By SAMUEL HAWKINS
Chapter 9: Turning It Loose
Cosmic Boyís eyes widened in surprise at Superboyís departure. "Whatís going on?" he said to Saturn Girl with obvious urgency. "Is he running away?"
She didnít answer while she watched the rapidly shrinking image of the departing youth. Then she turned to her friend and leader. "Rokk. Heís still Superboy."
Cosmic Boy surprised her by breaking into a grin. "Yeah. Youíre right." Then he broadcast to his team, "Slight change in plan guys. Superboy will be back in a bit. For now, letís get Mordru away from that ship."
Cosmic Boy bent at the knees and activated his flight belt. As he lifted off and floated towards the left of Mordruís position, the Legion moved with him.
Striding boldly across the dusty asteroid, Mordru approached the Legionnaires with a gloating smile. "Has the Kryptonian abandoned you? Such a pity. Not that he could have made a difference." Mordru followed his taunt with a lazy mystic burst in their direction, and the Legionnaires scattered.
"Garth, Dirk," Cosmic Boy shouted. "Now!"
From the left and right of the line, Lightning Lad and Sun Boy repeated their earlier attack. With some effort, Mordru contained the blasts. Then Cosmic Boy added his magnetism to the assault. The additional energy created as the electric and magnetic fields reinforced each other gave Mordru pause. A struggle was required for him to shunt away the attack.
"Fools!" he barked at them as he regained control. "You are fools to challenge me!" He was just about to feed their energies back to them. Just about to burn and/or electrify the lot of them. Just about to rid himself of the nuisance called the Legion of Super-Heroes, when he felt a crescendo of pressure from above.
He looked up. A fraction of a second too late, he looked, up in the sky.
Moving far faster than a speeding bullet, Superboy rammed the Dark Lord. The Boy of Steel had a few light yearsí run up to the wizard, and their collision was remarkable. The impact drove the pair of titans deep into the asteroidís mantle, leaving a scorched fissure in their wake that threatened to split the entire rock in two. Slowly at first, the sides of the inadvertent tunnel began to collapse inward.
"NO!" Mordru gasped as panic permeated his being. The overwhelming fear he kept so carefully locked away was suddenly released. "NO! NO! NO!" he blindly repeated as he felt the stones falling onto his body. With each stone, a wave of terror washed through him, until there was nothing left of Mordru that was not choked with fear. "Not Ö BURIED!" he thought. "Not Ö AGAIN!"
Forcefully, his mind recoiled from the possibility that his great and unconquered fear would be realized. As it had done nearly a millennium before, his consciousness began to shut down. Anxiety born in a time when he was a much lesser being clamped down on him. Unable to bear the thought of being trapped beneath the tons of rock and sand, Mordruís mind began to once again retreat into the dark silence that was his only defense against this crushing, suffocating, reality. In seconds, he had nearly completed the inward journey that would free hundreds of worlds and remove the greatest threat to the freedom of countless others.
Then two things happened.
First, a shifting of stone and ice caused when his attacker began to free himself of the cavern stirred him.
Secondly, Mordruís last glimmer of rapidly fading awareness snatched at a troubling fact. There was another consciousness in his presence. One that was probing his thoughts.
And dissecting his fear.
As Superboy made his way to the surface, the Legionnaires were just regaining their footing from the tremors caused by the massive impact. Superboy was about to begin another pass at Mordru, when he saw Saturn Girl running towards him waving her arms. She had something important to tell him.
She didnít get the chance. Beneath them, Mordruís anger at his discovery caused him to reflexively lash out. As the outburst blew out the back of the asteroid, the Dark Lordís awareness was rekindled. Desperately, he dug at the shifting soil, gratefully realizing that only the relatively loose composition of the asteroid made this possible. With an effort born of panic, Mordru suddenly burst free.
The Legionnaires, just climbing to their feet, ducked down again as the rubble launched by Mordruís blast sailed towards them. A moment later, they scrambled to their feet, ready to rejoin the battle.
All save one.
All save the young telepath who was struck unconscious, seconds before she could share with Superboy the Dark Lordís greatest fear, and his only weakness.
"Imra!" both Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad yelled as their fellow founder dropped from the blow to her head. Cosmic Boyís lip was snarled in anger when he saw Mordru exiting the crevice. "Blast him!" he yelled. "Legionnaires pour it on!"
Lightning Lad and Sun Boy complied. Pushing themselves to their limits, the lads spewed out enough energy to stagger the still-shaken Mordru. He took a step backwards, then charged forward again. He suddenly halted, as Superboy dropped the side of a small mountain on his head.
Snorting with rage and frustration, the Dark Lord quickly shook away the rubble. He raised his hands to strike down the Legionnaires, but stopped as he was hit from the rear. He turned, expecting to find another of these children futilely exercising their "super-power" in his direction.
He was met instead by the remainder of a meteor shower that Cosmic Boy had drawn his way.
At this outrage, Mordru bellowed with anger and pain. As he swatted away the burning boulders, an ancient fury erased his fatigue. He resolved to finish this.
Heíd had enough of these insolent children.
Then Superboy swooped lower, and as he hovered above his teammates, turned a fiery eye towards the merciless one.
