“That took a lot out of me,” said Troy Stewart. “My throat feels like it’s raw!“
“Rest your voice, mon ami,” said Jacques Foccart.
“I’d better shift to my stone form,” said Dag Wentim. “This place looks dangerous!” The former Stone Boy turned into a rocky, statue-like form and moved forward. “Oh, I can move in this form now. Just need to be very careful.”
Timber Wolf glanced uneasily at the huge creature called Furball. It was eerie to see himself in such a state, and it distracted him continually.
“I think we’ve been discovered!” said the White Witch, gesturing to where a figure in a purple robe watched them from above. His hood concealed his features, and only darkness could be seen within the robe.
“Welcome, Legionnaires!” said the Time Trapper. “Welcome to the End of Time and the beginning of your own demise! I trust you found my little pocket universe diverting! That toy has given me great amusement over the eons. I simply had to share its myriad delights with you all before killing you.”
“You’re not the Controller we fought years ago, but the real Time Trapper!” said Saturn Girl. “I can sense as much!”
The Time Trapper laughed a bitter laugh and concealed his clutched hands beneath his voluminous robe. “Indeed. Very perceptive of you. The Controller merely served me as a pawn. He did play his role rather poorly, though. First, the Miracle Machine he sought to slay you with brought about his own defeat, then he was lured into the path of his own weapon by your Phantom Girl. A paltry pair of defeats for one who benefited from my power and was allowed to use my name. He deserved his death when I destroyed him.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Future Shock,” Legionnaires Three #1 (February, 1986).]
Superboy flew at him at super-speed. “We don’t care if every Time Trapper we’ve fought were fakes! We want Garridan back now!”
The Time Trapper raised one hand, and Superboy suddenly changed into an older man, who fell to the ground with a crash.
“Great Krypton! I’m powerless!” he said, rubbing an injured arm.
“Of course you are. I’ve used my control of all time to turn you into one of your many possible future selves,” said the Time Trapper. “This one sacrifices his powers via exposure to gold kryptonite after losing most of his beloved friends! I do enjoy that alternate future so much! It allows me to watch some very dear old partners from the adult Legion of Super-Villains!”
“I won’t let that become my future!” said Superboy. “All of those are merely possible futures!”
“Give us back our son!” demanded Saturn Girl.
“But which one?” asked the Time Trapper. “Do you want him as Validus, or would you prefer the one who follows in dear Mekt’s criminal footsteps?” He gestured again, and Validus and an adult Garridan Ranzz appeared, only to immediately attack their parents.
Imra Ranzz cried out in despair as she saw her child perverted once more through the malice of a foe. She felt his suffering was all due to her own fault, and she felt the agony only a mother could know at such a time.
Blok tried to hold back the massive Validus, even as the monster’s mental lightning bolts drove White Witch backward.
Saturn Girl rushed forward to see an adult Garridan wearing a green and red costume like that of his villainous uncle, Lightning Lord, alias Mekt Ranzz. “Garridan, resist him!” she begged, even as she danced aside to dodge a lightning bolt the transformed child hurled in her path.
Lightning Lad jumped in front of her and absorbed the bolts, although each one sent a stinging pain through his mind. “My lightning carries a mental shock with each bolt! I wager your puny mind can’t stand many of them, father!” mocked the altered Garridan.
“You aren’t my son!” said Garth Ranzz. “You’re just another in a series of twisted possibilities!”
Saturn Girl rolled across the ground and rose up to deflect the energy with her own powerful concentration. She was able to do so through some odd bond she detected between the energies of her son and her own mind.
Davis Ester, the former Calamity King, concentrated, and Validus suddenly slipped and fell directly into the other Garridan. “Bad luck for you means victory for me!” yelled the young hero.
Validus slammed both fists down as Timber Wolf pushed Superboy aside. “Move it! You aren’t the Boy of Steel anymore!” he grunted.
The Time Trapper gestured, and Jacques Foccart flickered back into view and screamed in pain, while Dag Wentim crumbled to dust. “Even a body of stone will crumble under the eroding weight of eons, and invisibility avails you little against one who can peek moments into the future to determine your every move,” laughed the Time Trapper. “This is especially true when I can push you backward in time until you never became a hero! Die, Invisible Kid! Die at the hands of your own sister while she was possessed by Computo!”
“Dag! Jacques!” cried Myke Chypurz. “You’ve killed them! Well, let me show you all that I’m more than a joke!” He activated the belt that enabled him to control weather, sending a surge of energy directly at the Time Trapper. But the blazing solar storm engulfed the former Storm Boy, and he was reduced to ashes.
