Back on Earth, Reflecto jumped forward as Universo forced Chameleon Boy backward with his commanding power.
Then Universo gasped as he lost contact with the Central Power Battery. “Krona! He no longer speaks to me!” he cried. “No matter! I still have enough energy stored within my orb to win the day!”
“Those small batteries, like the one you apparently took, only charge a gem for twenty-four hours!” said Reflecto. “My power can speed up time like the Time Trapper and leave your gem empty!” He touched the orb, and Universo lost all of his stolen power.
“You swine!” cried the startled Universo. “I still may fall back on my hypnotic prowess. It may not control a world, but it will surely suffice for you!” It was Reflecto’s turn to cry out as his eyes locked on the gaze of the villain, and he slowly lost his own will until Universo smiled coldly.
“Why, you are already under a potent hypnotic or mental block,” he said. “I see my efforts have broken down an existing self-hypnosis!”
Reflecto shook his head and began speaking in a different voice. His manner and his very demeanor seemed altered. He still had the same features, coloration, and costume, but he had changed in other, more subtle ways. “N-no! What have I done?” he stammered.
Saturn Girl and the others watched in confusion for a moment before the blonde from Titan continued her own assault.
Universo scowled and prepared to fight on. His strong will waged a valiant battle against the combined wills of the Legionnaires until a green flash of light appeared, revealing the team who went to Oa and the Guardian of the Universe, along with Brainiac 5 and Rond Vidar. “You?” said Universo. “I see where I erred! Trusting Krona to deal with you Guardians was an error! And my son stands healed and as defiant as ever! Your doing, I suppose?”
The Guardian nodded. “Indeed. You took power that was not yours. I reclaimed it and healed your noble son as well.”
“Why do you persist in your mad schemes of conquest?” demanded Rond. “The Legion always wins!”
Universo, now contained within an emerald sheath of energy, said nothing. He knew he had lost, and he was unwilling to say more.
“I went to Medicus One to try to protect Rond and was greatly relieved when the Guardian appeared with the others,” said Brainiac 5. “He healed him.”
“I would also see to the proper imprisonment of this one who so shames the Green Lantern name!” said the Guardian, vanishing with Universo at that moment and leaving the team to regroup.
President Mojai Desai and his staff all filed inside slowly. Timber Wolf, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Blok also entered. “We managed to hold our own with the battle-bots until the hold Universo had on those poor troopers ended!” explained Ayla Ranzz.
“I can speak informally for the entire U.P. Council in saying we owe you our thanks and much more,” said President Desai. “You saved us when we were caught in a web of hatred.”
“No thanks are needed,” said Element Lad. “We just did our job.”
Rond Vidar turned to Brainiac 5 and said, “I wonder if even the Oans will be able to turn my father around.”
“They can work seeming wonders,” said Brainiac 5. “He said he was the last of them in our universe when we spoke at Medicus One. Apparently, the other Guardians have departed for unknown regions in search of life forms to aid in evolution. Fascinating!”
Shrinking Violet rushed over to Reflecto, who had remained silent and crestfallen after Universo’s power had broken down the barriers within his mind. She knew immediately from both his expression and manner that something was wrong. She also knew in a vague instinctual way what the nature of his change meant. “Ord? How could you? I can’t believe it, even of you!” she said as she slapped his face.
She turned to Sensor Girl and said, “And you? You knew, didn’t you? You sadistic witch!” She flew off, leaving the others silent.
The Universo agenda brought sweeping changes to the manner in which the United Planets government treated the Legion of Super-Heroes. Perhaps it was due to simple gratitude that the heroes had freed the entire planet from a mad tyrant’s hold. Perhaps it was due to human guilt at how the Council had been duped and manipulated. In any event, in the days that followed the liberation of Earth, the World Computer selected notable candidates, they campaigned, and by evening a new Earth president had been elected to replace Desai, who had resigned due to the fact that he felt his leadership had been compromised by the ease in which Universo had dominated him.
The newly elected president was a black man named Phillip Stewart. He wasted little time in making some sweeping changes in U.P. policy regarding the Legion. “My friends, we’ve come to realize just how much we depend upon the courage and integrity of the Legion of Super-Heroes,” he said before a crowd gathered outside Legion Headquarters. “When one thinks of the good elements of the United Planets, no better microcosm could be selected than that of the Legion of young heroes from different worlds and cultures working together for the betterment of all. Thus, during a closed session of the U.P. Council, we have decided to remove all past taxation restrictions upon the number of active Legion members. They may induct as many worthy applicants as they choose, with no financial meddling from us. They are clearly Earth’s first line of defense!” The cheering crowd agreed with his words.
Element Lad smiled and took Shvaughn Erin’s hand. “That’s great! We don’t have to be limited by the twenty-five-member rule anymore,” he said. “Though I don’t anticipate adding members during the remainder of my term as leader, which is due to end soon.”
President Stewart continued. “I also recommend that, in light of these changes, the Legionnaires consider eliminating their rule against duplication of powers in order to allow this great team to reach even higher levels of achievement!”
Element Lad whispered, “I’m not sure about that one. Still, it does seem silly, with a universe as big as ours to patrol, to prevent notables from joining up because they have the same powers as an existing member. After all, look at the Tellus situation. Without Imra’s readiness to come back, we’d have been short of needed telepathic abilities!”
