Meanwhile, on Triton, the ADs charge—but they’re different! They’ve adapted on the fly into new, dangerous forms, designed, it seems, to cope with the powers of their opponents. At SG’s urging, Giselle feints a headlong attack, drawing fire, then executes a spectacular leaping somersault to cover. Star Boy brings down a building on many of the ADs. TW eviscerates one that escaped. Giselle also takes out one of the remaining ADs.
The battle rages. It’s even more difficult and more interesting (I hope) than before.
The ADs are trying to break into the Safety Containment—and succeeding. Giselle refuses SG’s order to attack/distract them, screw the people in there! SG alone stands in the breach. Several SP officers, wounded, down, unconscious or nearly so are nearby. With supreme effort, SG seizes control of their brains’ motor centers and causes them to fire their weapons at the ADs! It’s a withering barrage.
The few remaining ADs finally fall back.
Giselle, running low on energy again, slows and sags. TW swoops in to save her from an AD’s energy tentacles. He carries her back to where SG and Star Boy are.
Then, the U.P. forces and the SP arrive. They wipe out the remaining ADs.
The all-clear sounds. The city’s containment auto-sealing measures are catching up with the damage. People emerge from the Safety Containment, re-entering the city, amazed at the devastation. The CM emerges. He’s fit to be tied. It’s the Legion’s fault the city has suffered so much damage! If they’d only gone through proper channels, alerted the SP and U.P. earlier…! The city’s going to sue them! Under his breath, he mutters a remark about them being freaks….
TW (plenty fascinated by this amazingly beautiful girl) asks why Giselle wasn’t inside the Safety Containment—not that the Legionnaires aren’t grateful that she wasn’t. She says that the CM ordered the gates closed though he could see her running toward them. He literally slammed the door in her face.
TW is enraged. He stalks toward the CM and jacks him up against a wall, about to kill him, or, at least, damage him severely.
SG intervenes, forcibly calming TW (!!!!). No time for subtlety, and she’s too weary. They just don’t need any more trouble at the moment.
SG thanks Giselle—and hands her a glycogen drink. Giselle was impressive. If she’d like to try out for Legion training, says SG, she’d be welcome.
No way, says Giselle, refusing the beverage. She wasn’t helping them, she was trying to save herself—they just happened to be on the same side for a few minutes. The Legion, to her, is just a tool of the establishment she hates. She limps away.
Meanwhile, Star Boy finds IK. He increases the weight of one end of the debris pinning IK, which cantilevers the other end, freeing him. Good, TW growls. Where would we be without the wimp with the power to hide when there’s trouble?
The SP commander gives the Legionnaires a cursory thank-you and orders them to report to their command module—waaay over there—for debriefing. The Legionnaires bristle, but per Saturn Girl, cooperate…for now.
Back at HQ, LLad receives SG’s call—all okay. He says he knew he could count on her. When they sign off however, and he thinks he’s alone, and what might have happened washes over him, he shudders and sobs, uncontrollable tears welling in his eyes.
LLass sees. She understands.
Meanwhile, PP returns to her once-palatial apartments only to find them being stripped bare, the contents to be sold at public auction. Without the income from her many huge trusts, her “allowance” and frequent gifts from mom and dad—all of which ceased when Orando did—she’s broke and, in fact, deeply in debt. The building itself has also been seized and will be liquidated to settle her huge, unpaid bills.
On the way home, by commercial starliner, Timber Wolf is seething about SG’s overt assertion of control over his actions—but he’s holding his anger in check for now. He thinks. It occurs to him that even now, SG may be subtly calming him, keeping him under control.
Meanwhile, IK can’t get Giselle out of his mind. Something about her—make that everything about her—fascinates him.
On the news, seen by the LSHers on the starliner, it is reported that SP and U.P. troops routed a force of mysterious ADs on Triton. There is a brief mention of the Legionnaires.
IK’s father, Senior SP Official, Lon Norg, on duty late, receives the SP report regarding the Triton incident. He listens to the on-site commander’s account. A few things don’t add up. Norg says “Tell me what really happened.”
LLass is in the rec room, fiddling with the new Mini-Magno-Ball table. PG enters. Can’t you sleep either? asks PG. No, says LLass. She’s worried about her brother. Worried that he’s in over his head. Worried about what that might do to the Legionnaires he commands, worried about what it’s doing to him. And besides…she hates to sleep alone.
PG, an ancient history buff, recalls a time during the 21st Century when the Earth faced enormous problems. What they needed was a Lincoln or a Churchill or a Winfrey or a Mwamba, but the leaders of that era just weren’t of that caliber. It was disastrous….
LLass says maybe she should talk to him…get him to step down.
Karate Kid enters. Both girls are surprised. No way he should be out of the biorepair-unit yet. Yes, well, he’s a fast healer.
