Legion of Super-Heroes: The Universo Agenda, Chapter 2: Dark Motives

by Libbylawrence

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Weisinger Plaza in Metropolis was oddly silent and devoid of life as tour craft driver Oli-3 Queen frowned in annoyance. “Far freakin’ out! I’ve lost all my tourist trade for this section of the city. No one wants to get anywhere near those freaks in the Legion these days. Not that I blame them. Funny, though, they did save my neck once. Still, that was just a P.R. stunt to get in good with a guy like me, who has so much potential and can influence folks who ask me for info about this little tourist haven!” The blond man shrugged and drove his craft away from the deserted Avenue of Heroes, where statues of the famous Legion of Super-Heroes members stood silent vigil before their hovering headquarters.

Within the huge complex itself, a round, sentient construct called Computo monitored data from sources as diverse as the Intergalactic Broadcast Network to the bureaucratic planet called Weber’s World. The nature of the information its scans revealed was grim and disturbing. Anti-Legion sentiment was widespread. Serious pundits warned of the dangers of such a mighty team, while fashion critics made scathing remarks about some of their costumes. The common theme was a hatred of the heroic group.

Computo floated over to transfer its findings to its creator, the brilliant Brainiac 5. However, the genius from Colu was not in Legion Headquarters as his icon on the team’s mission monitor board revealed all too clearly. He was visiting a friend at the Time Institute. This secure location housed the greatest chronal scholars in the galaxy, and the young Brainiac 5 occupied a distinguished position among them. Computo had no time to contact him before alarms sounded, and the headquarters fell under sudden attack.

Lightning Lass and Timber Wolf were the only members in the building when alarms sounded, and the complex was surrounded by green-hued metal constructs. “Those are military-issue U.P. Space Fleet battle-bots!” she said.

Timber Wolf growled in concern. “Yeah, and there’s a U.P. Space Fleet squad directing them from above in a hovercraft. Why would the military branch of the U.P. attack us?”

“Legionnaires, you are ordered to surrender at once,” announced a trooper from the craft. “There is no need for others to be placed in peril by an assault. You will not be harmed if you cooperate!”

Ayla Ranzz took Brin Londo’s hand. “Brin, don’t lose control,” she said. “This has to be a mixup. Let’s do as they say for now. If we have to break free from them, our powers are more than a match for them. We can do so after learning what’s going on here.”

He nodded with a slightly more feral expression on his rugged but handsome features. “Sure. I’ll play nice… for now!” he said. They allowed the troopers to lead them away after sending an alert to the remaining members of the team.

***

At the Metropolis Time Institute, Brainiac 5 was busy working with a colleague and little suspected the threat that now loomed over his team and their base. Now he frowned as his good friend Rond Vidar gestured toward a device called the time scanner. “The chronal storms around the post-Crisis era have magnified,” said the sincere Vidar. “I fear we may no longer safely assume anything about that era of history. It truly has become an era of the unknown. We may classify that section of time as the Lost Years!”

Brainiac 5 nodded. He respected Vidar as a scientist and as an honorary member of the Legion. Vidar owed this honor to his past courage and aid to the team against numerous foes, including his villainous father, the hypnotic tyrant called Universo. “Let us hope that such chronal fluctuations will be nothing more than a catalyst for scholarly pursuits,” he said. “I do not want to make the same mistakes again, now that the Crisis has finally ended with all repercussions, and we have cured the former Infinity Man.” He referred to a victim of a failed experiment at the Institute. Jaxon Hogarth had been turned into a being both trapped and enervated by chronal energies until they had managed to cure him not too long ago.

The insectoid scholar named Circadia Senius entered with a look of alarm upon his face. “My friends, we have visitors of an official nature!” he said.

At that moment, a squad of uniformed Science Police entered the room, and their grim-faced leader raised one gloved hand to display an official document. “This institute is now closed,” he said in a commanding tone. “All staff and pupils are to leave immediately. No equipment is to be removed.”

“This is most irregular,” said Brainiac 5. “By what authority do you make such statements?”

The officer said, “By direct orders from Chief Zendak himself. He, in turn, received them from a classified source of much higher rank.”

“Surely we can discuss this,” said Vidar. “Some experiments here will be ruined if staff cannot daily perform certain necessary procedures!”

The officer frowned and raised his other hand, which held a blaster. “Don’t argue!” he said, moving to fire, even as Brainiac 5 hurled himself forward and activated his force-field belt to shield them both from the ray.

