Multivac: the name was synonymous with medical science’s last hope. The critical care facility had been established in permanent orbit over Mercury by the United Planets decades ago with the mission to provide the finest care and attention possible for those patients who were beyond the ability of traditional hospitals to treat. The huge facility contained four different levels and was equipped with the best technology the U.P. worlds could provide or create. Null-gravity chambers and intergalactic detoxification centers were among the satellite’s unique features.
Bouncing Boy knew all of this, and he had brought medical scans of his comatose spouse to Multivac in the hope that something could be done for Duo Damsel. Chuck Taine had been reluctant to face the fact that Luornu Durgo Taine was in such a dire state, but he now realized his options were running out. His friends had failed to provide a cure, and the rotund hero had journeyed to Multivac in search of a final hope. That hope had been dashed when an equally heavy Venusian named Dr. Regius Glen had returned the medical scans after a lengthy consultation.
“I am afraid we can offer you little hope,” said the doctor. “We can maintain her vital signs and keep her as she is for an indefinite time, but we cannot revive her. Frankly, her condition is beyond anything I have experienced. She is trapped within a state of limbo. She hovers between life and death. I would be doing you an injustice to pretend that I had any answers.”
Bouncing Boy’s plump face had fallen in grief. He nodded resolutely and said, “Thank you for your time.”
Mon-El, alias Lar Gand of Daxam, stood by his friend and offered his support. “Chuck, we had to try,” he said. “Now we’ll just have to think of something else. You can count on us to stand by you both.”
Magnetic Kid, alias Pol Krinn of Braal, listened to the older Legionnaires with sorrow etched across his young features. The younger brother of Cosmic Boy, who had been one of the team’s founders, was rather new to the team. He had trained at the Legion Academy as operated by Chuck and Luornu Taine, and he felt for his teachers. He mourned for their loss and wished desperately that he could offer more than silent support.
When those bombers killed Mom, I thought I would die, too, he thought. I would have given up if Rokk had not been there for me. It was that event that made me want to learn to be a hero at the academy. (*) I figured maybe I could be like him and prevent other folks from suffering such a loss. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel really helped me reach that goal. I owe being on the team now to their lessons. Now I’d give anything if I could do something to help Luornu! I feel so helpless.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “What Do You Do on the Day After Doomsday?” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #296 (February, 1983) and “Mettle,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #297 (March, 1983).]
Chuck glanced at the young man in the pink and black costume and said, “Pol, thanks for coming with us. I appreciate having the support of the kids from the academy, and you represent them well!”
“All of the pupils are praying for you both,” said Pol. “Berta, Jed, and the rest told me that before we left.”
A silvery construct flew into view and hovered before their faces. The tiny spaceship contained another rookie Legionnaire named Quislet. The unseen energy being could not leave his sanctuary for long, but he had become a useful member of the team, and his enthusiasm, excitement, and good humor had made him as welcome as his powers of matter animation. “Quislet made the younglings smile,” he said. “Quislet enjoyed seeing them, although Quislet wishes he could make them better!”
“I’m sure the children appreciated your time with them,” said Mon-El. “I was happy to visit with them as well. I suppose we might as well be going now.” He frowned as his dark eyes stared off into space and his super-senses allowed him to detect events that occurred beyond the satellite. “By the moons of Daxam!” he cried. “We’re under attack!”
Mon-El turned to his friends and said, “A cloaked battle cruiser is dead ahead. It just dropped its shielding and is firing on us!” He flew out of the nearest air lock at super-speed and soared into space. Normally the mightiest of all Legionnaires relished traveling through the silent void of space. He had the explorer’s passion for such broad and uncharted expanses. However, as the young hero saw the impressively armed warship looming in his path, he could only think of the danger the patients below were facing.
To paraphrase my “kid brother,” this looks like a job for Mon-El! he thought, blocking a red beam that came out of the warship as he flew closer. That was a death ray at highest intensity. The attackers aren’t trying to board Multivac at all! They want to kill everyone aboard! That’s not going to happen if I can help it!
Ignoring the laser fire, Mon-El smashed through the hull. His super-senses had already alerted him to the fact that the cruiser’s automatic defenses would reseal the hole and prevent the crew from dying or being pulled into space. He saw the crew consisted entirely of uniformed and masked soldiers in costumes all too familiar to him. “The Dark Circle! I should have known it was merely wishful thinking when we assumed your little band of killers had been finished off!” he announced. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secret of the Dark Circle,” Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #324 (June, 1985).]
