by Dan Swanson
The discussion continued for several hours. As this was perhaps the single most important decision in their lives, Canary actually took a vote.
“Don’t assume that this is a precedent for future decisions,” she warned. “The Legion is not turning into a democracy!”
In the end, they reached a guarded agreement to a temporary alliance with Mekanique. In addition, they voted unanimously to destroy all their time-travel gear, destroy the records of their research, and outlaw time travel by any Legionnaires once this case was over.
Mekanique had a simple plan — jump into the Limbo fortress shortly before the 1988 Election Day invasion that caused the Final War and destroy Futura and Vandal Savage. And the fortress and everything in it would be destroyed in the ensuing antimatter explosions.
“What antimatter explosion?” Rex asked. This was the first the Legion had heard of any antimatter being involved.
“When I deactivate Futura, this will interrupt a subspace signal that her body constantly broadcasts. Thirty-two seconds later, all the power cells in the Legion of Doom androids will self-destruct. The explosions will be devastating. I imagine Futura’s death in the final war on Earth, followed by the detonations of all the Legion of Doom androids, is what actually devastated the Earth.”
She paused for a moment to let them absorb this information. “This explosion should resolve our mutual Legion of Doom issue forever. We will naturally need to escape from Limbo within that time.”
“Holy freepin’ negation!” Rex was awed. “What will an energy release like that do to Limbo?”
“It will totally vaporize Futura’s headquarters building and everything inside it, of course,” Mekanique responded, unconcerned with the fate of her foe’s building or its contents. “Other than that, my calculations show no major effects. There is very little in Limbo to be affected by such a blast.”
“How did you learn about this subspace transponder trap?” Canary demanded suspiciously.
“I captured and reverse-engineered several members of the Legion of Doom. They now serve as my agents inside Savage’s forces.”
“Simple as pi!” Greenfire sneered. “Why won’t the more than one-hundred super-powered androids in the Legion of Doom bust in on us and prevent us from dealing with Savage and Futura?”
“These same agents will seal off the entrances to the control room and Savage’s personal quarters. The seals should last long enough for us to accomplish our tasks.”
“And how do we know you’ll warn us when you’ve deactivated Futura?” This was Canary again.
Mekanique handed a small box to Rex. “Here is a subspace monitor removed from one of the captured Legion of Doom androids. As you can see, I am receiving a continuous signal. You can incorporate this unit into Gernsback’s existing sensor suite — and when the signal ceases, Gernsback instantly recalls you to Knight Base.”
The Justice Legionnaires didn’t worry about the proposed destruction of the android Legion of Doom; they had been destroying training androids for their whole careers, and been trained to destroy Doomsters on sight, if possible, by General Urbane. Mekanique didn’t bother to tell the heroes about Savage’s personal attendants aboard his captured yacht; they were all members of the Illuminati and had chosen to work for Savage.
The team grilled Mekanique on every detail they could think of and then worked out their plan of attack. Finally, Canary suggested the Legionnaires needed some additional time to prepare. Mekanique suggested a surprising meeting time and place, then made a time jump directly to that space-time location — no waiting for her.
None of the Legionnaires trusted their new ally. They spent several days making their own special preparations.
Canary and Hawk Lad were sparring. It wasn’t going well. Normally they were well-matched: they shared a bird motif; his natural ferocity matched against her almost-maniacal intensity; her sonic power was nicely offset by his own lesser but similar power combined with his wings; and his natural weapons, spurs, claws, and beak were neutralized by her ability to improvise weapons and defenses from just about anything at hand. Yet today it was their mutual ineptitude that made them a matched set.
Hawk Lad gained as much height as he could in the gym and then stooped on Canary, who leaped quickly aside. She stumbled and fell, smashing into the practice weapons rack and knocking it down, and wooden weapons cascaded across the floor. Meanwhile, Hawk Lad was frantically struggling out of his dive, trying to avoid some of the workout gear. He almost succeeded, but one of his legs struck the pommel horse, and he rolled sideways, crashing into the heavy boxing bag, and slid to the floor.
“Spiiit!” he hissed. “If we fight like that tomorrow, we’ll be nothing but prey. Easy prey, at that!”
Canary rolled into a sitting position, but didn’t try to stand. “Agreed. I don’t think the two of us together, right now, could even take on Clothes-Fall-Off Girl.” Coquette was often ridiculed as the worst hand-to-hand combatant who had ever been enrolled at the Legion Academy. Her skills lay in other directions. Canary smiled briefly at her own joke, then became serious. “Horus, I need to keep you out of the fight tomorrow.”
“What? No!” He sprang into the air, his powerful wings swept strongly downward, and the wind he created knocked over some of the training apparatus. He climbed for two powerful wing beats, then arched his back and did a back roll, coming out of the roll in a diving attack.
“Skreee!” His angry hunting cry was painful, and Canary hummed quietly to offset its power. Horus streaked by one of the cloth practice dummies, totally shredding it with beak and claws in an instant. He landed in front of her, and she could sense his anger radiating from him like heat from a white star. “Am I no longer a Legionnaire? Am I no longer worthy?!”
