By SAMUEL HAWKINS
Chapter 8: Things Yet Unknown
As one, the Legionnaires turned to the source of the voice. They found the bruised and bloodied Superboy standing in the doorway to the infirmary. He bore little visible resemblance to the hero of the bedtime stories theyíd all heard as children. There was a large purple swelling under his left eye. His face was dirty. Streaks of blood were caked on his upper lip and chin. The beautiful, flowing cape was in tatters.
He did not look much like a legend.
He looked much more like a 14-year-old-boy whoíd been through a disaster.
For a moment, no one spoke the thought that was collectively running through their minds. Finally Cosmic Boy, with obvious reluctance, fulfilled one of the harder duties of leadership. He said what everyone knew, but no one wanted to say.
"But Ö heís already beaten you."
Superboy stiffened slightly, then admitted, "Yeah. He did." His eyes met those of the Brallian. "But he didnít kill me." With his need to redeem himself unmistakable, the Last Son of Krypton said forcefully, "Iíll hold him off."
Cosmic Boy continued to stare at the boy from yesterday. He was impressed beyond words with the display of courage. At the same time, he was fearful of putting his few remaining eggs into an already broken basket.
As it happened, he didnít have to.
Superboy looked around at his teammates, then back to Cosmic Boy. His face bore the look of one whoíd just realized something.
"Weíll hold him off," he said with sudden insight.
The Legion Cruiser fell silent for a long moment. None of the Legionnaires were able to speak. They were too busy looking at Superboy. Too busy admiring the courage and grace the youngster was showing in what was no doubt his lowest moment. But despite their admiration, for some reason, they werenít that surprised.
He was, after all, a Legionnaire.
Cosmic Boy began to nod, and the hint of a smile broke across his grim face. "Thatís right," he agreed, "weíll hold him off. Yeah. Thatís it."
He turned, and began to wave his hands with excitement. "Garth, you and Dirk on the flanks, same as before. But this time, you two take your shots first. Brainy, can you split your force shield to cover them both?" The Coluian paused to perform a few million calculations, then signaled his affirmation. "Good. Iíll reinforce them. Then Superboy will engage. When he does, the Espionage Squad will take off. Colossal Boy, block them from Mordruís sight. Pretend to fall down if you have to. Youíll make a great wall."
He turned back to the others. "Weíll take turns hitting him. We have to keep him off balance. Everyone understand? We have to cover for each other. We have to press him so hard and in so many different ways that he doesnít have time to concentrate."
Like electricity, Cosmic Boyís words raced through the Legionnaires. His renewed enthusiasm was rewarded with a set of determined faces. Before he could add further to the stratagem though, Invisible Kid spoke up from the sensor station. "Iím picking up his ship. Heís closing on us."
Cosmic Boy stepped toward the helm. "We need solid ground under our feet, Garth. Can we make it to a planet or moon?"
One rapid scan of the navigation display later, Lightning Lad said, "Nope. But thereís an asteroid belt in range. We might be able to make that."
"Get us there," Cosmic Boy said. "Find a rock large enough to land on. Everyone, suit up and be ready to go!"
"Espionage Squad," Chameleon Boy shouted over the sudden din, "over here. Letís talk about this."
While the Legionnaires donned their space helmets and re-checked their suits, Chameleon Boyís ad hoc Espionage Squad gathered around him. Saturn Girl listened to the Durlanís first instructions, then noticed that Superboy had slumped against the bulkhead. She moved back to him, and discreetly whispered, "Are you okay?"
It took him a moment to reply. "This pain stuff is all kind of new to me," he answered with an honest wince, "but I think Iíll make it. Just Ö need Ö a minute to catch my breath."
"A minute is about all we have," Saturn Girl observed. After a momentís delay, she spoke even more quietly. "Superboy Ö Kal Ö I donít normally reveal to someone what Iíve learned from their mind. I mean, the things that Ö the things that I know about them that they donít know. At least that they donít know yet."
Superboy looked up with a puzzled expression, then understood. "Oh. The mind thing. Iíd forgotten." A look of reluctant interest crossed his face. "What is it?"
"Really, I wouldnít say anything, if Ö if so much werenít at stake." She hesitated. In part, this was due to her discomfort with breaking the Titanianís Code of Telepathic Conduct. Mostly though, she was simply unsure of how to phrase this.
"Yes?" Superboy prodded.
After another momentís hesitation, she blurted out, "Spaceopoly."
The Kryptonianís puzzled expression returned. "Excuse me Ö"
"Thereís no way," Saturn Girl explained, "that you should ever lose five games of Spaceopoly to Proty. Iíve seen the inside of your brain. Once you know half the rules, you shouldnít lose to anyone, except maybe Brainiac 5."
A frown crossed the Boy of Steelís face. "Iím Ö Iím not sure what you mean."
"I mean," she said more loudly, then she glanced around, and began to whisper, "that you hold back." Taking him by the arm, she said, "Growing up with non-super parents, in Smallville, in the 20th century, your restraint has undoubtedly been a good thing. A necessity, even. Your power, uncontrolled in a child, would have been disastrous. But," she said more fiercely, "this isnít Smallville, this isnít the 20th century, and Mordru is most definitely not non-super-powered."
Superboyís frustration was immediately obvious. "But Ö I know that. Didnít you see? I was hitting himÖ or trying to Ö hard enough to level a house."
"Yes, and thatís more than hard enough for anything youíve faced so far. But Ö here Ö now Ö itís not enough. Not nearly enough. When you get a chance to hit Mordru, youíve got to hit him as hard as you can." Her brow furrowed, and with emphasis, she said, "As hard as you really can."
And then she began to telepathically show him, to the extent that she could share her knowledge of such things, just how effective were the restraints heíd developed over the past twelve years.
"Weíre going in," Lightning Lad announced. "Mordruís right behind us."
"Be ready to move!" Cosmic Boy barked over the whine of the retro-thrusters.
"Iím glad Cos has a plan," Imra Ardeen thought at Superboy, "but it still depends on you. Youíve got to turn yourself loose, Kal. With Mordru, thereís no reason to hold back."
He looked closely at her, noting the peculiar mix of confidence and desperation in her eyes. As the exit ramp lowered, he looked away and headed outside. "No. I guess not," he thought in reply.
The last Legionnaire was barely out of the Cruiser when Mordru flew past them, then began to circle back around to land. Suddenly, Superboy turned to Cosmic Boy. "You might need to start without me," he said.
Then the newest Legionnaire launched himself upward. He moved relatively slowly for half a second, then angled his path sharply. Faster than the eye could accurately follow, he headed in the general direction of Epsilon Eridani.
And the Legionnaires could only watch him go.
|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.|