Chapter 38 – Fleeting Glimpses
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, the larger DC comics universe that I am drawing elements from, or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize it, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
Author's Notes: First off, I'd like to apologize for how long it took me to get this chapter posted. September was a mess for me as they upped the number of rehab sessions I had a week in preparation to let me go back to work at the beginning of October. As a result, I got no writing done for the entire month of September. Luckily, I'm now back to living on my own, walking with just a cane, and have been back to work since October 1st. I've also been writing like a madman, so updates should be back to a regular once a week schedule for the time being...with occasional bonuses like the next two chapters of the side-story Champion of Themyscira which I just need to get transcribed from my notes and beta-read before I post them. At any rate, this is a bit of a transitional chapter, but I hope you all enjoy it.
-== Chapter Thirty-Eight – Fleeting Glimpses ==-
Rupert Giles stared in dumbfounded silence at the carnage taking place on the streets of Los Angeles as it played out on the screen of his television. If not for a concerned call from Buffy telling him that something ‘wiggy’ was going on in the City of Angels, he might’ve been spared the horrific sights he was now seeing. The… creature, for lack of a more precise term, appeared to be human and yet displayed a level of strength and savage violence that would rival an entire clan of vicious demon warriors. He gasped in dismay as the monster hurled an occupied police vehicle at a building with lethal force, only to have it halt mid-air mere feet from impact.
He watched intently, ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach, as the car appeared to lower itself slowly to the pavement and settle gently back onto its wheels. He gaped in unabashed dismay as the camera zoomed in on the being that had caught the doomed vehicle, recognizing him instantly from depictions in various ancient mythology texts. The Norse God Thor was standing on the streets of an American city, in full view of the news media. The implications were staggering beyond belief, until it dawned on him exactly who was underneath the deity’s helm.
“Oh dear lord,” he exclaimed aloud to his empty apartment as he took off his spectacles and began to polish them furiously. “Xander, what have you done?”
* * * * *
Lionel Luthor’s eyes narrowed as he watched the events unfolding in Los Angeles. There was something eerily familiar to him about the largest of the three would-be heroes. Perhaps it was in the way the man moved, or the way he carried himself, but the master of the LuthorCorp Empire was certain that he had seen the man before. He immediately dismissed the possibility that any of the heroes had come from among his more supernaturally inclined associates, however. If any of them could acquire that sort of power, they’d hardly use it either openly or altruistically. Not to mention the fact that the odds of three magic-users with that level of power working together and engaging in a physical brawl verged on the completely impossible rather than merely the ludicrously improbable.
His interest never wavered as he studied the broadcast footage carefully. He quickly realized that the trio of superheroes (for what else could they really be considered at this point?) had little experience in working together, or even in harnessing their powers. That led him to the inexorable conclusion that they must have only recently come into their abilities. It seemed likely, then, that their first public appearance was as unplanned as the rampage that had drawn them out.
As the battle spiraled into a veritable orgy of destruction, Lionel couldn’t help but smile. He’d invested heavily in various construction interests on the west coast over the years so that he could profit from the areas' frequent seismic activity. As such, he had no doubt that LuthorCorp would be well-positioned to bid on the repair and reconstruction contracts that would inevitably result. In fact, if battles such as this one were to begin to become common, he could easily make another sizeable fortune.
It was as the battle ended Lionel’s smile abruptly faded, taking the color from his face with it. Suddenly, he remembered precisely where he’d seen the familiar seeming man before. The flash of lightning that the being, for surely calling someone with the power to openly defy Wolfram and Hart a man was inaccurate, called down had brought with it the senior Luthor’s complete recognition. Without hesitation, he jabbed his intercom button and barked an order to his faithful toady. “Get Lucius Payne in here ASAP," he commanded flatly, "and I want duplicates of all the available video footage from the disturbance in Los Angeles immediately."
"Sir?" Dominic's voice quavered as he questioned Lionel. "Mr. Payne is likely to demand a reason for the urgency of such a summons..."
"If he does, then tell him I found the man I had him looking for... and he'll be quite interested to know where," the senior Luthor answered smugly before turning off the intercom.
