That evening, the Legionnaires who had subdued Dev-Em joined the team who saved Multivac in the main meeting room of their Metropolis headquarters. Star Boy addressed the group in solemn tones; he knew that, based on the information Mon-El had brought back from Dr. Regius Glen, an ugly pattern was forming.
“I guess the best thing to do is to start at the beginning, since even Nura can’t see yet what the end will be!” said Thom Kallor. “A short time ago, Shrinking Violet defeated a group of thugs called the Marius Gang when they raided Medicus I, the hospital satellite. We assumed they were merely after organs to sale on the black market — valuables to take from patients and drugs from the supplies. Vi captured them all, but apparently they did managed to breach Medicus I’s security long enough to transfer some data from the main computer to an unseen employer. (*) We now believe that shadowy employer worked for the Dark Circle.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legionnaires: Shrinking Violet: Vi-Hard.]
Dream Girl buffed her nails and said, “Right! That data enabled the Circle to learn something known to only a few select members of the U.P. Council, the Science Police, and senior staff at both Medicus I and Multivac. Namely, that three natives of the highly classified and strictly quarantined planet Somahtur were no longer on that unique world. Two were staying on Multivac to aid in medical research in what they called Chamber C-16.”
“Exactly,” said Star Boy. “Apparently, the Dark Circle decided to abduct the two Somahturians from Multivac and destroy the satellite completely, so that no one would ever know what they had done until they were ready to use their captives as living weapons against the U.P. worlds!”
“I take it that everyone knows exactly what makes Somahturians so deadly,” said Sun Boy. “They carry billions of microorganisms within their bodies, and they can infect others with any one of countless diseases without suffering any ill effect themselves. That’s why the U.P. placed a strict quarantine on their home planet and kept it a tight secret that they had allowed the three natives to go to the medical satellite for experimentation.”
Magnetic Kid whistled softly. “So the Dark Circle has two of these living plagues and will use them against us. How bad could that be? I mean, what could two of them do under duress to cause much trouble?”
“That’s exactly what most people would wonder,” said Star Boy. “You have to remember one of the Circle’s previous methods of operation. The Dark Circle consists of five disgruntled aliens who decided to fight against everything the United Planets stands for. They used their resources to finance their operations based on numerous crimes designed to increase their wealth. Once they had enough wealth, one of their founders used his brilliant mind to maximize their human resources in a remarkable way!”
“Allow me, Thom, darling,” interjected Nura Nal, alias Dream Girl. “One of those founders, Narak Kun, comes from my home of Naltor. Kun was a genius with limited powers of precognition. He made up for his shortcomings by mastering the science of cloning. He made countless clones of the founding five and turned a group of five into an army. He does something in his cloning process that makes the clones less independent and more devoted to the cause of the originals. It works all too well, since, as we’ve learned from past battles, the Dark Circle seems to have an infinite supply of these cloned troopers in addition to assorted human recruits. What we fear is that the Circle will make subservient clones of the Somahturians and thus gain an army with the power to spread diseases across the U.P. worlds with a lethal and deliberate intent!”
“To make matters worse, we have no idea when or where they will use their new weapons,” said Mon-El.
“You said there were three natives of Somahtur who had left their home,” said Invisible Kid. “Is the third one unaccounted for in some way?”
“Nope,” said Star Boy. “She is here and is a member of our own Legion of Substitute Heroes. Infectious Lass — Drura Sehpt — comes from Somahtur. What few of us knew was that her presence on Earth was a matter of some stress to the Multivac staff. She escaped from their satellite and refused to return. She was originally there along with the other two natives to help the staff with medical research. Drura fell in love with a patient there and followed him to Earth. He is another Sub — Porcupine Pete. The U.P. finally decided to allow her to stay here as long as they monitored her regularly. You see, making her return could have exposed her secret and the secret that two other natives of her world were now off-world. That could have frightened people or made for a potentially embarrassing situation for the politicians.”
“Infectious Lass is a cutie, even with the cooties! Quislet likes her!” said Quislet.
“Well, we all do,” said Sun Boy. “That’s why we notified the Subs and asked them to come here for the time being. We don’t want to risk Drura’s safety in case the Circle decides to come after her.”
“Chuck is caring for Luornu and Dev-Em, but I think the Subs will be fine on their own,” said Dream Girl. “With most of the team away on other cases, they’ll just have to fend for themselves.”
“With the added benefit of the greater security our own more modern headquarters provides, I see no problem,” said Star Boy. “I’ve also taken the liberty of notifying the worlds that border the Dark Circle Alliance space in case of any sudden attacks. They will be able to summon us immediately!”
