by Kerithwyn Jade
The Daily Planet, April 12, 2991, Interlac Edition:
EARTHTinya Wazzo, "Phantom Girl"
of the Legion of Super-Heroes, apparently disappeared today while
returning to Earth from her other-dimensional home world of Bgtzl.
Sensors reported a sudden "tear" in the interdimensional
structure of space in the region, though experts could offer no
explanation of this phenomenon at this time. The Science Police
have promised to investigate this event to the best of their ability.
Wazzo's long-time companion and recent fiancée Jo Nah, the
Legionnaire Ultra Boy, could not be reached for comment. Tinya Wazzo
is the daughter of prominent Bgtzlr attorney Winema Wazzo
The Daily Planet, May 8, 2991, Interlac Edition:
Tinya Wazzo, "Phantom Girl" of the Legion of Super-Heroes, has been officially declared dead by the Science Police. The announcement came this morning, after a lengthy investigation into her disappearance turned up no evidence that she survived a freak breakup of interdimensional space.
Wazzo was lost April 12 while traveling alone from her other-dimensional home world, Bgtzl, to Earth. Scientific observers believe the "fabric" of the interdimensional gulf between Bgtzl and Earth was suddenly, inexplicably ripped apart during Wazzo's journey, killing the Legionnaire.
The case has drawn widespread attention, particularly since Wazzo recently announced her engagement to fellow Legionnaire Jo Nah, culminating a romance that dates back to their teen years together in the Legion.
SP Officer Roon Dvron, who headed the investigation, told the Daily Planet, "We haven't found any traces of the body, so there's no absolute proof that Tinya died. But unfortunately, there's also no evidence at all that suggests she could have survived this kind of disaster."
Wazzo is survived
by her mother Winema, brother Gmya, and her fiancée Jo Nah,
the Legionnaire Ultra Boy. Nah plans to resign from the Legion of
Super-Heroes "for personal reasons," according to fellow
Legionnaire Dirk Morgna.
Legion Headquarters, May 8, 2991
"Please, Jo, won't you change your mind?"
It was Element Lad, of course, whose entreaty was the hardest to refuse. In so many ways Jan Arrah defined the soul of the Legion, its graceful and shining strength. But even so:
"No." Ultra Boy finished shoving his clothes into a pack and looked around. "You can store all this stuff, or dump it, I don't care." He swung the pack onto his shoulder and headed for the door.
"The Legion needs you, Ultra Boy. Now more than ever." That was Gim, always appealing to duty. But Jo had fulfilled his obligations to the Legion a dozen times over, and besides
He paused at the doorway. "I need needed her. There's too much of her here, and I can't ." Jo covered his eyes, fighting off tears. "I can't do this anymore. Not without her."
Lowering his hand, the shine of metal caught his eye. "Guess you can have this back, too."
Jan caught the band in midair. The Legion flight ring glinted in his palm, the small weight of it a heaviness of terrible finality.
Talok VIII, June 23, 2991
Whispered conversation outside her door, disrupting her meditations.
"There's a comm for her."
"She left instructions that she wasn't to be disturbed."
"The caller says he's an old friend. A Legionnaire."
"The Lady Mallor is communing with the Ancients, and "
The Lady Mallor had quite enough of being discussed in the third person. "Who calls, Matre?"
"Jan Arrah, Tasmia. From Earth."
"Really? I wonder whynever mind, I'll find out for myself."
Even across light-years, the warmth of his smile lit the darkened room.
"Shady! How are you?"
"I'm all right, Jan." Not quite a lie. "You? The others?"
The specter of Lar's death lay between their words.
"Good. Mostly. We've had some problems. I don't know if you've heard, but Vi resigned."
"But oh. The war. Of course."
"Yeah. Ayla didn't take it well. Things have been a little tense."
"I can imagine." She studied his face, seeing uncharacteristic disquiet and more stress than she remembered. Jan always took the Legion's troubles to heart, but this seemed worse than usual. "But you didn't call me to catch up on current events ?"
