by Martin Maenza
A young woman with flowing black hair that cascaded about her dark gray-caped shoulders paced the hallway nervously. Periodically, the black-costumed female would stop and look with concern at the closed shiny metal doorway just a few feet away. What I wouldn’t give for some super-senses like x-ray vision or enhanced hearing right now, thought Night Girl.
“Lydda, what brings you here?” a melodic female voice called from behind her.
The surprising sound was enough to make Night Girl jump slightly. Lydda Jath turned to see a young woman dressed in a costume of yellow, white, and red with a red cape. Her face was uncovered to reveal the curly white-haired queen from the planet Orando. “Oh, Projectra,” Night Girl said nervously, “I didn’t hear you come up.”
Projectra put her gloved hand on the other woman’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. You just looked so deep in thought.”
“I was…” Night Girl admitted as she tried to maintain a light mood to her face. In truth, though, this was the one person she hoped not to encounter while she waited for the others to meet.
“What brings you here?” Projectra asked again, stepping back.
“Academy business,” the brunette replied, which for the most part was the truth. The whole matter had started back at the Legion Academy on Montauk Point a few hours ago. “Rokk is talking with some of the others about it.”
“I see,” Projectra said. The queen of Orando had been taking in Night Girl’s body language as she spoke. The former member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes seemed a bit guarded, even defensive. She kept her arms crossed about her chest, and her foot was fidgeting ever so slightly. Projectra was a very observant person, and she knew there was something more that the young woman was not saying. She wasn’t sure why, though. After a moment of awkward silence, she asked, “Would you like me to wait with you?”
“No, no,” Lydda said. “That’s all right. Rokk shouldn’t be too much longer. I’d hate to keep you from wherever you were headed.” She forced a smile.
Projectra nodded politely. “All right, then.” Using her illusion powers, she created a white faceless mask over her own facial features, and her hair color altered to darker blonde. This was the look she had taken on when Projectra rejoined the Legion of Super-Heroes as Sensor Girl. “Be seeing you.” She turned and walked away.
Night Girl held her breath until the woman was down the hall and turned the corner. Then she relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief. That was close, she thought to herself.
She glanced back at the door again, which was still closed. She didn’t like waiting.
Inside the closed conference room of the remarkable thirtieth-century Metropolis building, various members of the universally famous Legion of Super-Heroes sat about a round table.
A powerfully built young man with black hair dressed in a red uniform and a blue cape was focused on the speaker leading the discussion. To Mon-El’s left was his girlfriend, a blue-skinned alien beauty with long, curly black hair dressed in a black outfit with a high-collared cloak. Shadow Lass was more focused on a younger male with dark spiky hair and similar blue skin dressed in a purple tunic and shorts with a cape. Tasmia Mallor was concerned for her cousin Grev Mallor, who went by the code name of Shadow Kid.
On the other side of the young Legion Academy member was a blonde-haired woman dressed in white and red. Saturn Girl, too, was focused on the lad in a more maternal way. As one of the three founding members of the Legion, she took a lot of pride and responsibility in helping to see the youthful heroes develop along the path that would lead them to a bright future with the Legion someday.
Next to her was a green-skinned man with blond hair who was intently punching information into his compu-pad. While to some it might appear that Brainiac 5 was hardly listening to the conversation, that was not the case. His high-level, computer-like brain could easily multitask on a number of different areas at the same time. Next to him, an orange-skinned alien with a pair of antennae and pointed ears dressed in yellow and purple faced the speaker. Chameleon Boy was definitely intrigued by the discussion as it was being outlined.
Near the head of the table, a platinum-blonde beauty dressed in a skimpy white costume examined the nails on her left hand, making a mental note to schedule a manicure as soon as possible. Dream Girl then turned to the young man next to her with brown hair dressed in a black costume adorned with many sparkling white dots resembling space itself. Star Boy, the current leader of the team, stroked his short beard lightly as he listened to the speaker.