An alarm rang out, and a monitor screen displayed a scene of horror. The uniformed soldiers of the Dark Circle were attacking the planet Hayna. Since dozens of the soldiers were female, it was all too clear that the Somahturians had been cloned and were being used already.
“As if on cue!” said Star Boy. “Hayna is right on the border we spoke of earlier. We’d better get moving!”
The governmental facilitator of Hayna was frightened. He had witnessed much in his long career in politics, but he had never experienced anything like the sudden invasion of his world by an army of Dark Circle soldiers. He had served in the Space Patrol, and he knew about conventional warfare; he was not a coward. Still, this was nothing like conventional warfare. The black-and-gray-clad soldiers were using hand weapons and mounted blasters, but most of the damage and death came from the spread of deadly diseases in their wake.
From his vantage point on the Glynneth Tower, Facilitator Marh saw his people fall helplessly before the attackers. His wife Nodia said, “Dearest! I don’t understand! How can the army fall so easily? I see no obvious weapon or attack, and yet they fall one by one!”
“Germs!” he said. “Can’t you see? Unseen microbes are beating our army. Deadly and rapid spreading microbes are infecting them. Fevers, tremors, delusions! All of these symptoms beset our men and women. Somehow, the Dark Circle army is willing our men and women to become ill. They must be spreading the diseases by their mere proximity. “
Far overhead zoomed a platform holding around forty Dark Circle soldiers, and the elite cloned officers aboard guided the carnage their followers created below. An Ontiir clone smiled and said, “Excccellent! Our army is winning as we planned!”
A Golgoth clone nodded and said, “It was meant to be. The Dark Circle’s finest hour is here!”
“Time’s up, pal!” yelled Mon-El as he smashed through the platform, sending the started troops and their commanders plunging to the ground with stunning force.
Star Boy smiled in satisfaction and ordered his friends into battle. “Stop them all! Remember — keep your transsuits on and sealed! They’ll shield us from the germs!” he yelled as he caused another mounted gun to crumble under its own increased weight.
Dream Girl kicked a soldier in the face and said, “We know, Thom! Mon and I were the ones who altered the suits for this purpose!” She ducked a punch and elbowed her attacker in the face. “Really, dear, those colors are so tacky together!” she said with a mocking tone.
Sun Boy hovered over the battlefield and concentrated. A brilliant burst of light illuminated the area and blinded the Dark Circle troops in his wake. “Sorry to deprive you ladies of the pleasure of seeing great-looking Legionnaires like us, but you deserve what you get!” he said. Flying straight into the crowd, he used an aura of heat to drive them backward without actually burning them.
Mon-El lifted one of the Ontiir clones into the air with one hand and said, “I know you and your pals are just lackeys. The real Dark Circle originals are skulking safely on one of their bases, but they can monitor your own actions, and I want you to serve as an example for them! The Legion won’t stand for more of your ruthless ambition. We’re taking back this world, and we’re going to come after you all, as well!”
Invisible Kid made his way unseen to where one of the female Somahturian clones was fighting with weakening defense guards. I have seen much of illness in my life, and yet this is beyond my experiences! I pray we can stop this before many more helpless people die! We must win! he thought. Swallowing hard, he thought, Much depends upon me. I must carry off my part of Star Boy’s plan! He darted aside as a soldier opened fire directly in his path. Being unseen can be a hazard as well as a help in combat! Our allies can’t see me and thus threaten my safety unknowingly!
Grabbing one of the females, Jacques Foccart carried her out of sight of the others. He flew with her struggling body clutched in his arms and said, “Remain calm, mademoiselle! I offer you freedom!” He pushed her into a hidden cruiser where Magnetic Kid and Quislet waited.
“You got one! Great work, Jacques!” said Pol Krinn eagerly.
Invisible Kid secured her in a stasis chamber and turned to the younger hero. “Mon ami, I thank you. Now it is your turn to shine!”
“OK, Star Boy said for us to remain here while he and Dirk, Nura, and Lar occupied the invaders,” said Pol. “He wanted you to grab one of the cloned Somahturians so we could put his plan into operation. It’s entirely up to us now, Quislet!”
Quislet zoomed closer and chirped, “Quislet ready to rock!”
Outside, Mon-El used his super-speed to disarm dozens of the soldiers at blinding speed even as Sun Boy radiated fire and left others staggering or dazed.
