By Joel Schuldt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted January 2005
Summary: What happens when Clark's powers are switched with those of … Captain Marvel? Find out in the tenth installment of the author's Saga series.
< > Indicates thoughts
ALL CAPITALS — indicates stronger emphasis on word
All standard disclaimers apply. All characters in this story (except those of my own creation) are the properties of Mrs. Siegel, DC Comics, Warner Bros. and December 3rd Productions Ltd; no infringements of any property rights are intended by their use.
Like always, I welcome any comments or questions.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is my attempt at merging two of my favorite shows — "Lois and Clark", and "Sliders". Some poetic license has been taken with regards to the "Sliders" aspects of the stories (technology, etc.) in order for it to mesh better with the story line.
This is the next installment of my Saga series, all of which started in "Endings and Beginnings," then continued in "Storm Warnings," "Evil Resurgent," "Resolutions," "Sins of the Past," "Destiny," "Avatars," "Twilight of Youth," and "Creatures of the Night."
While technically this is a sequel of sorts to my fanfic "Avatars," it also fits in with the overall storyline of my Saga. Once more, special thanks to Craig Byrne for lending me the use of the characters he established in the fanfic "The Power of Shazam." I greatly appreciate it, Mr. Byrne. I recommend reading both his fanfic and "Avatars" before reading this one in order to get an idea of the background of the main characters (And when reading "The Power of Shazam," remember to be nice! It was his first fanfic!).
Another special thanks to C. C. Beck for creating Captain Marvel and all the other myriad characters that populate the Marvel Family universe, and to Jerry Ordway who updated the legend for another generation to appreciate.
The idea for this story came from a comic I read in my youth, many, many years ago, and I wanted to do a more lighthearted story for a change before returning to the primary storyline of my Saga series.
As always, my thanks to my GE, Bethy, for her editing skills and suggestions! And another thanks to everyone who has e-mailed me with their thoughts on the past fanfics! Thanks for your input!
Scientists have oftentimes stated that, in spite of how vast the cosmos is and how far apart the various celestial bodies are from one another, the enormous tracks of 'empty' space between them aren't truly empty at all. Comets, meteors, space dust, radiation — all this and more occupy the space between the stars.
Ponderously spinning through the void, its mottled, pockmarked surface barely visible in the darkness, the massive asteroid hurtled through space. While it still remained at a distance where the Earth's sun was not even visible, the asteroid's path nevertheless put it on a collision course with the planet.
This, then, was the Earth's doom.
Or at least it WOULD have been.
As the enormous rock spun through the void, the space before it began to impossibly bulge outwards, as if something behind the space were trying to force its way in. With a harsh tearing sound, a ragged gash appeared, spilling blue-white light into the darkness, illuminating the jagged edges of the asteroid. With what appeared to be super-human effort, a hand slowly emerged through the brilliantly shining gap in space, a delicate lace- edged cuff bordering a dark green velour jacket following close behind.
"And just WHERE do you think you're going?" The voice, while male, was slightly high-pitched, creating an almost feminine quality to it.
A second hand then emerged beside the first, each grasping the edges of the tear in space, pushing them apart. Eyes alight with joy, curly brown hair falling to the nape of his neck, perfectly white teeth smiling through a neatly trimmed goatee, Mxyzptlk chuckled.
"Oh, no, you don't," the Fifth-Dimensional Imp chastised, sternly wagging his finger as he fully emerged through the rip in space. "I have BIG plans for the Earth, and I refuse to let some overgrown dirt clod ruin them."
Casually, almost contemptuously, Mxyzptlk snapped his fingers.
The asteroid obligingly vanished.
Smiling broadly, turning to the interdimensional breach he'd just emerged from, Mxyzptlk licked his thumb and drew it down across the tear, as if it were no more than a smudge of dirt to be cleaned off the face of the cosmos.
"There," he chortled as the last of the light died away. "All taken care of. Now to go have some fun!"
As he casually strolled down the street, his eyes alight with amusement, the Fifth-Dimensional imp Mxyzptlk gazed in wonder at the bustling streets of Metropolis. Engine noise from passing cars, honking horns and dogs barking mixed with human conversation to form a symphony of noise that the imp drank in, basking in the sounds of physicality.
"I never realized how LIVELY this place was before," he remarked, staring in awe at a homeless person urinating in an alleyway. "My last time here, I mainly focused on Superman. But by doing so, I missed all of THIS!"
Staggering up beside the extra-dimensional being, the shabbily dressed homeless man tugged on Mxyzptlk's sleeve as he held his pants up.
"Hey, buddy!" As the imp turned to him, the man put on what he deemed was his most prize-winning smile. "Spare some change?"
Mxyzptlk raised an eyebrow. "Am I to understand that you desire monetary wealth?"
Frowning, his mind trying to focus through a bleary fog of alcohol, the homeless man finally nodded. "Yep!"
Slowly, a decidedly wicked smile crept across the imp's face. Tilting his head back, eyes closed, Mxyzptlk sniffed the air once, twice, and then drew in a deep breath.
Returning his attention to the man before him, Mxyzptlk flourished his hand through the air like a stage magician. "Alakazam!"
The homeless man let out a surprised squeak as he found his outstretched hand suddenly filled with a large, sparkling gold ingot. The unexpected weight of it forced him to release his hold on his pants in order to support his newfound wealth. Eyes filled with visions of luxury, he never even noticed as his worn and dirty jeans slowly slid to the ground around his ankles.
"There you go, my good man," Mxyzptlk crowed, dusting off his sleeve. "I found a place where THOUSANDS of these were just laying around unused. So there you are," he finished, patting the man on the back. "Enjoy!"
As his benefactor strolled off, the homeless man waved after him joyously. "Thanks, mister! I really appreciate-"
As the man looked closer at the object he held, he discovered that there were words stamped on the surface of the ingot: 'FORT KNOX FEDERAL REPOSITORY.'
Lifting his head up once more, his joyous expression slipping into anger, the man shook his fist at the retreating form of Mxyzptlk.
"How'm I supposed to SPEND this thing, ya jerk?!"
Walking away, the man already forgotten from his thoughts, the imp's attention was drawn to a nearby newsstand, the cover of one magazine in particular riveting him. Its cover featured a color photo of a powerfully built man dressed in red and gold as he dramatically burst through a tapestry bearing the familiar image of a red and yellow pentagonal 'S' shield. With his gold trimmed white cape flapping in the breeze as he smiled out at the world, the man appeared to be truly enjoying himself. Above the picture, the title screamed to the world: 'ABSOLUTELY MARVEL-OUS!' Below it, in only slightly smaller print, was a secondary title: 'EMERGING FROM THE SHADOW OF AN ICON!'
