Andromeda watched from the deck of the Legion Cruiser as Mon-El and Sun Boy expertly guided the ship down to the source of Shrinking Violet’s brief signal. “My, what a stark-looking planet!” said Lesla Vol-Lar. “It reminds me a bit of the deserts of Rokyn, where Uncle Yon and I lived for a time!”
“It’s not so much the bleakness of the world that bothers me,” said Element Lad. “Trom was rather barren, too. That was one of the things in its environment that led my people to develop their transmutation powers over generations. Still, this place has an entirely unsettling feel about it!”
Mon-El nodded and said, “I love space exploration. I’ve even considered leaving the team to pursue that activity more fully, but I have never come across any record of this world!”
“That’s easily explained, Lar,” said Brainiac 5. “This world did not occupy this portion of space before the last year or so. It was brought here through some arcane means at that time. I can’t conceive the amount of raw magical power required to achieve such a feat, but from what we’ve all witnessed with worlds as diverse as Tyrraz and Orando, such things are within the realm of possibility!”
“It goes beyond mere movement!” said Sun Boy. “The mobility of a planet from one location to another would logically create havoc in terms of gravitational forces being exerted in new and deadly ways. If magic moved it, then magic also kept things stable where they should have been wildly chaotic!”
“Dr. Morgna sounds like he’s trying to show off his newly minted doctorate!” said Timber Wolf.
Sun Boy grinned and said, “Would you have preferred me to have just said ‘Wow’?”
“So, shall we explore this brave new world?” asked Ultra Boy. As the others stared at him, the young man from Rimbor shrugged. “Hey, I do read once in a while, you know!” he said.
“I’ll be eager to conclude this mission,” said Brainiac 5. “I have other matters to deal with when we return.”
“You mean the destruction of Zoon’s system?” asked Matter-Eater Lad.
Ultra Boy winked at Tenzil Kem and said, “I think Brainy wants to get back to Brande’s place and get a date with Marlo Latham!”
Brainiac 5 frowned and said, “On what data do you base that largely groundless theory?”
“Largely?” said Mon-El. “Sounds like you like her. Well, good for you. There’s nothing wrong with that. She seemed like a great girl!”
Brainiac 5 nodded and said, “I did enjoy talking with her. She has a fine intellect!”
“I noticed!” said Sun Boy. “That little blue number really showed off her I.Q.!” They laughed as the ship landed in the steaming jungle’s main clearing.
“A factory! That seems to be the only settlement in sight!” said Andromeda.
“There’s something restless about this world!” said Element Lad. “The environment seems to be transitory in nature! I can detect alterations in the composition of the atmosphere itself!”
“Magical landscapes do shift at whim,” said Brainiac 5. “Consider the random nature of life on Zerox, where Mysa studied.”
“Magic again!” said Timber Wolf. “I’m glad Imra decided to reluctantly sit this one out. She’s had enough pain due to magic!”
Matter-Eater Lad nodded and said, “You mean the way Darkseid changed her son into Validus? I still can’t quite understand the nuances in that scheme. He used his power to hide the birth of one of her twins, and he sent it back through time to allow him to meet us all years earlier as a mutated monster!”
Timber Wolf nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Now that the kid has been returned to normal, albeit it as a boy and not an infant, he’s doing pretty well. The poor child’s mind is developing slowly, but Garth’s a pretty dedicated house father!”
“Here’s comes our welcoming committee!” said Ultra Boy, pointing to where dozens of the red beings were swarming out of the jungle to surround them.
Brainiac 5 generated his force-shield to deflect the attacks of the nearest aliens as the others prepared for battle. “We need to find Violet and confront the creator of these pawns,” he said. “I fear he or she may be able to create a near-endless supply of them at will!”
“Why don’t we divide up?” suggested Element Lad. “Jo, Lar, and Lesla can handle the aliens, while the rest of us search for Salu!”
Ultra Boy slammed into a group of the red beings and switched from strength to speed as he landed punches on them all in seconds. Mon-El blasted them with super-cold breath and froze them in their tracks. Andromeda flew at super-speed and trailed one hand as she flew so that her super-strength allowed her to channel a cascading flow of soil into their midst with stunning force and speed.
“Looks like Lesla’s fitting in just fine as the newest member of the Super Three!” said Sun Boy.
Timber Wolf grinned and said, “You’re right! She’s not Superboy, but she’s pretty good for a new kid in the cosmos!”
“Let me transform the wall of that factory-like complex into air so we can slip in easily,” said Element Lad, doing so. As the young heroes entered the building, they saw two odd sights.
Shrinking Violet was trapped within a tightly wrapped series of coils, and a weird humanoid being with green skin and a number of weirdly waving tentacles watched her struggles with little or no emotion.