PG correctly reads the vibes from LLass and excuses herself. She sinks right through the floor to the dorm levels below.
KK looks like hell. That was one of the longest, toughest fights of his life. He says his broken arm is mended, his cuts and bruises are healed, but he still feels wiped. LLass moves closer to him and says, so if I tried to take advantage of you, you’d be helpless?
Hello? KK raises an eyebrow. Be gentle with me, he says.
Pull back and fade to: PP, walking the streets (or, flight-ring-drifting above the pavement), with nowhere to go. Much of Metropolis is still in ruins. She wanders into bad areas. The SP can’t possibly cover all the devastated areas. The Public Service is down in most areas. Even in the 31st Century, people (and other sapient beings) exploit opportunities to get away with bad behavior, wrongdoing…and evil. Even moreso in the 31st Century, where society is generally closely regulated and such opportunities are rare.
PP sees looters ransacking a damaged building that once was a major retailer’s merchandise warehouse/transmatter distribution center. She walks in among the looters—no one seems to notice or care, there’s plenty of swag to jack. This retailer specialized in super-high-end luxury items. While chaotic, wholesale plundering goes on all around her, PP wistfully caresses wearables made of fine fabrics, examines items made of rare metals, precious crystals and exotic organics. All of this would have been hers on a whim, once. She sees a bracelet that appeals. How simple to put it on and walk away—and why not? It is her due. She is a Princess.
Suddenly, there are a thousand Science Police surrounding the center. Lights glare, sirens sound. The looters are ordered to lie on the floor. They do—except for PP. She walks toward the ring of SP officers, right into their guns, though they are screaming threats. The officers shout at the looters to keep their faces down—move your nose off the floor, so much as glance up and you’ll be wasted.
PP walks right through the SP officers, who are illusions of her making. She sends a signal to the real SP via her flight ring. They’ll arrive in moments. PP wanders on.
PP is still wearing the bracelet…!
LLad wakes up to the sound of the comlink auto-answer telling him that there are seven thousand six hundred ninety-seven messages, five hundred and thirty of them from high-ranking U.P. officials and one from the office of the President’s Chief of Staff saying that the seven AM meeting is cancelled. LLad checks the time—8:15 AM. Whew.
After morning ablutions, LLad heads down to the main chamber, the “living room,” where Legionnaires at the HQ usually gather. He checks the Duty Roster:
Brainiac 5—Lab Complex
Dreamer—City Center – off duty
Lightning Lad—HQ, Leader In Command
Shadow Lass—Talok VIII – ceremonial
Shrinking Violet—Ursae Majoris System
LLad flops in a chair. By ones and twos the others at HQ come in. When SG enters, LLad holds her like he’ll never let her go. KK and LLass arrive together, but not looking like a couple—just friends. There are a number of bureaucrats waiting outside to see LLad, there are comlink calls coming in droves, there’s a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights….
LLad tells the auto-answer that unless it’s the President, tell everyone that the HQ is under quarantine due to possible Venusian stinkwart-plague, contracted from muskshrews.
Triplicate girl enters. Thank the stars everyone survived the ADs. So far.
PP is the last to enter. TW goes to her side.
PG says she heard about PP’s brilliant capture of hundreds of looters last night. Bravo.
PP says she’s determined to be an exemplary Legionnaire—“because that’s all I am now.”
LLass admires PP’s bracelet. The last remnant of her possessions, says PP. SG looks askance, but says nothing.
There’s an awkward silence.
Brainiac 5 enters. It’s good that most are here. They must address the matter of the ADs.
First, says Timber Wolf, there’s another matter. SG’s intrusions. He’s barely containing killer rage. SG admits all. She’s done it…a lot…usually very subtly. She knows it was wrong, but….
An angry debate ensues, Legionnaires screaming their arguments on either side. Brainiac 5 can’t understand what the problem is—TW’s a maniac, SG tamped him down, so?—and they need to focus, here, on the ADs.
A thunderclap born of a powerful bolt from LLad’s hands shuts everyone up. He asks TW what he wants done. TW scoffs. SG is his squeeze. LLad won’t do anything to her. Wrong, says LLad. Legionnaires have been expelled for less. He’ll leave it to TW. What he says, goes.
TW says what he wants is the b*tch’s veins in his teeth. But…growling, he says he’ll settle for an apology—and a guarantee that it’ll never happen again.
SG abjectly apologizes. She swears that she’ll never intrude unwanted into his mind. Or, adds LLad, into any other Legionnaire’s mind. Right, says SG. Never again, will she invade other Legionnaires’ minds. She asks TW to forgive her. He snarls an affirmative.
Then, LLad confronts TW. He says, you understand that this means you’d better control yourself. You screw up and being kicked out of here is the least of what will happen to you. Understand? TW seethes…but backs down, agrees.
PP bristles at LLad’s treatment of her consort, but says nothing.
