The last thing Shvaughn Erin wanted to deal with was another crisis. Even a crisis with a small C would be a pain in the klordny. Unfortunately, as the liaison between the Science Police and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Shvaughn knew that crises were everyday occurrences, and that a quiet day off was the exception.
So she wasn’t too surprised when Element Lad’s face popped up in her com-screen announcing a daring robbery at the First Martian Bank at Olympus Mons. But the alert received all her attention when she saw who three of the culprits making their getaways were: Fire Lad, Stone Boy, and Chlorophyll Kid, formerly of the Legion of Substitute Heroes.
As she skidded into the briefing room, straightening her Science Police tunic, Shvaughn saw that Element Lad was already giving the lowdown to former Subs leader Polar Boy, whose face was set like granite as Element Lad told him of the robbery and the ensuing chaos that had followed.
“Apparently, Chlorophyll Kid used his rapid growth factor to split the bank’s foundation open with ironwood trees. Stone Boy then used his remarkable strength to steal several select strong boxes from the safe.”
“What about Fire Lad?” asked Polar Boy, whose real name was Brek Bannin. “What did he do?”
“He was the worst of all, Brek!” said Element Lad. “He used his powers at full strength to reignite the Olympia Mons volcano! It erupted and nearly destroyed the vacation hamlet of Olympia Mons. Apparently, he was caught in the backlash. I’m afraid he’s dead. I’ve already directed Ultra Boy, Lightning Lass, and Tellus to Mars to help with evacuation and clean up.”
“Poor Staq! I can’t believe it!” said Polar Boy. “Maybe I was all wrong to disband our old team before I joined the Legion. If I had kept the Subs together, things might be different. What can I do, Jan?”
“Do you know of any reason why your friends might have tried this?” asked Jan Arrah. “What they hoped to gain? Where they might be headed? What I need you to do is examine motives. Work with Cham on this one; no one in the Legion has a sneakier mind.”
Polar Boy was about to speak when Cosmic Boy and Night Girl walked in. She hugged Polar Boy and gave him a worried look.
“We just heard the news,” said Rokk Krinn, “and we want to help.”
Jan smiled. “Always a pleasure to lure you out of retirement, Cosmic Boy. I’m glad to see you, too, Lydda,” he added diplomatically. “Weren’t you two heading off for an extended vacation in the twentieth century?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Back Home in Hell,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #23 (June, 1986).]
“We decided to postpone it for a few months,” explained Cosmic Boy.
“Rokk, I want to talk to Brek alone, if I can,” interrupted Lydda Jath, her dark eyes watching closely.
“Sure, go ahead,” said Cosmic Boy. “I’ll work here with Jan and the others to try and find a motive on this end.”
The two former Substitute Heroes walked along the plaza sharing memories of the camaraderie they’d shared with Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, and Stone Boy. “I just can’t believe they’ve gone bad,” said Polar Boy sullenly.
“Me neither,” said a small orange and purple fly buzzing nearby. A short second later, Chameleon Boy stood before them. “But we still need to follow every possibility.” He paused at the door to the Espionage Squad room and gave them one of his infrequent smiles.
“Step into my parlor, though I think this is the first time the fly said that to two spiders. We’ll need your web of information to untangle this, that’s for sure.”
Brek and Lydda laughed and followed Cham inside.
As they entered the Squad room, Chameleon Boy automatically swept the room for any listening or recording devices. A lifetime of people suspecting the Durlans of anything and everything had made him equally suspicious. Satisfied that everything was in order, he motioned Brek and Lydda to the table, then sat with them.
“All right, then, you worked with them more closely than anyone else before the Crisis; what do you suppose might have happened to your former companions?” Cham began.
“You certainly come right to the point,” said Polar Boy. “But they seemed like they had always been honest and trustworthy throughout. This seems new, somehow.”
“After the Crisis,” added Night Girl, “poor Fire Lad said they were planning on taking some R-and-R on Nebulon 5, but aside from that, nothing out of the ordinary.”
Polar Boy thought for a moment longer, then spoke again. “Could the Anti-Monitor have possibly altered their mind patterns? Or possibly some late-developing change happened as a result of the Crisis?”
Reep Daggle smiled at this. “You’re getting into questions that are beyond my understanding,” said Chameleon Boy. “We probably need to see Brainiac 5 about this. If anyone would have a rational opinion, it’s him.”
