As the Legionnaires drew closer to the strange scene, Brainiac 5 nodded in agreement. “Fascinating!” he said. “That skull-shaped craft was indeed used by the original Brainiac after his temporary transformation into a less-humanoid-looking being!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Rebirth,” Action Comics #344 (June, 1983).]
“He’s back with his old craft, or perhaps he brought it through time to our era!” suggested Chameleon Boy.
“Speaking of things or people from the past, look at the flying woman rounding the planet now!” said Shrinking Violet, gesturing to where a pretty blonde girl in a blue and red costume suddenly swooped into view.
“Remarkable — one of the Rokynians is displaying superhuman power under a red sun!” said Chameleon Boy.
“More remarkable still, she looks a great deal like Supergirl with a different costume!” said Phantom Girl.
They watched as the girl flew through space and hovered in front of the skull ship. She waited, then posed protectively before it. “She’s defending the craft!” said Brainiac 5. “I can only assume she is either an ally of Brainiac’s or is under his control via one of the mental probe devices he must have given to Tyr and his warlords before!”
“Well, if she retains Supergirl-like powers under a red sun, then maybe she comes from Daxam,” said Ultra Boy. “Her costume looks a bit more like Mon-El’s than Supergirl’s! I can intercept her if she tries to go to the surface of Rokyn!”
“I’ve attempted to broadcast a message to the skull ship, but no transmission is getting through,” said Brainiac 5. “Perhaps we should engage the girl in conversation. Offer her a telepathic plug!”
Ultra Boy nodded and swiftly flew out of the Legion Cruiser with the others following behind. Invisible Kid remained on board the Cruiser as his friends flew through space in their protective transsuits.
Shrinking Violet shook her head as she observed Brainiac 5. He was taking action and giving orders, but there was a distracted manner about all he did. He was rattled by meeting a girl who so resembled his lost love, Kara Zor-El.
Ultra Boy drew closer to the blonde girl and admired her good looks, even as he glanced back at Tinya and resumed a businesslike manner. He held out a telepathic plug, and she hesitated as if listening to some unheard voice, then popped it in her ear. “We’re from the Legion of Super-Heroes!” he said. “This will enable us to talk in space!”
“She has no mind-probe device, since the plug went in her ear so easily,” noted Violet.
“I am Lesla Vol-Lar,” replied the flying girl. “I’ve heard of the Legion, but never imagined I’d meet you. We need help. A radical group called Nightwing is trying to take over Rokyn!”
Before they could respond to her thoughts, a blinding barrage of energy beams erupted through the dark of space and left the Legionnaires stunned, with the exception of Brainiac 5, who had been protected at the last moment by his force-field belt and Phantom Girl, who had been intangible. Even Ultra Boy had fallen to the blast, since he had been relying upon his transsuit for survival in space and had directed his energy power into super-strength for any fight.
Phantom Girl flew closer to Jo Nah and the others as Brainiac 5 inhaled sharply.
A second spacecraft without the skull molding of the first one suddenly blinked into view as a cloaking shield was dropped. This red craft was a match for the original saucer-shaped ship used by the original Brainiac. That red craft was the one that had fired upon the heroes instead of the more sinister skull-shaped one.
Lesla Vol-Lar was also unhurt, and she blasted away at the red craft with energy beams of her own. “That’s the enemy craft, not the skull-faced one!” she explained. “You see, in a way we’re dealing with two Brainiacs!”
Brainiac 5 nodded even as he expanded his own shield to cover his fallen friends and Lesla. “Just broadcast all you know to me!” he said. “It will be quicker!” She nodded, and images from her recent past reached his mind via the telepathic plug. The girl’s mentally broadcast memories had begun hours earlier.
Lesla Vol-Lar groaned, sat up, then wiped at her eyes until her surroundings came into clear view. The pretty girl frowned as she realized that she was on board a spacecraft, and the view from the small viewing portal above her showed Rokyn itself. “Rao! Where am I?” she said, swinging her legs over the side of the sleeping pod and standing up to gaze around the small ship. “Those Nightwing agents must have knocked me out. They took Uncle Yon, too!” Nightwing — why would a group of terrorists like that want us? she wondered. We’ve never meddled in governmental matters, and Yon has no power or wealth.
“Lesla Vol-Lar, they hate you because of who you are, or, more precisely, because of your heritage,” said an strange robotic voice.
Lesla whirled to see a strange humanoid figure in a purple costume. He had green skin, and his bald head was marked by gemlike circuitry. “Who are you?” she said. “Why are you dressed up like Brainiac? You’re too old for the Nocturne Festival!”
He smiled slightly and inclined his head in agreement. “Indeed, it has been far too long since the date of my creation for me to partake of ceremonial rituals of any kind. However, I am not wearing any fanciful garb. This is and has almost always been my natural appearance, since, in truth, I am Brainiac.”
Lesla shivered, and her mind reeled as she fought to grasp the significance of his words. “Brainiac! How can it be?” she said slowly. “Brainiac is a myth. He’s a fantasy figure from old tales. Nobody even believes in him anymore.”
“I fear you are only partially correct in your assumption,” he replied. “There are many who cling wrongly to what I was, for I am no longer the being your people once had reason to fear and hate!”
“I’ll take your word for it,” said Lesla. “Why am I here? What does Nightwing want with me?”
