Later, the bruised and battered pupils of the Legion Academy stood over the prone form of their teacher as Nightwind adjusted the medi-chamber controls within their building. “The poor darling! He’s too adorable to die!” wept Comet Queen as she bent over Bouncing Boy’s still form.
“He’s not going to die,” said Laurel Kent. “The medi-computer scan shows he’ll come around in another day or so. That’s when the drug they shot him with should wear off, based on what we know of his altered metabolism. Your own unique metabolism enabled you to shake off most of its effects much more swiftly.”
Comet Queen turned to her best friend in the school and took her hands. “Oh, L.K., do you really think he’ll turn out as totally nova as he was before?” she asked.
Laurel smiled and patted the other girl’s odd orange hands. “He’ll be fine,” she said. “I promise.”
“That’s easy for you to say, since you are invulnerable,” snapped Mentalla. “I suppose your inability to catch a chill enables you to parade around nearly nude like that, or are your assets your only super-powers?”
“Why, you sarcastic witch!” retorted Laurel. “I’ll show you my powers!” She started to grab the blonde from Titan, when Lamprey jumped between them and allowed her electrical charge to separate them.
“Hold it!” said the green-hued girl. “You two need to calm down. We have to work together. Bouncing Boy will be fine, but he is hurt. Duo Damsel is missing, and we know nothing about our attackers. We need to contact the Legion. Wildfire will know what to do.”
Power Boy stared sadly at the fallen Bouncing Boy. “This is all my fault,” said Jed Rikane. “If only I had tried to fight that marksman you said shot Mr. Taine! Instead, I tried to stand up to that evil woman, and I lost as usual!”
“Cheer up, Jed,” said the Crystal Kid. “We all lost. There’s nothing wrong with that. A little team called the Legion has suffered its share of temporary losses, too, but it has kept on going! The big question is, how do we find those goons and rescue Duo Damsel?”
Nightwind swept one hand through her long silvery hair and said, “You’re kidding! Even a guy with an ego like yours should know better! Wildfire is the one we need! I’ll call him right now.” She started to walk over to the communications center when the room darkened around her. “I can’t see!” she gasped.
“That’s because I used my power to negate your vision,” said Mentalla. “I’ll return it now. I just had to get your attention! I know where they took Duo Damsel. When she and I were surprised by our attacker, I heard her say he came from her home planet of Cargg!”
Nightwind rubbed at her eyes as her vision returned. “Delya, if you ever use your powers on me again, I’ll make you sorry. I may not be a Legionnaire yet, but the women of my line have carried our mastery of the winds for eons, and I will not allow anyone to make me their toy!”
Mentalla inclined her head slightly and said, “Forgive me. I merely wanted to make sure you heard my plan before you summoned your energy knight in his shining containment suit!”
“OK, let’s hear it,” said Lamprey.
Mentalla crossed the room confidently and said, “We all want to become Legionnaires. What better way to impress the team and show them that we are worthy than by rescuing one of their most esteemed former members? We go to Cargg, and we free Luornu.”
“That’s a great idea,” said Crystal Kid. “I mean it! We take my dad’s starcraft. It’s no Legion Cruiser, but it will get us to Cargg.”
Laurel Kent smiled slightly. “Bobb, are you serious?”
“We better not,” said Power Boy. “We might make things worse!”
“We can’t leave Chuck like this!” said Comet Queen.
“Of course we can’t,” said Mentalla. “We will have you stay by his side and guard him all by yourself. He’ll be so proud of you. You are still weakened from the drug, so you should stay here, anyway. If we get into any trouble we can’t handle, you can summon the Legion. Still, that won’t happen!”
Crystal Kid almost shouted in excitement. “Yeah! We’ll rescue Duo Damsel and be heroes!”
“My uncle gave me these powers so I could be a hero like he was,” said Lamprey. “I would like to justify his faith in me by becoming more than a pupil.”
“I don’t know about this, but I’ll go along with you all,” said Nightwind.
“Your esteemed ancestors would be so proud!” said Mentalla with a smirk.
Luornu Durgo was a sixteen-year-old girl again. She was like all the other natives of Cargg, or Carggg as it was occasionally called. She had three bodies that could each perform independently of the others while retaining the ability to merge together into a single body. Anything one of the bodies learned while separated from the rest was acquired by the single unit when they united.
She wore the very brief clothing that was natural on her tropical world. The three suns bathed her in warmth, and she relished the feeling. It was completely normal to feel that way, and she was normal. She was pretty and smart, and her parents were proud of her, or at least her mother was. She was popular, too. Boys liked her.
Splashing around in Lake Ocano, she glanced beneath her long lashes at Road Nev as the handsome dark-haired boy approached her. “Lu, you look great today!” he said. “Why don’t we go to the holo show tonight?”
