Ah don't own any of the many heroes and characters mentioned heah:):) DC Comics does! This is a work of fanfiction strictly for entertainment purposes only and not intended to infringe upon any copyrights held by DC Comics or others. So don't sue moi:):) *eeeppp*

Rated PG-13 for some violence and a little bit of undepicted sexual innuendo and such! So if'n such like offends ya'll best skedaddle, NOW!

Special thanks to CeeGee and to Carmen and 'rith for some grand ideas:):) Ya'll are the best, folks!

NOTES: This story is basically a string of unrelated alternate universes involving moi's favorite Legionnaire, Mon-El/Lar Gand. Lar's history is really screwed up, but it involves some of the most interesting and prominent characters and super-hero groups in the entire DCU:):) Everyone from Superman/Superboy to the Green Lantern Corps. So Ah thought Ah night take ruthless advantage of that fact! Hee!

Any sort of continuity doesn't exist heah! So don't be looking for it, heah?! As Ah said ... just a string of unrelated AU's. So moi's best advice to ya'll is just to sit back and enjoy the parade of alternate universes:):) If'n AU's aren't ya'll's cuppa then ya'll might consider bailing along about now! But Ah hope ya'll will stick with moi:):)

On with the show!

And All Of Us Are Dying

By Dannell Lites

The time stream ebbs, flows, and finally overruns its banks with a will. Reality shatters. Like fluttering butterflies, possible futures take wing and fly beyond their borders, mixing and mingling the waters of the time stream in a great well of MightHaveBeen/NeverWas growing deeper and more real with every second.

But reality is not so easily thwarted as all that. It has chosen a very special young man to save it from this folly ... Look there! You can see him clearly now, swimming strongly against the currents of history, struggling, determined to set things right once more. In fact ... observe closely: there are many of him, striving against the flow of the time stream, now. His way is hard, difficult. The eddies in the time stream are swift and fierce. But he is strong; very strong. Watch as he makes his way through reality after reality ...


The young Daxamite boy smiles up at his father. Kel Gand is retired now from his world's Space Exploration Agency. No longer will he chase from star to star, always seeking what lies just over the horizon, just beyond the reach of his questing hands. No longer will he neglect his family in his wanderlust, leaving a void in the life of his eldest son Lar that can only be filled with rage and punishing fists. His family, he has decided, is the most important thing. The thing he loves the most.

"Come on, son," says Kel Gand, smiling, "let's go check out that new cruiser of yours. Think you've got her space worthy, huh? We'll see!"

"All right!" the boy cries enthusiastically. Grabbing his father's willing hand, the youth pulls him along to the family garage where the shining spacecraft waits.

"She's a beauty, Lar!" Kel slips an arm around his son's broad shoulders in affection. "You're the youngest and the best mechanic in the Sector and I'm proud of you." The boy's shy answering smile is beautiful.

"Father? I'm glad you decide not to take that Observer's position with the Alliance Army. I don't think I like the sound of what they're up to." His father frowns.

"Neither did I, son, neither did I ..."

In this time, this place, Lar Gand will never leave his homeworld of Daxam in search of the truth of his father's death during the Invasion of Earth. He will never gain superpowers under the kindly advent of another, paler sun. The Legend of Valor dies aborning. Instead, he will became a renowned engineer and spacecraft designer on his homeworld of Daxam at a very early age. He will, perhaps, be happier.


For, slightly less than four months past his nineteenth birthday, Lar Gand, along with a more than a two thirds of his world, will perish of an unknown malady brought to his planet in the wake of a simple act of kindness. The Daxamite Fleet, returning home from their show of force to halt the Invasion of Earth, had no way of knowing that the stranded alien spacecraft they towed back to Daxam for simple repairs contained massive quantities of lead, a poisonous element, fatal to Daxamites. Its journey through the planetary atmosphere released huge quantities of ionized lead into the air of Daxam. Death spread itself on the shouting winds.

Since he was the mechanic who repaired the disabled ship, Lar Gand was among the first to die.


It was not a Daxamite ceremony.

Once again, the Legion Of Super-Heroes gathered on the asteroid Shanghalla to bury one of their own. Phantom Girl held on to Ultra Boy's hand tightly. Mon-El was Jo's closest friend and this was very difficult for him. Several of the young heroes and heroines wept in open grief.

Conspicuously, there was one who did not cry. One who had no tears for her lover.

Shadow Lass, Tasmia Mallor, was dry eyed. Standing strong and stiff, her back straight against the emotional assault surrounding her still form, she stared ahead with seeming calm. More than one pair of accusing eyes fell upon her, wondering why she did not grieve. She ignored them.

Mercifully, the ceremony was brief. They'd all done this before, after all.

Few were brave enough or, perhaps, foolish enough to approach Tasmia when the rites were done. No one wanted to intrude. And she did not invite sympathy. Forming into small groups with aimless Brownian motion, the Legionnaires whispered among themselves.

"... so cold ... how can she be so damned cold ...?"

"Shhhhh! Drake, she'll hear you!"

"Good, Dawny!"

"I - I never thought he might die. Never thought he could die, I guess. I mean ... he was invulnerable for Space's sake! Invulnerable!"

"So was Superboy. Any thing mortal can die, Ayla. Even invulnerable heroes ... "

"I know, Garth, I know ... but ... but ... What if it had been Imra? Damn it Garth! She has a husband and two children! Wasn't it hard enough for you to have to watch her risk her life as an active Legionnaire while you stayed home with the kids? How could she do that to you? To all of us? Lie to us and then run off and do something so stupid! She could have died!" Pale and shaken, Lightning Lad, Garth Ranzz, said nothing.

"Oh Gods, Chuck! It's so unfair ... Mon ... wasn't supposed to die ..."

"Lu ... Lu ... You all thought you were going to die. You must have. God ... fighting The Time Trapper on his home ground ... where he's strongest ... That was one of the biggest reasons you four didn't want the rest of us involved, right?" Chuck Taine clutched possessively at his wife with desperate hands, as if to remind himself of her continued existence.

Still physically weak and shaken months after the events of their vengeful battle at the end of time and psychologically stricken by the death of yet another of her three bodies, Luornu Durgo Taine sobbed softly in her husband's comforting arms.

"Oh, Chuck ... can you ever forgive me? Can you? I lied to you and got another one of me killed ... and all for the sake of - of - "

"Shhhhhh. All for the sake of love, Lu. All for the sake of love. I've always known how you felt about Kal. Always knew that he was there in your heart before I came along. It's - it's okay. Just as long as there's still room for me in there, too, it's okay ... "

Hugging his wife tightly, Bouncing Boy told himself yet again that that was true.

It had to be, didn't it?

Saturn Girl was the first to break the wall of silence. The first to go to Shadow Lass and speak to her.

"Tasmia?" The Talokian woman did not precisely ignore her, but neither did she acknowledge the Titanian telepath and former Legion leader. Imra Ardeen Ranzz did not let that stop her.

"Shady, you can't keep doing this. You can't. Mon-El was the one who died ... not you. He wouldn't want you to shut yourself away from everyone like this. He wouldn't. Moons of Saturn! How long and hard did you fight to keep Mon from doing that very thing? And it won't work. All that grief and anger has to go someplace. You can't just pretend it doesn't exist. If you don't let it out it's going to fester and when you least expect it ... it'll explode. Don't do this to yourself. Don't. I know about repressing your feelings, Tasmia. Believe me .. I know ..."

But when Tasmia Mallor stalked away, her teammate Saturn Girl did not follow.

A brief flash of guilt flashed through the Talokian Champion, but she still did not pause in her flight away from Imra Ardeen and her too discerning telepathic mind.

"I never even thanked her for being the first to bring Mon from out of the Zone," she thought. "Imra was the first one to give him hope. Hope that he might one day be free. Without her, I'd never have loved him."

With a sigh Imra joined her husband and sister-in-law and was welcomed into the comfort of Garth Ranzz's strong arms. Her guilt about deceiving them in the early days of their "conspiracy", when she, Brainiac Five, Mon-El and Duo Damsel had taken it upon themselves to exact revenge upon The Time Trapper for the death of Superboy, would be with her for a very long time, she suspected. Almost as long as her guilt for what happened to Luornu ... and Mon. She smiled when she saw Element Lad, Jan Arrah, speak to the bereaved woman. Perhaps he would have better luck, she hoped. But, somehow, she doubted it.

His voice was soft and kind, as always, and Tasmia could not bring herself to dismiss him as easily as she had the others.

"Shady, I just wanted you to know ... if you need some time ... time to yourself ... I'm sure I can help arrange leave for you with Sensor Girl. If you just need to be away from us right now, we understand. If you want to stay we'll be there for you, I promise. Whatever you need."

"Thank you, Jan," she replied in an even voice after a moment and watched him frown at her too calm tone. "That's exactly what I want. I'm going home. Home to Talok VIII. Your help would be very greatly appreciated." Jan nodded, unhappy.

"If you're sure that's what you want ... " Tasmia turned away.

"I'm sure," she said with finality.

In defeat, Element Lad shook his head and moved off reluctantly.

Shadow Lass steeled herself when she saw Jo and Tinya moving toward her with purposeful steps, preparing for the coming pain. This was going to be very difficult. So very difficult ... "Ancestors give me strength," the prayer left her tightly drawn lips. But all too soon the couple, her very best friends, were standing before her with pale faces and pain clouded eyes. Resolutely she thrust angrily away all her memories of their many shared times together ... all the missions the four of them had undertaken together ... Jo and Tinya ... Mon and Shady ... almost like a single unit in the minds of so many of their teammates. The food and drink that passed between them on long lazy afternoons in the sun ... the smiles ... the laughter ...

And ... yes, the tears as well ...

Phantom Girl tightened her grip around the grieving Ultra Boy's waist. Jo looked at his deceased friend's lover through earth brown eyes bright with unshed tears.

"S - Shady, I know it doesn't help ... but ... Mon ... he-he died a hero. He-he'd have wanted it that way ... "

For a moment the Talokian woman's lips thinned themselves into a straight line of pale blue flesh and the muscles of her jaws and neck hardened and worked themselves silently. She looked away. Her eyes did not let themselves fall upon the fresh grave, the shining new Memorial. That wound was too fresh; too raw and still bleeding. Tinya noticed her eyes lingering for the briefest of moments on the older, simple Memorial dedicated to Querl Dox, Brainiac 5. The Time Trappers vengeance had been swift and through before his defeat and death. Like the laser vision of the departed Mon-El, Tasmia's glance grazed off the Memorial of her young cousin, Grev Mallor, Shadow Kid. When she turned at last to face Jo once more her face was still, like the dead, betraying nothing, and her voice was calm and steady.

"Oh yes," she said softly, "all my men are heroes."

Two days later, she left for Talok VIII and her self imposed exile.

There was no one there to see her off. And she was glad of that.


She clutched his hand and cried out in wonder.

"Oh, Lar! It's so beautiful! Just look at those double rings!" she thought via the telepathic earplugs they all wore. "Why, they put the ones around Saturn in the Sol system to shame! Aren't they gorgeous, Jo?"

"No kidding!" agreed Jo Nah, once known as Ultra Boy. He grinned at his two friends.

Laughing, Lar pulled Tasmia into a tight embrace, kissing her with great passion. With a happy smile Jo joined them. Even through the transuit she wore to protect her in the vacuum of open space, Tasmia's body tingled and her breath came in short, ragged gasps.

"Almost as beautiful as you, Shady m'love," Mon-El declared. Jo rolled his eyes at the blatant flattery. But, Tasmia Mallor, the former Shadow Lass, blushed a becoming shade of cerulean and lay one hand tenderly on her new husband's highboned cheek.

"Oooh you .. " she cried, delighted in spite of herself. The Talokian champion and ex-Legionnaire grinned. "But now I know it's love," she teased. "If you're comparing me to the beauties of space ... well!"

"You outshine them all," he assured her. "I've always loved exploring ... seeing what's just over the next hill ... waiting in the next star system ... But this wouldn't be half as glorious if you two weren't with me. How did I ever get so lucky? The three things I love most in the Universe ... you, Jo, and the freedom of racing from star to star ... just to see what's there. And now I have them all." Smiling, he peered down into her eyes.

"Do you ever miss it?" he asked softly. "The Legion, I mean? Do you regret leaving with me?"

A vigorous shake of her night dark head set the glory of her jet black tresses spiraling out around her like a nebula and Lar Gand caught his breath at the sight. Her onyx colored eyes shone brightly enough to rival the stars around them.

"Never, lover!" she assured him, laying her head on his chest, smiling into the broad expanse of sun-warm flesh there. "I don't regret it for an instant. How could I? I've never seen you happier. So am I. We had to leave when we married. The Legion Constitution says so! And it's not as if we never see the others, now is it? Why just last month we spent a week with Brainy on Colu. If they need us, they won't hesitate to call, I'm sure. In the meantime ... we all have one other. Why, we're still practically on our honeymoon!"

With a chuckle Lar swept her up entirely, holding her effortlessly aloft against the breathtaking crown of stars that encircled them. "It's been three years, Shady!" he reminded her. "You and Jo and I have been married for three years!"

"That long?" she murmured, settling once more into the firm embrace of her two lovers, luxuriating in the feel of the strong bodies beneath her caressing hands. "It hardly seems more than a heartbeat ... " She lay her head upon Jo's broad chest and smiled, listening to the thunder of his heart. With more anxiety than he knew he processed, Lar Gand turned probing eyes on Jo Nah.

"What about you, Jo? Any regrets?"

For an eternal moment, the pain still living in Jo Nah's earth brown eyes stabbed at Lar Gand's heart and he was almost forced to look away. But when the former Ultra Boy shook his ginger colored head in vigorous denial, Lar breathed easier.

"Not one!" he averred, lowering his head at the painful memories that suddenly flooded his mind. "Af-after Tinya died ... I was a mess ... If it hadn't been for you two ... grife, I don't know what would have happened to me. Something bad, probably. Grife, I even considered going home to Rimbor. What I thought I was gonna do there, I don't know."

Tasmia kissed him gently on the lips, running her fingers through his fine spun hair. "Shhhh," she soothed him. "Shhhh. You're here now with us. And we love you, Jo. I'm so glad you decided to come with us ... to marry us ... "

Lar squeezed a muscular shoulder in comfort. "So am I," he murmured. "It was touch and go there for a while, I'll admit. It took a long time for Earth to recover from the technological and economic damage done by those so called 'Magic Wars'. As I recall there was even talk of seceding from the United Planets. Thank Space that nonsense passed quickly. But, I didn't think we were ever going to finish with the repairs so we could leave. It was almost as bad as Daxam after Darkseid. Still ... with the help of the rest of the United Planets, Earth recovered. There's still a strong Terra to lead the UP ... and still a Legion to protect it. So none of us need to feel guilty about leaving." Tasmia stroked Lar's hair and frowned in rising frustration.

Damn this transuit! It was splendid for enjoying the sheer magnitude and loveliness of open space, but ... lacking ... in so many, many other ways. It was time to find a planet.

"I want to really feel their bodies," the thought was urgent. "I want .. want ... "

Too late, she forgot to shield her naked desire from them. Lar's sapphire eyes grew dark and hooded, stained and smoky with rising passion and her heart leapt within her at the welcome sight. Jo's lecherous smile was heart stopping.

"There's a planet nearby ... " Lar whispered, holding them, " ... clear, bright blue skies ... warm breezes ... soft, lush grasses and the smell of flowers in the air ... birds the color of flames singing with beautiful, high voices in the trees ... I've meant to take you both there for a long time. It's uninhabited ... they'll be no one there but the three of us ... just us ... "

"Yes," she answered him, "oh, yes ... "

"You don't have to ask me twice, buddy," Jo husked.

Their mutual kiss was broken only by the sight of a brilliant flash of color streaking passed the yellow sun at their back. Mon-El's eyes widened.

"Look!" he cried, "a comet! Heading in the same direction we're going!" Like tinkling silver bells Tasmia's musical laughter filled his senses. Instantly he grabbed Tasmia up with a joyous cry, and, racing after the shooting star, gave chase.

"All right!" Lar crowed. "It's been a long time since I paced a comet! But I think I remember how it's done! Hang on, Shady! Come on, Jo!" With only his blazing smile for comment, the Rimborian ex-Legionnaire followed close behind.

Laughing, their desire and anticipation rising, the three of them sped after the fading glory of the fleeing comet, toward the future and their lover's tryst.


Glorith stared down at the swiftly spreading wine stain now discoloring her iridescent shimmersilk gown, wide enraged eyes flashing angry blue fire.

"Clumsy fool!" she spat at the trembling, cowering slave holding her over full wine cup. "The garment is ruined! Ruined!" For a moment she wiped at the stain with futile, clumsy fingers, only to see it spread further to her dismay.

"Your pardon, Empress!" cried the frightened slave, who threw herself prostrate at Glorith's feet, quaking with fear. "It was unforgivably clumsy of me!" Glorith, by her own hand newly christened Empress of the Galaxy, smiled with satisfaction at the soft sobs escaping the terrified slave girl.

"Yes, it was," the beautiful woman agreed, still smiling. With seeming gentility, the ruler of the Milky Way reached down and assisted the weeping, fearful slave to shaky feet. "But I forgive you," she purred. "I forgive you ... "

"Ma-Ma-Majesty?" the slave hiccupped, unable to believe her good fortune. Hot tears still rushing down her pale cheeks, the slave girl gasped, "You - you are merciful, Oh Great Empress! You are mer-merciful!" Glorith sighed.

"Yes," she agreed, "I am, aren't I?" She shook her white-blond head in rueful acknowledgment. "It's really my gravest flaw," the Balduurian sorceress sighed once more with regretful exasperation. "I'm too kind. And people take advantage of me ... People like you ... "

Too horrified to speak, the slave quailed when the tall woman reached for her, bringing her closer for a chaste kiss on her still wet and tear stained cheek. Glorith watched with approval as, within moments, the once young and lovely servitor was reduced to an oozing puddle of primordial slime, spreading itself slowly on the marble floor of the sumptuous palace.

"Damn it, Lori, now look what you've done!" drawled a deep, bored masculine voice from her back. "We just had her well trained. Now who's going to fetch the wine properly?"

Glorith grinned and turned to face her Consort. "Don't worry your pretty head about it, Lar," she chuckled. "There are plenty more where she came from. An inexhaustible supply. Why, there's a whole galaxy of slaves out there. And they belong to us!" Lounging with casual grace upon one of the twin thrones, wrought of gold and silver, inertron and viridium-steel, inlaid with precious gems and woods, Glorith's lover Lar Gand, Valor, smiled in return, saluting her wordlessly with his wine cup.

