The older Lightning Lord nodded as Saturn Queen drew closer. She was beautiful, but she also was clearly a mature woman and not the girl they had expected to find. “When I last saw you, you were a Superman,” said the older villain. “Saturn Queen and I did indeed come to this year from a point in the future. We didn’t come here by choice. As to why we lured you here, it is very simple. We want something from you.”
As Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Blok, and Shadow Lass entered the cottage, they heard his words.
“You have blanketed the minds of Garridan and Graym with your power,” said Garth Ranzz. “I suppose this is some type of blackmail. You’ll cure them and Ayla in return for our deaths or protection from the Science Police, so you can go on some crime spree!” He and Imra Ranzz rushed over to their boys as Mon-El stood nearby.
“I said, what do you want?” demanded Garth as he and Imra embraced their children.
Saturn Queen gazed at them with eyes full of pain and anger. “We want what you’ve just found!” she cried. “We want our son back! We want you to find him!”
“Son?” said Garth. “You and Saturn Queen have a child? I thought you were merely partners in crime!”
“A criminal alliance grew into a romance,” explained the future Mekt Ranzz. “In our era, we married and had a son. His name is Riyance. We gave up crime and vowed to live on our admittedly ill-gotten gains on some backwater planet outside of the U.P.”
“Your son?” said Superboy. “Great Krypton! I think I understand!”
“You would,” said Mekt. “You grow into the most capable hero in the cosmos. I admit that much readily.”
“Imra Rannz, I will open my mind to yours,” said Saturn Queen. “Read the truth and believe it as only a mother could do!”
Saturn Girl nodded and concentrated. Her eyes widened as she saw and felt the other woman’s thoughts and emotions. “It’s true!” she said. “Garth, she really does just want us to find their son!”
“Restore our children,” said Lightning Lad. “Cure Ayla. We’ll help you. You know me well enough by now, Mekt, to know my word is good!”
Mekt nodded and said, “Yes, it is. I knew that. Our plight made me desperate.”
“I will help you,” said Saturn Girl. “But please, restore my sons.”
Saturn Queen nodded slowly and said, “I will. I read no deception in your mind.” She knelt down on her knees and touched the two boys. They blinked and swiftly displayed normal reactions as their father and mother held them. “I did not harm them,” she explained. “I would not have done so. Motherhood has changed me. I only wanted your help. Can you find our son?”
“We were literally plucked from a normal routine in our era by an unseen force,” said Lightning Lord. “We found ourselves in this year in what was the past to us. Our child was not with us. We knew your Legion had the resources to help us locate him. We also realized, based on the date, that you would be here. I knew Ayla was married on this date.”
“Fascinating!” said Blok. “So, certain events of this timeline held true for your own divergent one!”
“Some, but not all,” said Mekt. “You never joined the team in the history I lived through–” He turned to Shadow Lass. “–and you died defending the Science Asteroid!”
Shadow Lass frowned and said, “I almost died there, but I survived a Khundish attack!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Future Is Forever,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #300 (June, 1983).]
“Cosmic King — that is to say, the so-called adult or older version you worked with before — also popped into this era without knowing how it happened,” said Mon-El. “He battled Star Boy, and his own powers surged out of control. We think he died.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legionnaires: Star Boy: Going Through Changes, Chapter 1: Elemental Fury.]
“Clearly, all three of you adult villains were targeted,” said Saturn Girl. “You were ripped from your proper era and placed into ours. Your child was stolen, and Cosmic King’s powers were driven out of control. Someone with time-travel powers wanted revenge upon you.”
“Dynamo Boy!” said Shadow Lass. “You betrayed him. You left him lost in the time-stream itself. He returned recently and claimed that his journey through all of time itself was circular in nature, and that he used that newfound knowledge to become the Time Trapper himself! We defeated him again, and we’ve since doubted his claim. He was nothing but a pawn of the real Trapper’s. In any case, he could have struck at you three at any point in his trip through the eons. He’s effectively killed Cosmic King, and now he’s hurt you even worse by letting you live happily together for years before removing what you loved the most — namely, your child!”
“I think your son was turned into Validus!” said Superboy. “A child with the powers of lightning and mental prowess of a kind could indeed be the new Validus!”
“Of course!” said Saturn Girl. “Don’t you see? Our son was the original, and his plight involved both dark magic and a displacement through time. The Time Trapper doesn’t delve in magic, but his powers are difficult to define. He could very well have turned Riyance into a new Validus! One attacked the wedding moments after it ended!”
