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Three Times a (Super) Lady

Written by argonaut :: [Thursday, 05 May 2005 16:38] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 15 May 2014 16:17]

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THREE TIMES A (SUPER) LADY

A Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes

by Argonaut


AUTHOR’S NOTE:

This is a story I promised Larafan in exchange for a sequel to his story “Zupergirl.” It’s a fanfiction based on the Silver Age incarnation of the Legion of Super Heroes – more specifically (for those who care), the “Shooter- Swan” era of the late 1960’s.

I suppose I ought to note that the characters in this story are the property of DC Comics yadda yadda. I had intended this to be a “one-off” story, but as I was writing it, a sequel (foreshadowed in the Epilogue) began to take shape in my mind. Maybe I can work out another trade with Larafan :) My next project, however, will be to finish the Atalanta story I started writing for the previous workshop.

P.S. Can anyone identify the super-villain whose origin I appropriated for this story?


Chapter 1

“Are you sure this gadget of yours is safe, Brainy?” asked Sun Boy as he stepped onto the platform beneath the large lens.

“Of course,” replied Brainiac 5. “Thanks to my twelfth-level intellect, all of my inventions are absolutely infallible. Now hold still.”

Sun Boy struck a dramatic pose while Brainiac 5 adjusted a dial on his machine and threw a switch. The lens glowed, bathing Sun Boy in a bluish light. Moments later, a nine-inch-tall statuette materialized on the platform beside him – a perfect likeness of the Legionnaire.

“Amazing!” said Sun Boy, picking up the statuette and examining it curiously. “What did you say it’s made of?”

“Quantum matter,” replied Brainiac 5 off-handedly. “Think of it as a solid hologram. All right, who’s next? The sooner we get these statuettes made, the sooner we can send them to Superboy – and the sooner I can get back to my other projects.”

Phantom Girl stepped up to take Sun Boy’s place. Two dozen Legionnaires – all but Superboy – were gathered in Brainiac 5’s workshop to have their likenesses captured by the duplicator machine.

“What does Superboy want with a bunch of dolls, anyway?” muttered Matter-Eater Lad.

Colossal Boy chuckled. “If you’d ever seen the basement of his home in Smallville, you wouldn’t ask. Superboy is like a Kryptonian pack-rat – he just loves to collect souvenirs and trophies of his exploits.”

“Yeah,” Chameleon Boy chimed in. “By the time he grew up to be Superman, he’d accumulated so much stuff he had to build the Fortress of Solitude just to hold it all!”

“Weird,” commented Matter-Eater Lad, absently-mindedly picking up a handful of bolts and screws from a jar on a nearby workbench and popping them into his mouth. “Mmmm … steel …”

One by one, the Legionnaires stood beneath the lens of the duplicator machine. Shadow Lass and Triplicate Girl picked up the statuettes as they materialized and carefully packed them in a crate.

Supergirl – making one of her infrequent visits to the 30th century – was last. Brainiac 5, ordinarily capable of intense concentration, seemed oddly distracted; it took him longer than usual to make the necessary adjustments before throwing the switch.

“Thanks, Kara,” he said as the Kryptonian beauty stepped down. “Uh – I hear there’s a new restaurant in Metropolis that serves great Lallorian food. If you’re not doing anything this evening-”

“That’s sweet of you, Brainy,” smiled the Girl of Steel. “But I have to return to the 20th century right away, to – uh – protect my secret identity. People might become suspicious if Linda Danvers were missing for too long.”

“Of course,” said Brainiac 5 hastily. “I understand. Well … maybe next time?”

“Maybe next time.”

“What was that all about?” whispered Shadow Lass. “Supergirl could stay as long as she liked here in the 30th century and return to her own time at the exact moment she left – couldn’t she?”

“Of course,” replied Triplicate Girl.

“Well, if I can figure that out, why can’t our resident genius?”

“Because when it comes to Supergirl, Brainy’s elevator doesn’t go all the way to the twelfth level – if you get my meaning.”

The girls giggled as the packed the last of the statuettes. Brainiac 5 shut off the duplicator machine and stood up. The other Legionnaires had already left the workshop.

“Well, ladies,” said Brainiac 5. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m now 1.62 hours behind schedule on the Computo project. Try not to break anything on your way out.”