“It was easy to alter the events of time and place that poor fellow directly in the path of his own weapon,” said the Time Trapper.
Reep Daggle changed form and became a winged predator. “No more attacks on him! We’re on his playing ground now!” he said.
“If he can change time, then he can restore Marzal, too!” cried Troy, swinging himself around to scream at the former Chameleon Boy, who resumed his normal form and began to choke.
“Cham! He can’t breathe! Tyroc’s removed all air from around him!” gasped Ayla Ranzz. Lightning Lass sent a bolt of lightning at Troy, who reeled backward and then rose again.
“It’s not personal!” said Troy. “I can save my people if I help the Trapper! Can’t you see? That’s why he allowed me to bring you here to begin with! He knew I’d turn on you!”
“Time Trapper, I won’t let you hurt anyone else!” shouted the former Superboy. “It’s me you hate! That’s why you removed me from the timeline of your pocket universe! Take me, but give them back their son!”
“And so I will, in time,” said the Time Trapper. “First, let me enjoy a bit of fun. I have few guests here at my little home!” He laughed as Calamity King’s efforts to turn the Trapper’s powers against himself only resulted in his own transformation into an infant, and then to nothing.
“Ester’s gone! It was like he was never born!” said Timber Wolf as he kicked Validus and darted out of his reach.
The White Witch chanted rapidly, and Troy fell backward in pain. “I have silenced you! You can no longer use your powers for good or ill!” she said. The former Tyroc fell to his knees in silent and impotent rage and sorrow. He had truly lost everything.
Lightning Lass blasted at Validus, even as Reep rose to his feet. “Furball, Tyroc, and I are the only ones left from the place you called the pocket universe!” he said. “If all I’ve ever known has been nothing more than a façade desired to amuse the Time Trapper, then I don’t want to go on living! Not if I can do some good by giving up my life!” He turned into a Morovian mauler and hurled himself at the Time Trapper. The tormented Furball followed him, and both of them cried out as raw chronal energy burned them like fire.
In a moment they were both gone, and the Time Trapper stood before the heroes. He waved one hand, and Troy Stewart also vanished. Timber Wolf cursed softly under his breath as he saw his counterpart’s sudden demise. “I have lived for eons beyond measure, and thus I am past the need for childhood toys. Let me remove all traces of my pocket universe, since it has served its purpose and brought you a bit of torment at what might still be!” said the Time Trapper. Turning, he said, “Let me also put away my dear friends, here. Gardianus, farewell.” Validus and the evil Garridan vanished as well, and Superboy found himself restored.
“Great Krypton! I have my powers and youth back!” cried the Boy of Steel.
The Time Trapper threw back his hood and revealed handsome if dark features and smiled malevolently. “It is time you knew the truth!” he said.
“By the moons of Saturn! You’re Dynamo-Boy!” cried Imra.
Smiling, he said, “I am so glad you remember me! I thought perhaps you had all forgotten me as I was, since you never bothered to try to rescue me all those years ago!”
“Your name was Vorm, of New Tortuga,” said Lightning Lad. “You posed as a hero called Dynamo-Boy and were admitted to the Legion. You joined as a ruse that enabled you to get rid of most of us in order to help the pirates for whom you worked! You admitted three members of the Adult Legion of Super-Villains to the team, and you pretended to be heroes by day while robbing like always by night! That’s why you said the timeline in which my brother Mekt, Saturn Queen, and Cosmic King became adult villains that opposed us from time to time was a favorite possible future of yours!”
“Exactly!” said Vorm. “But that plan of mine failed. I was betrayed by my allies. Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, and Cosmic King turned on me and banished me to the end of time! You defeated them, and you believed that they also returned to their proper eras. That was not strictly true!”
“When they sent you millions of years into the future, we had no possible way to track you down,” said Lightning Lass. “Brainy tried, but even he could not find out where in any number of limitless eras you had been hurled by Saturn Queen and the rest!”
“I ended up here, and I was changed by all I had witnessed in that terrible journey through time,” explained Vorm. “I gained knowledge far beyond anything I had known before. I became master of time itself. I, who had been trapped within a prison of swirling time, became the Time Trapper! I had lost my humanity but gained new power and a desire to use that power to hurt all who harmed me or might challenge me! It also gave me the chance to get a particularly ironic revenge upon the adult Legion of Super-Villains who betrayed me, although no one else knows exactly how I punished them. I must keep some of my secrets!”
“But surely that’s not possible!” said Lightning Lass. “We battled you as the Time Trapper before we ever faced you as Dynamo-Boy!”