Glorith never tired of the sight of him. Naked to the waist but for gold and sapphire armlets encircling his wrists and biceps, his long hair (the exact color of midnight, Glorith thought) spilling over his shoulders, caressing the golden flesh there ... he was beautiful.

"And he's mine," the exultant thought thrummed through her. "All mine!" Wetting her full lips, the Empress of the Milky Way let her eyes linger, ghosting down her lover's body, across the broad, muscled chest, down the washboard stomach, to rest on the tight silk and leather clothing his trim hips.

Her voice low and heavy with desire, she waved a hand in harsh dismissal. "Leave me!" she ordered the numerous slaves and courtiers around her. "Now!" Without thought they obeyed.

Glorith watched Valor smile in welcome as she approached him. Straddling him, she seated herself on his lap and ground herself against him ... sweet friction. Entwining her long fingers in the silken mass of his hair, she claimed his lips, plundering their sweetness. His small moan of pleasure was music to her ears.

"Ah, Lori ... " he rasped in her ear, his breath warm upon her flesh. Like a great cat he lapped at her earlobe, nibbling gently and she arched the long column of her neck to ease his way. "What a contradiction you are!" he chuckled. "Like the bargain you offered me. Remember?"

"Of course, I remember, my sweet boy," she crooned against the sensitive flesh of his neck. "How could I forget?"

"'Join me,' you said, 'and rule at my side ... Or die a painful, lingering death from lead-poisoning!' Not much of a choice, was it?" he muttered. She kissed the hollow of his throat, nipping at the golden flesh there with tiny, sharp teeth.

"I didn't mean for it to be! I never claimed to play fair, Lar!" she laughed. "I wanted you in the worst way. From the first moment I ever saw you. I was taking no chances you might refuse me."

With a smile of his own, he ran one finger lightly down her spine. "And I didn't, did I? No one wants to die, I guess. Before I met you all I ever wanted to do with my life was help others. How boring! And where did it get me? Dying of lead poisoning is where. And look at me now. Your Consort. Commander of your armies and co-ruler of the galaxy. Much better, don't you think?"

"Oh, I do! I do!" she burbled merrily. "I just knew I could teach you to be a realist ... if you'd only give me the chance!"

His hands came to rest on the sides of her neck, stroking and caressing. She closed her eyes in bliss.

"Oh, yes," he murmured, " ... a realist ... "

And with a twitch of his fingers, he snapped her neck. Caught completely unawares, she didn't even have time to scream. His smile was a breathtaking one, full and vibrant, rivaling a star for brilliance.

"See what I learned from you, Lori? And how well I learned it!" The smile that graced his smooth features as he gazed down at the body of his lover was bright, yes; but it was not a pleasant one. Not a pleasant one at all. He shook his head in rueful mockery.

"Really, Lori ... " he crooned in a light, indifferent voice, "just how big a fool did you take me for?" The glint in his glacier blue eyes might have brought a chill to the hard vacuum of space. "Did you think I wouldn't figure it out? That I didn't know that when you tired of me, when you didn't need me anymore, that you were going to kill me? Of course you were! And I want to live, Lori. Didn't I prove that when I accepted your oh so kind offer? And I have a taste for power. You were right about that, too."

With a sharp, but carefully controlled clap of his hands, he summoned the Court Chamberlain, calling "Attend me!" in a loud voice.

The tall dignified Balduurian elder appeared promptly. If he was surprised or shocked to see his Empress lying still and obviously very, very dead at the foot of her throne, he gave no sign of it. Which was very wise of him. Lar looked grave.

"There's been an ... accident," he informed the Court functionary. "A tragic ... accident ... "

Composing himself, the Chamberlain nodded curtly. With a snap of his fingers he summoned others. At his beck several slaves materialized. Trembling and unhappy, they were less controlled, more blatant about their fears. The Chamberlain pointed to the body of the Empress. He was very glad that his hand did not shake.

"Clean up that ... mess ... " he ordered.

The slaves scrambled to obey him.

His hand was still steady enough to pass when he brought the Staff of his Office down, rapping it sharply three times against the marble floor as tradition demanded.

"Summon the Court!" he commanded in stentorian, official tones.

As the courtiers assembled in their finery, the Chamberlain tried very hard not to look at the man lounging with such casual grace upon the throne before him, watching him, judging him, waiting for him to act. He did not entirely succeed. He found himself captured by those eyes, hooded by long smoke colored lashes, but still hard and glittering as the stone beneath his feet. He shivered. But he did not hesitate. Not for an instant. He let his voice ring out, loud and strong in the large Audience Hall.

"The Empress is dead! Long live the Emperor!"

On his golden throne, Lar Gand, once known as Valor in another life that was only a swiftly fading memory now, smiled.

And darkness descended upon the galaxy for more than a millennium.

Until the coming of the Legion of Super-Heroes ...


In awe he stared down at the lantern shaped ring on his middle finger.

At his side, his fellow Green Lantern, Alia of vanished Proxima Prime, smiled and embraced him lovingly, her wide eyes full of gladness and pride for his sake.

"Oh, Lar!" she cried, "I'm so happy! Just look at you! A Green Lantern!" Smiling in return, Lar Gand pressed her close, sweeping back her massive mane of light brown hair.

"Who would have thought," she breathed, "when we met in that awful place that this would happen? A cell on Starlag II wasn't a very good beginning was it?" With one slender finger she traced the outline of the lantern symbol of the Corps emblazoned on his new uniform. "Green is your color!" she chuckled.

"Alia," he murmured the name like a benediction. "Alia ... I've been looking for someplace like the Corps for a long time, now. A really long time. Too long. Ever since I - I was fired from L.E.G.I.O.N by that bastiche Vril Dox. And now I've finally found it. And you." She caressed his cheek.

"You know," she couldn't help but tease him, "for someone who thought I was a noisy old guy when you first met me, you sure changed your mind fast, 'boy'!"

Mirth bubbled up from his heart and flowed from his lips. "You're right," he asserted, "Starlag II was a really bad place to met. Did I mention how bad the lighting there was? And, you have to admit ... you were a few years older, back then." He pulled her close for a kiss. "And you still snore, 'old man' ... " he whispered in her ear with a grin.

She spatted his smooth cheek playfully. "Some swain you are!" she accused in light mocking tones. "Hrrump! Ladies do not snore, I'll have you know!" Then she reached for his hands and kissed his palm. "Seriously, Lar," the ancient but youthful woman murmured, "it's precisely because you were kind to me when you thought I was only a helpless, useless old man that I knew you belonged with the Corps. You had no reason to protect me, take me with you when you escaped with the help of the Blasters. But you did. Because your goodness and compassion are an integral part of who you are. And even then you didn't just abandon me. You took me with you when you pursued the Unimaginable. And when I was injured you brought me home here to Oa to be healed."

"And it's a good thing I did!" he declared stoutly, but still with a wistful smile at the memory. "You were the one who defeated the Unimaginable. Again. Not me, I got my butt kicked. But you! You were wonderful! It's taken me a long time to learn that physical strength isn't everything ... but I think the lesson is finally soaking through. Thanks to you." She flushed and made ready to deny it, but a single finger upon her full lips stayed her protest.

"And so brave .. " he marveled, "so very, very brave .... To defeat a creature as powerful as the Unimaginable, after it destroyed your world and your family .. and then to spend all those years in that hellish place because it was necessary to imprison you to also imprison the Unimaginable ... Moons of Daxam! The courage, the dedication that took ... "

"Ahem!" interrupted a strong but hesitant voice at their back. "Pardon me for butting in on a tender moment and all, but - umm - we do have a few things to discuss, I'm afraid. Lar?" Swallowing hard and clinging to Alia's hand for moral support, the Daxamite youth turned to face the source of that commanding voice.

"M-Mr. Jordan?" he stammered, blushing under the Terran Leader of the Green Lantern Honor Guard's piercing brown gaze. The Earthman smiled, waving his hand in dismissal.

"Hal," he insisted, smiling affably. "Call me Hal."

"Humor him. He likes to pretend he's 'just one of the guys'," explained Tomar-Re, chittering through his horny beak, "and not one of the most honored members of the Corps to ever don the uniform." It was impossible, the new Daxamite Green Lantern knew, for the Xudarian to smile, he was not physically capable of it, but Lar Gand strongly suspected that the elderly Green Lantern would have liked to do just that. With a small smile of his own Lar Gand looked away.

"That's our Hal," agreed Katma Tu, her crimson skin darkening with the force of the laughter that claimed her. "Modest to the Corps!"

"Indeed!" maintained K'ryssma of Etrea, her multifaceted insectoid eyes sparkling in the bright light of the Oan sun. The insectoid-humanoid woman was quite capable of smiling, although it was not in her usually dour nature to do so with any ease, and she proved it now.

Fellow Guardsmen! boomed the telepathic voice of Apros of Minus 7 Pi, his stout brown barrel like pumpkin shaped body writhing on the end of his many tentacles, a little decorum if you please!

"Yeah!" proclaimed Kilowog, late of Earth by way of his homeworld of Bolovax Vik. "Give the man a break, here! Cut him some slack, why don't ya? I mean, I'm the Corps Training Officer. So I'm the one who'll have to train our brand spanking new Green Lantern here." Kilowog noticed Alia blanch slightly at the thought of her young protege-lover at the tender mercies of the demanding Kilowog. Kilowog, too, could smile they all discovered.

"Thanks guys!" Hal Jordan quipped, his voice dry and acerbic, hands on his hips. "I knew I could count on your support!"

It took several moments for the tittering and chuckling from far flung species around the galaxy to die down. Lar told himself he must not laugh. It would be presumptuous for such a new Corpsman as he to enjoy mirth at the expense of the vaunted Hal Jordan of Earth. But at his side he could hear Alia chuckling softly and it was hard not to join her. When the mirth faded at last, Hal took command again, pointing at the gently glowing green ring encircling Lar Gand's finger.

"That's a big responsibility," he said quietly. "But I guess you know that. Quite simply, that Power Ring is the single most powerful weapon in the Universe. And it's resting on your finger. That, combined with the vast array of superpowers you gain naturally under the influence of a yellow sun, are an almost frightening combination." Hal Jordan was gratified to see Lar Gand nod gravely and gulp at the daunting thought. Time to lighten up a bit, maybe?

"I'm not questioning The Guardians decision that a Green Lantern from Daxam would be a huge asset to the Corps. Far from it. We're all expecting great things from you, Lar. And I know you won't disappoint us. I remember how bravely you fought Eclipso. Now, I was 'eclipsed' so I don't recall the fight at all, actually. But anyone who earns Superman's respect is ok with me. And he was the one who first named you Valor."

"I'll do my best to live up to everyone's expectations ... Hal ... I promise."

Jordan nodded. "I know you will, son," Hal replied. "I never doubted it." The Honor Guardsman looked sheepish for a moment. When he spoke once more his voice was low, almost conspiratorial. "You may not know this," he said, "but The Guardians also decided that there could be only one Lantern from Daxam. It came down to a choice between you and a fellow Daxamite named Sodam Yat."

Lar's eyes widened in astonishment and no small amount of pleasure. "Sodam Yat??" he exclaimed. "Daxam's Moons! He - he's - why he's the most famous athlete on Daxam! The strongest man on the planet! He's built like an inertron building, for Space sake! And he's even stronger!"

Hal smiled. "And The Guardians chose you, Lar, because ... well you said it yourself ... strength isn't everything. For a Green Lantern, in fact, it hardly matters at all. With that Ring it's your force of will that will be more important. You're invulnerable. And the Ring will always automatically protect you from lead. So, with advantages like that, your powers, and the Ring itself as a weapon, it's also much more important that we know what sort of man you are before we give you that kind of power. And in the short time since you left Daxam, you've given us ample proof of that, son. You'll be a credit to the Corps, I know."

And so he was.

His career was long and illustrious, surpassing even that of Hal Jordan of Earth. His sector was the quietest in Corps history so he frequently had time to assist any of his fellow Green Lanterns who might need it and happily did so. He himself became the youngest member ever of the Honor Guard and eventually its Leader with the honorable retirement of Hal Jordan amidst much pomp, many tears and good wishes.

But, after untold millennia, The Guardians and their Corps of Green Lanterns fell. The Weaponers of Qward were the first to join the forces arrayed against the Protectors of the Universe. Ranx the Sentient City swelled the ranks of the enemy, then the vicious Children of the White Lobe. But when the ancient, timeless Empire of Tears itself rose, united with its new allies against the Green Lantern Corps, the future looked bleak. One by one the defenders fell before their combined might.

It was then that the Corps called upon the services of their strongest members. And Lar Gand answered the call. But when he perished destroying the lobe-spawn, the heart seemed to go out of the Corps. The few ragged, pitiful survivors deemed it almost a mercy that he, the most honored of their Corps, did not see the last of them, the planet-form Green Lantern Mogo, fall as Ranx the sentient city exploded a blink-bomb within Mogo's heart, his planetary core. True to their purpose, the Guardians of the Universe personally expended the last of themselves in defeating their enemies and were seen no more.

The fallen, heroic Green Lanterns were all buried on their homeworlds after the rites of their people. There were simply too many of them to be interned otherwise. And Oa was no more. Thus, Arkkis Chummack made his way back to Toomey VI, after almost a lifetime's absence, where his body was carefully prepared and eaten, especially his brave heart, by those of his fellow Toomites deemed worthy of the honor of consuming such conspicuous courage. Stel, the AI Green Lantern of Grenda was returned home and his remaining robotic parts salvaged to fashion another of his unique kind. Medphyll of J586 came home and his seeds were used to grow another, who blossomed brightly among his plant-like folk. Hal Jordan was buried on Earth, in his beloved Coast City. But a memorial in his honor stands in the JLA Watchtower on the Moon.

So it was that almost 3,600 bodies made their solemn way across the galaxy to lay in honored rest under familiar skies. Almost the entire Corps.

All but one.

They buried the greatest of them, Lar Gand of Daxam, on the asteroid Shanghalla, newly set aside in his honor as the final resting place of the galaxy's greatest heroes. After Daxamite custom, they buried his heart on Daxam itself, in the Hall of Heroes. Alia of Proxima Prime's request that she be buried next to him was graciously honored.

And slowly, the legend of Valor of The Green Lantern Corps and of the Corps itself, spread throughout the galaxy into every spiral arm and nebula.

And a millennia after Valor's death, an adventurous, disguised Durlan who loved heroes and ancient history and called himself R. J. Brande took the legend to heart and used his great wealth and influence to create a Legion of Super-Heroes, inspired by the Corps and its greatest member.

Eltro Gand of Daxam, descended from the hero through his younger brother Del Gand, was among the first to join.

The first ... and the mightiest.

The legend lived on.


"All right," began Lyrissa Mallor, gazing around her at her uneasy companions. Subterfuge did not come naturally to these people. "I think we all know why we're here. Are we missing anybody?" A quick head count accounted for everyone. The Talokian champion and field leader for L.E.G.I.O.N. turned to the wormlike being at her right.

"Telepath? Are you sure we're unobserved?"

The yellow skinned mentalist nodded his outsized head. "Quite sure, Lyrissa," he assured the spiritual heart of L.E.G.I.O.N. "I'm scanning only those of us in this room. And the telepathic dampers we installed on the outside are working admirably. No one knows we're here. We are perfectly safe here and unsuspected. We may speak freely." Several gusty sighs of grateful relief echoed off the close walls of the small room. Frowning, Stealth made a wry face and crossed her hands over her ample chest. Motherhood had certainly agreed with the size of her breasts, she decided. Even if the child was sired by Vril Dox. As ever, that thought made her vaguely ill.

"Sure we all know why we're here," she agreed. "We've got a big problem. About six foot two, I'd guess. So what are we gonna do about it?" She didn't miss the wave of unease that crashed through her companions like a sea wave. Her sally was greeted with several matching frowns to rival her own. But silence reigned. No one wanted to be the first to speak.


"Okay, fine!" she groused in a voice as sour as Winathian puckerfruit. "I'll be a bitch and just come right out and tell it bang. Our problem's got a name. Lar Gand. So what are we gonna do about Dox's newest pet lick spittle?"

"You're not being fair to the boy!" cried Strata, her deep, gravelly voice ample evidence of her unhappiness.

Garv patted the Dryadian woman's huge, rocky hand warmly with his own. The deep red of his wrinkled skin was reflected nicely in the clear, crystalline silicon structure of his lover, Strata's. Strata seemed to calm a bit at the heavy worlder's touch. "Easy, babe, easy," Garv advised softly. "Nobody wants to hurt the kid. But Stealth's got a point. It is a problem. And it is why we're here."

"I'll say it's a 'problem'!" snarled Garryn Bek. The Cairnian-born Administrative head of L.E.G.I.O.N.'s eyes glowed briefly green and then faded to their natural brown color. The power of the Emerald Eye of Ekron had not yet deserted him completely. Not quite. Not yet left him totally alone and completely bereft. His face twisted in wrath. "We just got rid of that grok-bokker Lobo and what happens? Dox finds himself another stooge to push us around and make sure he gets what he wants. That Daxamite juvie is a grok-bokking menace!"

Across the table his estranged wife Marij'n flashed daggers at him with her gaze, gritting her teeth in anger. "Damn you, Garryn, if you were any more transparent you'd be invisible!" she spat. "You're just jealous! Dox may have pulled the wool over Lar Gand's eyes, deceived him about a lot of things, but Lar is a good man! He's kind and noble and he always considers others before himself! A better man by far than you'll ever be! He's what L.E.G.I.O.N. should be all about!" She shot to somewhat unsteady feet, her hot gaze strafing Garryn's slender form like laser fire. Running her hands seductively down the curves of her body, her voice dropped down, low and husky now. "Oh, I was good enough for you when I was fat and unattractive, wasn't I? Good enough when you were a cop for you to marry me and use me to get at my father, the druglord! But when the Eye helped me shed those pounds and take better care of myself, you couldn't handle the thought that I might want somebody else now, could you? COULD YOU?!" To everyone's astonishment and unease, she was practically shouting. Throats cleared themselves uneasily and eyes darted away.

Bek shot to his feet and pounded his fist upon the table they all sat around hard enough to make several unattended beverage glasses jump with the force of his blows. "Don't flatter yourself, Marij'n!" he sneered. "I don't give a grokking damn what you do! Or WHO you do it with! But this little lustfest of yours for the 'noble' Lar Gand is disgusting is what it is! He's only sixteen years old, Marij'n! And Stealth is certainly right that he's Dox's lick spittle!"

"And Marij'n is certainly right that you're jealous!" sniffed a disdainful Lydea Mallor. The Talokian teenager's anger and dislike were evident in the set of her jaw, the haughty arms crossed over her ample chest.

