All this knowledge, all this power, and the best decoration scheme they could manage was white crystal everywhere? Q rolled his eyes as he materialized in the chamber and looked around. Seriously, these people needed to hire interior decorators from offworld. Preferably from a species that had heard of "colors." Yes, the red light filtering through the crystal was all very nice and shimmery, but seriously, would it have killed them to add a few accents? Maybe yellow or green? The sun wasn't so red that green was impossible. Though maybe a warm brown would be a better choice. Or purple. You could never go wrong with purple.

Of course, the point was moot because in a couple of months the planet was going to blow up, but imminent death was hardly a good excuse for boring design.

The man who entered the room then was startled. With reflexes that in a less massive gravity well might be virtually instantaneous, he drew a weapon. All the device had the power to do was to teleport its targets into a pocket universe with two spatial dimensions and fewer temporal dimensions than this one, and Q was fairly confident of his ability to escape such a realm... but he had had bad experiences with people transporting him against his will to universes without all the time dimensions he was familiar with, so he dematerialized the ray projector as quickly as the scientist had drawn it.

"Lara! Don't bring the baby in, there's an intruder! Call for help!" the man shouted, never taking his eyes off Q.

"Oh, for crying out loud," Q said. "You just saw me make your popgun go away by blinking at it. Do you really think security's going to be much help, if I wanted to harm you? Which, for the record, is not why I'm here."

"If you're from the government, you need to know that you can't intimidate me," the man said, blue eyes boring into Q's. "The truth will not change just because it's inconvenient, and I won't stop warning the people."

"And you won't stop being the subject of late-night comedies and satirical holofics, either. Did you catch the one last night where you were running around claiming that a creature one-third man, one-third wi-kat'l and one-third p'zon was going to go rampaging through the city eating babies? I thought the animated cariacture they used was a pretty good likeness, given how primitive the art style they use is, actually."

"Who are you?"

"Just a friend," Q said. He snapped his fingers, and two chairs appeared, with him seated in one and the scientist seated in the other, a small table with two crystal glasses of felaris in between them. "See, Jor - can I call you Jor?"

"You're from the fifth dimension, aren't you."

"Only the fifth? You're not thinking very big for a top-notch physicist, Jor. Besides, the guys in the fifth dimension are losers. Do you know, you can actually force them to return to the fifth dimension by saying their name backwards? Have you ever heard anything so stupid?"

"So how do I force you to return to where you came from?" the scientist asked, getting to his feet. "I'm a very busy man; I don't have time for these antics."

"You're right," Q said. "You don't." He snapped his fingers again... and the two of them stood in a cornfield, billions of miles away.

The scientist stumbled, and then stared around himself, at his hands... up at the sun. "I... where are we? I feel so light. So..."

"So powerful?" Q murmured in his ear. "So free? Like you could fly?"

"This must be a very small planet," the scientist said. "And the sun... it's yellow. High-intensity short-wave radiation. Ancestors, I can feel it. It's like... performance drugs."

"It's a nice place to visit," Q agreed. "And I'm pretty sure you would want to live here. Imagine soaking in these rays every day. The tan you could get would be amazing."

"I can imagine," the scientist said. "We've theorized that if we could get out of the gravity well and onto the lighter planets, we might be able to leap incredible distances. Even, perhaps, to fly."

"Wanna try it?"

He shook his head. "I have to go home. I don't even know why you've brought me here."

Q teleported directly behind him. "Because you have approximately one-quarter of a solar revolution left before the end," he whispered in the man's ear. "And you haven't successfully gotten a single test rocket off the planet yet. Don't you think you deserve a bit of fun before you die?"

The scientist went white, the color draining from his face. "So soon? I thought... I thought I might have a whole revolution left."

"You don't."

"You're telling the truth." The mortal man stared at the entity. "I don't know why I believe you, but I do."

"Because you were letting your hopes fool you all along," Q said softly. "You know what the numbers say, but in your own way you've been as wilfully blind as the Council, or the idiots sitting in their crystalline entertainment rooms watching satires of you. You knew the end was coming, but you wanted to believe there was time to save the world."

"Do I have time to save anyone?" the scientist asked, his color almost gray.

Q didn't answer, but strolled away through the cornfield. "Take a look over there."

"Over where?"

"That building. Get a good look at that sentient."

"I can't possibly see at this... wait a minute, I can see him. How am I seeing him at this distance?"