Mxyzptlk's eyes sparkled with glee as he gazed at Captain Marvel's image. "Oh, goody! Another toy to play with!" As he stared intently at the picture, a wicked smile slowly spread across his lips as a dark chuckle escaped his throat.
"And I know JUST how I'm going to have my fun!"
THE KENT FARM
"I still don't know why you don't let me do this myself," Lois said, smiling at Martha. Handing her mother-in-law another plate, Lois chuckled. "I could have these done in no time flat."
"But then we wouldn't have the time to talk," Martha gently replied. "With you and Clark darting off to these alternate worlds all the time, and the OTHER Lois and Clark rarely here anymore, we don't get to see much of you."
Lois smiled guiltily. "Yeah, I know. Clark and I have allowed ourselves to get pretty wrapped up in exploring other dimensions lately." Lois' eyes grew puzzled. "But you were saying that Clark and Lois from that other dimension haven't been around-?"
Glancing up from the dishes, Lois canted her head to the side, her attention growing distant.
Recognizing the expression, Martha turned to face the doorway. "Clark!"
Almost immediately, Clark was standing in the kitchen, the wind from his passage sending the edges of the tablecloth fluttering softly.
"There's a robbery at the Metropolis Federal Bank, Clark," Lois said absently, her attention still focused elsewhere.
Striding further into the room, Clark smiled. "I heard. I'm on my way right now," he added, quickly kissing her in passing.
"Need help?" Lois inquired.
Clark shook his head after a moments pause. "It seems to be a pretty standard robbery… only three gunmen with automatic weapons. Shouldn't take more than a minute or two to take care of." His expression slipped a fraction. "Just in case, though…" Tapering off, he tapped his ear.
"I'll keep an 'ear' out," Lois stated. Shaking her head, she chuckled. "I'm still not used to hearing radio waves," she admitted with a smile.
With practiced ease the hero spun into his uniform, heading for the door.
Lois' gasp stopped him in mid-stride. Glancing back at her, Clark was puzzled by her awestruck expression.
Lifting her hand, Lois pointed at Clark's body, her mouth moving soundlessly. Beside her, Martha's own expression mirrored Lois'.
Following her gesture, Clark glanced down, his eyes widening at the red uniform he now wore, emblazoned with a golden lightning bolt. As his gaze ranged over the yellow boots, golden sash around his waist, and the hip length white cape fringed in gold, he could feel his unease growing.
"Uh-oh," Clark whispered apprehensively. "This CAN'T be good."
Outside the Metropolis Federal Bank, behind a hastily erected Police barrier, a young boy hurriedly pushed his way back through a crowd of onlookers as he made his way towards a nearby alley. Racing into the dingy alley, Denny Batson paused as soon as he was out of sight from the street.
"Looks like it's time for Captain Marvel to make an appearance," Denny said, an eager note to his voice. Tilting his head back towards the sky, the youth took a deep breath.
As the magical lightning bolt struck him, Denny felt the familiar surge of power through his body. As he rocketed into the air, he caught a glimpse of red and blue in a passing window. Though eager to halt the robbery, curiosity won out as he halted at the next floor. Reflected back at him from the window was the familiar red and blue uniform of Superman.
"Uh-oh," Denny whispered apprehensively. "This CAN'T be good."
THE KENT FARM
"Clark?" Though softly spoken, Lois' questioned word rang through the unnaturally silent room.
Holding the edge of his cape, Clark's own face echoed Lois' shocked expression with one of his own as he met her eyes.
Stepping forward, her hands held up to her mouth in unease, Martha nervously glanced from Clark's face to his uniform and back.
"I… I…" Beyond words, Clark could only shrug in helpless frustration.
Forcibly snapping herself out of her shock, Lois made a dismissive motion with her hand. "Figure it all out later, Honey," she stated. "Bank robbery in progress, remember?"
Swallowing hard, Clark returned her nod, moving towards and out the door in a crimson and gold blur.
"What… was THAT he was wearing?" Martha asked haltingly.
"It looked exactly like Captain Marvel's uniform," Lois replied.
"How did he get it? And what happened to HIS uniform?"
Lois shook her head. "I have NO idea."
Martha kneaded her lower lip in thought. "If his UNIFORM'S changed, do you think anything ELSE has?"
All Lois could do was shrug, wishing she had a better answer.
Streaking through the air, his thoughts a chaotic jumble, Clark forced himself to focus on the matter immediately at hand.
<Time enough to sort it all out later,> he mused. <AFTER I stop the robbery.> Palming the fist-sized chunk of rock that he'd swept up from the farm as he'd departed, Clark closed his fingers around it and, with a minor twitch of his muscles, shattered it. Dusting the remaining fragments of rock off his hands, he smiled faintly.
<At least I have my super-strength. Wish I had time to test the rest of my powers, though, before getting into something I might not be able to handle.> Frowning, he strained to hear the familiar background noise of the radio waves. <Super-hearing definitely appears to be gone, though.>
Entering the city, Clark arrowed across the skyline, moving directly towards the incident in progress. Dropping down to the pavement with a muted thump, Clark confidently strode towards the main doors of the bank, throwing them open…
…and stopped dead in his tracks.
Standing across the room, smiling broadly, a powerfully built man dressed in a Superman uniform was shaking the hand of what appeared to be the bank's manager. Scattered across the floor, their weapons no more than crumpled shapes, three would-be robbers moaned in various states of unconsciousness.
Catching Clark's eye, the Superman stand-in clapped the manager on the shoulder as he returned the relieved man's nervous laugh with a confident one of his own.
"It was my pleasure, Mr. Tawney," the imposter stated. "I'm just glad no-one was hurt. The Police will handle everything from here." Waving once more, the man in the Superman uniform crossed the room, gently taking Clark by the arm and steering him out the door. As the heroes exited the building, the crowd of onlookers erupted into cheers.
"Man, am I glad YOU'RE here," the imposter whispered, his voice nearly drowned out by the crowd.
The other man's voice was instantly recognizable to Clark as belonging to Captain Marvel. "Denny?" Clark asked in a harsh whisper.
Jerking a thumb skyward, Denny rocketed into the air, closely followed by Clark. The cheers of the crowd below followed them into the sky. After a few moments of flight, the two men landed on the top of the Daily Planet building.
"Denny, what IS this? What's going on?"
"Believe me, Clark, I have NO idea," Denny admitted. "After I hear about the robbery going on, I'm running into the alley and I say my magic word to change into Captain Marvel. The magic lightning hits me and BOOM!" Swiping a hand down his torso, Denny shrugged. "I come out of it looking like this!"
Clark nodded. "Mine's pretty similar to that. I was at home, I hear the call about the robbery, I spin into my uniform like I've done a million times before…" Glancing down at his chest, Clark scratched his chin. "What in the world is happening here?"