"No. I, ah wanted to ask if you'd talked to Jo, recently."
"I tried to reach him when I heard ." She closed her eyes against resurgent grief.
"I'm sorry, Tasmia. I know how close you and Tinya were."
"Jo wouldn't accept my comm, either on Earth or Rimbor. I hoped he would reach me, but he hasn't yet."
Jan looked even more concerned. "I was afraid of that. We haven't heard from him either, and we're all worried. We were hoping that you might go talk to him?"
"And do what? Try to convince him to return to the Legion? I think you ask the impossible, my friend. He will no more return than I will. The memories are simply too strong."
"Then just as a friend, Shady? He wouldn't accept comfort from any of us. We miss him. And you, too."
"I know. But without Lar " she sighed. "The Legion no longer felt like home."
"I understand." Jan shook his head. "Between you and me, Tasmia, I'm not feeling altogether comfortable here myself these days."
That startled her to the edge of speechlessness. Since the destruction of his home world and the loss of his people, Element Lad's only home and family had been the Legion of Super-Heroes. If Jan felt disconnected from the Legion, what hope was there for those who remained?
"I'm sorry, Jan. For all of it." What was said, and unsaid. "I will see to Jo, and make certain he is well."
"Thanks. Let him know we're all thinking of him. Take care, Shady."
She turned away from the comm, troubled. It shocked her, how little thought she had given to Jo's pain. Tinya had been her best friend, and she had grieved, and yet .
She felt removed. When had she become so distant from all but her own contemplations?
Oh, the answer to that was clear enough. Since she left the Legion, questing across the galaxy and back for a cure to Lar's fearsome injuries, sustained in battle with the Time Trapper. Since her failure to find that cure, and his death. Since the burial at Shanghalla, when she refused to be comforted by her friends. Since her retreat to Talok and solitary meditation, and a sort of gray waiting: remembering the past, drifting through the present, ignoring the demands of the future.
But for the love she bore Jo and Tinya, past and present, she could find the resolve to act.
She called to Matre to arrange a transport and started packing.
Rimbor, July 2, 2991
A lithe figure strode determinedly though the squalid streets, ignoring the sounds and smells of Rimbor's decay. The world's cities had degenerated into slums for the criminal and the desperate, and people usually came here with only one reason: to lose themselves among the masses of faceless thieves and petty thugs.
Few came for other reasons, and they were quickly noticed.
Bodies formed a circle, blocking her path. "Hey, lady, where you going in such a hurry? Nothing to rush for, here. C'mon, stay awhile and talk to us."
Unseen, she smiled under her hood. It was not a pleasant smile. "Be careful, children. "
"Ooooh, 'children.' Yeah, 'mom,' whatever you say. Nass, I never listened to my mother anyway, what makes you so special?!"
"I am Tasmia, blood of Mallor, and you are in my way. But no longer."
Darkness enveloped them, deep as space, blacker than night. They shrieked and dropped their weapons, and she walked on.
There was no answer at the address she'd been given. From the next door, a woman called out. "You looking for that ultra-guy?"
"Won't find him here, this time of day. Barely any other time, either. He's probably over at Ginny's, tossin' back Silverale like the supply was running dry." The woman laughed, a humorless sound. "Not likelyit's the only industry we've got, anymore."
She found him leaning over the bar, an empty glass before him and a full one right next to it. His hair was longer, and the stubble at his chin said he hadn't shaved in a couple of daysa far cry from the always-neat Ultra Boy she remembered. Had that only been Tinya's influence, after all?
"Wh-Shady?" Jo stared at her in confusion, reddened eyes barely focusing. "What are you doing here?"
"Taking you away from here, I hope."
"Nah, not ready to leave yet. Here, have a drink!" He shoved the glass toward her.
"Thank you, no. Jo, can we go elsewhere and talk?"
