Universo had assumed the role of presidential aide Vid-Gupta with ease. He had used his hypnotic powers to slowly dominate Mojai Desai, the candidate the World Computer had selected as being most worthy of the office of Earth president. Now, he had expanded his control to include the entire U.P. Council, the Science Police, and the military branch of the U.P. Space Fleet. He had also planted a deep revulsion in the minds of every citizen of the world against the team of heroes, although he had deliberately left the minds of people like Circadia Senius, Gigi Cusimano, and Shvaughn Erin free, since he knew from his research that they were strong allies of the team and should be eliminated for reasons of expediency. Plus, he simply relished playing with them like pawns on a 3-D chess board.
He smiled as Science Police officers reported that the Time Institute had been secured, and his errant son Rond Vidar had been shot. Rond was immune to his father’s powers and was better off dead than alive and able to thwart his careful plans. Thus, he had insisted that his pawns kill his son after the slightest provocation or rebellion. “He is gravely wounded, and Medicus One reports that he may not live much longer,” said the officer with a leaden tone.
“Such is the price of disobedience,” said Universo. “A stubborn child is a pain to any parent. What of his friend? Have you captured Brainiac 5?”
The officer nodded. “Yes, sir. Shall we transport him to the relocation center along with the other two captured Legionnaires? We are searching for the rest as well.”
Universo made a tent of his entwined fingers and said, “No. Bring them all to me! I would like to see the once high and mighty Coluan humbled before me! I have little to fear from the animalistic one or the girl.”
The Science Police officers led the three heroes into the office where Universo waited. “You may leave them here. Their neural disrupters will inhibit any use of their powers,” he said in a majestic tone of voice.
“Yes, sir!” replied the officers as they obeyed his hypnotic commands.
Brainiac 5 had been thinking rapidly since he first witnessed the assault on Rond. Based upon the malice directed toward the scientist and the clear authority of the Science Police in branding the team outlaws, he had already realized that Universo was the most likely suspect. He had behaved in a similar manner when he last fought the team and tried to hide behind a presidential disguise to hound the heroes. Now he worried about his friend, but he still planned the best method of escaping and defeating his foe.
“They got you, too?” whispered Timber Wolf. “Looks like the others are still free.”
Brainiac 5 nodded. “Yes. I expect we shall be rescued shortly.”
Universo dropped his disguise and revealed his true appearance to the group. “You young curs!” he said. “You dared first oppose me years ago, and now you reap the punishments for those actions!”
Timber Wolf strained against the inhibitor and said, “I’ll reap you if I can get my hands on you! We should have known it was you!”
Universo sneered at the Zuunian and said, “You are a witless dolt. You can barely control yourself, much less tamper with the workings of one such as I! What of you, boy? You seem calm for one in jeopardy of losing his life.”
“You lack originality,” said Brainiac 5. “You always fall back on trying to cloak yourself behind the trappings of governmental authority. I suspect your need for a type of bureaucratic authority comes from your time in the Green Lantern Corps.”
Lightning Lass frowned. “Universo was a Green Lantern?”
Universo glared at them with hatred. “You know that?” he said, genuinely surprised. “Curse you. I little suspected you had connected me with my time as one of the Oan’s pawns!”
“You may comfort yourself with the fact that I didn’t realize it until one of our more recent members Blok stumbled upon it and questioned me,” said Brainiac 5. “I was more than a bit ashamed of my lack of perception.”
“No matter,” said Universo. “I need not hide my past. You and your friends first gave me the idea to use the Time Institute’s time scanner to learn the origins of the universe. It was in preventing others from doing so on orders from my Oan masters that I first encountered you all when I was a Green Lantern.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Origin of the Universe File,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #295 (January, 1983).]
“You fell from grace with the Oans and later returned in the new guise of Universo, the master of hypnosis,” said Brainiac 5. “Your son Rond helped us defeat you then when you tried to trap us throughout time.” (*) Lightning Lass and Timber Wolf listened in interest as their old foe’s origins were exposed for the first time.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rogue Legionnaire,” Adventure Comics #349 (October, 1966).]