* * * * *
Richard Wilkins sneered venomously at the screen as he watched Thor's whelp and his friends triumph over their adversary on the streets of Los Angeles. It wasn't their victory that particularly troubled him; after all he wanted the pleasure of ripping the Asgardian brat limb from limb himself, but rather the fact that the Thunderer had acquired such powerful allies in so short a time that was disconcerting. The Godling was certainly coming into his own and Jormungandr found himself wondering for the first time if it had been a wise decision to postpone the confrontation with his foe.
Pushing his concerns aside, the mayor of Sunnydale dismissed his doubts. Both he and his enemy would surely be far more powerful than they currently were when they finally met in battle, but Xander Harris's few years of training and experience would be no match for his own skill and cunning. The outcome would be inevitable and all he needed to do was level the playing field before the time came. He was certain he can count on his siblings to help them do just that.
Rising, the immortal sorcerer strode to his cabinet of magical supplies and withdrew a scrying bowl, a pitcher of water, and a sharp knife. He filled the bowl from the pitcher and, using the knife, slit open his palm. As dark black blood dripped into the water, he murmured an incantation. The surface of the water wavered before resolving into the picture of a large, burly looking man with rugged features.
Smiling, Jormungandr greeted the man, "You're looking well, Fenris."
"Jormungandr," the man replied curtly. "Still paying the price for your poorly conceived attempt at avenging our father I see..."
His half-brothers smirking face caused Wilkins' smile to become thin and brittle. Under other circumstances, he might have lashed out at his younger sibling for his impertinence, but that would hardly be the best way to get what he really wanted. "Have you heard the news, brother," he asked instead, knowing that it was unlikely that Fenris knew about Thor's Heir yet. "Someone claimed the Thunder God's legacy."
"And why would that news concern me, brother?" the other man asked, allowing the final word to sound more like an insult than a term of affection. "You swore vendetta against Thor's line, not me. You
deal with him."
"Oh, I will... when the time comes," Jormungandr assured him with an evil smile, "but how long has it been since you've had worthy prey to hunt, Fenris?"
"There is no worthy prey among the race of weaklings that humanity has become," Fenris spat disgustedly. "Even the line of Slayers has failed to provide decent sport these past decades."
"Thor's Heir has acquired mighty allies, my brother. Beings whose skill and power seem to rival his own," Wilkins insisted slyly. "Perhaps they might prove a better challenge for you..."
Fenris let out a bark of laughter, "They must be mighty indeed if the great serpent fears to face them."
This time his brother's insult twisted Jormungandr's face into a mask of fury. "Stay your tongue, insolent pup," he snarled at his arrogant younger sibling. "I've spent too many centuries working to overcome the All-father's curse to allow my efforts to fail merely to deprive the Thunder God of a handful of allies and friends. Otherwise I would crush them myself."
The outburst brought a genuine smile to Fenris' face. "Ah, so my brother does indeed live on within the shell Odin chained him in," came his pleased response. "I will hunt the God-lings allies for you, if that is your wish Jormungandr. Where will I find them?"
Wilkins smiled wickedly. "Begin your search in a town called Smallville, in the state of Kansas..."
* * * * *
As Lindsey McDonald strolled casually across the blood and gore spattered lobby of the former Metropolis office of Wolfram and Hart, he felt... satisfied. It was strange to think that a few short hours earlier the idea of indulging in such carnage and enjoying it had seemed impossible, but he had done just that. Of course, he was sure that it helped to know that he had mostly pleased his new Masters. If nothing else, he certainly announced to the Senior Partners that there was a new player in town. He reached out and placed his fiery, skeletal hand on the door to the street but drew up short at the sound of someone clapping behind him.
The former attorney turned Hand of Death spun toward the sound, incapable of believing that he might have left to someone alive in the building. To his shock and dismay, Geoff Newman was standing there applauding with a scornful smile, despite the still bleeding bullet hole in his forehead.
"How many times do I have to kill you?" Lindsey snarled as he stalked angrily toward his former boss, raising his burning arm to strike the man down a second time.