Bek rolled his eyes ceilingward, as if praying for strength to endure such foolishness. "Says the 'heroine' who tried to kill her own mother! And almost succeeded! The only good thing Lar Gand has ever done was stop you from carrying out the bidding of your masters, the Computer Tyrants of Colu, and killing Lyrissa!" The deep azure of the Talokian girl's skin darkened by several shades and black darkness gathered on the tips of her slim fingers, spiraling and writhing for release.

"Lydea!" Lyrissa exclaimed, clutching her child's hand in warning. "No! Calm yourself, daughter. Please." Reluctantly Lydea nodded, obeying her mother and the elder Mallor, proud ex-Shadow Champion of her world, gathered her daughter in her comforting arms and glared at Garryn Bek. Telepath thought his sensitive ears might have heard the sound of a soft, muffled sob. His ears might have been mistaken, but there was no doubt of the agony of mind that enveloped the youthful L.E.G.I.O.N.naire like a shroud.

"Watch your tongue, Bek!" Lyrissa hissed. "My daughter was a victim." Slender blue hands stroked the child's mass of space dark hair, worn long and full. Not like her own short, clipped locks. So like her mother ... so very like her in so many, many other ways, though ... "Abused and tortured by the Tyrants while they wore my image to make her hate me, she was stripped of her childhood and her heritage, artificially aged and used by the Tyrants to try and kill me, through no fault of her own! When I left her on Talok VIII, Garryn, she was a baby! An infant! Can you understand what it must have been like for the both of us? Can you?" Bek sat down heavily, as if his body were suddenly too great a weight for him to bear. But otherwise he gave no sign of remorse. "You'd do well to remember that in future," Lyrissa said. "And she and Marij'n are right. Lar Gand is a good boy ... he's just mislead ... misguided ... "

"That's right!" maintained Lydea, squeezing her mother's hand in gratitude. She was almost smiling, now. "He's always been nice to me, in spite of ... in spite of ... everything I almost did ... "

Bek's shrill voice fairly rang with contempt. "As if you wouldn't rip his clothes off, too, at the first opportunity! If only Mama would let you!"

"That's enough, Garryn!" Strata shouted in Lydea's defense. But it was the look of hurt and anger in Lyrissa Mallor's obsidian eyes that made the once powerful wielder of the Emerald Eye look away and regain his seat with a heavy heart. Almost losing Lyrissa brought home forcefully to them all just how important she was to them. And to L.E.G.I.O.N.

"More than enough!" Phase agreed. The slim amnesiac woman ran her hands uncertainly through her short, dark hair, peering around the room. "Look," she said, "I know I'm new here. Nass, I don't even know who I am! Or where I come from or anything at all. But I do know one thing. In the short time I've been here L.E.G.I.O.N.'s become my home. You're my family. So this is very important to me, okay?"

She regarded Telepath kindly. "Some of you have tried to help me. And all of you have been kind to me." The look in Telepath's great round eyes was ineffably sad. Yes, he had tried to help Phase. Tried ... and failed. There were simply no memories left there to be retrieved. Her past was a complete blank and a great mystery. He, more than most, felt her daily struggle. Her need to know about her past. Did she have a family? Friends? Perhaps a lover? Telepath sighed. Sometimes ... sometimes it almost seemed as if he could catch a glimpse ... a face ... a strong, smiling face with deep earth brown eyes and ginger colored hair. Could almost feel strong arms embracing her. A resonant male voice overflowing with passion ... speaking words of desire ... "I'd be lost without you! Lost ... "

"Including Lar Gand!" said the young woman whose phantom like abilities and considerable courage were becoming a greater and greater asset to L.E.G.I.O.N. She stared pointedly at the uncomfortable Garryn Bek. "I like Lar Gand," she contended. "I just thought everyone should know that so there aren't any misunderstandings."

"Yeah, yeah ... " The slight moue of distaste Stealth had worn from the beginning grew even more intense. "Everybody loves good ol' Large Gland ... "

"I thought we got rid of Lobo," came Phase's acerbic remark in response.

"This isn't getting us anywhere," Lyrissa Mallor pointed out firmly, keeping a tight rein on her sometimes quick and harsh temper. "Sniping at one another and calling names isn't going to solve the problem. Until we can discuss this calmly and come to a rational decision about the situation, we're just playing right into Vril Dox's hands." The L.E.G.I.O.N. field commander turned to face the far end of the long table.

"Lady Quark? You've been very quiet. In fact, you haven't said anything at all. What do you think we should do with Lar Gand, Tashana?"

Garryn Bek threw up his hands in exasperation. "Grok-bokking asteroids, Lyrissa!" he cried. "What are you asking her for? We already know what she does with him. Every grok-bokking night!"

The ex-policeman quailed before the enraged look in the eye of one of the most powerful members of their Inner Corps. He could plainly see the nuclear radiation at her heart, the awesome energies that gave the woman who was once the Queen of an entire world her vast destructive powers, gathering within her, waiting to be unleashed at her tempestuous command.

"Have a care, little man!" Lady Quark growled. "My affairs are no concern of yours! When I bed Lar Gand it is because that is what I wish to do. And no puny excuse for a man like you will ever stop me. Your opinion means less than nothing to me." She turned her buzz cut silver head away from Garryn Bek with burning disdain.

"And what about the rest of us, Lady Quark?" inquired Lyrissa softly. "Are our opinions also less than nothing to you?" Around the table, the Talokian woman's gentle words were greeted by nods of agreement and support.

"We're your friends, Tashana," Telepath spoke up to everyone's surprise. He was usually quite reticent. "We care about you. It would please us to know that you cared enough about us to consider what we thought important."

"I - I do."

"Tashana ... " began Lyrissa, a certain reluctance echoing in her stern voice, "I suppose it isn't our place to say anything ... so we never have ... But, the truth is there are those of us who feel that - that you're taking advantage of Lar Gand. He's only a young boy, Tashana! Ancestral Shadows, you had a daughter older than he is!" Lyrissa was not ashamed of her outburst, but she did wonder at its effectiveness. Lady Quark could be stubborn and willful at the best of times. And she was always haughty and cold, shielding herself from the pain of the loss she lived with daily. Lyrissa bit her lip when she saw the former ruler draw her head up proudly.

"Yes, Lyrissa, my friend ... " The sincerity of her words struck the Talokian woman almost like a physical blow, but she did not allow herself to flinch. "I had a daughter. My Liana, my lovely Princess Fern. And a husband. My brave and powerful Lord Volt. And I had the gratitude and love of all my people. I was their Protector, their liege-Lady. Until the Anti-Monitor came and swept it all away. My world was destroyed ... my entire Universe was gone in the wink of an eye as if it had never been. And I alone was left to tell the tale."

"We understand that you're lonely, Tashana ... " Lyrissa was quick to sympathize. It was the wrong thing to do, she discovered. The once ruler's face stormed over with dark wrath like a cloudy day.

"No!" Lady Quark denied it, harsh voiced. "I don't want your pity! Keep it! You don't understand. Loneliness has nothing to do with it. I have a destiny. A destiny I must carve anew for myself here in your new Universe. Lar Gand is a part of that destiny. He is brave and strong, possessed of great and mighty powers. My equal in every way. I've been looking for someone like him to help me found a new dynasty here among the stars for a long time. Ever since I left Earth after the Anti-Monitor's defeat."

"Yeah, you've been looking all right," Stealth snorted derisively. "You thought Dagon-Ra was just what the doctor ordered, too, remember? Until he turned on you, imprisoned you, made you into his little super powered pet. If L.E.G.I.O.N. hadn't rescued you you'd still be there; too scared to strike back and find out if you could fry Dagon-Ra before his elemental powers could turn you into an inert gas or some damn thing."

Several faces around the table paled at the memory of L.E.G.I.O.N.'s battle with the Trommite pirate leader and his horde. It was closer than they ever wanted to come again to death and defeat. At her side Lady Quark's hands knotted themselves involuntarily into spasmodic fists. The tall, formidable woman in the yellow costume made no reply, however. But Stealth still wasn't done.

"And you only joined L.E.G.I.O.N. when Dox invited you," she accused, "because you thought Vril Dox just might be what you were looking for, too. Can't say much for your taste in men, Lady Q!" Tashana's lips twisted themselves into a viscous smile.

"At least I don't rape and murder my mates when I find them," the older woman said. "If Marij'n hadn't cloned Vril Dox after you killed him in the throes of sexual passion, L.E.G.I.O.N. might well be defunct. Thanks to you. And when I bear another child, I won't find it necessary to hide him from his father, lest he be corrupted and used against me. Do you even know where your son is, Stealth?" The former Queen gave the mysterious L.E.G.I.O.N.naire (whom many suspected only appeared to be humanoid) no time to form a retort. Instead she turned her back on the fuming Stealth and fixed her gaze on Lyrissa Mallor.

"And if Lar Gand is young," she said quietly to the field Leader, "what of that? If he's old enough to be one of us, to risk his life as a valued member of our Corps, in the pursuit of justice and the rights of others, then surely he's old enough to decide with whom he wishes to share his body. Among my people, a youth of his age and high station would be long mated."

It was difficult to tell from his features if Garv were frowning or angry, but his voice, when he spoke, was definitely unhappy. "Some interestin' plans ya got there, Lady," the heavy worlder mused. "The kid got any say in the matter at all?" Stealth and Garryn Bek grinned with equal rapaciousness. But the others held their silence. With an imperious look, Lady Quark ignored them all.

"Didn't think so," Garv snorted.

Strata was also obviously not pleased at the thought. But before the L.E.G.I.O.N. training officer could speak her mind, Lyrissa once more focused their attention of other matters. Frowning in anticipatory dismay, she turned to Telepath. The alien mind reader was quite taken aback at the unexpected attention. Blinking rapidly, he would have blushed, Lyrissa was sure of it, if only he had been physiologically capable of it.

"Telepath?" Lyrissa addressed him gently. "What can you tell us about the situation?"

Telepath leaned forward on his heavily muscled walking arms, gathering his thoughts in deep concentration before he spoke at last in a mild voice. "I have not deeply probed Lar Gand's mind. Tha-that would not be ethical ... but I have - ah - occasionally scanned his thoughts on - on Vril Dox 's orders ... " He lapsed into silence, waiting to be rebuked. What a weakling they must think him! To so slavishly follow Vril Dox's commands ... out of fear and cowardice they must suppose. But, to his immense surprise, no rebuke was forthcoming. The shy, unprepossessing telepath wondered if he deserved such trust.

"By the Egg Pod!" he thought. "They don't even know my name! It's over four hundred seventy-one syllables long and their tongues couldn't pronounce it even if they could remember it all. They call me Telepath because that's what I do. And still they entrust me with their secrets ... their inner thoughts, at times. How did I ever earn such affection, I wonder?" Regardless, the truth of it could not be denied. And now, at their hour of greatest need, he dare not fail them. He would not.

He owed them the truth, at least.

With wide eyes an a shrill cry of distress that grated upon the nerves, Strata covered her stony lips with one crystalline hand. "Oh, now there's an unpleasant thought!" the Dryadian cried. "Most unpleasant!" The observation was greeted with many frowns and looks of puzzlement. She glanced at Telepath in nervous anticipation.

"I mean," she hastened to explain, "do you think Dox ... that is ... could he have ... " She shook her head as if to clear it. "Remember that Enhanced Charisma Program of his? The one he used on the people of his own planet, after we defeated the Computer Tyrants? The one that made all those Coluans so very grateful and willing to give him just about anything he wanted?"

Even Garryn Bek blanched at the thought that came to them all simultaneously. "You don't think - !" He left the thought unfinished. It wasn't necessary, after all. For the rest of them understood his meaning perfectly.

"What a filthy trick!" cursed Garryn under his breath.

"Just like Vril Dox!" spat Stealth in a voice sour as curdled milk.

As one they turned to Telepath, awaiting his pronouncement. His huge eyes blinked rapidly and he studied his smaller manipulative hands for a moment, lacing the plump fingers together in agitation. Finally his outsized head shook itself in denial.

"I - I don't think so," he stammered. "Surely, not even Dox would ... " The soft words trailed off at the many looks of incredulity suddenly focused upon him. He sighed, realizing at once his mistake. Of course Dox would! Biting his lower lip, Telepath began again in a firmer voice. "The boy is sincere in his admiration, his hero worship of Vril Dox. And his dedication to L.E.G.I.O.N. There can be no doubt of that. Mostly because he wants to believe. It's important to him. He came here to Cairn hoping to find an organization dedicated to eradicating evil and injustice, someplace he could make a difference with these wonderful new gifts of his. And that's just what Vril Dox allowed him to believe."

"I guess it didn't hurt when Dox gave the kid that serum to protect him from lead poisoning without having to be forced or asking anything in return," was Garryn Bek's grudging admission. The slender man lowered his voice several octaves in mocking imitation of Vril Dox at his most nauseatingly kind. "'Here, my boy, accept this gift from my hand. It's my welcome to you into L.E.G.I.O.N., your new home. With this you need have no fear ever again. Your father's ill fate will not be yours. You are safe. And needed'." Lydea giggled at the accuracy of the jesting imposture. The others were less sanguine.

"That's right, Garryn," Phase assured the former Emerald Emperor. "From the very first Dox has manipulated and deceived Lar Gand. And our animosity hasn't helped."

"Exactly!" rejoined Telepath. "He's played us all off against one another like a finely tuned musical instrument in the hands of a virtuoso. Why, he's got the poor boy half way convinced that we're all just jealous of Dox's position. That he's the savior of the galaxy and we're trying to take L.E.G.I.O.N. away from him! After the defeat of the Computer Tyrants on Colu, the holomedia certainly played right into Vril's hands on THAT one! That's precisely how they portrayed him: the noble savior of his home world, dedicated to bringing peace and justice to the rest of the galaxy."

Stealth made a wry face. "It was disgusting!" she opined at the distasteful memory. "All he was ever after were their credits."

Lyrissa Mallor leaned forward to face them all once more. "It doesn't matter how the unfortunate situation with Lar Gand came about. We're not here to assign blame, my friends. The real question is: What can we do about it?" Heads nodded in mutual agreement, but no one rushed to offer advice. Silence fell. Lyrissa sighed and grimly shouldered the burden of responsibility once more.

"Very well," she addressed the assemblage of heroes. "Telepath assures us that, at heart, Lar Gand is blameless. He's merely been deceived. I submit then that it's up to us to help him see the truth. Now there is one among us who is closest to the boy ... the one he would be most likely to listen if they spoke ... " All eyes turned to Lady Quark as the Talokian Champion's voice trailed off.

"Tashana, we need your help," explained Lyrissa to the volatile ex-ruler.

Taken aback, the older woman frowned. "My help? Of what help could I be?"

It was Telepath who came to Lyrissa aid in her moment of uncertainty about how to proceed. "Lyrissa's right, Lady Quark," the psi-sensitive being said. "Lar Gand trusts you. He shares himself with you freely. If he's likely to believe any of us and accept the truth about Vril Dox, it's from your lips. Won't you help us? And Lar Gand? Do you really relish seeing him used and abused by Vril Dox like this?" Slowly the powerful woman shook her short cropped head.

"N-no, of course not," she said. "I've grown quite fond of him ... He's an endearing youth ... "

"Then you'll help us?" came Lyrissa's pointed question.

Lady Quark's answer was merely a small, almost imperceptible nod of the head, but the L.E.G.I.O.N. field commander gratefully seized upon it nevertheless. Around the table smiles blossomed and Telepath could sense great relief, not least of all his own.

"We'll all have to do our part," Lyrissa was quick to remind them. "But together we can do it."

In the end, though, it was the situation on Daxam and not all of Lady Quark's blandishments or overtures of friendship from the others that turned the tide against the wily Coluan. He seriously misjudged Lar Gand's determination to help the people of his home world in the wake of the devastating plague that struck it soon after the return of the Daxamite fleet from their show of force to halt the Invasion of Earth. Lar Gand suspected from the first that the "plague" was no alien virus or bacteria, but that its roots lay in the Daxamites' vulnerability to lead. When Dox proved reluctant to throw the resources of L.E.G.I.O.N. into the fight for Daxam's survival, Lar Gand began to listen to his comrades and see the truth. Furious at having been such a willing pawn, the young superhero broke with Dox and returned to Daxam.

He was soon followed in turn by every member of the Inner Corps. Arriving on Daxam with a huge supply of anti-lead serum provided by the medical expertise of geneticist Marij'n Bek, the Corpsmen, aided by a goodly number of the rank and file of L.E.G.I.O.N. itself, set about restoring order and saving lives. Many thousands still died, but Daxam itself survived virtually unchanged. Although the populace in general still proved somewhat reluctant to leave the embrace of their motherworld, recovering Daxam began a brisk trade and cultural exchange with the rest of the galaxy. Daxam became renowned for the expertise of its scientists in the fields of biology, pharmacology, and medicine. Daxamite hospitals, expanded to accommodate victims of the "plague", opened their doors to all and quickly became famous throughout the galaxy for the skill and dedication of their physicians.

And Vril Dox lost control of L.E.G.I.O.N.

With the desertion of the Inner Corps and many of the rank and file, the bitter Coluan found it increasingly difficult to fulfill his obligations. Impossible in many cases. Despite threats and trickery, one by one, his client worlds failed to renew their contracts with L.E.G.I.O.N.

Agra-Prime was the end for him. Deceived and used by the racially bigoted Council of Elders into suppressing a revolt of the downtrodden "hue-eyed" Agrans, when Dox turned against his masters they, despairing of continuing their way of life, unleashed a deadly virus into the oceans of their world. With the next rain all life on Agra-Prime would come to an end. Helpless, Dox could only watch as Lyrissa Mallor and Lar Gand rallied help from hundreds of worlds to help evacuate the desperate Agrans before the next rainfall. The Agrans, never many in numbers by reason of their religious strictures, were resettled on Cairn to the thunderous applause and glowing accolades of the rest of the civilized galaxy.

Vril Dox resigned in disgrace.

And the word began to spread: L.E.G.I.O.N. was back!

Under the leadership of Lyrissa Mallor and Lar Gand, L.E.G.I.O.N.'s ranks began to swell once more. From across the galaxy they came: the super powered and more ordinary recruits both. From Earth came Gary Concord, the Ultra Man. From far off Thanagar came Katar and Shiera Hol, already members of the Hawk police of their home world. From Rann came the displaced Earthman Adam Strange and his zeta beam. The bright glow of Vega yielded Primus and his brave wife Kallista into the ranks of the Inner Corps. Many of the other Omega Men followed. No one was quite sure where Rac Shade with his reality distorting M-Vest hailed from ... but he proved a most efficient L.E.G.I.O.N.naire nonetheless. Prince Gavyn, the new Starman, was heir to the throne of an ancient empire, but proved himself not above serving the cause of justice. Even from Khundia itself they came. Amon Hauk carried a chip on his shoulder by reason of his despised race, but persevered in the face of adversity to become one of L.E.G.I.O.N's best. The gruff Chaser Bron joined them and Lar Gand smiled when the former Darkstar's sharp tongue was loosed on anyone foolish enough to mention his advancing age.

