A Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes
Archive: Ask first, please.
Fandom: Legion of Super-Heroes, the 30th century, the post-Zero Hour reboot. Summary: The way the White Triangle saga should have ended.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.
Tinya "woke" after drifting--for how long, she could not determine--in the gray not-dimension of the Phantom Zone. Ordinarily she and others of her kind phased only momentarily through the Zone, their own shortcut between the solid atoms of the universe. Legends of her people said those who lingered in the place-that-was-not would be trapped forever in the constant flux of time and space, for the Zone touched all places and times at once. Therefore such lingering was forbidden, by law and by the most dire warnings and myths the people of Bgztl could devise.
Tinya Wazzo, always having been a rebel and more curious than a dirj-cat to boot, disobeyed these warnings as far as she dared. She knew the Zone as well or better than any in her people's history, though even she did not hazard extended sojourns here, nor did she dare the twisting gray strands she knew led to other times. She had drifted through the Zone's mists, peering onto the solid universe as through a window, delighting that no one could hear her, or see her, or find her to bring her back to the constrained world of Bgztl's ordered, tedious society.
But she'd probably been here too long already, and she knew she had to find her way back to the team and the friends that needed her. And Jo, to whom she found her heart drawn, without rhyme or reason--he loved her, and she told him the same just before the fire.
Unbidden, a window opened before her and the treacherous Zone showed her that moment, showed her own body as a withered husk, Jo's inconsolable tears, the weeping of her teammates and mother and estranged father, the memorial statue, her own funeral. Tears, unwanted, fell away into the gray space. She knew it was true and yet--here she was, and no ghost of Terran legend; her people had no such fantasies, for they were phantasms themselves. Here she was, and by all the strength of her people and the fire of her soul, here she would *not* remain.
For the Legionnaires, time went on. The mourning continued as new trials arose: Garth found his brother Mekt, and their war burned away the ground where they stood. The boy named Dirk Morgna gained both uncontrollable powers and fearsome potential. And the specter of Valor appeared, prompting joy and awe in those who knew the legend--and an undeniable challenge to Querl Dox, Brainiac 5. He would be the first to breach the time barrier, to rescue the lost Valor and bring him into the 30th century. His "time bubble" would break through the last barrier, truly opening the universe to exploration and understanding of the primal forces that shaped it. Finding Valor would only be proof of it, and it seemed a worthwhile goal besides. Dox locked himself away and hoped his "teammates" would have the sense to leave him be.
**Boring, ordinary work. This is a job for an SP, not a Legionnaire,** Lyle Norg grumbled to himself as he moved invisibly through the corridors of the smugglers' den. **I know Cos only sent me on this mission to punish me for taking the initiative once too often. But damn it, someone's gotta take a stand! We'd have never gotten the truth out of the White Triangle creeps if I hadn't done what needed to be done.** It wasn't enough to be sent off so summarily, with everyone else knowing the reason why; but to be assigned to aid the SPs when they could've easily done the job themselves was intolerable. **They don't respect us, so I'll be damned if they get my respect, or if I do their jobs for them again. First I nail these scum, then I'll go back to HQ and tell Cos to stick this assignment in his ear.**
Reckless, eager to be done, Lyle went visible to the two guards in front of the computer complex. Taking advantage of his sudden startling appearance, he took them out: a little tai chi, a judo flip or two, and it was done. **Too easy. Of course, no one else could've gotten this far without being fried, but it was still too easy.** He amended his thoughts with a wince. **Tinya could've gotten in and out with no one the wiser. If anyone is gene-trash, it's the god-cursed Daxamites who killed her.**
Unsettled by his own thoughts and reminded of the need for caution, Lyle went invisible again and opened the door. The smugglers had gotten lazy, not even bothering to lock the doors in their sanctum or to post more than two guards in any one place, figuring that no one had even guessed where they laired--and if someone did find out, they'd be lacking proof of any wrongdoing. Which is why the SPs called the Legion. **Get in, get the computer records, get out. At least I wasn't asked to take 'em all out myself!**
He called up the information that would prove their guilt--these idiots made records of all their illegal activities!--and started downloading, remaining invisible in case someone got the urge to visit their buddies on guard duty. They weren't due to be relieved for another two hours yet, but he supposed it was better to stay cautious. Besides, when he was invisible he sometimes caught glimpses of things that weren't there, twisting images that passed by too fast for him to identify. He'd figured they were only refractions caused by the light passing through his invisible form, swerving past his optic nerves, but he hadn't had time to explore the effect.
"Lyle...." He whirled, startled. No, no one was there, he must have imagined he'd heard a voice. A shudder went through him as a cold breeze touched his shoulder. And beside him he saw Apparition, her phantom hand on his arm, more wraithlike than she'd ever appeared in life.
"Tinya?" Shocked, Lyle stuttered and backed away. "A-are you a ghost?"
"No. Trapped." Her image waved her frustration. "I tried to reach you before, but you weren't invisible long enough. It's not easy to reach into the world from here, but your power reaches into the Zone a little." She shuddered with concentration. "Help me!"
