On the orbiting hospital called Multivac, an angry and embarrassed Science Police officer named Gigi Cusimano lay on her stomach while the staff worked on her behind closed hospital curtains.
Why me? Why? thought the normally upbeat brunette. I made one stupid joke about Chief Zendek’s haircut, and he sends me here to represent the Science Police as temporary liaison to the Legion of Substitute Heroes! I’m a seasoned officer, but if he hadn’t used that word “temporary,” I’d have broken down and cried right in the middle of the station!
Dr. Fhee-Ver, the attending physician, came around to face her and said, “There, now, Officer Cusimano. We’re all done. You may need to use pillows or cushions for all your chairs for the next few weeks, but other than that, your gluteus maximus will heal nicely!”
She slipped her pants back on carefully and stepped off the table. “It’s about time!” she snapped. “For a place this close to Mercury, it sure gets chilly in here!” She turned to see a young orderly staring from behind a curtain. “Take a holo, pal! It lasts longer!”
The orderly stammered a reply as he emerged from behind the curtain. “Sorry, lady!” he said. “Uh, some of us were wondering… we kind of have a pool going. How exactly did you end up with all those little quills in that location?”
“OK, OK, I’ll tell you,” she said. “One of your newly established security staff is named Porcupine Pete. His body is covered with sharp quills. His girlfriend is a walking germ named Infectious Lass. Let’s just say Pete has a cold most of the time! When he sneezes, he loses control of said quills. Never, never bend over to adjust your boots when Pete is around and he starts to sniffle!”
The orderly smothered a laugh and said, “Thanks, lady!”
“Sure!” said Gigi. “I guess I might as well laugh about it. This is a hospital. It’s not like some harpy from the Galactic Inquirer is lurking around to spread the story!”
The orderly shook his head in agreement. “No, not a chance!”
As Gigi departed, he whipped out a pocket communicator and said, “Jake, have I got a story for you! Pictures, too!”
Meanwhile, as Officer Cusimano pouted in impotent rage, her allies in the Legion of Substitute Heroes were eagerly holding auditions to fill openings on their recently depleted team. A somber Stone Boy, alias Dag Wentim of Zwen, shook his head as he glanced over a list of names. “These poor people don’t belong in a circus, much less a team like ours,” he said.
Ral Benem of Mardru, a plump boy in green, nodded in agreement. He had the misfortune to be called Chlorophyll Kid, although that, in turn, was an improvement upon the briefly considered name of Phylodendrum Phil. “I know! Take the guy with the elastic neck. What was he called again? Hanging Chad? What use is a guy who can make his neck — and only his neck — really, really long! What a loser!”
Stone Boy shrugged. “I feel sorry for them. They don’t really make me mad.”
“I admire that about you,” said Chlorophyll Kid. “You’re always so calm. I guess that’s because of where you come from.”
Stone Boy agreed. “Yes, it’s a Zwen thing.” He greeted Fire Lad, alias Staq Mavlen, as the gaunt boy with a narrow face entered.
“Any good candidates among the ones you guys were interviewing?” asked Fire Lad. “I don’t think we need to even follow up on the one I talked to.”
Color Kid came inside wearing a purple shirt and green pants. “Sorry I’m late. An applicant named Mothboy ruined my costume, and I had to change.”
Fire Lad nudged Stone Boy and said, “Look at that outfit! He should be Color-Blind Boy!”
Color Kid frowned and said, “Hey! You’re just sore because that one candidate showed you up!”
Fire Lad sniffed in disdain. “Microwave Mike duplicates my powers enough that he can’t be considered! How would you like it if we let Green Boy or Rainbow Girl in the group?”
“Green Boy?” said Color Kid. “Who’s that?”
A pale beauty and a spiky youth in a derby hat entered. “Sorry we’re late,” said Infectious Lass, alias Drura Sehpt. “We were visiting Gigi — or we wanted to see her, but she jumped down a shaft before she saw us. “
“Yeah, funny thing was that the shaft wasn’t a travel shaft,” said Porcupine Pete. “It was the cafeteria trash shaft.”
“She’s a strange girl,” said Fire Lad. “Hot, though!”
Meanwhile, two shadowy figures conferred in hushed tones. The first being whispered something.
“I’m sorry,” said the second man in a completely normal tone of voice. “I can’t hear you. Your tone is so hushed!”
“Well, I thought you were close enough to hear me,” replied the first man. “It’s so shadowy in here I can hardly see you!”
“It’s the weather here. Eighty percent chance of shade. Good lurking weather, though.”
“I don’t know how to lurk. I’m a pretty fair skulker, though.”
“Lurking comes with practice. Just work at lurking. You’ll get the hang of it!”
“I guess we might as well get started. Let’s send them out now. If they work the way I designed them, then we’ll be set for life!”
“That’s easy for you to say. All you do is build them. I have to be the one to build them and look perky!”
The assembled Legion of Substitute Heroes sat behind a long table in a private room on Multivac. Gigi Cusimano sat by herself to one side; her eyes were watery, and her nose was bright red. Her skin was also stained with a purple hue.
“Gigi, I can turn that purple stuff on your face any color you want!” offered Color Boy.
Gigi blew her nose and said nothing. She had caught the cold from Infectious Lass, and something in the cafeteria trash shaft had left a stain on her skin that would not wash off. All she wanted to do was make sure the Subs found their new members so she could report that they were at full strength and then get home.
“Thanks for coming by,” said Stone Boy to the new applicants. “Based on preliminary interviews with selected members of our team, you folks have been selected to be finalists. Just show us what you can do, and we’ll go from there.”
Double-Header of Janus scanned the crowd with interest with one of his two heads, while his other head leered at a blonde woman in the crowd. “She’s a babe!” he said.
