Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 8: The Insect Horde

by Libbylawrence

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Meanwhile, Lady Lunar, Star Sapphire, Moonman, and Skyman were traveling through space within Pulsar’s saucer, each of them having his or her own reaction to the experience.

Stacy Macklin was exhilarated by the opportunity to return to space. Her past NASA missions had never involved actual inter-galactic travel, and she felt the same old wonder and amazement that she had known as a young NASA trainee. It’s hard to believe that just days ago I was only concerned about making my book a best seller! she thought. Now I’ve become a would-be super-heroine like Supergirl, and I’m literally inside a flying saucer!

Crossing her legs, Stacy leaned forward to speak with Brice Rogers, who was wearing a version of the green and gold costume he had worn during his time as the deranged Moonman. “Brice, your powers don’t seem to be that different from the way they were before, at least from what I’ve read, yet mine are very different. Do you have any idea what changed my old abilities?” she asked.

The rugged astronaut shook his head. “I don’t know. I’m still coming to terms with having any powers at all,” he said. “I was actually rather content living the life of a Gotham City businessman. Still, how could anyone resist the magnetic call of space? No pun intended!”

Nearby, Star Sapphire watched and listened in silence. By having them call me Camille, and using the French accent I assumed during my role as a real estate agent, I am also making them think of me as just another super-powered Earthling, even if they intellectually know I am from another planet, she thought. None of them can fully realize exactly how different I am from them. This trip to Kronis is nothing to me except as an opportunity to possibly gain greater power before returning to rule Zamaron.

The sultry, raven-haired Star Sapphire frowned as she pondered the mystery. Why the prison planet? she wondered. What could that place of confinement have to do with the cosmic energy waves that affected us all? The super-villains I’ve worked with over the years are almost entirely terrestrial, except for Sinestro, and that renegade Green Lantern was never imprisoned on Kronis. The Guardians of Oa always kept him in jails of their own devising. However, even the Zamarons knew of Kronis, and the stories I heard were frightening, to say the least.

Johnny Kirk alternated between looking out the view screen into deep space, which was almost like returning home, and glancing over at the beauties nearby. Stacy really is nice, he thought. She sure doesn’t seem like a super-criminal, at least anymore. Camille is so pretty she almost takes my breath away. I get so tongue-tied around her. I guess she must think I’m just a hick! The blond man wore a simple white T-shirt and blue jeans, since his invulnerability made a space suit unnecessary, and he certainly didn’t feel worthy to wear the Superman-inspired blue and orange costume he had used during his all-too-brief time as Superman Junior. Even as Skyman he had never tried to create a costume for himself, despite receiving pressure from Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to dress the part of a super-hero. As far as he was concerned, a costume looked silly on him. Anyway, what was so wrong with being a hero in civilian clothes?

Pulsar guided the craft with ease, while marveling at the sights around him. Father would have loved this trip, he thought. He always thirsted for more knowledge! Still, I wonder if he would disapprove of my leaving Earth instead of trying to take Superman’s place as the world’s foremost super-hero.

Looking at a monitoring device, he frowned as he turned to Brice Rogers with a concerned look on his face. “Brice, the ship’s computer is detecting a massive energy surge nearby.” Turning back, he said, “Oh, that’s strange! It’s gone now!”

“Is it akin to the cosmic waves that changed us?” asked Brice.

Star Sapphire shook her head. “Non!” she said with the accent she’d adopted as Camille Fortier. “My gemstone would recognize that energy pattern. The one you detected briefly is merely a powerful device. It is a teleportation system! I would say someone is using it to breach the distance between worlds. I have seen similar machines in my time!”

Stacy nodded and said, “My guess is you detected it when it was on, and you lost it when it stopped working.”

Pulsar nodded. “I’d say that makes sense,” agreed Bob Altus. “I’m going to investigate!”

“We have no time for that,” replied Camille. “We must go to Kronis!”

“I’m with Bob,” said Brice. “Any alien species that could create that kind of machine could also help us in our quest!” Secretly, Brice also felt an obligation to watch over Robert Altus, Junior, because of his old friendship with the redheaded powerhouse’s late father.

As the ship drew closer to a small, Earth-like planet, the computer detected the teleportation device again. “It is below us in that large open space!” Pulsar began before an explosion shook the ship, and brilliant light blazed across the sky.

“Someone destroyed the machine!” cried Star Sapphire, gesturing to where rubble now filled the arena, and green-hued beings were surging across the landscape.

“It that an army?” asked Skyman as he focused his super-vision on the strange scene below them.

“It looks like one to me,” said Pulsar. “Perhaps the army came out of the portal, and the inhabitants of the city destroyed the portal to keep more invaders from arriving!”

“They look like insects!” said Stacy. “I always hated bugs back on the farm!”

“It looks like the bug people are attacking a couple of humans!” said Skyman. “I’m going to try to help those poor folks!” He flew out a hull airlock that closed behind him, then swooped down to find a scene of horror.