“Horus, you are one of our most deadly fighters.” She glanced at the shredded dummy and shuddered. Had he done that to remind her just how deadly? “But we’re traveling in time again tomorrow, and…” She’d thought about these next words for hours and still didn’t know how to say it, so she just said it. “And, well, the whole last time-travel mission you were nothing more than a burden to us. You were out of your head the whole time, and you needed someone’s attention full-time. We won’t be able to spare you a nursemaid tomorrow.” She decided that brutal honesty might get the best results.
“I could rend you instantly,” he hissed, his voice barely a whisper.
Probably not, she thought silently to herself. Her sonic scream and the quarterstaff in her left hand could probably prevent an instant rending. She ought to be able to survive until their teammates arrived, if necessary. But as the team leader, it was her job to make sure it didn’t become necessary.
“OK,” she spoke calmly. “It you weren’t worried about exactly the same thing, then why were you fighting like a magpie before?” The magpie was one of the most cowardly birds, and a comparison was such an insult to a Feitheran warrior that it could be deadly dangerous. She made ready to block any attack. Once again, Horus launched himself into the air, but this time he didn’t make any attack runs, he just hovered above her while each sweep of the giant wings blasted her again.
“And you so much like a lemming?” he snarled back at her.
“Better than a titmouse, I guess.” She was relieved; they could talk about this rather than fight about it. “You know I’m right.”
“I know there has to be a better answer than keeping me out of the fight tomorrow. I need you to help me find it.” Good; she could work with that.
The whole recent mission in which Squad A had been out of their own time, Hawk Lad’s mind had been bombarded by images of what appeared to be past lives. He was now convinced that he was another reincarnation of Prince Khufu of Egypt, who had been Carter Hall, alias Hawkman, in the twentieth century, and his mutterings while sick had convinced his teammates as well. Somehow, being in the past was releasing these memories into his mind, and his own self was getting lost in these released memories. And as long as his self was lost, he was worthless to his teammates.
After a few minutes of discussion, Canary realized she needed help, too. “Look, Hawk, can we get the rest of the team in on this? They’re the scientists, and we’ll all be affected by whether we can figure this out or not.”
It was Canary who kept the discussion focused and delivered the summary an hour or so later, scientists notwithstanding.
“OK, our working hypothesis is this: when a being travels into the past, if that being enters the past and overlaps an earlier instance of itself…” She paused and shook her head violently. “I don’t know how you big brains understand this stuff!” she snarled in disgust. “I’m getting a headache trying to keep it straight!”
“Our brains aren’t designed for time travel, boss lady,” agreed Rex. “Probably Gernsback is the only one who really understands it.”
“Thanks, I think.” She nodded, then continued. “So when a being overlaps itself in time, there are consequences. If the overlap is physical, the being who is out of time is forced into the form of a phantom, such as what happens to Randall when he uses his power. If the overlap is spiritual, such as a reincarnated being overlapping an earlier incarnation, the effects are normally minor and may not even be noticed; for example, a sense of déjà vu.” She could see from their expressions how worried they were about Randall Tyler, especially his brother Rexford, so she hurried on.
“And then there’s Horus. Not only is he a reincarnation of Carter Hall, but he is also a direct descendant. This close relationship amplifies the usual minor effects of overlap into a debilitating mental state.”
She could see that Horus was about to explode. To hear his friends and teammates calmly talking about his debilitating mental state was just about more than he could stand.
“Hold on, Horus,” Canary said to him directly. “We’re just getting to the good part. I’ve got some ideas about helping you!”
“It’s about time!”
“In the Legion Academy, they taught us that the best defense against mental attacks is focus. And we learned a lot of techniques to resist this type of attack. There have been something like forty-five mentalists who’ve been Legionnaires or gone through the Legion Academy, and they all contributed something to the training.”
Horus was about to interrupt. “I know you didn’t get that training, Hawk. There’s something else you didn’t get, either. Whenever recruits enter the academy, they each get a personal mind-shield to use until they master the training. None of us have those shields any longer, but I’m betting Rex and Gernsback could build you one.”
“Damn straight we could!” Rex shouted.
“Better get started, then, Rexy — you and Gernsy got a lot of things on your plate tonight!” And, she promised herself, I’ll give Horus a couple hours of training in the Academy’s most basic mental techniques tonight. He can’t pick up years of training overnight, but every little bit might help!
Timepiece worked in his lab with Gernsback to build some mysterious devices, Star Lass and Greenfire discussed strategies for making the best use of their energy-based powers, and Canary and Hawk Lad searched through some of the Knight Base trophy rooms and storage rooms for useful items that the Wanderers might have collected during their fifty years of interstellar adventuring. Finally, they were ready.
Gernsback jumped Knight Base through time and space, ending up on the night side of the asteroid Ceres in the Earth’s Solar System in November of 1988. Only seconds later, Mekanique materialized in the ready room. And then she used her own powers to transport herself into the Limbo fortress control room, and Canary, Star Lass, Greenfire, Hawk Lad, and Timepiece into Vandal Savage’s personal quarters on his yacht in one of the fortress storerooms.