Standing before the group and addressing them was a dark-haired young man dressed in a pink costume with a black tunic, gloves, and boots. As one of the other founders of the Legion and the current head instructor at the Legion Academy, the group assembled took what Cosmic Boy came to discuss seriously.
“And so, we then received word that the premier from Krltos did not survive the attack,” Rokk Krinn said grimly. “The assassin’s needle-dart, which contained a fast acting poison, killed him.” He turned to a holo image that hovered and rotated above the center of the table. It was an image of a young man’s face, a face very familiar to the group. “And that is the face of the killer.”
“We’re certain of that?” Star Boy questioned.
“Grev saw it with his own eyes,” Cosmic Boy said, turning to his student.
“Yes, sir,” Shadow Kid said. “That is the face I saw.”
“Meaning no disrespect,” Dream Girl said, “but could you be mistaken?”
“If my cousin said this is what he saw, I believe him,” Shadow Lass said, coming to the youth’s defense.
“He also agreed to let me probe his mind,” Saturn Girl added. “I can confirm that this is truly the face he saw.”
“But that is Karate Kid’s face,” Mon-El pointed out, which everyone in the room knew all too well. “Val Armorr is dead.”
“We all were at his funeral back on Orando,” Star Boy said. “We saw his body cremated after he managed to stop the Legion of Super-Villains’ ship from escaping. (*) Obviously, this is someone making a mockery of our fallen comrade’s appearance.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Lest Villainy Triumph,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #4 (November, 1984).]
“That’s what I think, too!” Cosmic Boy said firmly. “The assassin that attacked at the academy was someone who changed his appearance to look like Val.”
“It could be a shape-shifter,” Dream Girl said, glancing at their Durlan teammate.
Chameleon Boy caught the look. “Or perhaps someone who had some surgical work to enhance their features.” His glance went right back to the young woman from Naltor, who didn’t appreciate the implication behind it.
“What about how he fought?” Shadow Kid spoke up. “He seemed truly skilled in the ways of martial arts.”
“Your statements, as well as those of the other academy members, seem to vouch for that,” Star Boy said. “Not only did the assassin look like our fallen comrade, but he fought like him, too.”
“This killer was skilled,” Cosmic Boy had to admit.
“Skills can be taught, though,” Saturn Girl said. “Val, over the years, taught moves to a number of us to help us in combat situations and for self-defense.”
“Yes,” Shadow Lass agreed. “It is very possible that whoever this person was also trained similarly to Val.”
“It sounds like someone wanted us to think we were facing our old teammate,” Mon-El said. “Someone taunting us or something.” There was some murmuring among the group.
Star Boy pounded his hand on the table to get attention. “Let’s stay focused, people,” he said.
“Maybe it is Val,” Brainiac 5 threw out, much to the surprise of many.
“Brainy, what are you talking about?” Dream Girl asked.
“I’m saying it could be Val,” the green-skinned young man said, “or more specifically, a clone of Val.” This drew more soft whispers among the group.
Star Boy pounded his hand again. “People!” He turned to the team’s scientific lead. “Brainy, what are you implying — that someone managed to clone Karate Kid and is using said clone as some kind of super-assassin?“
“It is a possibility,” the computer-mind replied. “You know I nearly perfected a cloning process a number of years back that could allow for a grown adult to be made from kept cells. I even tested them on Superboy with clones of Invisible Kid and Ferro Lad, though they had a very short existence before expiring again. I gave up on the project and moved on to something else.”
“Are you saying someone cloned Val?!” Shadow Lass exclaimed. “That’s unthinkable!”
“I’ve seen worse,” Mon-El said, recalling the centuries he spent suspended in the Phantom Zone until the Legion was able to find a cure for his lead-poisoning weakness. During that time, he was a helpless witness to many atrocities.
“Perhaps someone else has devised a method of cloning like mine,” Brainiac 5 pointed out, “and what if they’ve managed to get some of Val’s cells in order to produce a clone?”
“That’s disgusting,” Dream Girl said.
“Be that as it may,” Star Boy said, “Brainy does have a point. That could be an option.”
“If it is an option, what do we tell Projectra?” Saturn Girl asked.