Lu smiled with pleasure and split into three bodies to match the boy who had done the same thing. “Why, Road Nev! I thought you were seeing Konne Gard. Don’t tell me you’re three-timing her? And I thought you were different from the other boys!” she said, teasing him, then waited eagerly for his reply. She knew her father would be angry if he discovered his proper daughter flirting with a boy. Still, she was young, and after all, why shouldn’t she have a bit of fun?
Road wiped water out of his eyes and left that one cute spit-curl hanging down above his eyes. She thought that was such an appealing look. “Lu, Konne and I broke up,” he said. “We were never that close. You were always more my type!”
One of Lu’s triplicates drew closer to the boy and said, “Well, Road, we’ll go if you promise we can actually watch the movie… part of the time!” Lu almost blushed as her other body flirted shamelessly. Like all Carggians, Lu and her separate doubles occasionally displayed slightly different personalities. In extreme cases, psycho-care was mandated for those who showed truly radical differences when they were separated.
That evening, Lu slipped into a silvery-fringed mini dress and heels and posed before a mirror. She heard footsteps and turned to see her mother, Silvou Durgo, watching her with a smile on her face. “You look lovely!” she said. “Be sure and go down to show your father. He always sulks when you leave without saying goodbye.”
Lu shook her head. “Father never even looks up when I talk. He always grunts the same reply, no matter what I say. I could tell him that I married a Durlan, and he would just nod and say, ‘Uh-huh.'”
Silvou took Lu’s hand and said, “Luornu, your father works very hard for us. He is tired after a day at the factory. He doesn’t like his job. He keeps it for us. He keeps a lot of his feelings inside. He loves you, even if he doesn’t show it very clearly!”
Lu sat down on the nearest of her three beds and sighed. “Mother, he acts so distant,” she said. “He’s never cruel, but he and I can’t find things to say to each other. I mean, I try, but the words just seem to run out!”
“When you were a little girl, he always brought you presents,” said Silvou. “I think he felt that buying you something was as good as talking to you. Now that you’re almost an adult, he needs to find a new relationship with you, but he doesn’t really see that. He doesn’t think in terms of feelings. Try to reach him!”
Lu nodded slowly. It hurt her to think that she and her father really didn’t know each other. They had no relationship beyond that of parent and child. It made Lu feel strange. She had discounted the whole matter for a long time. She just thought her father was not close to her and never would be. That was the end of the matter. Old people were strange in many ways. For example, few older Carggians ever separated their forms, since doing so required more energy than they cared to expend.
She followed her mother to where Humre Durgo sat reading a compu-book. “Daddy, I’m leaving on my date with Road. He’s a nice boy. You don’t need to worry. Do you like my dress?” she said in a rush of breath.
Humre glanced up and said, “Very nice, dear. Call if you’ll be late. Do you have a few extra credits in case you see something nice at the plaza?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “Thanks.”
Silence seemed to hang in the air between them. Words unsaid and feelings unexpressed weighted her down. She opened her mouth but said nothing as she turned and walked away. She felt guilty and ashamed, because it was all too clear in her mind that Humre also realized how little he and his daughter had to say to one another.
While she and Road sat together in the holo complex, her mind wandered. She was uncertain what her future would hold; she was restless. She considered becoming a teacher, but she had a desire to travel as well. She hoped some direction would come to her soon. She did not want to settle for a mundane life like her mother’s.
Before the holo started, the Intergalactic News Agency presented a short piece about current events from around the universe. Lu loved these videos, since they showed her life on other planets with people very different from those she knew.
“R.J. Brande, the industrialist and star-maker, has announced that he will be financing a new organization of young do-gooders called the Legion of Super-Heroes,” said the lively holo news woman. “The group will be based on Earth and will offer teens from across the galaxy the chance to use their talents or gifts to further the cause of justice. As you all will remember, the trio of Legionnaires consisting of Rokk Krin, Imra Ardeen, and Garth Ranzz inspired Brande when they used their own powers to rescue him from a group of assassins! So, all of you youngsters who want to be the next Questar should rush to Earth and try out for the new group!”
Road caressed Lu’s back as he leaned closer to her and blew in her ear. She abruptly jerked away as possibilities filled her mind. I could do that! I could help people! I could be a Legionnaire! she thought as her heart raced, and she imagined the exciting possibilities before her. If I’m the first Carggian to join the team, then my native ability to triplicate would count as a super-power!
“What’s the big idea?” asked Road. “Why are you leaving?”
“Sorry, Road,” said Luornu Durgo. “I have to go. I have to get ready. I’m leaving Cargg!”