Triplicate Girl stuck out her tongue as Brainiac 5 strode purposefully out of the workshop.

“What a dork!” said Shadow Lass.

“Oh, he’s not so bad – for a Coluan. He’s just not used to dealing with people on anything but a purely cerebral level.” Lowering her voice and blushing slightly, she added, “Actually, I think he’s – kind of cute.”

“Oh?” Shadow Lass raised her eyebrows. “Well, to each her own, as we say on Talok. But I’d think twice before trying to get into a relationship with him.”

“Grife, Tasmia, I’m not thirteen years old. Don’t you think I can see that he’s an emotionally constipated workaholic who’d lick Supergirl’s footprints all the way to the Andromeda Galaxy? All I said-”

“All right, all right,” laughed Shadow Lass. “Let’s get this crate to the time-transporter room. Say, it’s pretty heavy. Is there an anti-grav cart somewhere around here?”

“Here, let me get it,” said Triplicate Girl. With an ease that seemed incongruous with her petite frame, the pert brunette lifted the crate off the table and onto one shoulder.

“Goodness, Luornu!” exclaimed Shadow Lass as she and Triplicate Girl began walking along the corridor leading toward the time-transporter room. “I didn’t realize you had super-strength in addition to your triplicating power!”

“Well, a Carggian is several times stronger than a Terran of equal size,” explained Triplicate Girl. “But that doesn’t mean a whole lot on a team that includes Superboy and Mon-El and Ultra Boy!”

“Still … Let me ask you something, Luornu. I know I joined the Legion just a couple of months ago, and it’s a great honor and so forth, but – well, does it ever seem to you that it’s recruitment record is a little … sexist?”

“Well, now that you mention it-”

“I mean, consider the facts. The boys outnumber the girls nearly two to one. Our three most powerful members are boys, and most of the other guys wield some fundamental force of nature. But as for the girls – well, I’m not denying that our powers are useful, but they’re either psychic or primarily defensive. Phantom Girl dematerializes, Shrinking Violet shrinks … and I suspect that the boys think my shadow-casting powers are mainly useful for hiding from the bad guys.”

“There’s Supergirl-”

“Who only checks in once a year or so to keep her membership active. I know, I know – we’ve got to be careful to avoid time-travel paradoxes. But even so, why can’t Supergirl hang around in the 30th century for a change

while Superboy stays put in Smallville?”

“I admit you’ve got a point, Tasmia. But the Legion is a team-”

“A team that could be even more effective with more female members – and more powerful female members.”

“So what can we do about it?”

“Grife, Luornu – there must be dozens of super-heroines in the United Planets with power rivalling Superboy’s … if not surpassing it.” Shadow Lass smirked, savoring the idea. “All we have to do is get the word out the next time we have a membership drive-”

“Hold that thought, Tasmia.” The girls had arrived at the time-transporter room.

“The large transporter is recharging,” said Triplicate Girl, “so we’ll have to use this smaller one.” Still balancing the heavy crate on one shoulder, she eyed the refrigerator-sized machine. “Hmmm … this isn’t going to fit inside.” She set the crate down gently and removed the lid. “Start passing these to me, will you?”

Shadow Lass began handing the statuettes, one at a time, to her Carggian teammate, who set them carefully in the time-transporter.

“All right, that’s enough for now.” Triplicate Girl stepped back and counted the statuettes in the machine. “Let’s see – that’s Colossal Boy, Mon-El, Sun Boy, Supergirl, Chameleon Boy, Brainiac 5, Ultra Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Superboy.” She entered a code number and pressed the “SEND” button.

But instead of vanishing silently, the statuettes emitted a strange blue glow. Sparks passed from one to another as smoke began to seep from the time-transporter and the tang of ozone filled the air. Humming ominously, the machine began to tremble, then shake violently.

“Luornu, get back!” shouted Shadow Lass.

Alerted by the commotion, Cosmic Boy came running into the room. Quickly appraising the situation, he gestured toward the malfunctioning machine, using his magnetic powers to rip out its power unit. The blue aura surrounding the statuettes suddenly burst outward, and arcs of energy leapt from the statuettes toward Triplicate Girl. Instinctively, she used her super-power and split into three girls just before everything went black …

Chapter 2

Flying faster than the speed of light, Superboy broke through the time-barrier and emerged high above 30th-century Metropolis. He took a moment to get his bearings, then flew off in the direction of the Legion Clubhouse.