L.E.G.I.O.N. became a legend.

And in the fullness of time its mantle of heroism and sacrifice spawned another Legion ... the Legion of Super-Heroes.


"Clark! Hey, little brother!"

The familiar voice called out across the length of the school yard and the small town teenager who was also Superboy, the Boy Of Steel, smiled widely and waved back enthusiastically, pleased and not afraid to show it. His fingers rose to loosen the perennial bow tie that encircled his neck. School was over for the day and Clark Kent was as relieved as any other youngster. Especially now that he had someone to spend time with after school. Someone he didn't have to hide from.

"Bob!" the young, unsuspected hero rejoined. "Be with you in just a second!"

Shyly, he gazed at Lana Lang and Pete Ross. His best friends. Pete was a rock. Always willing to help out in Kent's General Store or with a friendly smile. Sure Lana was a pain sometimes with her continual attempts to discover Superboy's secret identity and her never ending flirtations to attract his attention, but ... Well, she was the prettiest girl in Smallville and there were times he almost enjoyed making a game of avoiding her traps intended to expose him.

Now, if only she'd pay more attention to Clark Kent instead of Superboy ...

At the moment she wasn't quite managing not to frown and it was a struggle for her. Her slightly pug nose wrinkled in dismay, exposing the light dusting of freckles that went with her fair skin and bright red hair.

"I thought he was your cousin," the teenaged girl complained, a distinct note of accusation creeping into her high, girlish voice.

Clark shook himself out of his reverie. Ooopps. He really didn't like deceiving them like this ... but what was the alternative? Admit that he was Superboy? And that "Bob" was Mon-El? Spend the rest of his life in the glare of publicity and public acclaim without the refuge, the opportunity, the relief of being ordinary, everyday Clark Kent of Smallville, Kansas? To be forced to be Superboy, and eventually someday Superman, all the time? Clark suppressed a shudder. The youth was suddenly overwhelmed with a vision of himself besieged by numberless hordes of faceless people, all demanding some small part of him. Women shouting, "I love you!" and clawing at him like groupies after the latest rock star. Men pleading, "Help me! Help me!" Small children, their eyes wide with hope and terror, begging for a release from their fate.

A great, bustling crowd of despairing humanity, all depending upon him to save them.

It was hellish.

"Um - well, he is my cousin," Clark supplied. "It's just that since he came to live with us, well, we've gotten to be really close. We're like brothers. I don't have any other relatives, you know." He tried very hard not to sound as wistful as he felt.

Lana reached out and took her school books back from Clark. The disappointment and the beginnings of burning anger he glimpsed briefly in her jade green eyes saddened him more than he expected. "Well," she snapped, "he sure acts like he owns you, Clark. Why, I hardly ever see you anymore without him lurking somewhere in the background. I hope you know people are starting to talk!"

"Lana!" admonished an unhappy Pete.

A look of puzzlement settled over Clark's startled features.

"Talk?" came his cautious inquiry.

Lana blushed, her high cheeks flaming. "W-Well ... " she temporized, apparently hesitant to continue, now. "You know how people are ... how they talk sometimes ... "

"No," returned Clark firmly, his eyes narrowing, "how do they talk, Lana?"

"Aww, c'mon, buddy," Pete waved a hand in casual dismissal, "it's just stupid gossip. You know? Don't pay it any attention." Lana cleared her throat and, despite Pete's stern, warning look of disapproval, the red head, true to her volatile nature, spoke again.

"And you just add fuel to the fire, Clark!"

"How's that, Lana?" the high school senior demanded.

"Well, Jesus, Clark! What do you expect? You're always with him ... I'm surprised he doesn't go to class with you, for God's sake! How long has he lived with you and your parents, anyway?"

"Almost two years, now. Why?"

Lana shifted her books to her other arm and tapped her foot on the sidewalk as if in impatience with Clark's obtuseness. She was not generally a patient person. Never had been in all the years Clark had known her. She wasn't about to change now, Clark suspected. As though to prove his point his friend and classmate addressed him once more.

"Good Lord, Clark! Most people here in Smallville can't even figure out what he does for a living!"

"Lana ... " began an almost angry Pete Ross.

But before he could utter more Clark cut him off abruptly, surprising both the tow-headed Ross and Lana. Clark was not usually so rude. One thing you had to admit about Clark, as exasperating as he sometimes was, he was a nice, polite guy. The kind of boy of whom other young people's parents declared, "Why can't you be more like that Kent boy, huh?" For the most part it did nothing to endear him to his fellows. But, apparently, something in Lana's unprovoked attack on his cousin Bob had sparked Clark's ire. Catching the fire of wrath blazing in the depths of Clark's usually mild and twinkling blue eyes, Pete decided that it might be a good thing that his friend was slow to anger.

"He's a traveling door to door brush salesman, Lana!" Clark cried. "You know that! You bought one of his brushes yourself!"

"Uh huh," Lana shook her fiery head. "Then how come he never travels? Tell me that, Clark Kent! He must have sold brushes of all kinds to pretty much everybody in Smallville, by now!"

Gathering himself, Clark looked away from his two uncomfortable friends. "I - have to go," he said quietly, turning his back and moving off.

Swiftly, he trotted across the busy street to join the other man still waiting patiently there. Clark forced himself not to look back. Only forward. God, it was so nice to have someone meet him after school. How many times had he secretly envied all those other boys and girls walking home with brothers and sisters, friends or other relatives while he made his usually solitary way home and then to Kent's General store? It was nice to have meek and mild Clark Kent as a refuge so that he wasn't forced to be Superboy all the time, yes ... but ... still ... Clark had his secrets to protect, after all. It was good to just be himself. With no secrets to be hidden, no heroics to perform. Just himself. Something as simple as have someone to talk to when he wanted. Really talk to. Someone who understood his strange and extraordinary life.

"Ready for our afternoon patrol?" smiled Mon-El, "Bob Cobb", slipping an arm around Superboy's shoulders.

"You bet!" Clark grinned in return. "Let's go check in with Ma and Pa and then we'll be ready. Race you! Last one home is a rotten egg!" Glancing about surreptitiously to make certain they were unobserved, the two youths took off at superspeed, faster than the human eye could follow.

"Land Sakes!" declared Martha Kent with a smile, watching her two super-sons gulp down their pre-patrol snack of fresh, hot oatmeal raisin cookies and a tall, cold glass of milk, "you two are a caution! It's a good thing I like to cook! Else-wise feeding you boys would be mite near impossible!" Grinning Mon-El wiped the remains of a milk mustache off his lip and reached for the last cookie. Clark beat him to it and the older boy snapped his fingers in good natured frustration. Chuckling, Martha Kent disappeared into the warmth of her kitchen and returned shortly with another plate of a half dozen gooey, piping hot sweets.

"Thanks!" chimed Mon-El, chewing appreciatively on one of the delicious confections. Turning to Clark, he settled a mournful, pixieish gaze upon the younger boy. "I'm going to have to be careful, little brother," he said, pushing himself away from the table and rubbing his flat tummy. "I think I've gained about ten pounds since I started eating Ma's cooking!"

"More for me, then!" exalted Clark in triumph. To Martha's patented delight several more cookies quickly disappeared. Wiping her hands on her apron, the wife of Jonathan Kent regarded her eldest son with deep affection.

"Bob Cobb!" she admonished in what struggled very valiantly but failed miserably to be a stern voice, "You'll turn my head with such flattery!" Clark laughed, politely covering his mouth with his hand.

"Oh, he's good at that, Ma," he informed his mother, "really good. He's broken half the female hearts in Smallville, didn't you know? Why, even old Mrs. Bascombe bought a hair brush from him ... and she's practically bald!"

Mon-El/Bob Cobb flushed bright red. "Well -uh - er - I've got to get the money together somehow," he mused, "if you and I are going off to college together this Fall. There's not much time left." Clark drank down the last of his milk and sat the glass aside.

"I still say you'd be better off taking that summer job with Mr. Paulsen down at the garage. It's steady work and the way you have with mechanical things you'd be extra good at it. And you'd enjoy it, too, I think."

The older boy wrinkled his nose. "I don't know," he admitted. "Maybe. Back on Daxam, I was the fastest mechanic in my sector. But after working on an interstellar matter/anti-matter warp drive, an internal combustion engine isn't much of a challenge."

Startled, Clark lifted an eyebrow in inquiry. "I thought you intended to study engineering at the Metropolis Institute of Technology campus of MU," he said. Mon-El nodded in affirmation.

"Same as you intend to study journalism on the main campus," he responded and Clark's look of 'well, there you go!' caught him somewhat by surprise. Grinning to beat the band, the younger boy said, "Just think of all the improvements you could make! Consider it good practice!" When the other boy's bright blue eyes lit up with enthusiasm, Clark knew he had struck a nerve and his smile broadened. Martha Kent cleared her throat, capturing their attention.

"Now, you boys don't forget to drop by the store this evening," she reminded them. "Your Pa will need your help unloading and packing away that meat shipment due today." Her usually clear blue eyes darkened with concern. "I don't care what he says, that man hasn't fully recovered yet from that heart attack last Winter. And it's not the first one. Doc Whitney tried to warn him, way back when we still had the farm that he was working too hard! But would he listen? Nosirreee! Not a bit! He's still working too hard. Poor man kept me up half the night last night wheezing and coughing. Like to worried me to death."

Clark rose and embraced his mother tightly. "Don't worry, Ma," he pleaded, "we won't forget, will we, Mon?" Mon-El nodded rapidly, a reassuring look claiming his smooth features. "Pa won't have to lift a finger with that shipment, we promise," Clark continued and Mon-El was glad to see Martha relax a bit. Anything that saddened his foster-mother ripped and tore at him as few other things could. She kissed Clark's cheek and gazed at him warmly.

"You're such wonderful boys," she murmured. "The good Lord has been awfully kind to Jonathan and I to give us not one but two super-sons like the both of you. We're doubly blessed."

Mon-El rose gently squeezed the frail hand of the woman who had taken the place of his own departed mother when he came to Earth, a stranger, lost and alone. Not once had he regretted his decision to remain here. In a way, he owed it to the memory of Jor-El and Lara, Kal-El's biological parents, he felt.

Like a whisper, he could still recall the feel of Lara's lips on his cheek when she kissed him goodby; recollect the affection in her soft voice as she whispered in his ear, "We're grown extremely fond of you in your short time with us here, Lar." His flesh still echoed with the tender touch of her slim hand as she hung the keepsake necklace around his neck. He wore it still. And the firmness of Jor-El's handshake as the Kryptonian scientist slipped the map into his hands. "This is the route my son will take to Earth, Lar. Quickly, you must go. The end approaches. He haven't much time."

Tearing himself away from them, leaving them to their fate and the fate of their doomed world had been almost killing for him. The death of his family of Daxam had left a large vacuum in his life. One that had been filled, if only for a short time, by the welcome he'd received on Krypton from the loving couple, willing to shelter and help a stranded stranger. And little Kal had been such a pleasant child, happy and lively, curious to investigate any and everything in the way of two-year-old children. He remembered playing with the little boy for hours, laughing, reading to him, and telling him stories. He was poignantly reminded of his small brother Del, gone now with the rest of his family.

Although he'd never spoken it aloud, Lar knew well what Jor-El was asking when the doomed scientist had given him the map and mentioned his plans for his son. "Watch over him," was the unuttered plea, "keep him safe. Don't let him forget us. Love him."

And so he had.

Martha Kent gathered the now empty plate and prepared to retreat to her kitchen once more, allowing her sons to go about their regular evening patrol of the tiny town of Smallville. Brushing a stray strand of silver white hair from off her forehead and returning it neatly to her prim bun, the housewife and mother gazed at the youth she regarded as her eldest son.

"Bob," she inquired in as stern a voice as she could manage, which was quite stern indeed when it pleased her, "did you remember to take your serum today?"

"Of course, he did, Ma!" exclaimed Clark, his tone almost injured. "Think I'd ever let him forget? Not likely!"

Mon-El managed a wan smile. "Yes, Ma," he replied easily, "I remembered. That serum is the only thing protecting me from a painful, lingering death from exposure to lead. We Daxamites learned the hard way about the dangers of traveling the Universe for us. Space knows enough Daxamite astronauts died for us to get the idea." The boy swallowed hard. "In-including my father. And the rest of my family on Daxam, too. The doctors say it was a miracle that I survived long enough for a cure to be developed."

Painful memories, long suppressed, stirred to life. First his father ... then his mother. He sat for hours at his mother's bedside, holding her hand, watching her sink further and further into the embrace of death. When she died he'd cried for the first time since he was a small child. But, he supposed that if he were being completely honest with himself it was Del's death that had hurt him the most. Barely ten years old, Del didn't understand what was happening to him. And most of all he didn't understand why the pain wouldn't go away.

"Make it stop, Lar!" the little boy wept, his small body wracked with spasms, "please make it stop!"

And he'd been helpless. There was nothing he could do but hold him.

In the end, it was almost a relief when he stumbled into the Medi-Center emergency room, lost and alone, vomiting and doubled over with pain, to hear the doctors sad pronouncement.

Incredible to think that all that pain and tragedy befell because of a small piece of rock ... a souvenir of one of Kel Gand's exploration missions out among the stars ...

Superboy lay a gentle hand on his friend's muscular shoulder in comfort.

"Hey, buddy," he said softly, "it's fine. Don't be sad, okay? Everything going to be all right, I promise. You're here with us. We're your family, now." Smiling much more brightly at this, Mon-El eagerly followed the younger youth down into the sub cellar beneath the Kent basement and out the hidden tunnel leading into Smallville Woods to begin their nightly patrol.

Their first clandestine stop was Kent's General Store. Jonathan Kent greeted his sons warmly and watched in awe as they had the meat shipment packed away almost literally in the blink of an eye. He was never going to get used to that, he thought. Never. As promised, the storekeeper lifted nary a finger. He waved happily as his adopted sons departed, smiling when they waved back.

The night was quiet and they joked and roughhoused as they scooted across the sky. But between them they kept a close telescopic eye on their town and its environs. Police Chief George Parker thanked them heartily when they checked in with him. "Crooks are getting smarter," he remarked with a grin and a wave good-bye as they departed. "You boys are going to have expand your operations if you want to catch any bad guys these days. One Superboy in Smallville was hard enough on law breakers; the 'Super Twins' are purely more than they can handle!"

They dropped in for a brief visit with the Director of the Smallville Reformatory for Wayward Boys. "Young Luthor is still here," he informed them almost proudly. "Yesterday we caught him cobbling together some weird piece of electronic gadgetry. Damn thing punched a hole right through the outer wall! But we grabbed him before he could escape." Superboy looked sad but Mon-El congratulated the Director and his efficient staff.

They examined the Smallville dam, inspecting it carefully and, using their heat vision in coordination with super friction from their hands, repaired a small leak before it could become a larger problem. The Smallville River flowed serenely toward the giant Mississippi, the Father of Waters, traffic along its course unimpeded by wreckage or debris once they removed the sunken remains of a freighter boat lurking just beneath the surface.

Shortly after midnight they flew to the Moon for a lively game of catch using small asteroids as baseballs.

"Swing batta, swing batta," chanted Mon-El, crouching in a catcher's stance to receive his younger brother's "fastball special". Clark burned one in over the "plate", a minuscule lunar crater left ages ago by a striking meteorite. The game broke up when they ran out of convenient asteroids. "See you at breakfast, little brother!" Mon-El called merrily as he zoomed off. Superboy watched with a smile as Mon dove into the frigid waters of the north Atlantic and disappeared. Their mer-friend Lori Lemaris of undersea Tritonis would be having a guest tonight unless he was mistaken.

Returning home Clark made one last leisurely, preemptory circuit of Smallville and, finding the peace undisturbed, returned home via his underground tunnel into the Kent sub-basement, checked on his foster-parents, and retired to his bed.

There he slept for almost an hour before rising to do his homework at superspeed before school as was his habit. Mon's bed was still empty, he noted. For a moment he missed the sight of his elder brother, waking sleepy eyed, yawning and stretching to greet the morning with a smile. Sternly he warned himself not to be jealous. He had Lana. Mon had Lori. It was only fair, after all. Besides, he knew Mon would be there for breakfast as he had promised.

And he was.

The years passed. Gradually, Superboy grew to become Superman. Mon-El remained Mon-El. Clark Kent became an ace reporter for the Daily Planet, a great metropolitan newspaper. His talents as an investigative reporter won him a Pulitzer prize He became an Edgar award winning mystery novelist, also, for his book "Under A Yellow Sun". "Bob Cobb" became an engineering marvel. When the United Nations sanctioned the building of the Gibraltar Bridge, linking the continents of Europe and Africa, so that it became possible to drive an automobile from southern Spain to Northern Africa, Bob Cobb was the architectural engineer who designed and oversaw the building of the great edifice.

Superman and Mon-El became the Guardians of their new home of Metropolis and of the world.

Until the coming of Doomsday.

Afterwards, it proved impossible to discover anything about the terrible creature. No one ever knew where he came from or what his purpose was. Or even if he had a purpose. Bestial, virtually mindless, and incredibly powerful, the alien lashed out, destroying everything within its path. Within hours, the battle had devastated the heartland of America; laid waste the breadbasket of a great nation. At great risk to themselves, the so called 'Super Twins' lead the creature away from populated areas Massive destruction of property ensued but relatively little loss of life. But eventually despite their best efforts, Doomsday fought his way to a great city.


After the battle had lasted for more than a day, the two superheroes began to tire. Doomsday's blows began to draw blood. Bloody and battered, they fought him in the streets of their city. Buildings tumbled, the very force of their blows shattering the steel and concrete canyons of the populous city. Later estimates of the damage and destruction would soar in the billions of dollars. And the death toll reached as many as a quarter of a million people.

And, inevitably perhaps, someone made a mistake.

Reeling from the staggering blow, Superman fell to his knees, shaking his spinning head to clear it. Exhausted and bleeding, the Kryptonian hero did not see Doomsday's rocky, spiked fist descending again ... not in time to avoid the blow.

Mon-El's sharp blue eyes widened in panic.

"Kal!" he shouted and flew at the kneeling, swaying figure, knocking him aside. With an audible "oomph!" of escaping air, Superman tumbled away from the killing blow. He scrambled to unsteady feet and wiped the blood from his eyes just in time to see Mon fall limp to the ground. Even without the benefit of his superhearing, he could hear the distinct crack of splintering bone.