Masterful, thinks LLass. Maybe he can do this.
Brainiac 5 shouts: “The ADs…???”
Then, suddenly, a dozen bureaucrats waving holo-docs, a score of vendors, contractors, delivery managers, process server-robots, etc., admitted by a senior U.P. official here to take his grandson on a tour, swarm in and surround LLad. Nobody believed that stinkwart thing for a minute.
Among the mob that enters is a legal process-server drone. He serves PP.
PP says she has to go, and leaves.
LLad is buried in bureaucracy again. B-5 organizes others to help him investigate the Oort, scattered disk and Triton attacks. Phantom Girl is dispatched to the Oort Cloud, Karate Kid is sent to the scattered disk and Invisible Kid insists on going to Triton for some reason….
They have to take public transportation and charters.
PG finds the “crime scene” sealed off by SP. No problem, she “phantoms” through the ground to reach the scene. She finds nothing useful. It was rumored that the U.P. military outpost there mounted a staunch resistance, but there’s no debris, no artifacts, nothing. It’s as if the ADs wiped away everything down to the last quark, including their own fallen, if any.
KK finds nothing. Though the place was littered with inert ADs he “killed,” not a trace of any remains. He knows that the SP didn’t have time to remove them all and erase every trace. Did they self-atomize?
IK gets a “chilly” reception. He first tries to find Giselle. No luck. Gone? It would seem. Where? Invisibly, he gets into city/U.P. records that are off-limits—but her whereabouts are “classified.” Huh?
IK learns that all the AD bodies self-destructed to the lowest sub-atomic level.
However…there is one AD body still intact—apparently the only successful “kill” of the TNO deflectors. The AD went down into a deep drift of nitrogen ice. Apparently, something damaged its self-destruct mechanism. Upon locating the thing, U.P. investigators put it in stasis to preserve it. It’s being shipped back to Earth for examination. IK reports back and books passage home on a starliner.
Meanwhile, PP visits her family’s lawyers on Earth. Creditors with claims against Orando are suing PP and winning summary judgments against her. The lawyers say there’s nothing they can do.
How can it be, the Princess wonders, that creditors win judgments against her as if she were Orando itself…and yet, according to the U.P., she’s nobody. The lawyers explain that the U.P. rulings have to do with affairs of state, while the business obligations signed by her father, which inure to surviving members of the Royal Family, are a civil matter. “It’s complicated,” they say, patronizingly. Maybe if she renounced her throne, they could help…but even that’s a long shot. Never, says PP, will she renounce her throne.
PP says surely there must be vast sums owed to Orando! Yes, say the lawyers, but the debtors are off the hook. Clearly, the reason the U.P. moved to nullify PP’s status was so that there would be no legal claimant for Orando! For other U.P. worlds, having quadrillions of debt erased will be an incredible economic boon—badly needed now.
Meanwhile, B-5 gets LLad’s attention long enough to get him to request that he, B-5, be allowed to attend the examination of the AD. It would be better if he could conduct the exam himself, but that ain’t likely, so….
Permission is denied! The U.P. Chief Medical Examiner’s office refuses to admit any Legion representative to the laboratory examinations of the AD, its equipment and accouterments. Official policy—no unauthorized people admitted.
Brainiac 5 flips out. He has to witness the examination of that AD!
LLad is furious. They’re U.P. servants when that’s convenient for the government and “unauthorized” when it isn’t.
Time for desperate measures….
Meanwhile, LLass helps PP move into a LSH dorm room. All it takes is setting up access codes, etc. PP has nothing to “move.” PP thanks LLass. Of course, this little apartment, nice by say, MY standards, is Spartan by her standards. LLass can see that PP’s verklempt, though properly grateful and polite. LLass says when she feels that way, she buys herself a new vicari-disk or something. PP has no money. Even her small LSH stipend has been garnisheed. “Leave me,” says PP. LLass decides to not be offended by being dismissed as a commoner, given the circumstances. She curtsies (!) and splits.
After LLass is gone, PP cries, clutching the bracelet.
LLass runs into Colossal Boy in the hall. She’s still sympathetic. PP is used to being a Princess, and well, she’ll cut her some slack on the imperious crap…for a while. Colossal Boy is sympathetic, too.
Colossal Boy suggests that maybe they can finagle her some generic creds from the futuristic equivalent of the petty cash box. Light Lass figures out how to do that. They take the creds to PP. At least PP has something in her purse—but accepting “alms” from commoners utterly humiliates her.
Meanwhile, Invisible Kid sneaks into the examining room where the AD is being dissected. He’ll be B-5’s eyes. Saturn girl telepathically links his senses into Brainiac 5’s mind. B-5 is loathe to have any poking into his mind, but he needs to see the evidence….
