Sometimes Thom Kellor of Xanthu felt like he simply could not get a break. He knew this was not strictly true, but the hero named Star Boy had experienced more than his share of ups and downs during his life. Now, the bearded young man stared up at the night sky and watched the stars that gave him his unique power to draw mass from the shining celestial bodies and project that mass as he pleased.
“The stars above us govern our conditions,” he said to himself.
“Wrong. If I may paraphrase the ancient Terran author you just quoted: the fault, dear Thom, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings,” said a slender young man with an earnest expression.
“Brek? And what does Polar Boy of Tharr know about William Shakespeare?” Thom said with a grin.
“While I know a bit about the Bard like most sentients, it’s my knowledge of you that enables me to offer that particular piece of wisdom,” said Brek Bannin, alias Polar Boy.
Star Boy turned to face his old friend and said, “OK, Brek, I admit that I was coping out, as they used to say, by blaming my problems on the stars. I mean, they did give me my powers when I was born on that orbiting observatory over the planet Xanthu, but they aren’t really to blame for my current problems with Nura.”
Brek rolled his eyes slightly and then clapped Thom on the shoulder. “Dream Girl is not the kind of girl to obey a star or listen to anybody else, anyway,” said Polar Boy. “I guess you’re so glum because she’s giving you the cold shoulder — no pun intended.”
Star Boy looked at the young man he had known for so long. Brek had really matured since their time together in the Legion of Substitute Heroes. (*) Brek was now a Legionnaire like Thom, and he seemed to really have his priorities and goals in order.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Legionnaire Who Killed,” Adventure Comics #342 (March, 1966).]
“You see, Brek, she has always been temperamental,” continued Thom. “She runs hot one minute and then cold the next. She started acting distant and angry a while ago. It started right after we returned from our brief vacation after she was freed from the possession that Dream Demon had over her. (*) I know things were fine, but since then she’s been acting really cold. She keeps pushing me away and snapping at me.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of.]
“Nura is really ambitious,” said Brek. “She loved being Legion leader. I’ve heard that she was none too happy with the way some of the members reacted to her version of leadership. Perhaps she wants to be leader again. We do have an election coming up!”
“She told me that she had no interest in the office, since politics gave her wrinkles,” said Thom. “Those were her exact words. You know how she presents that act of being totally shallow. That’s not it.”
“Maybe you should run for the office of Legion leader,” suggested Brek. “Nura is driven, in spite of her love for luxury. You know, you have not really changed much since your days in the Subs. Thom, you’re a bit complacent.”
Thom shook his head. “I prefer to think of myself as easygoing. Still, that’s not such a bad idea. I know Nura has made more than one comment about my needing to think for myself. If I show her that I have more ambition than she suspects, then she might thaw! I really would like to be the team leader, too. What people often forget is that I’ve been a member for a long time, and at one time I was its most powerful member!”
“That’s right!” said Brek. “You started out with those powers to create added mass, but when your spacecraft passed through a comet’s trail, you gained additional superhuman powers. It’s a shame they faded away.”
Thom smiled at his friend. “Thanks for the talk. You know we drifted apart after I left the Subs for the Legion, but I’m not going to let that happen again. How about joining Dirk, Gym, Jan, and I for some D and D?”
Brek smiled with pleasure. “That would be great!”
On the massive prison world called Labyrinth, two young women and an older man with oddly colored skin and one eye on an elongated stalk protruding from the center of his forehead stood around a still prisoner. The prisoner had reddish skin and was bigger than the others. He stared vacantly into space and whispered to himself in tones of despair.
Imra Ranzz, alias Saturn Girl, frowned in concentration as she placed both hands against the head of the alien called the Reanimage. He had only been a prisoner on the strange world for a few days. He had been captured by the Legionnaires following his abduction and experimentation on Luornu Taine, the heroine called Duo Damsel. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Triad of Terror.]
The blonde woman in the pink costume was perhaps the most talented pupil to ever leave the Mind Institute of Titan, and she was a determined and experienced heroine. Still, she could not work miracles, and after an hour she stepped back from the still figure of the Reanimage and looked at the attractive blonde girl in the blue and white costume. She was her sister-in-law Ayla Ranzz, alias Lightning Lass, and she understood Imra’s feelings without many words.
