by Goose Gansler
Soon all of the Legionnaires at the headquarters were gathered at the monitor board. The gigantic array of vid-screens showed events and information across the galaxy. In particular, there were vid-screens dedicated to each of the active Legionnaires. One could see the locations and activities of all of the Legionnaires. The ones gathered in Legion Headquarters were noted as such. Sun Man and White Witch were on Xerox. Element Man was in transit from a pilgrimage to Trom. Timber Wolf was on leave, visiting Ayla and the kids back on Winath. Chameleon Man and some of the Teen Auxiliary under his tutelage were on a training exercise on Mars. One could see the long list of symbols identifying the teens — Quantum Lad, Atomikid, Dimension Lass, Meteor Maid, among others — who were there.
Brainiac 5 walked into the room indignantly. “Is there a reason for calling me? I was in the middle of a delicate experiment.”
“That’s what you always say,” Cosmic Man retorted in kind. “I’d like to think that being leader gives me the right to muster the troops without any pre-supplied rationale.”
“I suppose you would,” Brainiac 5 sighed. “Very well. I am here. Is there any emergency?”
“Just a mystery,” Cosmic Man explained. “I figure it can be solved with the answers to a few simple questions.”
“Proceed,” Brainiac 5 sighed again. Ever since Superman’s last visit, Brainiac 5 and Cosmic Man had been at odds. Their differences on defending the headquarters from the super-villains had blossomed into constant antagonism.
“You were on duty when Lexor Man and Mr. Mxyztic returned from their mission,” Cosmic Man stated firmly. “What was the result of the mission? Where are the super-villains whom they were following?”
“Did you check the computer logs?” Brainiac 5 replied.
“I’m asking you.” Cosmic Man pointed at Brainiac 5. His temper was beginning to rise.
“The logs will provide much more detail,” Brainiac 5 explained calmly.
Cosmic Man put his hands to his temples. “You impudent Coluan. Your twelfth-level intellect should be able to answer these questions very easily.”
“We have some conflicting stories here, Brainy,” Polar Man offered peaceably. “We’re just trying to clear things up.”
Brainiac 5 pondered for a moment. Obviously, Lexor Man and Mr. Mxyztic weren’t telling the same story, and since he had not had the opportunity to tell them what he had edited into the logs, it was apparent that neither story would match the recorded data. At this point, the only logical step was the complete truth.
“Lexor Man and Mr. Mxyztic returned with Lighting Lord and Saturn Queen,” Brainy admitted. “However, we released them because of the villains’ change of heart.”
“You what?!” Lightning Man exploded. He was incredulous. “You let my brother go?”
“Oh, though it’s not significantly pertinent, although I would assume that it did play a part in the aforementioned ‘change of heart,'” Brainiac 5 added, “you are an uncle again.”
“Mekt has a child now?” Any other comments from Lightning Man were cut short. Saturn Woman was mentally soothing him with her powers.
“Er, perhaps, we want to offer charges,” Color Master noted sheepishly. “I think this would qualify under one of the articles of the constitution for dereliction of duty.”
Saturn Woman stepped away from her husband, though remaining close mentally. “Let’s wait a minute on that, Ulu. I think there is something else going on.” She looked at Lexor Man, Mr. Mxyztic, and Brainiac 5 in turn. “Are you all saying that you believe that Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen were going to go on the straight and narrow with their son?” A trio of nods answered this question.
“Additionally,” Brainiac 5 noted, “Dream Woman’s prophetic vision confirmed the veracity of this assessment.”
“Nura called from Xanthu about this?” Cosmic Man asked in confusion.
“No, she was along on the mission,” Brainiac 5 answered.
“You brought in a retired reservist without my approval?” Cosmic Man muttered.
“It was not at my instigation,” Brainiac 5 explained. “She insisted on coming, for altogether other reasons. As you know, it is exceedingly difficult to argue with Nura.”
“Hmm, that muddies things up a little,” Saturn Woman sighed. “But it doesn’t preclude the possibility that I have in mind.” She turned to Cosmic Man. “Rokk, I’d like to check their minds.”
“I beg your pardon?” Brainiac 5 said incredulously. “For what possible reason?”
“This is Saturn Queen we’re talking about here,” Saturn Woman explained in a cool, measured tone. “A Titanian, a telepath, but more importantly, a super-hypnotist.”
Brainiac 5 shook his head in disdain. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this. You think she could affect my twelfth-level mind. What that…”
“Do it,” Cosmic Man said.
Saturn Woman focused in on Brainiac 5. She didn’t have to look very hard. The hypnotic blocks were very apparent. She exerted her mental strength and shattered the blocks.
“…why, that witch!” Brainiac 5 continued after having been momentarily frozen by Saturn Woman’s intrusion.
She turned to Mr. Mxyztic and Lexor Man in turn. Their hypnotic blocks were much less formidable. She brought those blocks crashing down as well.
“They tricked us!” Mr. Mxyztic slammed his fist into his palm, creating a magical puff of smoke.
Brainiac 5’s face was filled with shame, but his mind was already processing information related to the events. He turned and walked out of the room. “My apologies.” That was as extensive as his expressed regret would be. “I have to get to the photon inverter.”