“We shouldn’t tell her anything at this point,” Cosmic Boy said. “We don’t know the truth yet, and giving her any false information might only further upset her. She took it very hard when Val was killed.” They all knew how she lashed out and executed Val’s killer, Nemesis Kid, as a result of her rage. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “An Eye for an Eye, a Villain for a Hero,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #5 (December, 1984).]
“If we are dealing with clones and not just a look-alike, she should be told,” Shadow Lass said.
“But we need to determine what exactly we are dealing with first,” Mon-El pointed out.
“That’s what I had in mind,” Cosmic Boy said.
Star Boy turned to him. “Rokk, what are you asking the Legion to do to help?”
Cosmic Boy turned to Chameleon Boy. “I’d like to have the Espionage Squad go on a little fact-finding mission for me.”
The meeting soon adjourned. As the others finished filing out, Dream Girl turned and noticed that Star Boy was still sitting, lost in thought. She moved back across the room and bent down, putting her arms about his shoulders. “Thom, what’s wrong?”
Star Boy blinked out of his thoughts. “Oh, Nura, sorry,” he said. “I was just thinking about this latest development, processing the various factors.”
Having served as a team leader, she understood the complexities of the position. She could certainly sympathize with his concerns. “How so?” Dream Girl asked.
“If it is just someone who looks like Val, then it’s easy,” he said. “And that’s kind of what I’m hoping we find.”
“And if it isn’t?” she asked.
“If it isn’t, then we have more weighty issues to deal with,” the leader sighed.
Dream Girl took his hand. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s go get some sleep. Things will look better in the morning.” She gave him a smile, the star-shaped mark on her cheek bobbing up slightly.
Star Boy nodded. That certainly seemed like a better offer. Still, he knew the nature of their job. There were good odds that another crisis would come up in the meantime to take his mind off the situation that had occurred at the Legion Academy, albeit briefly.
A day and a half later and a long ways across the galaxy, a Legion Cruiser kept in orbit behind the dark side of a rather large moon. At the helm of the ship sat Night Girl, who was facing a small monitor. “We’re in position near the planet Krltos in the Delta-9-2 quadrant,” she said in the microphone near the screen.
On the other end of the vid-transmission was a dark-haired woman dressed in a white costume. “Roger that, Lydda,” said Phantom Girl. “I’ll note your location on the mission board.”
“Thanks, Tinya,” Night Girl replied. “I’m sorry you couldn’t join the rest of the Squad on this mission.”
“I am, too,” the woman back at Legion Headquarters on Earth replied. “I’m sure they’ll do fine without me, though.”
“Please let Star Boy know we’ve arrived.”
“I’ll do that when he and the others return,” Phantom Girl said. “Shortly after you all departed, it looks like a bunch of them left to follow up on the current situation on Lythyl after their mission there a little while back. (*) I did talk to Saturn Girl briefly before they left, though. She was worried about Cosmic Boy. Is he OK?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Live Long and Die, Chapter 3: Return to the Stars.]
Night Girl was about to answer when the doors to the helms’ room opened. She noticed her boyfriend stepping inside. “I’ll have to get back to you on that, Tinya,” she said rather quickly. “Legion Cruiser Three out.”
“Roger,” Phantom Girl replied.
Night Girl switched off the monitor just as Cosmic Boy approached. “Are they set?” she asked.
Cosmic Boy nodded sullenly. “Yeah, they should be down on the surface now,” he said. “I should check in with headquarters.”
“Already taken care of.”
Night Girl leaned forward and put her hand gently to the side of his left temple. Cosmic Boy leaned into it for comfort, closing his eyes. “Rokk, you should try to get some rest,” she said.
The Braalian shook his head slightly. “No, I don’t think I can.”
“Try,” she replied, “for me. I promise I’ll wake you when the others return, or if there is any sign of trouble.”
Cosmic Boy took a deep breath and sighed. “OK,” he said, giving in. He started for the door. “Lydda, what would I do without you?”
She smiled. “You’ll never have to know, my love,” Night Girl said.