“Rond — that disloyal whelp!” hissed Universo. “His death is coming. He will soon draw his final breath. Thus do all pay who meddle with my destiny!”
“Again, you lack originality,” replied Brainiac 5. “Many a tyrant has made such a boast, only to end up losing all.”
“Bah! Your friends will be found. I don’t know how they’ve evaded me, but I will locate them and execute them all!” he cried as he resumed the guise of Vid-Gupta. “The world serves me and hates you. Know this and wait and wonder when death shall come for you all! Take them out!”
The Science Police entered and obeyed his commands. Universo paced his office in silence. He was more than a little upset that Brainiac 5 had been able to goad him so easily. He caressed the emerald orb hanging around his neck and reassured himself of his power.
“Do not fear them. Our power is as old as time and as limitless in nature!” said a voice that whispered softly in his mind.
Universo nodded as if in agreement with an unseen partner. “Indeed. You shall rule a universe entire, and I shall rule Earth!” he laughed madly.
Meanwhile, Element Lad stopped in his tracks as he received an urgent message from Chameleon Boy. “Brainy, Ayla, and Brin are all in the main governmental compound,” said Reep Daggle. “It seems like Universo wanted an audience with them to gloat. We’ve seen them and are presently concealed from conventional detection by the combined powers of Saturn Girl, Sensor Girl, and Reflecto. Still, I can’t waste time with a long broadcast. Hold your team back until we can learn more!”
Element Lad replied quickly, “Right. Keep us posted.”
“What gives?” asked Ultra Boy. “If Cham’s Espionage Squad has managed to locate our pals, and they haven’t been taken away yet, why don’t we rush in and rescue them?”
Mon-El turned to his friend and said, “If they can be freed by stealth, then why risk anyone getting hurt by crashing in like the Galaxy Rangers in an old holo flick? Remember, all those poor people serving Universo are helpless pawns. We’d have to fight them to free our friends in an assault.”
“We can’t risk innocent lives, no matter how much we want to pull our friends out of there,” said Shadow Lass. “Sometimes, the responsibilities of championing others limits our own freedom to satisfy our own needs. I learned that defending my world of Talok VIII.”
“And I learned the hard way in the Phantom Zone that sometimes all you can do is watch and wait,” added Mon-El. “It can be maddening, though.”
“My people have learned the patience of those who wait unaltered by time and tide,” said Blok. “Still, perhaps due to my association with you all, I yearn to see our friends safely home again.”
Sun Boy slapped the hulking being on the back and said, “Blok, you’re becoming downright human!”
Meanwhile, within the governmental compound, the Espionage Squad had eluded all detection. It was not merely due to the fact that Shrinking Violet could become so tiny or Phantom Girl could become immaterial. Rather, the perception-altering might of Sensor Girl had rendered them all invisible to the most sophisticated means of observation or detection. Infrared scanners, sonic sound detectors, motion sensors — all were powerless to find the heroes while Sensor Girl blanketed them in a void of electronic nonexistence. “I have to admit your powers are impressive,” said Vi.
“I can prevent our detection, but I can’t do so for long,” said Sensor Girl. “The subtle nuances of any changing environment will make such an scenario suspect in time. Things do change due to the elements or mere human interaction. I can only create the impression that we are not here for a short time.”
Saturn Girl pressed both hands to her blonde hair and said, “Universo is everywhere! That is to say, I feel his power all around us. He is controlling the entire populace in some manner. This is far beyond his past capabilities!”
“There is the shuttle,” said Chameleon Boy. “They plan to take our pals to some relocation center for eventual execution. I say let’s free them now!” He flattened himself against the floor and spread his pliable form across the ground until he was directly in front of the troops and their prisoners. He suddenly rose up while still in the form of the Zuunian puddle-beast and wrapped himself around the heroes. “It’s me, Reep! Just wanted to shield you guys while the others take down the guards!”
