by Goose Gansler
In the years since the founding of the Legion of Super-Heroes, they had grown. From the original Super-Hero Club founded by the original members (Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy), the group had grown into a true Legion. More than two dozen heroes had served as Legionnaires over the years. The original upside-down rocket-ship clubhouse had long since been replaced. The Legion Headquarters had grown to encompass a mega city block of Metropolis. More importantly, the Legionnaires had grown up. They were no longer a teenage organization; they were now the Adult Legion of Super-Heroes.
Inside of the main domed building of the complex, the Coluan genius named Brainiac 5, outfitted in his traditional purple jumpsuit, worked industriously on a new atomic engine. This was this main chronal laboratory, although he had numerous other specialized laboratories scattered around the complex. An array of vid-screens hung down from the ceiling, showing him all sorts of specifications and performance parameters on the engine’s systems. He put down his plasma-solder gun and picked up his pipe from the shiny metal worktable.
Taking a few puffs from the synthotabak, Brainiac 5 admired his work. The power-output improvements were coming along nicely. Generation levels of over 1.21 gigawatts would soon be achievable. However, as much as he was engrossed in his work, a portion of his multitasking twelfth-level intellect was tracking the time on the wall chronometer. He had not calculated that the mission would have taken this much time, at least from his perspective. However, he knew the instability of the temporal equations from his own journey into that divergent timeline. The trans-temporal time stream could be difficult to navigate at times. Still, the three Legionnaires who had gone back and across were certainly capable, even though two of them were from the latest batch to join the team. Between scientific prowess, mystical skill, and precognitive power, the trio should have had little problem. Nevertheless, they had not yet returned.
He hoped that the absolute time compensator aboard the time bubble was not defective. It was one of his newer modifications to the temporal engines. Prolonged time spent in the past would be compensated in the re-entry chrono-spatial coordinates. It was an attempt to keep biological clocks in sync with the passage of time from the departure point. Spending days or even weeks in another time and then returning an instant after departure could cause some personal problems. The universe was all right with it; the humanoid body sometimes was not.
His concerns dissipated as the laboratory’s sensors picked up the emergence of tachyons, presaging the arrival of a time-traveling craft. He took another few puffs of the synthotabak. The pipe was a habit he had picked up in his middle age. The synthotabak was biologically harmless, although it did have a good taste. It was one of the few pleasures in his work-focused life.
The time bubble began to shimmer into view. A quick visual check did not show any external damage, and he could see figures inside. Five were initially apparent. At that, Brainiac 5 managed a puzzled smile. “Strange. I expected six.”
The door of the plexisteel bubble slid open, and three Legionnaires stepped out. First was the beauteous Nur Nal Kallor. Though she was officially retired, the onetime Dream Girl still had a part to play in the Legion. Her precognitive dreams had compelled her to come on this mission. Next from the time bubble emerged the armored form of Lexor Man. The purple-and-green armor hid the body, and the visored helmet hid the face of the man inside — Lex Luthor, the descendant of the legendary Superman foe. Finally, there was the impish man in the purple and orange suit, complete with a purple bowler hat atop his head. He was a Mxyzptlk (his first name being even more unpronounceable than his last) from the fifth dimension — the renegade goody-two-shoes Mr. Mxyztic. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Adult Legion,” Adventure Comics #354 (March, 1967) and “The War of the Legion,” Adventure Comics #355 (April, 1967).]
Behind the Legionnaires came two of the three others whom Brainiac had expected. In the green and red lighting outfit was the white-haired Lightning Lord. His mustache only partly hid his resemblance to his more altruistically inclined Legionnaire siblings. Beside him was the stern-featured, red-haired telepath, Saturn Queen.
“Welcome back,” Brainiac 5 said warmly. “It appears that your mission was predominately successful. I was right in surmising that the trans-temporal signals were their doing — two of the three founders of the Legion of Super-Villains.”
“We did come back with three passengers,” Mr. Mxyztic countered as he pointed toward the small figure clinging to Saturn Queen’s side. “Only we didn’t find exactly whom we were looking for.”
