Zaryana met the hapless Heroes of Lallor as Vorr turned them over to the port authorities. “I am Vorr,” said the former prime minister. “I trust my documentation filed as we docked was in order? Excellent. I’ll turn these fine specimens over to your care. You do know about their special needs?”
She nodded and said, “Of course. We do our jobs well here. You know that from your previous dealings with us. Your payment has been transferred to your account.”
Vorr nodded and said, “Fine. I’ll leave them in your capable hands, but watch your tone, slave girl!” He turned and walked away as three armed men stepped forward to herd the Heroes of Lallor along the alleyway.
“We’ll take them to the main receiving center,” said Zaryana. “We’ll feed them and evaluate them for sale!”
“My powers are still nullified,” said Evolvo Lad. “It has to be due to the presence of some factor in Stygia’s atmosphere or within range of broadcast from the planet. We had powers until we woke up above this world! Even then, Multiplicity retained his powers, so it must be a specific type of broadcast that only limited us, but not the villains!”
“What about you, Somi?” asked Gas Girl. “Can you sense any kind of machine that might be doing this to us?”
Life Lass leaned closer to the taller girl and said, “No. If I was going to guess, though, I’d say that tower above the docking station might be what is blocking our powers. Perhaps it projects some type of genetic tranquilizer that renders our mutations harmless!”
“Well, we could still take those gunmen,” said Duplicate Boy. “I could handle them on my own, while you make a break for it!”
Evolvo Lad hissed insistently, “No! Don’t be a dolt, Ord! You might be killed!”
Zaryana put one hand on her hip and laughed. “I hear your every word. I was trained for that kind of thing as a child. We Brokkians have very keen senses, so don’t try anything funny!” She frowned for a moment and said, “You mentioned power. What kind of power could a pathetic lot like you possess?”
“I’m known as Duplicate Boy,” said Ord Quelu. “I can duplicate the power of any one being. I could get us out of here if I could use those powers. You are a slave, too. Wouldn’t you like to be free?”
“Are you all looks and no brains?” said Zaryana. “I’d relish freedom, but there is no way off this world. This docking port is heavily guarded. No one can leave or arrive without proper clearance!”
“Don’t you see?” said Evolvo Lad. “We don’t need a ship! Ord can survive in space. He can copy the powers of Mon-El himself! He can get free us all! He can bring help!”
“Please!” said Life Lass. “At least tell me if I’m right! Is it that tower that is blocking the use of our powers?”
“I’ll take you to get food,” said Zaryana. “If you tell me more that intrigues me, perhaps I’ll tell you more!” She cursed herself for feeling hope again after so long as a slave, but something about the Heroes of Lallor gave her that long-forgotten sensation. Could they truly be able to free her? Vorr certainly was insistent that they be cared for with extra precautions.
“We’re the Heroes of Lallor,” said Gas Girl. “We truly do have powers. We defend our world. Vorr is a creep who wants to get rid of us so he can rule.”
“Look, lady, we know the Legion!” said Duplicate Boy. “They’ll bring this place down around you like a Venusian firestorm!”
Zaryana stopped walking and whirled to confront him. “I hate the Legion! I hate them almost as much as I hate the Khund Empire! They killed my father. The Legion killed him. Then the Khunds cast me aside like I was nothing! If you claim to be allies to either of those groups, we have little to talk about!”
Evolvo Lad shoved in front of Duplicate Boy and said, “We do know the Legion, but we think for ourselves. Tell us your story, and we’ll tell you more about our own plight. What can you lose? At least we’ll amuse you for a time!”
Zaryana smiled and said, “Very well, little man. Tell me your story!”
An hour later, within the meal hall of the docking port, Zaryana sat with both long legs across the edge of the table, while the others ate from bowls of soup. “I don’t know why, but I believe your words,” she finally said, to the great relief of her guests. “I also know that my hated master Gennings insisted that I keep you all within the sight of the tower. That means you can only be sold to owners who work this dock area. I think that could mean that you really do have dangerous powers outside the range of the tower. I’m going to do something I never imagined I could do. I’m going to trust someone else. I will take you to the tower.”
“Get us inside, and we’ll earn your trust,” said Evolvo Lad. “We’ll take you with us!”
She snorted indignantly and said, “Little man, if you don’t take me with you, I’ll gladly take you all to the underworld if I can!”
That night, under cover of darkness, the five aliens made their way to the tower. This huge construct loomed over the docking port and was ringed with armed guards. “I am taking these slaves to perform routine tasks within the tower,” Zaryana told the guard with a haughty manner. “I will require your swift aid should they try to escape.”
“Bah! You will not be in peril,” grumbled the guard. “We will shoot them down like carrion, should they emerge without you!”
Zaryana slapped him across the chest and said, “My thanks.”
Gas Girl whispered to Life Lass as they entered the tower, “She could use some lessons in flirting!”
“You are within the tower,” said Zaryana. “The main broadcast center is ahead. It should merely broadcast regulatory data for incoming ships. I can’t see any type of odd equipment.”
“If it is here, then I will recognize it,” said Evolvo Lad. “I may not have my advanced mind, but I do recall things I learned from past evolutionary enhancements!” He smiled as he saw a row of gleaming dials. “That can’t be a communications signal station. It must be what we seek. I can only imagine that those devices inhibit genetic mutation.”
“It is heavily guarded, too,” said Gas Girl. “I’d wager that means there may be other superhumans enslaved here, too!”
“There are other slaves designated to work only within the sight of the tower,” explained Zaryana, “but since the docking port is our major industrial center, that has never been questioned.”