Science fought with superstition and won. "How? You said the Zone? Where are you? And how can I help?"
Apparition wavered and the image began to fade. "Phantom Zone. It's not the same...time wanders...Brainy knows." She disappeared, her voice lingering like the phantom she was. "Time!"
It grew harder and harder to maintain herself. Tinya felt the pull of the ethereal currents drawing her this way and that, threatening to disperse her immaterial atoms through the Zone. Only her willpower sustained her, and the thought of Jo's love. But now Lyle knew she was still alive, and he'd help if he could.
Lyle burst into Dox's lab, ignoring the "Do Not Disturb" sign and ruining Querl's concentration. "Is it done, does it work, Brainy, you've got to make it work!"
"My name is not Brainy," Querl Dox said with some irritation, turning to look at his sometime-colleague and rival. Norg was quite clever for a human, at times, but even his occasional flash of insight could never match the sheer power of a 12-level intelligence. He took a closer look at the intruder: this agitation was something new for Lyle. "What could be so important that you felt you had to disturb me?"
"Tinya's alive." Lyle held up a hand to forestall the inevitable argument. "I saw her, in her phantom form. She said she was trapped in something called the Phantom Zone, and something about time. I figure she wants us to use your time bubble to go back to the moment she...I mean her body died, and rescue it."
Brainiac 5 looked at Lyle with disbelief. "Even if a fraction of what you say is true and not the result of some delusion, it cannot be done." He turned away and began his work again.
"*It can't be done?* Brainy, what the hell did you create the time bubble for? Turn the damned thing on and let's go get her1" Lyle shouted his outrage.
Querl sighed, put down his instruments, and faced his fellow Legionnaire. "First, my name is *not* Brainy. Second, while I suppose I can understand your grief and excuse the fact that logic has apparently completely deserted you, take a minute to think. Even you can understand that breaking the time barrier is more than just hopping into a vehicle and speeding away to your destination." Dox stopped, took a deep breath, and continued. "Aside from the fact that this particular experiment has not yet been proven to work, there are other reasons for not even attempting what you've proposed."
"Give me one reason, and it'd better be a hell of a good one," Lyle snarled. "You were planning to go and get Valor, how is this any different?"
"Valor lived--and we supposed, died--in the 20th century. The records are unclear about his exact end, but his name does not appear after a specific point, which we may assume to be his death. Therefore, removing him from that time just before his death or disappearance does not disturb the continuing series of events, and does not threaten our own timeline. What you propose is entirely different." Dox could not quite keep the sneer out of his voice with his next words. "You have heard, I suppose, of the word *paradox?* Apparition's death has caused other events, and continues to do so."
"Where's the paradox? Rescue him, rescue her, what's the difference?" Lyle understood the problem, he'd grasped the paradox right away. But his heart hadn't accepted it yet, and he still hoped to find away around the natural law of the universe.
Querl continued, somewhat more gently than before. "Valor died and his legend continued on without him. We'd simply be removing him from that time to continue here, which does not affect previous events. But we're still experiencing the effects of Tinya's death. A span of time must pass before anything can be done, or we risk corrupting the time stream." He was silent for a moment, then offered by way of consolation, "If in 100 centuries someone were to rescue her at the moment of her death, she might live again. The timeline would be unaffected."
Lyle sat down and gave a weak smile. "All right, Brai...Querl, I believe you. But I'm not giving up. There's got to be a solution, because I'm not leaving her to die for good. Can we...I don't know, clone her a new body or something?"
Despite himself, Dox found himself drawn into the problem. "An interesting proposition. Her flight ring is in the Archive; perhaps it might yield a DNA sample...." He began to mutter, working out the logistics, and Lyle moved over to help.
Behind them, the wall of the MultiLab suddenly exploded.
From her prison, Laurel Gand, the former Legionnaire Andromeda, looked across the galaxy to Legion headquarters. Her guilt weighed on her like the weight of planets, burning worse than her exposure to deadly lead. Querl Dox saved her then, though she'd regarded him as inferior and loathed his very nature as alien; she hadn't even thanked him, and she wondered that he'd even bothered at all. These days, she wished he hadn't. Without her treachery her own people wouldn't have destroyed so much of the Earth, and Apparition--her unvalued teammate--would not have died.
It hurt. Her own planet betrayed her, betrayed the ideals of their forebear Lar Gand, the great hero Valor, whose name she bore with much less honor. She'd never realized what hatred festered within her own people's isolation, how the White Triangle's tenets of isolation and purity had been warped into loathing for whatever was different, how it would explode into such violence and destruction. Gods of Daxam, a whole planet destroyed! And all the good the Trommites might have done--feeding the starving, aiding the poor, creating elements to change and improve life the universe over--gone in the bright burning of her people's hatred. And her own, she'd come to realize. Which only compounded the guilt.