He was seconds too late, as the beam struck Rond Vidar and dropped him to the floor. “Circadius, obey them! I’ll tend to Rond! This fool may have killed him!” said Brainiac 5 as the nervous insectoid scientist lingered in concern.

“I want this man taken to Medicus One now!” said an angry Brainiac 5 as he worked to find some sign of life in his fallen friend. “I will also have your conduct reported to Zendak personally!”

“No need to report anything,” said a solemn Chief Kimball Zendak as he entered the room. “I’m here to take you into custody, too. The Legion is disbanded under orders from the U.P. Council itself! You are all to surrender immediately.”

Brainiac 5 glanced down at Rond’s still form and then looked up at the approaching medical staff who had been summoned by another scientist. “This is madness of a kind I fear I recognize all too well. I have no choice but to remain and make sure Rond receives proper care,” he said as he raised his hands in surrender.

***

In the tranquil part of Metropolis called the Gardens, four young people strolled together, unaware of the impending peril. The handsome Dirk Morgna eased one arm around his pretty companion as he directed her gaze to a colorful flower. “Gigi Cusimano, passion blossom. Passion blossom, Gigi Cusimano,” he said. “There. I wanted that flower to see just how lovely you are! It needs the sunshine of your smile!”

The Science Police officer laughed as she snuggled closer to the amorous Sun Boy. “Nice! A line as old as the music we heard at that disco,” she said as she smoothed down her blue minidress.

Dirk frowned. He had taken many women to the nightspots of the city, but he had never taken Gigi dancing there as far as he remembered. Dirk, my man, you have romanced one girl too many! Now you can’t even recall which date went to what place! he thought as he smiled blithely and changed the topic.

Nearby, the ever-bashful Jan Arrah struggled to find a subject of conversation as his lovely date Shvaughn Erin took his hand and kissed him suddenly. “What was that for? Not that I’m complaining!” he said with a laugh.

Shvaughn, also clad in civilian attire, a shimmering yellow jumpsuit, said, “It’s because I know how sweet a remark you’d like to made if you had Dirk’s bravado. Your eyes say it all for me!”

“Well, I can offer you this.” Jan gestured and used his Trom-born powers of transmutation to turn empty air into a sparkling display of blue and green lights. “Turned oxygen into Neptunian glimmer gas. They don’t equal your eyes.”

The foursome laughed and enjoyed the moment until a squad of Science Police officers suddenly and unceremoniously blocked their path. Gigi rolled her sparkling eyes and said, “Office Gerton, what’s wrong? Are we needed at headquarters?”

“You are both under arrest for conspiring with the Legion,” said Gerton. “The team has been declared an illegal assembly of outlaws, and all members are being arrested as we speak!”

Sun Boy frowned and created a ring of fire around them. “This is crazy. The Legion has saved this universe more times than you’ve stopped for jelly rings!” he said as his heat drove back the officers.

A holo-image appeared before them via their ring communication devices. Computo’s emotionless tone announced that warrants had been issued for the entire team and that three members had been captured.

“We’d better get some answers here fast,” said Sun Boy. “I don’t like the idea of Timber Wolf and Lightning Lass and Brainy being helpless!”

“GiGi and I outrank you all,” said Shvaughn. “Calm down and let us go to headquarters to sort this matter out!”

Element Lad acted rapidly and turned all of the raised blasters to sticky oil. “They mean to shoot to kill! None of their weapons were set to stun!” he warned. He scooped Shvaughn up in his arms, even as Sun Boy tossed Gigi over one shoulder. “We’d better get back to headquarters. The whole team needs to prepare for dealing with this situation!”

“You’re the leader! Lead on!” said a worried Sun Boy as they flew off.

***

The change in attitude toward the young heroes was not limited to politicians and tour guides. Around the world, people from every occupation or social status realized how deeply they hated the Legion. Their hatred was newly born with the coming of the new day, but in every case the individuals feared and despised the heroes with a singleminded passion. This was reasonable, since it was in fact a single mind that urged them all to feel this way.

Meanwhile, several members of the Legion had taken sanctuary on a small island, which had been used for the same purpose in the past. Element Lad, Sun Boy, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Mon-El, Shrinking Violet, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Sensor Girl, and Blok crowded around a small table and tried to make sense of their plight. Gigi and Shvaughn listened as well from the sidelines. Another young man waited slightly apart from the team.

Element Lad spoke first. “As leader, I never expected to face something like this. President Desai, and apparently the entire U.P. Council and the rest of the world, have turned against us since yesterday. While so many of us are away specifically on U.P. business, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, and the rest of the team have been captured by agents of this same suddenly hostile regime.”

