Lakopolis, Earth, was primarily famous across the galaxy for its twelve automated industry technoparks, which filled the huge city. However, fifty-seven million people also lived in the sprawling mega-city. Their occupations differed widely, but many of the citizens who made their homes on the floating platforms that covered Lake Erie like so many vast barges of ancient days were retired due to age or wealth or inclination.
A very elderly man lived in one such house on the lake. He did not look older than fifty, but he was far older than that. He was content in his private home, and the robots that cared for him and obeyed his every mental command met his needs. The droids had to respond to mental stimulation, since their master was immobile. He sat within a floating chair that hovered above the floor. His head was large, and his body seemed weirdly shrunken in comparison. This physical deformity was the price he had paid for gaining remarkable mental powers and apparent immortality long ago.
A droid hummed as its treads enabled it to roll across the room in response to a noise from outside. The droid never returned, since it was shattered into scrap metal by a powerful blast of energy that smashed through one wall.
The owner of the house stared at an intruder as a shadowy figure stepped into the room and moved swiftly past the rubble. “My, you are a strange little man, aren’t you?” said the sinister figure. “If you were a novelty to me, I would question how you became the type of being you are, but I have lost much of the intellectual curiosity that once drove me. Now, I fear, you are nothing more than a mere target.”
He smiled and said, “Your thoughts are clear to me. You fear me. That is wise. It will do nothing to prevent your demise at my hands, but it is wise.”
Laughter filled the room as the black figure touched the hovering man. “Your powers can’t hurt me,” he said. “I am beyond such parlor tricks. Now, I will end your long, long life!” He trembled for a moment, then turned to walk away from the dry and fleshless skeleton with a huge head and a gaunt and now-skeletal body that was all that remained of the owner of the home. “Next? Perhaps some Indian food!” he said to himself.
Before leaving the silent house, the killer activated a small projection device on his belt, and then, as a different-looking man, he emerged from the house to greet a group of costumed figures who waited outside and held off the Science Police agents who had rushed to discover the source of the disturbance.
The strikingly beautiful woman with flowing green hair, heavy and exotic makeup, and a regal manner smiled with amusement as a dismissive wave of her gloved hand resulted in blast of brilliant green energy. The energy did not come from the sultry female from Venegar. It came from the green orb that hovered protectively above her lithe form. Still, there was no doubt that the Emerald Empress was the mistress of the Eye of Ekron, and it was her command that had caused it to generate the devastating blast.
It really didn’t matter to the Science Police officers who were nearly incinerated by the powerful beam, since their charred corpses paid silent and grim respect to the woman’s potent power. She laughed a rather musical laugh and said, “You took your time in there, but it did not matter, since we found ways to amuse ourselves!”
The Emerald Empress tossed her head back in pleasure and called out to a hulking figure in heavy armor, “You are amused aren’t you, Persuader? With your face concealed by that helmet, one never knows!”
The Persuader casually spun a long axe with one hand, and the blurring motion of the Atomic Axe made the air hum as its owner hurled it through an approaching air-car. The weapon from the distant past sliced cleanly through the vehicle and left its occupants to fall to the waters below. “Oh, I find ways to idle away the time, Empress. Still, I’d like to know just what it is Tharok seeks from this seemingly endless scavenger hunt of his. His time away from us has made him inscrutable!” he said as he lifted one hand to catch the weapon as it returned to his grasp.
A smaller man in yellow and red merely shook his head. His entire head was covered by a smoky helmet in which toxic gasses swirled around his inhuman face. His name was Mano, and he thrived on the poisonous atmosphere within the helmet as no other living being could do. This was logical, since he was the sole survivor of the world of Angtu. He had used his own remarkable power to destroy his home planet. His strangely inhuman voice echoed through the speaker built into his helmet as he said, “Don’t worry, Persuader. As long as Tharok leads us to a big payoff, the mystery will be worth it!”
Tharok himself never bothered to look back at the scene of death behind him; he merely smiled as much as his oddly segregated body allowed. Half of his body was human, even down to a cold and darting eye and a bald head, but the other side was clearly mechanical, and robotic features formed the rest of his head. It was as if his body had been cleanly divided down some imaginary dividing line. “I will explain all to you at the proper time. You owe me your very freedom, so surely I may be allowed a bit of reticence!” he said with an all-too-human annoyance in his voice.
The Emerald Empress sighed like a spoiled schoolgirl as she nodded in agreement. “Very well, Tharok. We’ll follow your little game for now, but remember — although you freed us all from Labyrinth, our patience grows ever thinner!”
“Oh, I’ll remember,” said Tharok. “My computerized brain won’t allow me the human luxury of forgetfulness. Now, shall we get away from this place? I have much work to do before we achieve the goal I have set out for us!”
Mano removed one glove and touched the huge barge that supported the row of homes on Lake Erie. As the destructive power of his uncovered right hand shattered the barge, the entire row of houses dropped into the waters and sent a huge wave crashing against the shore.
