In a shadowy chamber on a world just beyond United Planets territory, a masked and uniformed soldier stood before five robed figures and nervously made a report. He glanced at the small, wrinkled man who sat to the far left. He had a bright-eyed malice and a keen mind. He rested his chin on folded hands and waited with no sense of anticipation. As a Naltorian, he very likely had no anxiety or curiosity about the trooper’s report, since, like all natives of Naltor, he could see brief visions of the future.
Next to the wizened Naltorian sat a much larger reptilian figure with yellowish skin and sunken eyes. The Tsaurian seemed amused, but the source of his amusement was not obvious to the soldier. He hoped it was not caused by his own nervous manner or, worse still, anticipation of his own fate after his masters heard his news.
Perhaps the most intimidating of all the Dark Circle masters was the tentacle-faced Grullug Garkush, who leaned forward with a somber and frightening determination. An equine-featured genius named Gorgoth sat next to Grullug the brawler. He looked interested, and yet no kindness could be detected in his black eyes.
Rolind Siepur, the tiny, blue-skinned, white-haired economist spoke first. He still carried the manner of a university dean about him, and he addressed the soldier like a teacher speaking down to a wayward pupil. “Begin your report,” he said. “Time is money.”
The soldier nodded respectfully and said, “I regret to inform you that, in spite of our best efforts to contain him, the prisoner escaped from his holding cell.”
Ontiir the Tsuarian hissed a reply. “Sssoldier, you bring us newsss of failure! Have you any exsssplanation?”
The soldier quailed visibly and stammered his answer. “H-he was weak for days. He seemed near death! W-we had no idea that he would suddenly rally and regain his incredible strength! How could we face someone with such super-strength?”
“How indeed? Very well. He was too powerful for you and your men to hold,” said Siepur. “Did you at least manage to determine the direction of his flight?”
“That we did!” said the soldier. “He is heading for Earth! I would say Metropolis, home of the Legion of Super-Heroes! His speed was so great that we could neither catch him nor outdistance him!”
Grullug jumped to his feet and grasped the startled soldier around the throat with his extending tentacles. Snapping the man’s neck, he hurled him aside, then turned to the wizened old man from Naltor. “Well done, Norak Kun! Your vision was as precise as your control of his condition. He recovered enough power to escape, and his path takes him just where we want him to go. If every other aspect of our plan goes so well, we will celebrate a great triumph over our enemies in the United Planets! It is a shame that your powers of divination extend no further into the future. Still, we work with what we possess, do we not?”
Norak inclined his head in a gesture of agreement. Ontiir smiled broadly and said, “I shall order the attack to begin now!”
On Earth, within the confines of Legion of Super-Heroes Headquarters in Metropolis, two young men were working out in the spacious gym. They were a study in contrasts, but they were also good friends. The handsome, reddish-blond man was quick with a smile as he paced himself and ran around the elevated track. He clearly enjoyed what he was doing but didn’t hesitate to slow down long enough to joke around with the bearded man by his side.
“Thom, you’re dragging behind again!” said Dirk Morgna, alias Sun Boy. “Are you sure you haven’t used your mass-increasing power on yourself? Gym makes you look like Haggra of Orando! You’re moving like an old woman!”
Thom Kallor, alias Star Boy, winced in mock displeasure. “Very funny, Dirk. You should headline at Ventura!” he said.
Dirk winked at him and said, “If I was on Ventura, I’d be chasing showgirls — or being chased by them!”
Thom nodded knowingly. He was aware of his friend’s penchant for the ladies. Dirk seemed to be one of those people who had it all. He was confident, handsome, smart, and wealthy. Lady Luck seemed to be one of his many conquests. Things always worked for him. Years ago, a murder attempt on his life by a vengeful employee of his wealthy father’s had not resulted in death nor disfigurement. Dirk had emerged from the heart of a nuclear reactor with a slight tan and incredible powers of solar generation that had enabled the physics student and expert pilot to become the dynamic Legionnaire named Sun Boy.