Saturn Girl shook her head wearily. “No, Ayla, don’t you see? If he truly became the Time Trapper, then he would have been able to journey to a time before we met him as Vorm and fight us as the Trapper.”
The Time Trapper clapped his hands together and said, “Bravo, Imra! Your mind is as sharp as ever! You deserve a reward! Here, meet your son.” He spread his arms, and a child emerged from within the palace. He was around ten years old, and he had a lovely countenance. He looked at the Legionnaires slowly and said nothing.
Imra ran to him and said, “Garridan! It’s really him! Has he hurt you?”
“He can’t speak!” said Garth. “Don’t you see? He was Validus for so long that his mind never had a chance to develop. The poor boy is like an infant still. He’s suffered so much, but I swear he won’t suffer again!”
“Garridan has been a wonderful guest, just as Graym was before him,” said the Time Trapper. “Here where time has no meaning, he was able to stay under my care for a long, long time without ever aging. I rather liked keeping him as he is now, simple but delightful!”
He reached out to caress the boy’s hair, when Lightning Lad surged with electrical power. “You won’t torment us again!” he yelled as he blasted the Time Trapper with all of his power.
The Time Trapper smiled and shrugged off the effort. “Garth, you can’t harm me. I can displace your energy attack to a realm one moment out of sync with this one. Still, let me continue my tale. I changed from Vorm to the Time Trapper, and I relished my new role. I did indeed battle you on more than one occasion, although as you surmised, many of the times you waged war on a Time Trapper, you were simply dueling with a pawn, like the hapless Controller.
“Yet all good things must come to an end, and thus I allowed Ryssa the Mind Witch to restore Garridan Ranzz before I sent her back to her own era. Once she had cured him, I brought him to me. I did so to lure you into my pocket universe, as you also guessed. I enjoyed seeing your shock and dismay at how dark a future your sunny little club’s world could hold! I allowed Tyroc to bring you to me for added amusement. You see, though I have all the time in the world and more, I have run out of patience. It is time you all die!”
At that moment, he raised both hands in a fiery nimbus of energy. A glowing hourglass appeared in his raised hands. “When the sands of time touch you, you shall all be trapped in a maelstrom of time itself!” he cried. “You shall never know rest or peace as you are tossed through an infinity of time!” But before he could hurl the deadly energies of the glass at the Legionnaires, a pinkish bolt struck him with the speed of a thought. The assault came not from a Legionnaire but from the silent child named Garridan.
The Time Trapper cried out in surprise, and Superboy took that moment to bring the hourglass down on the Trapper’s own head. “No!” he cried as his own weapon’s glowing energy enveloped him, and he simply ceased to exist.
“Garridan, you saved us!” cried Imra as she hugged the little boy. He hesitated, then returned her embrace. It was perhaps the first one he had ever experienced.
Superboy shook his head. “I had no choice but to doom him to another infinite journey through time. It was all I could do to stop him!”
“Don’t worry, Superboy,” said Lightning Lass. “You did what had to be done! You saved us all!”
Garth lifted his son into his arms and said, “We’re back in our own headquarters! It’s like we never left!”
“And yet we have all been changed greatly,” said Blok, thinking about Mysa Nal as Mordru’s bride, and something shuddered inside the stolid native of Dryad.
Timber Wolf and Lightning Lass were kissing as they each recalled the dark fate that had befallen Brin Londo in that pocket universe. They vowed not to waste any more time by fighting over small matters.
The White Witch saw their happiness and smiled, but a shadow crossed her mind as she also wondered about what would happen to the Mordru of their own universe. She believed him to be trapped on Zerox, the Sorcerer’s World, but in truth, the evil wizard was loose.
Imra and Garth turned to their friends and she said, “You’ve all helped us save our child. We can’t think you enough! We have a lot to adjust to, as does he, but with friends like you around, we’ll manage just fine.”
“Does that mean you’re coming back to the team, too, Garth?” asked Brin.
“Not a chance,” said Garth. “I’m going to be busy getting our boys adjusted to what I pray will be a new and happy life. Imra will continue with the team, too, after a short leave.”
Saturn Girl nodded readily. “That’s right. We’re going to work on being a family, but I won’t ever leave my Legion family for long. Garth and I have found the arrangement is mutually satisfying. We’re happy living here on Earth.”
“And we’re going to start a family, right, Ayla?” asked Brin.
Ayla sputtered and blushed, then sighed in resignation. “Brin, you’re absolutely impossible… but I love you.”
While the heroes laughed and relished their victory, another being watched it all with equal pleasure.