The evidence is startling. B-5 sees much that the U.P. examiners miss. These ADs and their technology appear to be very, very ancient. They were dispatched on their mission to attack the Oort Cloud and points beyond (or were merely sent off in a direction and happened to encounter the Oort Cloud) a looooong time ago from very, very far away. Their conveyances are sub-lightspeed, for florg’s sake!
It appears that the Triton ADs were dispatched later than the Oort or scattered disk ones (determined from incoming vector data), but being a more sophisticated generation, they actually overtook the previously launched ones. That’s a puzzle. If the AD makers’ technology was advancing, then surely there would have been more sophisticated hyper-lightspeed ADs arriving decades, centuries or millennia before the sub-light ones did. Did the makers collapse or regress, did they come to their senses…? Or did they change tactics…?
It is still unclear whether these things are alive or merely machines built by beings with great organic-technology skills.
There’s more to be seen…but, suddenly, Invisible Kid is detected! Rejected LSH candidate Spy senses him, or more accurately, realizes that there’s one spot in the room where he senses nothing. Invisible Kid tries to flee. Sludge makes the floor gooey—and now, IK can be located by his footprints as he slogs along. Voice tries to command IK to stop, but only succeeds in halting a few of the SP observers in their tracks. Giselle (??!!), now called “Gazelle,” does a flying kick at where IK’s tummy ought to be. WHAM! He’s down, busted—though still invisible. His unseen body is dragged away.
This is gonna be trouble….
On top of everything, the U.P. is obviously developing its own, more obedient super-force—a Legion of Substitute Heroes…sort of. At some point, SG will ask Gazelle what she’s doing working directly with the establishment she hates. Gazelle will say, “Because they promised to cure me.”
IK is in jail. SG calls her mother to ask that she pull some strings. Her mother says she’s gotten in a great deal of trouble for doing just that. No can do.
Meanwhile, PP is arrested! The U.P. security guards she terrified with her illusions have filed assault charges. PP’s lawyers arrange to have her freed on her own recognizance pending the trial.
Later, in a public square, PP sits alone, pondering. It occurs to her that she’s hungry. She hasn’t eaten since before the meeting with LaFong.
PP eats “local, commoner food.” It’s disgusting. After choking down a puffpup and a kono juice from a hovervendor, PP has one of those Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll never be hungry again!” moments.
A young couple recognizes PP and asks PP for her autograph. PP is disgusted by the “familiarity” of commoners—and generally appalled by non-royal treatment. She refuses. Go away. They’re insistent—they touch her (!) and PP reacts violently, with surprising, terrible strength (??!!). Timber Wolf, who’s nearby, intervenes—ironically, the peacemaker/voice of reason. No one is seriously hurt.
Saturn Girl later convinces the couple not to press charges and Light Lass finagles a way for the damages to be paid out of LSH funds.
Surprisingly, IK’s influential father arranges a temporary release for IK. IK is remanded to his parents’ custody. IK wonders why dad—who practically disowned him—would do such a thing. Dad isn’t blind. He’s saw what the LSH did during the Dominator War. He found out that it was the Legionnaires, not the SP and U.P. forces that did the real heroics on Triton. Maybe his kid is turning out to be the “real man” he always dreamed he would be. IK says he spent most of the time there trapped under rubble. No matter, says dad. He went into harm’s way. He fought with a team that got the job done. He’s a hero in dad’s book. Dad wants to hear the whole story. Dad is particularly pleased to hear about this girl, Giselle, who caught IK’s fancy. Good for him! About time he got himself a girl….
For the first time in his life, IK feels accepted by his parents, especially his father. He likes, wants this approbation….
More and more, PP lives in an illusion of her own making—of her palace, of Orando, of her parents….
PP also spends time with Element Lad, who also lost his entire planet. At first, E-lad, the spiritual one, the philosopher, is friendly, sympathetic. PP and Element Lad will commiserate, have an only-we-can-understand/Holocaust survivors’ sort of rapport. For a while. But, soon, PP starts to freak him out. There’s something too intense about her, something disturbing….
IK returns to LSH HQ, free to rejoin the team pending prosecution.
But, now, LLad faces even more trouble—more forms to fill out, petitions to be made, legal hassling, butt kissing, etc. LLad is overwhelmed.
In addition, U.P. auditors arrive to review LSH expenditures with LLad. He did sign these reps and warranties, didn’t he?
PP spends a good deal of time with Phantom Girl, who has studied much 20th and 21st Century lore, sort of as a hobby. Among other tales, Phantom Girl tells PP the story of the first Brainiac—probably, says Phantom Girl, just a fable, one of many that surround the true history of Superman, the greatest hero of all time. Brainiac supposedly was the king of a world where plague killed all his subjects—so he roamed the universe capturing new subjects to repopulate his planet—because what is a King without subjects? PP is fascinated. She wants to hear the story again and again.
