Disclaimer: For the last time, none of this is mine! Smallville and Buffy belong to Dc comics, Joss Whedon and possibly other people I don't know about.
Watching the scroll on the television, Buffy said, “I can’t believe it was that easy to cover it all up.”
The news had been reporting on a continuing loop about how a charismatic cult leader had managed to break a group of patients out of Belle Rev and had convinced them to form a suicide cult along with other people in Smallville.
A convenient explosion had destroyed the tower and much of the evidence, while leaving only cosmetic damage to the rear of the Luthor mansion.
“It was literally in his back yard, and he’s getting off scot-free,” Buffy said.
Giles sighed. For once he wasn’t wearing his glasses; he looked older than usual lying in the hospital bed. The prognosis was good although he’d suffered numerous wounds and a broken leg.
“We have to play along,” he said.
At her expression, he said “Do you want to explain to the press what really happened?”
“So instead of gangs on PCP, it’s a crazy cult?” Buffy asked. “If it hadn’t been for Lex, most of those people wouldn’t be dead.”
“If it hadn’t been for Lex, everybody would be dead,” Willow said from the other side of the room. Her nose had been bandaged, and her eye was swollen and a startling shade of black and blue. “We never would have gotten through all of them without him.”
“You can’t know that,” Buffy said, shaking her head.
“They tried using non-lethal weapons,” Willow said. “Once the meteor freaks started attacking, they didn’t have much of a choice but to switch to live ammunition.”
Buffy’s lips tightened and she turned away. They weren’t going to agree on this one. She could finally see why Clark had been reluctant for Lex to know his secret, and why he still wasn’t allowing Lex to know any more of it.
As far as Lex was concerned, Clark was just a particularly powerful meteor freak.
That was the case of the rest of them as well, although Willow had seen Jor-El’s ship and wondered about it. Buffy had passed it off as something that had come through the portal.
“Dawn and I are going to Lana Lang’s funeral,” she said. “She feels responsible for what happened, and so do I. If we hadn’t brought Glory here, none of this would have happened.”
“If we hadn’t come here, the world might not exist right now,” Giles said. “There is no way of knowing.”
“We’re going, anyway, for Clark.”
The funeral had been smaller than Buffy had expected. From what she’d heard, Lana had been a popular girl, a cheerleader, and yet the crowd had been conspicuously small.
Part of it had been that she didn’t have much in the way of family; she’d had an aunt and that was it. Chloe had come, Clark, the Kents and about twenty other mourners. It depressed Buffy to think that all the effort she herself had devoted to becoming popular at that age had been that ephemeral.
Popularity was fleeting.
Afterwards, she had a chance to speak with Clark after the reception and they’d returned to the Kent household.
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m managing. Better than I thought, really,” he said. “Chloe has really been there for me over the last few days.”
“Your other father hasn’t caused you any problems.”
“I think your robot has mellowed him out a little,” Clark said, “Although he still is pretty strict. He’s built some kind of fortress up in the artic, and she’s up there with him now.”
His eyes took on a distant look. “I don’t know what they do together up there. Every time I try to think about it, it hurts my brain.”
“I guess we’re more alike than ever,” Buffy said, smiling a little. “Absent father moved off with a brainless bimbo.”
“I think she’s getting smarter,” Clark said. “He’s doing something to her…more than whatever it is I’m trying not to imagine.”
“Where do we go from here?” Buffy asked.
“I’ve got your number…you’ve got mine. Lex has been pestering me about ways to use my powers for good, but I’m not sure…”
“I’m not sure I’d trust anything Lex has to say,” Buffy said. “He’s really sharp, but he likes to cut corners morally.”
“There’s not anything you could do?” he asked.
“Willow has a spell that might work,” Buffy said. “But she can only cut out certain periods of time. If it was just a fifteen minute fight or something it’d be different.”
“But if you cut out the last three days, he’s going to obsess about his missing time, and there’s probably a lot of footage of what happened on his cameras.”