Timber Wolf bounded forward and ripped the coils away from the girl, while the others faced the alien.
“Sden? It’s that wizard we once faced!” said Sun Boy. (*) “I guess he’s the magic-user running this place!” He flew forward and generated a blazing ring of fire. “If you’ve hurt Violet, I’ll really turn up the heat!” he vowed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Creature Who Conned the Legion,” Superboy #230 (August, 1977).]
However, Sden said nothing and made no movement to avoid the flames.
“Either he’s in some kind of trance, or he’s gotten over his phobia regarding fire!” said Element Lad.
Brainiac 5 looked around the complex and said, “The factory is not truly converting the stolen minerals into any practical substance. This whole complex seems designed to merely channel them into the world’s core!”
Matter-Eater Lad cried out as a bolt of energy blasted through the roof and struck him.
“Tenzil’s down! But I think he’ll recover!” yelled Element Lad as he examined his friend.
The air shimmered around them as a noxious cloud seemed to swirl through the area.
“Some kind of toxic gas! I can’t see!” gasped Timber Wolf as he snarled in anger and leaped at the wizard. Before he could reach his target, the ground shook violently, and the soil erupted to engulf him in mounds of dirt.
Sun Boy baked the soil until it became brittle enough for Timber Wolf to claw his way out. “Sden’s not even moving! How is he doing this?”
Brainiac 5 tried to encase the gas that threatened to overwhelm them in his force-shield, but it parted and dodged his efforts with a bizarre but obvious intellect of its own.
Element Lad tried to convert the gas into a harmless vapor, but it re-formed with a deliberate purpose and left him choking for breath.
Shrinking Violet opened her eyes and said, “He’s just another puppet! His magic power was enough to enslave your Dad and the rest and make them manufacture the materials used here, but that’s all he’s capable of doing. He’s nothing more than a source of mobility for the real wizard!”
As waves of mental energy swept over them, they all realized the truth.
“YOU CAN NEVER TRIUMPH OVER ME! I AM THIS WORLD! I AM YGGARDIS.”
“Great Galaxy! We’re fighting a living, thinking planet!” said Brainiac 5. “The whole planet is the wizard!”
At that moment, Mon-El, Andromeda, and Ultra Boy flew into the room and rushed to aid their stricken friends.
“That thundering telepathic voice brought us here!” said Andromeda. “If that’s the mind Saturn Girl tried to make direct contact with through the alien we captured, then I can understand how she would be hurt!”
Ultra Boy helped Brainiac 5 regain his footing and he said, “This world planet is some kind of living being? It’s the one who wants the stolen minerals?”
“Correct! I think it is using them as some kind of vitamin source!” said Shrinking Violet.
Brainiac 5 nodded ruefully. “Vi is right! This whole factory, the thefts, the mind-control — all were designed to get sustenance for this living world, because it is dying!”
“I guess it doesn’t require the magical pawns to occupy us, since we’ve learned its secret!” said Mon-El. “They all just turned away from the fight and resumed their duties!”
“YGGARDIS NEEDS NOTHING BEYOND ITS OWN MIGHT! YOU WILL ALL PERISH!” The telepathic voice rocked them backward with sheer force of will.
“I saw enough while I was captive to determine that magic was occurring, but Sden was neither chanting nor gesturing,” said Vi. “I figured he had some unseen master, and based on the way the whole planet seemed to alter at will as needed, I deduced that planet itself was a sentient being!”
“Its entire ecosystem is subject to change at its slightest whim,” said Element Lad. “That’s why it could attack us with quakes, dirt slides, lightning, and toxic fumes!”
“If it is so powerful, why does it need the ‘vitamins,’ as you called the stolen materials?” asked Sun Boy.
“Because the whole world is sick,” said Element Lad. “It is dying from prolonged radiation sickness. The core that is being fed the purloined substances is a raging inferno of deadly energies! It took me a while, but I’ve sensed as much.”
“Could you fix it?” asked a groaning Matter-Eater Lad as he sat up slowly.
“You OK, Tenzil?” asked Violet.
Tenzil Kem nodded and said, “I’ve been awake. Just resting. Trying to gather my strength! I was serious. Could you use your powers to turn the poisonous core to something that would not kill the planet?”
“I can certainly try!” said Element Lad.
Brainiac 5 stiffened suddenly, and then in a halting tone, he began to speak. “Yggardis scanned my mind and probed it. He projected a thought to me. He told me of his amazing origin. He showed me his efforts to house various alien races who settled on his soil failed, as his radiation killed them all in time. He took pleasure in this for eons, but finally as he matured, he grew bored with murder and sought real companionship! It was too late. His very core emitted toxic energies that killed all who dwelt here long. That kind of action led him to battle Superman himself on more than one occasion. (*) Finally, Yggardis moved himself through space via magic until he settled here. It in our universe that he found a chance to save himself!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Triad,” DC Comics Presents #78 (February, 1985).]