Brainiac 5 is in his lab, contemplating the nature of the ADs. They seem to be about death and destruction only. But if that’s your aim, why not just create a quantum wave that erases everything in its path, or use long-range weapons of mass destruction? Why do it “hand-to-hand?” For some reason, these destroyers like to do their work up close and personal.
There is one piece of their equipment that B-5 didn’t get to see examined because IK was discovered. It looked sort of like a weapon, but…he suspects it was some kind of analysis tool…a data ripper. Florg! He’d give anything to get a close look at it.
Suddenly, a voice behind him causes him to whirl. It’s M’rissey (!!!). Could he please have a moment to discuss some important business? Who is this twerp and how did he get in here, B-5 wonders. M’rissey says he can explain….
PP gets the bill from the the lawyers. It’s huge. She also receives notification that the same lawyers have seized PP’s last, secret bank account, which they knew about and she didn’t (!)—as settlement of their invoice.
There’s another AD attack—this time on Rimbor! Up to his ears in auditors, confused, overwhelmed, LLad doesn’t know what to do. He wants to go, but the auditors say there are irregularities, and….
LLass and others make decisions, organize a mission. By this time, Chameleon, Shrinking Violet and Shadow Lass are back from their respective missions.
The transmatter gate is down. The account-freeze has been dealt with, but nobody admitted the maintenance robot crew when scheduled, and the reactors auto-banked. The cruisers need refueling, and they’d take too long anyway.
B-5 jerry-rigs something transmatter-ish. A wormhole conduit—nasty, painful, disorienting, but effective. Several available Legionnaires are dispatched—including, a little reluctantly, Ultra Boy. Uh-oh….
The battle with the ADs on Rimbor is even tougher. It’s as if they’re many generations advanced from the first batch. They’re more powerful, they adapt….
With each new, more advanced group of ADs encountered, it appears more and more that they are alive, albeit life in a form and of a nature completely, well, alien.
Another emergency call comes in, unrelated to the ADs—a war between super-gangs in the devastated areas of the Rigel System. The SP is overwhelmed, helpless, lives are at stake.
Other Legionnaires scramble, argue about who should go, sort something out and just go without waiting for LLad to say anything. He’s even busier now—on the com-link with the director of the Bureau of Civil Decency discussing Light Lass’s costume. The auditors are impatiently waiting.
The Rigel contingent consists of Light Lass, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Karate Kid and Invisible Kid. En route, KK, Shady and TW quietly grumble about IK being along. Useless. Baggage. Not a warrior. He overhears them….
The gang war, which involves a number of super-bad guys—maybe Blackmace, Charma and Grimbor, Quicksand, Holdur (my original name for him was Visegrip. Murray Boltinoff changed it because he was clueless re: IP law. I’d like to change it back.), and others, including a couple of new ones. Possibilities: Bludgeon, Cur, Slug, Snarl, Zaphammer, Steel Squid…. I gots a million of ‘em.
One gang has won by the time the Legionnaires arrive. The leader of the winning gang, Akilles, is a monster. He means to execute the leaders of the rival gang, and probably do unspeakable things to the women. The Legionnaires find themselves defending the scum of the galaxy. So be it.
Akilles singlehandedly conquers the macho Legionnaires, KK and TW. Easily. The others are soon clobbered/captured, too—except for the one with “the power to hide when there’s trouble”—IK.
Akilles is about to kill KK, TW and the other male LSHers, and do unspeakable things to the women.
IK appears. He tells Ak that he’s under arrest and commands him to surrender himself and his gang. Ak laughs. This little guy is telling him what to do?! Ak attacks. IK, using his head comes up with something McGyver-ish and clobbers Ak. One of Ak’s lieutenants leaps at IK, who, again, using brain rather than brawn, clocks him.
Next, says IK.
IK is attacked from all quarters—but vanishes, and in the confusion, frees the other Legionnaires. This time, not taken by surprise (and not having to face Akilles) they kick butt. The gang is defeated. The SP swarm in to clean up.
KK congratulates IK. IK says go screw yourself. All of you think that because I can’t lift a tank or shoot lightning bolts out of my fingers that I don’t matter. I’m a “wuss.” A “wimp.” “Useless.” “Baggage.” Well, maybe now you know that you don’t have to be a macho jerk to matter.
KK abjectly apologizes, and means it. He understands, now, that IK has as much heart and courage and as any of them and way more smarts than all of them—useable, practical smarts, in addition to technical smarts (in which category B-5 leads the league). Shady, too, apologizes. TW grumbles something about the wuss doing okay…this time.
The LSH-ers defeat—barely—the ADs on Rimbor. However, Ultra Boy is arrested by the local SP. Seems he has vehicular homicide charges pending from an accident a while back, and they take such things very seriously here. He could face the death penalty. His LSH affiliation blunted off-world arrest and extradition attempts, but now that he’s conveniently plopped into the local laws’ laps….