With all his remaining strength, Superman grabbed the alien monster and tossed him away from Mon-El. Doomsday slammed hard into a tottering building and lay still, not even moving when the building collapsed atop him. Superman would likely not have noticed even if he had moved. Crashing to his knees, the Man of Steel put forth a single trembling hand to touch his fallen brother.

"M-Mon? Mon?!" His voice shook. Slowly, painfully, as though he feared to cause Mon-El more pain, Superman gathered him carefully in his arms. Gently, he brushed a stray lock of space dark hair off the Daxamite hero's bruised forehead. When he buried his face in the broad chest, sobbing like a child, indeed as he had so seldom done as a child, his ears brought him no sign of the beating of a brave heart. No breath stirred.


His long wail of agonized grief shattered glass for miles around in every direction. His hands trembled as he tenderly wiped the blood from the familiar face, so still, now ... so very, very still and quiet. For one ragged, eternal moment, he thought that Mon-El might be sleeping. He looked so calm and peaceful. In days to come he would find himself growing increasingly weary of hearing, "He must have died instantly, Superman. You can be thankful, at least, that he didn't suffer."

The city fathers of Metropolis wanted to bury the fallen hero in an elaborate tomb in Centennial Park. There were plans for the President and First Lady to appear and speak. Heroes the world over prepared themselves for the solemn occasion. Foreign dignitaries around the globe awaited the summons eagerly. A statue was commissioned.

All in vain.

In the end, Superman would allow none of it. He buried Mon-El in a quiet corner of the botanical gardens in their Fortress of Solitude, the arctic retreat they built with their own hands. Wearing his scarlet and blue uniform, surrounded by lush green growing things of surpassing beauty, Mon-El was laid to rest amidst the splendor and arboreal beauty of a hundred worlds.

In his sadness and consuming grief, Superman remained at his Fortress of Solitude, alone now, and was not seen for more than ten years.

In the wake of the Metropolis Disaster, people clamored for protection. Stringent laws were passed. People's attitudes toward their heroes began to change as they demanded more and more proactive, even ruthless behavior from their superpowered guardians. Leaderless now, without their moral center, following Superman's example many of the older heroes retired.

Alan Scott, Green Lantern, devoted himself to distant matters. His vast Emerald City, the creation of his power ring, hung over the Earth guarding it from alien invasion that never came.

"I wield power beyond imagination," murmured the first Emerald Gladiator. "I'm married to that power by a ring of green. It haunts me like a jealous lover." Unconsciously, his fingers caressed the softly glowing lantern shaped ring encircling the index finger of his left hand, the one nearest his heart.

"I want a divorce," he hissed.

The Flash merged with the Speed Force and when he emerged once more he was more than simply Wally West, the Fastest Man Alive. Indeed, the Fastest Man There Had Ever Been. He carried with him the spirits of several of his predecessors. His speed was such that , even standing stock still, he vibrated, leaving only a blur to mark his presence. Central City became one of the safest places on earth to live ... but its grateful people never saw their busy guardian. Neither did his family. A scarlet blur and a whistling wind were as close as most ever came. Living between the ticks of a second, the Flash saved many, many lives, but no longer understood the people he served with such tireless devotion.

The ruthless Hawk Avatar absorbed his paladin and when Katar Hol, the Hawkman fought his way to freedom once more he was alone without his wife, the Hawkwoman. Alone ... and greatly changed. No longer able to even speak with a human tongue, this new Hawkman staked out his territory in the lush Pacific northwest of America and became an eco-terrorist. Loggers and miners there grew to fear the sharpness of his raking talons.

The Batman retreated to the still hidden redoubt of his crumbling, untended Batcave. There, commanding his army of robotic BatKnights, he brought his city under control. Crime was almost unknown in Gotham City. So was freedom of choice ... and everyone feared the night ...

With the retirement of so many, a new generation of heroes arose. The meta-human population boomed, then exploded until the skies were filled with them, crowded to overflowing. Aimless, without purpose or example, violent, and often more destructive than the 'villains' they presumed to fight, these 'heroes' were nevertheless cheered on by the human populace. In the beginning. By the time concerns were voiced and people learned to be afraid of these so called 'heroes' ... it was far too late.

One of the most violent of them all, the vigilante called Magog, became the symbol of this new 'heroic' age.

And in the peace and shelter of his Fortress of Solitude, far away from the growing crisis, Superman tended the holographic image of the tiny Smallville farm that had nurtured him as a boy and every day visited a well cared for grave, bringing flowers and the secrets of his lonely heart to share with his brother Mon-El.

As he always had.

Until Kansas disappeared in the pre-morning radiance of a nuclear blast.

The hero known as Captain Atom was dead; torn open by the desperately escaping frail remnants, the pale ghost, of the once powerful villain known as the Parasite; his internal nuclear energies escaping, exploding outward, to devastating effect.

Tying his black and silver hair back in a neat pony tail, Superman flew down from the roof of the barn. Those new shingles should hold well. Plain, sturdy overalls replaced his colorful red, blue and gold costume, once so familiar to the entire world. Effortlessly he hefted the two and a half ton John Deere tractor above his head and carried it into the barn. Yipping, a medium sized white dog of indeterminate breed cavorted about his feet, demanding to be petted. Smiling, he knelt to do that and the happy animal licked enthusiastically at his silver bearded cheek. An orange tabby with a curious lightning shaped stripe flashing down its side, hissed jealously, arching its back. A silver white stallion, snorted, whinnied, and pawed the earth with one hoof.

"Settle down you guys," the 'farmer' murmured. "What's got you so spooked? What's the matter -?"

~Kal-El ... Superman ... you are needed ... ~

The voice, a strong, deep, yet feminine contralto, resounded in the labyrinth of his mind. Startled, the ex-superhero turned tiller of the soil, glanced up. There were three of them. Two men and a woman. Floating serenely in the air high above his head they looked almost grim as they gazed down upon him. The woman, clad in a red and white tunic and pants and sporting Saturn shaped ear rings, pushed a strand of her long blond hair behind one ear and regarded him calmly.

~I'm Saturn Woman,~ she spoke once more in his mind. She pointed to the tall red haired man hovering at her side. ~This is my husband Lightning Man.~ At her other side a bearded dark haired man wearing a tight purplish costume with several prominent metal discs on the chest, frowned.

"Imra, you've confused him," the man said gently.

"HA!" barked the other, auburn haired man. "Confuse Superman? Not likely, Cos! Get real, Rokk!"

Taking to the air, the Kryptonian rose to join them in the holographic blue of the sky. "Who ARE you?" he demanded. "How did you get in here?" Silence reined for several tense moments. Anger boiled in Superman's blue eyes as he turned to the blond woman. "And don't call me Kal," he growled. "Only one person ever called me Kal ... and you're not him."

The dark haired man took the reins of leadership firmly in his able hands as naturally as breathing. "That's not important now, Superman. I'm Cosmic Man. Imra - Saturn Woman - has already introduced her husband Garth Ranzz, Lightning Man. Please, there isn't much time ... You have to help us."

All the life and animation seemed to drain from Superman's face like a rapidly emptying cup, leaving him pale and still beneath his golden tan. "No," he said. "I don't do that anymore. Just go and leave me in peace, whoever you are. I have chores to do."

"No!" cried Saturn Woman, speaking aloud in her agitation and urgency. "You have to help us! You have to! The whole future depends on it!"

"I ... don't understand."

As one, the four of them landed and Superman tried to turn his back on the three mysterious strangers but found that he could not. "What do you mean 'the whole future depends on it'?" he asked, his voice a quiet whisper. Even as the question left his lips he was certain that he did not want to know the answer.

"We're from the future," Cosmic Man began. "The thirtieth century to be exact. We've all admired you for years. Ever since we were teenagers, in fact. We even formed a 'Super-Hero Club' to emulate your selfless dedication to helping others. You were our inspiration. Over the years our 'Club' grew and expanded, becoming a sort of interstellar crime fighting/peace keeping organization for the United Planets. It's hard to believe but there are over thirty past and present members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, these days. We're all grown up, now. But unless you listen to us all that will change. Our future will never be."

Calmer now, Imra, Saturn Woman, attempted to explain. "With the destruction of Kansas, the status of meta-humans on earth is at a crisis point," she said. Superman paled.

"De-destruction of Kansas?"

"Yeah, that's right, buddy," replied an acerbic Lightning Man. "What's the matter? Don't you follow the news?"

"Garth!" his alarmed wife reproved him, sternly.

"No," came the succinct retort from the Man of Steel. "I don't follow the news."

"Bad times are coming, Superman," pleaded Cosmic Man. "And only you can stop them. You've got to go back out into the world, rally the remaining heroes, stop the madness."

Superman turned his gaze unconsciously in the direction of the botanical gardens and the grave there. "Why me?" he whispered, his face twisting in pain. "Why does it have to be me? Why does it always have to be me? They don't want me. They rejected me and all I stand for. Part of me is dead ... and they spat on the only thing I had left."

Saturn Woman brushed his cheek in a tender caress. "I know," she said softly. "But they didn't kill him, Superman ... You can stop punishing them for that, now. And you can stop punishing yourself, too." He swallowed hard and his eyes closed in painful reflex. Could he do it? It had been so long since he'd reached out to another person. So very, very long.

"I'm not Superman or Kal-El any more," he said sadly. "Just a man named Clark."

Saturn Woman squeezed his hand. "It's that very humanity they need, Clark."

"Speaking of which ... I have a gift for you," the telepath told him. "A gift from the future ... and from the past. Something to help you see better." Wordlessly, she pressed the plain wooden box into his chill hand and waited. Opening the oblong box, he carefully plucked the rounded wire framed spectacles resting there from their bed of plush red velvet. With a small, wry smile of pleasure, he slipped them on, fitting the earpieces behind his ears, and gazed out at the world once more.

"Tell me what I have to do," he requested in a strong voice, a determined voice.

The voice of a hero.



The deep, resonant tones of Orin II, King of all the Seven Seas, echoed loudly in the crowded spaces of the Justice League Watchtower Monitor room, and Lar Gand unconsciously sat up straighter in his comfortable chair at the implied rebuke in that commanding voice.

"You're supposed to be on Monitor duty!" huffed the monarch, also known as Aquaman, "not watching some blasted soap opera, boy! Pay attention!"

"I am paying attention!" the young Daxamite hero defended himself, with a frown and a hard edge to his voice. He might be the "new kid" in the JLA, but he knew his job, and he never shirked it. He crossed his arms over his broad chest and tried not to come across as too belligerent. But the high and mighty Aquaman frequently rubbed him the wrong way.

"You get used to him after a while," J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter, had assured him. "Arthur wasn't always like this. He used to be a very nice fellow."

"Yeah, right!" muttered Wally West, the Flash. "And I used to be a kid sidekick! Things change, J'onn."

Valor stared at his fellow JLA'er. "In fact, not only am I keeping track of all the monitor screens, Your Majesty," he dug at the proud Atlantean, "but I'm also keeping a telescopic eye peeled on several Earth-side hot spots. Lots of troop movements along the Quarac border. You might want to keep that in mind during your watch." His lascivious, provoking smile was quite deliberate.

"Of course, I always watch 'Secret Hearts', too," he chuckled. "I never miss Kara, after all!"

He could have sworn that the aquatic hero growled. Rising to his feet, Valor bowed low, making a sweeping gesture with his right hand in the direction of the now empty chair, as if it was a beckoning throne. Without a word, Aquaman seated himself and began his task of JLA Monitor duty, staring at his screens, pointedly ignoring his departing young colleague.

"Ah! The prodigal son returns!" quipped Wonder Woman with a smile as Valor took his place at the JLA conference table.

Blushing, the youthful Daxamite adventurer tried to return the smile without staring at the intimidating but astonishingly beautiful Amazon Princess. "Sorry, ma'am," he apologized. "I didn't mean to be late..."

"Cut the kid some slack, Wonder Woman," advised Steel. Under that metal faceplate, it was quite impossible to tell if the engineer and inventor were smiling or not, but his voice was chuckling. "Anybody who's got this kid's touch with machinery deserves some slack, Princess," opined John Henry Irons, the engineer. "Who do you think repaired your robot plane last week?"

Valor blushed at Wonder Woman's warm smile of gratitude, and more than one of his fellow JLA'ers grinned.

At Valor's side, Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern, nodded and spoke up in defense of his fellow crimefighter. "Yeah," said the new GL, "the Aqua Dude was probably late in relieving him on monitor duty."

Kyle was very glad not to be the newest, untried member of the League any longer. He, for one, had welcomed with open arms the addition of Valor to their ranks. Since he also knew the trials and tribulations of replacing a beloved, departed member of the group, Rayner had made a special point of befriending the young hero.

"Hey! That's what superspeed is for," cracked the Flash with a rapidly expanding grin and a wink at his friend across the table. Even the Batman smiled at that. In the dimness, a shadow stirred.

"Speaking of machinery," said the Batman, turning to face Valor, "I've looked over those plans of yours for the new model Batmobile, and they're pretty radical, son. I mean, a car powered by magnetic repulsion? Locked into the Earth's magnetic field, riding the magnetosphere? Is that even possible?"

"Little trick I picked up from a...a...friend of mine...a long time from now," replied Valor. His eidetic memory brought him a clear vision of Rokk Krinn, called Cosmic Boy by his comrades in the 30th century Legion of Super-Heroes. "Not only is it possible, Batman," he hastened to assure the Dark Knight, "but it's a lot cleaner, safer, and you'll have much better control of the vehicle."

Steel prepared to speak up in defense of his youthful protege-assistant, but someone else beat him to the punch.

"Batman," said Oracle, her voice filtered into unrecognisibility by the synthesizer in the JLA Conference Room, "trust me when I tell you that Valor knows what he's talking about."

Sitting at her computer console in her small apartment in Gotham City, Barbara Gordon, Oracle, formerly Batgirl, paralyzed from the waist down when the Joker's bullet shattered her spine, sat back in her floating hoverchair, smiling. At a single mental command from her, her psi-linked chair responded, molding itself to support her body, making her more comfortable in this new position.

'He certainly made my life a lot easier,' she thought, saluting the young hero with her coffee mug.

At the head of the table, J'onn J'onzz cleared his throat delicately. "My friends," he began solemnly. "It is my sad duty to remind us all what an unhappy day this is for heroes and ordinary people everywhere. Exactly one year ago today, we lost one of the best of us..."

Around the table faces fell, heads bowed themselves in sadness, and Wonder Woman's weren't the only eyes misted with unshed tears. Unbidden, Valor's fingers caressed the stylized raised "S" on the chest of his new uniform, tracing its outlines. He was still not yet used to wearing it. But he regarded it as a sacred trust in his own eyes, and in the eyes of his fellow JLA members. One that he intended to fulfill to the best of his ability.

"Superman was an inspiration to each of us," the Martian hero continued in a soft voice, "and we have each mourned him in our own way. But today, on this, the day of his greatest sacrifice, it is only fitting that we take special care to honor him. To remember him. And what he meant to us...as a fellow Justice Leaguer...and as a friend..."

Washing over him like a raging tide came Lar Gand's memories of his long time friend, Kal-El...Superman.

* * * * *

He hadn't believed the news when he'd first heard it on far away Staryl.

He'd only just arrived there the previous week, so he didn't really know Luma Lynai, that world's self-styled champion and superheroine. Many called her Superwoman, but she, herself, always rejected the name vigorously.

"There's only one, Superanybody," she said quietly. "Only one deserving of the name...and I'm not he."

Perhaps Lar alone noticed the sadness staining her striking blue eyes when she spoke the name. Nevertheless, it came as something of a shock when he found the beautiful blonde woman in tears, the early morning light of Staryl's orange sun bathing her tears in soft luminescence until they were almost red, like blood.


He rediscovered pain as he bit his lip at the sight of the sobs wracking her slender body. Under Staryl's orange light, he was no longer invulnerable. And his strength and speed were no match for hers, born to the caress of the bright light of her native sun. Valor had been of little help to her, indeed, in the short time of their acquaintance. But he had, of course, tried hard and done his very best.

But now...instinct told him this was something with which he could not help her, however much he might want to. He wanted to comfort her...take her in his arms...ease her pain...but how? Without being misunderstood? Feeling foolish and awkward, he merely stood there until she peered up at him through tear-blinded eyes. An unaccountable sense of dread engulfed him.

"He's dead..." she whispered between trembling lips, "dead...Oh, gods..."

Walking to her side, he stroked her hair gently. Surely he could offer that much without fear? He did not know whether to be pleased or appalled when she pulled him close, laying her head on his hip and weeping unashamedly, moistening the royal blue cloth of his uniform with her falling tears.

"D-Dead? Who's dead, Luma?" As swiftly as lightning strikes, he knew that he did not truly want to know the answer to that question. Too late now...

"Kal-El..." she wept, "Superman...Do-Doomsday..." Fresh grief convulsed her as he sat down heavily beside her on the stone bench. In truth, he had no choice. His legs, he found, would not support him.

"No..." he murmured, unwilling to believe it, "...no...he can't be-be...It's not possible..." In his arms, the alien heroine sobbed.

"But-but-how can he be dead? He's invulnerable!" Valor cried.

To his utter shame and humiliation, his own mortality came crashing down, unbidden, upon him. "So are you," a small traitorous voice lodged in the back of his mind told him. "So are you! If-if he can die...so can you..."

The woman who rejected the name of Superwoman dried her streaming eyes on the edge of her sleeve and glanced up at Valor, dry eyed now, but still perilously shaky. Her voice wasn't the only thing that trembled. Staring down at her shaking hands, she murmured, "They're going to bury him in a few days." She shivered with revulsion. Barbarians! she thought. To cover the body of a loved one in the filth and decay of the soil; to let it rot, food for worms and vermin...instead of decently permitting them to burn in the cleansing fires of eternity...

"Luma?" Valor whispered. "I-I have to go to Earth." At her small nod of understanding, he held her a bit more closely. "Would-would you like to come with me?" he asked. Offering up a small prayer that she would consent, he was stabbed by disappointment when she shook her blonde head. He did not want to be alone right now.

"I can't..." she mourned, the tears threatening once again. "I've been to Earth, you see. He-he took me there. He came to Staryl looking for me. The computers in his Fortress of Solitude told him about me and he wanted to meet me. He was so brave. And so very, very lonely. It was so easy to fall in love with him! We were both alone, you see. And-and-when he asked me to accompany him back to Earth, to make a life for ourselves together, I agreed and followed him."

