Mon-El flew forward and greeted his dead relation Eltro Gand as the Daxamite began to smash into the army of the dead. “Eltro? Is that really you?” Lar Gand asked as he witnessed the other man’s remarkable strength and speed.
“I’m back, Lar,” said Eltro. “Whatever natural laws Nekron broke allowed us to come back, too, at least long enough to help you return these poor beings to their delayed final rest!”
Mon-El nodded and joined him in battle. He didn’t know what to say. Eltro had died in his place when a scheme of Eltro’s to protect Lar had backfired and almost ended his life. Rather than let Lar die because of his mistake, Eltro used a device to sacrifice his own life for Lar’s. (*) Now Mon-El didn’t know what to think or feel. He owed Eltro his life, and he valued any living relation that remained to him. He tried to just aid the other man and worry about the right reaction later.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Lament for a Legionnaire,” Action Comics #384 (January, 1970).]
Timber Wolf bounded forward to clasp hands with Chemical King, alias Condo Arlik. The two men had met long before when both of them were Legion Academy members. (*) He valued his friendship and had always regretted Condo’s death in battle stopping a pawn of the Dark Circle from using a weapon of mass destruction. (*) “Con, I can’t believe it’s you! I-I’m glad to see you!” stammered the taciturn hero.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Colossal Failure,” Adventure Comics #371 (August, 1968) and “That a World Might Live, a Legionnaire Must Die,” Superboy #228 (June, 1977).]
Condo smiled and said, “I’m glad to see you as well, but we have a job to do. We were given borrowed time, and we can’t waste a second of it!” He gestured to where the original Invisible Kid, alias Lyle Norg, was hurriedly conferring with Star Boy and Saturn Girl. “Lyle’s got a plan!” said Condo. “You know him. He’s always thinking!”
Meanwhile, Ferro Lad, alias Douglas Nolan, was using his metal-hard body as a living weapon against the army of darkness. He and the remaining Green Lanterns fought onward as the Braalian and the Durlan used their native gifts in place of their useless rings. Doug acted silently and selflessly, but then he always had.
Shadow Lass and Element Lad watched in disbelief as young Kid Psycho drew upon his powerful ability to generate mental shields that slowly sealed the portal. “I can keep him from summoning any other pawns!” said the young hero as he strained to maintain his force-field.
“Gnill, we’ve always appreciated your efforts,” said Element Lad. “I wish I had told you that before, but won’t your powers harm you by their prolonged use? Or does that even matter now?”
The Kid grinned. “Being dead has its benefits,” said Gnill Opral. “I can use my power all I want under these special circumstances!”
Jan Arrah nodded and added his own power to the field, turning the sand and the air around the portal into inertron.
“I don’t need any other slaves,” said the Dark Man. “I can kill you myself!” He wrestled Tharok down, and the fight began once more.
Shadow Lass and Polar Boy rushed forward, only to be halted by Invisible Kid and Saturn Girl. “Lyle’s mind is as keen as ever!” said Saturn Girl. “He says this is Condo’s fight now!” The others nodded as Chemical King flew over to where the odd pair battled.
“We won’t be shunted into limbo this time,” said the Dark Man. “Nekron has given me enough power to kill you!” Tharok scowled as he fought to resist his double’s parasitic touch.
Chemical King dropped down beside them and placed his hands on their linked arms. They ignored his presence for a moment, and then an amazing thing happened.
The Dark Man screamed as the entire process began to speed up in reverse. Instead of draining Tharok of his life force, the Dark Man began to shrink as he was miraculously absorbed by his double. “Stop! I can’t die like this!” he gasped as he withered and then vanished entirely.
Tharok fell to his knees and said, “What did you do? I felt his death! You killed him in some manner!”
“He fed through a complex chemical reaction,” explained Chemical King. “He converted life force into energy that he absorbed. My power allows me to reverse and speed up any chemical reaction, if I understand it properly. Lyle explained what the Dark Man was doing, and I merely reversed his process, so he literally drained himself!”
“You’ve done it!” cried Saturn Girl. “I can detect no trace of him!”
“The dead are still as well,” said Mon-El. “Without the Dark Man as a focus of Nekron’s power, they have returned to inanimate bodies. It’s over!”
“We also must depart!” said Ferro Lad. “We are happy to have been Legionnaires once more, even briefly!”
“Right!” said Chemical King. “Nekron made our return possible, because his defilement of the laws of nature gave us a loophole of sorts!”