At LSH HQ, lawyers arrive, here to discuss the IK case. Maintenance people (and robots) demand attention, answers. The repo people (and robots) are here to repossess the Mini-Magno-Ball table in the rec room due to delinquent payments.
On Rimbor, Ultra-Boy resists arrest, breaking free of the cops! The other Legionnaires instinctively help their comrade. Fight. The LSHers break away and get to a transmatter location but they’re pinned down only meters away from a gate. Fight their way through? What if someone, theirs or SP, gets injured or killed? Saturn Girl is having second thoughts about this whole thing and asserts some leadership. They can’t do this. At least they have to check in with LLad. Others groan. He is the leader, she telepathically barks. You will listen to him.
At LSH HQ, the auditors have found huge irregularities, improprieties, and negligence tantamount to gross malfeasance. LLad breaks away from them to take a call from the U.P. Attorney General. The AG tells LLad that IK will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and that a Special Prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the matter—and every other matter they can think of. Every Legionnaire involved in the spying operation at the Chief Medical Examiner’s lab, especially LLad, is in serious trouble.
Then, the call comes in from Rimbor. Saturn Girl asks for instructions. (I presume Saturn Girl has to have someone else be her voice on com-links, i.e., she’d telepathically tell the designated speaker what to say.) Anyway, the message is this: the SP are breaking down the doors! What should they do?! LLad puts her on hold…!
The Minister of Finance is on the other line. The auditors’ report is inconceivably bad. Their funding is suspended. All assets are frozen. They’re out of business—and required to report for incarceration immediately pending a hearing.
The lights go off. The power has been shut down and they’re off-line in every way. S.P. S.W.A.T. teams (or the 31st Century equivalent) are at the door.
LLad is utterly crushed, at a loss, defeated.
Suddenly the lights go on. The HQ is on-line again. The auditors file out, apologizing as they go. The S.W.A.T. team smashes in…pauses as a communiqué comes in…abjectly apologizes, and leaves.
M’rissey walks up to L-Lad. Everything is taken care of, he says. All the bills are paid, the treasury is bursting at the seams. The Legion no needs any U.P. or any outside funding. The AG’s office is scrambling to fend off a Citizens’ Unjust Persecution suit and Demand for Impeachment of the AG (under the little-known Citizens Rights and Remedies Act of ’37, as amended in ’43). They’ll back off in a hurry. U-Boy is innocent—his speeder wasn’t the one that caused the fatality, though he was in the area and going a little—okay, a lot fast when it happened. M’rissey has arranged a plea bargain for the speeding charge that provides for community service. Oh, and the LSH’s right of self-determination of membership, based upon the charter established when they first incorporated as a club, has been upheld in the Supreme Court, so no worries there.
There’s another call from Saturn Girl. The SP have stopped smashing down the door. She thinks they’re up to something. Come on home, says LLad.
LLad dismisses Dream Boy. He’s no longer, and in LLad’s opinion, never was a Legionnaire. He can go home.
Dream Boy’s parting shot to LLad is that his best friend will betray him.
Suddenly, there is a call from the President. A PLANET THE SIZE OF URANUS HAS APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE AT THE FRINGES OF SOLAR SPACE! ITS GRAVITY IS BEGINNING TO AFFECT…EVERYTHING! He needs the LSH’s help right now, big time.
I’ll handle this, says M’rissey. He demands from the President permanent waivers of several provisions of the LSH’s various agreements with the U.P., and several other considerations. Yes, yes, anything, says the Pres. Okay, says M, a full pardon for IK and the Legion regarding the U.P. Chief Medical Examiner’s office incident. And for PP, for her various assault charges…and anything else he thinks of later. Okay? Okay. All righty then, M’rissey says to LLad, you take it from here.
LLad is suddenly assertive, suddenly Captain Kirk-like! He’s like the star quarterback suddenly freed from also being the equipment manager, booster fund administrator and marching band director. He issues orders: Star Boy and Light Lass can affect gravity—not enough to take care of planetary-level problems, but with Brainy’s help…? B-5 says he can magnify their powers through the U.P. G-field monitors at the Science Nexus and direct their input to stabilize the system…if they can get clearance. “Duh,” says M’rissey.
Before they leave, LLass asks M’rissey who the florg he is and what the…? He says he’s their major-domo of sorts. He applied for the job of managing the annoying stuff and LLad’s exact words were, “I don’t have time for this crap,” which he took as a yes. It wasn’t hard to figure out all LLad’s security codes and access protocols…they were kind of, well, obvious. He just straightened everything out. It was easy. Now, while they go do their thing, he’s going to take a break, relax and play some holo-games or experience some vicari-comics.
How did he make all the trillions now in the treasury? Simple, he says. He sold the rights to market Legion Flight Rings.
(It’ll turn out that he had B-5 come up with a stripped version—flight only, and at limited speed—for market. Why didn’t B-5 think of marketing some invention, of which he has many, to fund the LSH? He just doesn’t think like that.)