It’s been a quiet week in my own time, he thought. I wonder if anything exciting has happened since my last visit to the 30th century.

Glancing downward with his telescopic vision, he saw – as if in answer to his question – that Central Plaza was in a state of panic and confusion. A gleaming metallic cylinder, about ten feet in diameter and thirty feet high, was striding across the plaza on a pair of enormous piston-like legs. Bystanders fled in panic as the ground shook beneath the mechanical monstrosity’s tread. An array of robotic tentacles sprouted from the cylinder’s midsection, and a translucent dome crowned it like a cranium. Zooming in on the dome with his super-vision, the Boy of Steel saw a creature resembling a six- foot-tall grasshopper, with a shiny yellow carapace and unblinking multifaceted eyes, seated at a control panel.

Two of the behemoth’s tentacles had seized an armored robo-car and began to tear it apart as a third tentacled probed the car’s interior. A half- dozen Science Police officers were firing their blasters at the larcenous leviathan – to no apparent effect – while others were directing civilians away from danger.

Swooping down toward the plaza, Superboy drew back his fist and delivered a mighty roundhouse punch to the contraption’s sleek metallic surface. To his amazement, his fist bounced back without leaving so much as a dent.

“Did you imagine that I was unprepared for your interference, Superboy?” rasped a gloating voice. My Cyberserker is made of an ultra-tough alloy of inertron and Daxamite steel. It is completely impervious – even to your vaunted Kryptonian strength.”

“Is that so?” Undaunted, the Boy of Steel wrapped his arms around one of the machine’s metallic tentacles. Before he could try to yank it off, however, a small panel near the top of the cylinder slid open, revealing a chamber whose interior glowed a familiar yet ominous green.

Uh-oh, thought Superboy. But before he could dart out of the way, a beam of concentrated kryptonite radiation struck him in the chest.

“Aarrrghhh!” Dizzy, weak, and nauseous, Superboy dropped to the plaza.

Another blast like that … and I’m done for, he thought, striving desperately to get up. But I’m too weak … even to crawl away …

“Oh, no, you don’t!” cried a voice above him. Squinting through a greenish haze, Superboy saw a figure, dark against the sun, fly down and deflect a second beam of the deadly green rays.

Supergirl? Wondered the Boy of Steel. But the voice and figure – though unmistakably female – were not those of his cousin. Then who …?

Suddenly it seemed as if kryptonite fever was making him see double … no, triple. For where one shapely figure had been hovering in mid-air, there were now three. Certain that he was hallucinating, Superboy watched as one

of the three figures descended gently to the plaza and began to … grow. It stood ten feet tall, then twenty … it continued to grow until it was as tall as the mechanical juggernaut.

“You big bully!” Magnified a hundredfold, the voice was nevertheless tantalizingly familiar. “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” Seizing the contraption, the giantess lifted it over her head and tossed it into the air with a mighty heave. “Here, girls – catch!” she cried. “I’m going to check on Superboy!”

Turning, the female colossus dwindled down to her former size and ran to the prostrate Boy of Steel. Forcing his eyes open, Superboy made out a pair of snug black knee-high boots … then a pair of shapely thighs emerging from a short lavender skirt … and finally a pair of soft brown eyes gazing at him out of an oval face framed by a brunette pageboy haircut …

“Superboy, can you hear me?”

“Tr-Triplicate Girl?”

A smile of relief lit up her face.

“That’s right – though I’ve had a little upgrade since the last time you saw me.” Dropping to one knee, she slid one arm behind Superboy’s shoulders and the other behind his knees. Standing easily – as if Superboy weighed no more than a rag-doll – the petite brunette sprang lightly into the air. “Carry on, girls!” she called out to the other two. “I’m taking Superboy to the Legion infirmary!”

“Go ahead!” one of them shouted back. She was dangling the mechanical marauder high above the plaza by its one remaining tentacle. The contraption’s operator was desperately launching every weapon in its arsenal – heat-rays, lightning bolts, beams of concussive force powerful enough to shatter steel – but the third Triplicate Girl was intercepting them all at super-speed, deflecting them away from the city with her invulnerable body.

