Even as Phantom Girl, Lesla Vol-Lar, and Brainiac 5 tried to revive Shrinking Violet, Ultra Boy, and Chameleon Boy within the protective covering of the force-shield, Brainiac 5 also received a telepathic rush of images and data from the plug worn by Lesla.
Brainiac not only still lives within the confines of his old ship, but he also has reformed! mused Querl Dox. I know he reformed briefly once before, according to the records I’ve studied of his career. (*) Yet Lesla spoke of our enemy within the other ship Brainiac once used as being a second Brainiac. I think that confirms my suspicions from before; the only one who would use the mantle of Brainiac with such palpable malice and mania is Pulsar Stargrave!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Star-Kill,” Action Comics #528 (February, 1982).]
Brainiac 5 heard and saw more of Lesla’s tale, and he knew he had deduced the nature of their foe correctly. Brainiac had revealed as much to Lesla earlier aboard the ship that housed his consciousness.
“The seeds of my reformation were planted long ago, when I regained my more humanoid appearance after a period in which I resembled the skeletal face of this craft,” explained Brainiac. (*) “Soon afterward, I regained a more human perspective as well. That is to say, I began to feel emotions like hatred for Superman or pride in my own abilities. I relished the warmth of those sensations, and I marveled as I did what had once seemed a wild impossibility for one such as I. I found love. I met another being like myself. She also was a humanoid computer, but her mental patterns were patterned after a female native of Colu. She loved me, and I came to love her as well. We fought Superman and his allies on more than one occasion, and then we had a child. The child was, of course, a humanoid, adult-sized computerized being, since we were not capable of reproduction of any other type.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Rokyn Attacked.]
“We made him together, and we felt the horror as our son responded to the universe with madness and hatred. His first moments of sentience were heralded by the destruction of his mother. He destroyed my lover, and I subdued him and tried repeatedly to reprogram him. I attempted to purge his system of the error that led him to rail against the cosmos and seek power beyond anything I had ever known.
“At last I admitted defeat; still, call it human weakness within me, but I could not destroy my son. He carried part of his mother within him, and I could not see that essence lost forever. Thus I placed him within suspended animation, set his craft to drift through space away from any inhabited world, and I departed from the known universe to find peace in solitude. Later, I learned that his craft had drifted through space for nearly a thousand years until an accident befell the ship. It passed through the heart of a dying star, and the forces unleashed freed my son from suspended animation and fueled his thirst for power by granting him superhuman abilities. It also left him completely insane. He took the name Pulsar Stargrave in recognition of the accident that had granted him a second birth. He also returned to your universe and vowed to conquer it.
“He posed as your father, and he even pretended to be me. (*) He knew he could safely do either impersonation, since he had destroyed me as well. You see, he tracked me down, and he attacked me with his stellar fire. He shattered my body and left my ship in ruins. However, little did he know that my awareness lived on as I transferred myself from one computer system to another. In this way, I eventually regained this old ship and sought to find my son and stop his madness.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “When Stargrave Strikes,” Superboy #224 (February, 1977).]
Lesla Vol-Lar had gasped in surprise and quickly figured out much of the current plot. “He’s posing as you in that red ship in order to get the cult that worships you to help him!” she concluded. “He wants to shrink Rokyn’s cities again, like you once did to Kandor long ago!”
“I fear that is but the beginning of his plan,” said Brainiac. “I knew I would need allies to stop him, so I came here and found you. We must be ready to patrol Rokyn’s space and stop him before he uses the shrinking ray!”
The memory flow ended as Lesla turned to Brainiac 5 in the present and said, “So we’ve been waiting for his attack, and now you know everything I do.”
“Stargrave was always the one I suspected after I learned someone was using the old weapons of Colu,” said Brainiac 5. “He relished making use of Colu’s history for his own benefit when last we met.”
“Brainiac 5, he’s releasing some kind of energy web around the atmosphere of Rokyn!” cried Phantom Girl.
Shrinking Violet, Ultra Boy, and Chameleon Boy sat up slowly as they shook off the effects of the energy blast. Brainiac 5 told them the facts in a succinct manner, and they struggled to their feet and prepared to fight.
“Is that the shrinking energy?” asked Chameleon Boy as he saw a glow envelop Rokyn.
“Let me out of the force-shield,” said Lesla. “Maybe I can stop that ray!”
“No,” said Brainiac 5. “That is beyond even your curious energy-based powers. I also doubt that web to be the shrinking ray itself. I suspect it to be something more insidious. It is a catalyst designed to ignite the lingering energies of the original shrinking ray that still slumbers within the genes of your people, who are descendants of those Kandorians who spent years in a shrunken state. Stargrave has gone one better than Brainiac. He didn’t need to steal cities, since he merely stimulated the latent energies carried in the gene pool of those below!”