A handsome man in gold and gray had fallen beneath a swarm of aliens, and his gleaming sword had clattered across the ground to land at the feet of a beautiful, tall, strawberry blonde woman in a red and blue tunic and tights. Tears flowed down her face as she picked it up and struggled to reach the fallen man.

“Sigurd!” she cried as she punched and kicked her way through the nearest aliens.

Skyman released a blast of super-breath, sweeping the nearest aliens aside to clear a space where the man had fallen. He gasped as he saw how badly the other man had been injured. “Ma’am, I’m here to help. What can I do?” he asked.

Alyssa stared at him for a moment as she held her husband in her arms. “Keep the J’ai warriors back!” she said, then turned back. “Sigurd, my love, I’ll get you to safety!”

The dying Norn-Schild smiled up at his wife and said, “It is too late! Have the stranger take you to safety. We will surely meet again in a paradise for those whose love was true!”

Alyssa shook her head and clasped his hand as she said, “Sigurd, don’t leave me!”

Sigurd reached out with one hand, and when he touched the hilt of his sword, he pressed it into his wife’s hand and said, “Carry it for me!” With those last words he closed his eyes, sank back down, and moved no more.

Skyman was fighting back against the rapidly multiplying J’ai as his super-strength only made them replicate faster with every punch. Even at super-speed, I can’t stop them before they split! thought Johnny Kirk. I’ve got to do something — anything! What would Superman do in this situation?

Suddenly, a beam of violet energy sliced through the air and shattered the exo-skeleton of the nearest J’ai. As it began to replicate, its attacker swooped into view.

Star Sapphire hovered above and said, “I cannot generate enough energy to stop this horde! We must leave or find some other means to stop them!”

Johnny nodded and said, “Camille, can you take them to safety?” He gestured toward a sobbing Alyssa and the now-deceased Sigurd.

Remoni-Notra hesitated, then said, “Of course, Johnny! But where, exactly, is ‘safety’ on this besieged world?”

Flying over, she gently helped Alyssa lift the bodies of Sigurd and Magicko onto an energy platform she had created with her power gem.

“Take us to the heart of the city,” said Alyssa. “It will be the best place to make a stand against them!”

When Brice and Stacy arrived, they quickly began to attack the J’ai in order to buy their friends time to withdraw, but they both experienced problems. Stacy generated energy-beams that shattered the J’ai’s exo-shells, only to trigger their replication process. Brice tried to repel them with magnetic waves, but they merely used the impact to replicate again and again.

Pulsar remained aboard the ship as it hovered overhead for a moment, before he activated a laser that sliced through the masses below. Unfortunately, just as with every other attack, it failed to slow their march. I should be out there with them, but someone has to pilot the craft! he thought.

Suddenly, Stacy had an idea. Flying above the horde, Lady Lunar ordered her allies to shield their eyes. As they obeyed, the blonde heroine generated an intensely bright flash of pure light. Her lithe form shined brightly like a humanoid star, until all that could be seen of her body was a humanoid-shaped golden glow. The light didn’t actually touch the aliens, and thus no replication occurred, but it blinded them all.

“Great work!” cried Johnny. “They can’t see! That has to slow them down!”

Stacy smiled as she saw how effective her tactic had been. The J’ai had now stopped their march completely, as they had lost the power to see. “It won’t last long, but it may give us time to find a way to stop them!” she said, then led her friends toward the heart of the city, where Star Sapphire had already taken the fallen Honor Team of Thronn.

Pulsar remained in the ship above, nodding slowly as he studied the scene below. “Stacy is smart,” he said. “Somehow her beauty and sweetness make me forget that she has a keen mind as well!”

Looking down at the teeming J’ai horde, he came to a conclusion. “Blinding them stopped them without triggering their weird regeneration process. I bet I could defeat them for real with another attack on their senses!”

Adjusting controls on the saucer, he soon caused a shrill siren to ring out. “I can make this sonic attack far more powerful than I could in an inhabited city, since no one remains below except for the aliens!” he said, watching with satisfaction as sound waves blanketed the area, and, sure enough, the aliens began collapsing one by one.

It was true that some of them replicated on impact with one another or the ground, but the unyielding sound waves shattered their delicate antennae and, combined with Stacy’s earlier efforts, left them devoid of both sight and sound.

Pulsar smiled broadly as he piloted his saucer closer to the now-helpless aliens. OK, now what do I do with them? he thought. Seeing Skyman fly back toward his ship, he began to get an idea, and he opened a portal to allow the younger man to enter.

“I thought you might need help,” explained Johnny.

“I do, at that!” replied Pulsar. “Follow my lead, Johnny, and do exactly what I tell you do. We don’t have a lot of time!”

Johnny nodded, though he was a bit taken aback by the red-haired man’s dictatorial manner, especially since he had a lot more experience as Skyman at being a hero than Pulsar, even if it had mostly consisted of saving people from forest fires and wild animals in the Great White North. Swallowing his pride, Skyman replied in as polite a tone he could manage, “Sure, Bob. What do you want me to do?”

“I’ll land the ship,” said Pulsar, “and then I’ll show you!”

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