Brek smiled back. “And having a new focus for research might help him through his grieving process. He is still sick about Supergirl’s death during the Crisis. (*) That’s probably why he’s so obsessed with the idea that Sensor Girl is somehow really Supergirl brought back to life. (*) It just confused matters when that Lady Death arrived here last week and got him wondering whether she was really Supergirl, instead.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Baptism,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #16 (November, 1985), “Obsession,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #21 (April, 1986), and Superman: The Apokolips Factor, Chapter 2: The Sands of Time.]
“Are we agreed, then?” said Chameleon Boy. “Let’s go to the lab.” With a wave of dismissal, the three heroes left the Espionage Squad room.
Elsewhere within Legion Headquarters, three women were gathered in a small room. The heady aroma of incense filled the room, bringing an almost ethereal quality to those inside. The appearance of the women inside would have caused many heads to turn as well.
“I want to thank you, Nura, and you, too, Mysa, for being willing to help me with my vision quest,” began the copper-skinned woman with the wings.
“It’s our pleasure, Dawnstar,” said Dream Girl. “After all, I know all about dreams, and my sister is well versed in the mystic arts, as you know.”
“The preparations and wardings are ready, Dawnstar, if you are prepared,” said the White Witch.
Dawnstar looked at Mysa Nal and smiled. “I am ready to be — look at Nura!”
Startled, the White Witch whirled and saw her sister falling into the trance state that indicated a beginning to her own visions. The two heroines caught Dream Girl and placed her gently on the couch previously prepared for Dawnstar.
An hour later, Nura Nal’s eyes fluttered open, and a look of shock and fear crossed her face.
“What is it sister? What have you seen?” asked Mysa.
“A plot… from deep within. Someone plans to destroy the Legion and R.J. Brande!” she cried. “And the traitor comes from within the ranks of the Legion! I could not see his face — just a shadowy outline. Still, I felt he was one of us!”
Dawnstar spoke. “We’d better notify Element Lad at once. The other members of the Legion must be made to know.”
“Be careful not to reveal everything, especially about the traitor within,” cautioned Nura. “Jan needs to have a free hand to investigate.”
The White Witch shivered at her sister’s words. She knew the Legion’s financial founder, Brande, had recently departed for deep space in order to seek new challenges. (*) Still, she hoped the gruff old star-maker was all right, no matter where his travels had taken him.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A New Beginning,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #17 (December, 1985).]
Star Boy looked at Timber Wolf and smiled. It had been a successful mission, and he was feeling good as the Legion Cruiser winged them toward Earth. Behind him, Shrinking Violet and Shadow Lass talked calmly during their chess game.
“Look, Thom — an old-style Legion Cruiser,” said Shrinking Violet. “Didn’t we give them to the Subs when we took the new ones?”
Star Boy nodded. “I wonder what they’re doing so far out. Can you contact them?”
Violet punched him gently in the arm. “All right, hailing frequencies open.”
A familiar visage filled the screen, but the voice was pure venom. “This is Plague! You have ten minutes to surrender to the Legion. Stand down and prepare to be boarded.”
The Legionaires looked in shock at the face of Infectious Lass snarling at them across the view-screen. Behind her they could see Color Kid and two more shadowy figures. Violet cut the sound, then turned to Star Boy.
“I think she’s serious, Thom. What should we do?”
Thom Vinson thought for a while before giving his considered answer. “Dirk spoke about running a few unscheduled drills before we left. I think he called in the Subs to help out. Let me answer.”
As the link clicked back on, Plague glared at Star Boy. “Well, what’s your answer?”
“Lady, you’re messing with the Legion, and we never surrender.”
Timber Wolf and Shadow Lass were settling into their battle stations when the first plasma bolt struck the Cruiser.
“Star Boy, that was at full strength,” said Shadow Lass calmly. “I don’t think she’s playing.”
“Weapons are on-line, any time you say,” Timber Wolf added.
Monitoring the energy usage and shields, Violet stated, “We have a breach in section four port.” But even as the words left her mouth, three shimmering figures wavered into view. Plague led the boarding party, and along with her were two completely unknown people.
“To the battle, Legionnaires,” said Thom, standing and using his mass-inducing powers on Plague. She dropped to the floor, but Star Boy felt his guts turning inside out. A fevered sweat broke across his brow, and he grew weaker.
“Have a taste of Rigellan plague, Star Boy,” said Plague. Behind her, Violet and Shadow Lass screamed in pain as their brains were turned inside out by violent images.
Timber Wolf held his own against the third intruder, but just barely. The third intruder was dressed in a gold and black gi and seemed to know every style of martial arts. He sensed an opening, and with four blows he dropped Timber Wolf to the floor.
