Legion of Super-Heroes: The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of, Chapter 2: Out of Control

by Libbylawrence

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Those screams were not heard in other rooms in the huge complex. In a room few if any of the other members of the team had ever visited for prolonged periods of time, a black man tossed and turned in the grip of a nightmare all his own. Young Jacques Foccart loved mysteries, and he had collected many of the classics from the twentieth century on holo-disks. He loved the thrill of using his wits and resolve to bring order where chaos had ruled. Still, the chaos of his mind this night was one from which Invisible Kid, as he was called, could find no escape.

If he had somehow shaken off the heavy slumber that held him, he would have gazed around the room and noticed the usual details. It was a comfortable room. It was a room he used often, for he was a solitary man, and he enjoyed his privacy. He also relished time with things that reminded him of his former home and his family. His sisters, who brought such pleasure to him in waking hours, were well represented within his room. Jacques had their images on the projecting screens that lined one wall. He saw the elegant beauty of Francine and the sprightly manner of young Danielle.

Danielle — it was his little sister’s name and history that shook him as the nightmare distorted her young features. First, he saw her withering away with illness and disease of a strange and unyielding kind. He ached to save her. He longed to free her of the pain and fear. He remembered how his motives had led him away from home and to the headquarters of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Surely, heroes like the members of that team could work miracles. The brilliant mind of Brainiac 5 was admired across the known galaxies. Still, that genius had offered Jacques only a small glimmer of hope.

He had been willing to try to cure the girl. He had a real compassion beneath that calculating veneer. He would try. Jacques shuddered as the results of the experiment flashed across his mind’s eye once more. Young Danielle was possessed by a malevolent sentient machine entity called Computo. Her features were distorted once more, but not from illness. Her features gleamed with the glow of madness and inhuman hatred.

Computo — The name held far more menace that the sound of it would suggest. Computo had been more than an invention. Computo had been an inhuman machine with a desire to kill and to conquer. It had actually taken the life of one of the Legion’s heroines, the beauty named Triplicate Girl. She had been a native of Cargg, and thus she had retained two additional bodies, for she was able to replicate herself like all the natives of her world. Still, she had lost one part of herself, and that loss was one Jacques could not bear to imagine. He saw Danielle’s twisted visage, and he heard her speak in that cold, mechanical tone.

She was now more Computo than she was Danielle Foccart. The child suffered so and had lost her very sense of self. Was that not as great a loss as the loss Triplicate Girl had faced at the tendrils of the mechanical monster? The loss was made worse, since Jacques felt anew all the horror and guilt he had experienced after her transformation. It was all his fault. Surely, she would have been better off as one dying of normal malady than as one possessed by a monster from out of science fiction. He ached with the sense of guilt, and he knew it all once more as if he was experiencing it for the first time.

He moaned, and beads of perspiration broke out across his brow. He recalled once more how he had become the target of the possessed girl’s anger and hate. Brainiac 5 had explained to him that they had one chance to survive her assault. They could only fight Computo with any hope of victory if Jacques became more than a normal man. Jacques had to risk his own death if they were to escape death and possibly save Danielle.

Naturally, Jacques had grasped at any chance of redemption and survival. He owed this much to his poor sister. While the genius from Colu occupied Computo, Jacques Foccart managed to reach a certain vial within the Legion’s vast array of chemicals, machines, vehicles, and tools. He gulped the potion down and waited in anticipation. Brainiac 5 had warned him that the potion was the creation of one of his late friends, the heroic scientist Lyle Norg, the original Invisible Kid. By taking the formula, Jacques had a chance to escape Computo’s detection and use the power of invisibility to help Brainiac 5 secure the possessed girl and sedate her. However, the formula might not work on Foccart. He might merely die from poisoning before the angry Computo could slay him.

Even in the nightmare in which Jacques relived his moment of truth, he remembered his frightening transformation. He vanished. He became truly invisible. He and Brainiac 5 managed to sedate Danielle, but the child was now a prisoner within her own body. With the slightest trace of awareness or an awakening of her mind, so came Computo back in control of her like a technological demon. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Monster in a Little Girl’s Mind,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 Annual #1 (1982).]

Jacques knew that Brainiac 5 had eventually cured her and had even turned Computo into a docile major domo type who handled the daily care of their headquarters. This was a fact, but in the nightmare that possessed Jacques, he only felt fear, as if Computo’s touch still lingered in his sister’s altered form. He knew that he had joined the Legion and found adventure and the thrill of doing good. That was also a fact. His proven record of courage and success was something of which to be proud. The past could not be changed. Surely, it could not fade away from view and become as forgotten and unseen as yesterday’s heroes. He saw his own body betray him and fade from view. He was no longer in control of his life or his newfound powers. He felt that he might lose Jacques Foccart at any moment.

He saw a mocking face as laughter echoed within his mind. He saw the original Invisible Kid. Lyle Norg was dead. He had lost his life to the hulking creature called Validus. This, too, was a fact. However, within the nightmare anything was possible, and certain fact became as transparent as Jacques’ own skin.

“You have never been worthy of the name,” said Lyle. “You use my invention, and you still fall short of what I did when I was alive. You are a pale copy of me. In fact, it is your inadequacies that brought me back from my own sleep. I can’t rest while you continue to disappoint me. I can’t enjoy peace while you tarnish my name.”

“Non!” said Jacques. “You are dead. You are not real. This is all phantasm!”

Lyle laughed and said, “Really? Then why do I grow more vivid while you continue to fade from existence?”

Jacques gasped as he saw his body flicker from sight once more. “This can’t be!” he cried.

“Would you fight me?” said Lyle. “Would you assert your heroism by killing me? That’s not what a hero does, yet that’s exactly what you do, isn’t it?”

Jacques cried out as Lyle vanished, to be replaced by a hulking brute in armor. The Khund’s breath was hot as he struggled with Invisible Kid. The sneering alien warrior grappled fiercely with the hero, and as before, while Jacques knew the outcome from his memories of these past events, he felt the fight as if it was occurring once more.

“Wharlik, you must cease to struggle!” he shouted. “I cannot control my powers. They differed from those of Norg! Please! If you try to kill me, I will have to use them again!”

Wharlik tried to choke Jacques, and he resisted, but his own physical might was not great enough. He knew from memory that if he did not fight back with his odd powers, he would lose his life. Yet he also knew that that fight had ended badly. He had survived the struggle, but his unpredictable powers, which exceeded mere invisibility, had teleported them into space, where the brutal Khund had died instantly. Jacques’ transuit had enabled him to survive, but was life worth anything if it only came with the cost of other being’s life? (*) The Legion review board had found him innocent of any crime. The death of Wharlik had been an accident. Jacques had even had Dr. Gym’ll remove that aspect of his powers so he could never end a life through their use again. However, in the nightmare, Jacques had them again, or did they have him, since he could not use them safely?

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Election Day,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #10 (May, 1985).]

Now, Invisible Kid found himself facing a dilemma of life and death. Should he kill the Khund as before, even though he knew that had never been his intention? Should he accept defeat and let the villain take his own life? He gasped again and screamed.

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