"Those yellow rays aren't just good for your health, Jor old pal. They'll make a new man out of you. Or any Kryptonian. Do you see that guy?"

"He looks exactly like a Kryptonian."

"Sure does, doesn't he? The plumbing's totally different on the inside, and if he tried to set foot on your world he'd squash into a red smear on the walkway, but amazing how much he looks like you on the outside, isn't it?"

"What is this world?"

"The natives call it Dirt. Actually, most natives of most planets call their planet Dirt. Or Ocean, sometimes. I know this one group of people, really big on the whole concept of logic, who call their planet Hot Sand."

"If I could get a single ship off the planet..."

"I want you to think things through, Jor-El." Q turned and looked intently at the man. "The faster-than-light drive will cause tremendous damage to an atmosphere when you ignite it within a planetary gravity well. But it will easily outpace the gravity of a black hole, let alone Krypton. Now, I want you to consider the question of what people might possibly need with an atmosphere when their planet is exploding around them."

Jor-El nodded once, slowly. "I see your meaning. I had thought... if we were evacuating... but there's no time, is there?"

And they were back on Krypton, in the lab, standing in front of the holographic star chart. Q reached into the chart and pointed at a tiny sun, far away. "As you saw, they were low-tech, high agrarian. Still grow their food in the dirt they name their planet after. They might possibly be blowing up the place themselves with nuclear weapons sometime in the near future, but if you get enough of a suntan from those yellow rays you actually wouldn't need to worry about that. And they look exactly like you."

"I'd just need a guidance system that can keep the ship on course for that kind of distance," Jor-El said.

"What, you weren't planning to pilot it?"

"If I can. If I can. The prototype isn't large enough for me, and for Lara to make it that distance with the baby I'd need to compress her into suspended animation."

"Or, you could compress yourself."

He shook his head. "Lara is an expert on child rearing; that's why she was able to get us a certificate to have Kal. And besides, she's my wife. I would be a monster to leave her behind and take the baby and myself to safety."

Q grinned. Self-sacrifice and protectiveness was so ingrained in the scientist's nature, he had never even imagined the scenario where he left his wife and son behind and saved himself alone. Nice guy, for a Kryptonian. It was too bad he wouldn't live, but Q had sworn off doing direct interventions to save mortal lives. "Better work on that guidance system, then. And adding enough fuel to keep an adult Kryptonian and a baby in suspension for that length of time." He had a suspicion he knew how this was going to go. The suspension chamber for an adult wouldn't actually fit in the prototype either and still leave room for a baby's chamber and a guidance system, and Kryptonian building materials were so super-dense and hard to work with, there was almost no chance that Jor-El would be able to build a bigger ship in time, given that he couldn't make it out of crystal. Jor-El still thought he could save his wife, at least. Well, he'd figure it out. Or she would. Her field was child rearing, but on Krypton, that took a doctorate. If she'd been a stupid woman, she wouldn't have a baby son to worry about.

"Who are you?" Jor-El asked. "Why are you giving me this information? And if you can travel to an alien planet in an instant... or was that an illusion?"

"I don't think you've got time to be interrogating me, Jor-Jor," Q said. "You've got a guidance system to build and a prototype FTL spaceship to retrofit as an emergency escape craft. You're going to be busy, busy, busy."

He snapped his fingers and dematerialized, but remained, incorporeally, for several moments to watch. Jor-El stared at the spot where he had been for several seconds, but with eyes unfocused, more lost in thought than boggled by Q's actions. And then he slapped the activation crystal on his lab system input and began barking commands at his computers, as fast as he could speak.

What was it they said on Earth? Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain. The people of Krypton were overall far too conservative, complacent or both to save themselves, and one couple couldn't fight that tide of stupidity off no matter how hard they tried. But with the teeniest tiniest bit of help from the gods - or from Q, who was close enough - maybe they could save something of their culture, of their people. Even if they could only save one child, that was better than seeing them all wiped out.

His work done, Q left.


Notes: This is probably not canon-compliant with the latest revisions to the planet Krypton's backstory; I was last a Superman fangirl in the 1970's. God, that makes me sound so old. This is sorta kinda based on movieverse Superman with a healthy dose of Elliott S! Maggin's work thrown in, but really, I'm just having fun. Also, any resemblance between the satire of Jor-El and a satire of a similar figure here on Earth done by a popular cartoon series is... completely intentional, I promise. :-)

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