Moving rapidly, he turned and knocked out Shadow Lass and Shrinking Violet. He paused, rubbing his knuckles and smiled at his partner. “Well done, Hallucination. You kept them occupied so I wouldn’t have to fight them three on one. Not that I couldn’t have.”
She kissed him on the cheek. “I know, Grand Master, but I wouldn’t want my fiancé too cut up before the wedding. I’ll be glad when Brainiac succeeds in this mad quest of his, and we’re back home on Earth — our Earth.”
Plague finished clipping the power-neutralizers on each of the Legionnaires. “If you two lovebirds are finished, I’ll need your help in dumping these losers into the brig.” She clicked her com-link. “Spectrum, bring the Cruiser into the landing bay in the back. We’re taking over here. These Legionnaires are ours.”
Legion Headquarters, Earth:
The doorway to Brainiac 5’s lab whooshed open, and Brainiac 5 admitted Chameleon Boy, Polar Boy, and Night Girl without a word.
“I assume you’re here about the Substitute Legion and the possibility that they’re not the same as our Subs?” he began without preamble.
“We think this is the result of the Crisis,” said Polar Boy. “That something in the Crisis changed the Subs somehow, subtly. Night Girl and I were left out, since she was with Rokk, and I was with the Legion.”
“Hmm. But the Legion was closer to the center of the Crisis than the Subs were. Have you considered the possibility that these people might be Legionnaires from an alternate universe — one of the ones that somehow survived?”
Cham looked at his friend. “Have you got a theory?”
Brainiac 5 smiled. “Of course! In fact, I have a possibility.” He crossed to the computer and brought up a star chart.
“I have noticed a break in the cosmos out here near Ekron. Early reports indicate it’s an exit point from another system. And it’s been breached within the past month.”
He turned suddenly as Dream Girl entered the room, followed by Dawnstar and White Witch. “What is it, Nura?” he said. “Did you have another vision that revealed more about this alleged traitor within the team? Evidence I’ve since received leads me to theorize that this traitor you envisioned was merely what might be called an evil twin or counterpart from another universe!”
Dream Girl frowned and shook her head. “No. We received an alert which I’ll relay to you now. We have visitors!”
She switched on the com-link from the upper-level communications center to broadcast a message from a ship that had landed nearby.
“Attention Legionnaires! We need your assistance! We are aware of the peril to your Earth and of the vision seen by your friends. My powers enabled me to see that much. Rest assured, it is a true vision. The Legion, and especially Mr. Brande, are in danger. Would you be willing to hear our evidence?”
Brainiac 5 frowned. Something was agonizingly familiar about the voice contacting him, but he just couldn’t place it.
“Very well. I will view your evidence. Open your port hatch, and we will bring you inside.”
“Acknowledged. Standing by.”
Ultra Boy finally knocked down the heavy door to the deluxe cabin that the Substitute Legionnaires had been using. Tellus and Lightning Lass followed him into the room.
“It appears they made their escape a short while ago, Ultra Boy,” said Lightning Lass. “The room is completely deserted.”
“Not completely,” replied Tellus from the refresher. “Someone paid the ultimate price.”
Ultra Boy and Lightning Lass looked into the refresher and saw the body of Fire Lad splayed out on the floor in death. Nevertheless, Lightning Lass took a reading with the medi-kit to be certain.
“It looks like the cause of death was sudden shock from the backlash of using his powers at such an intense level, Jo. But here’s the odd thing. All of his vital organs are on the wrong side — like he was put together backwards.”
“The poor, mixed-up guy,” said Ultra Boy softly.
“He died in service to a greater cause than his life, and, I might add, your organs are the ones on the wrong side,” said a strong female voice behind them.
Lightning Lass and Ultra Boy looked up. Behind them stood a familiar-looking blonde woman in a costume somewhat reminiscent of Superboy’s. With one hand she squeezed the air tube going into Tellus’ mask, keeping him helpless.
“Tellus!” shouted Lightning Lass.
“You want him back? Here!” With an easy toss, the newcomer threw Tellus back onto Lightning Lass, pinning her against the floor and the dead Fire Lad.
Ultra Boy stood, balling his fists and calling on his super-strength. Too late for him, the woman slammed into him at top speed, knocking him to the ground.
With her strength, she bent the metal pilings of the floor around Ultra Boy and secured them with her flash-vision. As a final touch, she removed a heavy-duty tranquilizer and injected the weakened and confused heroes.
“Supergirl?!” said Ultra Boy as he slipped into unconsciousness.
“Actually, Ultragirl is what they call me,” she smirked.