DISCLAIMER: This is a work of non-profit fanfiction featuring characters belonging to DC Comics.
FEEDBACK: [email protected]
Dedicated to Nute and DarkMark
Hanging the Drapes
"I think I'll destroy Earth today."
This statement was no less unnerving for being delivered in extremely cheerful tones by a flamboyantly dressed, extremely short pink man. It might have been, if she hadn't recognized him.
Kara Zor-El, also known as Supergirl, stared at the being who could only be Mr. Mxyzptlk. Her cousin had told her about the magical trickster, but she hadn't been quite prepared for this.
Superman had said Mxyzptlk was a prankster. Potentially destructive, but he never seemed to carry too much of a grudge -- it seemed watching the frantic efforts to dismantle his schemes was as satisfactory as seeing them fulfilled. This... was not her idea of a *joke*.
Maybe he thought she had a good enough chance of stopping him for the level of catastrophe not to matter, but if that was the case, she could do without that sort of respect.
"Oh really," she said guardedly.
He waved happily down at the structure on which he perched. It was round, and looked very much like a gigantic umbrella with curtains around the edges. "Do have a look inside."
Her eyes narrowed as she tried to do just that.
"At what?" Kara tried to make the question casual, but wasn't terribly satisfied with the results.
Mr. Mxyzptlk gestured negligently, and Supergirl reeled at the onslaught of Kryptonite radiation as five curtains flew every which way. She caught her breath and stared, fighting down nausea: under the remaining umbrella and standing on a table with a heavy lead base, there was a vaguely spherical chunk of Kryptonite, glowing its sickly pale green under what looked like a sun lamp but emitted distinctly red-shifted light.
Trained on the rock was a laser.
This explained the rash of odd laboratory thefts she'd spent the last three weeks tracking down. And here she'd thought finding the culprit would finish the job -- or at least that a thief going after kryptonite would be primarily a hazard to, well, Kryptonians.
"Similarity, you see. Magic's always gotten a bit of help from the laws of physics, but candles get so boring sometimes! So I thought I'd use this. It's a *relatively* low-energy laser, but it's aligned just perfectly to crack those lovely green crystals. When it does --" Mr. Mxyzptlk snapped his fingers, smirking. "When it does, Earth will fly apart... just like dear old Krypton."
Kara literally saw red, and not just from the lamp. She had to stop herself from lunging. It wouldn't help; she was vulnerable to magic, so she'd have to find some other way....
The laser activated.
"Of course," Mxyzptlk added airily, "if you can manage to seal it back within the drapes, the destruction won't be transmitted properly." A melodramatic sigh. "Ah, the inconveniences of one's materials...."
Supergirl dived at once for the nearest curtain.
The first wasn't so bad. It hadn't been thrown far, and she'd had relatively little exposure to either the kryptonite or the red-sun lamp as yet. Her heart pounded and the breath burned in her throat because she could feel the urgency, that was all. The curtain was heavier than it looked, of course, and stiff with the metal lining. She hoisted it and set her teeth as she moved closer to the source, dragging it one-handed and lifting up to grasp the bar where it should hang with the other hand.
That was going to be a problem when she lost the ability to fly.
She'd just have to hurry.
There were seven clasps to fasten the drape. Working as fast as she could, Supergirl pushed the stiff fabric into one and squeezed it closed. Again. And again. And four times more, with strength-sapping radiation pouring around her -- and done.
She set off at an angle after the second; unfortunately, it had folded itself into a vague semblance of a very rough origami bird and was flapping somewhat awkwardly away. She had to take flight herself to catch it, and then it struggled in her arms until she wrestled it to the ground and pinned it with her knee.
Kara got a grip on the edge with both hands and bent her wrists. The curtain didn't want to roll, but she forced it to. The end flopped dangerously when she took her weight off it, but once she had it safely wrapped around itself and imprisoned in her arms, it was docile enough -- until she had to unroll it again.
The nausea was worse, this time, and the drape kept trying to lash sideways and wrap around her legs. Not that this was completely a bad thing, of course; it did shield her a little bit. She worked feverishly; the chunk of kryptonite had started to vibrate, and that couldn't be good. As soon as the clasps were done, the top of the curtain sealed itself to the curved bar again; she pushed sideways with her legs to force the edge next to the first one, and they welded themselves together as she slowly peeled the lower portion away from herself and straightened it out alongside its neighbor.