“How can we destroy it?” asked Life Lass. “Those gunmen could cut us down before we came near to them!”
Gas Girl smiled and said, “Leave that to me. I know how to get a man to let me draw closer to him!” She smiled broadly and walked in a sultry manner until she was near the row of guards. “My, what an attractive group of men!” she said. “Couldn’t one or more of you enslave me? I’d work ever so hard to please you!”
A guard laughed and elbowed his friend as he reached out for her. “We don’t change shifts for five more degas,” he said. “Let’s have a bit of fun!” He pulled Gas Girl closer, and she jumped into his arms with a girlish laugh. As he kissed her, she moved closer to him and grabbed him tightly. They moved backward, and she felt the control panel touch her back.
She caressed his face and then brought his head down into the panel with one swift move. Gas Girl kicked at the machines as sparks flew, and the gunmen rushed over to fire at her.
Zaryana cursed and threw herself at them with surprising speed. She grabbed a fallen rifle and blasted at the guards with a scream of defiance. “You’d better be able to get me to freedom!” she shrieked.
Before any of the other guards could open fire, their rifles tore themselves out of their hands and crashed into their faces. Life Lass had been able to animate the weapons just in time.
Duplicate Boy smiled and knocked every guard flat with a gust of super-breath. “Oh, yeah! I’m as super as they come now!” he said. “All it took was the destruction of that broadcast device for our powers to return!”
“I’ll handle the rest of them,” said Gas Girl. “A bit of Saturian mind-mist will make a wonderfully hallucinogenic experience for the dock crew. We can steal a ship while they see Jovian elephants!” She quickly took on the form of the powerful gas and floated over the docking port until she had knocked out all the remaining guards.
“Now we can take a ship back to Lallor and capture Vorr and his criminal mutants!” said Life Lass.
Evolvo Lad, now in his evolved genius state, said, “I’ve been thinking about that. Perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt. We could have all suffered their fate had our mutations taken a different path. If we could get them to reform, perhaps they could become champions of Lallor as well!”
“Those losers?” said Gas Girl. “As if! I’d prefer to see them locked away!”
“We were locked away for too long as well!” said Life Lass.
Gas Girl shook her head and said, “Well, yeah. That’s true. I guess I wasn’t thinking straight.”
Zaryana followed them into a nearby spacecraft and said, “The security guards and crew are all dazed. This is remarkable!”
“What will you do with your new freedom?” said Duplicate Boy.
The blonde Brokkian said, “I hate the United Planets, and I hate the Khunds. I can find no home in either of their dominions. Would your world of Lallor accept me? Would I be of use to you all… perhaps as a new defender of your world?”
“Your skills are impressive,” said Evolvo Lad. “We would welcome you. First, though, we need to come to terms with the other mutants, and we must defeat Vorr. He is an enemy!”
As the cruiser warped through space, the group became silent as each one pursued his or her own thoughts. When they reached Lallor, Evolvo Lad said, “You all know my plan. Follow it to the letter, and we should emerge victorious!” They nodded in agreement and followed Duplicate Boy as he led them to a private home outside of the capital city.
“By using super-senses and the genetic tracker you whipped up, we can easily locate our targets!” said Duplicate Boy.
“My tracker is a rather effective invention, I must say,” said Evolvo Lad.
Zaryana slapped him on the back and said, “You amuse me! You are always pleasantly surprised with your own skills. That is not Khundish, and that appeals to me!” They followed Duplicate Boy as he blasted the wall into rubble with a variant of Lightning Lad’s potent energy.
The four evil mutants and Vorr whirled to face them, but they were too slow. Life Lass gestured, and Multiplicity’s own costume animated to bind him until he was helpless.
The pretty, dark-haired Somi Gan smiled and said, “I can’t touch you without creating more doubles to fight, but as Evolvo deduced, your own body doesn’t active your powers upon touch. That’s why a simple straitjacket out of your own costume can tie you up without creating more doubles!” The man in black and gold cursed, but he could not free himself from Life Lass’ trap.
Gas Girl used her power to saturate the area around the shape-shifting Enigma with a potent but unseen knockout gas, and the disfigured villain passed out in seconds. “He could really use a makeover!” she said with a smile.
Duplicate Boy had vanished via Invisible Kid’s power, and now he closed in on the hulking Brute. I don’t like to fight unfairly, but we do need to end this quickly! he thought. Returning to normal, he knocked the big man across the room with a release of Wildfire’s anti-energy. The massive rocky creature tried to rise but soon fell to the ground in pain.
As Image tried to blanket the room with illusions to confuse the Heroes of Lallor, Zaryana calmly closed in on her and slapped her to the ground with one blow. “Your tricks can’t conceal your odor or your heartbeat from a Brokkian!” she said with a cocky smirk.
“You can’t be free!” cried Vorr. “You can’t ruin my plans again!”
“We have defeated your pawns, and in time they might even join us,” said Evolvo Lad. “As for you, Vorr, you defeat yourself once again. You see people as tools. You are a relic. Lallor will never embrace your ways again!”
“Right!” said Duplicate Boy. “Plus, your little abduction of us should place you in a prison for a long time to come!”
Vorr scowled and said, “I never expected you to return! I thought I had time to take control!”
“Lighten up, Vorr,” said Gas Girl. “Maybe they’ll let you be head trustee at the prison!”
The others laughed, and Zaryana smiled as well. She felt as if she finally had a role of her own, and perhaps, in time, she might even think of Lallor as home. It was not part of the United Planets, nor was it in the Khund Empire. If nothing else, it was a new start for her.