Meanwhile, below on Colu, a balding scientist who held the position of head of the Science Council made a report to his colleagues. “The Legion has saved us, as we expected them to do,” he said. “The damage done by the war-world’s attack is minimal, thanks to energy-absorbing shields and evacuation of major cities. Our own probes now indicate that there has been a major loss of power on Tyrraz, and I attribute that to the efforts of Querl Dox and his allies.”
Another scientist replied, “However, the attack may have succeeded in ways we never imagined. While we were naturally occupied with the defense of our world against Tyrraz, certain sections of our global data repository were compromised, and restricted data was copied!”
The others listened in concern, and one nodded grimly. “The restricted data could only have been taken by someone with awareness of the nature of our system security. What was the exact nature of the data that was taken?”
The larger scientist said, “The data came from the dark era of the Computer Tyrants. It dealt with certain inventions from that time, and in particular with the shrinking rays developed by them and by their notorious agent.”
The head of the Science Council said, “Will Colu ever be free from the shadow of the past? Alert Querl Dox immediately. He, above all others, should be notified!”
The Legionnaires reacted with various degrees of surprise and indignation as the Controller announced his plan for preventing Tyrraz from ever threatening the universe again. “You can’t kill everyone on Tyrraz!” said Phantom Girl. “That would be as bad as any of their crimes!”
The Controller drew himself up, and with a dignity beyond his now-withered form, he said, “A sentence of execution for crimes against the universe is entirely justified. They are a force for chaos in what needs to be an ordered universe. That in itself condemns their race! Surely you will yield when you consider the potential damage these savages could do.”
“Look, pal, if the Legion killed its enemies, then we’d lose the trust of the United Planets,” said Shrinking Violet. “We’d be seen as a band of super-powered thugs, and that’s not a label we aspire to!”
“You owe us your life,” said Brainiac 5. “I request a stay of execution for the Tyrrazians. If we come up with a reasonable alternative to your solution, will you abide by it? Will you allow us to look into another answer?”
“I will allow you time to consider such possibilities, but I will not be swayed by sentiment,” said the Controller.
“I’m not going let that pink-skinned freak destroy my people!” vowed Zsaka. “If I have to use my bare hands to prevent it, I will!”
“Give Brainy a chance to come up with a way to appease the Controller,” said Chameleon Boy. “He’ll come through for you.”
The Tyrrazian rolled her eyes in disgust as she stared at the group of young heroes. “I won’t pin my hopes on your pathetic group!” she said.
“You have a week, as time is measured by Earth time, to provide me with an acceptable solution,” said the Controller.
Invisible Kid whispered to Brainiac 5, “Do you have an answer? Were you bluffing?”
“I have several possible alternatives in mind, but I will need time to determine which one is best,” said Brainiac 5.
Zsaka scowled and said, “I didn’t bring you here to free my world from one tyrant in order to doom it to a worse fate! Curse you all, Legionnaires!”
As she raced off, Brainiac 5 said, “Let her go. We have work to do. The Controller will keep the peace here until we return.”
“Where are we headed?” asked Vi. “Colu?”
“Actually, I would like to make use of their computers to make certain of a few facts,” said Brainiac 5. “I might have the answer to how to save the Tyrrazians already!”
The team returned to the Legion Cruiser and swiftly landed on Colu. Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Invisible Kid remained aboard the ship while the others entered the city itself. The heroic trio was greeted by the Science Council. They were treated with the highest signs of respect.
While Brainiac 5 conferred with the Science Council, Shrinking Violet paced restlessly along with Chameleon Boy. “Reep, do you have any idea what Brainy plans to do about the Controller?” she said. “We’re not ready to fight a being like that, even if he has just recovered from severe injuries!”
Reep Daggle nodded and said, “I know Brainiac 5 will try to come up with something a bit more subtle than a Khund-style brawl. We know Tyrraz is now free from Tyr’s battle-clan, and they’ve lost their power sources, so they can’t move the planet again. The cyber-warriors are weakened, too, because of the virus. I have to imagine the Controller’s desire for the destruction of the planet comes from a more personal motive. He’s angry at the way the Tyrrazians used him.”
Vi laughed and said, “Do you think that’s it? The Controller is a cosmic being with power beyond imagining, and this whole thing boils down to the fact that his pride has been wounded!”
“Stranger things have been true,” said Chameleon Boy. “After all, who would have ever guessed that I was R.J. Brande’s son?”
Vi nodded in agreement as she remembered how the team had been shocked to discover that the star-making financial giant who originally funded the team was, in truth, a Durlan trapped in human shape. He was also Reep’s father, and the creation of the Legion had partly been something of a desperate attempt to attract his son to him.
At that moment, Brainiac 5 exited from the huge Chamber of Science and said, “I have bad news. It appears as if I was right when I speculated that Tyr’s mind was not cunning or subtle enough to be behind this plot. The whole attack was a cover for a theft of data from the era of the Computer Tyrants. The data in question concerned the shrinking ray once used by the original and notorious Brainiac!”
Vi whistled as she noted the implications. “The mind-probe devices Tyr used came from the past of your homeworld, and so does Brainiac’s ray. That ray could shrink a whole city, and Imskians shrink, too, by a natural process. Do you suppose the attack on me was connected to this plot? The timing would be right.”
“Someone is seeking ways to shrink living beings safely,” deduced Chameleon Boy. “That must be why they sent those Imskians with no tie to any radical group on their world after Salu!”
“That’s logical, but the same genetic data could be taken from the Imskians themselves,” said Brainiac 5. “The fact that they tried to get it from a Legionnaire suggests that this keen mind also has a thirst for revenge on us.”
