answered. Below the two of them, Giles, Willow, and Xander were attempting to follow in the Watcher’s car. Kara had taken a tracker and put it in her belt, and both she and Buffy had been equipped with throat mikes and earplugs to communicate with the other unit.
Supergirl said, “We’re headed for the park. That’s where most of the action happens in this town?”
“More than we’d like to admit,” Giles answered. “Does your vision tell you anything?”
Buffy looked at her flightmate. Kara’s eyes were focused in a strange manner, and she was looking in the direction of Sunnydale Park. Super-vision, she guessed. To use that, do you need a Supervisor to teach you?
She decided not to make that joke aloud.
Kara’s face turned grim. “I’m seeing something I wish I hadn’t,” she said.
“Two murder victims,” she said. “Big holes burned right through their chests. Their faces, what I can see of them, look alien.”
“Demons,” muttered Buffy.
“What?” Kara turned to her, inquisitively.
“Vampires aren’t all we have to worry about in this town,” she said.
“Glad to know,” Supergirl said. “Don’t think they’ve been dead for too long. Hang on. I’m going to check the park out with infra-red, and then we’re heading down. Stay tuned.”
“Infra-red?” asked Buffy.
“We have a lot of vision powers,” muttered Supergirl. The thing was, their enemy probably did, too. If he was in the park, she could probably see him. There were a few people on the periphery, on other streets. But all of them wore normal clothes, not one of them looked demonic, and there was no way of telling a Krypt from a human, or a vampire, just by looking. All of them had heartbeats, too.
“Down,” said Kara.
Buffy took a deep breath as the Maid of Might flew them in for a swift landing. They touched ground by the doughnuted demons. The sight didn’t agree with Kara. She noticed that Buffy took it in a more businesslike manner.
“Sorry,” said Buffy. “In my line of work, you see this stuff more often.”
“I’m glad I don’t have your line of work,” said Supergirl. “Most of the time, that is.”
The Slayer stooped and examined the bodies. “Burn marks on the edges of the holes,” she said. “That would be that thing you do with your eyes, all right.”
“What are these things?”
Buffy turned one of the bodies over, pried open one of its eyelids. “Ghoul demons, most likely. Flesh eaters. They probably went out for dinner, but weren’t expecting such a hot meal.”
“How can you joke about things like this?”
She looked Kara in the eye. “Because if I didn’t, I’d have gone raving bonkers when I started Slaying.”
Supergirl didn’t have a thing to say to that.
From a distance, he watched the two women. It was as if it were at midday, and he was only ten feet away from them.
The blonde girl was there again, investigating. With Supergirl. He never suspected she had such connections. But that only made it more gratifying.
Like all those who came from where he did, he had a grudge against the cursed El family. The only one they hated more than Supergirl was Superman. She’d be a fine appetizer, and the blonde would be a chaser.
But not tonight. That would be excessive. Besides, he had much more to learn. But that was all right. He was a fast learner.
Such as: how convenient it was that Terrans sold coffins with lead lining in them.
How convenient, indeed.
At a careful pace, he turned and walked off. Things would be fine as they were.
At least, for tonight.