(Though very young, M’rissey becomes the resident “adult,” (easily) taking care of bureaucratic crap that would numb anyone else’s mind. The others take to calling him “Exec Lad,” “the Suit,” Suit-boy,” “Upstairs,” “the Cheese,” “Admini-kid” or somesuch, TBD. Maybe all of the above.)
A hero-wannabe, Sizzle (who was invited to come to Earth to try out for the new U.P. “Super Squad,” which seems from the advertisements to be a new, better LSH) gets pressed into service (at B-5’s behest) to help in the gravity stabilizing endeavor, working as a super transistor to amplify power. She’s from planet Qzzno, which orbits very close to its sun. All inhabitants there are to some extent, radiation-proof, but she is exceptionally so. All inhabitants there have a limited ability to absorb any form of energy and expend it as any other form of energy—i.e., radiation into magnetism, light into heat, sound into electricity, etc. Her abilities along these lines are exceptional, perhaps limitless. She is key to the effort.
Together, LLass, Star Boy and Sizzle begin to offset the gravity well of the Intruder. More, they’re pushing it away! Their vastly amplified power is moving a planet! Wow!
Sizzle is totally impressed with the Legionnaires—as they are with her.
Suddenly, the Intruder seems to vanish! No, say the U.P. techs. It just moved—very fast—to a point far enough away so that its gravitational effect is negligible, and oh, by the way, out of range of their G-field devices.
U.P. forces move into defensive positions in case the denizens of this Intruder Planet are hostile.
Unintelligible communiqués come from the Intruder, but in a language that is seemingly unrelated to any known language. Carl LaFong responds for the U.P., but it seems clear that his messages are not being understood. Finally, it is the Aliens who break the barrier, managing a crude attempt at Interlac: nomad…pilgrim…migrate…world… planet…peace…peace…peace….”
The President and his advisors confer. LLad is asked to participate by vid-link! LLad gives a Kirk-like assessment, says the Legion should investigate. “Their planet came into our space. It is our right to find out who they are and what they’re up to.” He wants to boldly go there and get the skinny. Ultimately, though, it is decided that the U.P. will closely watch the Intruder, but take no action yet.
Privately, the President tells LLad she agrees with him. She hopes that if and when the time comes, the LSH will help. LLad says, “Count on us.”
LLass hugs her brother. She’s so proud of him. Never doubted him for a minute. They both laugh.
There is a brief, if uneasy peace. The Intruder Planet is watched warily. A sporadic dialogue, difficult because of the language problem, continues.
It is a coincidence that AD attacks have ceased since the Intruder arrived?
At B-5’s urging, LLad asks if B-5 can examine the body of the AD previously examined by the Chief Medical Examiner.
Though all charges have been pardoned away by the President, concerned due to PP’s “incidents” with the security guards and the young couple, the IK affair and Ultra Boy’s resisting arrest, a number of U.P. council members are calling for psychoprobe mental examination of all Legionnaires. The U.P. Department of Internal Security orders it done.
Lightning Lad asks M’rissey if they can get out of it. M’rissey thinks it’s a good idea. He’s seen and noted PP’s strange behavior. As the token, pseudo-adult in the building, he’s worried.
At a nadir, certain that she’s about to lose her Legion “family” just as she lost her real family, PP “flees the interview.” When the psychoprobe team comes to LSH HQ, she bolts.
In the tawdry, sub-industrial section of Metropolis, PP is found by a dozen or so Orandoans. (Orandoites? Orandonians? Whatever.) Few citizens of Orando ever ventured offworld, and only if doing so was imperative or unavoidable. Those few have tracked down their former Princess—now, their Queen….
One of the Orandoans is a shaman. She counsels PP. As PP inherited the illusion powers of her parents she has also inherited her parents’ connection with the spirit world. All the strength and psychic power of the dead of Orando is hers to tap/channel. She has already done so once, instinctively, during the incident with the autograph seekers.
Treated as a Queen, showered with royal respect, given promises of unconditional loyalty and support, PP regains her composure. She returns to LSH HQ as the psychoprobe team is packing up to leave. She insists on being probed, and passes with flying colors. Apparently, she is the most well-balanced, well-adjusted sane, serene and reasonable person in the U.P.
Lightning Lad says, well, groovy, then. All is well. But, several of the other Legionnaires, including Saturn Girl, are suspicious. Somehow, PP beat the test, but there’s definitely something not quite right about her.
Light Lass asks Timber Wolf, with whom she was once intimate, what’s the deal with Projectra? He is closer to her than anyone. TW says he doesn’t know, but…sometimes, now, it seems as if she is…many, not one.
Later, when the Legionnaires have returned from their various missions, LLad convenes a Legion Council. Their ranks have thinned in recent times. They need people and they need power.