"Just the one time will suffice, I'm sure," Geoff answered calmly, unconcerned by the pending attack. "I'm quite dead, I assure you. Unfortunately, my contract with the firm doesn't terminate with my life, which is precisely why I'm here."
The matter-of-fact statement caused Lindsey to stop dead in his tracks. He'd often heard rumors of dead senior associates of the firm being seen from time to time but had discounted them as impossible. Clearly that assumption had been quite
wrong. "What do you want then, Geoff?" he asked tightly.
"What do I want?" The former CEO asked with a harsh laugh, his face twisting with hatred. "I want to see you trapped forever in the worst Hell imaginable, Lindsey, that's what I want. Fortunately for you, this isn't about what I want." The man's face relaxed into a more neutral expression. "I have to hand it to you though. You had such a bright future with the firm that no one, not even the Senior Partners, saw this coming. It's impressive, really. Not many men have the gall to accomplish such a complete betrayal."
"Why are you here?" Lindsey spat angrily, unfazed by the seeming attempt at flattery.
"I'm here with a message for your new Masters ... and you," the second part added almost as an afterthought. "Tell Hades and Hel that the Senior Partners accept their challenge and they can have Metropolis. Hell, they can have the whole damn state of Kansas... for the time being. But if they want to survive this they should stop while they still can... or they will end up buried in the Deeper Well, alongside the other relics." He smiled coldly. "And Lindsey, watch your back. There are some very special hell dimensions reserved for people who commit the kind of atrocity and betrayal you just did."
* * * * *
Buffy watched intently as the three costumed heroes battled against what she was certain was a very human looking demon. Of course, she wasn't entirely sure that the so-called heroes weren't also demons of some kind, but since they were neither hurting nor killing innocent bystanders, she was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. In more than a few ways, she envied them this battle. Unlike her, they had found a way to bring their fight out into the light of day instead of having to hide in the shadows and protect the world in secret. If masks and costumes were the price of such publicity, however, she decided she'd pass. After all, spandex was so
tacky... not that the two males on the television couldn't have pulled it off and made it look good.
The blonde shook her head, pulling her thoughts away from the decidedly Cordelia-esque path that they'd taken and refocusing her attention back on the fight. Whatever they were, both the men and the extremely violent demon they were fighting were strong
. Way stronger than she was, a fact they gave her pause. She wondered exactly how strong she really was. It wasn't like she had ever actually tried to bench press a car or rip a streetlight off its base but then again she'd never had reason to. She had also never encountered anyone who was really that much stronger than she was either.
At least it seemed easy for Buffy to categorize the chick in green that was fighting alongside the two hotties. She had to be a witch of some kind, since magick seemed the only logical explanation for the things she did. Honestly, how else could you explain the sudden appearance of a giant, bright green, battering ram?
When the battle ended abruptly with one of the men calling a lightning bolt and electrocuting the baddy, the Slayer frowned. Something about that struck a strange note with her, making her Slayer-sense crawl unpleasantly. Whatever the guy with the hammer was, he was obviously dangerous. Buffy wondered idly if perhaps those three had had something to do with dusting the Master's minions the night before, but dismissed the idea. She was fairly certain that you couldn't electrocute a vampire or dust it with a giant green battering ram so it seemed a bit unlikely. Still, it appeared a number of seriously wiggy things were going on in a fairly short time, a fact that was unlikely to lead to hugs and puppies.
Her frowned deepened further when she realized this meant she was probably going to be stuck helping Giles research nonstop until they figured this out. 'What a great time for Willow to selfishly decide she was too good to help with research,' Buffy groused to herself. She could only hope that Giles could talk some sense into the redhead.
* * * * *
Quentin Travers frowned disapprovingly as the phone in his study rang loudly. It was too late in the evening for someone to be calling the head of the Watcher's Council for anything less than a potential apocalypse. He answered the phone and was taken aback by what he was told by the man on the other end. Disbelievingly, he flicked on the small telly he kept his study and was shocked by the events playing out on the screen. He watched in stunned silence as a prophecy he had long feared came to pass before the eyes of millions of onlookers.