"There's MORE. I seem to have X-Ray vision," Denny said, his face flushing slightly. Seeing Clark's questioning expression, Denny shrugged uncomfortably. "I'm… having difficulty controlling it." As Clark's expression remained unchanged, Denny cleared his throat self-consciously. "The Channel 6 news reporter?"
Clark frowned. "Lisa Poggen? What about her?"
Denny's blush deepened.
"Oh," Clark said knowingly, making the connection. Concentrating into the distance, Clark grunted. "And I apparently don't have x- ray vision anymore."
"It seems as though all of our powers, then, have been swapped."
Canting his head to the side, Clark smiled faintly. "I thought I didn't have it, but I apparently DO have my super-hearing." Seeing Denny's puzzled look, Clark tapped his ear. "I'm hearing voices."
Denny frowned. "How many do you hear? Six?"
Again, Clark nodded.
Denny sighed. "Those would be the voices of the Elders."
"The Elders?" Clark asked. "Who're they?"
"The Elders are the source of my powers: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury," Denny explained. "Aside from giving me my powers, they also give me guidance."
Rubbing his head, Clark grimaced. "They're giving ME a headache."
"My magic word doesn't work for me," Denny said. "I've tried, but I can't change back. Have YOU tried it?"
"Not yet," Clark admitted. "To be honest, I've… been kind of afraid to."
"Well, try it," Denny urged.
Clark sighed. "Fine, but if I turn into a thirteen year old version of Clark Kent, YOU get to explain it to my wife." Taking a deep breath, Clark mentally steeled himself.
And with a roar, the lightning struck.
THE KENT FARM
Pacing the floor of the living room, nervously chewing her knuckle, Lois glanced at the clock once again.
"I don't know what's keeping him so long," she suddenly announced, startling Martha and Jonathan. Turning to face them, Lois waved a hand towards the door. "I mean, even if he DOESN'T have his own super-powers anymore, even if he DOES have Captain Marvel's powers, he SHOULD have been home a while ago." Resuming her pacing, Lois shrugged. "Assuming, of course, that he DOES have all of Captain Marvel's powers. Assuming that he even knows what they ARE."
Standing up from the couch, Martha stepped in front of Lois, halting her pacing.
"Why not just go after him?" she suggested gently.
"No need," a deep male voice interrupted.
Spinning towards the door, a smile lighting her face as she glimpsed the familiar red-and-blue uniform, Lois froze as she fully caught sight of the man standing there, her smile growing rigid. "Who are you?"
Cautiously stepping into the room, his hands raised in a placating gesture, the stranger focused on Lois. "My name's Captain Marvel, Mrs. Kent. Remember me?"
Nodding, her smile growing slightly less frozen, Lois motioned for him to continue. "Denny Batson, right? I see you're wearing Clark's uniform?"
"And you're obviously having the same problems with YOUR powers?"
Once again, Denny nodded.
Taking a deep breath, Lois motioned to the newcomer. "Any ideas what happened?"
"As near as we can tell, someone — or SOMETHING — switched all of our powers around," Denny explained.
Lois nodded absently, rubbing her lip in thought.
"Where's Clark?" Martha asked.
"Right here," a voice replied from behind Denny. Stepping into the room, the ends of his pant legs piled on top of his flopping shoes, Clark held twin fist-full of waistline up around his stomach. Smiling from beneath a mop of disheveled black hair, a four-sizes too large shirt hanging from his body, the young boy shuffled into the living room.
"Hi, Lois," Clark said.
Lois' eyes bulged in disbelief as she pointed to Clark.
"Wha… He's… But…" For several seconds, Lois' mouth worked soundlessly as she fought to find what to say. Finally, she simply boiled it down to its simplest terms:
"First off, Mrs. Kent, PLEASE don't freak out," Denny urged.
"Don't freak out?" Taking a step towards the man wearing the Superman uniform, Lois's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Don't freak out? You come here, tell me that this… this KID is my husband, that you have his powers and vise-versa, but that I'm not ALLOWED to be upset about this?" Throwing her hands into the air, she let out a harsh laugh. "Oh, excuse me! Silly me, for not having identified this as being NORMAL! I guess I must have missed the memo stating that today was the day my husband would be turned into a teenage boy!"
Leaning down closer to Clark, Denny's brow knit. "She's freaking out, isn't she?" he asked in a stage whisper.
Clark, his eyes fixed on Lois, nodded solemnly. "Oh yeah."
On the couch, Jonathan Kent merely watched the exchange.
Turning to his mother, Clark's eyebrows rose in question. "Before we get to much further, is there anything I can wear around here, Mom?"
Martha nodded, a smile returning to her own face. "Upstairs in the attic. Third box from the left."
As Clark shuffled off up the stairs, Lois sat down heavily into a nearby chair, her own eyes fixed on the floor. "I can't believe this," she murmured.
Standing up beside his wife, Jonathan caught Denny's attention. "I take it that when YOU change out of your uniform, you become…?" Tilting his head towards the stairs that Clark had just went up, Jonathan stared expectantly at Denny.
"A thirteen year old boy?" Denny finished. Nodding, he sighed. "Yeah, I do. I don't just change my clothes, I get a whole different body."
Off to the side, Lois began rocking back and forth, continually muttering to herself.
Denny walked over to her, placing a consoling hand on her shoulder. "It'll be all right, Mrs. Kent. It'll-"
"Don't you DARE tell me it'll be all right," Lois snarled, slapping the hand away. "DON'T. YOU. DARE!"
"Lois?" Martha asked.
Turning to face her mother-in-law, Lois' lower lip trembled. "He's THIRTEEN."
Martha, glancing to Jonathan, could only shrug. "I know, Honey."
"If he's thirteen, Martha, we can't be together," she continued helplessly. "If he's stuck this way permanently…?"
"Can't be together?" Glancing over to Jonathan, Denny spread his hands helplessly. "What does she mean?"
"They're married," Jonathan simply stated.
"Married?" Frowning, Denny scratched his temple as he puzzled it over. And then his eyes shot open as he understood the meaning. "Oh!"
Before any more could be said, a plaintive wail cut through the conversation, causing all to fall silent.
"MOM!" Clark's shout echoed through the house. "You've got to be kidding! I can't wear this stuff!"
"Oh, don't be silly," Martha replied, glancing away from Lois. "Just feel lucky that I kept some of your stuff from when you were younger."
"Yeah, but THIS?"
Walking down the stairs and into the room, Clark held his hands up in helpless frustration.
Lois, glancing over to her husband, was at a loss for words.
Dressed in purple bell-bottoms, white canvas deck shoes and a neon orange 'Mork from Ork' t-shirt, Clark crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes staring intently at his wife.
"C'mon," Clark challenged her. "I dare you."
