Star Boy hurried into a Legion Cruiser and swiftly set the coordinates for flight before soaring out of the compound and into the upper atmosphere.
Earthgov’s auto clearance for the Legion sure saves a lot of time, Thom Kallor thought. Most crafts have to wait for a rather complicated procedure before the polymer shield around the planet is opened for passage.
Thom smiled ruefully as he thought, Dirk would never let me live it down if I crashed into the shield! It’s bad enough that I can’t shake my reputation for bad piloting. Then again, not many folks can say they once flew a spaceship directly into the wake of a comet!
Suddenly, that moment from years ago, when he had been a boy around fifteen or sixteen, came back in a flash. When I tried to run away from home all those years ago, I thought I was going to make a real fresh start and get away from Xanthu, but all I did was fly my cruiser right into that comet’s path. The energy overwhelmed me and disrupted the ship so that I crashed down near my home!
Thom shook his head as he remembered once again how his parents, Fryd and Myrna Kallor, had rushed out to find him unscathed amidst the rubble of the burning craft. That odd comet energy gave me superhuman powers that enabled me to ignore the crash and resist almost any kind of impact or injury. In addition to superhuman invulnerability, I also became stronger than Superboy himself! Naturally, that kind of power made me perfect for the Legion of Super-Heroes. I guess running away from home really did change my destiny.
But he wore a rueful smile as he remembered, to his chagrin, how short his tenure as the most powerful Legionnaire had been. All that power, and I still managed to lose it all after only a couple cases! he mused. That was my kind of luck. I mean, even when I was born on the satellite observatory my folks worked at, the super-power I possessed due to the circumstances of my conception and birth wasn’t exactly something world-shattering.
Being able to draw mass from the stars and direct it as I wished only made me a freak, he thought as he carefully piloted the craft down to a landing on his homeworld of Xanthu. My first use of power almost killed my whole family by making the satellite drop out of orbit! Then I spent years being studied by doctors and scientists until I developed a real phobia about hospitals. No wonder I tried to run away! (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Born Under a Lucky Star,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #306 (December, 1983).]
Star Boy was pessimistic by nature, but he was also resilient. Thus he quickly reminded himself to be appreciative for the support his family had always given him. He also was proud of the fact that, even with only his mass-manipulation power, he had become a successful Legionnaire and a capable team leader.
Then again, he felt that he owed most of what was good in his life to the Legion. He had met Nura Nal when she had joined the team, and their romance had truly blossomed during an interval in which the pair had been members of the team’s back-up squad, the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
I never would have got to know her so well if I hadn’t left the real Legion after killing Kent Nuhor. The Science Police ruled that my actions were nothing more than self-defense, but Brainy and others on the team rightly showed me that I could have stopped the killer without ending his life! (*) I guess being kicked out and joining the Subs was actually a good thing, since it brought me closer to Nura.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Legionnaire Who Killed,” Adventure Comics #342 (March, 1966).]
Thom sighed as he wondered once more why Dream Girl had refused to see him before his departure. “I couldn’t exactly wait around on her mood to change, since a direct summons from Xanthu’s ruling High Tribune isn’t something a patriot can ignore!” he said.
The Legionnaire smiled as he gazed upward at the imposing, yet grand building that housed the ruler of the planet. The High Tribune never summoned me here before, he thought, even when I rejoined the Legion after the membership had changed enough so that my earlier dismissal after the Nuhor case could be overruled. I didn’t even receive a token congratulations message when I was elected team leader. What could the tribune want with me now?
Star Boy entered the huge chamber, only to halt in his tracks as sirens echoed and drew the hero back out into the open. Trouble at the Medi-Center! he thought. Looks like, phobic or not, I’m going to have revisit the scene of so much pain during my childhood!
Flying over the city, Star Boy quickly dropped down to witness a scene of panic and horror. Patients from various worlds were being evacuated from the Xanthu Medi-Center, while Xanthu’s Science Police tried to manage crowd control and deal with the source of the mad flight.
Star Boy saw an officer that he knew and yelled, “Officer Cherid’n! What’s going on here? What can I do to help?”
The blonde woman smiled in greeting and said, “Star Boy! Thank goodness for the Legion! You certainly arrived here swiftly! One of the patients in the hospital started going berserk when he received results of his tests. He apparently has the super-power required to make such a fit a real danger!”
Star Boy nodded and fought back old memories of his own time within the Medi-Center. “I’ll calm him down!” he vowed.
Flying into the building, he avoided a huge aquatic alien as hospital staff carefully moved it within a large mobile pressure chamber. Star Boy also stopped long enough to lift a fallen woman and carry her to safety before resuming his own journey deeper into the center.
A terrible odor filled his nostrils as he passed by the now-empty computer center. That’s not a normal hospital smell, he realized. That’s some kind of toxic gas! Holding his breath, he flew into the heart of the building.
While no other traces of gas could be found within the huge structure, Star Boy did notice many other odd things. “Weird!” he said. “Certain parts of the building itself and odd items of equipment here and there seem to be partially made of very usual materials. Nobody would build a large building like this with gold, and yet I think one section of the wall over there is made of real gold!”
Before he could analyze the situation further, he caught sight of a terrible figure that rose up out of an empty room to confront him. The figure was humanoid and male, but little else could be discerned about his appearance, since a glow enveloped him, and with every step, he seemed to change in appearance.
Star Boy whirled around to see the figure more clearly and almost lost his life as a blazing beam of energy shot from the other man’s eyes, barely missing Thom’s head. When the beam struck a medical cart behind the hero, the cart shimmered for a moment and then evaporated into air.
Hurling himself forward, Star Boy quickly received a smashing blow from the man, who now appeared to be made of iron. Thom grunted as a second metallic punch landed in his stomach. He shook it off and concentrated.
