The Vampire of Steel
When you’re a Kryptonian, you can deal with your shock reaction a bit faster than most people.
Supergirl, still wearing a light purple jumpsuit, shoved Buffy out of the way and lunged forward, slamming a hard right into the face of the Kryptonian vampire before her. It knocked him off his feet, slammed him across the floor and into the jukebox. His head and upper body went right through it, shattering CD’s and electronic equipment. Looking on, Willy groaned, knowing it’d be days before he could hear “Stairway to Heaven” again.
Buffy got to her feet and said, “Watch out, Kara,” before the jukebox came flying their way and crashed through the wall behind them.
The vampire was out of the jukebox and didn’t look pleased at all. Buffy doubted the music was to his taste, anyway.
The Girl of Steel didn’t hesitate. She shot forward so quickly it hurt Buffy’s eyes to follow her. Immediately she was grappling with the intruder. But...the vampire in the strange outfit got one hand on her throat, another on her wrist, and began bending her backward. Kara’s face began reddening, but she tightened her neck muscles and fought back. Fat lot of good it was doing her, thought Buffy.
“Who the hell is that?” rasped Willy. “Slayer Mark II?”
“Willy,” advised Buffy, “shut the hell up.” She was running forward and reaching into her handbag without looking at it.
Hearing her, Supergirl said, “Buffy, get back,” in a choked voice.
The vamp was showing his game face in a horrific grin, now. “Come to me, little Earth girl,” he said, not easing his grip on Kara’s neck. “Come to me, and show me the might of a Slayer.”
“Will do,” said Buffy, and threw some flash paper in his face.
The burst of light wasn’t enough to blind him—Kryptonians can even fly into the sun, once they’ve set their eyes for it—but it was enough to startle him. That was enough for Supergirl to give him a knee in the gut, bring up her arm and knock his arm away, and zap him in the face with a strong burst of heat vision. He shouted in pain. Supergirl broke free and leaped backward, her feet not touching the floor till she landed.
“Thanks,” she said to Buffy.
“Don’t mention it,” said the Slayer.
The heat-blast had hurt the vampire, but that was about it. He brought his horrific visage up, fangs bared, and Kara had to fight to quell a streak of nerves in her being. “So,” he said. “You like using heat-vision? Well, thank you for the inspiration!”
His eyes began glowing redly. “Oh, frab,” muttered Kara. “Buffy, get the hell out of here. Now.”
“Not without you,” said Buffy.
“Oh god oh god ohhhh gawd, I’ll never get insurance for this place now,” moaned Willy, hiding behind what was left of the bar.
The vampire’s eyes let loose twin bursts of fiery fury.
Supergirl grabbed her friend and bore them both to the floor. The bolt of heat passed over them and hit a shark-headed female demon behind them, who wasn’t so lucky. The stench that went up as she vaporized was almost enough to make the both of them toss their cookies. The vampire raked the rest of the barroom with his eye-gaze, still standing, breaking the mirror, shattering the bottles of booze and sending their flaming contents across the counter, setting the studs and sheetrock and insulation and wiring on fire. The lights in the place began to flicker and went dead.
And the dead, semi-dead, and other denizens of Willy’s who were still there went for the door. There was a minor pileup there that looked like something from a Who concert, until a ram-headed demon hauled off and punched the lot of them through the opening with his horns.
The vampire was standing in the midst of things. His eyes were no longer glowing, but he was advancing on the two women with deadly intent.
Buffy, still prone on the floor, slapped a stake into Kara’s hand. “Take this. You’ll need it.”
Supergirl hefted it in her hand. Then, rising, she took in a breath and exhaled in a circle. The force of her mighty lungs put out the fire, though Willy’s place was almost a total loss. As for Willy himself, he was incongruously thanking God over and over again and still hugging the floor. Kara didn’t take much note of that. She just sprinted at the vampire as he started running for her.
With her left, she stiff-armed him in the neck. With her right, she slammed Buffy’s stake hard right over his heart.
Unfortunately, as she expected, it shattered into matchstick-sized fragments.
She had time enough to see his grin before an uppercut found her jaw and lifted her away.
It took all of her concentration and strength to manage to just crash through a bunch of tables, chairs, and part of one wall. Supergirl shook her head, feeling the pain. Gauging his strength from the blow, she estimated that he was stronger than her, by a sight. Possibly stronger even than Kal. It was as she feared: a vampire from Krypton was as much stronger than a normal Krypt as an Earth vampire was over an ordinary man.