Though she fought valiantly against it, Lois finally was unable to contain her laughter.
"This is NOT funny," Clark deadpanned.
"I agree," Denny replied, his lips fighting to keep from smiling.
"Indeed," Jonathan echoed, fighting a losing battle of his own.
"Oh, but it IS," Lois cackled, clutching her stomach in mirth. "And it's exactly what I needed right now!"
Looking back to Jonathan, Denny's eyes grew hopeful. "Is she going to be okay?"
Jonathan nodded. "I'd imagine she will be. Don't worry, though," he continued, clasping Denny on the shoulder. "If ANYONE can figure out what's going on, it's my boy."
"I hope so," Denny replied. Rubbing his temple, he shook his head slowly. "This super-hearing is giving me a headache."
Smiling warmly at Denny as she wiped the tears of mirth from the corner of her eyes, Lois nodded. "It takes a little bit to get used to it, but it gets easier."
"No offense, ma'am, but I'd rather NOT get used to it if it's all the same?" Glancing to Clark, Denny's eyebrow lifted. "Any ideas?"
Clark shook his head, his mouth set in a grim line. "As near as I can tell, there aren't any commonalities between our situations prior to the switch."
"Just responding to the bank robbery," Lois added.
Clark nodded. "But there wasn't anything in the area to account for… this," he finished, pointing at himself and Denny. "No kryptonite, nothing."
"Should we check it out anyway?" Denny suggested.
"It couldn't hurt," Clark answered.
Spinning into her uniform, Lois checked herself over before sighing in relief. "Thank goodness there's no Ms. Marvel or anything like that." Looking back and forth between Clark and Denny, Lois's eyes settled on Clark.
"So, umm…" Despite her attempts to stifle it, a giggle burst from Lois. "Should I arrange for a babysitter?"
"Honey," Clark moaned, a pained expression on his face. "This ISN'T funny."
"Oh, right," Lois agreed, her lips quivering in an attempt to keep from laughing. "Of course it isn't."
"Absolutely," Martha agreed, hiding her smile behind her hand.
"I couldn't agree more," Jonathan chimed in, gasping for air between peals of laughter.
With a pained look on his face, Clark glanced over to Denny. "And you?"
Holding his hands up in a warding gesture, Denny smiled as he shook his head. "Hey, don't look at ME."
With a heavy sigh and a 'why me' roll of his eyes, Clark walked past the trembling Ultrawoman.
"All I need now is acne and this day will just be PERFECT," Clark grumbled.
"Oh, I can think of something better than THAT," a disembodied voice chuckled.
His eyes roving around the room, past the surprised gazes of his family, Clark scowled. "I know that voice."
Lois' eyes grew thoughtful. "Clark, isn't that-?"
A massive puff of smoke filled the far corner of the room. Stepping out of it, a gaudily dressed man bowed deeply to an accompanying trumpet call.
Denny nudged Clark. "Who's that?"
"Mxyzptlk," Clark groaned, slapping a hand to his forehead. "Oh, GREAT! This is JUST what I DON'T need right now!"
"Mix-yez-WHAT?" Denny asked.
"Mister Mxyzptlk, at your service," the smartly dressed imp replied, bowing with a flourish.
"What kind of a name is Mixez..? Myixes… whatever you said," Denny asked, motioning to the imp.
"Mxyzptlk," the stranger replied once more, straightening his lace collar. "It's a shortened version of my true name. Since you wouldn't have a hope of pronouncing my REAL name — it's 57 syllables long, by the way — I shortened it to Mxyzptlk."
Denny laughed. "Your REAL name is unpronounceable?"
Mxyzptlk scowled. "Knock it off with the jokes, Muscles."
"So I take it that we have YOU to thank for this?" Clark asked, motioning to his and Denny's bodies.
The imp nodded, smiling.
"And I suppose it's too much to hope that this is temporary?" Denny asked.
His smile still in place, Mxyzptlk shrugged vaguely.
"Would you PLEASE explain what happened to us?" Denny sighed in exasperation.
"Well, there I was," Mxyzptlk said, waving vaguely. "I was in the Fifth Dimension and bored out of my skull when I realized that HEY!" he emphasized, snapping his fingers. "Why not go and see my buddy Superman?"
Clark rolled his eyes with a sigh.
Mxyzptlk smiled darkly. "And here I am."
"How could I BE so lucky?" Clark said sarcastically.
Mxyzptlk's smile slipped fractionally. "You MIGHT want to rein in that tone, pal. Normally I'm a pretty easygoing guy, but you DON'T want to get on my bad side."
"What'd happen?" Denny asked. Seeing Clark's vaguely horrified expression, he shrugged. "Hey, I'm just curious."
The imp turned to him with a smile that was terrible to behold. "You DON'T want to know."
Denny snorted. "Right."
Straightening up, Mxyzptlk held up his hand, the tips of his thumb and middle finger together. "I snap my fingers, and the oceans become jello. A second snap, and it starts raining cats and dogs. LITERALLY. A third snap, and I'll turn the Earth inside-out." The imp's eyes glowed faintly. "And that's just stuff off the top of my head. After that? Things get REALLY nasty."
Denny frowned. "You can do all that?"
Mxyzptlk shrugged nonchalantly, making a show of polishing his knuckles on his jacket. "I can alter the course of time. Turning the world's oceans into a tasty dessert treat is NOTHING."
Clark held up his hands in a conceding gesture. "All right, Mxyzptlk. All right."
"Excellent," the imp replied, all signs of his irritation vanishing. Chortling a happy giggle, the imp clapped his hands together. With that act, Mxyzptlk began to fade away.
At Clark's shout, the imp's disappearing act halted, leaving him transparent and wraith-like.
"What's going on with this?" Clark asked, motioning to himself and Denny.
"Just a little something to add a little spice to the game this time," the imp confessed.
Clark's eyebrow rose expectantly. "And?"
"Let's just say that it's like a pair of shoes," Mxyzptlk said with another flourish of his hand. "The more you wear them, the more broken in they get."
Clark and Denny looked at each other. Simultaneously, both shrugged.
"You know what he's talking about?" Denny whispered.
"Nope," Clark replied. "Do YOU?"
"Uh-uh," Denny said.
Sighing theatrically, Mxyzptlk leaned closer. "Let me put it in terms even muscle-bound meat bags like yourselves can understand. I mean, the longer you HAVE the powers, the more your body ADJUSTS to its new powers. Eventually, even I won't be able to switch you back. And, by the way, DON'T look to your mentor for help," the imp added, smiling at Denny. "My magic is WAY more powerful than his. The only way you'll go back to your normal selves is if I LET you."
"And WILL you let us?" Denny asked.
Mxyzptlk smirked. "Maybe. Standard rules, Super-Duper!"
