Legion of Super-Heroes: 2979: Ghost Story, Chapter 1: The Human Swarm

by Libbylawrence

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A beautiful young blonde girl soared through the skies over thirtieth-century Earth and smiled as she recognized a familiar row of noble statues that lined a stately and busy boulevard. She flew with an easy grace that entirely belied the fact that Kara Zor-El had only gained the ability to fly after her arrival on Earth in her teens. Before the combination of the sun’s coloration and the planet’s gravity acted upon her Kryptonian heritage to grant her the remarkable abilities she would later use as the heroic Supergirl, Kara had only dreamed of such flight.

Now, the Maid of Steel was proficient enough with her super-powers to do far more than merely defy gravity. She could travel through time itself and traverse the centuries between 1979 and 2979 with ease. She smiled as a group of tourists on a passing hover-bus pointed and gasped in awe and admiration as her costumed form sped by. She waved to them before increasing her speed and drawing nearer to one of the most famous landmarks on the Earth of the future. Legion of Super-Heroes Headquarters is such an inspiring sight! she thought. I know them all as good friends, but I still feel a real sense of awe at what they’ve all accomplished and how much they mean to the United Planets of this era. That’s saying a lot from a girl who can call Superman himself her cousin!

Supergirl wore her customary costume that consisted of a long-sleeve blue blouse, red shorts, red boots, and a red cape. She shook her head as she thought about how much fashion had changed between her era of twentieth-century Earth and the Legion’s own thirtieth century. I know styles have become more daring in my own time since I first arrived on Earth as a survivor of the destruction of Argo City, but I doubt that my secret identity of Linda Lee Danvers would be welcome at Vandyne University if she showed up wearing outfits like those favored by Saturn Girl or Shadow Lass! she thought, referring to the fact that her heroic role of Supergirl only took up part of her time. With the help of a brown wig, she also enjoyed a more routine life as Linda Lee Danvers, although even Linda had gained a lot of travel experience in her time as a college graduate student.

Then again, drama majors are known for their colorful sense of style! she mused playfully before landing in front of the complex. She glanced around, then spotted a young couple who had been laughing amongst themselves until they saw her arrive. Chuck and Luornu seem to be closer than ever, she thought. I’m glad; they deserve happiness! Poor Duo Damsel has suffered so much in the past. As a native of Cargg, Triplicate Girl possessed the ability to replicate herself into three separate bodies until one of those bodies was killed by Computo. She should have died after such a loss, but she recovered and carried on her Legion career under the more apt name Duo Damsel! Bouncing Boy seems like the perfect guy to bring a smile back to her face.

Chuck Taine was a rotund young man with a double chin and a broad grin. She also knew that, behind the manner of class clown, he was also a sensitive and thoughtful man. He wore the solid blue costume that expanded along with his own body when he employed his unique ability to swell up like a human balloon.

Luornu Durgo wore a striking costume of orange and purple with ornate golden thigh-high boots. Her brown hair curled slightly on one side to frame her face. She called out a greeting to Supergirl as the pair approached her. “Supergirl, welcome back!” she said. “It’s been far too long since you last visited us!”

Supergirl embraced them briefly and said, “I’m happy to see you two as well! Believe me when I say that it has only been due to my busy and ever-changing schedule back home that I’ve been absent for so long.”

Chuck grinned and said, “Brainy will be glad to hear that! I’d hate for the poor guy to think you were too busy dating guys in your time to see him!”

Lu elbowed him and said, “Seriously, Kara, since Superboy resigned, we’ve missed having a Kryptonian around when things get dangerous. Not that we don’t like you for more than your muscles.”

Chuck rolled his eyes in mock lasciviousness and said, “Speak for yourselves, Lu!”

“When you signaled me via the link in my dorm room at the sorority, I was glad to come,” said Supergirl. “Of course, I have to eventually get around to thinking up an excuse to my roommates about why that one lamp keeps blinking at odd moments!”

“Supergirl, I think you’ll find your stay here to be rather dull,” said Lu. “We only summoned you since we’re extremely low on power right now due to a mission that took almost all the others away from this era.”

“Really?” said Supergirl. “Please, tell me more!”

“Kara, recently the Fatal Five got their hands on a time-manipulation device that literally allowed them to go back to Superboy’s era and alter time itself so that the Legion never formed,” began Chuck. (*) “Well, naturally, Superboy and some of the others put things back to normal and captured them, but by that time, Mon-El in particular became concerned about that kind of tactic become a frequent threat to us. As team leader, he took nearly the whole team to secure all existing time-manipulation technology and to check the time-stream itself to make sure the Fatal Five’s tampering had not left any trouble spots.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Fatal Five Who Twisted Time,” Superboy #198 (October, 1973).]