Saturn Girl crossed her legs and frowned. “Jan, I’ve been probing minds for a long time, and I’ve learned two facts. The world decided to hate us literally overnight. That means a very powerful mind or a strong mind-control device has been put into use within the last twenty-four to thirty-six hours.”

Blok rumbled his concern. “Humans as a whole are incomprehensible. As individuals, they defy all expectations. What could unify so many people in such a manner?”

“Hate and love are both capable of producing such powerful reactions,” said Sun Boy. “I’d say we’re the victims of someone with a deep hatred for us. This is no casual scheme of conquest. Otherwise he would enslave us, too, and not leave us as haunted fugitives.”

“I think we both know who is behind it,” said Mon-El. “The entire scheme is not that different in nature from Universo’s last attempt at world domination. He posed as the president of Earth and tried to lock us all up in a super-prison. (*) Computo’s transmission before Legion Headquarters fell to the hostile forces recorded those military thugs speaking of such plans for us. Relocation centers are what they called our prisons!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Outlawed Legionnaires,” Adventure Comics #359 (August, 1967) and “The Legion Chain Gang,” Adventure Comics #360 (September, 1967).]

“So Universo is pulling the strings and turning the world against us?” said Shrinking Violet. “How? This isn’t a case of a leader ordering his followers to commit some act. He seems to be literally creating feelings of hatred for us in everyone! He has never had that kind of power before!”

Saturn Girl agreed. “Salu is right. I can’t break through his defenses. I tried to turn one officer around and break the mental bonds imposed upon him, but he resisted totally. If we hadn’t all been away from headquarters when the Universo agenda came into play, then we, too, would have fallen like our friends.”

“Right,” said Sun Boy. “Meeting here was always part of our established training procedure in such a case. We used it to hide from Mordru before, for example. Can Universo track us down through our captive buddies?”

Sensor Girl stood up and said, “He cannot find us. I still have enough power to cloak us from detection.”

Shrinking Violet smirked slightly. “Thank goodness for Mask Girl! It would help if the rest of us knew exactly who you are and what your powers are.”

Sensor Girl shook her masked head and regally said, “My secrets are my own.”

Element Lad raised one hand. “Right. Imra vouched for you, and that’s enough for me. For now we will honor your desire for privacy. We need to get to Universo, if in fact he is behind this.”

“I think we can be certain he is, because not only did he close the Time Institute and capture our friends, but he also had an officer shoot Rond Vidar!” said Mon-El. “My super-senses overheard Circadia Senius say Rond had been hurt when I tried to determine from afar why they wanted to close the Institute.”

Phantom Girl clutched Ultra Boy’s arm. “Jo! Poor Rond. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be hated by one’s own parents! Mon, are you sure Rond was shot? I mean is he alive?”

Mon-El nodded. “He’s hurt badly, or was. That’s all I could learn.”

“We’re wasting time,” Chameleon Boy said. “This is clearly a case for the Legion Espionage Squad. Let us take control and find out who our enemy is. We can do so by infiltrating the presidential office.”

“I agree,” said Saturn Girl. “But allow me to join your group. My powers may be able to stop him if I can surprise him. That’s where you come in, Sensor Girl. Can you join me with the Squad and get us into Desai’s office undetected?”

Sensor Girl nodded resolutely.

“Cham is right,” said Element Lad. “I yield to his position as head of the Espionage Squad for now.”

“May I accompany the Squad?” asked Reflecto. “I may be new to the team, but my abilities enable me to evade detection.”

“Yes,” said Chameleon Boy. “Now, while we check out the president, I suggest the others locate and free our friends from these so-called relocation centers.”

“I worry about Mysa… and the others,” said Blok. “I am ill-suited for stealth. I would gladly rescue them if I can.”

“I agree,” said Ultra Boy. “I don’t like the idea of our friends being under the power of a creep with this kind of malice.”

“Gigi, you and Shvaughn better sit tight,” said Sun Boy. “Maybe some of the others will escape and come here, too.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Morgna, sir!” said Gigi Cusimano, giving him a mock salute.

Sun Boy shrugged. “Sorry, I just figured you could be here if anyone else from the team gets here. Nura and Thom could return early, for example.”

“I know,” said Gigi. “I just get irked when you get so bossy. I’m my own woman.”

Shvaughn Erin kissed Element Lad and said, “Be careful.”

He replied, “We will.”

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