Triplicate Girl One smiled down at the dumbfounded Boy of Steel. “Just relax, Superboy,” she said reassuringly. “You’re still weak from that kryptonite beam. I’ll have you at the infirmary in no time.” And off she flew in the direction of the Legion Clubhouse, the stricken Superboy cradled in her arms.

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, back at Central Plaza …

Still dangling the disabled behemoth by its one remaining tentacle, Lu-Two lowered it to the ground. Its power-source appeared to be nearly exhausted, but it still managed to hurl an occasional feeble blast from its proton cannon, which Lu-Three easily swatted aside. A torrent of static and invective poured from the contraption’s loudspeaker.

“Grife, why doesn’t this guy give it a rest?” said Lu-Two. “Doesn’t he know that one-armed bandits are illegal in this town?”

“So are puns like that,” muttered Lu-Three, “or they should be.”

Lu-Two released the tentacle. Instantly it shot out and coiled itself around her in a tight embrace. “Hey!” she exclaimed indignantly. “Not on a first date, you don’t!”

In the blink of an eye, Lu-Two vanished. A snarl of bafflement came from the loudspeaker. “What manner of trick is this?”

“Silly robot,” giggled Lu-Two, who had shrunk herself to the size of a bumblebee in order to slip free. “Tricks are for kids!” And growing back to her normal size, she grabbed the tentacle and yanked it off the contraption. “Look, sis!” she cried out. “I’ve rendered it completely ‘armless’!”

“Good for you,” said Lu-Three, who had been punching away at the machine’s ultra-tough cylindrical casing. She had managed to put a few respectable dents in it – more than Superboy had been able to accomplish – but it was presenting a formidable challenge even to her Kryptonian-level strength.

“Change of tactics,” she muttered. She morphed into a giant Mercurian rock-ape, then a Jovian diamond-billed borer-bird; but neither the boulder-sized fists of the former, nor the super-hard beak of the latter, were able to penetrate the casing. Resuming her normal form, Lu-Three turned to her sister.

“Would you mind doing the honors?” she asked.

“Sure thing, sis,” said Lu-Two. Closing her eyes, she began to concentrate on accessing the ultra-energy by which she could boost her Daxamite- level strength – albeit temporarily – to super-superhuman levels. “Mmmmm,” she purred, relishing the raw power she could feel surging through every muscle in her body. “Yes! Oh, yes! Yes!” She opened her eyes. “Step aside, sis!”

She plunged her hands into the metallic shell. The ultra-tough alloy yielded to her slender fingers as if it were soft clay. A vertical crack broke the cylinder’s surface. The metal groaned in protest as the crack grew longer and wider. Lu-Two slid her hands into the fissure; and then, with a grunt and a shrug, she tore the cylinder open from top to bottom. Gears, wires, transistors, and microchips spilled out onto Central Plaza like candy from a pinata; and the contraption’s owner sat forlornly amid the wreckage.

“Well!” said Lu-Two proudly. “I’d say we cracked this case wide open!”

* * * * * * * * *

The rush of cool air began to clear Superboy’s head. “Luornu?” he murmured. “What – how -- ?”

“Just take it easy, Superboy,” she said soothingly. “I’ll tell you the whole story once we get to the infirmary. Here – this should make you feel better.” A warm yellow aura began to emanate from her body. Superboy began to feel his strength returning.

“What – what are you -- ?”

“Shhhh. It’s a little yellow solar radiation. It should speed up your recovery.” She smiled. “Just call me Little Miss Sunshine.”

At that moment, a flying metallic sphere the size of a tennis ball began cruising alongside Triplicate Girl, speaking in a synthetic baritone. “This is Scribernetic Unit 27-A of the United Planets Network reporting from Metropolis, where Luornu Durgo, the Legionnaire known as Triplicate Girl, has thwarted a daring attempt to steal the crown jewels of Orando. I am speaking with Miss Durgo now, as she flies her fellow Legionnaire Superboy – apparently weakened by kryptonite radiation – to the Legion Clubhouse. Miss Durgo, have you any comment for our viewers?”

Luornu smiled graciously. “I’m glad I was able to help,” she said. “Orando is the newest member of the United Planets, and a daughter of its royal family is the latest addition to the Legion’s ranks – so we could hardly allow its most prized treasure to fall into the hands of a petty criminal.”