“Hmmph! If you like that kind of flashy woman! I prefer a woman with class!” replied his other head.
“Class! Like you know anything about class!” sneered the first head.
“Take that back, Frenk! Or I’ll brain you!” cried the part of the two-headed man who answered to the name Dyvud.
“If you two don’t behave, I’ll make you turn in without watching Antennae Boy’s chest!” warned Infectious Lass sternly. “And you know that double feature about the ancient heroines the Landers Sisters comes on tonight!”
“Audrey’s a babe!” said Frenk Retzun.
“Judy’s the one I prefer!” snapped Dyvud Retzun.
“Ey-o!” said a smiling young man named Antennae Boy. His large ears allowed him to pick up radio signals at will. However, he could not fully control the broadcasting of them. He wore a screen-like device around his neck, and he adjusted it as he walked. It not only allowed him to reduce the painful feedback his signals created at times, but it also enabled him to watch over one thousand different holo-vid channels at will. He greeted the first applicant. As a new member of the Subs, he hoped to impress his pals with his professionalism. He also hoped to complete the tests in time to catch his soaps.
The first candidate was a slender boy with a black costume and dark hair that was marked by a white stripe down the middle. He also had two horns that rested in front of his hairline. “Whew! Frenk, I told you not to eat that Venusian pizza!” cried Dyvud.
“It’s not me!” said Frenk. “It’s that two-toned guy!”
“Uh, my name is Polecat. Dafe Meron of Earth,” the young man in black said. (*) “The horns on my head can produce a scent not unlike that of a skunk. Sorry, Officer Cusimano. I didn’t see you there when I demonstrated my power! It wears off in time!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Triumph of the Legion of Super-Villains,” Adventure Comics #331 (April, 1965).]
Gigi covered her face with both hands and groaned slightly.
Antennae Boy reached into the large red bag he always carried and raised a handkerchief to his nose. Whew! If I had my hover-scooter, I’d try to get downwind of that noo-noo head! he thought.
“That odor is powerful,” said Fire Lad. “If he could use it as a force for good and justice, he’d be OK as a member. What do you think, Dag? … Dag?“
Stone Boy sat immobile in his solid rock form.
“Dag is sensitive to smell,” said Fire Lad. “We’ll call you if you made the team, Dafe!”
“He wilted my fern!” complained Chlorophyll Kid.
The next candidate was a powerfully built, grim man. “I’m a mutant. I guess you know what that means!” he said with a sad shake of his expressive head.
“No. There are lots of mutants,” said Pete. “We turned away a real flake with claws that popped out of his hands! He came with a guy who could shoot red beams out of his eyes, but he had to close his eyes in order to prevent them from blasting the place to dust! Can you imagine what good a guy who couldn’t even see where he was going would be?”
The solemn man said, “I am a mutant. I am forever scorned by those around me! I am homo superior. “
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but what can you do?” asked Pete.
The dark-haired man spread his arms and said, “You don’t accept me? You question me. You think I cannot be trusted! Am I never to know the love and touch of my peers? Must I walk this somber journey called life solitary and misunderstood? Angst! Angst! Angst!” he sobbed and ran from the room.
“Poor guy seemed kind of blue,” said Color Kid.
“I guess you’re next,” said Antennae Lad, gesturing to a boy with long, shaggy hair and a fur vest. Beads draped his Nehru jacket, and he wore sandals.
“Like, this is such a happening!” he said. “I can, like, feel the good vibes of love, peace, and understanding!”
“Right. What’s your name?” asked Pete.
“Huh-huh! Dude… you have spikes — all over your body. That is groovy! Far out!” said the boy in a slow tone.
“What’s your power?” asked Pete.
“My name is Psychedelic Kid. Some folks call me Stoned Boy. I can generate any type of pharmaceutical creation in my own system!”
“You can create various drug combinations?” said Fire Lad. “That could make you useful. You can project healing or disease?”
The boy stood silently with a smile on his face. “My name is Psychedelic Kid. That dude looks like a human cabbage! Can you talk to the green brothers?” he asked Chlorophyll Kid.
“I think the chemical combinations he generates are only within his own bloodstream,” said Infectious Lass.
“Next!” cried Double-Header.
A sultry blonde girl in an exotic dress and heels stood in front of them. “My name is Stacy H’mml,” she said in a husky voice. “My crime-fighting name is Lass Lad. I can change genders at will!”
She glowed for a moment and then stood before them as a handsome blond man. “See? I know I am the right girl or boy for the team!”
Stone Boy sat up again in human form and said, “Did I miss much?”
“I’m sorry, but changing your gender is not much of a power,” said Fire Lad. “Still, we could take you if you would you like to sign on as part of the Legion of Substitute Heroes Espionage Squad. Up until now, all we’ve been doing is putting Ral in a dress.”
“Great! By the way, did I say my name was Lass Lad? I meant to say it’s Lad Lass! Does that make a difference?”
The next candidate was a pretty woman with a mane of curly hair and a costume that consisted of an evening gown and heels. “My name is Seelen, the Diva Damsel,” she said. “Feel my power!” She raised one hand and waved it higher and higher as she tilted her head and sang.
Waves of sonic force swept across the room and scattered the heroes. Antennae Boy grabbed his ears and cried out in his very best Adam West impression, “Feedback… too… strong! … Can’t resist it!”
They all fell to their knees before the tall, confident woman.
She stopped singing and rested one hand on her hip. “Well? When do I start? I’ll need a private room painted beige. If it is too brown, I’ll walk! I also need mineral juice at the scene of every crime we fight, and from now on I need the group to be billed as Diva Damsel with the Legion of Substitute Heroes.”
“I like that dress!” said Lass Lad from across the room.
Before anyone could respond, the room shook, and two newcomers entered the room.