Dirk Morgna smiled as he caught Robyn staring at him. Sun Boy considered giving the pretty secretary a wink, but at that moment Dean Olinger opened his office door and greeted the young Legionnaire with his customary warmth.
“Mr. Morgna, please come inside,” said the benign-looking old man. “I appreciate your willingness to stop by like this. I am well aware of how busy your schedule is!”
Dirk shrugged and said, “Well, unless the Khunds decide to invade or Mordru pops up, things are rather calm right now.” He slipped into an office chair with his normal ease and grace and leaned back confidently to hear Dean Olinger’s reason for summoning him.
“Say, I hope this isn’t about the media again,” he said with a concerned look on his handsome face. “I figured my skipping the doctoral ceremony on Friday would reduce the chance that Marella Tao and the others would swoop down and mess things up for the other graduates.”
Dean Olinger shook his head and said, “No, nothing like that. I’m just sorry your celebrity status will interfere with the just and proper celebration of your academic achievements. You’ve been a remarkable student, and you’ll be a real credit to the field of nuclear physics, Mr. or should I say, Dr. Morgna!”
Dirk grinned and said, “Dr. Morgna still sounds a bit odd to me. Having fans is a rather pleasurable benefit of being a Legionnaire. Of course, the real reward is just being of service to normal folks across the cosmos!”
“And you have been of great service,” said the dean. “You know, your personal record of service as a Legionnaire is impressive. You’ve served with the highest of honors and still do so! That’s why I asked you here. You see, one of our students has vanished. The young man in question literally disappeared!”
“I hate to risk eroding your fine opinion of me, but I’ll confess as a student, I was known to pull a few disappearing acts in my time,” said Dirk. “Perhaps he is just having a bit of harmless fun.”
“No, Dirk,” said the dean. “This young man is very serious about his studies. He is a Venturan orphan, and academics mean the world to him. He once tried out to join your Legion, in fact, but he failed in that endeavor. You see, he has rather curious super-powers all his own!”
“Would you be talking about Energy Boy?” asked Dirk. “Sharles Gluck did try out, but he was shown up by our own Polar Boy and left humbled and more than a bit dismayed. (*) Later, I was glad to see him around campus. We try to get those applicants who fail our auditions to consider other worthy pursuits, like going to college or public service. What exactly happened to Sharles?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Unto the New Generation,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #14 (September, 1985).]
Dean Olinger sighed and leaned forward in his chair. “Dirk, young Sharles can generate remarkable nucleo-energy, which is manifested by a sphere-shaped object. He can’t control it as well as he’d like. His mind needs to project the power in a geometric pattern with which he is comfortable. I’m sure one of our staffers in the meta-human department could explain it more directly. Anyway, he is studying nuclear physics, much like you did, in order to grasp his power and increase his potential in using it. He has never failed to attend any class, nor has he ever slacked off from his internship. That is why we became alarmed when his professors and his employer contacted us to say that Sharles failed to show up for either class or work!”
“I’ll be glad to do some checking,” agreed Dirk. “The nature of his powers makes it feasible for us to trace him through some detection devices I could get from our multi-lab.”
“There’s one other reason I wanted to speak to you in particular,” said the dean. “Sharles was an intern at your father’s company.”
Dirk stood up and said, “I didn’t know that. Dad has so many employees. We’ve come a long way from the days when I was one of his aides, along with the soon-to-be-infamous Zaxton Regulus.”
“Regulus was responsible for your own powers, wasn’t he?” said the dean. “He was a disgruntled employee of your father’s who tried to kill you by locking you inside a reactor!”
“Right,” said Dirk. “The media covered it in every grim detail. Instead of killing me, the reactor gave me my power over fire and light. I used it to become Sun Boy and join the Legion. As for Regulus, he experimented on himself until he gained powers of a similar kind. His proved to be temporary in nature, though. That’s why he often has had to rely upon armor or robotic weapons, but then again, you knew that, didn’t you? A full briefing on my potential foes was included in my student file. I guess your staff figured having a Legionnaire on campus could also make the college a target!”
Olinger nodded and said, “Dirk, I appreciate this. Will you look into the matter for us? I hesitated to call in the Science Police, since there is, as you said, the remote possibility that Sharles is merely shirking his duties!”
“I’ll be in touch,” said Dirk. As he exited, he gave Robyn the wink he had been considering. She blushed and dropped her compu-pad as the hero departed.
Sun Boy was true to his word and soon returned to Legion Headquarters, now wearing the bright red and yellow costume that had made him famous.
He saw Shrinking Violet, a pretty, dark-haired girl in a green minidress, and an older man with a heavy head of curly reddish-brown hair. “Salu, I thought you were on leave. I guess you can’t stay away from me, huh?” he joked.
Salu Digby rolled her eyes and said, “That’s exactly it, Dirk. Your raw animal magnetism drew me here. I even had Dad come all the way from Imsk so I could use showing him around headquarters as an excuse to stalk you!”