“Lar, don’t blame yourself for what happened to me,” said Eltro Gand. “It was my fault, and the universe is better off with a hero like you instead of a bumbler like me!” Lar hugged him for a moment, and then the heroes from beyond vanished.
“Funny,” said Timber Wolf. “You’d think Karate Kid would have been with them.”
“Or Supergirl,” suggested Lightning Lass. “Of course, she died in another era.”
Timber Wolf nodded and said, “Yeah, I’m not going to figure out that kinda metaphysical stuff on my own!”
Star Boy shook his head and said, “Once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire!”
“We’ve lost the Guardian, but the Green Lantern Corps will carry on!” vowed Xenofobe, the current Green Lantern of Earth’s space sector. “Surely the other Guardians will return to this universe someday, and when they do, they will find that their agents have not failed them!”
“Legionnaires, I am in your debt,” said Tharok. “I don’t like the sensation, but I admit the truth. You freed me from one who had tormented me for far too long.”
“Tharok, when you and the Emerald Empress and the rest first came together, it was to help the Legion save the universe,” said Star Boy. “Why don’t you consider using your talents for the cause of justice in the future? You’ve gained a new lease on life!”
Tharok laughed bitterly. “I thank you for your suggestion, but I find it trite. I am not ready to forsake my old ways just yet. I’m not a fool. I will not lie to you. I plan to use my newfound powers to serve only myself!”
“I knew that guy was a creep,” said Star Boy.
Saturn Girl glanced from Star Boy to Tharok. “And yet you admit that you owe us,” she said. “I offer you a chance to pay off that debt. Will you help us with something a bit more personal? I’ve seen your thoughts, and I have a theory that your powers could save one of our own.”
Tharok hesitated, then said, “A debt is a debt. I will gladly pay it and then be rid of you all!”
Star Boy smiled and said, “Thank you. That’s all we can ask.”
Saturn Girl nodded and thought, I saw all Nura told Thom about Luornu. He was hopeful that the Dark Man might be able to revive her. With Tharok in possession of his power, he could still do the trick!
Soon enough, the Legionnaires had departed from Oa and now stood inside the medi-lab in their Metropolis headquarters.
Tharok stood over Duo Damsel and said, “You’ve told me enough of her condition on the trip here. I will try to draw enough of her essence into myself to allow you to mentally force her to divide into three bodies.” He began to touch her.
A grim Bouncing Boy waited, ready to take action. “Tharok, if you hurt her, I’ll make you pay!” he vowed.
Slowly, Tharok absorbed life itself from her as Saturn Girl gently probed her mind and urged her to replicate.
Suddenly, Duo Damsel’s still form split into three bodies. One of them remained still, while the other two groaned softly and opened their eyes. “Chuck!” they said slowly.
Chuck Taine shoved past Tharok, who backed away from the heroine. “Lu, honey, can you hear me? Are you awake?” he asked as he took her hand.
Luornu Durgo Taine nodded and sat up, then merged two of the bodies into one in order to embrace him. “Chuck, it’s been horrible!” she wept. “Zef forced to relieve my whole life for a mass audience. I’ve never felt so bare or violated. It was terrible! Just hold me!”
Chuck nodded tearfully as he clung to his restored wife. Neither of them glanced over to where her third body still lay. That body had died long before and was now at peace.
“I honored my bargain,” said Tharok. “Now, I’m free.”
“Hold it, pal!” said Star Boy. “You saved Lu, and we appreciate it, but you have crimes to answer for from before your stay in limbo!”
Tharok smiled and said, “You useless dolt! I have power beyond your imagination. You can’t hold me to your petty sense of law and order! My touch could turn you to ashes!”
“No, it can’t,” said Saturn Girl. “You see, I read your mind. I saw the nuances of your new power better than you could. You used it up saving Lu. You’re just a cyborg again, and nothing more! The Dark Man and his powers are a thing of the past!”
“You witch!” cried Tharok. “You blonde harpy! You duped me! I will pay you back for this! Life is mine, but what good is it without power? You’ve made a bad enemy this day, Imra Ranzz!”
Mon-El gripped him from behind and said, “Tell it to the judge. You’re going to Labyrinth, along with your Fatal Five pals. The Green Lanterns took them there to the prison world while we brought you here.”
“Bah!” spat Tharok. “You’ll see us again. The Fatal Five will live again, and the universe will tremble!”
Mon-El led him out and said, “We’ll take him back to Labyrinth. He’ll cool off there.”
“My vision came true,” said Dream Girl. “We’ll take our victories where we may.”
Star Boy kissed her and said, “That we will, Nura. That we will.”