Legion of Super-Heroes: Die and Let Live, Book 2, Chapter 3: Lost in Illusion

by Martin Maenza and Libbylawrence

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Within her room, Projectra was still lost within her illusions. She relived her life with Val Armorr and remembered the case in which she, Val, and other Legionnaires had been poisoned. With only hours to live, they had separated to engage in a few final precious tasks of a personal nature.

She had retreated to Metropolis Square Park where her pouting expression had attracted an unlikely philosopher named Myron Marks. The studious man had joined her and listened to enough of her story to offer some advice.

“Think of what’s been good in your life,” he had said. “Don’t bother regretting a moment! And squeeze your last hours dry, too!”

Jeckie had taken the words to heart, and eventually she had rejoined her friends to try to find some cure to their plight. That cure had eventually come in the form of the Miracle Machine. Her pals had used the reality-altering gift of the enigmatic Controllers to restore the seemingly dead Legionnaires to full health. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Twelve Hours to Live,” Adventure Comics #378 (March, 1969) and “Burial in Space,” Adventure Comics #379 (April, 1969).]

If only that device had not been destroyed by Matter-Eater Lad! she thought tearfully.

She smiled through her sorrow as she remembered how brave Val had tried to fill the hours that he and the rest had viewed as their final moments of life before they were finally healed by the Miracle Machine. While some, like Duo Damsel, had tried to find peace with their families, Val had resolved to track down and capture the notorious Fatal Five. He had succeeded in locating the gang, and he had attacked the most deadly assembly of super-villains in the known cosmos with only his courage and skills to aid him.

Val isn’t the type to sit quietly and wait for death! He’d want to die fighting! Jeckie had thought during that case. True, Val had only managed to drive them into flight, but he had displayed his courage once more.

Projectra remembered the day when she had discovered that Val’s stay in the twentieth century for some months had not been merely a whim, as she and everyone had thought, but because he secretly vowed to prove his worth to her father, King Voxv. Since she was a princess, and Val was not of royal blood, Projectra’s father would not grant him his permission to marry her until he had proven his worth. (*) His time there had ultimately been a success, but during those lonely days, Jeckie had retreated into a fantasy world of her own making in order to feel near him. She had created an illusional fake Orando, complete with an attentive Val by her side. Fever and stress had contributed to her actions, but her powers had been as compelling an escape from loss as they were now. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Death-Duel on Orando,” Karate Kid #10 (September-October, 1977) and “The Final Illusion,” Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233 (November, 1977).]

She saw his return in triumph. She relived their wedding in all its pageantry and splendor. Her father had died, and she had become queen of Orando. The happy couple resigned from the team that had brought them together, and she had envisioned years of marital bliss before them. Those dreams had proven to be as transitory as one of her illusions.

The Legion of Super-Villains, led by the hateful Nemesis Kid, had invaded the planet, killed her Cousin Pharoxx, trapped the royal couple, and prepared to move the whole world into another realm.

Val had refused to give up. She had pleaded with him to resist the restraints that sapped their will and contained their powers. He had fought like never before, and as usual, he had triumphed. He had broken free in time to battle Nemesis Kid with his last reserves of strength.

They had faced each beneath the lurid light of a hovering power sphere. It was partially through the power within the globe above that the villains had planned to move their conquered world.

“I knew it would come to this, ever since the day we both joined the Legion, Karate Kid,” the blond villain had gloated.

Val Armorr had leaped into combat for the last time. He was without peer when it came to mastery of the martial arts, but his enemy’s alchemical powers allowed him to duplicate and counter almost any force used against him in single combat. Thus, Nemesis Kid had managed to batter his foe to the ground.

Karate Kid had fallen, but he had not surrendered. Thus, in one brilliant, if heartbreaking display of self-sacrifice and nobility of spirit and soul, he had flown skyward and crashed into a power sphere. The explosion had ended his life but halted the threat faced by Orando.

Jeckie had used her own royal right to execute a condemned felon to end the life of Nemesis Kid after his own defeat when her Legion allies had routed the invaders. She had killed him and cast his body aside near what would become Val’s funeral pyre. Nemesis Kid was denied proper burial. His corpse could rot away or be destroyed by vermin or dogs. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: “Lest Villainy Triumph,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #4 (November, 1984) and “An Eye for an Eye, a Villain for a Hero,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #5 (December, 1984).]

None of that could ever ease her own pain. She mourned for her husband, and she resigned from the Legion. She had been castigated by the spirits of the Orakills, since it was partially her fault that enemies she had made by joining the Legion had brought such pain to her people and her planet. Thus she had agreed to undergo a quest of penance. She would leave Orando, which she had removed from its previous part of space. She would rejoin the Legion and earned her place through prowess in battle and courage as a heroine. Jeckie would do so without title or identity. As the masked and altered Sensor Girl, she would pay for her sins. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Unto the New Generation,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #14 (September, 1985).]

Projectra shuddered as she recalled how hard it had been to conceal herself from her friends and to endure their doubts and, in some cases, hostility because of their curiosity about her hidden face and mysterious manner. Sensor Girl had not been accepted with the affection and welcoming manner Princess Projectra had received long before. However, time had enabled her to prove her worth as an ally, and her exposure through the manipulations of the Dream Demon had resulted in a renewal of friendship with her startled teammates. (*) Finally, the Orakills had summoned her back to Orando, where she had coldly received their homage and their offer of a return to royal status before shocking them with a refusal.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of, Chapter 4: Illusions End.]