"What'd he mean by that?" Denny asked as the last bit of Mxyzptlk vanished.
"It means that until we can get him to say his name backwards, we have to cope with whatever he's doing," Lois chimed in.
"But once he says his name backwards, everything resets itself," Clark finished.
"You mean IF we can get him to say his name backwards," Denny said.
"We will," Lois said.
Clark glanced away. "We HAVE to," he muttered.
Sitting around the table in the farmhouse, a cup of coffee sitting in front of each of them, Clark, Lois and Denny were still coming to grips with the day's events.
"We have to get him to say his name backwards in order to send him home," Lois said.
"Say his name BACKWARDS?" Denny snorted. "I can barely say it FORWARDS!"
"It doesn't matter. Only HE has to say it backwards. Now all we need to do is…" Realizing Clark wasn't paying attention to what she was saying, Lois glanced at her youthful husband, who was staring with wide-eyed, open-mouthed attention down the v-neck of her uniform.
"Um, Clark?" Getting no response from the gawking boy, Lois cupped his chin and raised his eyes to meet hers. "Earth to Clark?"
Snapping out of his trance, Clark blinked rapidly several times. "Huh? What? What'd you say?"
"What's wrong, Clark?" Glancing down at her chest, Lois smiled impishly. "It's not like you've never seen them before."
Blushing furiously, Clark stared at the floor. "I know, but… it's just that… I'm… You're…" Falling silent, Clark scowled fiercely. "Stupid teenage hormones," he growled.
Denny laughed boisterously at Clark's predicament.
"This is NOT funny," Clark wailed. Waving his hands about helplessly, the young boy shook his head. "I've got about a MILLION things running around in my head, and not a ONE of them makes any type of sense! I HATE being this age again! I hated being this age when I WAS this age!"
Lois cupped Clark's cheek. "It's okay, Honey," she said soothingly. "We'll get it all straightened out. You'll see."
"I hope so," Clark replied. "If we don't-"
Clark's words abruptly died off as, with a horrified expression, his body began to fade away in a flurry of sparkling lights.
"Oh, what NOW?" Clark moaned.
"CLARK!" Lois cried.
With a faint popping noise, the youth vanished completely.
Slowly edging away from the shocked woman, Denny's brow furrowed in concern.
"You're not going to freak out again, are you?"
LABORATORY, OUTSIDE METROPOLIS' CITY LIMITS
Slowly, the world faded into view once more for Clark. Glancing around at his surroundings, despite his trepidation at his current state, he couldn't help but whistle appreciatively.
From floor to rafters, machinery of all kinds filled the vast room; cables, wires and chords wound their way throughout the room, lending an almost organic, web-like feel to the space.
And, at the center of the 'web,' the architect of Clark's situation danced with glee.
The man's bald head, wizened features and thick rimmed glasses formed a nearly comical air to the prancing elderly man. His lab coat, once white but now smudged nearly beyond recognition with what Clark could only assume were YEARS worth of grime and soil, flapped around the man's thin wisp of a body like wings.
Cackling laughter towards the ceiling, the diminutive scientist shook a fist high in triumph.
"At LAST! My nemesis is helpless before me! Helpless before the unmatchable superior intellect of-!" The scientist's words abruptly died away mid-rant as his eyes settled on Clark. After a moment's pause, his brow knit in puzzlement.
"And just WHO in the name of Carl Sagan are YOU?"
THE KENT FARM
Hovering high above the ground, her chin resting gently on her chest, Lois breathed evenly as she relaxed her body. The soft breeze tousled her hair, billowing her cape as she cast her senses to the wind.
Far below, arms folded across his chest, Denny frowned as he gazed upwards.
"And this is supposed to help HOW?" the hero asked to no one in particular.
"Though he's never exactly found out how sensitive his hearing is, Clark once told us that he could pick out a single human heartbeat from miles away," Martha explained, her own eyes fixed upwards. "All it required was concentration. He compared using his super-hearing that way like a normal person focusing on one single conversation in the middle of a noisy crowd."
Denny's frown grew deeper. "Clark could be HUNDREDS of miles away! You're telling me that-"
"Look," Jonathan whispered, pointing upwards.
Glancing up, Denny saw only open sky. "Where'd she go?"
Jonathan smiled, pointing in the distance. "That way. Towards Metropolis."
LABORATORY, OUTSIDE METROPOLIS' CITY LIMITS
Landing on the ground before the imposing monolithic structure, Lois' eyes narrowed as she sought to pierce the building's exterior with her x-ray vision. Meeting with failure, she stamped her foot in frustration.
<It's shielded against x-ray vision, but I can hear Clark's heartbeat inside,> she thought to herself. <That makes NO sense! Unless…?>
Scanning across the exterior of the structure, she smiled inwardly as she discovered the hidden speakers concealed behind wire mesh.
<His heartbeat's being broadcast through those speakers, on a frequency only Kryptonian ears can pick up,> she mused. <That also explains WHY I was able to hear it from so far away. But that also means that someone WANTED me to find this place.>
Shaking off any misgivings concerning whether or not it was a trap, the hero stepped up closer to the building.
"Hey! Can anyone hear me in there?" Lois called.
"I said, can anyone HEAR me in there?" Lois called again, sharply rapping her knuckles against the concrete wall. With a sound like a gunshot, tiny cracks spider-webbed out from where her knuckles had struck.
"I WANT MY HUSBAND BACK!" Slamming her fist against the thick concrete wall, a small portion of Lois' mind smiled inwardly as she felt the entire structure shift slightly beneath her blow.
<THAT ought to get their attention!>
"I asked you a question, boy," the scientist warned. Leveling a decidedly wicked-looking apparatus at Clark, the elderly man smiled cruelly. "And when someone in MY position asks a question, remaining silent is NOT an option."
Before Clark could even begin to formulate a reply, the building shuddered tremendously as a thunderous booming noise echoed throughout the complex. Dust sifted down from the cracked ceiling in thick waves, causing Clark to cough.
"This is ENTIRELY uncalled for!" the scientist snarled. Pivoting to one side slightly, his free hand dancing across the control console behind him, the wizened man shook his head. "Kids these days! NO patience! NO manners!"
As he continued to rant, a spinning constellation of lights formed in the center of the room. As they faded, a very surprised Lois stood, her fist raised to deliver another blow to the building.
"Lo- Ultrawoman!" Clark called, mentally chiding himself for his near slip-up. "Watch out!"
With a smug chuckle, Lois shook her head as she took in the sight of the disheveled scientist.
"Somehow, I don't think that he's going to pose much of a problem for me," Lois snorted.
The bald scientist chuckled. "Actually, I've been expecting you," he admitted, thumbing a toggle switch on the side of the weapon he held. "Or, at least someone LIKE you."