“But we found what we were looking for,” Lightning Lord declared. He reached out and took the baby from his wife. “This is our son, Riyance. He was Validus, but now he is safe.” The thought that their old colleague Dynamo-Boy, with his Time Trapper-endowed powers, had transformed their son still inflamed his mind. He kept himself in check, however. He had seen what hate had done to his counterpart in the other timeline. Hate had driven that Mekt Ranzz insane. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Wedding on Winath.]
“The son of Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen as Validus.” Brainiac 5 toyed with his pipe. “It’s eminently logical.”
“It’s monstrous,” Saturn Queen hissed. “I can only hope Dynamo-Boy rots at the end of time.”
Brainiac 5 quickly processed the facts as they were being laid out. It did not take much deduction that the fluctuations that had precipitated this mission had been the result of Dynamo-Boy plucking the original three villains out of time and skipping them across to the alternate timeline they had visited previously. (*) Apparently, Dynamo-Boy had also taken their son and transformed him into Validus. Dynamo-Boy, as he had long suspected, was therefore the Time Trapper. The only missing variable was Cosmic King.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire,” Adventure Comics #330 (March, 1965) and “The Triumph of the Legion of Super-Villains,” Adventure Comics #331 (April, 1965).]
“I was merely stating the logic of it, not the morality,” Brainiac 5 said as diplomatically as he could. “Your son is obviously an innocent. You two, on the other hand…”
“Are going to make a new start, far outside United Planets space, with nothing more to do with the Legion of Super-Villains,” Lexor Man interjected.
“Interesting,” Brainiac 5 mused. “What makes you think that’s what they want? More importantly, why do you think the Legion would allow it?”
“Because I’ve seen their immediate future, for one thing,” Nura chimed in. “And for another thing, they really want to raise their son.” Impressing her alternate self about the importance of family was the reason behind her participation.
“We know sincerity when we hear it, Brainy,” Mr. Mxyztic said in his high-pitched other-dimensional voice. “Lex and I came from families with long histories of insincerities, among many other failings.”
Emotions. It was something that Brainiac had long struggled to explicitly quantify in his psychological simulation models. While Coluans were not devoid of emotions, their devotion to science made them less than skillful in matters of the heart. He wasn’t a good judge of them. He certainly would not be a good judge of the sincerity of these villains.
He could, however, almost see the pleading of Mr. Mxyztic and Lexor Man. They had devoted their lives to redeeming the actions of their ancestors. As it was, Lexor Man could not reveal his face to the public that he was a descendant of the original Lex Luthor. It seemed logical; it seemed humane to not trap young Riyance in that future fate. He looked at Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen. They were definitely pleading. He had never seen an emotion other than determination on Saturn Queen’s face before.
“Very well,” Brainiac 5 relented. He accessed a keyboard and brought up new data on the vid-screens. “It appears that neither of the villains is wanted for any new crimes. There are still numerous sentences that still need to be completed at the Cosmos Prison. However…” He viewed a data stream that was being fed from the time bubble’s recording circuits. “Your actions in that other timeline seem to support your sincerity.” He shut down the screens. “I suppose that exile on some backwater world might be considered an appropriate parole.”
Saturn Queen’s austere face actually cracked a small smile. “Thank you.” The difficulty of it must have been why it appeared wry.
Nura released a big sigh. “Well, now that it’s all agreed, I need to get back to Xanthu. While I’d love to catch up with the old gang in person, Thom and the kids are certain to be lost without me.” She looked over toward Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen. “I can take you as far as Xanthu in my personal rocket cruiser, and there’s plenty of room. Xanthu’s a good ways out. I’m sure you can get a little ship from there to take you outside the U.P.”
“You’re very kind,” Saturn Queen said, nodding. She took Riyance back from Lightning Lord and gave the baby a kiss.
Brainiac 5 couldn’t see his face, but he was certain that Lex was smiling behind his armor. He could certainly see Mr. Mxyztic’s grin.
As Nura led the villains and their child away, Mr. Mxyztic’s grin was momentarily broken. “Er, Brainy? Do you think the rest of the Legion will go along with what we just did here once they see the log?”
Brainiac 5 had to smile at the naiveté. “I think they would, but it doesn’t need to come to that. I designed practically every circuit and system in the headquarters. Certain things might not make it into the official log.”
“Isn’t that a little dishonest?” Lexor Man asked sheepishly.