But she and Buffy had to find a way to take the guy out.
While she was picking herself up, Kara saw Buffy dash forward. “No!” she shouted, hauling herself out of the debris. But it was too late to do anything about it. Buffy was almost within reach of their foe, and he was about to take advantage of it.
Except that she had a glass bottle of something she’d taken from her bag and, in one swift throw, smashed it into the side of his head.
The vampire shrieked and backed away, grabbing the place where the liquid within the bottle had struck him. His face was sizzling as if acid had been thrown at him.
Buffy produced a cross and held it before her as she backed towards Supergirl. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“We can’t hide from him,” Kara said. “We’ve got to stand and fight.”
“You mean die!”
“What did you hit him with, for Rao’s sake?”
“Holy water. Looks like it’s proof against vampires from outer space, too. Move it!”
The advice was too late. The Kryptonian was made of pretty stern stuff. The holy water had hurt him, had burned his face badly, but it hadn’t taken him out. He was on them both before they could leap away, and Kara feared that not even her strength would be enough to save Buffy’s life. Or maybe her own.
“The first two,” he said. “The first two sacrifices. And one a Kryptonian. How appropriate.”
Buffy thrust the cross against his cheek. Nothing happened.
“Buffy,” gasped Supergirl, trying to claw the burned place on his face, “he’s not a Christian.”
“Well, convert him!” choked the Slayer, seeking without luck to pull her foe’s fingers from her throat.
At the precise moment when his hands began to tighten, a burst of purple fire smacked into the vampire from behind. It was a lot more effective than the holy water had been, for one reason or another. He screamed and dropped the two girls. Before she could even fall to the floor, Kara high-kicked him in the jaw, sending him ass-over-teakettle across the floor.
Somebody was leaning through the broken remains of the window. The girl, Willow. Her hands were glowing with violet flame and she was muttering something Kara didn’t even know that she wanted to hear. Nonetheless, she looked as though she was ready to throw another fireball.
The undead Kryptonian snarled, “For now...”, and didn’t have to say anything more. He leaped upward, made another hole in the roof, letting down a shower of plaster, wood, and building material, and was gone to their sight.
Buffy picked herself up, massaging her throat. Supergirl shook her head and tried to pick up their foe’s trail with her super-vision, but he was long gone. Willow had withdrawn from the window and was coming through the doorway, stepping over the fragments of door. With her were Giles and Xander. “We thought you might need some help,” she said, timidly.
“You thought right,” said Kara.
“In spades,” added Buffy. “Thanks, Will.”
Rupert Giles took both women gently by a shoulder apiece. “Are you all right, ladies? Relatively speaking, that is?”
“No broken bones, no major lacerations, just bumps, bruises, and considerable property damage,” Buffy reported. “That is, from me. How about you, Kara?”
“I’m fine,” said Supergirl, tentatively. “At least we survived Round One.”
Resignedly, Xander said, “And I’m stuck being card boy for the fight, as usual.”
Buffy smirked. “Only if you agree to wear a pair of briefs when you hold the cards.”
“Didn’t know you cared.”
“Enough of the repartee,” Giles ordered. “Point one: both of you almost died tonight. Point two: we’ve learned that our vampire is vulnerable to magic, hence, Willow’s effectiveness.”
“All Kryptonians are,” explained Kara. “As an ace in the hole, you were great, Willow.”
“Thank you.” The young witch almost blushed, but it was hard to tell in the flickering neon from outside, which was the only available light.
“Yes, but our enemy will know of her now, and will make preparations for her presence next time,” Giles said. “Thus, we must make our own counter-plans, and that quickly.”
Willy arose from a tumble of plaster. “What about me? Every time you come here, my place gets wrecked, and this is the worst yet! You just plain demolished it!”
“That wasn’t us,” said Buffy, petulantly.
“Yeah, well, who else you gonna blame?” said the demonic barkeep. “You guys are the worst kinda lightning rod since that mummy on the Titanic.”
“There wasn’t any mummy on the Titanic, Willy,” said Xander. “That’s just an urban legend.”
“So’s vampires. What’m I gonna do? I ain’t got money for this kind of rebuilding.”
Supergirl sighed. “Look. Once this is over, I’ll see about building you a new bar. Not the same decor, though.”
Willy suddenly beamed with hope. “You will? I mean...you really will?”
“Of course, there will be a price, Willy,” interjected Giles. “You will have to provide us with information. All you know about this...vampire of steel.”
“Uh. Oh. All right. Can ya, like, get me inta some kinda protective custody? Like, maybe, that Fortress of Solitude thingie?”