Dream Girl fought equally well and demonstrated once again why the sultry blonde was considered to be the best non-super-powered fighter on the team. She anticipated where many of her foes would be, and she acted on that awareness with precision and cool deliberation.
Star Boy gasped as a robo-tank aimed directly at him, and he gulped as white-hot energy smashed into him with concussive force.
Dream Girl screamed and flew to his side, as did Sun Boy and Mon-El. “Thom! By the seers, he’s so still!” cried Dream Girl as she lifted his head and rested it on her lap.
“He’s alive!” said Mon-El. “I detect breathing.”
Sun Boy blazed a protective ring of fire around their position and said, “Mon, we need to see some results from part two of the plan real soon!”
Dream Girl wept softly as Thom groaned and slowly opened his eyes. “I drew mass into my body just in time,” he whispered. “Made self so dense that the impact only stunned me!”
Nura kissed him and said, “Thank goodness!”
Mon-El stared far across the fields of rubble and fire and saw what was occurring inside the hidden cruiser. “I think they’re doing it. Let’s hope it works,” he said grimly.
Meanwhile, in the medi-center, Bouncing Boy sat in deep thought. He was sick with grief over his wife’s condition, and he wondered if he had been to blame for her present plight. Lu had a crush on Lyle Norg, the first Invisible Kid, when she first joined the team, before she later developed a massive crush on Superboy. Poor Lyle died at the hands of Validus, but he was so smart! His mind was impressive. He could have matched Brainy, had he lived! I’m just a delivery man who got lucky and drank a chemical that gave me weird but legitimate super-powers. If she had somehow won over Lyle, and he had lived, he might have been able to protect her or cure her! I failed on both counts. I won’t even speculate on how much Superboy could have done for her had she married him instead of me!
Chuck Taine slammed his fist against a table and said, “What good am I? What possible good is a man who can’t defend the woman he loves?”
“Well, buddy, I’ll tell you one thing for sure,” said Dev-Em as he sat up on his bed. “You are not the prettiest face to wake up to!”
“Dev-Em! You’d better take it slow. You’ve been suffering from Virus X! You almost died!” warned Chuck as he rushed over to steady the cocky Kryptonian. Dev-Em was a handsome if wild young man who took pride in his power and his appearance. He liked the wild life, and he craved danger and excitement. That was what had led him to join the Intergalactic Counterintelligence Corps in the first place.
“The Dark Circle caught me. I was trying to spy on them. You see, they started up again. You do know who they are, don’t you, or are you the Legion janitor or something?” he said with a grin.
“Or something. That’s me,” said Chuck.
“I need my buddy Mon-El,” said Dev-Em. “He helped me take them down last time. They want to destroy the U.P. with germs. I learned that much before they got me. They were experimenting with Virus X because they thought a hero like me might get them… or Superboy, of course.”
“Mon-El is off trying to stop them even as we speak,” said Chuck. “He took a group to a planet named Hayna, where the Circle’s army is staging an attack. Just rest. They can handle them!”
Dev-Em jumped to his feet and said, “Wrong, blimpo. The Dark Circle wants the U.P. to think the Hayna attack is their major plan. That’s nothing more than a distraction. The Dark Circle is subtle. They let me escape so I could occupy your pals while my fever and transformation rendered me mad. That’s when they hit their real target: Multivac! Yeah, I heard a lot when I was feverish. I have a super-mind, too, you know! Super-senses enabled me to hear and see and recall the real plan even while they were making me sick!”
“They did get the Somahturians from Multivac, even though some of us were there at the time,” said Bouncing Boy. “They didn’t expect that!”
Dev-Em glanced over the young man and smirked. “You were there? Guess, you sent them packing in a hurry. No need to explain; one look tells me all. Seriously, pal, listen up! The attack on Hayna is a ruse,” announced the agent. “Oh, they want to do some damage, but they also want the Legion and the U.P. to think this threat has been dealt with and this hand has been played. In truth, the Dark Circle wants to do much more. They want to kill every U.P. official on Weber’s World!”
“How?” asked Bouncing Boy.
“While the Legion and the U.P. think the attack on Hayna is the Dark Circle’s use of the cloned germ babes, the real use has been or is more subtle,” explained Dev-Em. “They want to use some clones to poison the entire food supply on Manna-5 in a covert action!”
Bouncing Boy gasped. “Manna-5 supplies all the food used on Weber’s World, the planet which houses the majority of U.P. staff! If that tainted food reaches them, then thousands of governmental workers could die in a day!”
“That’s why we have to stop them now!” said Dev-Em.