Legion of Super-Heroes: Die and Let Live, Book 2, Chapter 5: Time Enough for Penance

by Martin Maenza and Libbylawrence

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Within the Legion’s main meeting room, a group of the young heroes met to discuss what to do about the mysterious return of Karate Kid.

“Brainy, Vi, Cham, Jacques, Jo, and Tinya are away on another case and probably won’t be back very soon,” said Star Boy. (*) “I know Brainy had requested some personal leave earlier, anyway. Still, there are plenty of us here now. The mission monitor board shows that Jeckie is still in her room. That’s good, because I wanted to establish some basic facts before breaking this news to her.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: The Return.]

Dream Girl went through the motions of covering a yawn, and she looked languidly through her heavily painted eyelashes to the others. “I once had a dream when Val and I were alone. I felt that one of us was doomed. We found out that he had been poisoned earlier in combat, and the effects were only evident hours later. Well, he was cured, and I assumed that vision had reached its end. (*) Years later, I had another vision that a Legionnaire would die. (*) After Val’s death shortly after, I wondered if maybe the original feeling about his impending doom was more correct than ever. However, after looking at the bio tests Lar conducted, I have to say that my vision, or the interpretation of it, was wrong. This new Val is the old one. Biologically, genetically, that man is Val Armorr. He is more than any clone!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Silent Death,” Superboy #201 (March-April, 1974) and “Death Threat,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #313 (July, 1984).]

“I can find no trace of deception within his clouded mind,” said Saturn Girl. “I think he has Val’s mind and memories as well. They are fragmented, but they will return in time. I did not dare probe too deeply, because I didn’t want to risk doing anything that might hinder the healing process or slow it down. However, I did see buried within his mind an image that leaves me at a loss. I saw his final moments before he died. A clone could be taught many things, but we know that the cell samples Brainy once took would not have been able to produce a living being with a set of memories that included things that happened after the initial samples were taken!”

“Brin, Rokk, and I all agree that he has every skill the original Val possessed, too,” said Mon-El, alias Lar Gand.

“I can vouch for that!” said Wildfire. “He shattered my old suit like it was made of glass. So, what do we do with him? Val or not, he killed a sentient!”

“The Legion Constitution strictly condemns taking the life of another sentient being in other than a provable situation of self-defense or as a provable only available alternative to the death of another sentient being,” said Polar Boy, alias Brek Bannin.

“Well said, Brek,” said Cosmic Boy. “You’ve learned it verbatim!”

“I hardly feel fit to judge him on those grounds,” said Star Boy. “I killed a man once, too. I lost membership for a while because of it.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Legionnaire Who Killed,” Adventure Comics #342 (March, 1966).]

Dawnstar stood up, and a pained expression crossed her lovely features as she revealed a more tender side than was normal for her. “I also took a life,” she said. “I robbed one being of the Great Spirit’s most precious gift. You ruled that it was all an accident done in self-defense, but my heart does not always allow me to embrace that notion!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Lost Among the Missing,” Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #322 (April, 1985).]

“Dawny, you have to ease up on yourself,” said Wildfire. “Your case was nothing like Val’s. For that matter, Jacques beat himself up badly after his weird powers warped that Khund into space, but he was found innocent as well. (*) He did not mean to do it, and neither did you. Val acted deliberately!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Election Day,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #10 (May, 1985).]

“And Jacques beat himself up badly after his weird powers warped that Khund into space, but he was found innocent,” said Wildfire. (*) He did not mean to do it. Val acted deliberately!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Election Day,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #10 (May, 1985).]

“And yet, haven’t we all been used in one way or another?” said Sun Boy. “One of Tinya’s people once inhabited my very body and made me act in ways I would never have acted had I been free. (*) Mordru once created a magical double of Rokk’s that would have killed Superboy. (*) Mordru once enslaved Cham with a magical blood crystal! (*) And I could go on with even more examples. The point is, none of us could help ourselves!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Final Eclipse of Sun Boy,” Superboy #215 (March, 1976), “Trust Me or Kill Me,” Superboy #173 (April, 1971), and “Curse of the Blood-Crystals,” Superboy #188 (July, 1971).]

“However, as champions of those under their protection, a heroine must hold herself accountable for her deeds,” said Shadow Lass. “To ignore the consequences would be reckless!”

“I first met you all when I was a member of the Legion of Super-Assassins,” said Blok. “While my motivation came from a misguided view of what had occurred to the people of Dryad, my intentions were still decidedly lethal!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Night of the Super-Assassins,” Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #253 (July, 1979).]

“Yeah, but you didn’t kill anybody,” said Wildfire. “We’ve all had moments when we felt like getting rough with somebody. Hey, I wanted to take Superboy apart back when he used to hang around all the time, but the key is I didn’t act upon it!”

“Sure,” said Magnetic Kid. “When our mother was killed by those fire bombers, Rokk and I both hated them, but we didn’t kill them. He brought them in to justice.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “What Do You Do on the Day After Doomsday?” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #296 (February, 1983) and “Mettle,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 #297 (March, 1982).]