“Brainiac is in touch with me through the com-link in my ring,” said Lesla. “He says that is exactly what his tests prove as well. The whole population of Rokyn, except for nonnative immigrants, is now shrinking rapidly!”
“The ray disappeared,” said Shrinking Violet. “He cut it off. I guess it’s done its job merely by altering the atmosphere below!”
“I think the only thing we can do is prevent him from making use of his shrinking victims,” said Brainiac 5. “Since he didn’t shrink their cities, he must want to use the natives themselves for something. I’d wager he wants to take them to a yellow sun system and use them as small but superhuman pawns via the mind-control probes he has been using!”
“Imagine an entire planet of Superman-level beings who could be transported from one system to another in one spacecraft!” said Chameleon Boy. “It’s like a more mobile and lethal living war-world!”
“He still hasn’t collected them!” announced Ultra Boy. “My penetra-vision shows the folks below all reacting in fear, but they are still planet side!”
“Then we Legionnaires better shut down his little scheme before it gets started!” said Shrinking Violet.
The heroes made their way closer to the enemy spacecraft, which had been holding off weapons fire from the Legion Cruiser itself. Invisible Kid had been gamely trying to defend his friends, but his efforts had met with little success. The heroes gazed at the exchange of fire between the two crafts for a moment, then suddenly found themselves inside Stargrave’s ship.
“Brainiac was able to teleport us inside,” explained Lesla. “He retains that much control over his old ship!”
Chameleon Boy changed into a spiky Jovian battlebore and charged across the deck of the ship, until the deck dissolved beneath his hoofs and then solidified around him. I can’t let this crush me! he mused as he shifted form again and flew out of the confined space as a Martian moth. He saw the source of his problem as the sultry woman called Quicksand came into view. She wore the exotic makeup and skimpy yellow costume he remembered from their last battle, and she stared at him with the same amount of contempt in her eyes.
“Durlan rabble!” cried Quicksand. “Your inhuman tricks won’t work if you can’t touch anything!” She darted closer and touched Chameleon Boy’s body with surprising speed. He yelped as his body shifted to normal and then abruptly started to dissolve.
Chameleon Boy struggled to maintain his normal body structure, until a blast of heat-vision from Ultra Boy drove Quicksand backward. “Thanks, pal!” said Chameleon Boy. “If I was not a Durlan, that move of hers would have killed me!”
Ultra Boy grinned in reply and then gasped as a squad of robotic guards emerged to surround him and his friends. “Looks like the hired help is here!” quipped Ultra Boy as he used his invulnerable body to block a smashing blow from one of the robots as it attacked a dodging Shrinking Violet.
The Imskian heroine disappeared from view and entered the robot’s body, where in miniature form she dismantled one wire after another until it sparked and collapsed. She wasted no time as she repeated the process from one robot to another. “I’ll fry the circuits of these metal men before they know what’s hit them!” she vowed.
Meanwhile, Phantom Girl allowed two robots to lock their weapon sites on her position before she turned intangible and let their weapons hit one another. She flashed a brilliant smile and said, “Don’t fight over me, boys. There’s plenty of me to go around!”
Ultra Boy shattered two more robots with a crushing display of super-strength as an inhuman figure with orange skin bounded forward to grip him around the throat with seemingly unshakable strength. “Holdur will serve the master by ending your life, human!” cried the alien being. Ultra Boy gasped as even his power failed to shake the grip of the mutated alien.
Phantom Girl dived forward and passed one hand through Holdur’s body before solidifying it again momentarily. He screamed and released Ultra Boy, who connected with a super-strong punch that knocked the alien flat. “Thanks, Tinya! I’ll never regret those hours you spent with Val learning how to make the most of your powers for attacks upon the nervous systems!” he said.
Brainiac 5 had similarly contained Quicksand within his force-field, and a rapid adjustment of the controls enabled him to contract it enough to leave her stunned at his feet. I hated to be so ruthless with her, but seeing her confirms Brainiac’s story, he thought. We’re dealing with Stargrave! Holdur and Quicksand were his slaves when last we met!
Lesla had been melting robots into scrap with a series of potent energy discharges, and she thrilled with each new experience. She was loving the heroic life, although her mind had yet to fully adjust to her new role. She gasped as a figure in a black cowl stepped into view and loomed over the deck from a vantage point above.
“Your resistance is futile, Legionnaires!” he said. “My agents hold all of Rokyn in their grasp! All they have to do is literally place their boots down to crush entire cities into ruin! A symbolic gesture for a more literal change in the world order!”
“I see the man I want — Nightwing Prime!” cried Lesla.