The initial blast of heat vision stung the sorcerer. He was further disconcerted to find that the longer the Kryptonian looked at him, the more he hurt. As a cry of pain escaped Mordruís lips, the rest of the energy-wielding Legionnaires joined the attack. Under cover of sparks, flame, dust, and Colossal Boy, the Espionage Squad moved out, and crept, drifted, or buzzed towards Mordruís ship.
As Mordru desperately attempted to rebuild his spell of defense, Superboy responded by increasing the intensity of his heat vision. At the triple attack of Superboy, Lightning Lad, and Sun Boy, Mordru staggered. Scarcely a Legionnaire could believe it when the Dark One collapsed to his knees.
Could they actually do it?
Toppled but not beaten, Mordru was beginning to rise when Cosmic Boy unleashed his full magnetic force. The increase in energy, not to mention the sudden repolarization of Mordruís cells, accomplished what no one on a thousand worlds would have believed possible.
Mordru screamed in agony.
Suddenly, it seemed that, against all odds, this might be enough. Perhaps these teens did possess enough power to humble the mighty Mordru. It was a glorious moment, worthy of legend and song.
Alas, it was but a moment. As fatigue forced Sun Boy and Lightning Lad to relax their onslaught for the briefest of instants, any hope for a direct victory was shattered. As the success of the Legionís attack forced Mordruís reserve spells into play, a wave of mystic energy reflexively burst forth from the staggering sorcerer.
Superboy darted forward to take the brunt of the attack, He went down like a stone, followed closely by his teammates as Mordruís blast overwhelmed Brainiac 5ís force shield. For several seconds, no one on either side of the contest moved. Then, grunting and wheezing deeply, Mordru slowly climbed to his feet.
With "Infernal children!" serving as the kindest blow in his verbal barrage, Mordru angrily cursed the Legionnaires. He was shaking a fist in their general direction when he realized that something was missing from the collection of battered and semi-conscious figures scattered at his feet. Quickly, he stretched forth his perceptions in the direction of his ship, and discovered what was amiss.
"You Ė" Mordru barked, "the useless ones! Get out of there!" Suddenly, mystic tentacles issued forth to collect the Espionage Squad members. Chameleon Boy and Triplicate Girl were snared immediately. "Letís see Ö whereís the little one?" Mordru said to himself, "There!" and Shrinking Violet was snatched as well. "The ghost will be a bit more difficult," he murmured as his mystic hand matched the vibrational pattern of the incoporeal Phantom Girl, "but not overly so," he said as he grasped the other-dimensional lass.
Mordru looked at his catch. "Oneís missing," he said, "but whom?" A puzzled look crossed his face. "Of course. How easy to forget. The one who doesnít like to be seen." Mordruís brow furrowed, and within moments, an involuntarily visible Lyle Norg was gathered with his teammates.
Holding the Espionage Squad in a gigantic mystic hand, Mordru growled, "I donít like trespassers!" He gave these Legionnaires a hearty squeeze, then dumped them with their comrades.
"I have had enough of all of you," Mordru said with unconcealed rage. Raising hands shaking with anger, he readied a blow that would eliminate these thorns in his side. With a new found glee, he said, "This ends now."
"No," a small voice interrupted. "It doesnít."
Mordru and the Legionnaires who were able looked towards Mordruís ship and the owner of the voice. They saw Triplicate Girl standing there. Or one of her, at least, since her other two bodies, having split under Mordruís rough handling, were lying prostrate on the ground. The standing version of Luornu Durgo was gently but firmly holding something, cupping it like a delicate bird that might at any moment fly away.
Ever so carefully, ever so menacingly, the young Carggitte cradled the Nullifier.
"It worked," a freshly squeezed Invisible Kid whispered of Chameleon Boyís scheme to send one of the Triplicate Girls to Mordruís ship ahead of the rest of the group. A groggy grunt was the best the dazed Durlan could manage in way of celebration.
Mordruís eyebrows climbed nearly past his hat at the potential consequences of his failure to fully account for the Carggite. He spoke, and his tone was surprisingly conciliatory. "Child, you Ö you do not know what danger you hold. It will destroy you."
Triplicate Girl gritted her teeth. "Maybe," she answered.
"Child," the ancient one said more sternly, "You must give that to me."
Despite the trembling of her hands, and the unsteadiness of her knees, Luornu Durgo forced herself to look directly at Mordru. What she saw increased her resolve. "No. I donít think so."
"Child," he snapped, "it is not for one such as you. Give that object to me!"
Drawing herself up to her full height, she spoke so boldly that the fear in her voice was almost completely hidden. "No, Mordru. I donít think so," she repeated. "Whatever the cost Ö I Ö I think this is the one thing I can do to stop you."
It was a measure of Mordruís power that until that moment, none of the Legionnaires had realized the potential inherent in this situation. They had just sought to confirm that Mordru had the Nullifier, and at best, take it from him. No one had considered actually using the weapon against the Dark Lord. No one had considered that it might be able to eliminate his threat forever.
No one had suspected that there might be something that even Mordru feared.
But now, his trembling told them otherwise.
And that it rested in the hands of the unlikeliest Legionnaire.
|TOMORROW'S LESSON Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved. This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics. Superboy, Clark Kent, Martha Kent, Jonathan Kent, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Triplicate Girl, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Invisible Kid, Mordru the Merciless, Smallville, Metropolis, & Krypton are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.|