Kara rolled her eyes. “No way. Not even thinkable. Forget it.”
Xander said, “Why don’t we let him stay with Dead Boy?”
“Angel?” Buffy wrinkled her nose. “He’d never talk to me again.”
“Sure he would. He’d never let you hear the end of it. Where else do you want to put him? Your house?”
Buffy stared into Xander’s face as if he were an unrepentant Grinch. Then, catching herself, she said, “We can talk to Angel. We’ll see.”
Brushing himself off, Willy walked up to Kara. “‘Scuse me, miss, I gotta ask. How’d you do that thing with your eyes? What kinda demon are you, anyway?”
“I’m not a demon,” said Supergirl. “And, Willy, if you’re going to work with us...”
“Get a bath.”
Supergirl made a brief and fruitless patrol that night before turning in. She and Buffy breakfasted with Joyce after they got up, then went over to what Buffy described to Kara as Angel’s mansion for a morning meeting at 10:30. The place was old, all the windows were either painted over or heavily curtained or both, and Kara had no problem believing it was the home of a vampire.
Once inside, she was introduced to three other Slayerettes. Angel himself was the first, and the most imposing. Tall, handsome, brown-haired, and rugged-looking. She had no problem understanding why Buffy had a crush on this guy, but the idea that Angel was a vampire and on their side took some getting used to. He was sitting on his front couch, looking a bit tired (up past his bedtime?, she thought), wearing a leather jacket, a white pullover shirt, jeans, and boots. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to make over her much when he was introduced to her and shook her hand. She sensed his strength was superhuman, but hardly on a par with her own. That was somehow reassuring.
Then there was a boy they called Oz, who affected the casual clothes and attitude of a budding rock star. Buffy had told him that was what he was, or hoped to be, since he played guitar in a group that Kara thought had a disgusting name. But he seemed a nice enough guy, and Buffy had confided that he and Willow had a thing going. The problem was, three nights out of the month, he was a werewolf and had to be kept locked up.
Kara supposed that love conquered all, but in this case, she figured it’d have to make one heck of a campaign.
Finally, there was Cordelia Chase, whose vision Buffy had said prompted her to go to Chicago and meet Kara last year. She looked beautiful, albeit more than a little pretentious, and Kara had a tough time believing she could take part in the missions Buffy’s gang had to undertake. Still, the others had reassured her Cordelia could pull her weight, so Kara decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Even if she did remind her somewhat of Veronica in the Archie comic strip.
The others were there, as well: Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, and even Willy, who was sitting on the couch beside Angel in a T-shirt marked BAYONNE A.C. and a pair of lounging pants tied up with a piece of twine. If those were provided by Angel, Kara guessed that the vamp would give them to Willy afterward, or burn them. He was blinking too often and trying to be helpful and ingratiating, but overdoing it. Giles had to gently reprimand him at least twice about interrupting.
“The floor is Kara’s,” said Rupert Giles. “Perhaps you can tell us what you’ve deduced?”
“Simple enough,” said Kara, sitting in a wooden chair, wearing shirt, pants, and heels and drinking some rare-flavored tea that Angel had provided. “As you might expect, I know of this man.”
“Where from?” asked Xander. “Krypton’s Most Wanted?”
“Xander,” warned Buffy.
“Almost,” Kara acknowledged. “He’s a Zoner, all right. Superman and myself know the basics on every inmate of the Phantom Zone. You might call him a second-tier member. I recognized him as Zol-Am. He was sent up for treason.”
“Treason?” asked Angel.
“You mean, like Benedict Arnold?” put in Willy.
“He was an advisor to and collaborator with General Zod,” said Kara. “Zod was a military genius who tried to take over Krypton’s main continent with an army of artificial humanoids. Zol-Am was in charge of weaponry, secondary strategy, even leading in the field at times. Nobody was really sure if he believed in Zod’s cause or not. But everybody knew he did believe in power.”
“Hmph,” Giles humphed. “A junta, on Krypton.”
“When Zod was brought down, Zol-Am was sentenced with him. The two despised each other for what each saw as the other’s failure, and as far as we know, they never collaborated again. Zod seemed to take pains to keep Zol-Am inside the Zone whenever he and some of the other big boys broke out. Zol did escape in the mass breakout under Faora Hu-Ul, and on a few other occasions, but he was mostly what you’d call a face in the crowd. Now, he may have found his star turn.”
