Saturn Girl quickly sent a mental summons to those Legionnaires with whom she could communicate about the Validus case. The White Witch, Blok, Timber Wolf, and Lightning Lass all knew the truth, but like the Ranzz family, they could not reveal the truth to anyone else. This secret united them even as it separated them from their other friends. The small group, gathering in haste and in secrecy, assembled in the Legion Headquarters’ time bubble chamber.
“Thank you all for coming,” said Imra Ranzz. “We’re heading for the year 3005 in order to find Ryssa and Garridan. I don’t know if we can succeed or not. The Time Trapper’s iron curtain of time has prevented us from going into the future before, but we can’t let that stop us from trying, since the Crisis caused so much chronal upheaval, that it may now be possible to go into the future. Of course, we can’t even be certain that we will be able to leave the time craft as more than wraiths, since we should all be alive in that year, as far as we know!” Saturn Girl referred to the peculiar law of time travel that, if someone visited an era in which he or she was living or had lived, he was turned into a ghostlike figure who could take no direct action.
“In fact,” said Garth Ranzz, “that possible problem is exactly why I activated a certain SOS signal moments ago!”
“SOS, huh?” said Brin Londo. “Only one person could come to help the Legion, and I thought history showed he didn’t join us any after the last time!”
As a red-and-blue-costumed figure streaked down from above, Ayla Ranzz replied, “Since the Crisis, we know nothing for certain about the past, and that includes the career of Superboy!”
Superboy smiled in greeting at his old friends and swooped down to join them. “I got your signal via the Legion statues. Why’d you want me to meet you in this chamber in such a top-secret manner?
As the others clasped his hands in greeting, Imra said, “Superboy, we need your help! As for the secret nature of the summons, all I can ask you to do is trust me, please.”
Superboy took her hand and said, “You can count on me!”
They entered the time bubble, and it vanished into the time stream itself. Their destination was the year 3005, and none knew what awaited them.
Superboy glanced from one Legionnaire to another and sensed the tenseness that pervaded the small group. He knew something was wrong, but he could not deduce the exact nature of the problem. He was concerned about his friends, but he had confidence in them and in his own abilities. “Why are we going to 3005?” asked the Boy of Steel. “I understand why you’d want me along, since I won’t be around in that time, and thus we know for certain that I can take action there. Still, if you’re all willing to take the trip in spite of that condition, I know something serious has happened. Is it the Time Trapper?”
“I wondered that myself,” said Lightning Lad, thinking again about his encounter with the Time Trapper a year earlier. “I’m certainly not in Brainy’s league, but my own scans can’t detect the old barriers since the Crisis. That makes me hope that the iron curtain of time is history, literally. We’re looking for a foe named Ryssa who claims to have come from the future. We’re also looking for… a child that disappeared shortly after she returned to her own era. I know Ryssa claimed to be Mordru’s pupil, but he’s trapped on Zerox.”
Timber Wolf scowled. “You know, I think Superboy has something there! Plucking people through time has the Time Trapper’s prints all over it. Remember, the boy was a boy and not a baby. He should have been a baby, right?”
Saturn Girl shook her head. “No. He has actually lived ten years or so since his birth. He was sent back in time to begin with!” Lightning Lass saw Imra’s expression become more severe as she pondered the years she and Garth had lost with their altered child. She felt sorry for them both and longed to find her missing nephew.
“Superboy, we are unable to explain,” said the White Witch, “except to say that we seek a child who was ripped from his proper era by unknown means.”
“I know that the time stream is subject to odd fluctuations, but I’ve never seen it act like this before!” said Superboy, gesturing to the swirls of color and light that surrounded the time bubble. Nothing of the outside world or any time could be seen. The controls were strangely blank as well. Nothing registered on any of the dials, and the craft did not shake or tremble from any outside force. It merely hovered as if in limbo.
“Grife!” said Timber Wolf. “The bubble isn’t responding. Our need was great, but we were real dupes to enter the time stream like this. Brainiac 5 said that his last trip through time almost resulted in his being lost forever!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Time Won’t Let Me.]
Saturn Girl cried out and fell to her hands and knees. Lightning Lad dropped down to cradle her in his arms as she pressed one hand against her forehead and said, “I felt a powerful mind. It overwhelmed me for a moment. It was so evil and so very palpable in its malice!”
