Much later, the Heroes of Lallor awoke to find themselves reunited with the real Duplicate Boy. The foursome were aboard a spacecraft, and while they could move freely, none of them could use their unique powers. “I suspect some type of neutralizing device is blocking our individual powers,” said Evolvo Lad. “They are not gone, but they’ve been suppressed!”
“No kidding!” said Duplicate Boy. “I figured that out, and I’m not even the smart one!”
“Where are we?” asked Gas Girl. “I’ve never seen this section of space. The celestial patterns don’t match any I’ve seen before!”
Life Lass shrugged and said, “I’m afraid. Why do these people hate us so much? We’ve never fought them before, and yet they acted as if we had wronged them!”
Multiplicity entered their chamber as a door slid aside, and his allies quickly followed him. “We were wronged by you! You did much more than merely slight us. You betrayed us! Still, why don’t I let a much more elegant speaker explain our history? He’s well-known to you as well!”
As the black-clad rogue moved aside, an older man with thinning brown hair stepped into view.
“Vorr!” gasped Life Lass.
The former prime minister of Lallor smiled slightly and inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Correct! You recall the man you destroyed! How fitting. I assumed you had all suppressed any memory of how you stabbed me in the back!”
“Hold it!” said Duplicate Boy. “You’re the creep who tried to banish us from Lallor years ago! We were content, to a point, in the center where we grew up, until you decided we were a menace to your world order, so you shipped us off into space!”
“I concur,” said Evolvo Lad. “You lost power because of your own mistakes. You were to blame for the atomic accident that gave us our powers. You were to blame for the way we were locked away for years. You saw us as living symbols of your own failures, so you tried to cast us off into space. When the Legion helped us find a role as defenders of our world, there was no place for you. (*) Still, we were not even on the planet when other forces put you out of office. You can’t blame us!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Legion of Super-Outlaws,” Adventure Comics #324 (September, 1964).]
“Vorr, why have you had these super-crooks attack us?” asked Life Lass. “Is this all revenge for the loss of your position?”
Vorr chuckled harshly. “On the contrary, it is payment in full for the way in which you usurped any public role these other children of the atom might have had,” he said. “They, too, were born of the accident that spawned your powers. However, unlike you four, these mutants paid a harsh price for their powers. They hate you for the fact that you have basked in adoration, while they have been feared and shunned! As for me, I wanted to help them pay you back for your betrayal in order to clear the way for my own return to power! With these four by my side, I shall wipe out the weak defenders of Lallor and claim this fickle world for myself!” He gestured to Multiplicity and said, “He can replicate his body endlessly upon any human touch. However, he can also never know the warmth or affection of normal contact with other people. One touch creates a double, and so on.”
Pointing at the opaque-eyed Image, Vorr said, “She can create illusions, but her own perceptions are clouded. All she knows is shadow and smoke. Her reality is a thing of nightmare and void!” He pointed to the lumbering creature called Brute and the being called Enigma. The first one had rocky skin and a distorted body, while the shape-shifter lacked any coherent facial features. “They respectively have strength and the ability to change shape, but they can’t live among normal people because of their deformities.”
Brute opened his mouth, and a croaking sound signaled his painful efforts at speech. “You were born with gifts,” he finally cried. “We were born accursed! That is reason enough to see you banished from Lallor!”
“You’ve blocked our powers!” said Gas Girl. “What are you going to do with us?”
“I won’t kill you,” said Vorr. “I’ll simply profit off of you at last by selling you into slavery. That’s the leading form of commerce on Stygia. That’s the world below us, and your new home until you die!”
Duplicate Boy jumped forward and tackled Vorr, but before he could vent his frustration, he was roughly pulled back by the replicating Multiplicity. “You still have spirit!” said Vorr. “That’s good. The slavers will make a nice sum off of you. The ladies will also bring in many credits for their charms. I don’t think Evolvo Lad will be much of a prize, though.”
The Heroes of Lallor were shoved off the ship as the craft landed and the hull doors parted. Stygia was a gloomy world, and a sense of oppression pervaded every scene. The world had a shockingly simple societal code. Some people were masters, and others were slaves. The masters lived in luxury, while their slaves suffered endless years of abuse and pain. Cruelty was the norm and not the exception.
This cold and brutal world was well known to the beautiful blonde woman who watched as the so-called Villains of Lallor delivered the Heroes of Lallor to the port slave master next to her. She was tall and strikingly beautiful. Her lovely features came from her late mother, who had been captured from the planet Femnaz by her daring father. Zaryana had never known her mother, but she had loved her father and admired him greatly before his death changed everything.
Zaryana pushed a lock of long blonde hair away from her pinkish-hued face and stared into space. She didn’t really care about the new arrivals. She had seen it all before in the many years since her life as a slave had begun. She remembered the pain that had marked the beginning of the end for her old life. Still, before that pain she had known pleasure and pride.