It was only now that she understood how the Legion took her in, accepting her as no less and no more than she was. They were the only ones. Her own people wanted only to use her, while the Legion valued her skills and put up with her intolerable attitudes. She'd given them nothing; they'd offered her friendship, companionship, the chance to make a positive difference and to live up to the legend of her ancestor. She'd failed them and failed him. Laurel didn't know which hurt worse.
Looking in on her once-fellow teammates helped a little. They continued on, surviving their losses (which included her--for that she was grateful, in that no one but the highest levels of UP government and Cosmic Boy knew the Daxamite traitor was alive) and never abandoning their mission and purpose.
When Brainiac 5 began muttering about finding Valor and bringing him to the 30th century, Laurel was both ecstatic and terrified: The thought of meeting her ancestor--practically a god!--was miraculous. But to think the attempt would succeed, and Valor would discover the treachery and dishonor of his descendent--oh, that was too much to bear. So she watched the lab with mingled anticipation and terror, hoping Dox would succeed, praying that he wouldn't.
And then Invisible Kid burst into the lab, babbling about seeing Tinya's spirit, and she knew what had to be done.
Querl and Lyle turned to see Laurel Gand in the gaping hole, her face set in determination. "*I'll* get her," she said grimly. "I have to!"
It must have been, Lyle thought, a day for seeing ghosts. Though this one didn't surprise him; he'd suspected Laurel was still alive, given Cos' closeted meeting with UP President Chu and his silence afterward. But Brainy obviously hadn't guessed.
He was still quick enough to protest her obvious intention, though it did no good. "Laurel, no! The timestream..." Dox began, and then flew backwards to collapse against a console, propelled by a burst of super-breath.
"Don't try to stop me, Lyle," she said to him, setting the time bubble's coordinates. She'd watched Querl send the bubble out on test runs enough times that it was simple enough to figure out the rest.
Lyle nodded, looking resigned. "I won't." If the time stream changed, it'd become one where Tinya still lived, and that could only be an improvement. "Good luck and godspeed, Laurel."
She looked to him, startled, and then nodded and entered the bubble. A last set of coordinates, a touch of a button, and she was gone.
Tinya held Jo close, hardly believing the depth of her love for him. Nothing could ruin this feeling, and she knew they'd be together forever. "...Well, that's a coincidence, because I love y--"
Jo felt the wash of heat that preceded the Daxamite's fire and went invulnerable on instinct. Before he could tell to Tinya to go immaterial, a horrible scream rang out above them.
Gods of Daxam, the pain! Laurel had come out of the time bubble and flown as fast as she could to where Tinya and Jo were embracing, all unaware of death approaching in the sky. She'd thrown herself into the Daxamite's path, intercepting the deadly wave of heat vision with her own body, unable to stop from screaming. Though burned and blinded, she heard Jo tell Tinya to fade, and knew she'd been successful. But it wasn't done yet. She knew she was dying, but if she didn't stop the Daxamite for good, he might escape to try for his kill again. Finding him with her enhanced hearing, she crashed into him with all her speed, bringing him down and holding him in a deathgrip, feeling them both smash into the cool blue waters of Earth, holding him until they drowned.
The universe blinked.
The President of the United Planets called Cosmic Boy into her office, warning him that the topic of their discussion was not to pass those walls. "So you see, Cosmic Boy, why it is so necessary that no one ever finds out what really happened." She took a breath, aware that so much was riding on the silence of a group of teenagers. "Make sure your team understands that. If it were ever discovered that Laurel was a traitor, the Legion would have to be disbanded, and irreparable harm done to the UP."
"I understand, ma'am," the Legionnaires' leader told her, without his usual challenge to her authority over his group.
"Good. The funeral's tomorrow. I want the appropriate expressions of mourning from the Legionnaires, no matter how they really feel. And keep the comments to the press at a minimum. In fact, tell them that the team is too devastated to talk about it, and that you'll be issuing an official statement later. I'll have my people come up with something appropriate."
"With all due respect, I think we can write something ourselves," Cosmic Boy said quietly. "Whatever else she was, Laurel Gand was a Legionnaire."
President Chu decided not to argue the point. He'd done a fair job thus far--and besides, giving him this round might dissuade him from questioning every decision she made. "As you like. I'd *prefer* if you sent it over for me to review beforehand. I'm sure you'll make a fine speech."
Cosmic Boy nodded and left.
In years to come, both Tinya and Jo would visit the Hall of Memories, to thank Laurel for their lives. Though she was not the last to die and be remembered here, her statue still drew visitors and reminded them of her noble sacrifice. At the bottom, the inscription read:
Tinya's death at the hands of the White Triangle absolutely infuriated me. She was the best character the postboot Legion had to offer, and killing her was a dreadful mistake on the part of the writers. Add in a serious dislike for that poor Kara-clone Laurel Gand, and this fic was born.
And yes, I know that in the postboot Brainy built a "time platform" instead of a bubble. Author's license. Sue me.
Many thanks to Tracy Earnhardt, who kindly listened to me rant about Tinya's death and wisely agreed with me about the unjust nature of it. He also reminded me of another ghost the preboot Lyle once saw, and that suggestion led to the circumstance presented here.