“I failed,” said Saturn Girl. “The Reanimage’s mad desire to revive the dead led him to restore Lu’s long deceased and destroyed third body and force her to merge with it again. That left her in a coma. I figured that perhaps a mind-scan of the Reanimage would reveal something that could help us cure her, but all I can see in his mind is an obsession with defying death that literally occupies his mind entirely. His passion is so extremely strong that every path I take within his mind leads to the same roadblock.”
Ayla stepped forward, even as Warden J’ss Toor-Tsaquin followed her. He had maintained a tight grip around her waist during the whole process, and her best efforts to disentangle herself from the alien’s overly affectionate grasp had failed, as he had continued to clutch at her in one manner of another.
“Imra, don’t be so hard on yourself,” she said. “We know you tried your best.”
Tsaquin placed both hands around Ayla’s own hands in sympathy. “That’s right, dear child! You can only do so much. How I wish your fallen comrade could be cured. I see nothing but failed lives here, and it would have moved me so very much had you managed to find the answers you sought!”
Ayla gritted her teeth and pulled free of his grip. “Thank you, Warden Tsaquin. We appreciate your help in arranging this.”
“Anything I can do to serve you will always be my eager priority!” he said. “You are all that is good and fine in the universe, and I hold a special place in my heart for you… and the Legion!”
Ayla and Imra departed the prison as they gazed up at the powerful engine that channeled energy directly from the binary star above to the prison’s elaborate system of stasis tubes.
“Poor Luornu is as much of a prisoner as any of the convicts within that cell,” said Imra. “I know Chuck is sick over the whole thing.”
“Warden Tsaquin’s pawing me was making me sick!” said Ayla. “If he wasn’t the warden of the place and thus an official with whom we need to keep a close and amicable contact, I would have shocked him slightly — just enough to make him retract that eyestalk! It makes me sick!”
“He obviously still has a crush on you,” said Imra. “You could simply be flattered by his attention.”
Ayla grimaced. “As an old engaged woman, you mean? Well, I’ll merely try to keep my temper and think of Brin!” She referred to her fiancé Brin Londo, the heroic Timber Wolf.
“Dr. Gym’ll could not revive Lu, either,” said Imra. “I guess we’ll have to try something more exotic. Brainy and Mon and Nura might find an answer. In any event, Legionnaires never give up!”
They flew away from the prison world called Labyrinth, and Saturn Girl pondered how that grim and silent world’s very existence offered proof of what the Legion of Super-Heroes could do. Countless criminals from dozens of worlds slumbered in stasis below them because of the courage and skill of the team of young heroes. Surely they would not fail one of their own when she was so much in need of help.
Back at Legion Headquarters, the elegant and graceful White Witch smiled with pleasure as the rocky hero named Blok entered the complex. His own stolid features seemed to reflect pleasure as well, if such a display was possible for one with such an unchanging demeanor. “Blok, my friend!” said the pale beauty. “I am glad to see you. I have something to discuss with you. I believe you should run for Legion leader. You combine solid judgment with a fresh perspective. You could do well in such a role!”
“Mysa, I appreciate your confidence in me,” said Blok. “However, surely it would be inappropriate for one such as I to presume to run for the office. I am not even human.”
Mysa frowned and said, “Blok, your humanity is so vast it dwarves that of so many others! You may not be the same type of being as most of us. But you must realize that the Legion’s very diversity is its strength. Reep, Drake, and Quislet are but a few of our members who lack a traditional appearance. Drake Burroughs is a being composed entirely of energy. It is only his containment suit that gives him even the semblance of humanoid form! Yet he served as Legion leader in the past!”
Blok said, “Mysa, Wildfire was a human from Earth before his accident robbed him of a material form. He may not look like a man, but his perceptions and his frame of reference is that of a human. I am different.”
Mysa stood up and took his hand. “Blok, what makes you different can make you a good leader. You will see things in ways the others cannot. Please run!”
Blok hesitated and then replied, “I will consider it. Perhaps you are correct. I know better than to question your wisdom.”
Within her private room, Mysa’s sister Nura Nal, alias Dream Girl, pouted within her senso tub. She had wanted to regain the office of leader. However, Nura’s ability to see the future had enabled her to see that she would neither run for the office nor win it. That odd awareness left the stunning Naltorian with a sense of irritation for events that had not even occurred as yet.
I still fume at the memory of how Jo Nah refused to serve under me during my term, she thought. Most men would jump at the chance. Still, what really irks me is the fact that Thom is going to run for office. He may not even know that yet. I know he will not run merely to spite me, even though I’ve been rather cold to him lately. The poor dear doesn’t think like that. For some reason, it bothers me that my teammates prefer my man to me.