“Did you recognize the mind?” asked the White Witch. “Was it too powerful a force for you to read?”
Saturn Girl crawled to her feet and said, “I felt like the mind was familiar from the past, but I could not identify it.”
Superboy reached out as the time bubble began to move again. He tried to steady the craft until it lurched to a sudden and jolting stop. “Great Krypton!” he cried. “We failed! We’re back in the year from which we started: 2986! I guess the Time Trapper, or whoever that evil mind was, stopped our trip!”
“The device now registers the year as 2986,” agreed Blok. “However, I fear it is in error. Much seems different.” He gestured to the world around them. The setting was still Weisinger Plaza, the site of the Legion Headquarters, but that building no longer existed, and there was no trace of the nearby row of heroic statues that honored the team. Instead, military-style armaments lined the streets, uniformed soldiers stood guard, and no one could be seen passing by in the course of normal business. The street was silent and oddly chilling in its alteration.
“Since I doubt even Brainy could blow up our headquarters so neatly, I’d say we’re in some alternate time zone,” suggested Superboy. “I encountered such an altered future when I came to your time for your wedding a few years ago.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Millennium Massacre,” All-New Collector’s Edition #C-55 (1978).]
“And yet the temporal readings suggest this is still 2986,” said Blok. “How could we be in the proper year and find so much has changed?”
“Think of time as a river with dividing streams that come from the same starting point,” said Lightning Lass. “That’s how two or more different eras can branch off from a common past. In one 2986, Legion Headquarters still stands; that’s the 2986 we know. In this alternate 2986, Legion Headquarters is gone.”
“We must leave!” said Saturn Girl. “I detect hostile thoughts all around us!”
Indeed, the soldiers had rushed forward with laser rifles drawn. “Shoot to kill!” commanded their leader.
Blok lurched in front of the White Witch as a barrage of energy blasts erupted around them. Lightning Lass dropped to one knee and generated a powerful current of electrical force that shielded the heroes while driving back the troops. “This is crazy! Why would they attack us?” she asked.
Superboy swooped by at super-speed and disarmed the confused men with ease. He gripped one by the shirt and said, “We’re friends! We’re from the Legion! Or do you know that already?”
“The Legion was disbanded and outlawed!” said the frightened soldier. “Earthgov said that group was harboring too many aliens! After the wars, we’d be fools to allow Imskians or Braalians to stay on planet!”
“The time bubble’s vibra-energies are dead!” said Lightning Lad. “It’s been drained of all chronal power! We’re going to have to use the rocket feature to get away!”
In unison, the Legionnaires flew off and reentered the time bubble, which rocketed into the air, leaving the angry troops behind them.
After they landed some distance away, Superboy scanned the area they had just left with his telescopic vision. “I see another squad of heavily armed soldiers have rushed into the area around our landing point. They aren’t wearing the standard Science Police uniforms, either.”
“But surely only the United Planets Militia could be based upon Earth,” said Blok, “unless this odd zone has been invaded!”
Superboy shook his head. “Nope! My super-hearing tells me the soldiers are all native-born. One even has what used to be called a Southern drawl, like Gigi Cusimano’s! Something weird is going on. That one trooper said the Legion was disbanded!”
“Obviously, in this alternate time, things are radically different,” said Lightning Lad. “Braal and Imsk are at war, if I understood that soldier correctly. Aliens are clearly unwanted, too. I think we’d better hide out until we can get our bearings and repair the time bubble. This is certainly not the destination we wanted.”
“Garth, I don’t think we crashed here by accident,” said Saturn Girl. “I think we were lured here by design. I now believe the Time Trapper was behind it all. He kidnapped our son and did it to lure us into the time stream and to this realm. He was the one who allowed Ryssa to remain in our era after the Infinite Man’s time-warping powers faded, and all the other pawns he had summoned from different points in time returned to their eras. She was drawn back against her will and blamed Infinite Man, but she was wrong. The Time Trapper was behind it all! He already kidnapped one of our sons as part of some kind of twisted game, so this is par for the course for him!”
