The Legionnaires slowly drew closer to an asteroid within the orbit of Mercury, where their benefactor R.J. Brande, the star-making financial wizard, had created a private domain for his own relaxation. Superboy smiled as he noticed the details of the place from afar. Things did look the same to him.
Landing on Brande’s Asteroid, they exited from the time bubble. Their transsuits protected them until they emerged within the specially altered world and found themselves in a pleasantly warm but acceptable environment.
“Brande’s weather-control devices are magic,” said Timber Wolf. “This seems like a beach in old Sanlosangeles!”
Lightning Lass had been avoiding direct contact with Brin Londo except during the conflict with the militia. She now turned to him and smiled. “It really does! I suppose we should have guessed that, even in some nightmarish alternate reality, R.J. Brande would be his inimitable self.”
The spirited blonde smiled as a white-haired, portly old man came out of a large house to greet them. “I don’t know who in the outer regions you think you are coming here, of all places, looking like that, but in case you can’t understand Interlac, this is private property!” he yelled.
Lightning Lass frowned and said, “Mr. Brande, it’s Ayla! Don’t you know us? I know our being here may seem odd, but as you can see from the time bubble, we came here from the time stream itself. We know this world is very different from what we know, and we may seem different to you as well.”
“That’s not Brande!” said Saturn Girl. “You’re not R.J. Brande! You’re his son, Reep!” The others gasped in surprise as the old man’s form shifted until he stood before them as a Durlan.
“Imra?” said Reep Daggle. “Nobody else could get past my disguises so easily! Come inside. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll listen.”
They followed the alternate timeline counterpart of their teammate Chameleon Boy inside, and Garth Ranzz held out his hand. “See? Legion flight rings, a time bubble,” said Lightning Lad. “Super-powers also ready to be demonstrated. Reep, when we left 2986 in the time bubble, we left a world at peace. We left an Earth that had Science Police, alien races living freely, and an active and welcome Legion of Super-Heroes. When we were forced back here, we found a world made strange!”
The former Chameleon Boy shook his head. “Look, I remember a few of our cases that involved warped timelines, and I guess I have to buy your story, but I’ll be honest and say I don’t have a clue where to begin to tell you how wrong you are about the universe! I will say that I’ve been posing as my long-lost father since he gave up using the Brande identity years ago. Living in human form is the only way I’ve managed to remain near my Earth holdings, since all aliens were deported from Earth or imprisoned.”
“Reep, just start at the beginning. That keen mind of yours enabled you to lead the Espionage Squad for years, so we’ll trust your judgment about where to start.”
“I’m sorry, but I have no idea who you are,” said Reep. “I know my Legion teammates, but you look like a guy dressed up like a junior version of Superman!”
Superboy frowned and spread wide his arms. “Are you kidding me? Cham, I joined long ago. I am Superman, or will be in time. I’m Superboy from the twentieth century — Superman as a teenager!”
“You must really be from a different timeline,” said Reep. “Superman didn’t even get his powers or his costume until he was a man. I suppose next you’ll tell me that you were a superbaby with a superdog or something equally inane!”
Saturn Girl stepped in front of the shocked Superboy and said, “Cham, you do remember us and agree that we all served together as Legionnaires, right? Well, from our point of view, Superboy here was one of us and knew you very well. He also really did fight crime as a youth before becoming the adult Superman in the history we know!”
“In this reality there was no Superboy,” said Lightning Lad. “He never existed, and his youthful exploits never happened. That much seems clear. If Superboy didn’t inspire the formation of the Legion, who did?”
Reep shrugged and said, “Mon-El did. He seeded the various worlds in the twentieth century, and when he was freed from the Bgztl buffer zone, we inducted him, too. May he rest in peace.”
Saturn Girl rested a hand on Superboy’s arm as she said, “Mon-El is dead?”
Reep nodded sadly. “He died in battle with the Infinite Man, as did Shady and Magnetic Kid.”
“You stared at me oddly as well,” said Blok. “I see from the look in your eyes that the Blok you know also died!”
“Yes,” said Reep. “He was killed by Roxxas, the Daxamite pirate.”
“You’re nuts!” said Timber Wolf. “Roxxas was not from Daxam. He was a pirate from New Tortuga!”
“He came from Daxam,” insisted Reep. “I know that for a fact. I know that he killed the Blok I knew. Blok was just one of many of our old pals who lost their lives… or worse!” He glanced at Brin as he made this last statement.
“We wondered how we time-displaced Legionnaires could be physical beings in an era in which we actually lived,” said Lightning Lad. “This explains it. In this reality, none of us are alive!”
“No,” said Reep. “I see your logic, but it’s all wrong. To my knowledge, Blok is the only one of you who is dead. I mean, he is the only one I recall as dying. You are alive with Imra and Ayla on Winath with your two boys, although I know the Validus plague crippled you, Garth!”
“‘Validus plague’?” asked Garth. “Cham, you said I had a plague. You said we had two boys. Name them!”
“Graym and Garridan,” said Reep. “Garridan was Validus for years before Darkseid cured him.”