Instantly, a sickly-green light flooded the room, driving Lois to her knees.
"K-Kryptonite," she gasped weakly, pain lancing through her body.
"NO!" Clark screamed, watching helplessly as Lois crumpled to the floor. Glaring furiously at the scientist, Clark took a deep breath.
The beam from the bald villain's weapon struck Clark first, cutting him off in mid-word, casting him into dark oblivion.
"No, no, no," the elderly man clucked. "We'll have NONE of that."
Swimming up through inky blackness, with a low groan, Clark raised his head and peered through bleary eyes at the world around him.
"Back among the living, I see?" the scientist chuckled.
At the scientist's words, Clark's surroundings snapped into focus. As he recognized the man, Clark attempted to lunge forward, only to find his arms and legs securely shackled to the wall. Barely pausing, Clark opened his mouth to speak the magic word and transform, but was only able to get the first part out before his words tapered off into unintelligible noise. Clearing his throat, Clark attempted it again, only to encounter the same result.
The scientist, watching the struggle, giggled with glee. Lifting a hand to his own throat, he nodded towards Clark.
"Don't bother trying to say your magic word, boy," he sneered. "I've mounted a vocal destabilizer around your throat. It's programmed to recognize the vocal patterns of the wearer saying 'Shazam,' and sends a tiny electrical impulse to your vocal chords, preventing you from saying it." He shrugged modestly. "Another little invention of mine."
"My, how ingenious," a feminine voice murmured from Clark's right.
Glancing towards the voice, a smile lifted Clark's lips as he saw Lois similarly shackled to the wall as well. Behind her mask, a familiar fire danced in her eyes, making Clark's smile grow even wider.
"Hi," Clark said, relieved beyond expression that the kryptonite trap hadn't harmed her.
Despite their predicament, Lois returned the smile. "Hi yourself."
"Oh, how SWEET," the bedraggled scientist interjected with a mocking retching noise. "Don't look to HER for rescue, child. Those shackles that now secure her admittedly attractive body to the wall contain fragments of kryptonite. Not enough to kill her, but more than enough to strip her of the majority of her powers."
Returning his attention to Lois, Clark could indeed see a faintly sickly pallor to her skin, and the shackles glowed a faint green hue.
"Don't worry," Lois whispered almost inaudibly. "I'm all right." Her words, however, were belied by the sheen of sweat Clark could see on her forehead.
Forcing away his concerns, Clark turned his attention towards their captor. "Isn't this the part where you introduce yourself?"
"My name is Doctor Thaddeus Bodog Sivana," the short, bespectacled balding man sneered. "Perhaps you've heard of me?"
Giving Lois an inquiring glance, Clark noted the preoccupied look about her, as if she were searching her memory. Deciding to play it safe in the meantime, he shook his head. "Nope, never heard of you. Should I have?"
Repressing a snarl of irritation, Sivana wheeled around, savagely twisting several knobs on the machinery.
At Sivana's actions, a faint feeling of suspicion tickled Clark's mind as he intently watched the irate scientist.
"BAH! Kids these days! Absolutely no respect for their elders! No respect for history! Don't they teach you ANYTHING in school?" Glaring at Clark, the diminutive scientist pointed to the heavens, adopting a lecturing tone.
"I was once the LEADING scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, child. Do you know who Bernard Klein is?"
"And Emil Hamilton?"
Once more, Clark nodded.
Sivana snorted derisively. "Morons! Cretins! Unworthy of washing my lab coat," he growled, thumping his chest. "But because MY experiments and theories were deemed 'dangerous and detrimental to society,' THEIR theories and experiments were catapulted to the forefront of the scientific community, while I was tucked away like… like… like some sort of unwanted Christmas present!" Sivana shook his head. "I've coughed up things more interesting than the ideas THOSE pea-brained simpletons could EVER dream of!"
Clark and Lois exchanged a look that said 'yeah, right.'
"MY theories pushed the boundaries of conventional science! MY experiments challenged the concept of what was possible," Sivana continued, nearly ranting to himself, all but ignoring the two captives. "Scientific advancement is MEANT to be risky! But am I lauded for the genius that I am? Are my achievements given the praise they so richly deserve? NO!" he roared, whirling to face Clark and Lois, pointing an accusing finger. "They are most certainly NOT! Instead of being canonized, I'm called 'deranged,' 'psycho,' 'madman!' My achievements are categorized as being 'borderline evil!' My experiments are called 'cruel and inhumane!' As if science weren't above such petty notions as good and evil!" Holding out his hands pleadingly, his eyes wild behind the thick lenses of his glasses, Sivana's expression grew hurt. "I ask you — do I strike you as being deranged?"
Biting the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling, Clark's eyebrows rose. "Do you REALLY want me to answer that?"
Snarling once more, the mad scientist stalked to the other side of the lab, leaving the two heroes relatively alone.
"Lois," Clark whispered. "Do you remember who this guy is?"
Clark's wife nodded. "Vaguely. He was a prominent member of S.T.A.R. Labs years ago, a few years before you came to Metropolis. One of his experiments went haywire and caused the deaths of several assistants of his."
"What type of experiment?"
"No one really knows," Lois replied, glancing furtively at the aimlessly pacing scientist. "The Committee sealed all the records right after the trial. They wanted to charge him with murder, but could never find the bodies of the men. Right after that, he was dismissed from S.T.A.R LABS. and never heard from again. What he's been doing in the meantime, I have no-"
"He was becoming a thorn in my side in Coast City," a deep voice rumbled from the doorway.
"Well, what do you know," Sivana chortled without turning. "Finally! The Big Red Cheese himself!"
Stepping into the room, Denny glowered at the wizened scientist. "Sivana, WHAT are you doing now?"
"Ensuring my place in the history books, Captain Marvel," Sivana replied, finally turning to his new guest. Gazing up and down at the Superman uniform adorning Captain Marvel, he chuckled wetly. "New look for you, eh, Batson? I was wondering why junior over there had your powers."
"It's a long story," Denny replied with a sigh.
Clark glanced over to Denny. "He called you 'Batson.' You mean he KNOWS?"
Sighing once more, Denny nodded. "An even LONGER story."
As Denny began to cross the room towards the two prisoners, his steps began to falter as he grew closer to Lois.
Sivana's eyes sparkled as he glanced from Denny to Clark and back. "More than JUST a uniform change then, Batson?"
Swiftly backing up, Denny wiped the sweat from his brow as his vision cleared. "What was THAT?"
"Kryptonite," Lois explained, shaking her manacles weakly for emphasis.
Staring intently at the shackles, as he was pondering his next move, Denny yelped in surprise as twin beams of heat lanced out of his eyes, striking the lock.
With a sharp cracking, Lois' restraints popped open.
