Meanwhile, the Legion Academy pupils had made their way to Cargg and the home of Duo Damsel’s parents. The normally diverse group managed to pass for ordinary citizens of the odd world due to a series of preparations they had taken before leaving the spacecraft piloted by the Crystal Kid. All of them wore the transsuits that allowed them to endure the high levels of radiation and heat from the triple suns of the planet. However, as an added caution, they used distorters so their normal appearances were concealed.
On the way to the Durgo residence, the young heroes had discussed their plans in whispered tones. “Luornu said our attacker came from Cargg,” said Mentalla. “Apparently, any Carggian can tell if an individual from their world is in united form, or if he or she has replicated. While my powers do not work along the same lines as Saturn Girl’s, I do pick up vague mental images when I use my skills to take over someone’s motor skills.”
“You already told us that,” said Lamprey. “You said that the man in the flashy coat had such an inflated ego that your brief contact with him gave you a name — Farnum Zef — and the image of a type of holo-theater!”
“I hope the Durgo family can give us a tip on who he is and where his theater is located,” said Nightwind.
“We know the Braalian who attacked Comet Queen is Rik Dayn,” said Laurel Kent. “He was a former magno-ball champion as he claimed. He was banned from competition when he tried to injury a rival before a big meet.”
Jed Rikane frowned. “I still don’t get why we’re using the distorters. It’s not like we’re outlaws here or anything.”
“We don’t want to alert Luornu’s abductors that we are here,” replied Lamprey. “They could be around us or have allies here. While none of that group saw Mentalla except for this Zef fellow, we can’t take any chances.”
They approached the Durgo home, and the ever-confident Bobb Kohan knocked on the door. As the aging Silvou Durgo opened the door, the Crystal Kid said, “Mrs. Durgo? We’re from the Academy where your daughter works. May we come in? It’s rather urgent!”
She frowned and started to slam the door abruptly. “My daughter? I have no daughter!”
Before she could close the door, Mentalla took control of her body and forced her to open the door and step aside. The group filed inside and switched off the distorters.
“Please!” said an earnest Lamprey. “Luornu has been kidnapped by a man named Farnum Zef. He has some type of holo-theater here, or perhaps he will be performing at one. It is a matter of life and death that we find her!”
Silvou sank down on a sofa, and Mentalla turned to the to the others. “She truly feels as if Luornu is no longer her child!” she said.
Back at the theater complex, a helpless Luornu Durgo continued to experience her life with a powerful immediacy and no sense that she had lived through the events before. As she felt every emotion, so did the crowd watching her from below.
She had suffered the death of one of her bodies again. She had wrestled with her feelings for other heroic males like Invisible Kid and Superboy, and she had reached a new understanding with her parents at the cost of being accepted by her world. She felt anew the pain of being viewed as a misfit or aberration of nature.
However, she also found new love when Bouncing Boy made her laugh and made her feel special again. Chuck Taine was funny, caring, and loyal. He was also a capable hero beneath his façade of a clown. He taught her to feel worthy of love and life.
Then another brief love entered her life, which threatened to tear apart the tentative romance she and Chuck were building. Still, just as she had fallen for Invisible Kid and Superboy before, now she fell for the blond and powerful hero, Nam’Lor of Ikros.
She met him when one of her two bodies was on a mission while the other body relaxed with the sweet but rather ordinary Chuck. What happened next was equally unprecedented in Carggian history. One of her bodies became “blocked” from experiencing what the other did. The hero called Nam’Lor possessed a hyper-aura that somehow negated Lu’s normal rapport with her other body when they reunited. Thus, one of her bodies began a secret, torrid romance with Nam’Lor, and the other half remained unaware of the events even when the two bodies united. The energy of his aura also pushed Lu into forming a separate or split personality called Lelith. As Lelith, she adored Nam’Lor but also had a decidedly evil nature. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Half a Legionnaire?” Action Comics #380 (September, 1969).]
“My love, I would do anything for you!” boasted the brown-haired champion wearing a yellow costume with a green cape, belt, wristbands, and boots. He carried her in his powerful arms through a blossom-filled garden, and she savored the sensation of being so protected and cherished. Chuck could never overpower her so completely. She melted in Nam’Lor’s arms, and she swooned at his touch.
Lu also realized something as she felt the passion for Nam’Lor overcome her senses. Just as she had become two separate women while his energy influenced her personality, so did she now also feel freed from the hold the mento-broadcaster had over her when she was living life as just Luornu.
Now she shuddered in shock and horror and ripped herself free from the web of cables and wires that had held her in place. The crowd gasped as she interrupted their vicarious enjoyment of her past life.
Placing one hand to her head, Luornu Taine tried to make sense of it all. “That man from Cargg attacked me,” she said. “He placed me in that weird device, and I was forced to feel my every past emotion again for the entertainment of the crowd! He used me in a way unlike any type of abuse I’ve ever even heard of before!”
Farnum Zef turned to his allies. “Get her! We must return her to the mento-broadcaster before she gets away! Somehow experiencing her brief time as this Lelith split personality enabled her to break free of the machine!”
In orbit above Cargg, a small ship hovered, and two strange figures conferred in angry tones. “You claimed that Zef could acquire our target and delivery her into our custody,” said the taller man. “He has apparently taken her for his own purposes, which definitely do not coincide with our own.”
The gaunt form of the being called Karrion of Ghul shrank back from the larger man, but he retained his normal menacing manner. “I will get her back for us,” he said. “I will punish Zef for his treachery. Still, remember that I only help you because you promised to provide me with opportunities for greater levels of satisfaction!”