She brought one hand down into the water with a splash and then reclined within the tub. As the carefully regulated combination of aromas, textures, and sensations washed over her, she smiled and stood up. The dry jets washed over her, and she stepped out of the tub. She reached for a filmy robe and then smiled before her wall mirror. Hmm… maybe I’ve been looking at this whole thing in the wrong way, she thought with a sigh. Thom will need a lot of help in order to lead effectively. He’s simply too easygoing to take charge. He never could do that with me, and he won’t be able to do so with the others, either. He’ll need my help, and since I have years of experience wrapping Thom around my finger, I should be able to get him to do as I say. Let him become a great leader — as long as I lead him!
Thus a plan was born.
The actual election began a day later with Star Boy, Blok, and Sensor Girl as the three candidates. The voting process was rather simple, since all it consisted of was each member, including the two senior advisors, casting their vote via the computer system governed by Computo. Various monitor boards recorded each member’s vote by their special symbol, followed by the symbol of the candidate they selected. None of the three candidates campaigned in any obvious manner, although Thom Kellor exulted in the fact that he and Nura had reconciled with all the passion and abruptness with which they had previously argued.
Sun Boy and Brainiac 5 sat across from each other in the recreation room as a game of D and D occupied their attention. “You know I like Blok, but I voted for Thom,” said Dirk Morgna. “I can’t see why you didn’t vote for our old gaming pal!”
Brainiac 5 rested his chin on one hand as he manipulated a holographic image of a wizard across the table. “Dirk, I do not allow friendship to influence me in making such a decision,” he said. “I support Blok completely. He has a remarkable mind and is capable of surprisingly astute observations. He was the one who deduced the fact that the renegade Green Lantern we fought long ago became Universo. He deduced as much from his near-obsessive viewing of our archival tapes. (*) I feel that with his unique perspective, calm manner, and familiarity with Legion history, he could do an excellent job! Based on the votes, several of the founders agreed with my assessment. By the way, your knight has suffered enough hit points damage to be considered deceased!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Origin of the Universe File,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #295 (January, 1983).]
Dirk blinked in surprise as his character fell at the wizard’s feet, and another game ended abruptly. He smiled and shrugged. “Could be you have a point there!”
Element Lad wasn’t thinking about the election. Jan Arrah was rather glad to be leaving office as Legion leader. He was eager to devote some more time to his role as a big sibling and to the other charitable organizations the sole survivor of the doomed planet Trom cared about so deeply. The sensitive blond had voted for Star Boy, and he felt certain that his team would be in good hands with the hero of Xanthu.
Jan turned to see the lovely blonde Science Police Officer Shvaughn Erin enter the monitor room. She was the S.P. liaison to the Legion, and she was romantically involved with Jan as well. “Shvaughn, I’m happy to see you,” he said. “The final results of the election should be coming in soon. When they do, why don’t we go out and celebrate my newly gained freedom?”
Shvaughn glanced left and right, then sat on his lap. Jan smiled and blushed slightly with pleasure. She smiled broadly. It was his shyness that endeared him to her, along with other notable qualities. “That sounds like a great idea,” she said. “You’ve been carrying the weight of the world on those shoulders for far too long. Jan, you’ve earned a break.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I am eager to pass the role to someone else, but I regret so many things that happened on my watch. We lost Val. The three founders took senior advisor status. The Crisis struck our time. Kid Psycho died. Tellus was injured. The Emerald Empress almost conquered Earth. Universo actually did take over the whole U.P. Council! We even had those membership problems as Reflecto II and Sensor Girl turned out to truly be Duplicate Boy and Princess Projectra. Now look at what’s happened to poor Duo Damsel!”
Shvaughn placed one hand on his lips and said, “Shhh! Stop the recriminations. Val would have died no matter who had been leader. He died to save his wife and her world. Projectra is still with the team, and it is helping her get past her loss. She is even more effective, since only the team and Gigi and I know the secret of her powers. Saturn Girl has returned to active duty. You all defeated the Emerald Empress and Universo, and Imra and Garth found their previously unknown child. That even removed Validus as a threat. I know Duo Damsel will be cured in time. I think you did a great job. The others agree with me.”
“You always make me feel better,” said Jan. “Maybe you have super-powers too. Elation Girl?”
She kissed him, and neither of the two noticed the final votes register on the monitor board. Star Boy was the winner. Blok came in second. A new era had begun.