When Lightning Lad turned to face his wife after her anguished cry, he was struck in the back by a bolt from his grinning sibling. The electrical power had no real effect on him, but the impact of the bolt itself dropped Garth Ranzz to the ground.
Shadow Lass flew forward and cast a cloud of inky blackness around the fallen hero. Mekt won’t be able to target Garth as easily if he can’t see him! she thought.
Mon-El dropped down and slammed into Validus with both fists. The impact rocked the brute backward, but did nothing to slow his charge.
Superboy melted the ground in front of the rampaging creature and created a trench that did accomplish a bit of a delaying action. “Girls, get Garth to safety!” said Superboy as he and Mon-El were caught in a blast of mental electricity from the skull of Validus.
Saturn Girl clutched her hands to her temples and concentrated. Lightning Lord staggered backward as his mind was briefly overwhelmed by her attack. “Get out of my head!” he bellowed as he fought to regain his own stability.
“Tell me where my sons are, or I’ll pull the data from your mind!” cried Saturn Girl.
“I don’t think you can!” said Mekt Ranzz.
Imra Ranzz gasped as her vision dimmed, and she lost contact with her foe. “Another mind is shielding him!” she whispered. “That’s how they took the boys! I’m fighting another Titanian!”
Even as Lightning Lad and Shadow Lass moved to join the fight, Blok said, “The children just vanished. They were safe, and then they were gone! I cannot imagine they would leave so willingly. I heard no cries, and I saw no abductor!”
Saturn Girl fought her way back to her knees and then to her feet. “They were compelled to leave on their own,” she said. “That’s why they didn’t cry out. As to how they left without being seen by anyone, I have a theory about that as well!”
“Ah, dear Imra,” said Lightning Lord. “Your pristine mind and coldly clinical ways must make you a real pleasure in the–!”
Before he could finish his remark, he was being pummeled by a blazingly fast Timber Wolf. Brin Londo had taken Ayla Ranzz Londo inside and had returned with as much speed as his flight ring could manage. As Mekt’s body crackled with energy, Timber Wolf lashed out at him with impressive skill and brutality.
“You won’t hurt Ayla again!” he growled through clenched teeth as he ignored the burning pain that each contact with Mekt’s altered form brought to him.
Validus roared in fury as Superboy punched him with enough force to shatter a mountain. I know Imra’s sick with worry, thought Superboy. Validus was her son Garridan. We thought he’d been cured, but now he’s missing, and this is certainly no illusion! His mental bolts are burning the very air around his skull!
Lightning Lad hurried to separate Timber Wolf from his brother. “Brin, stop!” he cried. “One of you will die if you continue!”
Timber Wolf hesitated as reason returned to his eyes, and he released the battered body of Lightning Lord. “I lost control!” he said as he backed away from his foe and fought for raspy breaths.
“My brother brings out the worst in people,” said Garth ruefully. “I’ve known that since I was a child. Mekt, where are my sons? What have you done to them?”
Mekt groaned and said, “I don’t know! I have not touched your brats! They are all that is left of our parents, even if they have been tainted by you and your icy bride!”
“I believe him!” said Imra. “I can sense that he’s not telling a lie! But I also know what I need to do!” She flew directly at Validus as he knocked Mon-El into Superboy.
“Imra — no!” yelled Garth as she hovered in front of the creature’s massive head. Validus raised one mighty fist as if to smash the daring blonde woman into pulp, but he stopped in mid-movement and lowered his fists. He cried out once, then ran away with the body of Lightning Lord in one hand. The Legionnaires started to chase him, when he disappeared from view.
Superboy frowned and said, “They just vanished! I don’t get it. First they attack without being detected by any of our super-senses or Imra’s mental gifts, and then they disappear just as completely.”
“I fear the same process explains how the children were taken from before our very eyes!” said Blok.
“Garth, I touched his mind, like I did before when I learned that Validus was our child,” said Saturn Girl. “That creature was Validus. His infantile mind and his confusion are almost uniquely his own, but he was not Garridan!”
“You don’t mean to say that someone turned Graym into the creature this time?” said Lightning Lad.
Imra shook her head and said, “No. I don’t know who that tormented being was, but he was neither of our boys. As for how they vanished and attacked unseen, I’d say the other mind I felt briefly used some type of mass hypnosis to briefly make us unaware of their movements.”
“Mass hypnosis wouldn’t work on me,” said Superboy. “Only some form of… well… super-hypnosis could fool me. We know of at least two masters of that kind of mental manipulation. One of them is Universo!”
“He is in the custody of the Guardian of Oa,” said Saturn Girl. “I think it has to be the second candidate!”
Superboy nodded grimly and said, “Saturn Queen! She could do it, and she and Cosmic King were Mekt’s partners in that Adult Legion of Super-Villains that once tried to take over when Dynamo Boy joined the team and expelled all of us!”
“That older version of Mekt was on my mind last night,” said Lightning Lad. “I’m not given to premonitions, but this could very well be the birth of that future team of villains. After all, we’ve never met a young Saturn Queen before, but we did encounter a young Cosmic King when Mekt last assembled a team of villains. That makes me think that there is a young Saturn Queen out there as well, and perhaps Mekt has met up with her. This teaming could be the first link in a chain that eventually will lead to a future in which those three older villains do indeed journey back to the past and fight us.”
Superboy shook his head and said, “I can’t understand how the future versions of Mekt and the others could fight us during what had to have been their own past. When I enter an era in which I already exist, I become a phantom. It’s a law of time travel that prevents a being from being in the same era with his own past or future self!”