“Mekt, that new Validus had a partner…” said Lighting Lad, “…your younger self!”
“I can’t conceive of this!” said Mekt. “My boy is the brute from the Fatal Five? For that matter, I had no idea that one of your sons was the original! That either didn’t happen in my timeline, or I never learned the truth. Either way, I’m shocked. You and I have been enemies from our childhood, but I would never wish such a fate on a grandchild of our parents!”
Saturn Queen shook her head and said, “Dynamo Boy was a joke to us. We never imagined he could gain the kind of power to hurt us all so very much!”
“We also think a Titanian shielded young Mekt’s mind,” said Saturn Girl. “Could it be that your younger self is also helping him?”
“Mekt and I never invaded Ayla’s wedding in the timeline we came from,” said Saturn Queen, “but who is to say how and when we met in this one that clearly diverged from the one we lived through?”
“It would be a simple matter to use your mind as a kind of template by which to locate the matching one belonging to the counterpart we just fought!” said Saturn Girl.
“What do you say, Shady?” said Mon-El.
Shadow Lass nodded in approval. “I agree. I may be team leader, but Imra certainly knows her own powers better than I do. I think we should let her try to find a match to Mekt’s mind!”
“Allow me to help you,” said Saturn Queen. “My powers are more clearly defined as super-hypnosis, but I do possess nominal telepathy, as most Titanians do!”
Superboy gasped and said, “I don’t think we need to use your mental sleuthing! My super-vision detects a scene out of a nightmare!”
Mon-El looked in the direction to which Superboy was pointing. “Great galaxies! It’s Validus on a rampage, and he’s not alone!”
“The Lightning Lord of our era is with him?” asked Shadow Lass.
Superboy shook his head. “No, Tasmia! It’s far worse than that! There are around a dozen Validus duplicates rampaging through the heart of the commune!”
“Come on, Superboy!” cried Mon-El. “We have to stop those monsters!”
Lightning Lord grabbed his arm and said, “Wait a moment! I won’t allow you to harm my son! I may not be as mad as the Mekt you know, but I am still a dangerous man!”
“If you think I’d hurt a child, then you don’t know me, either,” said Mon-El. “All we will do is contain them.”
The Legionnaires and their odd allies flew off, leaving Blok to take the Ranzz children to safety. I appear to be cast in the role of child guardian for this mission, he thought. I do not mind, since watching the young ones who settled on Dryad was always a pleasure to me!
Meanwhile, Superboy had outdistanced the others, and he glanced left and right as he noticed around twelve gigantic beings roaring and smashing their way through the village. All of them look exactly like Validus, he thought. They all have his mental bolts, and none of them differs, even on a molecular level! Could the Time Trapper have cloned Riyance or merely made it possible for multiple Riyances to exist in one era?
Using his super-breath, he covered one of the giants in ice. That won’t hold him long, but it may buy me time to do something a bit more productive! he thought. Superboy took a moment to divert one of the creatures from a fleeing family, then dodged the grasping fist of another.
Rapidly, the Boy of Steel began to uproot trees and shape them with super-strength and friction into crude spears with which he encircled the monsters. Bolts of mental energy shattered the hastily created fence even as he worked. It’s a losing proposition! he thought. But I’m not going to give up yet!
Mon-El dropped down and said, “We know one of them is a child. Perhaps we could occupy them with something like a bright object or a soothing noise!”
“Right, but we’d need a bright object about the size of the Chrysler Building!” said Superboy.
“I can herd them together by circling their vicinity and projecting darkness around them if they stray!” said Shadow Lass. “They seem to fear the dark!” The blue-skinned girl was as good as her word. She executed a brilliant series of flying loops and deftly kept the creatures in a large circle.
“Tasmia’s doing a great job, but she’s also going to tire eventually,” said Mon-El.
“Saturn Queen, can you detect the mind of your son?” asked Saturn Girl.
Saturn Queen nodded and said, “Yes! Saturn’s moons! I do sense Riyance! He’s the one to the far left!”
“As for the others, I can only tell that they have been driven to a maddening rage,” said Saturn Girl, “and like the original Validus, they don’t understand what they are doing!”
“Imra was able to calm our son down when she confronted him in that altered state!” said Lightning Lad. “Maybe you can do the same!”
“I can use hypnosis to lull them all to sleep!” said Saturn Queen. As the lovely woman concentrated, and the others worked to keep the creatures from escaping their confinement, the plan fell apart when one of the Validus creatures managed to hurl a fragment of wood at Saturn Queen, and she fell stunned as her husband rushed to her side.