She hesitated for a moment. This next was very painful for her, Valor realized. Astounded, he watched her smooth her pristine white and green costume, as if in memory of making herself more presentable, more attractive for her once lover. Her hands had ceased their trembling by this time. She seemed more calm, now, much to Valor's immense relief. Weeping women were his bane.

"But I never even made it to the surface of the planet..." she admitted.

"I never saw Earth. We'd barely made it into the Sol system when I began to feel faint and nauseous. And my powers left me. Superman rushed me back home to Staryl, and I was fine again. He theorized that the radiance of a yellow sun such as Earth's acts destructively on my body. Under the influence of a yellow sun, my cellular structure begins to break down almost immediately. I could never live on Earth. I was heartbroken when Superman left me to return to his duties on Earth. There's never been anyone else for me. I lived for those rare moments when he returned and loved me. Sometimes I think those were the only times I was ever truly alive. Truly happy."

He thought about the simplicity of her words, the grief spilling into her voice and out her eyes almost continually on the long, sometimes seemingly endless journey to Earth. Not even running into Lobo and trashing the Czarnian bounty hunter made him feel any better. At first he'd been very surprised to discover the self-proclaimed "Main Man" unhappy, even a bit depressed, at the news of Superman's death. It was only when he realized that Lobo was just angry that he hadn't been the one to kill the Man of Steel that things turned ugly and a fight ensued. Valor was a tad unhappy with himself about the whole fight, actually, if the truth be known. Even if he had emerged the victor. It was hardly the way Superman would have wanted to be remembered, he knew, and it shamed him that he'd allowed himself to sink to Lobo's level of childish braggadocio and one-upmanship.

The funeral itself was a blur. He could remember marching in the funeral cortege with a huge, seemingly inexhaustible crowd of other heroes. Almost dizzy with the sheer numbers of them, Valor swore. Daxam's Moons! Terra seemed to spit metahumans like electrons from the core of a uranium atom! Some of them he recognized from his previous meetings with Earth's many metahumans. Many he knew only by reputation.

Most of them he did not know at all. Loneliness buffeted him like a howling wind. Not even sticking close by the JLA, the Terran heroes most familiar to him, helped assuage his crushing feelings of isolation, even in this huge crowd.

That was where he'd first seen Kara.

She was alone, now, he realized with a start. The last...the last Kryptonian. The only one of her kind left in the Universe. He tried hard not to try and imagine what that must be like for her. For anyone.

Alone. As he was alone in so many, many ways. She wouldn't let herself cry. But he could easily see the need for it stirring restlessly in the depths of her sky-blue eyes. Surrounded on all sides as he was by grief and despair, not least of all his own, hers was the pain that touched him most deeply; with the sharpest, most cutting, edge.


He swallowed convulsively and cursed himself silently for the tremble marring his voice. Kara frowned at first in puzzled confusion, but then nodded in sudden recognition. 'Please Gods, don't let me blush,' he prayed. And some kind deity must have been listening, because he did not feel the heat touch his cheeks as he feared it would. Kara actually smiled at him to his vast and total amazement. And embarrassment. To his horror, he did blush, then, from the roots of his dark hair outward, like the setting of Earth's sun.

"You're Valor, aren't you?" she murmured. "I remember you...Cousin Kal said that you were very brave..."

And so it began. Trips to Earth's Moon; to Kal-El's Fortress of Solitude, where she soon took up residence. Days and nights spent together, immersed, lost, in the wonder of discovering one another. Through her, he experienced for the first time the beauties of Terra and her people. In return, he gifted her with her the Universe. Like children with a shiny new toy, they gamboled and played among the stars, pausing only to make love when it pleased them. Speeding from place to place, world to world, sometimes faster than light hurled itself through the ether of airless space, he spread the Galaxy out before her like a sumptuous banquet. Hungrily, she ate.

When the Justice League invited her to join, she declined. Linda Lee Danvers, she explained, had a life to build, a career to pursue. But, to his patented delight, she recommended him for membership in her stead, and he was heartily, enthusiastically, approved in short order.

* * * * *

J'onn J'onzz lifted his head and broke the spell, bringing them all back from the abyss of their memories of Superman. The soft voice, so seldom raised in ire or frustration, crept through the silence that no one else wanted to break. The others, one by one, all lifted their heads and turned in the Martian hero's direction. Valor took a moment to admire how easily, how naturally, J'onzz assumed the reins of command. It was not easy, the young Daxamite suspected. The Martian Manhunter, for all his long years and service to the people of Earth, remained a stranger here on this world.

As he was a stranger.

But Superman?

No. He was never a stranger. For all his Kryptonian genes and alien power, Superman was very human, Valor knew. A naive (some said) "big blue Boy Scout" from the heartland of this great nation. As American as the corn or the wheat that grew in vast fields stretching from horizon to horizon in this, his true birthplace. Superman was so very human, despite his alien heritage.

And as much a part of the Earth he'd protected so zealously, like a mountain range or a great tree rooted deep in the soil. But the mountain had fallen. The tree lay felled and uprooted.

"There will be a small ceremony, a memorial, in Metropolis," said J'onn. "In Centennial Park. No press coverage, I'm afraid. This will be just for us, his friends. At nightfall--around eight o'clock. Don't be late, my friends."

After that, the meeting quickly broke up. JLA'ers wandered off, one by one or in groups, to their rooms or to their homes and duties if they had them. Valor was struck at once with the uncomfortable quiet, the silence that surrounded him. Not at all like the silence of deep space that he so cherished; soothing and calming to the spirit. No, not like that at all. This silence, he realized with an unpleasant pang of grief, was isolating and painful; like the silence of a carefully tended tomb.

Superman's tomb.

He rose quickly from his chair at the meeting table, and stood to go. Nervously, he ran his fingers through his fine, dark hair and sighed softly beneath his gusting breath. Time to go. Time to get on with his so called life. He sighed again, plagued by the necessity.

Time for med student Lar Kelson to make one of his sporadic appearances. Kelson was due to check in with his Faculty Advisor soon. Past time he did so, actually, the young superhero admitted wryly to himself. Doctor Jenson disapproved of him, he knew. "Medicine, Mr. Kelson," the pompous professor had pontificated, "is not a career to be taken lightly. It requires purpose and dedication. Neither of which you seem to have!"

Not true, of course.

He was very dedicated to idea of medicine. On Daxam there was no higher goal, no more respected life work than that of a physician. But terrestrial medicine was so primitive! It was like swimming his way through oceans of turgid methane to study it. So much of it was species specific...and just plain wrong... When he thought of the changes he could make, the progress he could so easily provide...it was hard, so very hard to restrain himself.

"Patience, Lar, patience," he reminded himself in his sternest inner voice, curbing his instincts with a will. "All that will come, for them and for you, in time. Give it time."

A picture of Barbara Gordon, Oracle, sprang into his mind unbidden. Even with the hoverchair he'd designed for her, she was still so limited. He was determined to free her from the prison of her injured body, to see her run again, to watch her fly over the rooftops of her native Gotham once more. To be the heroine she was always meant to be. Sooner or later, he knew, he was going to get the hang of this leading a double life.

Daxam's Moons! Let it be sooner.

And so, in the meantime, he would endure Doctor Jenson's ignorance and his own biting impatience. This meeting with Jenson was important. An opportunity to begin making amends by arriving on time and showing the enthusiasm the good doctor seemed to expect of his students. The man's good will, much as he hated to admit it, was important. So, best not be late or ill prepared. Time, perhaps, to consider his speech of reconciliation?

That, or he could always go and putter about the JLA repair facilities in the company of John Henry. Irons was a fine engineer and technologist. Valor had learned quite a lot about weapons and weapons design from him. He was good company. He--

"Yo! Lar, ol' buddy!"

Startled in spite of himself, Valor plastered a quick smile on his face and turned to face Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern. The artist turned hero used his Power Ring to send his uniform into oblivion and then to clothe himself instantly in worn jeans and a Metallica tee shirt. Valor blinked. No matter how many times he saw the lost legacy of the Green Lantern Corps in action, he was never going to get used to it, he suspected.

Kyle grinned. "Wally and I are gonna go scarf down some chili or something before we hit the road. I know this great little greasy spoon in Del Monico, Texas! Burn your mouth right off, guy! So, you in, or what?"

Valor bit his lip. "I...shouldn't," he admitted, but it was plain that he wished to. In his short time on Earth he'd made few friends. He spared himself little time for socializing...

And yet thoughts of Superman had left him feeling--

Feeling what?

Alone, perhaps.

"I'm not really dressed for it," he hedged, still chewing on his lower lip.

Rayner chuckled and aimed his ring at his young comrade. With a thought, Valor found himself clad in skin tight jeans, a shiny white Stetson, Confederate belt buckle, and a loose muscle shirt.

"You are now!" Green Lantern declared, still grinning from ear to ear.

"Oh, yeah. That'll go over big!" snickered Wally West, vibrating into focus from a superspeed stop next to Rayner.

"You think?"

"Yeah. I think!"

"Hey! It is Texas, after all, dude!" returned Green Lantern.

Dumbfounded, Valor flushed. "Uh, guys? I don't really think this is-ah-quite me," he frowned.

Rayner scratched his chin in deep contemplation, regarding his victim from all angles. "Well," he smiled, "actually the idea is not to be you, but okay! How about this?"

Valor had to admit that the conservative, pleated charcoal gray pants, narrow bright red power tie, white silk shirt, and Gucci loafers were better. Wally, however, was appalled.

"Too GQ! Waaaay too GQ!" he cried in horror, waving his arms in distress like a railway crossing signal gone frenetic. "Those 'good ol' boys' will eat him for lunch, not the chili!"

"Hmmm. Point taken," conceded Kyle, with what grace he could muster. Valor crossed his arms over his chest, lifting one eyebrow in silent, inquisitorial rebuttal. Green Lantern rolled his eyes beseechingly Heavenward.

"...or not," he admitted.

Valor had to smile at that. "You know, guys," he suggested mildly, "I do have clothes at home in my apartment. A whole closet full of them, as a matter of fact. We could always do something radical like...oh, I don't know...stop by and let me change clothes?"

The two young heroes high-fived one another with glee. They had him! Lunch was a done deal! That settled, Kyle turned to Wally, shaking his head in disgust. "Pitiful," he declared. "Pitiful, I say. Man has no sense of style or drama at all. Change into your own clothes? Jeez! Where's the fun in that, I ask you?" He laid his head on Wally's shoulder and mock sobbed pathetically. "Where did we go wrong?" he wailed. "Where?"

The speedster patted Rayner's shoulder in sympathy. "It's hopeless, I'm telling you, hopeless. But we keep trying. We gotta keep trying."

Kyle wiped his eyes in supposed grief. "It's our curse, Wally. Our curse. Too cool for words, that's us!"

Valor laughed and struck a sultry pose, trusting his broad chest forward and flexing his biceps, humming softly.

Blinking back astonishment, Kyle turned to his red haired companion once more, affecting an improbable British accent vaguely reminiscent of the highbrow Henry Higgins. "I think he's got it!" he cried. "By George, I think he's got it!"

"Smokin'!" the Flash chortled. "Look out Texas, here we come!"

It was good to laugh with friends, Valor decided with a smile as the unlikely trio made their way arm in arm to the transport tubes and a bowel binding meal of chili chased with beer.

"Later for you, Doctor Know It All," Valor told the ghost of his frowning, disapproving Advisor. "Later for you!"


Superboy was rapidly becoming Superman.

He kept telling himself that. As often as possible, in fact.

He still didn't believe it.

Glancing over at his Metro University college roommate, Tommy Lee, Clark Kent ignored the siren song of the calculus textbook calling his name in a soft accusing voice. Tommy was enjoying himself. The frosh was smiling, his all too scrutable Oriental features fixed in a wide grin.

"Hey, Clark!" he called, his voice merry. "My folks are taking me out for pizza to celebrate Parent's Visiting Day. Coming all the way from Hong Kong, man! God, I love pizza! Wanna tag along?"

The small town boy from Smallville adjusted his glasses, hanging his head. "Um, no thanks, Tommy. I'm - I'm really not very hungry..."

"Aw, man, I'm sorry," the Asian boy said contritely. "I know Parents Visiting Day is rough on you, with your folks being so recently deceased and all. I didn't think." He smacked his forehead soundly. "If I had a brain I'd be dangerous! What a numbskull!"

Clark tried to smile wanly. "It's okay, Tommy; not you're fault. Even Ducky's parents are coming in from LA. You guys go and have a good time. I need to study for this calc exam tomorrow, anyway, or it's likely to kick my tush."

"Hey man, c'mon. You know you're welcome," Tommy entreated.

Clark bit his lip. "No, really, Tommy, I'll be fine."

Tommy sighed, defeated. "Okay, man, but if you should change your mind..."

"Yeah," Clark nodded. "I know where to find you. Spagotini's Pizza on Flatbush, right?"

Tommy made a clenched power fist. "Right on, brother! Always!"

Clark's eyes wandered back to the calculus text, but his heart wasn't really in his studies. Despite what he'd told Tommy, math was no real problem, in any case. He'd ace the exam with no trouble, he was sure. No, it wasn't calculus that was the problem at all. He snapped his pencil in two in disgust.

'I'm almost twenty years old,' he thought in something awfully akin to despair. 'Ma and Pa have been dead for almost three years now. I'm a sophomore in college. Why can't I get past this? I have to grieve and move on, don't I? That's what everyone says, anyway. Why can't I do that? Why? I know what I want to do with my life. I want to help people. So why can't I even help myself?'

He lowered his head into his arms atop the thick calculus textbook. 'God, I miss them,' he mourned. 'They were so much more than just parents. They were my conscience. My rock. I'm so lost without them. I haven't even anyone I can talk to, now; no one to confide in about the special problems that come with all these gifts of mine. Lord, I need to talk to someone...'

~You can talk to me~

The voice in his head was cool and calm, and very hauntingly familiar.

~Imra?~ He couldn't quite keep all the incredulity from his mental "voice".

Good Lord, how long had it been now? Three - four years since he'd last involved himself with Legion of Super-Heroes business? And how had THAT happened, he wondered sadly. 'They were some of the best friends I ever had. What happened to make me neglect them like this?'

Life happened, he realized. As he grew older, Superboy gained more and more responsibility here in his own era. It left little time to spare for jaunts to the Thirtieth Century.

~Yes, it's me, Clark. Open the door, please.~

He hugged the blonde telepath fiercely when she stepped into the small room. "God, I'm glad to see you! How is everyone?" He frowned, struck at last by the obvious. "And what are you doing here? Is there trouble?"

Her nod was slow, reluctant, as if the muscles of her body were refusing to cooperate. She looked very unhappy. "Yes, there's great trouble, I'm afraid. I come here to bring you back with me." Her blue eyes clouded with pain, and the shadows of something dark and terrible flickered through her gaze. "We desperately need your help, Clark. You're the only one who can stop him."

Resignation settled over him like a shroud.

'Aren't I always?' he thought acerbically. 'Aren't I always the only one?' But, of course, he didn't say it. Not with his lips, anyway. It was only later, when the horror was over and done with that it occurred to him to wonder if she "heard" him, anyway.

He never knew.

"Stop who?" he questioned.

Imra Ardeen, Saturn Girl, took a deep cleansing breath to sustain her, to protect her from her next words. "Lar," she said.

He sat heavily back down into his desk chair, catching himself with a quick superspeed hand on the nearby desk, as if felled by Kryptonite.

But, of course, this hurt much worse.

"La - Lar? Oh, God! What's happened to Lar? WHAT?!" The shouted demand rattled the glass of the third story dorm room windows, and then shattered them utterly, with a great, almost musical bursting. Imra covered her ears against the unintentional sonic assault.

"I haven't got time to explain right now, Clark!" she cried. "Please, just come with me. We haven't got much time."

He crossed his arms over his chest in defiance. "We have all the time in the Universe, and you know it. That's how time travel works, Imra. You know that, too. You know that we can arrive only seconds after you left, if that's what you want. And you'd better know that I'm not going anywhere with you or anyone else until you tell me what's happened to Lar."

The diamond hardness of his blue eyes softened. "Please, Imra, please. I - I have to know. I have to."

Saturn Girl took his unsteady hand. "All right, Clark. But there's something back home that I can show you that will explain much better than words ever could. Will you at least come with me and see it?"

She squeezed his hand, waiting for his answer.

He didn't bother to say it aloud. That wasn't necessary. He simply followed her to the hidden Legion Time Bubble and stepped inside. Next stop: the Thirtieth Century and Legion HQ.

Watching her work the complex controls of the Time Bubble, he noticed for the first time that she was older than he remembered. Much older.

'God, I wonder how much time has passed for them?' he thought, oddly disturbed. 'What have I gotten myself into?'

He kept such thoughts to himself. Well, he *hoped* so, anyway. They passed the trip in almost complete silence. He sat, his back against a rounded wall, and watched the rainbow-colored brilliance of the TimeStream flow by all around him. Usually, it was a sight that he never tired of.

But now he was preoccupied with other things.

The trip seemed to take forever. Time crawled, it crept, it lollygagged. All a trick of perception, naturally. In reality, the trip, quite literally, took no time whatsoever. A thousand years after they began, and less than a nanosecond at one and the same time, they arrived at their goal.

Thirtieth Century science marches on.

Legion HQ was a space station, these days. That surprised him quite a bit. But it was only the first of many such surprises. He was allowed only a moment to greet the others before Imra took him firmly in hand and led him away, deep into the bowels of the orbiting HQ. With a pounding, sinking heart, he knew their final destination long before they actually passed through the imposing, arching portals of the sepulchral nave.

The Memorial Room.

The Hall of the Dead.

He forced his feet forward. Suddenly, his limbs seemed to be made of neutronium. Simply putting one foot in front of the other required a conscious effort of considerable will. Speechless with terror, he closed his eyes when they entered the high arched doorway leading into the somber room. His mouth was suddenly as dry as a desert bone. It hurt to swallow.

'Coward!' he accused himself.

And still he could not force his eyes open. He felt himself being led gently forward, and did not protest. "Open your eyes now, Clark," Imra said in as gentle a voice as she could muster. "You have to see this. Then you may understand why we need you. A lot has happened since you were last here."

He obeyed her because he had no choice.

The gleaming golden plaque at the base of the statue said simply, "Shadow Lass. Died saving the Science Asteroid." That was all. No elaboration, no "In Gratitude" or "In Memorium"...no nothing. Just those plain words and no others to commemorate a young life lost in the defense of all she knew and held dear.

For an instant he lost himself in memories of her laughter, the strength of that staunch spirit. He remembered the joy in Lar Gand's eyes every time he looked at her.

Superboy gulped around the rising knot in his throat that threatened to strangle him. His nose brought him the scent of fresh cut flowers and he knelt to touch them.