The Legionnaires exchanged glances amongst themselves. Then Lexor Man deduced the Coluan’s reason for hurrying to the photon inverter. “Dream Woman took Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen in her rocket. She could be in danger.”
The team rushed to the communication room where the photon inverter was. The technology, developed by Brainiac 5, of course, produced a quanta-entity duplicate that could be instantaneously sent to one’s intended destination. It allowed for personal, although non-physical communication across light-years of space, instantaneously without any of the delays associated with subspace transmissions.
Brainiac 5 was already in the device when the rest of the Legionnaires arrived. A number of vid-screens were arranged before him.
Lexor Man, the only one with the scientific knowledge to understand photon inversion at more than a rudimentary level, exclaimed, “How will you reach her? I thought it was still too difficult to transmit to non-planetary bodies due to the varying relative velocity vectors!”
“That’s true,” Brainiac 5 noted while not making eye contact. “However, it is irrelevant at this point. Space traffic logs show that her ship has already arrived on Xanthu. I’m setting coordinates for Kallor Observatory.”
Millions of light-years away floated the planet Xanthu. Its galactic location gave it an almost unparalleled view of the Milky Way as well as extragalactic astronomical bodies. It was a world famous for its astronomy, and Thom Kallor — alias Star Man, the former Star Boy — was the First Astronomer. It was a position once held by his own father.
As expected, he was engrossed in his work. As he examined a series of astronomical analysis reports, Brainiac 5’s quanta-entity appeared next to him.
“Thom,” Brainiac 5 called out. “Where’s Nura?”
Thom looked up from the plastifilm reports. “Brainy? What’s going on?” From experience, he could tell that it was not Brainiac 5 in person. The trained eye, and as an astronomer he certainly had a discerning one, could tell the subtle differences between a quanta-entity and real flesh and blood.
“It’s a simple question,” Brainiac 5 said impatiently. “Where is your wife?”
“She’s out shopping,” Thom replied, a little miffed at Brainiac 5’s tone.
“She’s been gone for a few days,” Brainiac 5 noted. Apparently, Nura had not told her husband about her intention to go on the jaunt to the other timeline.
“I know that,” Thom retorted. “I’m not the absentminded scientist… unlike some people.” He paused. “She just holoed me and said she was back from her spa getaway on Kathoon and was just now going shopping.” He was already dialing Nura on a secondary channel. “Is there an emergency? Is she in danger?”
“Only her pride, just like mine,” Brainiac 5 sighed.
Nura’s face then appeared on the holophone. “What is it, dear?”
“It’s Brainiac 5.” Thom pointed to the quanta-entity beside him.
“What is it, Brainy?” Nura grumbled. She figured it was going to be something about how she had forced her way onto the mission.
“Saturn Queen manipulated us,” Brainiac 5 stated with uncharacteristic shame. “She and Lightning Lord aren’t going straight.”
“But my dreams…” Nura argued.
“…were only the product of Saturn Queen’s super-hypnotism,” Brainiac 5 continued. “I’m glad that you’re not harmed. Not that I expect anything, but did they say where they were going?”
“That witch played with my mind,” Nura huffed indignantly. “I don’t believe it.”
“Imra says to go to the Titanian embassy. They’ll be able to clear the blocks.”
“Fine!” Nura was incensed. She didn’t like having her strings pulled. She tended to be the one doing the pulling. “And no, they didn’t give me any clue.” She thought of Riyance. “Their poor baby. Doomed to live a life of crime.”
“Not if we can stop them,” Brainiac 5 said. “I’ll access Xanthu Spaceport’s systems and see if that will give us any leads, but those two, they’re clever.” His quanta-entity began to shimmer. “Once again, I’m glad you’re unhurt.” The quanta-entity dissolved, and Brainiac 5 was once again completely in the Legion Headquarters.
“Well,” Brainiac 5 shook his head. “I guess I’d better get back to work and see what I can come up in terms of a lead on Saturn Queen and Lightning Lord.”
“Now that’s a good idea,” Cosmic Man replied as Brainiac 5 headed back to his laboratory. “Meanwhile, the rest of us ought to check up on the whereabouts of the rest of the Legion of Super-Villains. I fear that something may be in the offing.”
On the alternate Xanthu, the Coluan called the Computyrant was fine-tuning the focus of his sensor systems. The particles he had identified to be Cosmic King were definitely below, but they were scattered wider than a humanoid body should. Something had apparently happened to the renegade Venusian.
Gorum Boz’s eyes studied the readouts on his vid-screens. The mass associated with the particles would match that of a full-grown humanoid, but it was spread out over the medi-center in which it was encased.
“I’ll have to sort out the particles native to this timeline,” Gorum decided. “The best way would be to atomize the entire facility.”
His data streams indicated that there were a few dozen lifeforms inside of the facility. Not being particularly bloodthirsty, he sent an ultrawave message that reverberated through the medi-center.
“You have five minutes to vacate this building before it is atomized.”
Gorum spent the time readjusting his atomic beam projectors. Once everything was reduced to an atomic state, it would be easy enough to attune the icosahedron’s hyper-magnets to collect Cosmic King’s particles. He already had a fusion chamber ready in which to deposit the particles.
