With a few swift acts of preparation, the Teachers of Sorcerer’s World used their combined magical power to transport the two Legionnaires through space itself until they materialized on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.
“I find this form of travel unsettling, Mysa!” said Blok.
The White Witch touched his arm gently and said, “I did, too, the first time I experienced it. Still, the Teachers showed us a great honor by using their energies to aid us in a mundane act like transportation!”
Blok glanced around him and said, “Titan’s culture is much like that of Earth, with the notable exception that all natives possess some form of mental powers like telepathy. The Titanians make extremely efficient bureaucrats, diplomats, and interpreters because of their gifts. Of course, Titan also boasts the universe’s finest institute for the study of and development of such mental arts. It was once wrongly believed that Titanians could not commit acts of injustice or wrongdoing–”
“Blok, old buddy, you sound like a walkin’ Encyclopedia Galactica,” interrupted a gruff voiced as other Legionnaires came out of a towering building to join them. Timber Wolf, alias Brin Londo of Zuun, smiled as he added, “You’ve been spending way too much time on the archive and data systems!”
A petite blonde woman in blue and white playfully punched the lupine hero in the arm and said, “Give Blok a break, Brin! You can’t expect every member to spend all their time working out!”
Brin kissed her abruptly and said, “Ayla, I wouldn’t exactly say I spend all my time working out!”
Lightning Lass blushed as her lover led her over to where Blok and White Witch waited. “Your magic brought you directly to us,” she said. “That’s impressive! Jan figured we’d need to meet you at one of the spaceports, or even the local S.P. office!”
A redheaded male who closely resembled the blonde Ayla Ranzz, accompanied by a blonde in a pink costume approached as well. “Lightning Lad, it is good to see you again!” said Blok as Ayla’s sibling and his wife Saturn Girl, alias Imra Ranzz, drew closer.
“Good to see you all,” said Lightning Lad, alias Garth Ranzz. “I wish it was under better circumstances. Imra and I were visiting friends here on her homeworld with little Grayam when we learned that Validus was here as well and was on the rampage.”
Saturn Girl tossed back her long blonde hair and nodded in agreement. “I knew returning to the team would mean plenty of action for me, but I didn’t expect a simple visit home with our child would lead to an encounter with Validus!”
“Ayla and I were vacationing with Garth and Imra,” said Timber Wolf. “When he heard about Validus, Element Lad figured we’d need backup, and he figured your magic might enable you to reach us in time so we could confront the big creep together!”
“Right,” said Ayla. “Even with my brother, here, coming out of his domestic bliss to help us, we’ll be facing odds even the worst gambler on Ventura wouldn’t bet on!”
Saturn Girl stopped their conversation with her usual brisk and businesslike manner as she led them skyward via their flight rings. “I’ve been in contact with a network of fellow telepaths, and we’ve been able to locate Validus and track his movements without anyone actually getting too close to him. His unique mental bolts make him stand out on a world of sensitive minds like a sore thumb!”
Timber Wolf scowled and said, “When Saturn Girl gets all chilly like that, she means business. We better get movin’! I wonder if Validus is solo, or if the rest of the Fatal Five are with him? I can’t imagine the big lug could get from Rimbor to Titan on his own.”
“He could not,” said Saturn Girl. “Still, according to Element Lad, the Emerald Empress is still held in stasis at Labyrinth, the prison world that replaced the destroyed Takron-Galtos.”
Lightning Lass shivered as she added, “And nothing has been seen of either Tharok or his evil other half, the Dark Man, since they vanished in combat with one another years ago!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “What Is the Dark Man?” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #271 (January, 1981).]
“As for the other members of the Fatal Five,” continued Blok, “the Persuader has not been seen since he battled Mon-El and Shadow Lass on her world, and Mano is safely in stasis at Labyrinth as well.”
“I can detect magical energies here,” said the White Witch. “Validus was brought here by magic. Should Saturn Girl’s mental resources fail, a spell of dissimilarity should allow me to locate Validus. He certainly is not a native of Titan!”
“We’re fortunate that the Empress and Mano are actually in prison,” said Saturn Girl. “Warden Tsaquin told Shvaughn Erin, our Science Police contact, that during Universo’s time in control of the government, he granted pardons and issues release warrants for a number of our old foes. I guess he wanted to have one extra way of striking back at us in case his main plan failed!”
“Poor Element Lad has been pushing himself so hard,” said Lightning Lass. “He wanted to wrap up all loose ends before the upcoming election for new team leader ends his term. ”
“I was a bad leader,” Lightning Lad said. “The pressures of leadership got to me. I can speak from experience when I say Jan did a great job. Even the best leader could not have anticipated Universo’s plan and all its implications! At least when we deposed him, he was replaced with a good guy like President Stewart.”
“Phillip Stewart is indeed an ally to the team,” said Blok. “He has removed many of the regulations that limited our options in the past.”
The Legionnaires, soaring over the city, soon found the source of their mission. Validus lumbered through the streets, and while the area had been evacuated before he could harm any citizens, he had destroyed property with more deliberate force than ever before.