"Nothin' to talk about." He grabbed the glass and drained half of it in one long swallow. "If this is about Legion business, I'm out. Not going back. Don't even try."
"No, not the Legion. I came to see you to see if you were all right "
"Yeah, fine. Doing just fine. How about you? How's life on, uh, Talok?"
That ready denial of his own sorrow alarmed her. "All right." No. It wasn't all right. That was becoming clearer, the longer she was away. But now wasn't the time. "Jan called me. He was concerned for you, Jo."
Jo grunted. "Yeah, well, y'can tell him I'm fine. He always worries too much anyway."
Quietly, she said: "I was worried for you, as well. I tried to call"
"Didn't feel like talking." Abruptly he swung his upper body over the countertop and snatched the bottle of Silverale from behind the bar. He filled his glass to the brim, then waved the bottle in her direction. "Sure you won't have any? Good for what ails you."
"I doubt that. Jo, please, I think we should talk "
"I. Don't. Want to." The sudden anger in his voice sparked her own.
Well, that was fine. She'd had just about enough of watching Jo destroy himself, anyway. "This is no way to honor Tinya's memory!"
"I'll do it however I damn well please." He shouted, and the anguish in his voice tore at her. "She's not here!"
But they were drawing attention, and that could be a dangerous thing, here. "Fine, then. If you wish to drown yourself in darkness, then darkness you shall have." The shadows grew to envelop him in a cloak of impenetrable black. The other patrons murmured and moved away.
"I'm not afraid of the dark, Shady. Besides, I can always switch to ultra-vision, like this"
Swift as a hunting cat, she moved. With a quick, efficient blow Tasmia struck the side of Jo's neck, and he tumbled into unconsciousness.
Were he sober, that would not have been possible; Jo was too practiced in the use of his ultra-energy powers to fall for such an old trick. But his faculties were clouded by alcohol, which made him vulnerable to a simple nerve strike.
She glanced around, eyes settling on two muscular men at the bar. "You. Help me carry him."
They leapt to obey.
At Jo's home, Tasmia tried several combinations before the door slid open to the correct code: the date on which Jo and Tinya would have been married. She was to have stood with Tinya at the wedding. Instead she saw an empty coffin laid to rest on the barren asteroid of Shanghalla with the rest of the Legion's dead: Andrew, Lyle, Condo, Val, Kal-El, Kara, Pol Lar. It was far too cold a reward for heroes such as these, and those who loved them.
The men lay Jo on the couch, and she saw them to the door. A few credits for their troubles and she turned her attention to Jo, who was already starting to stir. In the medicine cabinet she found a restorative that would neutralize most of the alcohol, though he'd still feel the effects in the morning. Getting it down his throat was the easy part.
The look on his face was worse. During all their years in the Legion together, she had seen Jo joyful, enraged, fearful, sad, and always, always determined to use his power for the greater good despite all odds. The despair she saw nowso alien to his naturefrightened her.
"Jo are you all right? I'm sorry I hit you, I wanted to get you out of there"
"Yeah, I'm okay." He sat up, rubbing the side of his neck. "Grife! You haven't lost your touch, I guess. I must've been really out of it to fall for that."
"Mm. I can leave, if you want to sleep "
His quiet tone stopped her. "How can you stand it?"
Tasmia sat and took his hand. "What? Tell me."
"The emptiness. It's like a hole where my soul should be. I can't sleep, can't think straightShady, I don't know what to do without her!"
"I know. You just go on, somehow. It's been almost two years and I don't know how. Time just passed. But she was my friend too, Jo. Let me help you, for her sake."
The depths of his eyes reflected only pain. "How can you be so calm about it?!"
She was grateful for the discipline of meditation that kept her voice steady as she said, "Time. Prayer, and the knowledge that our Ancestors watch over us all. And love, Jo. Love doesn't die."
"No, only she did!"