"Aphrodite's Tears, from Aechia. Her favorite flowers. He leaves them every day. Here and on Shanghalla. We still haven't discovered how he gets in and out without our notice. We've been trying to catch him for over a year now."

He looked up, his eyes brimming with tears and confusion. "Ca...catch him?" he stammered. "Why would you be trying to stop him from putting flowers on the grave of the woman he loved?" The words came out quite harsher than he'd intended, much to his dismay.

Saturn Girl proffered her hand to help him rise. "We'd better go back and meet with the others. It's a long story, Clark...and not a very pleasant one."

Again he had little choice, so he obeyed.

'Oh, that's me, all right. Just an obedient little Boy Scout,' he thought in bitter recrimination.

And wondered again if Imra "heard" him.

But, this time he didn't care.

Superboy slumped in his chair around the great viridium plastisteel table in the Legion Meeting Room. It shocked him to see his "S" symbol emblazoned on the back of one of the comfortable things. Apparently, his friends in the Thirtieth Century hadn't forgotten him entirely. At the moment, that wasn't a very comforting thought.

Rokk Krinn, Cosmic Boy, activated the holoprojectors built into the huge edifice of the Conference Table. The image wavered for an instant, and then solidified.

The ship was drifting aimlessly; dark and dead. It was, in fact, in a great many very small pieces, barely recognizable as a star going vessel.

Something very, very powerful had torn it asunder.

Something very, very, powerful...

...and very, very angry...

"Khundia Prime," intoned the magnetically powered Legion Leader. "Two weeks ago. The Dreadnought Class Khundian Battle Wagon 'Spirit of Vengeance'. Lost with all hands aboard. Twenty-five hundred men and women." Clark winced, biting his lip.

"And six children," finished the Braalian man in the magenta costume.

The Kryptonian Legionnaire sat up straight now, his hands clenched into fists at his side. "What were *children* doing on a warship? God Almighty!" he spat.

Rokk shrugged. "Ask the Khunds," he advised, touching the thermally sensitive controls of the hidden holoprojectors once more.

More solid light magic manifested itself at his command.

A smaller ship, this time, but just as lifeless, also in pieces. A gaudily dressed uniformed body floated lazily past, the look of surprise on it's heavy Khundian features captured exactly and preserved by the uncaring vacuum of space.

"Warlord Tarn Agar's personal yacht, one month ago. Twenty-two crewmen lost, including the Warlord, his wife and his eldest son, Vema."


"Obol IX. Two days after the death of the Warlord and his family. Merchant Class Trade ship, 'Barter World' belonging to the Dyzon Clan, Champions of the Challenge Courts. One thousand, six hundred, eighteen dead."


"Himon's World. Less than twelve hours later. Stinger Class Corvette 'Fist of Khundia'. Two hundred fifty-nine dead."


"The War Academy, Hallock II. Training vessel B19. Fifteen students and three instructors dead. Most of them under the legal Khundian age of majority."

Superboy paled, and Rokk Krinn took grim notice of it. "There's more if you really want to see it. LOTS more."

"No," Clark whispered. "That's enough. I've seen enough." He covered his eyes, but the images were burned into the backs of his eyelids, it seemed. It was going to be a long time before he could escape them. If ever. Rokk Krinn shut down the holoprojector with a touch. The terrible image there froze, blurred, then winked out. Clark found that he could breathe again. Rokk cleared his throat, and Clark's eyes snapped wide open so quickly it left him dizzy.

"Tasmia was killed defending the Science Asteroid from a Khund Attack Force. Lar...Lar never quite recovered or forgave himself, I don't think. He withdrew; left the Legion...to explore, he said. See the Galaxy. At first, we thought he just needed some time alone."

Superboy gritted his teeth. "What were you thinking?" he demanded, flushed with anger, now. "Lar hates being alone! He spent a thousand years alone, thanks to me! Why didn't you call me! You should have called me, damnit!"

"We have called you," said Saturn Girl, softly.

The Teen of Steel backed away, upsetting his chair and shaking his head, horror marring his handsome face. He backed away until he was left with nowhere else to go, until his back was literally against the wall. "Nononononononononono..." He threw up his hands, shielding his face, as if to ward off some approaching evil. Turning away at superspeed, he lay his reddened cheek next to the cold metal of the wall for a brief instant, and then punched his hand through the thick metal half a dozen times. The room shook with the force of his blows.

Spent, he fell to his knees, hiding his face from his fellow Legionnaires.

It was Duo Damsel who first approached him. The brown haired Carggite reached out to touch him, to offer comfort. But when she spied the look of hurt in Chuck Taine's eye, she stopped. Her hand fell to her side. "Please, Kal," she entreated in desperation.

Furious, the Last Son of Krypton shot to his feet. "Don't call me that!" he roared. "There's only one person who calls me that, and it isn't you!"

In tears, the once Triplicate Girl fled into the waiting arms of Bouncing Boy, her husband.

"Sprock you, Kal-El!" snarled the portly Legionnaire, baring his teeth.

The Youth of Tomorrow clutched his temples with both hands and pounded.

It did not, of course, hurt him.

"Clark!" he cried. "My name is Clark! Clark Kent!"

"Yeah? Well, sprock him, too," growled Taine. His face hardened. "Lu didn't deserve that, you giant piece of nass!"

Falling back on his buttocks and clutching his knees, Superboy lowered his head. "I know," he whispered. "I know...Luornu, I'm so sorry...so sorry...I didn't mean it, Lu! I didn't mean it!" He held out his shaking hand.

Wiping away the remains of her tears with a firm, steady hand, Luornu Durgo-Taine knelt beside her first crush, taking his hand in hers. 'We were both so young,' she thought. 'So young...we had the Galaxy by the tail...heroing was just so much fun in those days. I wonder when that changed?' The soon to be Superman pressed her small hand with his larger one, and Duo Damsel, returning to the present, kissed his cheek. 'For all of us.' "I know you didn't mean it, Ka...Clark."

"You can call me Kal," he insisted. "I'd like that."

Smiling, she nodded. "Kal. I overreacted, okay? So did Chuck. This whole thing's made us all a little crazy." Her short, bobbed brown hair bounced as she shook her head. "It's all just so awful. Shady dying...Mon leaving...and now, this." She helped him to unsteady feet and embraced him. He seemed to relax and collect himself a bit in her arms. "I swear by the Triple Goddess, Kal, we only want you to talk to him. Just to talk. This can't go on. It can't. He's got to stop, you know that. He might listen to you. You're our last hope."

He felt Chuck Taine's hand on his shoulder. "She's right, Buddy. It's up to you, now. He won't listen to the rest of us. We've tried. Mon was always...intense...but this...My God! Close to twenty-thousand Khunds are already dead. You want to know the truth, I don't give a sizzling comet about the Khunds, one way or the other. But Mon's my friend. I don't like to think what this might be doing to him; what he must be going through."

Superboy paled. "I need to think," he pleaded, running his fingers through his disheveled hair. "Is there someplace I can go? Someplace quiet? Where I can be alone?"

Saturn Girl took him in hand. "I know the perfect spot," she told him. "I go there all the time. And the view is spectacular, to say the least."

It was, indeed.

The alien youth who'd devoted himself to the protection of his adopted planet gaped in wonder at the sight of the lush blue-green world spinning below him. Mesmerized, he reached out and touched the ironglass of the huge panoramic display window framing the Earth crowned by a twinkling corona of stars. It was as if he really tried he could cup that fragile beauty in the palm of his hand and never release it, shelter it always.

With an affectionate squeeze of his shoulder, the telepath left him to his thoughts.

* * *

He was serene enough when he emerged from the Observation Deck six hours later. His feet carried him swiftly without complaint. His head was high. Rejoining his friends in the Conference Room, he asked only two questions. "How bad is it?" he queried.

Cosmic Boy looked grim. "Bad enough," he informed the Kryptonian. "The Khunds are screaming bloody murder. Threatening war against the U.P. They've been looking for an excuse for a long time now. This is as good a one as any. Better than most."

Superboy laced his fingers together behind his back and paced. He tried unsuccessfully to bite his invulnerable fingernails, scowling in frustration. After a moment he lowered his hand, curling his fingers into his palms. His face was still as a deep mountain lake when he faced them again. "Where is he?"

The holoprojectors sprang to life once more.

"We think he may be here, but we're not sure," said Cosmic Boy. "These vids were captured by UPGovCICIntell spy satellite about six months ago. Asteroid XL76K, Praxtellis system."

It was just a huge chunk of rock, about the size of Ceres in the Sol system, if Clark was any judge. And yet it was very obviously occupied. But equally plainly, not by anything even remotely human. Scanners detected no atmosphere, natural or man made. No heat or power source. No evidence of natural water or vegetation. In short, it was dead. There was nothing of any interest there save for a large sprawling structure carved from the natural nickel iron rock of the asteroid itself. With a sickening lurch, Clark recognized the towering spires and sprawling porticos of the architecture.

Daxamite. Late Gandian Hegemony Period.

Lar always loved stories about those times, Superboy remembered. The many fanciful tales of Gand, The War Maker...the krylots to be slain...the beautiful warrior princesses waiting to be wooed and won...the castles...

And now he'd built himself one, it appeared.

Violet spoke for the first time, now. Shy, retiring Vi. Her voice dripped bitterness like salt and brine from a pickling jar. "Praxis is almost dead center of Khundian allied space. So, no UP diplomatic help allowed, thank you very much. Actually, the Khunds don't want help. They'd welcome this war. Eagerly. Chameleon Boy went alone on an Espionage Squad mission to try and contact Mon. In disguise, of course. He never came back."

Clark's throat threatened to close around the breath that couldn't quite escape him. He couldn't even swallow.

~Oh, God...Cham...Cham...~

"We...we don't know that Lar-" Imra was quick to point out. "I mean, it might have been the Khunds..."

It was painfully plain that all of them really wanted desperately to believe that.

"How's RJ?" Superboy managed.

Rokk studied his feet in apparent fascination. It was left to Imra to answer. Composing herself, she replied, "RJ is...retreating. We still get our monthly stipend and all the funding we need...but he doesn't talk to us very much anymore."

The young man with the vast array of superpowers at his beck and call peered around, struck by a sudden thought. "Where are Jo and Tinya?" he pressed. "I haven't seen either of them. Maybe they can help-"

"No," the Teen of Steel was interrupted by Chuck Taine. "Jo and Tinya...left..."

"Left? W...why?"

Rokk seemed to find his voice again for the first time in many moments. "Jo resigned in protest, and Tinya went with him. After Cham disappeared, we tried to send Jo to Lar with a message. He...refused. We don't know where they are." The Braalian Leader shrugged. "For all we know, they could be on Asteroid XL76K with Mon."

"If that's where Mon is," grimaced Vi. "We don't even know that for certain. This whole mess is totally sprocked up. Totally."

Superboy had to agree with that. 'Is this the way the rest of my life is going to go?' he wondered. 'Is this what it means to be grown up?'

"I don't know if I can do this," he whispered, burying his face in his hands.

Saturn Girl slowly pried his fingers away from the chill of his pale flesh, and he let her. She held his hand in hers and sought his eyes. "It's just a message, Clark. That's all. Just a message. A plea to stop this madness and surrender himself. Surrender himself to us."

The Last Kryptonian set his teeth. "And if he doesn't?" he demanded to know.

No one bothered to answer him. He turned away. "That's what I thought," he said.

He retreated once more to the Observation Deck, and this time it was almost a full day before it became obvious that he had no intention of answering them any time soon. So they sent Lu to force the issue. She never uttered a single word. Not one. She simply stood there, a concrete reminder of all he held dear; all his duties and responsibilities. Duo Damsel never wavered, and she never pressed. She didn't have to. Kal-El, The Last Son of Krypton's conscience did that for her.

As she always knew it would.

He didn't bother to say good-bye and, mercifully, there was no one to see him off. He stared at the futuristic skyline of Metropolis with his telescopic vision for many long minutes before he leapt and shot himself into the void at close to the speed of light.

'Oh, Jesus wept, Lar,' he mourned. 'What have you done? What in the name of God have you done?'

In the blink of an eyelash, it seemed, he found himself approaching Khundian space. He poured on the speed, making himself invisible, moving too fast to be traced even by Thirtieth Century technology. He didn't slow appreciably until he reached his goal. The Praxtellis system, and Asteroid XL76K. He scanned near space with his telescopic vision. Finding nothing, he was satisfied that he had reached his target undetected. At least, by the Khunds...

Undetected by the friend waiting for him on the asteroid's bleak surface was another matter entirely though, wasn't it? He didn't let himself think about that too long or too hard. He couldn't. The future Man of Steel, now merely the Boy of Steel (or trapped in some nebulous place between the two, actually) nerved himself and began his descent.

He searched fruitlessly for almost an hour before he found someone.

Cowering in a corner of one of the many rooms here, the spacesuited Khundish boy couldn't have been more than ten cycles old, if that. He scrambled away in fear until he had no place left to go, tucking his head into his arms, his eyes tightly closed, resigned to his fate.

"Have...have you come to kill me?" he stammered. With that, he looked up, baring his teeth. "Then, get it over with, blast you! Just do it! Don't...don't torture me like this..."

If he hadn't been a Khund, member of a warrior race, he'd have been in tears. Crouching by his side, the young Kryptonian lifted the other's chin with care and spoke softly, using superventriloquism to directly stimulate the boy's auditory nerves in the airlessness of this grim place.

"No, I haven't come to kill you. It's all right, now. Everything's going to be all right." From the look in the child's dark eyes, he didn't believe Superboy. He held his silence, clutching it as a human child might clutch a favorite toy.

The Legionnaire laid a calming hand on his shoulder. "Who are you?" he gently asked.

"Vema," the boy responded. "Vema Agar. He took me. Pulled me from the wreckage after he killed my parents. Brought me here. He should have let me die, Sheol take him! He should have let me die!"

Hoping against hope, Superboy forced himself to ask, "Who brought you here, Vema? Who?"

Vema spat an angry answer, and something within the Teen of Steel died. Some small part of his innocence.

"HIM! The demon. We call him Hator-Mapik - The Demon of Vengeance. I thought - I never thought Hator was real. Just a spirit to frighten disobedient children is all I thought he was. But he's real! Real! And he's killing everybody. Everybody!"

The boy's labored breathing quieted; he gazed into the stranger's clear blue eyes. "Have...have you come to rescue me?" he wanted to know in a small voice, little daring to hope. "To take me home?"

Superboy kept his voice kind. "Yes, Vema," he promised, "I'll take you home."

The boy's hands shook until he hid them in the pits of his long arms. His eyes radiated gratitude. "Th...thank you," he managed between teeth clenched tight to keep them from chattering.

"Vema," Superboy injected a note of urgency into his voice, "do you know where he is? Do you know where Mon...Hator Mapik is?"

The Khundish youth shook his head. "I think he's gone. He doesn't usually stay around for long. He brings me food and water, oxygen for the suit, but he never stays long." Superboy tried very hard not to think about what that might mean. More dead people. Khunds, true enough; but people for all of that. He closed his eyes in pain.

Only to snap them open moments later at Vema's tentative, "Maybe...maybe he's in The Garden. At least, that's what I call it. He spends a lot of time there when he's here."

"The Garden? Can you show me where that is, Vema?"

The boy rocketed to his coltish legs and gestured for the Legionnaire to follow. The path they took was circuitous, to say the least. Even with his super senses, Kal-El might have gotten lost. This place was huge. He had no idea how long the two of them, the young hero and the even younger Khund, wandered down featureless corridor after like corridor. It seemed to stretch endlessly forward into forever.

Eventually they emerged into wide open space crowned with twinkling stars overhead like a diadem. Glancing about, Superboy gasped and froze in his tracks, stunned. 'Dear God, Lar...Dear God...'

The Garden was filled with statues. Over a thousand of them. One thousand, three hundred, seventeen of them to be exact, by Superboy's quick superspeed count.

A thousand copies of the same face and form stared back at him, carved from every conceivable substance imaginable. Marble...diamond...ruby...emerald...the clearest crystal quartz...jade...scarlet Martian sandstone...blazing Tharrian firestone...superconductive Plutonian ice IX...molten Gallopian liqui-rock, held in suspension with a magnetic field...and...and...

Good Lord! Could that actually be-

His microscopic vision quickly confirmed it.

Jewel Kryptonite, from the long vanished world of his birth.

From a thousand different vantage points, Tasmia Mallor, Shadow Lass, gazed out upon the Universe, her soft smile and comforting hands a benediction.

Superboy swallowed the bile rising swiftly in the back of his throat.

"She always liked the coolness of shadows," spoke a voice at his back, directly into his ear. Super-ventriloquism again. "I think she'd have liked this place." Behind him, the Khundish boy, Vema, fled on silent, terror stricken feet, and Clark watched him go.

Superboy whirled. "Lar!" he cried, wanting desperately to smile with relief.

And then he got his first clear sight of Lar Gand.

The patch over his right eye was soft, pliable leather; quite small and unassuming, actually, but in Superboy's mind, it leapt out at him like a rampaging krylot and grabbed him by the throat and heart.

"Lar!" he blurted. "What...what happened?"

Instinctively, the older youth's hand rose to touch the dark leather covering his eye. But he stopped himself in mid-reach, his questing hand falling still to his side.

"What happened, Kal?" he smiled. "I happened. What does your Holy Book, that Bible of yours, say? 'If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out'? After I watched Tasmia die, I didn't want to see anything anymore...I meant to take the other one, too, but I changed my mind at the last moment. I decided, I might need at least one eye for what I had in mind..."

Nausea shook him like a relentless terrier, snapping the neck of a smaller, helpless creature in its crushing jaws. Spinning away, Superboy retched spewing bile upon the hard stony surface of Asteroid XL75K. Before he could rise from his knees, a hand laid itself upon his shoulder.

"Don't be sad, Kal," said Lar Gand, Mon-El, wiping the younger boy's lips with the royal blue of his flowing cape. "I don't miss it. It isn't important."

"Hator-Mapik," Kal whispered as if to himself, and shuddered. The former Mon-El reached and pulled the younger boy to his feet with a surprisingly gentle hand.

"That's what they call me these days," he agreed. Tenderly, he brushed aside the bouncing curl on the youthful Kryptonian's forehead, but it stubbornly sprang back into place. "The Demon of Vengeance. It's what I am, now. All that I have left, little brother."

Superboy's stomach lurched and, for a moment, he feared that he might be ill again. He swallowed hard, and his lower lip trembled.