“Grife! He’s really mad this time!” said Timber Wolf. “Those bolts of his are coming faster than a Thanagarian tigrabeast in mating season!”
The heroes dodged as a veritable storm of electrical energy erupted around them. The Ranzz twins moved to the front, as their unique metabolisms gave them some immunity to the creature’s potent energies. Blok moved to shield the White Witch with his own rocky body, while the agile Timber Wolf shoved Saturn Girl aside as a bolt blasted through the air, narrowly missing her.
“Thanks, Brin! I was trying to reach Validus through a mental communication, but my efforts also made me a human target!” she explained.
Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass moved to each side of the giant monster and released their own electrical bolts. They continued generating a barrage of intense energy, and Validus roared in anger, if not in pain. “He’s still coming on strong!” said Garth. “I know we’re hitting him, but he just shrugs it off!” Ayla nodded as a pinkish glow irradiated her skin, and her energy blasts grew more powerful.
Suddenly, Validus brought both of his hands together in a thunderous crash. The sheer impact from the action buffeted both Ranzz twins and knocked them away from the giant. Validus drew closer, and one massive hand reached out for the stunned Lightning Lass as she lay among the debris.
Timber Wolf shouted in concern and moved forward, even as the White Witch chanted and gestured swiftly in a magical spell that cloaked Ayla from view.
Validus hesitated as the fallen woman’s body vanished from sight. But she was still there, as Timber Wolf detected with his keen senses while lifting her over one shoulder and racing clear.
Blok charged forward and slammed into Validus with all his considerable might, but all he managed to do was send the giant staggering backward.
After lowering Ayla to the ground and receiving her assurances that she was merely dazed, Timber Wolf hurled himself through the air like a human rocket, using his momentum to knock Validus over after Blok’s efforts unbalanced the creature.
Validus crashed to the ground, but as he fell, one arm smashed through a nearby building, and the structure collapsed around him.
Saturn Girl shook her head in concern. “The area is devoid of life, since they evacuated. Still, we can’t let him destroy the city like this! He has badly damaged the Institute’s property.”
“Honey, while he is partly covered with debris, can you probe his mind again?” asked Lightning Lad.
Imra nodded and pressed both hands to her head in concentration. The others stood around her, preparing to shield her from any sudden attack. “Saturn’s rings! I can’t believe it!” she gasped as her expression changed from determination to one of horror and shock. She fell to her knees, even as Validus broke free of the rubble and loomed over her with a roar.
Lightning Lad grabbed her in his arms and soared out of reach of the giant, receiving a glancing blow from one of the creature’s huge arms, causing him to spin out of control to land with his wife amidst the clutter. “Think I injured my shoulder when I fell. Are you hurt?” he asked Imra.
“Garth, I managed to touch his mind!” she cried. “I can’t say how or why he opened it to, me but he did! I saw the truth! Validus is my — our child! I can’t explain or even guess how he did it, but he took our baby without my even knowing he’d been born! Graym was or is a twin like you and Ayla! He turned our baby into Validus somehow!”
“Who, Imra?” asked Garth. “Who?”
“Darkseid!” she cried.
Lightning Lad considered this for a moment. When the Legion had last confronted Darkseid and managed to overturn his plans, the dark lord had said these words to them: “I leave you my curse, Legionnaires… doers of Izaya’s work. The curse of darkness growing within you, destroying you from within… and that which is purest of you shall be the first to go!” (*) None of them had suspected what this meant until now.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Darkseid,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #294 (December, 1982).]
Garth embraced her and said, “Shh… You’re just confused. Imra, Validus was a known menace long before we were even married!”
Imra clutched his arm firmly. “Garth, I know my child! Darkseid must have sent him back through time. (*) We’ve seen stranger things, haven’t we? I tell you, that is our child! He wanted us to kill our own son, or be killed by him! The rage is that of a baby who knows no better. The mental lightning comes from both our powers!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Curse,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 Annual #3 (1984).]
Garth gazed into her eyes, and he knew she was right. It was crazy, but he knew he would always trust his life to Imra’s wisdom and instincts. “We’ll get him back,” he vowed quietly. “We’ll free him from that spell.”
Meanwhile, the other Legionnaires were still fighting the powerful Validus, and they were losing. Blok struggled to hold Validus in place, but he was hurled through a wall as the giant cried out in anger.
“I must try to put him to sleep!” said the White Witch. “Perhaps a spell of slumber will enable us to contain him!” She began to chant as Timber Wolf and a recovered Lightning Lass tried to slow Validus down.
Ayla Ranzz insisted that she was unharmed from her earlier encounter with the creature, but she was pale and sore, and she moved slower than normal. “Brin, we can’t give up, but I honestly don’t know if we can do more than hold him here long enough to get help from Mon-El or Ultra Boy!”
“I know,” said Timber Wolf. “It’s all we can do to stay alive! He’s just too big and too powerful. I’ve taken down some pretty dangerous types in my day, but Validus is like nothing I’ve ever seen before!”