She relived the scene as her room altered to show the memories still fresh in her mind. That night, she had actually returned to her own private room within the Legion Headquarters to sit in front of a raging fire and chant arcane words of power. Slowly, the fire had grown larger and crackled with intensity until a portal had formed within the dancing flames and expanded until it floated out of the fire and hovered before Projectra. She had stepped resolutely through the portal and emerged in a massive palace of ancient stone.

Projectra recalled standing proudly and defiantly before a group of five imposing figures. They were cloaked and robed in purple, and they in turn stood before an ornate throne of burnished metal. Far above them loomed a carving that depicted the stern features of Roland, the ancient first high king of Orando. He stared down at the woman who carried his blood, and his somber features matched the tone of the high regent.

“Greetings, Projectra, she who was queen!” the old man in purple had said. “We welcome you here! The Council of Regents and the Orakills rejoice to see you well!” Holding out a wooden staff, he gestured to indicate that Projectra should come forward.

She had bowed to the floor, then stood up and said, “I have returned because I have completed the penance my past mistakes earned for me. I have reclaimed a heroine’s life, but without the title and power that is my birthright! I have returned now to accept your forgiveness and to grant you mine in return! As you know, I used the devices brought here by the Legion of Super-Villains to shunt our home into a dimension not of its origin. It has rested here safely since then, and it is my wish that it remains here. I tell you that immediately, so there will be no error.”

The old man had frowned. “We have indeed followed your progress, and as Sensor Girl of humble or unknown birth, you did achieve the status of heroine once more. We welcome you back, and we are proud to announce that if you so desire it, the throne of your revered ancestors is yours once more.”

Projectra’s eyes had blazed with emotion, and she pointed at him in a dramatic and defiant manner. “I have done my penance, and the throne is mine by right!” she had said in a stately tone. “Do not mistake a desire to atone for what the Legion of Super-Villains did here with any suggestion that Queen Projectra needs your approval to rule as is her right by blood!”

The Council of Regents whispered among themselves, and then the old man bowed low. “It is as you say, milady! All hail Her Majesty, Queen Projectra!” he had cried.

She had accepted their homage and waited for a moment before she replied. “I thank you for your services to the throne, but I am not ready at this time to resume the ruling of Orando. I have suffered much, and I need time to come to terms with loss and regret. I have also come to view the trappings of royalty to be much less valuable in the scheme of things than ever I did before. With the power to see through illusions, I have also realized how hollow much I once valued truly is! Thus, I order you all to continue to act on my behalf until I choose to return. Rest assured that someday Queen Projectra will return and rule once again!”

The only female on the Council of Regents had stepped forward and revealed scowling features etched with malice and envy. “Girl, you are still the spoiled, pretty plaything that so delighted your father Voxv!” she had hissed. “Your whims will only lead us all to ruin! I regret that ever I wasted my time teaching you the ancient arts!”

“Hagga, you are my poor late mother’s mother,” Projectra had said. “You were my teacher, but only because father demanded that you instruct me in the magic arts of illusion. You ever preferred my cousin, and that old spite still seethes within you. Still, ties of blood will not give you the right to speak so freely to she who is your queen. Hold your tongue. Mourn the loved ones we have both lost. Learn to let go of the seeds of hatred that are nurtured in your darkening soul.”

Projectra had turned away and vanished through magical flames once more. She was a queen once more, but she was not ready to be more than a heroine at this time. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Faerie Tale, Chapter 1: A Queen Once More.]

Jeckie shook her head at the memories of the past and the illusions that altered tense and time until what had been now seemed to be what was the present faded.

“I began this madness when my longing for Val had led to perform a séance. It always had been the nature of the Orakills to seek answers for this life from the spirits of those who had progressed to yet another realm. That bond betwixt the living and the dead is embodied by the sacred sign of the Spirit King, which seals all romances at their start!”

She knew that the communion with Val’s spirit would not be easy, but she had known such a reunion was essential to her peace of mind. She wanted to know that he was well and at peace. She wanted to tell him she loved him one last time.

That ceremony had been painful and futile. She had conjured the spirits of her parents, including the mother who had died during her infancy, but Val’s spirit had not been found. The somber tones of old King Voxv had echoed in her mind ever since that faithful moment.

“My daughter, your consort is not to be found among us. Seek him elsewhere, for truly his restless but valiant soul walks abroad in ways beyond my ken!”

She had started to weep, and she had retreated into the comforts of an illusionary life until reaching her present had broken her own spell and enabled her to gaze at the room with clear eyes.

“Val is not at peace,” she whispered. “That means I have to find him. I have to bring his spirit to a final rest, or I have to bring him to life again!”

She gestured, and her dark blonde hair and red and white mask changed to her natural elegant platinum blonde hair shade and the more daring, regal red and gold costume she had worn as Princess Projectra.

“I will find Val as myself. I will see this through as his Projectra!” she said as her high-heeled, thigh-high boots echoed in the silence of the cold and darkening room.

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