Weeping, he buried his face in her lap. She stroked his hair, feeling her own tears start to rise. She thought herself cried dry after Lar's death, but here with Jo's grief nearly tangible, the memories of her own losses were swiftly becoming overwhelming.
Losing Lar had been devastating. No other word sufficed. Lar's need and the intensity of his emotions brought them together, and she willingly bound herself to him. Loving Lar Gand was like finding a missing part of herself.
He showed her something she hadn't known was lacking. Even as a child she was too familiar by far with the idea of responsibility and heroism; her birthright as the planetary champion of Talok VIII was the legacy of generations. Shadow Lass could do no more nor less than serve, once she received that legacy. Circumstance and the call of a greater duty brought her to the Legion. But it was Lar who reminded her of the grandeur of their actions, and showed her that service could be a joy as well.
And so Shadow Lass became a better hero for that. What he did for Tasmia, thoughthat was something else entirely.
He needed her.
Such a simple thing. But he needed her, not her powers or family legacy or sense of duty. One thousand years of imprisonment in the featureless depths of the Phantom Zone left its mark on the hero called Mon-El. He had a hundred lifetimes of isolation and enforced passivity waiting, demanding to be replaced with companionship and passion. His need was silent, fierce, intoxicating it swept her up like a wind from the desert, the khamsin of Terran legend that burns as it blows, and scours flesh from bone. Except that for Tasmia, the power of his need burned away all her dispassionate observance of duty, and scoured the coldness from her soul.
He was the light at the heart of her darkness, and she was his. His passions to her practicality, her strengths to his fears. Within the Legion they found each other and never parted until he died.
For Jo and Tinya, it had been much the same. Perhaps the need was less, but the love was not. Where Lar and Tasmia turned inwardhaving found nearly all their needs fulfilled within each other and rarely reaching out to othersJo and Tinya let their feelings for each other shine throughout the Legion, and the team was stronger for it.
It was difficult to even imagine a Legion without Phantom Girl. Tinya's spirit and courage inspired everyone around her, and it was this quality that made her so essential. Mere power was nothing compared to the strength of purpose she infused into the team through her daring, near-fearlessness, and sheer stubborn determination to see justice prevail.
Tinya embodied the true heart of the Legion in a vital way that Tasmia herself never could. That was only one of the reasons for the love Tasmia bore her friend; there were others, too countless to name. Not the least of which was the purity of devotion she held for Jo, and he for her. It would have been impossible to see the two of them and not smile at the affection and deep commitment that shimmered so clearly between them.
Lost now, all lost except in memory. And as she wept over Jo, holding him as he cried, that was not enough.
At length Jo shifted and sat up, clumsily wiping away tears. "I'm sorry, I just I couldn't cry before, not really, I couldn't admit she was gone ." He saw her face and touched her cheek, gently. "Oh, Shady, I'm sorry I didn't want to make you cry!"
"No, it's all right. I've been a little disconnected lately. Too much solitude and not enough honest emotion. Even sorrow reminds me I'm alive." She smiled, a rueful expression through her grief. "I haven't been letting myself feel much, because it was easier to cloister myself, and pray, and hide from the universe. I forgot that the universe doesn't like to be ignored ."
They huddled with arms around each other, mourning together as they had not been able to do apart.
"Grife, I loved love her "
"So did I, Jo. So do I."
The darkness made a comforting veil around them both.
Rimbor, July 3, 2991
Mid-morning. Jo was still sleeping, exhausted after the emotional outpouring of the night before. Tasmia rose early, troubled by unsettling dreams. She was no precognitive like Dream Girl, but her Talokian heritage included a strong racial memory that sometimes manifested when events of the past had relevance in the present.
She glanced out over Rimbor's fouled streets, and seeing nothing there to ease her mind, instead looked up toward the gray sky. Somehow she'd come to a crossroads: She could go back to Talok VIII and probably to the Abbey of the Ancestors, that comfortable and sheltered life. Calm. Serene. Protected.