The reunited villains once known as the Fatal Five vanished in a flash of green light and left the scene of loss for others to deal with and to grieve over. Such was ever their way.
Meanwhile, even as the rogues spread terror and death in their wake on Earth, other people faced the more mundane threat of boredom. One such conflict occurred within the United Planets Space Fleet ship Ganymede high above the stark world of Lythyl.
“Lythyl: A U.P. colony planet with a society based upon the concept of survival of the fittest. A ruling body known as the judges rigidly categorizes the natives and all visitors. Those deemed inferior are classified as slaves, while those sentient beings that demonstrate their physical superiority through savage combat rituals are considered to be masters. Status: Quarantined. No travel to or from Lythyl is allowed.”
A young man in the uniform of the United Planets Space Fleet sighed as he read aloud from the U.P. Space Fleet Manual. “Tell us something we don’t know!” he cried. “We’ve been doing orbital patrol here for months. This tour of duty is as dull as those old Lyla Lerrol holo flicks my ma used to watch!”
The other men and women in the barracks of their orbiting spacecraft laughed in agreement. “Look, Saure, you’ll get used to it,” said a fat soldier who sat on the bunk across from Saure’s. “I mean, sure, we’d love to have been based near the pleasure domes of Ventura or near the Nix Olympia resorts on Mars, but we got stuck with Lythyl. We might as well make the best of it and actually enjoy the fact that nothing ever happens, since no one comes to this wasteland!”
The banter between the group of ten soldiers ended abruptly as a siren wailed, and their entire ship shuddered like a living being in pain. They staggered across the room as their world tilted and turned in all directions.
“What in the world?” cried a blonde woman who fell to ground near Saure. “The ship has been hit by something so fast that we didn’t even get any warning from the sensors!”
“We’re falling! The whole blasted ship is crashing!” shouted another soldier.
Before the startled soldiers could react or make any effort to try to abort their craft’s plunge to the surface below, their fall was slowed and then arrested completely by a young man in a red and blue costume. “Mon-El!” gasped Saure. “That’s Mon-El of the Legion! He caught us! I mean, literally! The guy caught our ship in his bare hands!”
The captain of the craft was named Lynd, and she nodded as she rallied her crew. “He is from Daxam,” she explained. “He has strength to move planets, much less the Ganymede.”
Indeed, as Mon-El, a handsome youth with dark hair, a serious demeanor, and a red costume with a blue cape, stopped the Ganymede from crashing and pushed it free of the gravitational pull of the bleak world below them, he worried about the being that had struck the ship.
That Star King thing nearly killed the whole crew of this ship, and he never even looked back! thought Lar Gand. Not that I would notice if he had, since his whole head is just a red, featureless sphere. We’ve chased that thing all the way from Tasmia’s home of Talok VIII, and we still know nothing about what it’s after.
Mon-El turned to wave to an approaching Legion Cruiser, where his beloved Shadow Lass, his team leader Star Boy, the Titanian blonde Saturn Girl, the lively Lightning Lass, a solemn Timber Wolf, and the flashy Sun Boy followed his flight path.
“Lar, that thing landed on Lythyl!” said Tasmia Mallor. “It didn’t just pass it by like it did all the other planets we’ve passed while chasing it!” She spoke to her boyfriend via the telepathic earplugs all the young heroes wore.
Mon-El replied in the same manner, “Right! I can see it below with my super-vision. I think, for better or worse, our hunt is ending here and now!”
On board the ship, Timber Wolf scowled as he turned to the other Legionnaires. “Lythyl! I never wanted to see that graveyard of a place again!” said Brin Londo. “I mean, I barely made it off that world the last time I visited. I only went there to honor the terms of Karate Kid’s will. (*) Val wanted me to do something personal for him, since he felt Lythyl’s harsh culture had made his own father into the creep he was.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “If You Think the Khunds are Cuddly, You’ll Love the Lythyls,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #13 (August, 1985).]
Lightning Lass, a girl with reddish-blonde hair and a winning manner, placed a calming hand on her fiancé’s muscular arm. “Easy there, Brin!” said Ayla Ranzz. “The place may be harsh, but it is sparsely populated, thanks to that severe culture and the U.P. quarantine. If we have to fight the Star King there, then perhaps fewer people will be at risk. Remember, when that thing was awakened from its eons-long sleep back on Talok VIII, it destroyed a whole city wall with one gesture! Imagine what it could do in the middle of a heavily populated area!”
Brin cupped her chin in his hand and drew her into an embrace. “Yeah, yeah. You’re right as usual. Ayla, You always think of the other person, while I just lumber around brainlessly like a dolt!”
Ayla kissed him and said, “That’s what I love about you! Just kidding!”
“Speaking of Lythyl, I wonder how Myg is doing these days?” said Brin, the abrupt change of subject causing Ayla to frown. “The boy had so much potential that I told him he should join the Legion Academy, but he snubbed his nose at the idea. Last I heard from him, he was training with the Sensei in Japan.”
