Superman: The Apokolips Factor, Chapter 2: The Sands of Time

by PDebord

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The Legion of Super-Heroes Headquarters, Metropolis, in the year 2986:

Several of the regular members sat around a recreation area talking. Brainiac 5 sat near the door, while Mon-El and Shadow Lass sat in what passed for a love seat in the future, and Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl sat on the other side of the room. The main topic of discussion as of late had been the identity of one of the team’s newest members, Sensor Girl. Many believed she was Supergirl, and the discussion had eventually swung around to the Crisis on Infinite Earths in which she had died.

“I just don’t get it,” said Ultra Boy. “The Crisis happened back in 1985; we had no inkling of what happened then, but we know now.”

“The Anti-Monitor’s actions affected the time stream, which not only altered the past, but our perception of it as well,” Brainiac 5 droned. He in particular had become obsessed with the theory that Sensor Girl was Supergirl and had somehow been changed by the Anti-Monitor after her supposed death, making her a potential threat to the Legion.

“That’s as clear as mud,” Ultra Boy said.

“Worry about the past later — we’ve got a bigger problem in the here and now,” Element Lad said as he walked in the door. The current LSH chairman turned on a computer terminal showing Lady Death wreaking havoc in the middle of the city.

“Who’s that?” Phantom Girl asked as she stood up.

“I don’t know, but I’ll give you three guesses who sent her,” Mon-El said.

“Darkseid sent her to Earth in the twentieth century, and she came here after tearing Smallville to pieces,” Superman said as he stepped into the doorway behind Element Lad. The Legionnaires all smiled but were otherwise unsurprised. Kal-El was a semi-regular visitor to their time, although they usually met his younger self.

“Do you know who she is?” Brainiac 5 asked.

“She calls herself Lady Death, but that mask is lead-lined, so I can’t see who she really is.”

“Your x-ray vision can’t see through lead, but my penetra-vision can,” Ultra Boy said. Superman stepped out of the way as Ultra Boy flew out the door past him.

***

On the rock that remained of the planet that was once called Apokolips, the thirtieth-century version of Darkseid cracked a wicked smile.

“Up until now I did not know what happened to my Lady Death, only that she returned to Earth as her true self,” Darkseid said to himself. “Events in this time must have triggered her memories, events which I cannot prevent. I can send her back to her time as Lady Death and allow her to accomplish her mission.”

***

Ultra Boy flew silently and quickly out over the city, leaving the other Legionnaires behind. Lady Death spotted him coming and landed on a large street. “I don’t think tall, dark, and ugly warned you about the Legion of Super-Heroes, or you wouldn’t be trashing our hometown,” he said.

Nodding without a word, Lady Death spun on her heel and ran away at super-speed.

“Nope, he didn’t tell you, or you would know that I can outrun anything on land,” Ultra Boy said, running after her. He barely noticed as she came to a dead stop in front of him, spun in place, and held her arm outstretched. Don’t have enough time to change powers completely, Ultra Boy thought as he saw her neat little trap too late.

Lady Death’s arm caught him in the chest mid-way between his change from ultra-speed to invulnerability. The impact turned him for a loop and sent him crashing into a building. He had switched between his powers barely enough to keep the blow and the building from killing him. Superman and the other Legionaires watched as Ultra Boy, among their strongest, fell.

“I hope he had enough time to switch powers,” Shadow Lass said.

“He did, or there would be a big long grease spot where Jo use to be,” Mon-El said. Ultra Boy, whose name was Jo Nah, was one of his closest friends.

“Apparently her powers are similar to those of Kryptonians and Daxamites,” Brainiac 5 said.

“And she knows more about the Legion than she should,” Superman said.

“The fabric of time is already beginning to bend, Superman — she must not be allowed to tear it,” the Phantom Stranger said as he appeared in the middle of the room.

“You!” said Superman. “You certainly get around, Stranger.”

“Who is this man?” asked Shadow Lass.

“No one knows what his name is, but we call him the Phantom Stranger,” Superman said. “He seems to know more about this than anyone.”

“Then you know who Lady Death is?” Shadow Lass asked.

“Yes — she is the past, the future, and a legend reborn,” the Phantom Stranger said, then vanished.

“Could you be a little more vague, Stranger?” Superman commented.

“Not to change the subject, but we’ve got an even bigger problem,” Element Lad said. “Lady Death is coming here.”

Crashing through the outer wall of Legion Headquarters, Lady Death flew into a computer room.

“How did she know where that was?” Brainiac 5 asked as the Legionaires watched her on the monitor in the recreation room.

“I don’t know, but this is getting eerie,” Phantom Girl said as she walked through the wall toward the outside.

“Where’s she going?” Mon-El asked.

“Probably to check on Jo,” Shadow Lass answered.

“I’ll keep her busy, Mon-El and Superb — er, Superman should be able to restrain her together,” Brainiac 5 said as he walked out the door and down the hall to the computer room, where Lady Death sat waiting for him. “Looks like you were expecting me,” Brainiac 5 said as he shut the door behind him.

“One of the advantages of super-hearing, I suppose,” Lady Death said as she pushed a button on the console behind her.

A metal plate slid down over the door, sealing it behind Brainiac 5. “Now that should keep that annoying Daxamite and that overgrown Boy Scout out of our way,” Lady Death said as she walked toward the green-skinned living computer. Brainiac 5 took a step back and pressed a hidden button on his belt buckle. “If I knew all of this about you, what makes you think I don’t know about your force-field?” Lady Death asked.

She swung toward him with a grunt. Her fist was stopped several inches from his face, and the impact was audible. He stepped back against the wall as his belt buckle began to smoke. Lady Death grabbed the collar of his red shirt and lifted him off his feet. She pulled her left hand back for another punch that would surely finish him off without his force-field to protect him.

“Without you, half of this bunch can’t even think straight,” Lady Death said. “It will be no great chore for my master to conquer Earth then.” But as she prepared to strike him, her hand began to shake. She shook her head as she pitched him away. “I can’t… I can’t do it,” she said in frustration.

Brainiac 5 got back to his feet and brushed the dirt off his sleeves. “You can’t kill,” he said as he pushed the button to raise the shield on the door.

As Superman and Mon-El flew inside, a yellow flash of light brightened the room. “Boom Tube,” Brainiac 5 realized as he stepped away from it.

“Come, girl,” a deep, foreboding voice said from the other end of the portal. Lady Death nodded and flew through the Boom Tube, and it vanished.

In their experience, the Boom Tube was the only way that Darkseid had to get from Apokolips to wherever he wanted to go. “I would say that your Lady Death is already on Apokolips by now,” Brainiac 5 said.

That can’t be good,” Superman said.

“It is not,” the Phantom Stranger said as he appeared where the Boom Tube had been.

“I take it this is what I was sent here to prevent?” Superman asked.

“It was. Now the sands of time have been altered, and we must return to your time to repair the damage.”

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