Farnum Zef rubbed his hands together with delight. He almost danced across the room as he saw the crowd out front. “Farnum Zef, you darling man! I would marry you if I was a woman!” he said as he spoke to one of his own separate forms.
“Fanum Zef, no one woman would be enough for the master showman!” said his second self.
“Indeed, why should we limit our magnificence to a paltry few?” offered the third body.
The three separate bodies moved together, and in a moment they were united as a single being. The showman turned to the scornful Beautee and said, “You see? I was right. By taking Duo Damsel and keeping her for our exhibition, we have raked in a fortune in one night! Think of how wealthy we will be in weeks! The Carggian underworld and the bored and wealthy upper classes that seek something illicit with which to amuse themselves will fill our pockets with glorious gold of one type or another! Who would not pay to experience the inner life of a freak?
“Luornu Durgo, the famous heroine Triplicate Girl, was adored by all,” he continued. “When the death of one of her bodies failed to kill her entirely, she became an object of horror and curiosity to all. She should have died. She should have been a corpse. However, she lived on! She is the walking dead. She is a box-office blockbuster! Now that we have placed her in the mento-broadcaster, her every intimate moment is being vicariously experienced by the hungry masses out there. Did you see how even her teen angst held them spellbound? She is the best thing to ever happen to Farnum Zef’s Exhibition of Exhilaration!”
Beautee nodded slowly. “Oh, the others agree that you’ve pulled off a real money-making stunt in turning the Legionnaire into a human sideshow for the idiots out there. Still, what about the consequences?”
Farnum placed one gloved hand across his brow in mock pain. “You wound me! I swear it! You damage my tender heart! I know we can keep her here for a short time only. Then we’ll move on outside of U.P. space, and our show will continue to make us wealthy. Oh, she’ll be just another amusement in realms where the world of Cargg and the Legion itself are not known, but even as one of many freaks in our glorious show, she will pay off!”
“I know we can dodge her pals in the Legion,” said Beautee. “They truly have only made their presence known in a rather small amount of the known universe. Still, we were hired to bring her to someone. We were working in our secondary capacity as kidnappers when we were paid. We weren’t supposed to put Duo Damsel on exhibit. We were paid to give her to that Ghulian named Karrion! He’ll come after us!”
Zef frowned and contorted his agile features. “Well, we’ll just have to be sure he doesn’t find us!”
Luornu Durgo felt the pain and anger once more as she saw how her parents reacted to her announcement that she wanted to leave Cargg and join the Legion of Super-Heroes. Her mother was upset and tried to talk her into staying on Cargg and pursuing her other interests, while her father merely turned away from her in apparent disgust.
“Why can’t you study geology, archeology, or one of the other sciences?” begged her mother, Silvou Durgo. “You love the library. You’re a natural scholar. Stay here!”
“Mother, father, I can study those things and much more as a Legionnaire,” Lu said. “I can see the universe and help those in need. What we take for granted is a super-power to those who live elsewhere. I could be a real heroine!”
“Lu, the world away from Cargg is full of races that can’t replicate,” said Silvou. “They are very different from us. They are strange, and it is best that you avoid them.”
The teenager shook her head. Her mother was so reasonable about most things, but she possessed an unshakable prejudice against non-Carggians. She referred to them as single-bodies, and she looked on them as unworthy of her child.
She turned to the elegantly gray-haired Humre Durgo, but he had merely shouted, “If you want to throw away everything we’ve given you here for some foolish dream, then go — but if you go, you are no longer my daughter!”
Luornu responded with angry tears and harsh words, “I will go! If you even knew me as more than a child, you’d see how important this is to me!”
Making her way to Earth shortly after, Lu met each of the individual Legionnaires separately. When each of her separated selves brought the other three heroes together, she merged again, to the surprise of even the perceptive Saturn Girl. She was accepted and became the first non-charter member of the new organization, calling herself Triplicate Girl.
As Triplicate Girl, Luornu relished life as a Legionnaire, and she saw many amazing things. She risked her life for the betterment of the universe, and she made friends. She also embraced a world view that allowed her to reject her mother’s ideas and find much to admire about the aliens in the Legion.
She felt a rush of excitement as a handsome young man named Lyle Norg joined the team in time as the amazing Invisible Kid. His keen intellect appealed to her, and she developed a crush on him. However, Lyle never returned her affections, and she despaired of winning him over.
Lu’s passion for Lyle ended when she found a more dynamic hero to take his place in her heart. It was a romance that was doomed to fail by history itself, since Lu fell for the twentieth-century legend named Superboy when he joined the team via time travel.
“He’s wonderful!” she sighed. “He has everything any girl could want in a man! He’s smart, funny, caring, and so handsome!”
From that moment on, Lu vowed to make herself attractive to the young hero. She began to use any feminine trick to gain his sympathy and attention. However, even her brief time spent in his own era disguised as the niece of Chief Parker of Smallville failed to make him see her as more than just a friend. His heart belonged to Lana Lang and would eventually become the property of yet another woman. Still, though history told Lu she was chasing the wrong man, she could not change the way she felt.
As she rested in the Parker home during a case in which she and her friends were hiding out in Superboy’s era in order to escape from the evil might of Mordru the wizard, she enjoyed the amazing things she saw and heard. (*) She knew that if she had remained on Cargg, no amount of study could have brought the past so alive for her. Still, for all of her academic desires, she was also a young girl with a loving heart and an ache for the way things had been left unresolved with her folks. She thought of Superboy and how, even though she was near him, he could not care for her, and she wept.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Mordru the Merciless,” Adventure Comics #369 (June, 1968).]