“I think that the explanation may be logical, if disturbing,” said Blok. “Dynamo Boy was their ally before. He was exposed as either the Time Trapper or one of that mysterious being’s pawns when last we fought him. (*) His power could easily bend such rules of time, and thus allow his allies to exist twice within an era. For that matter, what if they truly come from a divergent future timeline and thus are not bound by the laws that govern those originating from within one single timeline?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: The Garridan Quest.]
“Imra, you know the mind you felt blocking your efforts,” said Shadow Lass. “Can you determine if it was the mind of Saturn Queen?”
“I think it was,” said Saturn Girl. “I’m almost certain of it.”
Timber Wolf burst out of the nearby building with a look of horror on his face. “Ayla’s still out cold!” he cried. “I can’t wake her up!”
Lightning Lad hurried after his new brother-in-law and tried to awaken the still form of his twin sister. “She’s breathing normally,” he said. “Why can’t we wake her up?”
“Her mind has been shut down!” said Saturn Girl. “I’d say we can blame it on Saturn Queen. Remember, Ayla fell before Mekt actually attacked!”
“Lar, can you help Brin?” said Shadow Lass. “He’s about to collapse himself!”
Mon-El nodded and gently but firmly led Brin aside for treatment. The Daxamite was the team’s finest bio-technician and had extensive skill in that field. He also knew a great deal about basic medicine.
While Mon-El was busy tending to Timber Wolf with help from a medi-droid, Saturn Girl tried to reach Ayla’s slumbering mind. “She is definitely under a hypnotic spell,” said Imra. “Her mind has been regressed to a point near infancy. If she was awake, she would be little more than a baby.”
“Saturn Queen can restore her,” said Shadow Lass. “We have to find her. I’d say she also has the boys!”
“I’ve been trying to pinpoint her mind,” said Saturn Girl. “There are no other Titanians on Winath. She stands out like a sore thumb to one with my kind of power. I can locate her. Apparently, she’s shielding the boys from my probes, but has not bothered to conceal her own mind! For that matter, I can now detect Mekt’s!”
“But you said yourself that Mekt knew nothing about the boys!” said Blok.
“I did, and I meant it,” said Saturn Girl. “For all we know, Saturn Queen could be helping him without his knowledge. They may not have met yet.” Frowning, she continued, “There is a real mystery here. Solving it will answer our questions, restore Ayla, and bring my sons back to me!”
Garth held her and said, “Don’t worry, dear. We’ll get them back. This will end here and now. We’re not going to suffer anymore at Mekt’s hands!”
Superboy knew the couple very well, and he understood that Imra’s steely resolve masked her concern for her loved ones. She was a heroine in every sense of the word, and she was brave enough and smart enough to realize that she could best help them by using her powers and her wits without giving in to emotion. He also recognized that Lightning Lad’s protective impulses and more open nature made his own feelings more evident. They complimented each other well as a couple.
Mon-El stood back from a restored Timber Wolf. “That should do the trick, but you got off lucky. That kind of voltage could have caused you permanent damage!”
“Thanks, pal,” said Timber Wolf. “Now I’ve got to get back to Ayla.” He took her hand and whispered something to her before turning to face their friends. “I’ll kill Mekt for this! I mean it!” he said.
“Easy, Brin,” said Superboy. “You don’t really mean that. You’re a Legionnaire. We don’t take lives!”
“I was Lone Wolf before,” said Brin. “I can be that again, if it means you can’t help me!”
“Oh, we’ll help you find him,” vowed Mon-El. “We just can’t let you kill him. Trust me, I’ve seen enough of human nature to know that revenge solves nothing.”
Timber Wolf bit back his planned reply. He knew very well that Mon-El truly had suffered like none other during his centuries trapped as an observing wraith in the Phantom Zone. His depth of pain and his inner courage could not be doubted or questioned.
“Brin, I’m going to ask you to stay with Ayla,” said Shadow Lass. “You’ve been hurt, and she is still so vulnerable. You could best serve her by staying by her side.”
Brin was a man of action, but he also had good instincts, and he accepted Tasmia’s orders. “I’ll guard her. She never left my side during my withdrawal from the addiction I had to lotus fruit, and I won’t let her suffer alone, either!”
Shadow Lass smiled and said, “She can rely on you. We all know that. Now, Imra, can you lead us to the minds in question? Better still, project the directions to Mon or Superboy. They can get there at super-speed!”
Saturn Girl agreed and touched her fingers to the faces of the two heroes. As they received her transmitted thoughts, they knew where to go. They raced off at super-speed and swiftly drew closer to a large cottage.
“They’re inside!” said Superboy. “I see the boys and Mekt, as well as Saturn Queen! They have their backs to me, but I certainly recognize them.”
“I’ll go in from below,” said Mon-El. “You take the upper entrance!”
Superboy nodded. He worked well with the young man he once thought of as his brother. He crashed through the roof as Mon-El erupted through the floor to challenge the pair. Mon-El jumped over to take the children into his arms. They were silent, and he realized their minds had also been touched by the power of their abductor.
“We’ve been expecting you,” said Lightning Lord. “Why, Eve, here, almost broadcast her thoughts to Saturn Girl in order to give her a clear path!”
“We’re here, and the others will be here in moments,” said Superboy. “What did you hope to gain by your actions?”
Mekt turned to face him, and Superboy gasped. “You’re not the Mekt we just fought at the wedding! You’re the older one from the future!”