“Superboy, you must be finding some irony in this situation. Here you are, a hero in distress, rescued by a damsel. Is there anything you’d like to say to our audience?”

“Hey!” protested Superboy, swatting at the sphere as if it were a mosquito. “Get away!”

“Superboy is still suffering from the effects of that kryptonite radiation,” Luornu said. “He’s not quite himself at the moment. Tell you what – if you’ll delete his remarks from your files, I’ll give you an exclusive interview in my quarters at – say, 2100 hours?”

“Done – and done,” replied the sphere promptly. “I’ll see you this evening then. And on behalf of our viewers – thank you, Miss Durgo.”

“Darn reporters,” grumbled Superboy, as the sphere flew off. “Why can’t they mind their own business? Uh – you know, Luornu, I’m feeling much better now. I can fly the rest of the way on my own …” Before Luornu could stop him, he rolled out of her arms. For a second or two, he managed to keep himself suspended in mid-air; then green spots swam before his eyes and he began to plummet toward United Planets Boulevard, five hundred feet below.

“Oh, grife,” muttered Luornu, swooping down and catching him. “That’s it – no more yellow sun for you. I’m switching to red.”

“Huh? What are you -- ?” Then, noticing that the yellow aura surrounding Luornu had turned crimson, he protested, “No – wait-”

But it was too late. Powerless under the influence of red-sun radiation, Superboy was suddenly overcome by exhaustion and fell into a deep sleep. Luornu smiled down at him with a mixture of exasperation and affection. “Boys,” she murmured. “Why do they have to be so stubborn?”

Chapter 3

Opening his eyes, Superboy beheld an expanse of smooth white ceiling. Turning his head to the left, he saw a picture window framing the skyline of 30th-century Metropolis. I’m in the Legion infirmary, he thought. But how did I get here?

“Hey there, cowboy.”

Superboy turned his head to the right. Triplicate Girl was standing by his bedside, smiling down at him. She was wearing a white lab coat over her lavender-and-orange uniform, and she held a clipboard in one hand.

“Triplicate Girl – hi.” He began to sit up.

“Just lie back down and take it easy,” said Triplicate Girl, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Do you remember how you got here?”

Superboy stared at the ceiling, trying to sort out the images that were flooding back into his memory. “I remember being hit with a kryptonite beam … and then I must have been delirious, because I had this crazy dream … In fact, you were in it.”

“I was?”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “You had super-powers … and you saved me from this giant robot.”

“Goodness,” said Triplicate Girl, smiling enigmatically. “I’m flattered.” She pointed to a monitor at the foot of the bed. “According to the diagnostatron, your super-powers should be back to their usual levels. How do you feel?”

“I feel fine.” Once again, he began to sit up. Triplicate Girl laid a hand on his chest.

“Whoa, cowboy. You know the rules. No one leaves sick-bay until Brainy says so.”

“Aw, come on, Lu – I’m Superboy.” He tried to push himself into an upright position – but something was wrong. Try as he might, he was unable to resist the pressure that Luornu’s dainty hand was exerting against his chest. His jaw dropped as the petite brunette effortlessly pushed him back into a recumbent position.

“I had a feeling you were going to be stubborn about this,” she scolded him. “So I’m going to see to it that you stay put until Brainy gets here.” She laid her forefinger against the center of his “S” emblem. “Now lie down and be still.”

Superboy made one last, futile effort to sit up. This can’t be happening, he thought. I’m Superboy, darn it – and she’s … she’s just a slip of a girl. How can she be holding me down with one finger? Maybe I’m still dreaming …

Footsteps sounded in the hallway. “Knock, knock.” Dream Girl strolled into the room. “Hello, Luornu,” she drawled. “Hello, Superboy.” She stood at the foot of the bed and leaned forward. “So how’s the patient? Has he been behaving himself?”

“Oh, yes,” replied Triplicate Girl. “He’s been as good as a lamb.”

“I bet he has,” said Dream Girl, grinning mischievously.

Ordinarily Superboy would have enjoyed his unobstructed view of Dream Girl’s cleavage, but right now he wished she were a light-year away – or better yet, that he were.

Dream Girl strolled over to an armchair and sat down. Stretching out her long, shapely legs, she yawned and picked up a copy of Sentients magazine from a table. She pretended to be deeply immersed in one of the articles, but Superboy was sure that she was watching him out of the corner of her eye, relishing his mortification.