I guess Superboy really doesn’t have a reason to flip for me, with Lana Lang and countless other girls worshipping him! she thought, inwardly sobbing. It’s silly of me… on thirtieth-century history tapes, I’ve seen who he’ll marry when he grows up to be Superman! But I can’t help it!
As she relived her life, and every intimate emotion and feeling was broadcast directly to the crowd who sat in their own senso-chairs and literally lived through the woman’s experiences, Lu could not realize that she was now an adult woman with a husband. She only felt each moment of pleasure or pain as if it happened anew for the first time. Such was the effect of Farnum Zef’s machines, and he used them to maximum effect.
In a series of less-crowded neighboring chambers, other crowds watched and lived through the other captives in his famed exhibition, since the master showman and his allies had abducted many other colorful figures from across the galaxy.
Farnum Zef felt nothing about exploiting these poor prisoners and ripping open their innermost secrets for all to experience. He merely saw it all as good business. He whistled as he strolled along and never gave his actions a single thought.
When the crowd screamed out in echo of Luornu’s own death-cry as the evil robotic Computo killed one of her bodies with a brilliant burst of red energy, Zef stopped in his tracks for a moment. (*) Then, as he saw his customers lean forward and savor the sensation of the new and unexplained as inexplicably Luornu Durgo lived on after one of her bodies was reduced to ash, he smiled and continued his stroll.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Computo the Conqueror,” Adventure Comics #340 (January, 1966).]
Luornu Durgo felt the agony of loss and fear. She did something most races could only dream of in a dark and twisted nightmare of the soul. She mourned for herself. She grieved for the loss of her own body, and she waited for her death to come. Could even the moment her body was turned to dust and ash have been as painful as the silent hours of waiting to die that followed that encounter?
“No Carggian can live when one of his or her forms dies. If a Carggian dies while separated, the other bodies die shortly thereafter!”
Those sad if clinical words came from the brilliant Brainiac 5 himself. He and Invisible Kid had conducted tests on Lu after they greeted her other two bodies with joy and amazement during the memorial service just after her ashes were sent by rocket ship to Shanghalla. They listened with interest as she explained that she had revived after her other two bodies had inexplicably survived. It had only taken a short amount of time for the initial shock of death to wear off. She put on a brave face for her fellow Legionnaires, who rejoiced to see her alive, and she even gave herself the new name of Duo Damsel. But inwardly she was in complete and total agony from losing one-third of herself.
“I’m going to die,” she said to herself. “I can’t live much longer! Computo has been defeated, and Superboy has no future with me. I have no choice except to accept that my own death is coming. I have to make good use of my time. I have to go home!”
Lu had visited home only once since joining the Legion, as she had resumed contact with her mother via compu-mail, and she knew that her career had made her parents proud of her, although both still carried reservations about her choice. Now she made her way up the drive of their home on Cargg, and she smiled as she felt the warmth of the triple suns on her bare arms and back once again.
Humre answered the door, and his lined face changed as he saw his child. “Luornu? How can it be? Come inside!” he said as he took her hand and led her inside the home she had known from childhood.
Silvou rushed in and embraced her tearfully, and the family sat down to a meal and a troubled but necessary talk. “We thought you had died!” said Silvou. “Phantom Girl told us as much!”
“I did die. I was separated in three bodies when that thing killed me,” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks. “My friends did not understand that my other two bodies could re-form and survive for a short time. That’s why Tinya gave you all the sad news as she did. I am dying, but I want to do so with you. I want you to forgive me for the way I left. I want the unsaid things that have lingered between us all to finally be expressed! I don’t even know where to start!”
Hours passed. Days passed. What started as a deathwatch or a slow march into infinity was transformed into a surprisingly joyous reunion as the Durgos finally found each other. Lu and Humre made peace with the past, and they began to truly relate to one another as adults and peers. Lu found the whole experience to be rewarding, and finally the fear disappeared completely.
However, other new fears loomed on the horizon like dark storm clouds over a sea. The first signs of the storm came when Lu learned that the medical community of Cargg had declared her to be a mystery their science could not solve.
“How can she live? She is not truly alive!” announced one leading scholar. “She is a composite of the dead and that which merely mimics life!”
“She is a wraith! She is the living dead!” whispered a superstition old woman.
Lu felt the shame of being apart from all others of her world. She was unlike them, because she had performed a miracle. She had lived as a dual being. What made her different also made her something to be feared or scorned. It soon became all too clear that Lu Durgo the heroine was not welcome on her own world.
She had tearfully parted from her parents, and she had returned to the Legion as Duo Damsel. She was still accepted by them, but that was only because none of the others truly understood what her death at the hands of Computo meant in terms of the cultural beliefs of Cargg.
“My folks love me, but even they can’t face down the fear and ignorance of the whole planet! I can’t go home again for long. I bring the media down on them and ruin their lives. Dad worked too hard for too long to lose the peace and privacy he values so much. I understand him now, thanks to our time together, but I know I don’t belong on Cargg anymore, either!”
She had lost a home, and she had sacrificed a family in order to spare them what her condition would bring upon them. She tried to look ahead, and as the heroine called Duo Damsel, she managed to succeed as a heroine without ever losing the feelings that haunted her and made her doubt her own self.
Why did I live? What made me so different? she wondered. If I had died then, I would be an honored heroine on Cargg. My folks would be respected and honored. Instead, by living on as a misfit of science, I’ve cost them all sense of privacy and normalcy. I’m not Triplicate Girl, the heroine of Cargg. I’m Duo Damsel, the freak!