The other man smiled coldly. “I am aware that in many ways we are diametrically opposed to one another in terms of our goals. Still, I have indeed led you to sources of nourishment. I will offer you more prey in the future. I merely ask you to bring Luornu Taine to me intact! You did well on Shanghalla. We both gained what we wanted from that planetoid!”
Karrion glanced at an odd metal chamber and nodded in agreement. “That is correct. We did indeed,” he said with a grin.
“I don’t know how you forced me to let you inside my home, but I won’t help you,” said an outraged Silvou Durgo. “Your Legion has brought nothing but misery and loss to my family. My child died because of her misguided desire to be one of you. We managed to work out certain old problems when she returned home in order to die. However, she did not truly die. Perhaps it would have been better for us all had she died after that terrible day.”
“Mrs. Durgo, Luornu may still die if you won’t help us find a man named Farnum Zef,” said Lamprey. “He took her from our school.”
“Lu survived that attack,” said Silvou. “She lived on, and our own people considered her to be a monster or a misfit. We still saw her occasionally, although her visits here had to be in secret. We would still welcome her here if she had not defied us by doing something that made her far more of a pariah to us than her death ever did!”
“You disowned her because she married Chuck Taine!” said Nightwind in realization. “In your eyes, he was unworthy because he was not from Cargg! That marriage ended all communication between you and your daughter!”
Silvou began to weep. “That’s right. We could not face the way she had disgraced us with a single-body, so we told her that if she married that man, she would no longer be our child!”
“Please help us find her,” said Laurel Kent. “Even if you won’t claim her as your daughter, you can’t allow her to die!”
Humre Durgo emerged from the back of the house and said, “If our child is in peril, then we will help you. I don’t share my wife’s views. I’ve learned how precious life is, and I can’t see my Lu be harmed by anyone. For years she was a stranger to me. I’ve never admitted this before, but she and I have remained in touch. I couldn’t lose her again. I know you could not stand her marriage to the off-worlder, but I could not lose her a second time!”
Silvou stared at her husband in silence, and then, with a haggard expression on her face, she shook her head and said, “What can we do?”
“We know nothing of this Zef or why he would want to harm our child,” said Humre. “She made many enemies during her years with the Legion. I do know that one of my coworkers once spoke of a dive called the Sunless Sky. It is a nectar bar. Some rather unsavory types frequent the place.”
“Very well,” said Mentalla. “Thank you. We will go there, and we will try to find Luornu. She is our teacher, and in spite of your words, I sense that you truly care for her still.”
They reactivated the distorters and rushed out into the night, leaving the Durgos and their despair behind.
Luornu hesitated for a minute as she scanned the environment. She had suffered a terrible ordeal. However, she was a Legionnaire, and she was far from panic. She saw a powerfully built Khundish woman charging at her with a gleaming ax in one hand.
Since I doubt her boss wants damaged goods for his little psychic peep show, I have a slight advantage! she thought as she dropped to the ground and swung one leg out in an arc.
The heavier Battalia could not stop her forward charge in time to avoid Duo Damsel’s leg. She tripped and fell to the ground, even as Duo Damsel rolled away and jumped to her own feet.
A dart sliced by her ear as the green-skinned marksman named Nimbar fired a weapon from his long pipe. She frowned and then leaped directly into the crowd. “I hate to put anybody else at risk, but surely this group of show people won’t risk hurting their paying customers in order to get their hands on me!” she said.
She pushed through the startled crowd, ignoring the shouts and cries that rang out as she fought her way deeper into the mix. She was wearing a version of her original costume: a purple minidress and boots. She assumed Farnum had dressed her in it, since it was in that costume that she was best known to his public.
No flight ring, she realized. I can’t get away or summon help! I know poor Chuck and the kids must be worried sick! If I can get to a hiding place and collect my thoughts, I’ll be OK! She yelped as a burly Venturian grabbed her from behind. Duo Damsel replicated with enough impact to shake his hands away, and then she connected with two right hooks.
Glancing back, Luornu saw Zef and his allies rushed around in desperation. She stood on her counterpart’s shoulders and crawled through a ventilation shaft to the outside. She merged again as soon as she managed to get one body inside the shaft.
On the outside, Duo Damsel ran away from the holo-theater and realized that her best option was not one she would have chosen under other circumstances. She had to go home again. She raced off and gave thanks once more that she had maintained the physique of a heroine. In spite of her unimaginable ordeal, she could still think, move, and fight like a champion.
Duo Damsel frowned as a voice echoed from nearby, though she saw no one. She heard a raspy voice speaking in a tone of fierce excitement. “Luornu Taine! At last you are mine!” said the unseen male.
She whirled around, only to gasp as a weird being appeared from out of thin air. His face was gaunt, and his lips curled back to reveal a row of jagged or missing teeth. He had watery eyes without lids, and he wore a strange garment of rags. “Who are you?” she asked as she backed away and prepared to fight.
“Some call me Karrion,” he said. “My friend and I have wanted you for so very long!”
Duo Damsel aimed a high kick at his head, only to have him grab her ankle with astonishing speed. She flipped around and brought the other leg up in a swinging move she had learned years before from the late Karate Kid.
The grinning being from Ghul merely caught her other leg with equal dexterity and brought her head crashing down to the pavement. She groaned and replicated swiftly. Both bodies were hurt, but at least her odds seemed better.