At Denny's actions, Clark shot a nervous glance towards Sivana, expecting the scientist to launch another attack, but was shocked to find the elderly man simply standing in the same place, calmly watching the events unfold.
Another blast of heat, and Clark's restraints likewise opened, freeing him.
Rubbing his wrists, Clark's attention remained fixed on Sivana while he tugged at the mechanism around his throat without success. "Why isn't he doing anything to stop us?"
"Because he's not actually here," Denny explained. As he caught sight of Lois' puzzled expression, he nodded towards Sivana. "Look at his feet."
"There's no shadow," Clark said, making the connection.
Denny nodded. "Hologram."
Sivana laughed. "All that power, and not a brain-cell among you. You thought I'd actually expose myself to danger? Hardly!"
Rubbing his wrists, Clark narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at the hologram of Sivana while Lois gently worked on the locked mechanism around his throat. "What was the point of all this, Sivana? What did you hope to gain?"
"Excuse me?" Sivana asked.
"Why capture me? Why set up this entire situation?"
The scientist's expression sharpened. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
With Sivana's words, his image faded.
As the three heroes walked out of the building, Clark's demeanor darkened even further, despite any attempts to lighten it by his companions. Finally, with a frustrated huffing, Lois pivoted in front of him, stopping him.
"What IS your problem?" Lois asked, a tired note to her voice. "We got out of there in one piece. What more do you want?"
"The reason," Clark replied.
"What?" Lois asked.
"Look, I don't need the wisdom of Solomon to tell me that SOMETHING was going on in there that Sivana wasn't telling us," Clark explained. Seeing Lois' unconvinced look, Clark frowned. "Tell me then, Lois. Was there even ONE time in there that you genuinely felt threatened?"
Concentrating for a second Lois finally, uncomfortably, shook her head. "No."
"Exactly," Clark finished. "It's like the WHOLE thing was nothing more than a test of some sort."
"Or he's just another crackpot who finally snapped after watching the X-Files one too many times," Lois countered.
"Hardly," Denny interjected. "Sivana, while many things, is most definitely NOT a crackpot. Eccentric? Yes. But NOT a crackpot."
Clark shook his head firmly. "Think about it: kryptonite shackles, the kryptonite radiation emitters… His teleporter might have been focused on nabbing Captain Marvel, but he was PREPARED to face Superman."
"Prepared to FACE Superman, but not actually kill him," Lois added, her own thoughts growing troubled.
"So then what WAS he doing?" Clark asked to no-one in particular. "And why am I certain I won't like the answer once I find out?"
Miles away, in another hidden location, Sivana was beside himself with joy as he congratulated himself. Beside him, an orange and white tabby preened in silence while a coal-black cat dozed.
"Once I receive the reward promised to me for my work, I will be able to cross the dimensional barriers!" Snatching up the surprised tabby cat from where it lay, Sivana cavorted around like some kind of bald scarecrow, cackling with glee. "Finally, my work will be vindicated! I will take my place in history with the greatest of minds! And the ONLY thing standing in my way is that muscle-bound glory-boy, Captain Marvel!" Placing the cat back onto its perch, Sivana chuckled knowingly. "And you can bet I have something planned for HIM!"
Glancing over at the two cats, Sivana's eyebrows raised in wonder. "What is this, you ask?" Slapping his hand against the side of the massive machine, the bald scientist chuckled. "Stephen, Albert, I'm glad you asked. This, my friends, is the latest development in my war against that goody two-shoes, Captain Marvel. As you know," he said, straightening his lab coat and adopting a lecturing posture. "Captain Marvel uses magical lightning to change from Denny Batson to his super-powered form, and vice-versa. Now, while this lightning is mystical in nature, it STILL possesses many of the same qualities as the more naturally occurring storm phenomena." Pacing back and forth before the two felines, Sivana began gesticulating in the air wildly with his hands.
"Utilizing modified antenna arrays scattered throughout both Coast City and Metropolis, I've begun to re-direct minute portions of his magical lightning, collecting that stolen energy in this storage bank for my usage. As you both know, my original plan was to accumulate enough of his mystical energy to generate a bolt of lightning to transform him from Captain Marvel back into that brat Denny Batson. Now, though, I believe I've had a better idea for this energy. And as for Superman and his girlfriend? If my allies don't take care of them, my kryptonite takes THEM out of the equation."
The cats continued to look indifferent.
"So you see, my boys, it doesn't MATTER that they managed to get away," Sivana added, crossing the room to stand beside an ornately carved oblong casket. "If THAT doesn't get them, then I know that THIS will!"
Standing over the ancient sarcophagus, Sivana chortled with glee.
"Sivana, old boy, you've REALLY outdone yourself this time!" Glancing over to the unimpressed cats, Thaddeus's eyebrow rose. "What's that, Albert? Why would I bother to go through the effort to steal this piece of ancient history? I'm glad you asked that!" Tapping the lid, Sivana's voice took on a lecturing tone once more.
"As you well know, one of the primary tactics in warfare is, no matter HOW good your plans might be, always have a secret weapon. An 'ace in the hole,' so to speak." Lifting the lid of the casket, Sivana gazed in awe at the black-garbed figure in repose within, the light glinting softly off the gold lightning bolt adorning the man's uniform. Running a finger over the jeweled scarab resting on the figure's chest, Sivana's own eyes glittered.
"And I do believe that Black Adam fits the bill QUITE nicely, don't you?"
Both Albert and Stephen, remaining unimpressed, continued to ignore him in only the way cats can.
The deep voice from the doorway elicited a startled squeak from the wire-thin scientist. As the lid of the sarcophagus slammed back into place, the bald scientist whirled to face the intruder, a scathing rebuke dying on his lips unuttered as he caught sight of who it was.
"Oh! Umm… Lieutenant Dev-Em! What a… pleasant surprise!"
Pacing into the room like a living shadow, the black-garbed Kryptonian's stern face remained impassive as he shifted a small bag across his shoulder. "Lady Rashinam of the Kryptonian Council requests an update."
"Ah! Yes!" Scurrying to the opposite end of the room, Sivana threw open a drawer and began frantically digging through a tremendous volume of papers. "The projectors worked like a charm! Kryptonite radiation output was WELL within expected parameters, and there was NO leakage." Flashing a smile over his shoulder, the scientist smile. "They had NO idea what they were in for until the projectors activated."
With a triumphant giggle, Sivana withdrew a stack of papers and handed them to Dev-Em.
Dev-Em nodded. "Good."
As the Kryptonian scanned through the papers, the scientist stood before him, wringing his hands nervously.
"It all appears to be in order," the lieutenant announced after a few moments. Tucking the sheaf of papers under his arm, the man turned to leave.
"Umm… Lieutenant?" Sivana stammered. As the Kryptonian turned back, the aged man raised an eyebrow. "My payment?"