She devoted a few precious seconds to feeling along the seams to see if they were really sealed against the radiation. She couldn't feel anything through them -- so she darted around to the exposed side of the apparatus to grab the third drape.
She stumbled on the way. There was an uncomfortable prickling starting on her skin; it would have felt like sunburn to someone who burned -- but even without her powers she wouldn't sunburn too easily even in the higher-frequency rays of Earth's yellow sun, so she knew it was from the kryptonite radiation. Supergirl could feel her powers ebbing; the third curtain didn't try to escape, but it felt significantly heavier than the other two.
This time, she held the curtain before her like a shield; that was a little better, and as long as she stayed behind it, her strength seemed to hold almost constant. Except that she was tired already, and she still had the other two to go....
She dived for the fourth as Mr. Mxyzptlk cackled. As she brought it forward, trying not to trip over the end since she couldn't seem to bring her feet up off the ground more than a few inches at a time, Kara swallowed hard to see her arms start trembling from their extended position. Even from behind the lead lining, she was still receiving enough red sun radiation to bring her strength down to that of a normal human woman by the time she was done -- and the kryptonite-induced weakness was starting to make her vision give way to weird grey checks around the edges by the time she squeezed the last clasp shut.
Last one. She had to walk to it, feeling not even remotely "super," in fact a great deal more as if she might fall on her face any second. When the curtain gave a half-hearted hop away from her, she felt so crushingly exhausted she wanted to cry.
But it didn't go any farther, and she wrestled it up in front of her and shoved it forward. Sweat ran in her eyes; she'd have wiped it away if she had dared to let go with one hand. Kara tried bending her neck down to swipe her closed eyes across her shoulder. It helped a little, but the stinging still brought tears when she opened them again.
She had to let go when she reached the bar. Peeking around the edge of the curtain, she saw cracks appearing in the shuddering rock before she had to pull back, wincing in pain. She had to get the drape up there -- clenching her left hand on the cloth until her fingers nearly cramped, Kara stretched upward.
The bar was just above her fingertips.
There was an *audible* crack.
She couldn't let this happen. One Krypton was enough and far too much.
Kara bent her legs -- the muscles screamed -- and jumped. The bases of her fingers cleared the top of the bar, and her hand wrapped around it, denting the top of the canopy, as she reached the apex of her leap. When she fell, the jolt to her shoulder made her want to cry out, but she swallowed the sound; she didn't have the breath.
Her mouth was too dry to swallow comfortably, either, and there was phlegm in her throat that hadn't moved. She turned her head and spat it out as she strained to bring the top of the curtain into position. Another popping sound from behind it gave her a fresh surge of adrenaline, and she slid one corner against another curtain, pinning it precariously until she could push a bit between the jaws of the clamp and squeeze before it could slither free.
The same again, six more times with her arm muscles aching and hair plastering itself across her face. That was what the headband was supposed to *prevent*, she thought in annoyance. An end flicked across her left eye, making it water again as she squashed the fifth clip together. The laser hummed until she wondered if her ears were ringing. With the sixth, there was an ominous crack.
As soon as the seventh clasp was in place, she dropped to the ground and... the hum stopped.
"Oh, very good." She looked up at the voice, and the pink trickster winked at her, then let loose a peal of laughter. "Very good indeed. I'll have to keep an eye on you from now on. What fun."
Then the entire lead-shielded apparatus vanished into thin air beneath him, and a second later so did he.
Kara stumbled back a step, scraped the hair out of her face, and leaned over with her hands on her knees to get her breath back.
*Kal, I'm going to get you for this.*
Trickster. Prankster. More a nuisance than anything else. Nothing Superman had said before he took off for space had prepared her for this; the earlier stories were at least by comparison innocent.
Make Earth like Krypton.
That was no *prank*.
*This wasn't funny!*
Perhaps he had been practicing.
Some time later, as the multiverse began giving the first hings of its impending collapse, a number of assembled supervillains wondered about the summons they had answered until the other-dimensional pink sorcerer showed up and introduced himself and his newest goal.
Apparently they were now competition for Mr. Mxyzptlk.
If not very important competition.
In their last moments alive, they would have agreed with Supergirl's assessment.
It was called The Last Superman Story.
But, of course, it wasn't.