Ayla Ranzz grinned. “Thank goodness! Reep, it’s Universo. He is posing as Vid-Gupta!”
“Plus, I know the source of his power,” added Brainiac 5. “Blok unwittingly tipped me off a while ago, but I little realized that Universo would return to challenge us and actually have access to such a source.”
Meanwhile, Shrinking Violet grew to her normal size and shocked the guards. “Hi, boys! Sorry to do this, but you’ll thank me when you wake up,” she said as she kicked a guard in the face.
Phantom Girl stepped directly through one startled guard and solidified her fists as she stunned the guard in front of him. “Just passing through,” she said with a smile. Reflecto dropped the rest of the guards with a burst of super-speed and some skillful martial arts moves.
Saturn Girl reported quickly as Cham released the captives. “No sign that we’ve been detected. Sensor Girl has assured me of that.”
The blonde in the red mask staggered forward. “The effort is tiring me! We must flee now!” she said. The team flickered away and reappeared at the island base.
“What in the cosmos?” gasped Reep Daggle.
Reflecto shrugged. “I just used the most effective means to get us to safety. Teleportation!”
Brainiac 5 frowned. “Your powers intrigue me. I believe there’s more to you than even you know!”
“I got that feeling as well, but my scan detected nothing beyond the memories I mentioned before,” said Saturn Girl.
Shrinking Violet said nothing. She was a smart woman, and she had been suppressing certain doubts that she had developed about her latest romantic interest. She shrugged them off for now and hoped for the best.
The assembled team hastily made both divided groups aware of what each had learned and experienced. “We need to free the world,” said Element Lad. “Brainy, any idea how to shut off Universo’s control?”
Sun Boy interrupted, “For that matter, I have been puzzling over a related matter. If he now has such power, then it has to be coming from some source he lacked before. Thus we can trace it! If he’s receiving energy or enhancement of such kind from a foreign source, then we should be able to follow the trail back to its origin. I think with a bit of help from Lar and Jo, I’ve done just that!”
“Brains and a killer body, too!” said Gigi.
“Total package,” said Sun Boy. “Don’t forget I’m a physics student, too!”
“So where is he getting this added power that enables him to control the world?” asked Phantom Girl.
Sun Boy started to speak when Brainiac 5 said, “Oa!”
Sun Boy gasped. “How’d you know? I hadn’t said anything yet!”
“Logic,” said Brainy. “Universo was a Green Lantern. He now wears an emerald orb that blinks with power. We’d dismissed such ornaments in the past as mere decorations, and so they were, but this time I’m certain he is somehow tapping into the Central Power Battery on Oa!”
“Earth has been off-limits to the GLC for so long that none of us considered what now seems so obvious!” said Shrinking Violet.
“Well, let’s get to Oa and cut off his power,” said Mon-El. “I can’t believe the Guardians would allow him to do so willingly. If they have turned evil, our work is cut out for us!”
“I’d like to get one more shot at Universo,” growled Timber Wolf. “Why not let some of us occupy him while you head for Oa? I’d be all too happy to try!”
“I admit that’s not a bad idea,” said Element Lad. “If we can keep him busy long enough for you to eliminate his power source, then we should be able to free the world.” The determined heroes split up and headed fearlessly toward their respective missions.
Back in the presidential complex, an angry Vid-Gupta learned his prisoners had mysteriously vanished. “I could have enslaved them, too, but what is a bit of defiance in comparison to having them suffer and realize their total defeat?” shouted an angry Universo as he stalked back and forth in his office. “Still, they’ve escaped me. How this is possible is beyond me! Even with my new power and my ally, they’ve defied me! It is clear the Legion has added some power beyond my expectations!”
President Mojai Desai stood rigidly at attention and awaited orders. The problem with an enslaved world was that no one offered any suggestions when their master’s resources began to fail him.