As a Legionnaire, he had triumphed over that same angry killer, Dr. Zaxton Regulus, several times since the original assault. Sun Boy had also won romantic victories over the hearts of countless beautiful women. He relished every aspect of his exciting life, and he had no desire to change a thing.
Thom had always viewed himself as being a victim of bad luck. He had been born in an orbiting observatory over the planet Xanthu with the mutant power of being able to draw mass from the stars and localize it temporarily within any object or being. His first use of the amazing power had nearly killed his parents, as the infant had made the satellite so heavy that it plunged out of orbit. Luckily, his parents had managed to get him to safety in time. His life had followed the pattern of great benefits followed by bad luck ever since. He hoped that as Legion leader he would be able to prove himself and become a success in his own eyes. He knew his friends in the Legion already viewed him with respect. Thom was his own harshest critic.
“I wonder how Chuck, Lar, Pol, and Quislet are doing on Multivac,” said Dirk.
Thom stopped running and wiped his face with a towel. “I don’t know. I hope poor Chuck finds something there that will help cure his wife! The scans Brainy gave him to show the staff at the critical care center might be enough to enable them to offer a way to bring Luornu out of her coma!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Triad of Terror.]
“I do, too,” said Sun Boy. “I’m surprised you didn’t join them. You’ve proven to be a real hands-on kind of leader thus far.”
“I thought about it, but to be completely honest with you, I didn’t go for two reasons,” said Star Boy. “Lar is far more of an expert on bio-medicine than anyone else on the team except for Brainy, and, well…”
Sun Boy smiled slightly. “And you hate hospitals. I’d forgotten that!”
Thom smiled ruefully. “I spent years being poked, prodded, and examined by the lab boys back on Xanthu during my childhood. That left some real scars of more than one type! The fact is, I was running away to avoid more tests when I had my run-in with the comet!”
“Of course!” said Dirk. “The comet’s weird energies gave you temporary super-powers not too different from those of Superboy. If you had to drive your cruiser through something in space by accident, then you lucked out in getting nothing worse than powers like those! Do you ever miss them?”
“Yes, I do,” said Thom. “The circumstances under which they faded made the whole thing seem much worse at the time.”
Dirk frowned. “You never really told anybody about that.”
“Well, it happened when I was on that special duty…” began Thom.
But before he could finish his sentence, a holographic image of Invisible Kid popped into view from their Legion flight rings. “My friends, we are needed!” said Jacques Foccart. “The Science Police report a monster is rampaging through the heart of the city!”
“Thanks!” said Star Boy. “We’ll be right there!”
Sun Boy grinned and said, “Good. Saved just in time from one of your stories!” Star Boy hurled a towel at him as they flew to get their gear.
The Metropolis Grill was a quaint eatery located near the end of the city’s restaurant row. The décor featured modern versions of antique tables, chairs, menus, and selections from the twentieth century. Normally, the Grill was a popular spot among tourists. However, on this day, the crowds were rushing in the other direction as a monster with scaly green skin rampaged through the place, threatening to bring the restaurant crashing down around it.
It was humanoid in appearance, although the tough green hide seemed to render it completely invulnerable to the best efforts of the Science Police to subdue it. Officer Gigi Cusimano, a vivacious brunette with an impressive record of service, stomped one foot in irritation as she saw her men fall backward when the creature slammed down its own foot.
Grife! she thought. That thing is a powerhouse! We’ve been able to contain it, but just barely!
A red-haired officer named Roon Dvron turned to her and shrugged. “Gigi, Huhker hit it directly, but it didn’t even blink!”
“I saw! I saw!” said Gigi. “Concentrate on keeping the civilians safely out of the way. I’ve summoned the Legion already.”
“I see them,” said Dvron. “Thank goodness!” He pointed skyward to where Star Boy, Sun Boy, Dream Girl, and Invisible Kid soared into view.
“Don’t worry, Roon, honey,” said Dream Girl, “the space cavalry are here and looking sooo cute!”
Officer Roon Dvron blushed slightly and sighed in relief. The young officer was a good friend to several Legionnaires, and he knew that it was no shame for the S.P.s to turn to the group of champions for help. “Thanks, Nura,” he said. “That thing just swooped down and started smashing things!”
