Garth and Ayla Ranzz of Winath stood silently together in the bleak solitude of deep space and looked up at a strangely poignant memorial. The statues had been carved into a huge meteor and clearly depicted a man and a woman standing back to back and staring off into the emptiness of their curious surroundings. While the servo-droid that had shaped the meteor into its present form had naturally lacked anything that could be called true artistic talent, there was still an obvious resemblance between the couple whose funeral monument loomed out of the meteor and the younger pair of twins who stood below it.
Ayla Ranzz was a pretty young woman with delicate features and a shapely form, but her reddish-blonde hair made her otherwise striking resemblance to her brother Garth quite evident. The two wore transparent transsuits, and their telepathic earplugs allowed them to communicate even in space. In truth, they were so close that they really needed nothing more than facial expressions, body language, and eye contact to know what feelings and thoughts were present in one another.
“You know, I still can’t believe they’re gone,” said Garth. “After all this time, I find myself wanting to rush to the communicator and tell them about something the boys have done.”
“I’m that way, too,” said Ayla. “I know mother and father are dead. (*) That certain knowledge is written in my heart, and I can still recall that moment when their ship was struck by the meteor while they were talking to us via the communications system! No super-power or advanced equipment could change that tragedy. But, Garth, I still miss them so much! I never forget the date of their deaths, but I also sometimes have the feeling that they are back on Winath on the farm commune waiting to hear from me.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Lightning Lad’s Day of Dread,” Superboy #207 (March-April, 1975).]
Garth nodded and said, “Our minds recall what our hearts forget, or have I got that backward? Imra always thinks I’m too poetic. Maybe I’m just too abstract for her cool reasoning. Anyway, I am glad we came here for one final visit to their resting place before your big day. I know this isn’t the real anniversary of the day we lost them, but I thought coming here before your wedding would be like getting their approval.”
Ayla agreed readily as tears formed in her eyes. “I feel like they’re smiling down on me. They had such a happy marriage that I just know they would approve of what Brin and I have now and hope to develop even more of after tomorrow’s ceremony.”
“You have love,” said Garth. “You have a real bond with one another. That kind of commitment speaks volumes, even when Brin himself is at a loss for words.”
Ayla grinned and said, “He expresses himself just fine when we’re alone!”
“He’s a good man,” said Garth. “He’s worthy of you. You know I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it.”
“I’m glad you agree,” said Ayla. “Some of the others can’t see through his rough exterior, but I’ve always wanted you to understand him. We’ve always shared everything else, and I couldn’t stand the thought that my brother didn’t like my lover!”
“Ever since Imra, Rokk, and I founded the Legion with help and funding from R.J. Brande, I’ve encountered sentient beings of every possible type, and Brin Londo would be a hero by any of their standards,” said Garth. “Whether he’s called Lone Wolf or Timber Wolf, and whether his features are normal, like they are now, or feral, like they used to be, Brin is a proven Legionnaire, and I’m happy he’s going to be my sister’s husband!”
Ayla hesitated, then said, “Garth, Brin values your friendship, too. He grew up on Zoon so very alone. His mother died when he was small, and his father devoted all of his attention to science. Why, Brin was so very alienated or isolated from humanity that he actually believed himself to be an artificial being or an android for far too long. He moved beyond that terrible misconception and eventually joined the Legion, but certain mutations caused by the gradual fluctuations in the zuunium rays within his system gave him that savage or feral appearance until he had medical procedures done to restore his original looks. And yet, in spite of having so many strikes against him, he grew into a true hero and the man of my dreams. I can’t help but be sorry that Mekt never could overcome his own problems!”
Garth eyes narrowly as he thought about their older criminal sibling. Mekt had been with Garth and Ayla years before when their craft had run out of power on a planetoid called Korbul. The threesome had attempted to goad native lightning beasts into recharging their powerless ship, but the animals had instead kindled lightning-generation powers within the three siblings. Mekt had used his power to become a criminal named Lightning Lord, while the twins Ayla and Garth became galactic champions as Lightning Lass and Lightning Lad of the justly celebrated Legion of Super-Heroes.
Frowning, Garth said, “Our older brother was born a single on a world of twins. He was different from almost everyone else on our planet, and that sense of isolation drove him to seek attention through rebellion and through violence. He tormented us both for years before he ran away and became a criminal. He was a bad seed long before he left Winath. However, in the last few months, as I’ve devoted myself to taking care of my own twins Graym and Garridan, I’ve noticed brief flashes of behavior or certain looks between them, despite their age differences, and I’ve thought of how it was for us as kids. We shut Mekt out without even trying to do so. Oh, as a father and husband, I’m more determined than ever to protect those I love and other innocents from Lightning Lord, as Mekt calls himself in his super-villain role, but I also have regrets, and I’m starting to wish that he could still be reformed!”
“When he and I last fought, he was totally insane,” said Ayla. “He thought the storm talked to him. He tortured me and tried to kill my friends before I finally defeated him. (*) I don’t think he can ever be reclaimed.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “An Eye for an Eye, a Villain for a Hero,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #5 (December, 1984).]
“Maybe not,” said Garth. “After all, he hasn’t bothered to come to the grave here during any of our previous visits on the anniversary of the day our folks died. The last time he came was right before he expanded his Legion of Super-Villains for the first time.”
“We also know that he’s destined to remain a criminal, even as an older man,” noted Ayla. “After all, his future self fought the team before by coming back to our present and attacking us with what he called his Adult Legion of Super-Villains.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Triumph of the Legion of Super-Villains,” Adventure Comics #331 (April, 1965).]
“I don’t know about that,” said Garth. “He couldn’t have truly been in the same time as his younger self without violating every known law of time, unless that older future Mekt was either an impostor or came from some alternate future timeline that had already diverged from the one we’re in. At least, Brainy feels that theory has potential.”
“So, you think there’s hope for Mekt’s reformation?” asked Ayla. “I’d like to think so, too, but that doesn’t mean I want him at the wedding tomorrow!”
Garth shook his head. “I believe we make our own destiny. Mekt could change for the better or the worse. Only time and his own inclination can tell. I do think anything is possible. Look at me; I was presumed dead once, but I was revived from what turned out to be only a state of suspended animation. I lost an arm once, but science restored it. Finally, look at my sons! Imra gave birth to twins. Our enemy Darkseid’s power cloaked the double births, so we never realized two sons had been born. He took Garridan and sent him back in time, where he was transformed from an infant into a raging brute called Validus! We never knew the monster from the Fatal Five was our child. He was forced to kill Invisible Kid, and we still never imagined that he was really a child of ours who would not be born for years to come! How could we have imagined such a horrible twist of fate? Now Garridan is restored to normal, and although he is over a decade older than he should be thanks to the time travel involved, he’s a wonderful child, and he and his younger twin are devoted to one another. (*) There’s hope in the universe. I think that’s the real message of the Legion. We don’t stand merely for justice. We represent the possibility of a brighter tomorrow!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Monsters of the Heart and Mind.]
As they departed from the gravesite, they failed to see a young man with stark white hair and a green and red costume lurking in the shadows on the far side of the meteor. He had watched them for a long time, and his eyes flickered with hatred and with crackling electricity.
What Mekt Ranzz, the Lightning Lord, could not realize was that he, in turn, was being watched as well.