“He used his magic to ensnare the mystic Sden, and through him, he orchestrated the scheme in which Derek Morgna and others across the galaxy were forced to do his will and then forget about it. The goal was to provide him with life-sustaining resources. The red beings were magical constructs formed in the rough image of the real Starburst Bandits we once fought.”
Sun Boy stood up as he and the others found the air free of the gas. “He’s reviving us! Does this mean he read our good intentions when he scanned your mind?” asked Dirk Morgna.
“Apparently so!” said Brainiac 5. “He is willing to let Jan try to transmute his core to save his existence! If we save him, he will stop his magical manipulations!”
Sden slumped forward and gasped in shock.
“He’s freed Sden,” said Violet. “The poor creep didn’t know what hit him. Even a criminal deserves free will!”
Ultra Boy said, “Jan, can you really help him? It?”
Jan Arrah nodded slowly as he approached Brainiac 5. “I’m going to try,” said Element Lad. “If you’ll fly us down to the core for a firsthand look, we’ll use the force-shield belt to protect us from the core’s deadly power!”
Mon-El agreed, and as the ground shook, a tunnel appeared before them.
“USE THIS PASSAGE, MORTALS!” echoed the telepathic voice of the living planet.
“This certainly clears your Dad!” said Matter-Eater Lad as he, Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, Timber Wolf, Andromeda, and Ultra Boy waited on their three friends.
Sun Boy nodded and replied, “Sure. Assuming we actually can get anyone to believe this story!”
Brainiac 5, Mon-El, and Element Lad emerged from the tunnel after an hour had passed. Their expressions revealed the outcome of their mission of mercy.
“The core is too unstable for Jan’s power to do any good,” said Mon-El. “He can change it for a time, but it reverts back to a deadly form in minutes.”
Yggardis began to shake, and a storm raged above as the Legionnaires fought to survive the chaos.
“I WILL TAKE YOU ALL TO YOUR GRAVES!” roared the living planet.
“Not without a fight!” shouted Mon-El.
Brainiac 5 stood impassively by and shielded them with his force-shield. “Yggardis, cease this infantile behavior. While there is life, there is hope, as the ancients said. I have one more idea. Allow me to try to cure you through more drastic measures!”
“What are you thinking of doing?” said Sun Boy.
Brainiac 5 merely spoke to the ring by which he was linked to their headquarters’ computer system. “Computo, activate teleportation system with altered coordinates as indicated by my dictated calculations.”
“I thought you were letting our sentient computer system do something with Zoon’s dying suns,” said Timber Wolf,
Sun Boy smiled and said, “I think he is!”
The hum of an operating teleportation unit filled the room as the unit opened above the enormous tunnels that led deep within the core of Yggardis.
Hours later, the world was a changed place. A sense of calm serenity filled the air, and clearly Yggardis was at peace.
“You cured him! I can feel it!” said Element Lad. “The unstable core is now harmless! I don’t even feel that aura of menace any longer!”
“Yes, I channeled the energies given off by the unstable tri-star system of Zoon when it went nova directly into the core of Yggardis through a teleporation shunt,” said Brainiac 5. “I hoped correctly that the radical energies would cure his decay through a type of crude planetary scale chemo-theraphy!”
“So, Zoon’s death did some real good!” said Timber Wolf.
“I AM INDEBTED TO YOU! NO LONGER WILL I PLAGUE YOUR KIND. THEY MAY SETTLE HERE SAFELY, AND I WILL AT LAST KNOW COMMUNION WITH OTHERS!”
“You’ll be able to house real sentient beings and not rely on the magic pawns,” said Element Lad. “You no longer need to steal resources from others!”
“Perhaps some of the Zoonians will even wish to settle here,” said Brainiac 5.
Later, the Legionnaires were flying home in their cruiser, far away from the now-benign living planet.
“Imagine all of that plotting and peril because a planet was sick and lonely!” said Ultra Boy.
“In spite of his enormous size and complexity, at heart Yggardis was a simple being,” said Brainiac 5. “His emotions were those of a spoiled child.”
“The resource raids will stop now,” said Violet. “His sentient pawns are all free. We even dropped Sden off as he requested! I guess this wraps up one of the strangest cases ever!”
Matter-Eater Lad smiled broadly and said, “Deena will be glad to hear that I was able to resolve things with you all. She knew I hated working against you!”
“Dad will grumble a bit, but in the end he’ll forgive you,” said Sun Boy. “He knows it’s true.”
“What’s true?” asked Timber Wolf.
“Once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire!” shouted the others.