“Dream Girl, I’m the officer in charge here,” said Gigi. “I know you find it hard to see past males in tight uniforms!”
Star Boy stepped forward and said, “Dreamy, Invisible Kid, get folks to safety. I think I spotted some injured people to the left. Sun Boy and I will try the direct approach!”
Invisible Kid nodded and rushed to where a few people were being treated by the Science Police. The shy Legionnaire from Africa’s Gold Coast knew all about the pain of illness and the fears that accompanied such injuries. His young sister Danielle had suffered much over the years before Brainiac 5 had cured her of her illness. Thus the sensitive Jacques offered sincere reassurances as he helped the police comfort and move the injured. “Steady, mon ami! You will be fine!” he said as he helped an old man to his feet.
Dream Girl had considerable medical experience as well, and she actually determined the nature and extent of some injuries with far greater speed and accuracy than the officers. Her beauty and flirtatious charm enabled her to offer considerable comfort of her own. “My, what a charmer!” she said to a teenage boy. “You’ll be breaking hearts again soon!”
Sun Boy dodged a barrage of twisted metal the creature hurled in his direction. He nodded approvingly as his pal Star Boy used his own powers to make the metal heavy enough to return to the ground before it could hit anyone.
As Sun Boy generated a wave of intense and blinding light, the monster cried out and charged forward, flying into the air to hit the red-and-gold-clad hero with a sweep of its left arm. Dirk gasped in pain and struggled to keep his balance as he was hurled through the air by the sheer force of the blow. “That escapee from the horror holos is too powerful to play around with, so I’m going to have to burn it!” he said.
Star Boy concentrated and used his gravity-increasing power to slow down the creature’s relentless charge, but to his consternation, moments passed before the beast showed even a sign of slowing. “That thing is so strong, it’s ignoring my best efforts, or has been until now!” he said.
Sun Boy swooped low and blasted the creature with flames, but as Dirk had surmised it would do, it shrugged off his heat easily. “We’re not getting anywhere!” he said. “If we had Imra around, she could read its mind or broadcast calming thoughts. All we’re doing is wasting our time!”
“I know! I know!” said Star Boy, thinking of his own lost super-strength and wishing for its return once more.
Invisible Kid turned invisible and left the Science Police to clear the area. He and Nura had helped greatly already. He raised a discarded piece of scrap metal and waved it in the air in an effort to distract the creature. Before he could determine if his efforts were working or not, Jacques was knocked aside by Sun Boy, who jumped in front of him seconds before a blazing fire erupted directly in their path.
“Jacques, get away!” cried Sun Boy. “It’s all I can do to absorb the brunt of the heat with my own power!”
Jacques gasped as he realized how close he had come to instant incineration. “That thing produced fire from its eyes!” he whispered.
“Good call, Dirk!” said Star Boy.
Sun Boy gritted his teeth and concentrated on blocking the energies emitted from the beast’s eyes. “I saw its eyes glow moments before and figured it was going to release some type of energy like Mon’s heat-vision!” he explained.
Dream Girl frowned and said, “Heat-vision, huh? Boys, I think I know how to stop it. Sun Boy, create a red solar blast to engulf it!”
“Nura, are your sheerites in a bunch?” said Sun Boy. “I can’t hurt it! Wait, red?” As he followed her orders, he saw the monster reeled back for a moment.
“Now, Thom!” cried Nura. “Hit it with as heavy a load of scrap metal as you can!”
Star Boy made the awnings and metal support beams around the nearby buildings buckle under their suddenly increased weight until they collapsed upon the beast. It fell and remained still as Sun Boy continued to irradiate it in red solar waves.
“Great work, Nura!” said Star Boy. “How did you pull that off? We were ineffectual before!”
“I figured a dose of red solar energy would weaken him enough for your trick to stun him,” said Dream Girl. “You see, our monster is not what he seems to be. He’s a transformed Kryptonian suffering from the late stages of a disease called Virus X! The heat-vision and other powers he displayed tipped me off!”