“He’s hidden it away now,” Buffy said. “But it wouldn’t take him long to piece it all back together.”
He’d showed the authorities just enough footage to make them believe his stories. Buffy suspected that he’d bribed the coroners to explain away the bullet fragments and bullet holes.
“I’ll deal with it,” Clark said grimly.
Buffy was silent for a moment, staring out the window. Dawn was outside talking to Chloe. It was hard to believe sometimes that Chloe and Clark were only Dawn’s age and not older.
Heroics aged you. Dawn was only a kid because Buffy allowed her to be. At her age, Buffy had been forced to set everything aside for a live of self sacrifice and pain.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s all right,” he said. “At least this way the world is ok.”
“I hate losing people,” Buffy said.
“I heard about your mom,” Clark looked down. “It can’t even imagine.”
If his life was going to be anything like hers, he was going to keep losing people. She’d already lost Jesse, Miss Calendar, her mother, Merrick…the list of friends at school was so long she was embarrassed to realize she didn’t even remember half of them.
“It gets easier,” she said, and it was only partly a lie.
Clark was silent for a moment. “About Willow…”
“She’s fine,” Buffy said. At his look she said “Really, she is.”
“I’ve been dealing with meteor rocks for a long time now, and I can tell you, nothing good can come of them.”
“She says it was just a one time thing, for that one battle.”
“What happens when the next big battle comes up?” Clark asked. “She’s already strong enough that she worries me.”
“You?” Buffy asked.
“Most meteor freaks get one or two abilities. Willow can do…well, I don’t know what her limits are, but I have a feeling she could do almost anything if she had enough power.”
“And the meteor rocks give her that power.” Buffy said. She was silent a moment. “We’ll check and make sure she doesn’t bring any home with us, and since she can’t teleport more than a few miles we ought to be ok?”
“She can teleport?” Clark asked. He smiled. “Now that would a cool ability.”
“We’ll keep in touch,” Buffy said, returning his smile.
“If you need me, I’m only fifteen minutes away by foot,” Clark said. “And I think I’m getting stronger and faster.”
“Next apocalypse, if we can use you, we’ll call you,” Buffy said.
Willow stared at the brown box on the table. She felt the excitement coiled low in her stomach, the same excitement she’d felt when she’d opened her first Grimoire or when she’d first thought about kissing Tara. The forbidden was a powerful aphrodisiac.
Opening the box, she pawed through the plastic peanuts, packaging meant to cushion the contents on the inside. She found what she was looking for in the small lead box inside.
She closed her eyes for a moment. Opening this box would be like opening Pandora’s Box; she was risking unleashing things she wasn’t sure she could control.
Almost without her volition, her fingers pushed the box open.
The green glow inside bathed her, and she smiled.
She’d have to call Lex and thank him. She’d kept in touch with him over the past several months, even as Buffy and Dawn had tried to settle into some semblance of a normal life. Avoiding this had seemed like the prudent thing to do, with Buffy and the others watching her like a hawk.
Yet she’d been stronger ever since she’d first absorbed the power from the meteor rock, and she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d get stronger still if she experimented with it again.
It was only a few pieces; she‘d put it down if it became a problem. If it gave her the power she needed, it would all be worth it.
After all, more power meant that she’d be better at protecting her friends.
“If you need another delivery, I’ll arrange it,” Lex said. “I’m always happy to help you with your research.”
“Well, we haven’t had a Big Bad this year,” Willow was saying. “Just three nerds lead by Warren.”
“Warren?” Lex asked.
“The guy who built the Buffybot. He’s built an ice ray gun, a Groundhog Day time reverser thing, even an invisibility ray. I think he’s using magic to cheat on the designs though.”
“Warren Davis?” Lex asked.
“Warren Mears,” Willow replied.
Tapping his computer, Lex said,” I thought you told me he’d been found with his head pulled off, like Lana?”
“One of the other nerds sewed his head back on and reanimated him as a zombie,” Willow said. “It really looks disgusting.”