More footsteps, and Brainiac 5 strode into the room. Without so much as a word of greeting, he glanced at the monitor and extracted a small device from the pocket of his lab coat. He held the device against Superboy’s chest for a moment, then made a quick inspection of his eyes. “Superboy’s power levels are back to normal,” he said brusquely, speaking into the device. “By all indications he has recovered fully from his exposure to kryptonite radiation earlier today. The process of recovery may have been expedited by administration of yellow solar radiation by Legionnaire Luornu Durgo. This merits further investigation. Patient may resume full activity.”

“So can I get up?” asked Superboy.

“Of course,” said Brainiac 5, slipping the device back into the pocket of his lab coat.

“I mean … can I get up?” Superboy repeated, looking at Triplicate Girl.

“Ooops – sorry!” she exclaimed, lifting her finger from his chest. Superboy sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“There now – that wasn’t so bad, was it?” drawled Dream Girl from behind her magazine.

Superboy rubbed his chest. The spot where Luornu had pressed her finger against it was actually … sore. “So – so how -- ?”

“I think what Superboy is trying to say,” said Dream Girl, laying down her magazine, “is ‘How did a mere girl come to have more strength in one finger than I have in my whole body?’” She grinned impishly. “Tell him, Luornu.”

Luornu smiled. “It happened just after your last visit,” she explained. “You remember those statuettes you wanted for your trophy room? … “

Briefly, she recounted the events leading up to the explosion in the time- transporter room. “ … And when my triblings and I woke up here in the infirmary, we found that we’d acquired the powers of those Legionnaires!”

“Each Legionnaire’s unique morphogenetic field was encoded in his or her statuette as a result of the duplicating process,” said Brainiac 5. “The short-circuit in the time-transporter combined with Cosmic Boy’s magnetic pulse to download that information onto Triplicate Girl’s Carggian genome. A fascinating phenomenon – though probably irreproducible.”

“Actually,” Luornu explained, “only my integrated form possesses all of those powers. They get divided among my triblings and me when we separate. I’m the one who got the powers of Sun Boy, Colossal Boy – and you, Superboy.”

“Hold on.” Superboy was frowning. “If my Kryptonian powers were duplicated in your body, then how could you be stronger than I am?”

“An ordinary Carggian is several times stronger than a non-super Kryptonian,” explained Brainiac 5. “So a super-Carggian … well, it shouldn’t take a twelfth-level intellect to do the math.”

There was a tap at the window. Lu-Two and Lu-Three were just outside, hovering several hundred feet above Legion Plaza, and waving at their comrades. A moment later, they entered the room through the door to the balcony.

“Hi, sis! Sorry we took so long – we stuck around to help clean up the mess at Central Plaza. Superboy!” Lu-Two gave him a kiss on the cheek. “We were worried about you! How are you feeling?”

“Uh – fine, thanks. Luornu here was just telling me how you girls gained your super-powers.”

“Isn’t it exciting?” beamed Lu-Two.

“Yeah – it’s exciting, but seriously … shouldn’t you girls be taking it easy? What if your powers were to wear off at a bad time?”

“Wear off?” repeated Brainiac 5. “Superboy, Luornu’s new powers are permanently imprinted in her genome. They’re not going to ‘wear off.’”

“And even if they did,” asked Dream Girl, “why should Luornu ‘take it easy’ until then?”

“Well, I mean super-powers can be dangerous – especially for a girl-”

“Especially for a girl?” Dream Girl stood up. Her eyes, ordinarily somewhat heavy-lidded, were flashing with indignation, and her voice was no longer a sultry drawl but a rapid torrent. “Grife, Superboy, what century are you fr – oh, right. I forgot.”

“We realize that you were raised in the twentieth century, Superboy,” said Brainiac 5 patronizingly. “So you may have some difficulty adjusting to a society that has achieved perfect equality of the sexes-”

Dream Girl coughed. Brainiac 5 raised an eyebrow.

“Was there something you wanted to say?” he asked frostily.

“No, no,” said Dream Girl with an airy wave of her hand. “Carry on.”

Brainiac 5 continued. “But even so, you must acknowledge that there is nothing inherently impossible in the hypothesis that a super-girl may be just as powerful as a super-boy.”

“And then some,” added Dream Girl.