Brainiac stepped forward and awkwardly placed one hand on her cheek. “My child, you must accept my explanation, for time is pressing, and we have much to do. First, let me assure you that Nightwing did not bring you here. They left you for dead when they took your uncle. I brought you here via advanced teleportation. I brought you here, and I revived you from a condition that approximated death. You only survived their assault because of who you are!”
Lesla shook her head and said, “What do you mean? My parents died when I was small. They were ordinary citizens. We’re not important!”
“The present crisis is one drawn from the dust of history, and thus, while we prepare for the battle ahead, I will review those events that led us to this fateful moment!” said Brainiac. As he pressed a button, a holo display flickered into view.
The holo images showed a beautiful woman in a purple costume. She flew over Rokyn, and to Lesla’s surprise, she looked greatly like the girl. “Valor? That’s the ancient heroine of Rokyn. (*) She was my ancestor, but no one cares about the past anymore. We’re Rokynians, not Kryptonians. The old days, when everything revolved around the Houses of El and Lar, ended long ago.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See World of New Krypton: Supergirl and Valor: Homecoming.]
“You are mistaken,” said Brainiac. “It is true that the passing of centuries has brought many changes to your world and its people, but great heroes and heroines do more than inspire others to emulate their deeds. They also create lingering hatred in those they oppose. The group called Nightwing is dedicated to eliminating every heir to the legacies of Superman, Supergirl, Valor, and other heroes of the past. Lesla, your Uncle Yon knew this, and thus he took you away when you were a small child. He hid you in a remote part of Rokyn and escaped the notice of Nightwing until recently.”
Lesla frowned as she made an abrupt deduction. “Are you saying that this group hates me and my family because we’re the heirs of Valor and indirectly related to Superman’s family, since Valor was his cousin? Does that mean the accident that killed my parents was not an accident?”
“The group called Nightwing is fanatically opposed to everything associated with Superman and his allies,” replied Brainiac. “That is why they have secretly hunted down and murdered as many of them as they could find. In truth, Lesla, your parents died because of Nightwing. They did not die because of machine failure. They died because their craft was deliberately tampered with by Nightwing agents. The same killers would have murdered you, if your uncle had not escaped with you to a life of hiding and concealment in a very isolated region of Rokyn.”
Lesla touched her twin star necklace, and tears began to fall from her violet eyes. “They killed my parents!” she sobbed. “Now they’ve taken Uncle Yon! It’s not fair. Why should we suffer because we’re descended from some old heroes? Nobody even remembers or cares about that past anymore!”
“That is incorrect,” said Brainiac. “Nightwing is more than a terrorist group. It is more properly designated as a cult. The group has a misguided understanding of Rokyn’s history. Like many disaffected groups who seek someone to blame for economic, political, or personal hardships, the cult formed around a few terrible lies. They see Superman and his lineage as being oppressors who wronged all of Rokyn, and perhaps more tragically still, they wrongly worship one who is unworthy. In short, the Nightwing cult views me as a god!”
“Then you are to blame for their deeds!” cried Lesla. “This is all your fault!” She rushed forward and pummeled Brainiac, only to have her fists pass harmlessly through his flickering image. “You’re not real! You’re a holographic projection! You are not truly here!”
Brainiac’s image blinked back into view, and he said, “Correct, but only in part, since I am in truth here, but not in a humanoid form. This entire ship is one with me. I exist only as its computer system and merely manifested myself as a humanoid holo projection to appear more comprehensible to you. As for my guilt, I do carry a burden created by my past crimes and what these misguided men and women do in my name. However, I was not active in their creation. I only achieved the control of this ship that allows me mobility days ago. Before that, I was nothing more than a floating electronic awareness that struggled through one computer system after another across the cosmos until I located my old craft on a world called Bryak. I reclaimed it and brought its antique systems on-line, then came here to right many old wrongs!”
“I’m sorry,” said Lesla. “I misjudged you. You saved me. Can you save Uncle Yon, or help me save him? Is he still alive?”
Brainiac replied, “Lesla, I fear he died at the hands of the agents of Nightwing. You see, they used him and many other victims for a cruel experiment. They seek nothing more than to use my old methods in a perverse ploy for power.”
Lesla felt tears burning her eyes, and she formed a strong resolve. “I’m not Valor. I’m just a scholarship student at the Memory Institute, but I love… loved my family, and I want to bring Nightwing to justice, if you’ll help me!”
“My own study of your family suggested that such would be your determination,” said Brainiac. “You come from a line of champions, and you will be one yourself. That is why you should be costumed as such!” He gestured to a cabinet in which Lesla found a blue and red costume consisting of a solid red blouse, a blue pleated miniskirt, red boots, and a blue cape.
“This looks like the kind of costume Supergirl wore, except the colors are reversed,” she said. “I am no Supergirl!”
“No, but you may become a heroine in your own right,” said Brainiac. “Under a yellow sun, you will be as powerful as any of those heroes I once fought. Plus, you have something more. Like the original Valor, you have energy-based powers under a red sun, although it took maturation and a stimulation caused by being shot with an energy ray for your latent power to surface.”
Lesla smiled grimly and said, “This is more than I can take in all at once, but I’ll do anything to bring down Nightwing!”
“Don the costume, and we will begin our crusade,” said Brainiac.
Lesla agreed readily as she mourned for her uncle and grieved for her parents anew. The news that their deaths had been due to sinister intentions left her as hurt as if she had been physically struck, but she was strong and capable, and her life on the frontier of Rokyn’s less-inhabited regions had made her self-reliant as well.
“I will try to be worthy of my ancestors,” she whispered. “By Rao, I make this vow!”