Later, Saturn Girl knocked softly on Shrinking Violet’s door. Salu Digby opened the door and glared at the other woman. “I suppose you are here to offer some platitude,” she snapped. “Or are you just here to justify yourself by explaining that the false memories Duplicate Boy had planted in his own mind were too strong and too realistic for even your powers to penetrate.”
“I could say exactly that, but actually I’m here as a woman who once lost or thought she had lost the man she loves,” said Imra Ardeen. “I want to do something I never imagined I would do. I’m here to plead for Ord.”
Salu left the door open and walked back to slump on her bed. Imra followed and closed the door behind her. “What would the Legion’s famous ice maiden know of love?” asked Vi.
Imra sat down and said, “I guess I deserve that. Still, you don’t question my mental abilities. I read Ord’s mind while he was posing as Reg. It’s true he fooled me totally with his planted memories of a false life, but he didn’t conceal his feelings for you. Salu, he loves you. He went to all this elaborate charade just to win you back. I know he lied, and he deluded even himself, but he does love you.”
Salu laughed harshly. “Poor Ord; he has all the power in the universe at his fingers, but he has always lacked the imagination to use them properly until now. I suppose he was copying your own power or even that of Universo to plant subtle commands in all our minds. He fixed it so none of you questioned his background or the nature of his powers. As you say, he even made himself believe that he was this Reflecto!”
Imra nodded. “He was willing to lose himself to win you.”
Salu looked up. “Imra, I’m sorry I bit your head off,” she said. “You do care. I’ve been trying to protect myself from any type of hurt since my abduction, and I’ve developed a hard edge. I’m sorry I was so rude to you.”
Imra took her hand and said, “I forgive you. Now, promise me that you’ll think over what I’ve said. His heart was true, though his methods were suspect.”
Later, Shrinking Violet flew over to the Gardens area of the city. She landed next to Ord Quelu, who was now wearing his traditional Duplicate Boy costume. “So Dr. Gym’ll restored your normal face?” she said. “Bio-surgery costs a lot.”
He smiled slightly and said, “Well, I couldn’t rely on my powers to alter my looks like a Durlan, because I can only copy one being’s powers at a time. I knew I’d need to be free to duplicate other types of power if I wanted to join the team and be with you. That’s why I wore a flight belt with the Reflecto suit. It gave me one more ability I could use without limiting myself to who I copied. So, I had Evolvo use his medical skills to change my looks. We copied the Reflecto look Ultra Boy once used. I guess I’m not too original!”
“Jan said you quit the team,” said Salu.
“Sure,” said Ord. “I did join under false pretenses. Plus, I guess you won’t want me around after I tricked you. I’m sorry about that. Salu, when you broke up with me, it shattered me. I lost my powers out of a lack of confidence until my friends from Lallor helped me get them back. Still, what good was the ability to duplicate the super-powers of any single being if I couldn’t have the girl I loved?”
“So, you asked Evolvo to help you think of how to win me back, or did you just copy his evolved mind?” asked Salu.
“Both,” Ord said. “We decided to read your mind via Saturn Girl’s powers and pick out your perfect man down to the last detail. Then we created a new face and identity for me, along with a fake history. We implanted in my mind those same fake memories and a personality that would be sure to win you via a variant of her powers or those of a hypnotic master like Universo. It worked too well. I came to truly believe I was Reg Garris. That’s why I acted differently from my normal self. I was your dream man. That’s how I knew about those authors you love, even though I’ve never read their stuff. I really fell for you all over again, but then, who wouldn’t?”
Salu hesitated, then said, “Ord, if Universo hadn’t tried to use hypnosis on you, those same false memories and that fake personality might never had faded. You might have truly lost all sense of your real self. How could you risk that for me, or anyone?”
“Reflecto would know some clever thing to say, but all I can say is that I just loved you so much and wanted you back,” said Ord. “I didn’t care about anything else!”
Salu smiled. “OK, at first I wanted to kill you. Then I thought it over and still wanted to kill you. Then Imra told me she knew your motives were pure, although your plan was purely insane. I suppose a girl can give a second chance to a guy who is that devoted to her. Only, no more mind games. You remain as Ord. We’ll see how things go.”
Ord swept her into his arms and said, “Salu, do you mean it? I don’t deserve this! I’ll never let you down again!” His expression changed suddenly, even as she raised her lips to kiss his cheek.
“Uh, Salu, there’s one more thing,” he said sheepishly. “Before I came up with the idea to win you as Reflecto, I had to make sure you didn’t get serious with Sun Boy.”
Salu smiled and covered her mouth with her hands as if to suppress a laugh. “You didn’t!” she said. “You made him sick that night I waited for him in his room! We thought it was the flu!”
Ord nodded. “It was. I gave it to him using a copy of Infectious Lass’ power. I also used Chameleon Boy’s power to make myself look like Sun Boy once. I took Gigi Cusimano dancing at a disco and made sure you saw the whole thing. I wanted you to drop him. I’m sorry! I have felt badly. I don’t have anything against the poor guy!”
Salu laughed. “Ord, I should get mad, but when I think of poor Dirk’s ego and what he would think of the whole thing, I have to laugh. He’s with Gigi now. I guess you did her some good.” She took his hand and said, “So, before you head back to Lallor, how about a holo-vid?”
“Sure,” he said. “Maybe that Sherlock Holmes guy you like so much.”
Shrinking Violet said, “Why not?”