“See? You do care about people, after all, though you still have horrible timing,” said Ayla, her facial expression softening. She turned to where the handsome Sun Boy was piloting the craft with his expert skill.
“OK, Thom, I got to the Talok system in time to meet you all and let you change ships after that thing blew up the cruiser you were riding in at the time,” said Dirk Morgna as he faced the bearded young man from Xanthu. “but I still don’t know a thing more! What’s going on?”
Thom Kallor had started to reply when the sultry but serious Saturn Girl leaned over and said, “Allow me to project a mental summary of all that happened to us on Talok VIII! It will be faster and more complete than a verbal rundown!”
Sun Boy nodded as the beautiful blonde in pink used her amazing mental powers to show him the events of the last mission that had brought the others to the desert home of Shadow Lass.
Dirk saw images in his mind in mere seconds that fully explained the adventure that had ended hours before. He saw the team arrive to rescue Shadow Lass’ captive cousin Grev Mallor from a desert warrior named Kyack Ze and his hired mercenaries, the Black Mace Gang. The battle had been won by the fiery Tasmia Mallor and her friends, but in defeating Ze’s band of warriors and rescuing her heroic cousin, they had been helplessly to prevent a more dire circumstance from occurring. The battle had uncovered a long-buried alien being from the planet’s distant past. The Star Kings or the Kings from the Stars had conquered the world long ago before being buried when one of Tasmia’s ancestors destroyed a mysterious alien device they had been building.
Sun Boy heard Shadow Lass as she explained the history to her friends earlier. The scene projected from Imra Ardeen Ranzz’ keen memory and mind directly to Dirk’s was clear and vivid in detail. “Long ago,” Tasmia had said, “our world was conquered by aliens. The old records refer to these beings as the Kings from the Stars. One of the Mallors killed them all in destroying a super-weapon they were building. They were buried according to the old tales. They were buried right where our enemies are digging! While my ancestor saved all of Talok VIII from their doomsday machine, he didn’t know that one of the invading Star Kings had not died at all. He had merely been buried alive in some type of hibernation. Now it is free, and it wants to destroy other worlds like it tried to do to my planet!”
Dirk nodded in understanding and said, “Thanks, Imra. You’re better than any holo tape. Too bad you refuse to project some of the more kinky things you’ve seen in people’s minds over the years!”
“Very funny, Dirk,” said Saturn Girl. “Try to concentrate on piloting and suppress your so-called sense of humor for a while!”
Sun Boy flashed a smile to Star Boy as his friend attempted to hide his own amusement behind a façade of stolid leadership. “Anything that could destroy a Cruiser like that is deadly,” said Thom. “That goes without saying. If Nura had not brought you here before we even sent a broadcast for help back on Talok VIII, we’d have been floating in deep space with only our transsuits to protect us!”
A very sexy platinum blonde girl in a white costume and boots smiled knowingly as she led two other figures to the bridge. “Why, Thom, a girl would think you only appreciated her for her precognitive gifts!” Nura Nal said with a smirk. “I do have other talents, you know!” Thom flushed as Dream Girl of Naltor led their guests closer.
“Seriously, Nura, if you hadn’t had a dream about our impending peril in space, we’d have lost that thing for sure!” said Star Boy as his lover caressed him.
A gaunt blond man with pointed ears and a slight glow about his lithe form nodded as he reached out for a dark-haired woman in a brief pink costume. “Mystelor and I appreciate being allowed to join you, Legionnaires,” said the alien being known as Quanto. “We feel we are to blame for much that happened on Talok VIII!”
Mystelor nodded in agreement as she added, “I was a prisoner of Black Mace’s. He forced my beloved, here, to serve his cause once more by threatening to kill me if Quanto refused to do so!”
Sun Boy sighed as he noticed the clear affection between the woman from Titan and the other-dimensional Quanto. Mystelor is looking pretty hot these days, but I guess she and Quanto are pretty committed to one another, thought Dirk. I remember Quanto saying that reforming the bad girl from Titan was his life mission. Even a guy like me can’t compete with that kind of bond!
“We don’t blame you,” said Shadow Lass. “You help us free my people. You even came with us to chase down that Star King!”
“Well, Dirk is landing the ship,” said Lightning Lass. “We’d better get ready to move fast.”
“The local creeps will insist that we submit to some kind of combat ritual to determine our worth,” said Timber Wolf, “but we don’t have time for games. We’ll have to make them see that.”
“I’ve been broadcasting a mental explanation since we drew within range of the officials below,” said Saturn Girl. “Needless to say, the rampage of the Star King added weight to my argument!” She gazed down through the ship’s window as the craft landed amidst a scene of chaos. “Lar is already fighting that thing!” she announced.
Shadow Lass nodded grimly. “We can’t leave him alone against that monster!”
Timber Wolf brushed by the blue-skinned girl as he raced forward and impatiently waited on the portal to slide open. “Don’t worry, kid. We won’t!” he vowed.