“I’m sure they won’t continue to be too much of a problem,” Lex said. “It’s been nice talking to you again.”
“Thanks for the shipment,” Willow said.
After they hung up, Lex made a short telephone call and then sat at his desk, pondering. Keeping Willow happy was a strategic decision that had paid off again and again. It was going to pay off this time as well.
The more he found out about the hidden supernatural world, the horrified he had become. Since the events on September eleventh, terrorism was the new word on everyone’s lips, but they were blind as to the real danger beneath them.
The vampires alone were a horrendous threat. A determined and charismatic vampire leader could easily create a population of vampires that tripled their numbers on a nightly basis. Within a week, one indiscriminate vampire could create seven hundred fifty followers. Within two weeks one hundred eighty thousand vampires. Within three weeks there could be as many as forty million vampires. Six days after that there wouldn’t be any humans alive on earth.
He’d run scenario after scenario, and the result was always the same. Unless the contagion was caught in its early stages it would spread faster than a zombie plague in a George Romero movie.
That wasn’t to mention the fact that there were literally dozens and perhaps hundreds of demon species living right under humanity’s collective nose. Most of them were aggressive and dangerous.
There were regular attempts at bringing about various apocalypses. The demons could afford to fail in a thousand rituals. All humanity needed was one bad day. A single failure was all that was needed to end it all.
Somehow, small groups of heroes had always formed just in the nick of time to stop these rituals. Sometimes it was a Slayer, other times just a concerned bystander.
It was far too random, and the stakes were far too high to ignore.
Terrorists thought in terms of killing a few dozen or even a few thousand people, but the demons thought about wiping out the entire human race.
Lex wasn’t going to allow it.
Clark had proven increasingly resistant to Lex’s suggestions, and it was becoming increasingly clear that he wasn’t always going to be able to trust that Clark would be there.
He’d already started a couple of projects that would help in the long run, but there was always more to do.
In only two years he would be old enough to run for the House of Representatives. Five years after that he’d be old enough to run for a senate seat. Five years after that he was heading for the White House.
He’d been driftless in his years before coming to Smallville, filled with the same apathy and ennui that his peers had. Being able to own anything and anyone meant there was no real challenge in life, nothing to aspire to.
Yet now Lex felt invigorated, filled with a new sense of purpose. There were things out there determined to kill everyone he had ever loved, and he had the power to do something about it.
Now if he could just find out a little more about this Initiative program. So far all he knew was that it was a failed government program. He suspected that he’d be able to figure out where they had failed. Worse came to worse, he’d be able to offer a few of the former employees a job.
Power was good.
Warren struggled in the darkness, the bag over his head. Whoever had captured him was good, and that meant it wasn’t the Slayer or any of her cronies.
He hadn’t needed to sleep since the other two had revived him, but he cursed Andrew sometimes for the poor sewing job he’d done on his neck. He felt as though he would literally lose his head sometimes and his sense of smell and touch were so dull as to be almost nonexistent.
“You can’t hold me here,” he shouted into the bag that was wrapped around his neck. “I’ve got rights!”
“You were declared dead months ago,” the voice in the darkness said. “The dead don’t have rights.”
Warren was silent for a long moment. “What do you want?”
“I hear you like to build robots, as well as other things,” the voice said.
“I’ve been known to draw up a few designs,” Warren admitted. “Actually, I’m one of the more brilliant people in the field. Just because I never finished my Bachelor’s degree, the guys at the Engineering firms wouldn’t give me the time of day.”
“We’ll take you seriously,” the voice said. “Give you your own lab, your own factory, practically unlimited funding. What more could you want?”
“Chicks,” Warren responded instantly.
The voice in the darkness was silent for a moment, and then it spoke. “We’ll see.”
Warren’s mind raced in a way it hadn’t since he’d been alive. With the right sort of funding, he’d be able to do practically anything. He’d have more power than he’d ever had robbing banks in a Podunk town like Sunnydale.
“I’m in.” he said, into the darkness.