Supergirl nodded and said, “My! I can imagine how risky that kind of threat could be! When you consider how long Mon-El spent in the Phantom Zone as a helpless observer of history, I can understand why he’d want to do everything in his power to make sure that time itself never becomes a weapon for your foes!”

“Of course, the Time Trapper and Glorith have both used time against us before, too, so Mon’s precautions may not be enough,” said Bouncing Boy. “Still, we expect that kind of attack from the Trapper. We didn’t imagine creeps like Mano and Persuader would ever pull such a metaphysical ploy!”

“I’ll be happy to spend some time here and help you all deal with anything that pops up while the others are away,” offered Supergirl. “I do hope to see Brainy before I return, though. We need to talk.”

“I know our resident genius would love that,” said Duo Damsel. “He–” But before the pretty brunette could finish speaking, a shrill scream echoed through the building.

The three Legionnaires flew down the hall and soon reached the scene of the cry. Dream Girl, alias Nura Nal, the platinum-haired beauty from Naltor, had been screaming, and now the trio rushed to calm her down as she recovered from what could only be called a nightmare. “Nura, are you OK? Did you have a bad dream?” asked Chuck.

Nura sat up and swung her bare legs off the side of her bed as she regained her composure. “Bad dream? Chuck, my bad dreams are equivalent to your light snacks! You certainly have a gift for understatement. My nightmares aren’t just scary images drawn from my sleeping mind. They are often visions of future events!”

She shook her head in disgust and then rolled her eyes before nodding slowly as she gathered a new resolve. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you like that. I saw something that truly frightened me. If this nightmare does come true in the way I saw it unfold in my sleep, then I’m going to lose my closest loved one!” she said.

Lu reached over to hand Nura a robe and then bit her lip as she realized the filmy garment was nearly transparent in design. Nura was something of an exhibitionist at the best of times. “You mean your sister?” asked Supergirl. “You saw something happen to your younger sister Mysa?”

“I saw her corpse,” whispered Dream Girl. “I saw Mysa’s dead body.”

She turned to Lu and said, “I have to go to her! I know the team has been greatly reduced because of Mon’s mission, but I cannot stay here while she is in such danger! She and I are the only ones left in our family. I promised our mother that I would always look after Mysa. As it is, I’ve failed them both!”

Supergirl placed one hand on the other woman’s shoulder and said, “Nura, you have not failed them! You saved Mysa when she had been transformed into the Hag. (*) You guided her back to Zerox, where she found her own destiny. She loves studying magic there with the wizards of Teachers Isle. I know you’ve said that before.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Forgotten Legion,” Adventure Comics #351 (December, 1966).]

Nura nodded and said, “Thank you, Kara. I appreciate your support, but I have to check on Mysa.”

“We understand,” said Duo Damsel. “Why don’t we meet with the others who are still here and make some plans? Perhaps a couple of us could join you, if we coordinate our efforts with the Subs!” She referred to the group of brave young people who had failed to gain membership in the true Legion but had found a place together as the Legion of Substitute Heroes, helping out the original team when the need arose. Dream Girl agreed, and they hurried to where two other young men were talking in animated tones.

The taller man had dark hair and wore a green and gold uniform. He came from the planet Bismoll and shared the ability to consume and digest almost any quantity of any substance. As Matter-Eater Lad, Tenzil Kem had put those abilities to use as a Legionnaire in good standing. He was a personable young man with an outgoing manner in spite of a troubled family life, but Kara had seldom seen him as agitated as he was at the moment. He turned away from his shorter friend Chemical King, alias Condo Arlik, who wore a solid green costume and gazed at a computer screen.

“We’ve been getting calls from the Science Police,” he said. “The whole system is going crazy! We’re under attack! An army is making its way through the city! They seemed to just materialize as if by magic!”

Dream Girl pushed past him and looked at the screen. She saw scenes from several different locations in the huge city, but while the exact locales differed from one another, the events displayed were frighteningly similar. Cloaked and hooded figures were marching through the streets, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Buildings, bridges, and vehicles all met with a swift collapse or ruination as they passed. “By the High Seer! They are plowing through the Science Police with ease!” she said softly. “They seem to just ignore laser fire!”

“Exactly,” said Matter-Eater Lad. “The timing could not be worse. The seven of us are on our own!”

Supergirl frowned and asked, “Seven? Is another Legionnaire here?”