This proud woman had been born on the Khundish colony world of Brok. Her father Zaryan had risen to the highest rank of warlord in the service of the Khunds, in spite of the fact that he came from one of the many worlds Khundia had subjugated. The Brokians resembled Khunds in many ways and clearly shared some common ancestral genetic stock. Zaryan had been awarded the honorific of the Conqueror, and he had earned it through a series of dazzlingly effective and brutal military campaigns.
But because he was not a full-blooded Khund but a Brokian, his becoming warlord of the Khund Empire was a rather unusual and daring experiment at a time when the growth of that empire had long stagnated. Thus his status as leader of the Khunds was not known outside the Khund Empire until much later. Instead, he was believed to be nothing more than an interplanetary criminal like the many space pirates that plagued the spaceways, causing his enemies to underestimate him. To that end, he commanded an army of robot shock troops instead of the traditional army of Khund warriors.
Zaryan the Conqueror had been the warlord selected to begin a slow but lethal invasion of worlds that neighbored the Khund Empire. The worlds had indeed fallen to his forces like domino blocks, thanks in part to the ploy that he was a lone outlaw. He was smart and he was ruthless, but he loved Zaryana. She suspected that he had taken the woman who became her mother as nothing more than a pretty spoil of war, but something about Zaryana as an infant made the soldier choose to give her status as his child and not as a mere nuisance.
She smiled even now as she recalled life as the pampered daughter of the much-feared Zaryan the Conqueror. She remembered the strong, almost astringent fragrance of Zaryan’s customary scent. The aroma made her think of power and of danger. She also remembered the last time she spoke with her father. She had been ten years old, and he had bent down to embrace her in his normal rough way.
“Zaryana, I am about to face the United Planets’ favored defenders, the Legion of Super-Heroes,” he told her. “They foolishly turned down a great reward in exchange for not opposing me, and I expect they will try to stop my plans of conquest. They will fail. There will be death. There will be suffering. In the end, the result will be exactly as it always has been when I have invaded or attacked a planet. I triumph. That is my destiny. I want you to remember that such shall be your own fate as well. You will be strong. You will survive. You will bring honor to my name. If you always carry yourself as the daughter of the Conqueror, then you will never go wrong!”
Zaryan touched her face for a moment before departing. The rest of the story was one of pain and anguish for Zaryana. Her father had been as capable as ever, but the Legion nevertheless triumphed. One of their members named Lightning Lad had even sacrificed his very life in order to drive off Zaryan the Conqueror and his robot army. (*) Her father lost, and he died. His replacement was a cruel and mocking Khund warrior named Garlak.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Stolen Super-Powers,” Adventure Comics #304 (January, 1963).]
This Garlak, known as the Mad Warlord, assumed command of Zaryan’s forces, or at least the remnant that was left to them, and mounted his own invasion of Earth, which was defeated again by the Legion despite the fact that he managed to infiltrate that organization with an agent of his own. (*) The Mad Warlord was a cocky, strutting figure who stroked his pointed beard and oiled his hair. He had also decided to remove any remaining trace of his late predecessor, so ten-year-old Zaryana was taken to Stygia and sold into slavery.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “One of Us Is a Traitor,” Adventure Comics #346 (July, 1966) and “The Traitor’s Triumph,” Adventure Comics #347 (August, 1966).]
Zaryana knew that Garlak had lost his own mind during the Earthwar, losing his seat to the strategist Galmark, and she relished this small victory. However, that news only came to her after she had learned a painful lesson in survival. She had been victimized by Garlak and his crew, and she had vowed to make them pay for the indignities they inflicted upon her. That silent vow had sustained her during the voyage to Stygia, and it had motivated her as she started life as a slave. Her courage, wit, and, above all, her will to survive had carried her from the role of menial slave to amorous partner to a position of reasonable authority under Gennings, the port slave master.
She hated Gennings. She hated his touch. She despised the sight of the fat and wheezing tyrant. Still, while she was technically his property, she did enjoy a bit more freedom than many other slaves. She turned to the pale Stygian and said, “This new lot is different from most. Why have they been brought directly to us? Usually the receivers handle this part of the deal!”
“Because they need watching,” said Gennings. “We’ve been instructed to maintain their servitude through more extreme measures than are normally required.”
Zaryana bit her lower lip and scowled at them. “That lot?” she said in disbelief. “The bigger male might be of value as breeding stock, but I see little value in the rest. The females lack spirit!”
“Just take them to processing,” said Gennings. “We’ll find a place for them.”
She nodded and hurried down the rows of stairs that led down to the port. She hoped this group would not bother her with the usual number of pleas for help or aid or the threats that followed when she refused to assist them.
Zaryana sighed. She hated her life, but she would honor her father and never truly be conquered.