“Cham, the motive we had for leaving our time was that Garridan was abducted through time by a woman named Ryssa, or by the Time Trapper as it now appears,” said Imra Ranzz. “Do you have any memory of such an event or of Ryssa?”
Reep Daggle shook his head. “No. Darkseid cured Garridan, and you all four lived happily until the disease Garridan carried began to affect you. Brainy left the team around that point to devote his efforts to curing you all.”
“The Time Trapper–” prompted Superboy, “–what do you recall about him?”
“He has not been seen in years,” said Reep. “I suppose he died when Takron-Galtos was destroyed.”
“What of other Legionnaires?” asked the White Witch.
But before she could continue her words, alarms echoed, and Marla Latham ran inside. “Reep, we’ve got company! I… who are you people?” he sputtered.
Reep turned to his aide and said, “I’ll explain later. You are to stay put. I’ll try to get rid of the militia.” He gestured to a monitor screen that revealed around ten armed soldiers. “I think they tracked you here. The time bubble’s energies are unique.”
“One question,” said Saturn Girl. “Why do we see soldiers everywhere, but no sign of the Science Police?”
“When Earth quit the U.P. and signed a mutual aid agreement with the Dominion, all the S.P.s were pulled from Earth,” explained Reep. “The Legion was forced to disband when President Wellington took office. She stationed Space Militia troops everywhere. Chuck and Luornu train the cadets.” He exited to try to talk to the soldiers who waited outside, while Lightning Lass turned to a confused Marla Latham.
“Mr. Latham, this may sound weird to you, but can you tell us more about the history of the universe?” she asked.
“Well, Braal and Imsk were at war for a while,” he said. “Of course, you know Cosmic Boy and Shrinking Violet each suffered greatly in that conflict.”
“What happened to them?” asked Timber Wolf.
“Rokk lost his powers at Venado Bay, and Salu lost an eye,” said Marla. “That happened before Imsk conquered Braal.”
“What about the others?” asked Saturn Girl.
“Wildfire died in battle with Dr. Regulus,” began Marla. “Phantom Girl died mysteriously. Dawnstar was badly injured and turned into a monster, like–”
Before he could finish, the doors crashed open, and Reep Daggle rolled back inside as a Tharnian wing monkey. “They’re on to you! Get out of here!” he cried. “I’ll try to hold them back in honor of the team I once knew!” He changed shape, and as a Jovian thunderlizard, he crashed into the angry squad of troopers. Huge green spikes jutted from around his shoulders, and his armored skin and fierce form gave pause to even the soldiers.
“We’re not deserting you!” said Saturn Girl. “Legionnaires, help him!”
Superboy blasted several of them across the field with a gust of super-breath. Saturn Girl jumped forward and kicked a trooper in the face as her husband hurled a lightning bolt to disarm another soldier. Lightning Lass did the same as she drove back other soldiers. Timber Wolf flipped through the air and crashed into a group of the startled troops as Blok used his imposing mass to knock others down. Cham altered his form with impressive speed as he dodged energy blasts and battled the troops.
Finally, the Legionnaires emerged victorious, and Superboy turned to Reep. “You’ve blown your cover,” he said. “You didn’t have to help us!”
The former Chameleon Boy smiled ruefully. “Once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire!”
Lightning Lass smiled and said, “That kind of sentiment gives me hope even in this dark world!”
Reep gestured across the estate, then followed the rest back inside the house. “If those soldiers don’t report in soon, more troops will be sent out to investigate. I can buy us time, like so!” He picked up a trooper’s communicator and assumed the form of the leader of the militia. Glancing at his uniform badge, he smiled a moment, then activated the monitor screen on the small device. “This Rynag. We’ve learned from Mr. Brande that his former protégés came here for help but fled when they spotted us. They are heading for Orando. We will attempt to gain more data from Brande before returning!” He closed the device and resumed his normal form.
“Now, while we have a bit of time, I suggest we head for the isle we used to hide from Mordru during Earthwar, “he said.
Ayla Ranzz nodded. “Exactly! It is one spot even the old Earthgov never knew we used!”
Marla Latham nodded in agreement. “Take my skimmer. They can trace your time bubble. Anything at all to do with time travel has been strictly regulated for years!” he said. Ayla kissed the old man on the cheek, and the heroes blasted off at top speed with Garth in the pilot’s chair.
“Marla will be OK,” said Reep. “He can hide out in one of our property holdings until things cool down. Perhaps he can throw them off our trail!”
“I read the minds of a couple of the soldiers back there,” said Imra. “They thought we were part of the Resistance!”
“So there is a group fighting against the new regime,” said Superboy.
Saturn Girl nodded. “Apparently this President Wellington is very xenophobic. She ordered all non-natives be deported or imprisoned. I suppose that’s why the soldiers fired on us. Obviously, some of us appear alien!”
“I hate to see this era reduced to a time of restriction and prejudice,” said Superboy. “It always gave me such hope for mankind when I came here from my time and saw how many things had improved since my era. I won’t allow the progress and enlightenment of the Legion I knew and loved be turned into some dark nightmare of distortion, death, and senseless change!”
“I agree,” said Blok. “Having enjoyed living among humans and observing their many odd nuances, I am loath to see society decay into such a condition of intolerance.”