Then, Saturn Girl’s voice echoed stridently through their minds as she projected an explanation of what she had discovered. It was far faster and more comprehensible than a spoken word would have been, and Ayla gasped as she understood that the creature above them was her nephew.
“I thought I was an android for years,” the astonished Timber Wolf said. “But this makes my self-image problems seem small. Validus is a transformed baby!”
Blok emerged from within a damaged building and said, “I’ve known human life to take diverse forms, but this staggers my imagination!”
“You want me to reverse the magic that made him a monster?” said the White Witch. “I sense that, but I have not prepared any spell that could do such a deed. You know I must prepare my spells prior to their possible need! The magic I detected here before does not seem to come directly from him, anyway. Magic brought him here, and yet the magic that transformed him is not the same type as that I sense!”
“Imra, try to reach him again!” said Lightning Lad. “Try to make him aware that we love him!”
Saturn Girl nodded and flew closer to the giant. “Do not be afraid. Do not worry. I’m here. I’m here, and it’s all going to be fine!” she cooed as she tried to soothe him and tame the fury that drove him to ever more powerful outbursts. Her words were matched by mental waves of warm and accepting thoughts.
Validus was a child turned into a monster by Darkseid’s stolen magical power. However, Imra Ranzz was the strongest mentalist ever to train at the Institute, and she had a mother’s love and concern empowering her as she fought to break through his mental defenses and reclaim her child’s heart. Slowly, she began to succeed. Validus stopped in his tracks and remained silent as he stared at the woman who floated before him.
“She’s getting through to him!” whispered Lightning Lass as Timber Wolf watched in disbelief.
We owe that creep Darkseid for this, thought Brin. We owe him, and I’ll make him pay!
The White Witch gasped and fell into Blok’s arms as a glowing energy sphere appeared before them, and the confident and regal form of a blonde woman in golden body armor stepped out of it to face them. Her icy blue eyes made contact with each Legionnaire, and she lingered for a moment as she gazed at Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. “At last I see the source of my pain. How long have I wondered what twisted roots bore such bitter fruit! No matter! Now I see the reunion has ended without the expected demise of any of you brave Legionnaires. Pity. I wished for matricide to be added to the crimes I seek to avenge.”
“Who are you?” demanded Saturn Girl. “Your magic brought him here. I sense that much.”
The White Witch leaned against Blok and said, “Her magic is so very powerful. It also seems oddly familiar to me, but how can that be? She weakens me with her very aura!”
“We don’t know you, lady,” said Lightning Lad. “Yet I sense you hate us. You know who Validus really is. Do you serve Darkseid as well? If so, tell him, he lost! We know what he did, and we’re going to restore our child!”
The blonde woman laughed bitterly and gazed at him with scorn. “You amuse me. I do not serve Darkseid. He and I have nothing in common except for a hatred for you all. Still, I have met some of your team, though none of you recall that meeting. As for my awareness of what dark magic brought about the monster before us all, I may say that I earned that knowledge with pain and tears. I paid for that knowledge with the last tears I ever shed! I had hoped that bringing him to you would end in your deaths. That would be a sweet memory to warm me on cold nights. That thought would also be a dagger in his heart, if he has one!”
“I can’t sense anything about her!” said Saturn Girl. “Her mental defenses are so powerful!”
“Such words of praise!” said the blonde woman. “Such a kind acknowledgment from the prized pupil of the very Institute that scorned me as a child! Validus has brought that precious organization to ruin, and that pleases me as well. I am touched, and so shall you all be! You will all live with the knowledge that Validus is dear to you. You will witness his misery and his pain as he is hunted ceaselessly. You will know that the blood he sheds stains your souls, and you will be helpless to reveal by word, deed, or thought what you carry within your hearts in silent suffering!”
Mystical glyphs materialized over each of the Legionnaires’ faces, and as the magical symbols faded away, so did the mocking blonde woman with Validus.
Saturn Girl cried out and said, “They’ve gone! I can’t sense any trace of either of them. Our… mmm! Validus is gone!”
Lightning Lad nodded as he understood what had occurred. All of the heroes knew that the magic had sealed them in some way. They could not communicate what they knew about Validus. They could speak his name, but in no way could they explain his origin.
The White Witch felt the limitations more keenly than the rest. She knew that a spell had robbed them of any way to gain help or find a cure for the transformed Validus. She felt anger and impotent frustration as she realized all of her own magical resources were useless.
“We have to find him,” said Timber Wolf. “That much we know. We can get the others to help us find him!”
“I know, but we have no way to keep them from hurting him or to keep him from killing one of them, either,” said Saturn Girl. “All we can do is ask them to trust us, and pray that is enough!”
“I suggest we summon Dawnstar,” said Blok. “She can track him like none other. She also is less likely to harm him, if we must fight to subdue him.”
Blok also tried to find some memory of who the blonde witch was. She claimed that she had met some of the team before, but her magic had made them forget about her. Still, Blok believed in the reliability of the archives, and he struggled to find some clue as to who the woman was or when she had encountered the team. He knew the team history better than many, yet he found no answers.