“It’s just that – I mean – I’m concerned for Lu’s safety, that’s all. There’s no telling what kind of trouble she could get into with her powers-”

“Oh, I see – like the trouble she got into this morning, on the Plaza? Ooops, silly me – I forgot. That was you!” Dream Girl threw up her arms in exasperation. “I don’t believe this. A wonderful thing has happened to one of your friends, and instead of being happy for her, you’re all bent out of shape because your big, fat, male ego can’t handle the fact that she’s mightier than you are!”

An awkward silence lay heavily on the room – broken at last by a holographic transmission from the Legion’s current leader, Invisible Kid.

“We have two priority-one alerts,” he announced. “A weather-control satellite has fallen out of orbit over China – and high winds are threatening to topple the GNN transmission tower outside New L.A.”

“Dibs on the satellite!” said Lu-Two.

“Fine,” said Lu-Three. “I’ll deal with the tower.”

The two girls stepped out onto the balcony and leapt skyward.

“Hey!” Superboy protested. “I should be taking one of those missions!”

“Wait, Superboy!” said Dream Girl. Her fingertips were pressed against her temples, and there was a faraway look in her eyes. “I’ve just had a precognitive flash. There’s an emer – uh, Superboy?”

“Yes?”

“My face is up here.”

“Sorry.” Superboy wondered – not for the first time – how the guys in the Legion managed to keep their minds on their work.

“There’s an emergency at 314 Shooter Terrace,” said Dream Girl. Her eyes were wide with entreaty. “Hurry, Superboy – there’s not a moment to lose!”

“I’m on it! Thanks, Nura!” Moments later, Superboy was airborne.

“314 Shooter Terrace?” asked Lu-One, casting her telescopic vision toward that address. “Oh, Nura,” she giggled. “That’s just cruel.”

“I know,” smirked Dream Girl, tossing her head and twisting a lock of her platinum-blonde hair around one finger. “But don’t tell me he didn’t deserve it.”

Chapter 4

Shooter Terrace was a quiet street in a residential neighborhood north of Metropolis. The suburb had been built eighty years ago, when 20th-century small-town architecture was in fashion, and Shooter Terrace reminded Superboy of the street he lived on in Smallville – tidy lawns, front porches, stately elm trees.

Superboy was, in fact, high in the branches of one of those elm trees, trying to extricate an octo-cat that had climbed up it and now refused to come down. The animal’s owner, a plump grey-haired lady, stood on the sidewalk below, wringing her hands and offering unhelpful advice.

By judiciously applying gentle bursts of his heat-vision to the octo-cat’s paws – and resisting the temptation to incinerate the vicious little furball – Superboy had managed to get the creature to release seven of its eight tentacles from the branch it was clinging to. Those seven appendages were now wrapped around Superboy’s face, neck, and upper arms. Just one more, he thought, carefully tugging at the last tentacle …

“Be careful, Superboy,” said the creature’s owner. “I forgot to mention that when Octavius gets upset, he-”

Suddenly, without warning, the octo-cat discharged a viscous greenish ink from each tentacle. Gross, thought Superboy, wiping some of the goo from around his eyes. People actually keep these disgusting freaks as pets? He lowered himself to the sidewalk, entwined in tentacles and covered in ink. The grey-haired lady, clucking solicitously, took the creature in her arms, where it lay curled up in a ball, glaring malignantly at the Boy of Steel.

“Naughty kitty,” she said. “Look what you’ve done to this nice young man! Come inside, Superboy. You can wash up and I’ll give you a nice cup of tea. It’s the least I can do.”

Got that right, thought Superboy, but mindful of his manners he smiled politely and said “Thank you.” Actually, he found the familiar ambience of Shooter Terrace to be somewhat comforting after all the topsy-turvy experiences he’d been through today.

Superboy sponged off at the bathroom sink – Good thing my uniform is stain-proof, he thought – and then followed the sound of his hostess’s voice into the living room. He sat down on an antique anti-grav sofa and accepted a cup of tea. An old-fashioned 3-D vidscreen console stood against the opposite wall. Superboy shook his head ruefully when he saw that the Galaxy News Network was broadcasting holographic footage of Luornu’s battle with the Cyberserker in Central Plaza, but within a minute or two he was watching the image with rapt attention. He had to admit: Luornu – all three of her – was using her new super-powers like a real pro …

“Such a nice, sweet girl,” his hostess remarked. “It’s a shame she has to spend her time fighting those nasty super-villains when she could be finding a nice young man to settle down with.” Suddenly she got up and went over to a window overlooking the back yard. “Jaret … Mira,” she called. “Come in here for a minute. There’s someone I want to you to meet.”