“Legionnaires!” cried out one of the masked soldiers. “Kill him at any cost!”
Mon-El smiled grimly as a barrage of weapon fire struck his invulnerable form from every angle. He spun around at super-speed like a human top, allowing the sheer force of his movement to sweep the crew across the bridge like helpless dolls in a storm.
A hulking Dark Circle trooper raced into view from below deck. He raised a palm blaster and watched in satisfaction as its energy knocked even Mon-El flat. “A bio-blast designed for your kind should weaken you enough that we can finish our business here!” he hissed.
Mon-El struggled to rise to his feet as the painful energy convulsed his body. Got to fight it! he thought. Too many lives are depending on me!
A Dark Circle trooper noticed the progress, or lack thereof, their attack on Multivac was making and called out, “Weapons systems are shattered! Even more conventional attacks are not getting through! The wreckage is re-forming itself faster than we can create more! It’s shielding the satellite or smashing into our own craft!” He gasped as the ship shook from sudden impact.
Pol’s magnetism and Quislet’s matter-animation, deduced Mon-El as he fought his way forward and slapped the Dark Circle soldier aside.
The communications system of the ship suddenly loomed up with a strange beaming face. Quislet had entered the ship and was animating the system. “Quislet here now!” he chirped. “Fun may begin!”
As he departed from the communications system, the system exploded, and he quickly darted from one handgun to another, leaving a trail of sparks and startled soldiers in his wake. Quislet’s unique powers allowed him to animate objects for a short time before their structure decayed and broke apart due to his influence.
Mon-El swept other troopers into the wall with a gust of super-breath. “Quislet, thanks for the assist!” he said. “I see Pol and Chuck have managed to keep the satellite safe as well. Pol’s magnetism is really coming along. Rokk should be proud!”
“The ship is falling!” cried Quislet. Indeed, seconds after the little energy being departed from within another control panel, the entire warship reeled with shocking force and lurched toward the Multivac satellite.
“They’re going to crash their ship into Multivac like the kamikaze pilots of ancient Earth that Superboy once mentioned!” gasped Mon-El. Around the bridge, one soldier after another collapsed to the ground, lifeless. “They’re using that suicide option all the Dark Circle troops had within their bodies!” Mon-El continued. “They’d willingly die to fulfill their mission!”
“Quislet thought all your kind were unique, unlike the collective of my people!” said Quislet.
“Not exactly,” said Mon-El. “The Dark Circle is almost entirely composed of fanatical clones of the originals!” He left the ship and braced himself in its wake. He was determined to stop it from hitting the medical center below. He scanned the ship once more and saw that no life remained on board. Every Dark Circle soldier had committed suicide. He used his mental telepathy earplugs to alert his pals at once. Pol, get out here and help us stop the ship! he thought.
Magnetic Kid swooped out of the hospital below and joined his friend in space. All of the Legionnaires except for Quislet were equipped with transsuits that allowed them to survive in space. They all possessed one form or another of the earplugs in order to communicate in airless space. “Mon-El, I’ll try to repel the ship with my magnetism!” cried the rookie.
Concentrated, Magnetic Kid spread wide his arms as waves of magnetic force slowed the giant craft. Mon-El’s own strength was doing an impressive job as well. The final victory came about as Quislet pulled off a miraculous stunt.
The odd Legionnaire briefly animated the entire warship, and in the few seconds the energy being could control such a huge amount of mass, he made the craft lurch aside ever so slightly. The craft began to explode and decay as he departed for his own tiny silver ship, but those few seconds were enough for someone with Mon-El’s speed and power to move the craft away from Multivac.
“We did it!” yelled Magnetic Kid. “Multivac is safe!”
Mon-El nodded and said, “Yes, but just barely. Another couple of seconds, and it would have been hit!”
They entered the medical satellite and greeted a relieved Dr. Glen and Bouncing Boy. “You saved us all! How can we repay you, Legionnaires?” asked the physician.
“That’s what we do,” said Bouncing Boy. “I wish I could have done more than put out a few fires!”
“You did more than your share, young man,” said Dr. Glen. “Why did that craft attack us?”