At that moment, a humanoid figure flickered into view in their midst. He was a handsome man with brown hair and a thoughtful nature that combined the body of the athlete with the introspected air of the scholar. “Lyle, what’s with you today? You’ve been spending more time invisible than you have in plain sight!” said Chemical King as his friend and mentor Lyle Norg, alias Invisible Kid, returned to his visible state.

Lyle nodded in a slow and almost distracted manner. “I’m sorry, Condo. You are entirely correct. I have not been myself lately. Something about those invaders disturbs me greatly. I’m most disconcerted by them!”

“We’ve got to stop them!” said Chemical King. “With every moment, they spread disaster! Even the areas not under attack are suffering from congestion, and emergency droids are being stretched to the limits as regular crews are being torn away from dealing with fires, illness, and other routine emergencies!”

“Leave it to our master of chemical reactions to think in terms of the big picture,” said Bouncing Boy.

“Nura, so much about this army suggests magic,” said Supergirl. “Could this relate to your vision about Mysa?”

Dream Girl’s eyes stared vacantly for a moment, and then she said, “Yes. I had a brief vision just then! There is magic in the air, and it is tied to Mysa! I can sense as much. Call it part precognition and part plain old female intuition, but this group of invaders has something to do with her. I’d even say that they are using magic as their form of attack.”

“Sure,” said Chemical King. “I don’t understand the details, but I can tell that the way they’re breaking down matter in their path is a form of magical manipulation! It’s kind of like a mystical version of my own mutant power.”

“My super-senses detect something equally weird about these invaders,” noted Supergirl. “They are totally silent. They aren’t speaking to their victims or to one another. They aren’t receiving orders from any general. They just swarm like some kind of human bees!”

The Legionnaires flew out of their headquarters and made their way to the heart of Metropolis Park, where the masked figures were systematically attacking anyone who came within reach.

Science Police patrols were working desperately with hastily summoned U.P. Fleet soldiers to try to stem the tide, but the troops ignored physical blows and delivered their own attacks with an uncanny ease.

Supergirl swooped down to catch a falling hover-car as its driver cried out in fear. “The motor just died! That masked man just waved at my vehicle, and it stopped working!” he said as the Girl of Steel caught it and gently lowered it safely to the ground.

“I saw the whole thing. Don’t worry, we’re going to get to the bottom of this right now!” she vowed, then scanned the army with her x-ray vision and frowned as she saw their features beneath their masks. Great Krypton! she thought. Few of them share any common planetary origin that I can detect. They seem to be from every known world in the U.P. What could unite so many diverse races?

Meanwhile, her friends were doing their best to bring order to the scene. Bouncing Boy’s expanded form was wildly careening off of objects as he skillfully directed his movement and carried a few frightened kids to safety by bouncing over the heads of the army below. “Wheee! You’re never too young or too old to ride the Chuck Taine express!” he cried as he tried to cheer up the startled kids. Folks think being a morale officer is easy for a guy like me, but they don’t know even I have to force myself to keep grinning when things look as grim as this, he mused.

His beloved Duo Damsel was fighting wildly below with only partial success. Having twice the strength of a girl my size helps a little, but these terrible soldiers barely feel my best punches and kicks, she thought. Spinning around, she kicked a soldier across the chest, but he staggered briefly and then resumed his march.

Chemical King was having some luck as he concentrated and used his mutant power to cause the pavement below the troops to decay at a super-fast rate. They fell into a widening pit, and he nodded in grim approval. Thank goodness none of them can fly, he thought, then used his power upon himself and briefly enjoyed boosted strength and speed as he fought the cloaked figures before the enhanced metabolic might wore off. I can’t do that very often, but it sure helps when I can! he thought.

Nearby, Matter-Eater Lad was clearing a path through a narrow gate for some fleeing elderly couples. “I’ll just eat a path through the gate for you in no time,” he said between bites.

A hooded soldier raised his hands as Invisible Kid stumbled into his path. Before bolts of blazing energy could strike the hero, Duo Damsel split into two bodies and took action.

One Duo Damsel tackled the soldier even as her other body grabbed Lyle Norg and pulled him away from the path of danger. “Head’s up, I.K.!” she warned.

Dream Girl was dodging attackers even as she dropped and rolled across the ground to rise up and fire a discarded police blaster at a soldier. The stun setting just bounces off of them! thought the platinum blonde beauty. But I can’t risk using kill. That would violate the Legion code! She flipped away from the hands of an attacker and then crashed into him after gaining a bit of speed and altitude via her flight ring. She fought on with her normal courage and impressive skill, but she also worried about her sister as she struggled to wrestle a female away from a helpless victim.

Nura gasped as she pulled a mask away from the woman’s head to reveal the emotionless face of her own sister. “Mysa! What have they done to you?” she whispered.

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