The once hero and Legionnaire smiled, but it never reached nor warmed his glacial blue eyes. Nothing seemed to do that, anymore. "Did you know that the Khunds think I'm immortal?" Mon-El murmured. "They say that Hator-Mapik can't die. I've been trying to do that; die, I mean. But I think they're right. I can't. The Khunds have a new legend, now. Hator can only be killed, they claim, when the losiranokian that live on the slopes of Mount Vhasti find their way to his palace."

Lar shook his rueful head, gesturing around him. "Well, I've built the Palace, but so far, no losiranokian. Not surprising, I guess. Losiranokian are one of the most environmentally delicate insect species in the known Galaxy. And one of the most beautiful. Rather like your Terran butterflies. The Khunds have no use for them. Ironic, isn't it? Such brief, fragile beauty placed at the disposal of brutes unable to appreciate it in the least. If it weren't so very tragic...so very, very Khundish...I might laugh. Losiranokian are almost extinct, did you know that? Yes, they are. And they only live on the slopes of that one mountain. Mount Vhasti. Nowhere else. They die if you move them."

Superboy threw out his arms, embracing Mon-El, who stood stiff and unyielding in the circle of his arms. "Mon, please," he pleaded, his voice a shadow, cracking under the strain, "please...this can't go on. You've got to stop. Come...come home with me. We'll think of something, I promise. I swear to God, we will."

With exacting care, as if he were loathe to harm the younger boy, Lar Gand disentwined the comforting arms from around his corded neck. "I can't stop. It's too late for that, Kal. You must know that." His sapphire gaze drifted to a small grave hewn from the asteroid's nickel-iron rock. "Much too late," he said softly.

Superboy's eyes followed the same path, spying the unremarkable cairn clearly marked with the protean, amorphous symbol for Durla. He paled.

"I didn't mean to do it, Kal. I didn't. You have to believe me. Moons of Daxam, no! I'd never have...I wouldn't-"

His hands shot to his temples, massaging them as if to drive forth a persistent pain or hurt. "He wouldn't leave me alone!" the voice hissed. He glanced at Superboy, crying out for understanding, desperate for it. That seemed very important to him. "Why wouldn't he just leave me alone? WHY? Just go away, and leave me in peace? Why did he make me -- Gods, Kal...make me...make me..." He couldn't say it. His voice choked off, deserting him. Like a majestic toppling oak, felled by time and grief, he crashed to his knees.

Superboy ran his fingers lightly through the night dark hair. "Lar...Lar..." he sighed. "It wasn't in Reep's nature to give up on you so easily like that." He closed his eyes. "Reep's...or mine..."

The Daxamite towered to his feet. After a moment, he lay a calm hand on the younger youth's smooth cheek. It did not tremble in the slightest, the Legionnaire noted. "And so now they've sent you," Mon-El whispered. He smiled. "Must have been Imra's idea, wasn't it? Imra knows. Saturn Girl knows everything." He lowered his hand. "The one person left in the whole of the Universe that I'd rather die than hurt." He took a deep breath, preparing himself.

"Then, there's really only one thing left to do, isn't there?" he said.

In a flash of superspeed, Superboy found himself flying across The Garden's tranquil openness. And he discovered that it really was true.

In space, no one can hear you scream.

With a groan, Superboy pulled himself to tottering feet. "Go home, Kal," said Lar Gand, Mon-El, in a steady, monotonous tone. "Go home."

"I can't do that, Lar," he returned, sadly. "Any more than Cham could. Any more than you can quit. You know that." He reached out a hand, as if that simple gesture could span the chasm now separating them. The muscles of his face writhed in torment. "Don't do this, Lar!" he found himself begging, and didn't care. "Please, God, don't do this...just don't do this..."

The Daxamite's smile was predatory, this time. Like a swooping hawk or a circling shark. "What's the matter, little brother?" he taunted, almost turning the endearment into an epithet. "Afraid you'll lose?"

'No, I'm more afraid that I might win...' the punishing thought coursed through him, unbidden, unsummoned.

"Stop it, Lar! Stop it!" The shout might have shattered mountains, if there'd been an atmosphere to carry it.

The other's smile broadened itself. "Come and make me," he challenged.

And, just that simply, the true horror began.

Superboy set his jaw with determination. He planted his booted feet deep within the rock of the barren asteroid, frowning his unhappiness. This wasn't supposed to happen. 'We were only going to talk. Why, Mon, why? WHY? What in Rao's name are you doing?'

Like a knife through his not quite invulnerable heart, the hero from the Twentieth Century suspected he knew why.

Superboy's body went cold, and he shivered as he never had with the absolute zero of space. And then he forced himself to relax. After all, it couldn't come about unless he cooperated, now could it? He clutched that thought to him like a warm blanket on a chill winter night, protection against the cold. All he need do was not follow Mon-El's plan, the script the Daxamite had in mind to play itself out to an inevitable end. He was safe.

Everything was going to be fine. He'd make it that way. He was Superboy, wasn't he?

He could do anything.

The nascent Superman actually smiled. Later, the thought of that smile would burn him like acid, indelibly etching his super memory forever. No matter how hard he struggled, he was never going to lose sight of that smile.

"It won't work, Lar," he told the older youth. "You can't make me angry enough to fight you." The smile gracing his full lips seemed to flicker and change shape subtly. The irony in it shone like a star gone supernova. "I have a lot of experience with...restraint..."

Reaching down, the inspiration for the Legion of Super-Heroes pressed a small hidden button on his belt buckle, and braced himself. Just as Brainiac Five had promised, a ruby aura erupted into life around his body, and he caught himself in Tasmia Mallor's outstretched hand as his superpowers deserted him.

Nor was he the only one.

From the look on the Daxamite Legionnaire's face, it was plain that he, too, was caught in the glow of the red solar radiation shining from Superboy's no longer invulnerable body. Invisible transuits glowed into sudden life around them to protect them from the vacuum of space. Dormant telepathic earplugs sang in their ears.

"You can feel it, too, can't you, Lar?" the Youth of Steel said. "We're just us now. Just Clark Kent and Lar Gand; not Mon-El and Superboy. We're powerless, the both of us. Be reasonable, for God's sake! Let's end this travesty."

Lar Gand flashed his teeth. "Yes, let's!" he smiled. "I don't need superpowers to beat you, Clark." He stepped forward. "I was always strong, little brother. Even before I left Daxam. Just a brawny kid too big for his age, with his head always stuck in a stellar warpdrive or a genetics text...that's me."

Superboy made a mistake, then. Later, he would acknowledge it. He was so intent on listening to Lar's words that he let the heavy worlder get close enough to strike out at him with one long leg. The blow caught him just under the chin, and sent him flying once again. Unprepared, he landed with an "oomph!" of explosive, escaping breath as pain shot through his back, paralyzing him for an instant.

The youth he had christened Mon-El in the mistaken belief that they were brothers was on him before he could stir.

"That's the trouble with always having had these wonderful powers of ours, Kal," Mon-El emphasized his point with his punishing fists. "You never really learned how to fight, did you? You just do it, and Sheol take the hindmost. Since you've never really faced your physical equal, it wasn't necessary." The Krytonian's broken nose began to bleed profusely, a warm tide of bright scarlet flowing down his face onto the collar of his blue uniform, marring the perfection there.

"It is now, Kal. It's necessary now. I hope you're a quick study." He stunned the younger youth with a blow to the temple. "Either way, Kal, it's going to be a painful lesson. I wish I could say this will hurt me more than it does you..."

The no loner super boy heaved with all his might, throwing the heavier boy off him. Wiping his bloody lips, he scrambled to his feet. His right eye was swollen shut, and blood trickled its viscous way down from his lacerated cheek. He was not foolish enough to shake his head to clear it. He just had time to see that his knuckles were skinned and stinging ('How?' he wondered absently. 'When did I strike back?' He couldn't remember.) before he was tackled to the ground. Borne down by Lar's superior weight, Superboy twisted his body and landed on top. Only to have Lar reach out with an iron grip and grab his throat.

"Come on, Kal!" the Daxamite champion spat. "You can do better than this! Fight me, damn you! Fight me!" Superboy kneed him in the groin and watched the shock of it spread from out of his sapphire blue eyes.

"Yes!" Mon-El gasped through the pain, rolling off the other. "That's more like it! Now, we're getting somewhere!"

Coughing and choking, Superboy lurched to his knees. He ached. He stuffed his fist into his mouth to keep from screaming. He clawed at his bruised throat. Gasping for air, he sank back to his knees once more. Tears streamed out of his eyes from the violent coughs escaping him. His lungs burned as if he'd inhaled the photosphere of a star.

"K-Kal?" The voice was near panic, laced with incipient hysteria. "Kal, are you all right?" Urgency echoed there like a tolling bell. Strong arms enfolded him, pounding lightly on his back. The pain of it startled him. Lashing backwards with his head, Superboy connected with a sharp chin. But the older youth grimly held on. 'I wonder if he lets go when it thunders, like a snapping turtle?' Superboy thought in irrational wonder.

Over and over, they rolled, pummeling and striking at one another. Superboy coughed up bright red blood, and his breathing became painful after Mon-El struck him a stout blow in the solar plexus. He could barely feel his battered hands, now. Blood streamed into his eye from a cut on his brow, and he wiped it away with his sleeve.

Summoning all his remaining strength into one powerful blow, the Kryptonian youth sent his Daxamite brother sailing across the Garden to crash forcefully into the delicate base of an iridium statue of Tasmia Mallor. The super teen watched in horror as the heavy memorial teetered and finally tumbled from the cracked podium on which it rested. He tried to move at superspeed. He did. But he was too late; far too late. The youthful hero stumbled and fell in his haste to reach Mon-El.

Crawling on his hands and knees, Superboy reached the prone body of Mon-El. He took the head of the young man he called a brother into his lap. Lost in pleasant dreams, the eyelids rose to half mast, like a setting sun, revealing the blue depths beneath. The smile was small, almost as if afraid to show itself.

"Kal..." the ex-Legionnaire breathed the name like a blessing. "I've been having the worst dream. Tasmia will be angry with me. I woke her up again. My nightmares always wake her..."

"It's all right, Lar," Superboy wept. "The...the nightmare'll be over soon, I promise. Tasmia understands. She loves you. She's waiting for you. Go back to sleep now, o...okay?"

"...tired..." the once-hero sighed. "...really tired..."

His eyes fluttered, then closed. It wasn't until the dying Mon-El felt the lightest of touches on his hand that they slowly opened again. "Kal, look!" he murmured. The jewel-like insect with the iridescent wings crept into the palm of his outstretched hand, flexing its delicate wings, prettily. "What is it?"

"Losiranokian," Superboy answered, his throat working hard and unsuccessfully to swallow. His full lips quivered.

The losiranokia took flight, coming to rest in another outstretched palm, this one of hard, cold marble instead of warm, yielding flesh. Tasmia Mallor seemed to smile in welcome.

From the arched portico above, overlooking The Garden's serenity, burst a living swarm of flickering, kaleidoscopic color; a rainbow-hued whirlwind that descended upon the two men below. Fluttering, dancing about in their thousands, fragile wings sparkling in the glistening starlight, the losiranokian swirled around the two, the living and the dying. Superboy raised his hand to briefly caress the cheek where, moments before, one of the prismatic insects had briefly rested.

"...beautiful..." said the fading voice of Lar Gand, slipping quietly into unconsciousness.

It took that strong body several long hours to finish dying. Through it all, Superboy sat in silence with lowered head, holding his brother's hand. Not once did he let go of that hand as the life and warmth of it slowly melted away. He did not let himself think. He did not let himself feel. That was for later. For now, he only knew that he couldn't let go of that hand. He had to hold on to Lar Gand's hand.

It was the returning Vema Agar who made the final pronouncement. "He isn't breathing," the Khundish boy said.

"He doesn't need to breath unless he wants to," Superboy pointed out, unwilling to surrender that easily.

'nononononono...I'm not ready...not ready...'

"Listen," said Vema. "Do you hear a heartbeat?"

He did not listen, for it was not necessary. The hand within his was cold and stiff. Tenderly, he lay it upon the dead man's breast, pale and stark against the royal blue cloth of the uniform. He kissed the chill lips.

"This is what you wanted, isn't it, Lar?" he wept. "Are you happy now? At peace?"

He could only hope so.

He had quite a galactic tour ahead of him before he was done.

First, as promised, he delivered Vema Agar to his home on Jelix VI. He had no family left, but the authorities were glad enough to see him and hear his joyous news. He rushed at them, shouting, "He's dead! The Demon is dead! Hator-Mapik's dead!" From his uncurled hand, a losianokian took jeweled, graceful flight, disappearing into the cold, thin air of the wintery planet.

"Vema Agar!" cried the planetary Governor. "We thought you dead," he challenged, swatting at the iridescent escaping insect in rising wrath. Seeing Superboy, the older Khund grew cautious. "And who is this?" he asked, not quite reaching for the weapon at his side.

Vema grew calmer. "He's our Savior. He's the one who slew Hator-Mapik! Killed him with his hands! You should have seen it, Trath Nomar! It was a glorious fight! Glorious! He hit him and hit him and hit him until he-"

Wincing as if in pain, Superboy covered his ears and heard no more, until the Khundish boy gently removed his hands.

"I'm sorry," said Vema Agar, and he seemed very sincere. "That was...unworthy of me." He fumbled for words. "I...I should not have - that is - it was your victory. It isn't my place to claim the honor. I beg...I beg your forgiveness."

"Is that what this is?" whispered Superboy. "Victory? An honor?"

The Governor, who's name was apparently Trath Nomar, nodded. "Is it not?" he insisted. He tried to search Superboy's shielded eyes, but found them impassable. "Is he really dea - ah - gone? Are we free?"

Superboy managed to nod.

Trath Nomar saluted him in the manner of Khunds, clenched fist raised high. "Then we owe you a great debt, Superboy of Earth. Yes, I recognize you, now. How may we repay you?"

Superboy set his teeth, a once more invulnerable barrier against the gorge rising from his belly. "Peace," he demanded. "Make peace with the United Planets, Governor. I've given you back your lives. Make them count for something."

Nomar's wistful sigh sundered the air. "It would have been a glorious war..."

Before he could display his disgust, Superboy disappeared precipitously.

This next would be...difficult...but he would not leave Lar's body to the mercy of the Khunds. He would not.

He buried his brother Lar Gand on Daxam, in the Meditation Garden of the ancient, crumbling Shrine of Gand, the War Maker, the holiest place on that world. Digging deep into the core of the planet, he brought magma to the surface and ignited it with his heat vision, an Eternal Flame cradled in a deep bowl hewn of polished inertron fetched from the core of a white dwarf star. For a head stone he used the statue of Tasmia Mallor wrought of harmless but lovely Jewel Kryptonite. He released a good many losirakoian into the lush verdant quiet of the peaceful place. A nest of them took residence in Tasmia Mallor's mane of long hair, a glittering crown. What the monks of the Shrine thought of this he never asked. But, later, prone to checking on the quiet tranquility with his telescopic vison, he saw flowers and other offerings lain there.

He did not linger by the fresh grave.

It was time. He had one last duty to perform.

When he once again trod the halls of the Legion's new orbiting HQ, he was spared the many questions he expected, much to his surprise. One look in his eyes, and they seemed to know. He was only forced to say it once. "Lar...won't be a problem anymore."

After that, there seemed little left to say.

Trust Violet, the new and aggressive, fire tested, no longer shy and shrinking Vi, to find something to say in spite of that. "What I don't understand," she asserted, "are those whatyoumacallthem - those losiranokian? Where did they come from? And how did they get to Asteroid XL75K? I thought you said they couldn't live anywhere but that one mountain on Khundia Prime?"

"They can't," returned Brainiac Five in a voice of finality, hoping, for Superboy's sake, the subject would die.

It didn't.

"Humans are such perverse creatures," the Coluan observed privately when he heard Superboy's next words.

"They were genetically engineered," the young Kryptonian said. "Specifically designed to survive on Asteroid XL75K or almost anywhere. I checked with my microscopic vision."

Vi was overcome with bewilderment. "But...who would do that?"

Rokk Krinn, Cosmic Boy, stroked his bearded chin in momentary consideration, and then shrugged. "Maybe the Khunds?" he proposed quickly.

Querl Dox looked up in irritation. Well, he had tried. No one could say that he hadn't. Might just as well say it and then be done with it, no? The smartest boy in the Universe, his twelfth level computer mind slowing itself to mere human speeds, shook his blonde head. "To boost morale by making the legend come true? To make Hator-Mapik appear defeatable?"

The Braalian Legionnaire nodded. "Something like that. Why not?"

"Hmmmm," the Coluan genius hmmmmed, then shook his head again in negation, coming to a final decision. "If we were dealing with any people other than the Khunds, yes, that would be a masterful psychological ploy. But Khunds do not think in such manner, my friend. A Khund warrior never needs to have their morale 'boosted'. That's a weakness Khunds don't acknowledge. And Khunds are warriors, not scientists. Their science is limited to weapons tech and related fields. They know little of biology; even their own. And they care less. Remember also, they loathe the losiranokian as pests. No, such a course of action would scarcely occur to them, I fear."

"Then who-?" began Vi.

Brainiac waited for the inevitable answer to present itself.

It did not surprise him in the least that it was Superboy who provided it.

Not in the least.

The Teen of Steel untied all the knots he'd twisted in the scarlet glory of his cape at superspeed, and took a deep breath before he rejoined.


The green skinned Coluan youth remained calm, but Superboy saw agreement flash in Brainiac's not so cold jade green eyes.

Superboy's smile was compounded of sadness and pain. "With all his physical gifts," he pointed out when he spied the surprise on all their smooth young faces, "it's easy to forget that Lar was a biologist and a geneticist. One of the finest on Daxam. Which means in the Galaxy. It would have been child's play for him to engineer those changes in such a simple lifeform as the loiranokian."

"But why would he do such a-" blurted Vi.

No one felt the need to answer. Superboy turned away, drawing the warmth of his cape closer to his body.

'I've been trying to do that; die, I mean ... ' whispered the voice of Lar Gand and Superboy paled.

"I think," hastened Brainiac, "that for the moment, it's more important for us to decide where we go from here." General agreement awkwardly ensued. Much vigorous head nodding and the like followed on close heels. Throats were cleared. Feet shuffled themselves, searching desperately for a path leading out of this conversation.

Superboy stood. "Well," he informed them, "I know where I'm going from here. I'm going home."

And he was gone, almost before they could blink. Superspeed had its uses. It was only later that Lu discovered the Legion Flight Ring lying abandoned on the great plastisteel table. Duo Damsel refused to let herself cry. He'd never needed it anyway, right?

None of them were really very surprised when Superboy never again visited the Thirtieth Century. It had to happen sooner or later, they told themselves.

Superman was a busy guy.

The End