“Could this mean the return of the Computer Tyrants?” asked Chameleon Boy. “Shrinking cities in order to study their cultural weaknesses in anticipation of future conquests by the Tyrants was certainly their M.O.!”
“No,” said Brainiac 5 without missing a beat. “Those fiends are gone for good. However, there could be those who wish to use their old methods. I’ve made studies of that shrinking-ray energy before, and I suspect I could develop a means of tracing a large concentration of such energy.”
“That sounds like a plan,” said Vi.
Brainiac 5 nodded and said, “It will do for now. We need to meet Jo, Tinya, and Jacques back at the Cruiser. This mission is far more complex than I expected it to be.”
The spacecraft that had been orbiting Bryak was now closing in on Rokyn. Highly sophisticated cloaking devices concealed the oddly shaped ship from view or detection by the planet’s security systems below. On board the craft, the large man in white listened as a sultry black woman made her report.
“Master, the data taken from the dead Imskian only confirmed what you suspected all along. The most reasonable way to achieve your goal is to make use of the original shrinking ray. That device’s recreation and precise refinement is assured, now that you have the data from the computer banks of Colu.”
He nodded as he sat upon the captain’s chair. “Correct. However, I wanted to take every option into consideration before resorting to the obvious. I have the all-too-human fault of wanting to be my own man. It is not fitting for one such as I to walk too closely in the steps of other beings who have come before me. I am unique, and my power surpasses that of all who ever existed!”
The inhuman figure who killed the Imskian called Doss bounded forward and said, “Master, even if the genetic data taken from the Imskian served no purpose, I was pleased to kill him in your name!”
Their master laughed and said, “Taking life always has a purpose. By ending life, we make it clear to all who face us that we are indeed destined to exercise such complete control over lesser beings!” He waited a moment, and a broad smile crossed his green features. “And, more to the point, it gives me pleasure as well,” he said.
The Legion Cruiser was speeding through space toward Rokyn, and Ultra Boy piloted the craft as he listened to Brainiac 5’s words. “I appreciate your help on this case. In some ways, I view it as a personal matter. I believe the enemy we are facing is dedicated to using the technology of the original Brainiac in new and frightening ways. I believe that more than ever, since I located a type of energy that matches that energy that formed his shrinking ray in evidence near Rokyn.”
“Brainy, we’re family in the Legion,” said Phantom Girl. “What happens to one of us matters to all of us. This is personal to us, too. After all, Rokyn is the home to the heirs of the original inhabitants of the bottled city of Kandor, and that city, in turn, came from Krypton, and Krypton was the birthplace of two of our most celebrated and cherished members, Superboy and Supergirl!”
“Yes, Kara will never be forgotten,” said Brainiac 5. “If her people face peril from someone using the modified science of my world’s greatest ancient menace, then I will not rest until I have protected them.”
“Brainiac 5, Rokyn is a phase world, so many of us have never been there before,” said Shrinking Violet. “It is only in our universe at certain times of the year, right?”
“Exactly,” said Brainiac 5. “That is why I feel the threat to Rokyn comes at this precise time. It is now in sync with our universe. I’ve been trying to communicate with the Science Council there, since I long ago developed a device that made such dialogue possible, but I’m not getting through to them. The device is either faulty, or the signal is being blocked.”
“I’m betting it’s being blocked, buddy,” said Ultra Boy. “Your inventions don’t fail too easily.”
“You forget about my past failures,” said Brainiac 5. “Computo was my creation, and it killed one of Luornu Taine’s bodies. Omega was my creation, and it destroyed our headquarters and left Matter-Eater Lad insane. The scientific legacy of my line is not without its dark moments, and none are as dark as the history of the first Brainiac.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Computo the Conqueror,” Adventure Comics #340 (January, 1966), “This is the Day the Universe Dies,” Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250 (April, 1979), and “The Man Who Destroyed the Universe,” Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #251 (May, 1979).]
Phantom Girl took his hand and said, “You cured Matter Eater Lad. You turned Computo into a remarkable servant. You can’t blame yourself for everything. Besides, you weren’t even born when the Computer Tyrants of Colu created Brainiac as a humanoid computer to serve as their secret agent. His directive was to scour the universe and prepare the way for eventual conquest by the Tyrants.”
“Indeed,” said Brainiac 5, “and his method of doing so was to use a shrinking ray to steal entire cities from various planets in order to gain knowledge of their weaknesses, so he could give that data to the Computer Tyrants. He took the city of Kandor from Krypton before that planet exploded, and its natives remained in a miniature state within a glass bottle for far too long, until Superman rescued them and eventually restored them to normal size on the deserted planet Rokyn!”
“Brainiac was not human,” said Invisible Kid. “It was your real ancestor, Vril Dox, who defeated the Tyrants, and he was only forced to pose as Brainiac’s son before the universe learned Brainiac was truly a computer in mobile and humanoid form. It was Vril, a hero, that was your ancestor. Don’t forget that!”
“Thank you, Jacques,” said Brainiac 5. “I appreciate your support. Thank you all. Nonetheless, I will stop this menace to Rokyn that is using Brainiac’s lost science, since I think there can only be one being capable of thinking on such a grand scale and yet coloring his actions with such palpable malice!”
“You mean the real Brainiac has returned?” said Ultra Boy. “That’s his old ship out there attacking Rokyn!” He gestured to where the planet loomed below them, and a small, skull-shaped ship orbited the planet in a threatening manner.
Brainiac 5 stared into space as he replied softly, “That was not the conclusion to which I alluded. Could I be wrong about the individual behind all this?”