Before the countdown on his chronometer had expired, tactical systems engaged automatically. Gorum’s eyes went to the tactical vid-screen that was tracking a humanoid object streaking toward him. Preliminary scans indicated internal ultra-atomic power. Defense screens had already been raised, and weapons systems were calibrating a cadmium plasma charge.
Atma, champion of Xanthu, rocketed through the air toward the icosahedron hovering over the Xanthu Medi-Center. Her costume left a silver and gray streak in the sky. Her red hair sparkled with coruscating energy. Another incident at the Medi-Center, she thought as she closed with the strange ship. It can’t be a coincidence. It hadn’t been that long since she and Star Boy had battled Cosmic King here. (*) She let her atomic power grow within her until it crackled about her hands. “Heave to,” she called out to the vessel.
[(*) Editor’s note: See tarboy2987/”>Legionnaires: Star Boy: Going Through Changes.]
After no response from the unfamiliar ship, she called out again, but to no reply. “Then you force me to do this.” Atomic energy streamed from her hands, but the crimson beams never reached the hull. Defense screens crackled as they absorbed the energy.
Atma redoubled her efforts, but her blasts were harmlessly dissipated by the screens. Then a wide beam emerged from one of the vertices of the ship. The beam washed over her until she fell from the sky. She could feel that the atomic energies that were her existence were being dispersed. The cadmium plasma of the beam was shutting her atomic processes down. It took all her effort not to discorporate.
Seeing that the chronometer had run out, Gorum activated the atomizer ray. As the beam flowed over the facility, the building disintegrated into it atomic components. Another beam emerged from another vertex — the output of the hyper-magnets. It drew a stream of particles from what was once the medi-center into the icosahedral ship. The particles flowed directly into the fusion chamber, where they began to swirl rapidly.
Gorum’s attention was split between the particle counter and the output of the cadmium plasma cannons. He watched as the rate of particle collection dropped, indicating that almost all of Cosmic King had been gathered. He made sure that the cadmium plasma was keeping Atma from interfering.
While Atma struggled against the dampening effects of the cadmium plasma, Gorum noted that no new particles were being attracted by the hyper-magnets. He deactivated the magnets and then initiated the departure sequence. The icosahedron rocketed into the sky. In a matter of seconds, it was beyond the range of the cadmium cannons to reach Atma, but she was in no condition to give any pursuit.
Streaking safely through intergalactic space, Gorum put all of his attention into reconstituting Cosmic King. The particles had coalesced to some extent. Now he introduced a neutrino matrix into the fusion chamber to allow a structure to build around it. As the minutes passed, the particles began to take humanoid shape about the matrix. After another hour, the body of Laevar Bolto, the Cosmic King, had re-formed. Gorum opened the fusion chamber and helped the gasping Cosmic King out.
“What happened?” Cosmic King sputtered. “I remember… detonating.” He looked around the ship in amazement. The technology here was beyond anything he had ever seen. “Where am I? Who are you?”
“My name is Gorum Boz.” He helped Cosmic King into a hoverchair. “You may call me the Computyrant. You might also call me your savior.”
“You… you saved me?”
Gorum smiled. “I resurrected you. You were nothing but atomic particles. My technology found you and reintegrated you.”
Cosmic King was still in a daze, but his faculties were beginning to return. “You were looking for me? Who knows me here?”
“Ah, don’t you realize?” Gorum explained. “I come from the same timeline as you, not from this past era.” He stepped toward the navigational control board. “Now that I’m certain that you’re whole, we can return to our own era, our own timeline.”
“But why come after me?” Cosmic King was wary of his rescuer. He wasn’t used to altruism from anybody, much less from the typically isolationist Coluans.
“You are the heart of the Legion of Super-Villains,” Gorum said coolly. “You will build it again. They will come when you call — Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, Echo, Beauty Blaze, Chameleon Chief, and Sun Emperor. Then I will build atop that foundation. I have found others who will join the cause.”
Cosmic King liked the sound of these words. They needed more members to truly be a Legion, to be able to match the Legion of Super-Heroes. However, it had been difficult to find those who were powerful enough and yet cooperative enough to join. This Coluan was obviously on the par of Brainiac 5. He trusted the Computyrant’s facts; he wasn’t sure if he trusted the Coluan’s intentions. The LSV was his to command. Gorum Boz could be a part of it, but Cosmic King was determined to keep control.
He looked up at Gorum Boz. He could feel his elemental control return to its full might. His eyes opened wide to see everything at an atomic level. The ship became a latticework of silicon, iron, and copper. He saw the Coluan as mainly carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. With but the slightest effort, transforming beams could streak from his eyes, adjusting protonic and neutronic counts to change any element. But now was not the time to exert his power.
His gaze returned to normal. “This sounds intriguing. Where do we start?”
“We’ll return to the Xanthu system, our Xanthu,” Gorum said as he activated the transtemporal drive, and the icosahedron slipped into the transtemporal time stream. “I have a certain comet-powered acquaintance there. We begin with recruiting the Star Tsar.”