Five candidates try out. (All passed rigorous pre-screening according to the old standards, which M’rissey has re-instituted and administrated.) As each candidate enters, their screening test results appear on a holo-screen. There are the kind of stats you’d expect, but also things like “Courage Quotient,” and “Willpower Index.” The candidates are:
Night Girl – who has amazing strength, but only in deep shadow or darkness
Turtle – who’s very hard to hurt, nearly invulnerable
Sizzle – who, remember, can transform any form of energy to any other form—and use it as she wishes
Mindbender – who can alter the shape of any material by force of will
And, surprisingly, Gazelle!
Night Girl is rejected. Shadow Lass argues on Night Girl’s behalf. The limitation on her power is too great for her to become a Legionnaire but paired with Shady, she’d be a force to reckon with. True, all agree, but for now, Night Girl is rejected, pending further review.
Turtle is also impressive but too limited. Rejected, pending further review.
(Eventually, I’d like to establish a group of Legion Reserves consisting of Night Girl, Turtle and others whose powers are not quite Legion-worthy, but might be invaluable for a particular mission or under just the right circumstances. They’d be kind of a Mission Impossible force (ala the old TV show)—a pool of talent the Legion can draw upon from time to time when the specific need arises. A different take on the Legion of Substitute Heroes.)
Sizzle and Mindbender are accepted.
When Gazelle enters the council chamber, IK’s seat suddenly seems empty. Everyone’s paying attention to the candidates and no one notices except Saturn Girl, who’s sitting next to him—and she can tell he’s still there. She asks, telepathically what’s up. He thinks back at her a plea not to draw attention to his fade-out. SG picks up that he’s terrified of meeting Gazelle! He’s “not ready for her to see him yet.” Wow, thinks SG, a new world record in shyness.
(The truth is that IK is afraid that the moment she sees mousey little him, that will end his “having a girl,” and disappoint dad.)
Gazelle explains that the U.P. officials lied to her. They have no way to “cure” her, and she thinks never had any intention of doing so. And, they made her feel like more of a freak then she ever did on Triton. When the LSH broke free and thumbed its nose at the U.P. (thanks to M’rissey), she changed her opinion of them. So did several other of the U.P. “Super Squad.” They’d rather be replacements-in-waiting/backups to the real Legion than fake government Legionnaires.
Gazelle demonstrates. She’s in. She’ll need training, but under current circumstances, she’ll have to get it on the fly, as will Mindbender and Sizzle.
(I will develop these characters and make them interesting, appealing and significant. They will have significant roles in the story. For now, trust me?)
Late at night, PP accosts Phantom Girl in a hallway. PP demands to hear the story of Brainiac again. (P.S. PP insists on PG altering the ending of the tale, where Brainiac is thwarted by Superman. She demands that B succeeds—a “happy ending.” !!!!!!!!!!!)
Phantom Girl, tired of telling the tale and tired in general refuses.
PP physically attacks Phantom Girl! How dare she refuse a Queen?! Shocked, taken by surprise, PG barely avoids PP’s first swing—which cracks a divot out of the ceramocrete wall behind her. PG becomes immaterial, but PP reaches into the depths of PG’s lizard brain, turns off PG’s “flight” impulse and fires up her “fight” impulse! Suddenly thrust into an adrenaline-driven rage, PG rematerializes swinging, scratching, clawing and biting. No problem for PP. With incredible, hideous strength, PP brutally beats PG near to death.
From the Shadows, Timber Wolf watches but does nothing. He (anonymously) sounds an alarm to bring help for PG and follows PP.
Summoned by the alarm, Light Lass and several others find PG. They rush her to the Legion infirmary and summon medical help. It’s that serious.
The next morning, Phantom Girl is still in a coma. The doctor says it was touch and go for a while, but he believes she’ll recover fully. They’ll start regrowing her teeth tomorrow.
PP comes to PG’s bedside. She’s sympathetic, it seems. Very attentive, in fact. She takes PG’s hand and stares at her as if peering right through her…or…into her.
Who could have done this? No evidence of a break-in. Could it have been another Legionnaire? Seems impossible…except…Timber Wolf hasn’t been seen or heard from since last evening at about the time PG’s beating occurred. And, it would take tremendous strength and tremendous savagery to inflict the kind of damage PG suffered. TW must have taken off/deactivated his flight ring. His location does not appear on the Duty Roster.
After everyone else has gone, Saturn Girl, still chastened and guilty over her invasions of Timber Wolf’s mind struggles with her conscience. She feels terrible for breaching a sacred trust, but worse, she feels guilty that she didn’t go far enough. Maybe she could have prevented this.
Though it is another breach of trust, she invades PG’s comatose mind searching for clues. PG’s mental landscape is chaotic—but one swirling image dominates: the countenance of Princess Projectra—not TW—twisted into a mask of hate.