Got to stop him in his tracks! he thought. Try to calm him down! He’s clearly distraught, like the sci-cop said! But Star Boy frowned as his mass-transferal power failed to have any effect on the man.
The glowing figure floated into the air, and a barking laugh emerged from the blurred features of his ever-altering face. “I can transmute my body!” he shrieked. “I can make it lighter than air! Your power is useless against me!”
“Stop!” shouted Star Boy. “I know you’re scared. You must be in pain. Those bodily changes can’t be comfortable. Let me get you help. I’m Star Boy of the Legion.”
The man seemed to ignite as the very air around him shimmered and exploded into shards of metal that battered Thom before he cast them harmlessly to the floor with a moment’s concentration.
“I know you! I hate you!” he cried. “I hate every member of your infantile Legion! I’ve had decades to fuel my hatred!”
Star Boy peered at the now-cobalt figure as he slammed his fists into the ground and caused it to change into a hissing acid spray. “OK, you obviously know me, but I don’t recognize you. Still, you came here for medical help, and I’m willing to see that you get it from Brainiac 5 or Mon-El. They may be able to cure you. Don’t let the results you received here turn you into a killer!”
Thom’s words were sincere. He did care about others, and he would help a foe. He was a hero. Still, he was also stalling for time as he thought about his career and all the villains he and his buddies had dealt with over the years.
So many criminals, he thought. So many rejected applicants. Any of them could have had their powers go wrong like that. Powers? What are they? Clearly, he can change elements like Jan does. Could he be a Tromite? No! Jan’s the sole survivor of that world of elemental masters!
Star Boy flew across the will via his flight ring as the glimmering man assumed a brilliant, mirror-like sheen and hurled razor spikes at Thom. The man simply drew the weapons out of empty air as his touch transformed oxygen into lethal metal.
A stabbing pain brought Star Boy down hard, and he held his leg as it bled. “How?” he whispered. “He never touched me!”
The villain laughed, and for a moment his face became more human. He had a weathered face that could have been handsome, were it not twisted with hatred and anger. “Foolish boy! Now all I need to do is to concentrate, and the air around you becomes a fiery sheath!”
Star Boy rolled desperately across the room and smothered slowly smoldering flames. My costume absorbed that blast, but I still felt the heat! he thought.
The man smiled and said, “Now look at me! See the face of a dying man! My power that once made me a force to be feared now rages out of my own control! I’m dying! I am becoming something inhuman! I am losing myself to the changes that won’t slow or still! But I will take this world with me!”
Star Boy believed him. He heard the man’s passion, and he knew him at that moment. “Cosmic King! You’re Laevar Bolto of Venus! A lab accident gave you the power to transmute elements. No wonder you’re in pain! Your body is going through constant changes, too, now! How did you deteriorate so since the fight on Orando, when we beat your Legion of Super-Villains?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “An Eye for an Eye, a Villain for a Hero,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #5 (December, 1984).]
“You didn’t beat us!” insisted Cosmic King. “We were winning! We had disposed of our pawn, Dynamo-Boy, by hurling him to the end of time itself! We were in triumph when something went wrong. Chance beat us, not you punks!”
Star Boy frowned as he realized, He doesn’t know about the Orando battle! He thinks our last fight was the one years ago, when his team almost beat us after the team was disbanded by a crooked member named Dynamo-Boy! (*) But that Cosmic King was not from our time. He wasn’t the young man we fought a while ago on Orando. He was much older, and he and the other Super-Villains then claimed to come from our future!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire,” Adventure Comics #330 (March, 1965) and “The Triumph of the Legion of Super-Villains,” Adventure Comics #331 (April, 1965).]
“But how can that future Bolto be here now?” he muttered, though Thom had no time to ponder the enigma of a man from the future who had no memory of his own past.
Star Boy dived at the villain, but the older man was too quick. Cosmic King dodged the Xanthuian, and his glancing touch caused Star Boy to groan in pain as his sleeve turned into acid. Star Boy elbowed the villain in the face, but as soon as his arm touched the man’s face, his own costume sleeve changed into a solid metal.
“See? Just touching me leads to a transmutation!” yelled Cosmic King. “My powers are surging beyond my ability to control them! But if I must die, then I’ll take this planet with me!”
Star Boy concentrated and tried to contain the raging man by increasing his mass, but the villain merely glowed brightly and then flew into the air. “If you come from our future, then you must know how this battle will end!” cried Thom.
“From my perspective, I’ve never been here before,” said Cosmic King. “I gave up trying to understand the nuances of time travel long ago. Don’t you understand, boy? I don’t even know how I got here! I told you that my last memory was fighting some of your team before after we’d removed Dynamo-Boy. I fell and then found myself here, in what is the past to me. I also felt my powers going out of control, so I sought help here!”
Star Boy rolled aside as another beam blazed out to narrowly miss him. The floor changed to a blinding flash of magnesium, and he cried out in pain and wiped at his eyes. “I can’t see!” he whispered.
Even as he fought against the darkness, he realized that if Cosmic King had no memory of his younger self’s battle months ago, then clearly this adult villain from the future was not an adult version of the Bolto he had last met. This villain came from a future, but it was not the Legion’s true future, but some type of alternate one.
“After I kill you, I’m going to kill everyone on this planet!” hissed Cosmic King.
Star Boy heard the villain walking closer and felt the very air around them change in reaction the unstable aura that surrounded Cosmic King’s body. He knew that if he allowed the criminal to touch him, he might very well die. He also knew, even in this desperate moment, that he cared more about saving others than he did about preserving his own life.
Thus, in an act of selfless heroism, Star Boy summoned all of his power at once and brought the roof crashing down on them both.