“And after I lost my entire family and my whole world to Roxxas, I actually tried to take vengeance by killing him, and it was only Chemical King’s quick action to make the gun inert that stopped me from making the biggest mistake of my life,” said Element Lad. (*) “I would plead for understanding. We don’t know what they did to Val. He could very well have been mind-controlled!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Ultimate Revenge,” Superboy #211 (September, 1975).]

“Right,” said Sun Boy. “Like I said, none of us condone murder. None of us have truly ever been in the exact circumstance that Val is in now. Ultra Boy was accused falsely of murder, but he didn’t do it. (*) We don’t know for sure that Karate Kid was the killer. He can’t say if he did it or not, since his memories are messed up. Who is to say they didn’t plant a false memory in his mind to make him obey them?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Murder Most Foul,” Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #239 (May, 1978).]

“Hold it,” said Cosmic Boy. “I can add something to the table. I study twentieth-century history, and one legal aspect from that era applies. There is a precedent in super-hero law in which a well-meaning proven do-gooder is not responsible for his actions if there is certain evidence that he was possessed, enslaved, or otherwise helpless to control his actions! It’s called the Turner Clause, after an obscure hero of that time. (*) It was put into effect much later.”

[(*) Editor’s note: This is a reference to Ben Turner, alias the Bronze Tiger, who was used as an assassin to kill Batwoman in “The Vengeance Vow,” Detective Comics #485 (August-September, 1979).]

“However, that law does not apply now,” said Saturn Girl. “It was forgotten or done away with long before the founding of the United Planets. Garth and I read all those ancient legal texts, too, before we helped you draft the Legion Constitution.”

“True enough, Imra,” said Cosmic Boy. “However, I would argue that, while we don’t necessarily have a legal leg to stand on, we could at least consider the possibility that, like some of those heroes of the past, Val could not control himself due to manipulation of an unknown kind by his mysterious mistress.”

The White Witch spoke up for the first time that day. “I can vouch for the fact that magical rituals were partially responsible for his current state,” she said.

“We may rely upon Mysa’s word in such matters,” said Blok. “I suggest we speak to President Stewart directly. He would gladly help us with this matter. Perhaps Val could be placed within Legion custody until the matter can be fully understood!”

“I agree,” said Star Boy. “Blok has a good idea. I don’t want to see any Legionnaire placed under arrest or put on trial until we know all the facts. He can’t even defend himself at this point, since his mind is so clouded!”

“I know from personal experience that any form of imprisonment is a torture to be avoided,” said Mon-El. “I don’t want to see Val locked away until we find out his true status! He could be a pawn.”

“That sounds reasonable,” said Cosmic Boy. “Let’s go tell him!”

Five of them hurried out to the Hall of Heroes, only to find the room empty. Saturn Girl frowned and said, “I sense his mind is still in Legion Headquarters! He has fled to the time bubble chamber!”

They entered the chamber where the miraculous time bubble rested and saw Timber Wolf helping Karate Kid adjust one of the devices. Karate Kid now wore the white jacket and black outfit that had been his costume during much of his later career as a hero. He looked at the others and moved forward into the craft.

“If he means to become a fugitive, then I can stop him easily enough,” said Mon-El. “I can fly through time without a bubble!”

“Lar, I sense that isn’t his intention,” said Saturn Girl. “He has more planned than a simple run from justice!”

“Yeah!” said Timber Wolf. “Give him a chance to explain!”

Before any of the heroes could act, a blinding whiteness filled their senses. Even those with advanced senses like Mon-El could not see through the smothering white field that covered their eyes and smothered their ears. Time seemed to stop, and then all of them could see and hear again.

“The bubble is gone,” said Saturn Girl. “He departed while we were helpless! Come out, Jeckie!”

Projectra stepped majestically into view. She wore her red and gold costume, and she stood before them with a steady gaze. “My friends, I used my powers to prevent you all from stopping Val,” she said. “I also needed time to be alone with him. I wanted to talk with him without being heard or watched by even well-meaning allies! Thus, I shielded us from you all in the same manner I made the monitor board detect me where I was not!”

“Way to go, Jeckie!” said Timber Wolf. “So, what do you think? It is Val, isn’t it?”

Projectra smiled slightly and said, “I did not need my powers to pierce all illusions to see that that man is the man I love. He is my husband. I do not need to know more than that. My heart tells me what my powers would also reveal if I had used them!”

She forced herself not to start crying from joy again as she added, “Val and I talked, and he promised to return to me when he had proven himself and regained his sense of self. He will be in the past until that time arrives. None of you doubt his honesty. He will return on his own when the time is right. Through the nuances of time travel, he may even be back in a few moments, although to his perception he will have been gone many months. I cannot say for sure. I ask only what he asks of you. Trust him and give him time to come to terms with his current status. It is enough for me that the Spirit King has found it within his power and mercy to return Val to me!”

“We’ll follow your lead,” assured Cosmic Boy. “We will leave him in peace. I believe he’ll come back to meet whatever fate is in store for him. He never ran from a fight before!”

“That is true,” said Projectra. “I will add that, as my royal consort, he has immunity from all laws except those of my making. I will judge him accordingly, and none of you will question my right!”

She vanished from sight via her remarkable powers, and they turned to face one another in silence.

Timber Wolf waited after the others had departed from the chamber. “Don’t worry, pal,” he said. “I know you’ll win this fight, just like all the others you won before!”

The End

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