She returned to her armchair. “My grandchildren are visiting,” she explained. “They’ll be thrilled to meet an actual Legionnaire.”

A boy, about six years old. And a girl, about four, came into the living room. “Superboy, these are my grandchildren, Jaret and Mira. Children, this is Superboy. He’s a Legionnaire,” she added impressively.

Jaret’s eyes lit up. “Oh, wow!” he exclaimed. He ran out of the room, and returned a moment later with a sig-pod in his hand – the 30th-century equivalent of an autograph book. “Do you think you could get me Luornu’s holo- sig?”

“Now, Jaret,” his grandmother scolded him. “Superboy is our guest. You mustn’t-”

Superboy held up his hand. “No, that’s – all right,” he said. “It’ll be no trouble.”

“Well! What do you say, Jaret?”

“Thanks!” Jaret turned and raced out the back door. Mira was standing shyly by her grandmother’s armchair. She had been holding one hand behind her back ever since she had entered the living room.

“Show Superboy your dolly, Mira,” her grandmother prompted her.

Mira held up a doll with bobbed brunette hair and a lavender-and-orange costume. Suddenly she began running around the room, holding the doll horizontally above her head.

“Don’t worry, Thuperboy!” she lisped. “I’ll thave you!”

* * * * * * * * *

Kono juice in hand, Superboy looked around the off-duty lounge of the Legion clubhouse. He strolled over to a corner table where Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and Phantom Girl were sitting.

“Superboy!” said Mon-El. “Pull up a chair!”

“Thanks.” Superboy sat down. His teammates were watching a vidscreen on the opposite wall. Luornu was on the news again. He watched as she descended gracefully to Tienamen Spaceport in New Beijing, holding the diabled weather-control satellite over her head with one arm, her other hand resting lightly on her hip, legs straight, toes pointed downward, her orange cape billowing dramatically behind her.

“Nice form,” remarked Mon-El. Superboy wasn’t sure in what sense the phrase was intended, but he agreed with both of them.

“Show-off,” said Ultra Boy.

“What are you talking about?” retorted Phantom Girl. “That’s just how you brought in that crippled space-cruiser last month.”

“It is not.”

“It is so.”

“Is not.”

“All right, you know what?” said Phantom Girl, standing up. “You just enjoy your little pity-party by yourself. I’m going to join Imra and Jeckie.” She picked up her drink and strode off toward a table where Saturn Girl and Princess Projectra were sitting.

Well, this is awkward, thought Superboy uncomfortably. Before he gained his super-powers and joined the Legion, Ultra Boy had belonged to a street gang on his home-world of Rimbor. He still displayed a certain macho swagger, and Superboy suspected that he was less than pleased by Luornu’s transformation into the Legion’s premier powerhouse. Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl had had a long but occasionally stormy relationship; quarrels like this one were nothing new, but Superboy wondered whether a permanent rift might be brewing.

Mon-El was speaking to Ultra Boy in a low, earnest tone. “You have to decide what your reasons are for belonging to the Legion,” he was saying. “If it’s just because you enjoy the glory of being one of the mightiest members of the most respected team of heroes in the galaxy-”

Superboy turned his attention back to the vidscreen. “In other Legion news,” the announcer was saying, “Superboy came to the rescue of an octo-cat in Schaffenburg Township this afternoon.” Oh, no, thought Superboy. “Thanks to an anonymous tip, we were able to send a flying news-cam to the scene to bring you this footage.” Superboy cringed. There he was, large as life, with green goo all over him and that furry little freak Octavius clinging to his face.

Wait a minute, Superboy thought. Anonymous tip? He looked over at the table where Dream Girl was sitting. She raised her glass and gave him a slow wink.

“Look,” Mon-El was saying, “If you want to be a big fish in a small pond, maybe you should find out whether the Legion of Substitute Heroes has any openings.”

“Maybe I will,” said Ultra Boy. He grinned wolfishly. “Night Girl is so hot.”

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