Oz spread his hands. “For a limited engagement, this week only, Sunnydale welcomes Zolly and his Krypton Headbangers. Tickets at the door, $15 a head or $10 and a pint of O-positive.”
Kara looked at Buffy. “Is it always like this?”
“Always,” confirmed Buffy. “It’s a coping mechanism.”
Cordelia said, “Well, now that you’ve had a chance to meet him, Ms. Supergirl...”
“Just Kara, dear.”
“All right, Ms. Kara, do you have any ideas of how we can, like, slay him? Can you use Kryptonite on him, or something?”
Supergirl sighed. “I’m not sure what kind of effect it would have on him. We’ve never had to deal with a vampire from Krypton before. Technically, he’s dead. I don’t know if it’d hurt him or not. But the problem is, the stuff is definitely deadly to me. So I don’t like using it, except as a last resort.”
Giles nodded. “But that last resort may be coming up faster than we think.”
“Agreed,” said Kara.
Willow spoke up. “We know that magic can hurt him. At least, my magic hurt him. Also, Buffy burned him with her holy water. So even though crosses don’t have an effect on him, other kinds of things do.”
“Why can’t vampires all be ex-Christians?” groused Xander. “It’d make things so much simpler, y’know.”
“Are you some kinda bigot?” demanded Willy. “I was a good Baptist, I’ll have you know.”
“Peace and time out, Willy,” said Willow. “I’m Jewish, you know, so I have another religion covered.”
“I don’t think he’s Jewish, Willow,” Angel added, cynically.
“How do you know?” said Xander. “Do you say to him, ‘Funny, you don’t look–‘”
“Shut up, Xander,” said Willow.
Giles said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please. Lay aside the levity. We’re in the midst of a crisis now, and this is the time we have for planning and preparation. Kara, is there some form of Kryptonian religious symbol we could use against him?”
She considered it. “He was a Raotian. Rao was symbolized by our sun. Krypts didn’t go in much for iconic symbolism that you could touch, like a cross or a wafer. But we did have sun-disks, sometimes. Priests carried them on small chains around their necks.”
“Can you get one?”
“Uh, I doubt it,” she said. “We don’t have any real ones in the Fortress. There are Raotian priests on Rokyn...that’s the planet Kryptonian survivors colonized...but it’s in another dimension now, and I can’t get to it for some time yet.”
“Is anybody else as confused as I am?” asked Willy.
“That’d take a big effort,” said Oz. “But I think I’m getting there, Willy.”
Supergirl continued. “We could try to tag him with a Phantom Zone projector ray. Despite my feelings about what he’d do to the other Zoners, it might be our best bet. Also, you say that vampires here can’t stand the rays of the sun, correct?”
“Right,” said Angel. “Gives us a burn even Coppertone won’t handle.”
“So, theoretically, I could bait him into following me onto the side of the Earth that’s lit by the sun,” said Kara. “That might be one way, if he was dumb enough to fall for it. I doubt he would be, but it might be worth a try.”
“If he doesn’t kill you on the way,” said Buffy. “Sorry, but I thought I’d point that out.”
“Also, stakes are out with this guy,” said Xander. “And that goes for trying to cut his head off, too, unless you’ve got some kind of magical rune-encrusted ebony blade. You don’t, do you?”
“Not in our standard kit, Xander,” Kara replied.
“Just checking.” He smiled. “You’re getting to be one of us.”
“Perhaps she should leave while she’s still ahead,” said Giles. “But we’ve explored several options. Magic, Kryptonite, a Phantom Zone projector, the rays of the sun. The problem is surviving any attack he visits upon us while trying to use any or all of them.”
“Also, trying to figure out what he wants here,” said Angel. “If this guy is the military type that Supergirl described, I doubt that he’ll be satisfied with just tapping a vein a night.”
“Oh, he’s out for more than that,” said Willy. “I know.”
The eyes of all the rest were on Willy within five seconds.
“I mean, I don’t know I know,” amended Willy. “But I’m pretty sure I know. You know?”
Buffy sighed. “What do you know, Willy? Tell us.”
“Well, it’s just a logical deduction,” said Willy. “While he was there, he asked about outside talent, had some of us make some phone calls, and there may be some heavy hitters coming into town soon.”
“And what’re those heavy hitters up to?” asked Buffy. “Another vampire gang war?”
“No. At least, I don’t think so. But it’s only a hunch. A deduction. Ain’t that right? Or is it just something you put down on your taxes?”
“Willy,” said Giles, “enough. Tell us.”
“I think he’s gonna open the Hellmouth,” he said.