Regarding the smaller man as a person might regard an insect, Dev-Em took the small bag from his shoulder and handed it to Sivana.
Like a child on Christmas, Sivana yanked the bag open, peering into its depths. Slowly, the smile slid from his face.
"Wait a minute," the scientist stated, his eyes fixing on his guest. Holding up the bag, he shook it, causing the various components inside it to clink against one another. "I asked for an OPERATIONAL Sliding device! What's this?"
Dev-Em smiled coldly. "It IS operational, human. Once you put it together," he added over his shoulder as he turned to leave.
"This ISN'T what we agreed on," Sivana snarled.
Only empty air and two cats heard the words, however.
THE KENT FARM
Stepping into the farmhouse, Clark drew to an abrupt stop at the scene that awaited them. Behind him, Denny and Lois stopped as well.
Sitting at the table, sipping tea, the Fifth-Dimensional imp glared back at them. Across the table, its body swaying slightly in the breeze, a jack-in-the-box wearing Jonathan Kent's face bobbed slightly.
"What the…" Clark gasped. His gaze growing heated, the young man faced Mxyzptlk. "I thought that this… 'game' was between US!"
Mxyzptlk wagged a finger sternly at Clark. "You're NOT playing by the rules, Supes! You're SUPPOSED to try and find a way to beat me! NOT get captured by some myopically-challenged brain-boy with a penchant for manic tirades!"
Clark shook his head. "It wasn't our idea to get kidnapped by Sivana, Mxyzptlk. He did THAT all on his own." Motioning towards the child's toy with his father's face, Clark sighed. "And THIS?"
Mxyzptlk frowned. "I don't like him. He yells."
Rubbing a tired hand over his face, Clark was about to speak when the imp stood up from the table.
"I've decided that it's not as fun to play with you, if I'm not the center of attention," Mxyzptlk huffed petulantly.
Clark's eyebrows shot up. "You're leaving?"
"The game's no fun if there's only one player," Mxyzptlk confessed.
"Then would you just switch our powers back already?" Denny rumbled. "I'm getting REALLY tired of-"
"What's the magic word?" the imp sing-songed, tapping his foot.
Denny's eyes shot open wide. "Y-You mean, all we had to do was ASK?"
The imp smiled devilishly. "Ask NICELY," he corrected.
"All right, Mxyzptlk," Clark sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Would you PLEASE switch our powers back?"
For long moments, the imp stared at the pair of heroes, a smirk spread wide across his face. Finally, shrugging, he spread his hands wide. "You see, Supes? All you had to do was ask nicely." With a flourish of his hand, Mxyzptlk cleared his throat.
Meeting Clark's gaze, Denny's eyes turned hopeful. "Shall we try it?"
"Only one sure way to find out," Clark replied. Mentally crossing his fingers, Clark spun rapidly and, as the blur slowed once more, he laughed outright as he caught sight of his reflection.
In the mirror, the familiar blue uniform and red cape reflected back to him.
"YES!" Denny shouted with glee. "SHAZAM!"
And, with a roar of thunder, the lightning struck.
As the smoke cleared, Denny's uniform had changed back to the familiar red and gold one of Captain Marvel.
Nodding in satisfaction, Clark returned his attention to their guest. "So, this is goodbye, then? And everything will go back to what it was before?"
"I said I wasn't going to play, Supes. I didn't say ANYTHING about leaving. Actually, I was thinking on staying here for a little while," the imp stated. "The weather's nice, the neighbors are decent, and the General Tso's chicken is to absolutely DIE for!"
Denny stifled a laugh. "Chinese food? You'd stay here for Chinese food?"
Mxyzptlk nodded eagerly. "Uh-huh!"
At Clark's groan of frustration, Denny's eyes glittered as he smiled.
"Well, if you're going to stay here, then I suppose I should learn how to say your name. What was it again?"
"Mxyzptlk, at your service," the imp stated grandly.
Denny's eyes widened slightly. "Huh? Mixpityez-what?"
"Mxyzptlk," the imp repeated, still smiling.
"NO," Mxyzptlk corrected, a note of exasperation in his voice. "Mxyzptlk! We went over this before, remember?"
"NO, NO, NO!" the imp shouted, throwing his hands into the air in frustration. "Not Kltpzyxm! Mxyzp-" With a gasp, the imp's voice trailed off, a look of panic on his face.
Denny, glancing over at Clark, smiled widely.
"You tricked me," Mxyzptlk accused in a hurt voice.
Denny's smile widened even further. "Yes. Yes I did."
"That's no fair," the imp said, his eyes growing larger as his body began to fade.
Denny shrugged. "Standard rules, remember? You say your name backwards, you go home."
"But I meant HE had to make me say my name backwards," Mxyzptlk cried, pointing towards Clark.
"Maybe so, but you never actually SAID that," Clark countered. "Rules are rules."
As Mxyzptlk slowly faded away, he stuck out his lower lip in a pout. "I just wanted to have some FUN," he whined.
With a soft popping sound, the imp vanished.
At the table, with another soft popping sound, the jack-in-the- box returned to the form of Jonathan Kent. Patting himself down, Jonathan shot a quick glare at the place the imp had just been, muttering under his breath.
Clark's eyes widened as he turned to his father. "Dad?"
Jonathan grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."
"That's it?" Raising his hands slightly, Captain Marvel shrugged. "That's it?"
Clark nodded. "Uh-huh."
Frowning faintly, Denny crossed his arms over his chest. "Doesn't it seem like there should be more to it than that?"
Clark chuckled. "Oh, don't worry about that. He'll be back."
"And he WON'T fall for that trick again," Lois added, wrapping her arm around Clark's waist.
Smiling, Clark nodded towards Denny. "So, what's your plan now?"
"I thought I'd try and find Sivana," Denny stated. "Let him know that I haven't forgotten about him."
Clark smiled. "Need some help?"
Denny returned the smile. "Sure."
As the trio moved out of the room, Clark chuckled. "I'm just glad to have gotten rid of those voices in my head."
Denny returned the laugh. "Well, you're welcome to that super- hearing, Clark. Thing gave me a headache!"
All three continued to laugh as they moved out into the world.
"You're certain of the results?" Glancing up from the documents, Lady Rashinam stared evenly at Lieutenant Dev-Em.
Dev-Em bowed. "Yes, my Lady."
"And you're certain that there has been no subterfuge on the part of the human?"
"Certainly not, my Lady," Dev-Em replied. "The human was FAR too afraid to even consider it. The weapon performed exactly to specifications."
"Good," Lady Rashinam purred. Running her hand over the blueprints, she smiled coldly. "Then we are indeed prepared for Lord Kal-El."
-TO BE CONTINUED-