They laughed in a good-natured way as Arn Digby stepped forward. “Nice to see you, Dirk,” said the rugged and handsome ex-miner. “We met once before, you know. My little Salu, here, is helping her old man get accustomed to life on Earth.”
Salu took his arm and said, “Dad’s finally agreed to relocate here. He’s going to do some mineral work here for the U.P.”
Arn Digby nodded and said, “Sure. I figured there was nothing to keep an old widower on Imsk, since the company could offer me work right here near my daughter!”
“I hope you’ll like it here, although it will make it that much harder on me and the rest of the dazzled males who adore her!” said Sun Boy.
As he departed, Arn said, “Salu, I can’t understand why you don’t go out with a fine boy like that. He’s a real go-getter! That Duplicate Boy of yours has all the power in the cosmos, but lacks the good sense to use it!”
Salu elbowed her father playfully and said, “Dad, I’ve told you not to knock Ord. Dirk’s a big flirt, but all that charm doesn’t hide the fact that he never sticks with one girl for too long! Besides, he and I are just friends.”
By this time, Sun Boy had entered the multi-lab to try to put together a device that might help him trace Energy Boy’s own nucleo-energy.
“I’m not exactly Brainy when it comes to this type of thing, but I think I can whip up something that will do the trick,” he said to himself. “It’s not like Earth is saturated with nucleo-energy outside of controlled environments like the power spheres or Dad’s plant.”
Before he could continue with his work, he was stopped by the entrance of a stunningly beautiful blonde woman in a short fringed pink dress and heels.
“Flavia! It is good to see you! What brings you here?” he asked as she embraced him and kissed him warmly on both cheeks.
Running one hand through his hair, she said, “Now, Dirk, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t come to see my boy get his doctorate! Salu and her adorable father told me where I could find you.”
Dirk ignored the urge to correct his stepmother, since she was the nicest of all of his father’s former wives. “Flavia, I’m thrilled you came, but I thought you were hitting the galactic spa circuit with your friend Gleanna,” he said.
Flavia Morgna smiled and said, “I had to cancel that trip. You know how easily I get bored on my own. Well, Gleanna never showed up. I looked so silly standing there at the spaceport all by myself!”
Dirk concealed a smile as he thought, Knowing Flavia’s combination of looks and charm, she would not have been alone for long!
Turning to his work, he said, “I’m just working on a case involving another disappearance. Say, this may be a long shot, but where is Gleanna from originally?”
Flavia sat down on a lab table, crossed her legs, and frowned in concentration. “Gleanna’s from Mars, or at least that’s where we met,” said his stepmother. “She used to do an act at Nix Olympia. The tourists loved the girl!”
Dirk shrugged and said, “I’ve known a few showgirls in my time. I’d say she was just being flighty. Maybe she found a better offer. No offense!”
“That sounds like the dear girl,” said Flavia. “Wait, Dirk! Come to think of it, she actually was born on Ventura! Her family did an act at one of the big casinos!”
“The man I’m looking for also comes from Ventura!” said Dirk. “Sit tight. I think I’d like to talk to our Science Police contact for a moment. Computo, Science Police link — Officer Erin.”
Dirk’s spoken request was heard by the headquarters’ sentient computer system, and in seconds, a holographic image of the lovely blonde Officer Shvaughn Erin appeared.
“Sun Boy, what can I do for you?” she asked. “Jan mentioned you were graduating soon. Did you need to coordinate security for the ceremony?”
“Nothing quite so simple as that, I’m afraid,” said Sun Boy. “Shvaughn, could you do a check for me to see if your records indicate an increase in missing sentient cases involving natives of Ventura?”
The pretty blonde nodded, and after a brief wait, she replied, “Dirk, you may be on to something. By doing a cross reference with the United Planets law-enforcement system, I find an alarming number of Venturans have vanished. Most of them were either on Earth when last seen or were believed to be in transit here!”
“Are there any common factors linking them, other than their place of birth?” asked Sun Boy. “Do any of the missing people work in the field of nuclear science?”
“No,” she said. “I mean, I see one or two are in the sciences, but nothing that indicates the field you’re speaking of. In fact, the missing people differ in gender, age, income, occupation, and duration of their time off-planet. If something obvious links them beyond the fact that they were born on Ventura, I can’t find it!”
“Thanks, Shvaughn!” said Sun Boy. “I’ll have Jan give you a big kiss for me.”
Shvaughn smiled and signed off as Sun Boy turned to his stepmother. “Flavia, would you mind terribly if I took care of some business for a while?” he asked. “Computo can guide you around headquarters until I return, or maybe you’d like to hit the stores for a while?”
“I can take a hint,” said the radiant blonde. “You do what you have to. I’ll be just fine. Perhaps I can find some amusing way to pass the day.” She glanced toward the lab door and smiled playfully.
Sun Boy nodded and flew out of the lab. “I’ll try the tracking device later. I’m going to look into this other lead first. I think it’s possible that Sharles vanished because of his planet of origin, not because of his super-powers!”