Or she could remember what she had been, a Legionnaire and a hero, and find another path. Not as Talok's planetary champion, no. Her cousin Grev was doing a fine job at that, and back home, with so many memories close at hand, it would be too easy to fall into that same languid inaction.
The Legion, again? Perhaps. She still had friends there who would be glad of her return. But Jan sounded so defeated, and the news from Earth was bad and getting worse. Terra seceded from the United Planets the previous year, and rumors of Dominator influence were widespread. Its own people denied their basic rights, and more immediately, direct interference with the Legion's actions even off-planet. The thought of facing that suffocating bureaucracy and a losing battle for autonomy couldn't have been more depressing. She feared the worst was still ahead for those who remained.
Staying here was out of the question. Not even for Jo could she bear the idea of making squalid, corrupt Rimbor her home.
She considered the others who had left the Legion already. Garth and Imra lived on Winath, still recovering from the Validus plague and administrating a commune that provided food to thousands on their world and others. Worthy work, but she was no farmer or accountantand Winath was entirely too sun-drenched for a woman from a shadow-draped world.
Braal and Imsk were at war. Cos had no doubt been conscripted into the Braalian army, and Vi resigned from the Legion to serve for Imsk. How terrible, that Legionnaires who battled side-by-side for so many years would be forced by native loyalty against each other! It was her heart's dearest hope that they would never face each other in combat, or see the horrors that war wrought on each other's home.
Jeckie was ruling Orando, tucked away in its own pocket dimension. Cham now headed Brande Industries, but she'd be even more useless there than on Winath. Mysa was back on Sorcerers' World, with rumors of a relationship with Mordru, of all things. Certainly none of them needed anything from her. And she was beginning to realize that she needed to be needed again.
Thom was managing a batball team?!on Xanthu, and they'd never been the closest of friends in any case.
Troy Stewart. If there were a way to reach Marzal through the dimensional rift, she might have gone there. They'd shared an attraction once, the recognition of similar duty as planetary champions of their respective peoples. But no one had heard from Troy in years, so it was foolish to think on might-have-beens.
That turned her thoughts to another, the greatest of her "might-have-beens." She sighed at the image of Brainiac 5, entrenched in his lab on Colu. Once, she'd have been more than willing to spend her life with him; her very induction into the Legion had as much to do with a crisis on her home world as her feelings for him. But he'd retreated into his computer-world with barely a glance back, and she no longer possessed the emotional resilience needed to draw passion out of his imperturbable facade.
Xolnar. Now there was a definite possibility. Chuck and Luornu closed the Legion Academy and opened the United Planets Militia Academy, dedicated to training heroes in the use of their powers wherever they might go from there. She could teach as easily as Lu, and they'd almost certainly welcome her. It wasn't quite like being needed, but perhaps it could suffice?
She heard Jo stirring inside, and went to greet him.
"Good morning, Jo. There's breakfast, if you want it."
"Ugh." His response was so unselfconsciously artless she couldn't help but laugh. "Uh, I mean, thanks but no thanks, Shady!"
"How are you feeling?"
"Terrible. But I would have been worse, if it wasn't for you. I haven't been taking care of myself very well, lately."
"That makes two of us."
Jo took her hand and looked earnestly into her face. "How are you, Tasmia, really? I mean, since ."
"Since Lar's death." She could say it now without pain, at least. That was something. "Not bad. Not really well, but not too badly, either."
"What a pair we are. I've been trying to drink myself to death, and you've well, haven't been doing much, it sounds like."
"Right! Exactly. But what's the point of that? It's not what they they " he gulped, then went on. "Tinya always pushed me to do things, not just hang around the clubhouse, you know? And Mon Mon wouldn't want you to, uh, give up your life, either."
"No. You're absolutely right." She stood and paced the room, suddenly energized. "I've been thinking about that. I can't go back to Talok, it'd be too easy. I've been trying to decide what I might do, where I could go."