“She’s out cold!” said Lightning Lord. “Blast it! I can’t let these things hurt my wife, but how can I fight them when one is my child?”
Garth watched in amazement. This future Mekt is sane, he thought. He’s a criminal. He admits as much, but he’s not a raving lunatic like the one who attacked the wedding! This may just mean that there’s hope for my brother yet!
Shadow Lass cried out as one of the creatures managed to snag her cape. He hurled her across the sky, and only a super-swift interception by her lover prevented her from being injured.
“Are you hurt, love?” asked Mon-El with concern.
She shook her head and said, “No, but I’m afraid we’re running out of options! I’d hoped the Queen might truly be able to lull them to sleep!”
“That’s it!” said Superboy. “Mon-El, follow me!” He swooped down and began to circle the creatures at super-speed.
Mon-El caught on to his plan and joined him until their super-fast flight pattern drew all the oxygen away from the monsters and gradually left them dazed and woozy. In moments, they collapsed from lack of air, and the heroes took advantage of the break in action to confer with their friends.
“When Shady said something about putting them to sleep, I figured removing all the air from their area might just accomplish the same thing!” said Superboy.
“I can revive Saturn Queen,” said Saturn Girl. Sitting on her knees beside the fallen woman, she gently touched her face and her mind. She stirred slowly and sat up as Imra extended a hand and said, “You will be fine. You were just stunned!”
“Thank you,” said Saturn Queen. “What can we do for our son?”
“The younger Lightning Lord is behind all this,” said Shadow Lass. “He brought the Validus we think is your son to the wedding, although it was your actions that resulted in Ayla’s collapse and the abduction of the boys. What was Mekt after then?”
“He’s mad,” said Lightning Lad. “However, he is not witless. He had a goal. Somehow, he gained control of the new Validus — your son. He also created these other monsters, but how did he do it? He’s not a wizard. This isn’t Mordru or Darkseid we’re talking about. Even the Time Trapper never used magic.”
“We know the Trapper brought Riyance to this era, and that’s really all we know,” said Saturn Girl. “It would appeal to his sense of history to create a second Validus from a source that comes so close to our own marriage — a lightning-generator and a mentalist. We also know he wanted revenge on the adult villains.”
“We really know everything, then, except what was done to make the new Validus and what the Lightning Lord of our era wanted!” said Shadow Lass.
“He grew up on Winath,” said Mon-El. “His sister’s wedding was occurring. Still, there must be a larger connection. He didn’t really try that hard to abduct Ayla or to kill anyone, in spite of the way Brin was injured.”
“I think I can speak to what he feels. After all, I felt the same way once!” said Lightning Lord. “I grew up as an outsider on a planet of twins. I was a freak. I was never normal. I lacked a twin. All those who had a twin had something I had been denied. This caused me to feel isolated, and in my adolescent rage, it caused me to want to hurt those who were happy when I was not. This bitterness came from so deep within me that it fuelled most of my rebellion. It led me to crime.”
“Ayla and I never meant to reject you,” said Lightning Lad. “We know we did so simply by having each other, but that’s not something we could help or even realize, since we were just kids ourselves!”
“I think I might want to strike back at the whole society that made me feel unwanted,” said Mekt. “I think, had I continued down the dark path taken by the younger Mekt of your timeline, that I might have sought a way to make all Winath suffer!”
“I sometimes think that’s what Luthor feels like doing,” said Superboy. “He wants to make society pay for not recognizing his genius on his own terms.”
“Garth, we do need to find Mekt,” said Saturn Girl. “He’s at the heart of the mystery!”
“I agree,” said Garth. “What if you and I joined Mekt and Eve, here, in trying to find the other Mekt?”
“That’s reasonable,” said Shadow Lass. “The rest of us will try to find a solution to these Validus-spawn!”
“I will trust my son to your care,” said Mekt, “but I warn you that if he is harmed, I will make you sorry!”
“You’re starting to make me angry, too,” said Mon-El. “The Legion honors life. We’ll take care of these poor people. Remember, they are also victims of the real mastermind behind this!”
“I know, and yet how does a man face the concept that he himself is a monster?” said Lightning Lord. “My younger self is insane. I sense as much, and I am brought to a state of utter loss by the idea.”
As he and his wife followed Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, the adult villain wondered once more just what kind of future this disturbed version of him would have.