“The ship came from the Dark Circle,” explained Mon-El. “They hate the U.P., but they do usually work in a subtler manner than this. They seemed to want to destroy the entire satellite. Do you have any major U.P. officials here?”
Dr. Glen shook his portly head and said, “No. I can’t imagine what motivated that attack.”
“I think I can!” said Magnetic Kid. “I detect a magnetic force was used to damage your records system within the last hour. I’d say a Dark Circle agent was already aboard, and he used the attack to distract us all from his own actions.”
“By Zoar!” cried Dr. Glen. “The records are scrambled. Someone wanted to destroy the satellite in order to conceal both this data theft and an abduction!” He turned to a young orderly who had entered with an alarmed look on his face.
“I overheard you,” said the orderly. “You’re right, sir. The occupants of Chamber C-16 are missing! There are signs of a fight. No fire from the warship hit that section of the satellite! It looks like agents that were already aboard used the cover of the attack to force them to leave. While our shuttle records are also ruined, I happen to know one is missing. It was the one I used during my last case. It was in the shop for minor cosmetic repairs.”
“Good work, Wlb’y,” said Dr. Glen. “I wager the Dark Circle hoped that the destruction of Multivac would conceal their actions here until it was too late.”
“Wait! You said the occupants of Chamber C-16 were taken?” said Bouncing Boy. “Exactly who were they? Why would the Dark Circle give up a cruiser and its crew in order to make this abduction a secret?”
Magnetic Kid frowned as Dr. Glen stared at them in dismay. “The occupants who resided in Chamber C-16 were part of a highly classified medical research project,” said the physician. “Their very existence and presence here was only known to the U.P. Council and the director of Medicus I.”
“Doctor, I understand your reticence, but time is of the essence,” said Mon-El. “We are fully deputized law-enforcement officials on all U.P. worlds!”
“Forgive me,” said Dr. Glen. “You’ll understand my caution when I tell you that the Dark Circle has gained living weapons with the potential power to bring our whole system to ruin!”
Meanwhile, back at Legion Headquarters, several concerned Legionnaires sat in the medi-center, gazing down at a strange figure on a medical bed. His scaly green skin was now fading in color and was resuming a more human appearance.
“You mean this is Superboy?” asked Invisible Kid.
Star Boy shook his head as he bent closer to the still figure and peered at the scaly green skin. “No! It’s one of the few other survivors from that doomed world.”
“Ah, you mean this poor fellow comes from Rokyn, the world that houses the remaining survivors of Krypton?” said Invisible Kid. “Some Kryptonians survived the death of their homeworld long ago because they were aboard the original Brainiac’s spacecraft within the bottled city of Kandor. They were enlarged years later and settled on Rokyn, also called New Krypton. The present-day natives of that world are the descendants of the people of Kandor. They all possess super-powers when under a sun like that one of Earth’s system.”
“Jacques, you’re beginning to sound like Blok!” said Sun Boy. “Enough with the history already. Due to the events of the Darkseid and Lady Death cases, all emigration from Daxam or Rokyn is severely regulated now. (*) This guy is actually known to us.”
Dream Girl flounced over to the table and caressed the man’s face. “I recognized the alterations in skin tone as arising from exposure to Virus X. It was a Kryptonian disease, and it was deadly. It turned the victims to scaly beasts whose fever drove them wild before death. When Dirk mentioned the creature we fought had heat-vision, it all came together for me. I knew bathing him in red sun rays would rob him briefly of his powers and enable you boys to take him down. The irradiation of his body with focused white kryptonite is curing him already!”
Star Boy slipped an arm around her and said, “You did a great job, Nura. The white K is lethal to Kryptonian plant life, and the virus fits that description. He’s almost back to normal.”
“My friends, forgive me, but again I ask, who is he?” said Invisible Kid.
“Dev-Em of the Intergalactic Counterintelligence Corps,” said Dream Girl. “He is a U.P. spy, and he has fought the Dark Circle for years. They even tried to clone the poor, handsome dear into an army once.”
“Right, but Mon-El and some others stopped them,” said Star Boy. “He’s going to be fine, but we need to learn just how he was exposed to Virus X. It has been a thing of the past for generations.”
“Thom, considering Dev’s association with Dark Circle duty,” said Dream Girl, “I’d wager they are back in operation, and germ warfare is their new agenda!”