"You could stay here ." Jo said without thinking, and then blushed. "I mean, it's, uh, nice seeing you again, that's all." The almost-tangible loneliness in his voice drew her to his side.
"I've missed you, too." She caressed his cheek briefly, and he caught her hand again. "But truthfully, Jo ?"
His eyes, so hopeful. "Yeah?"
"This place Rimbor it's just awful."
Emotions chased across his face in an instant: indignant, angry, regretful, and finally amused. He laughed, and she was glad to hear it. "Oh I guess it is. I can't argue with that!"
"I don't know how you can stand it!"
"Well it's my home, after all. I grew up here."
Tasmia nodded. "But you left."
"Yeah, but it was only an accident that I got my powers and joined the Legion, anyway. Otherwise, I probably would have stayed."
"And done what?"
"I dunno. Joined a gang and got myself killed early, I bet. There really isn't much heresome farming outside the cities, but can you see me as a farmer? I don't think so!"
"So what now?"
"I haven't thought about it. I couldn't stay with the Legion, not after" she nodded, and he went on without pausing. "But I didn't think about where I was going except to come back here, and then once I got here there was nothing to do but hang around andwell, you saw." He took a breath. "What about you?"
"I need to do something again. Something that matters. Grev has Talok's guardianship well in hand, so I can leave that to him. The Legion "
"It's not the same as it was, Shady."
"No. I'm seeing that more and more, in reports from Earth. And even those have the feel of oppression about them."
"I heard something about Dominators "
"Probably. Things are going badly there, and I'm not certain even the Legion can save things this time."
Jo sighed. "Oh, for the days of the Fatal Five and the Legion of Super-Villains ."
"Don't even joke! But I know what you mean."
"So what does that leave? What do people do, anyway?"
Tasmia smiled, a bit dourly. "They live. They work. They try not to get killed when the super-villains invade their homes. But the real question is, what do two ex-Legionnaires do? It's not as though our home worlds have much to offer us anymore."
"Well I'm not so sure about that." Jo looked embarrassed. "I mean, for me, anyway."
"You said Talok doesn't need you, right? But maybe maybe Rimbor needs me." He blushed self-consciously. "Not that I've been doing a good job lately but I remember what it was like in the Legion, helping people. I could matter here, maybe. You know, make a difference." He looked up pleadingly. "Does that make sense?"
"Perfect sense. Oh, Jo." Tasmia folded her hands over his. "I admit, I was hoping you would go with mebut I can't disagree. If you think you can help, you should. Rimbor could certainly use a planetary championand it couldn't ask for a better one than you."
He ducked his head, but she saw the tips of his ears turn red. "Thanks, Shady."
"Nothank you. You've helped me decide, as well. Do you think Chuck and Luornu could use some help, at their new academy?"
"Hey, yeah! That's a great idea. But, uh "
"What is it, Jo?"
"Do you have to leave right away?"
" No. Of course not."
Rimbor, July 16, 2991
Tasmia waved one last time at Jo, then turned and boarded the transport that would take her to Xolnar where Chuck and Lu were waiting. They had been pleased to hear from her, and delighted to accept her offer to become an instructor at the UP Academy. The warmth of their ready friendship was another step away from the emotional detachment she had allowed to overtake her spirit.
She felt like living again. She and Jo had found a measure of peace in each other, and for her, healing too long overdue. His own grief would of course linger still, but in some ways Jo was far more resilient than she. During her stay they talked long hours, sharing memories of Tinya and Lar. Tears often followed but also surprising laughter, and joy in remembering happier times.
The comfort of friends. Such a simple thing to have forgotten, in the wake of Lar's death. She had nearly drowned her spirit in memories these past two years. Thanks to Jo, she could finally lay her ghosts to rest.
It was long past time to face the universe again; and Tasmia smiled out the viewport at the stars that lit her path.
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This story is © 2000 by Kerithwyn Jade.
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