As the heroes reacted to what the comely blonde had said, Imra Ranzz stopped speaking, and her eyes widened in surprise. “The spell is broken!” she said with surprise. “Something about this time or place has broken her spell of silence! I was able to say that it was our son who was abducted!”
Superboy slammed his fist into his hand and exclaimed, “Great Krypton! Imra, you mean the child we’re seeking is little Graym, aged to an unnatural point? No wonder you were all so tense!”
“Not quite, Superboy,” explained Imra. “It’s worse, and it’s stranger than that! When I gave birth, I had twins, as is common for natives of Winath like Garth. However, we did not know that more than one baby was born. We thought Graym was an only child. That’s because Darkseid took the other baby away. He wanted to hurt us all. He turned that baby into Validus and sent him back in time, so in effect we met and fought our own child long before he was even born! That time-displacement is why Garridan, as we named him, is now ten or so. We only learned all this a while ago, but a spell prevented us from revealing it all. Now, for some reason, we can talk about it! It’s like a weight has been lifted! Superboy, please help us rescue Garridan! I feel as if it is the Time Trapper who took him in order to lure us here for some perverse reason.”
Superboy shook his head. The whole thing was a lot to absorb. Still, he had dealt with even stranger things before, and as a hero he had always emerged victorious. “Garth, Imra, I’ll do anything to help. I can’t quite imagine it still. When I fought Validus before, I was hitting and being hit by your missing child!”
“We have to handle this like Legionnaires,” said Saturn Girl. “It’s all very personal, but if I want to get my child back safely, then I have to stay calm! Superboy, join me in scanning the area. See if you can learn exactly what bizarre variation on our own time this place is.”
Superboy nodded and accepted the steely Titanian’s orders. She was very capable in any crisis. “The polymer shield is gone! That protective covering was a fixture of the last few years in the thirtieth century I knew! I also see no sign of the United Planets’ various buildings or the Science Police! In fact, the only flags I see are those of Earth itself. It’s like Earth isn’t a member of the U.P. anymore!”
Saturn Girl concentrated and replied, “No, you are correct. From the brief mind scans I’ve been able to do on passersby, life is extremely dangerous, and a strict military regime has taken over. Freedom is limited, and aliens are looked upon with fear and hatred. War seems to be a common theme in the minds I’ve touched!”
“Figures,” said Timber Wolf. “Any playground belonging to the Time Trapper would be a deadly one!”
Lightning Lass moved closer to him and said, “What about our friends? Where are the other Legionnaires?”
“And what of us?” asked the White Witch. “If we are indeed in some alternate time stream, then should we not all be ghostly wraiths, since our counterparts from this era still exist?”
Superboy shook his head. “You make sense, Mysa. We know a Legion existed here once, since that soldier said the team was disbanded. However, could that same team not have consisted of any of you in this reality?”
“Or could it be more sinister?” suggested Saturn Girl. “Could we all be dead in this reality, and thus we can still interact with the world around us, since our counterparts no longer exist?”
“I see one aspect of earthly life is unaltered,” said Blok. “Commerce continues, as shown by the floating advertisements!” He pointed to a row of hovering signs that proclaimed the merits of various companies or products.
“Brande Enterprises!” said Lightning Lass as she read the sign. “Our old mentor, R.J. Brande, must still exist in this altered timeline! Surely, he’d give us shelter and help us find out what to do! Notice that sign is in English. Interlac is not in use. I guess if what Imra picked up about distrust of aliens and isolation from the other U.P. worlds is true, then Earth has become very insular.”
“Blok and I would not be welcome at all,” said the White Witch. “We must find shelter swiftly. Let me invoke a spell of concealment!” She chanted rapidly, and energy crackled around them.
“I still see you all. Did the spell come with a credit back guarantee?” asked Timber Wolf.
Mysa Nal shook her head demurely. “It has done its job. We see one another, but no one else may detect us for the nonce!” They hurried into the air and made plans.
“We could go to Brande’s Asteroid near Mercury,” said Ayla.
Garth shook his head. “That’s not a bad idea! Let’s set the controls for that destination.”
“I see Brande’s artificial asteroid home is dead ahead,” said Superboy. “It still exists, even in this warped reality.”
“We have to escape from this place and get our child back,” said a determined Saturn Girl. “We can’t let the Trapper keep us here!”