“Think of it as a little cosmic balancing,” Brainiac 5 replied with a smirk. “Honest deeds by the villains being balanced out.” His hands went to the keyboards, and he began editing the logs from the time bubble.
Soon, Nura Kallor’s rocket cruiser blasted off from the nearly deserted Legion Headquarters. Brainiac had been the only one waiting for the return of the time bubble; all of the others had been engaged in other missions. It wasn’t until the ship passed the grip of Earth’s gravity and opened up with its atomic engines that they were able to relax.
“How long until Xanthu?” Lightning Lord asked.
“About fifteen hours,” Nura replied.
“Thanks. I think we’ll relax in the passenger quarters.” Mekt led his family into the spacious passenger quarters. It was bigger than some apartments and contained every electronic amenity — meal-generator, vid-screen, sonic bath, and others.
As they tucked Riyance into the bed, Saturn Queen and Lightning Lord’s eyes met. No words were spoken. None needed to be, not when one was a telepath.
We’re almost there, Eve, Lightning Lord thought.
Yes, my love. It should be easy from here on out. It wasn’t difficult to implant the false dream in her, and my work back on Earth should last until well after we’re away from Xanthu. Eve Aries, Saturn Queen, beamed proudly.
You continue to amaze me. To affect Brainiac 5. Remarkable.
Coluans have considerable intellect, but the power of the mind is something else entirely. Plus, his ego isn’t paltry, either. It wasn’t all that difficult to convince him. The two newcomer Legionnaires — they so wanted to believe.
Lightning Lord pulled her closer and kissed her passionately. The Legionnaires have let us go free. You persuaded them of that. Intimacy with a telepath had its advantages. Feelings — both physical and emotional — could be shared so much more readily.
Saturn Queen unclasped her hair and let it drape over her shoulders. We will make a better life for Riyance. We will give him worlds aplenty to dominate in the name of the Legion of Super-Villains.
When the time bubble carrying Lexor Man, Mr. Mxyztic, the onetime Dream Girl, and their passengers had begun to materialize inside Legion Headquarters, its arrival had been noticed by more than the complicated systems design by Brainiac 5. Cloaked in a low Earth orbit, a strange craft had been covering Legion Headquarters with a wide spectrum of spy rays. It had found what it was looking for.
The ship that floated in space would not have been recognized by Science Police patrols if they had been able to detect its presence. Its cloaking shield masked it to all detection — electromagnetic, gravimetric, as well as psychic. It, however, was making a wide range of observations, even through the supposedly impregnable shielding of Legion Headquarters.
The craft was in the shape of a perfect icosahedron — twenty sides of equilateral triangles. There were no external engines or antennae to mar its shiny Platonic-shape design. Inside, the hands of a white-garbed figure hovered over a single button as he interpreted the data being displayed on his elliptical overhead vid-screen. The meter on tachyon particles alerted him to the most opportune time. He pressed the button, and the craft, if it had been able to be observed, vanished. The space outside of the ship melted away to be replaced by the phantasmagoric colors of the time stream.
The difficult part now completed, the green-hued humanoid sat down in a hoverchair. “There. By coinciding my departure with the time bubble’s arrival, it should allow my journey to proceed undetected by that insipid Dox. To think that he probably believes his shielding to be proof against all intrusion. It is to laugh.”
He pressed a button on his hoverchair to activate his vid-log system. “Begin recording. By timing my departure perfectly with the tachyon rush, the tachyon generation from my craft should have gone undetected. My journey into the trans-temporal time stream should be unnoticed by the Legionnaires. My mission can proceed apace. This is Gorum Boz. End recording.”
Gorum raised his hands from the armrests and lifted them to his short- cropped, yellow-haired head. His index fingers went to his temples, while the rest of his hands touched the crown of metallic ovals that circled his head. He reveled in his metal power, augmented as it was but the micro-super-computer systems inside of the ovals. “Yod,” he sighed. “The foolish prohibitions against artificial intelligence. For a super-intelligent race, we cower in the face of superstitions. I have broken the A.I. law. I have reached the dreaded thirteenth-level intelligence, and it did not bring madness.”
It was his brain that had devised this plan. He would journey back and across to find the one he sought. Then the Legion of Super-Villains could rise again under his more intelligent control. “Then,” he mused, “I will truly earn the sobriquet that I have devised. I will truly be the Computyrant.”