The council's seers had warned him mere months ago that the signs and portents were in place which indicated the long foretold 'Son of Thunder' might be born at any time. Like all of the council's senior members, however, he'd presumed that they would have years if not decades to prepare, locate, and neutralize the threat before the child came into its destiny. Unfortunately, it seemed they were very wrong in that assumption. Not only had the child already reached manhood, it had already gathered its greatest allies to its side - for the girl wore the mark of the Guardian on her chest, and the other man wore the mark of Hope.
If the remainder of the prophecies concerning Thunder's son came to pass, then the line of Slayers would end and the council would be left without their greatest weapon in the battle against the forces of darkness. Without the council to guide the war against evil, the world would be lost, becoming a haven for demons and the vile beasts that preyed on humanity. It was a fate too horrible for Quentin to even imagine. Something would have to be done to prevent the prophecies from being fulfilled.
To Quentin's mind, the decision was simple. A Slayer would be dispatched to destroy the threat immediately. The far more difficult decision was which one to send, since the Powers That Be had given them a spare for the time being. It had not surprised him in the least when the American Slayer had died barely a year after being called. She'd been one of the so-called ‘lost girls’: potentials who were not found by the council until they were called. The fact that someone had managed revive her afterward, however, had come as a shock. It had been considered impossible to revive or resurrect a slain Slayer. Even the most powerful wizards on Earth could not have accomplished such a thing.
And yet, that very occurrence had been the final sign predicting the birth of this new threat.
Frowning, Quentin picked up his phone, reaching a decision. A proper, Council trained Slayer would be far more likely to succeed in such a critical mission than the American would. Even if she died, the odds were that another Council trained potential would be called. After all, until the final prophecy came to pass... there would always be another Slayer...
* * * * *
Virgil Swann couldn't keep his lips from curling into a broad smile as he stared at the news report playing on his main monitor. He watched in nearly awestruck silence as a young man in a dark blue bodysuit marked with a Kryptonian glyph helped wage a fierce battle against another man with equally inhuman powers. It was a moment that finally answered a question that Dr. Swann had wondered about for years. Clearly, not only had Kal-El of Krypton safely reached Earth twelve years ago, he had apparently thrived.
The doctor turned his attention momentarily to the Kryptonian’s two companions, wondering if they too were Kryptonian. The larger male certainly seemed older and at least marginally more experienced than Kal-El or the woman who was with them, so perhaps he had been sent along to guide and protect him? It seemed unlikely, however, given the message that had announced Kal-El’s arrival on the day of the meteor shower, which left the identities of the second man and woman as a mystery that needed solving. Luckily the Swann Foundation had many of the worlds finest researchers at its disposal, a fact that would lend itself well to this particular puzzle. After all, he'd already uncovered evidence that Kryptonians had been visiting Earth for centuries, and if they'd left any clues to the identities of Kal-El’s companions, he was certain they would find them. Just as he was certain he would eventually learn Kal-El’s human identity. It was only a matter of time - and patience.
* * * * *
Martha and Jonathan Kent stood horrified on the streets of Metropolis, watching as a TV in a shop window showed them images of the carnage on the streets of Los Angeles. That something so terrible and unbelievable could happen in the very city that both of their sons were visiting defied even their darkest imaginings. Immediately both of the frightened parents regretted having allowed the boys to make such a trip. Without knowing exactly where Clark and Xander had gone in Los Angeles, they had no way of knowing if the boys have been hurt or if they were safely out of harm's way.
Or at least they didn't know until they watched a man catch a police car in midair and put it safely on the ground. The man seemed far larger and more heavily muscled than Xander, but there was something in the way he moved and how he held himself that reminded them of their adopted son.
"You don't think," Martha began softly, praying that only her husband would hear her. The man chose that moment to move, leaning across a short distance the same way that they had often seen Clark, and lately even Xander, move.
As the camera moved and the man came into focus again, the Kents drew in sharp breaths. The man had been joined by two others, one of whom strongly resembled Clark despite his face being covered by a mask. Martha gave a sidelong glance at her husband and could tell immediately from the hard set to his jaw that he reached the same conclusion she had. The trio of costume wearing super-humans had to be Clark, Xander, and Xander's friend Willow.
When the boys got home... they were in so much trouble.