[A cut-scene that would occur a few days after Invisible Kid acquires his new alien arm in Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes #27-28.]
Arm Stays On Boy
Lyle had been aware of a strange sensation, almost like a hunger, within his new arm for some time, and, with a scientist's trial and error, had finally isolated it to appear most frequently in the presence of Chameleon. Once he'd narrowed that down, he also couldn't help but notice that Chameleon seemed to be hanging around him a lot more than he'd ever recalled before.
He was fiddling around with monitor settings, trying to entertain himself while doing some boring research on the fractious Lallorian political situation, when he recognized that itch he couldn't scratch, and acting on impulse, said out loud, "I know you're there Cham, you might as well come over and sit down."
Chameleon moved up quietly beside him and stood stiffly, looking down at him with those creepy black eyespots of his. Lyle's arm positively ached with some unidentifiable feeling, and he had to close his eyes and concentrate before he could force it to resume typing at the keypad. It felt like someone had scraped the insides of his bones, which was ridiculous, since his new arm didn't technically even have bones.
"The bond is strong enough that you can feel that?" Cham said in a strained tone and Lyle just looked up at him surprised.
"I feel *something.*" Lyle conceded, lifting his alien arm and flexing the oversized fingers stiffly, fighting the arm's unusual resistance, "Is it reacting to you somehow? It only seems to get like this when you're around…"
"It's lonely." Cham said, head tilted as he regarded the arm before him with unblinking eyes. Despite the lack of expression on his smooth face and his rigid posture, his antennae had shifted out of his forehead and were twitching almost imperceptibly.
"Lonely." Lyle repeated dubiously. "My *arm* is lonely…"
"It's not an arm." Cham said calmly. "And it's not yours, not really."
Looking again at the alien appendage, which felt like it was ready to crawl right off of his body, and he wasn't sure if his body wasn't equally ready to crawl away from it, Lyle disagreed more out of contrariness than passion, "Well it looks like an arm, and it's mine now."
"Close your eyes." Chameleon said, his own arm outstretched and hovering only an inch above the alien limb, which was now visibly trembling with some urgent need. Lyle closed his eyes, trying to control the shaking, not intending to obey Cham's request, specifically. The sensation became like knives tearing throw him and fire bursting out from his nerves, but it didn't *hurt,* not really. It was overwhelming, neither pleasure, nor pain, but *alien,* like the dreams that had been haunting his sleep since the accident, dreams which the Digital Therapist said where just post-traumatic stress from the trauma of losing his arm, his *real* arm.
He opened his eyes expecting to see that Cham was touching his alien arm, but recoiled to see that the two limbs had somehow fused together into a solid column of writhing flesh that connected him and the motionless Durlan.
"What. The. Sprock!" Lyle shouted, trying to pull away and succeeding in pulling Chameleon slightly off-balance as he fell backwards out of his chair and landed unceremoniously on the floor.
The *thing* connecting him and Chameleon had elongated slightly, as if adjusting to the change in distance, but Cham stepped forward and it tightened up again and pulled Lyle up to his feet, so that he was standing in front of Cham, like some improbable set of alien conjoined twins.
"Relax. Your 'arm' was starving, as it was having trouble adapting to the nutrients your body processes. I've given it some of my own biomass to help sustain it. Until you get a new human arm grown, I'd suggest eating more organic food and less synthetics." Chameleon said in a surprisingly accurate imitation of one of Brainiac Five's 'explanations.'
All too aware that Brainiac Five's 'explanations' often served to conceal more than they revealed, Lyle took a chance that Cham was just mimicking that behavior. "That's a load of crap. I eat all organic foods anyway. If anything, the arm's gotten *bigger* over this last week, so it's sure as sprock not *starving.*"
Chameleon's expressionless face twitched slightly, and their arms separated suddenly. Disoriented by the suddenness of the change, Lyle fell backwards again onto his butt, more startled by the sense of *loss* than the change his center of gravity. He felt like he was going to cry, and it took effort for him to choke that back and find his way back to his feet, angrily brushing aside Cham's offered hand of support.
"Tell me what's going on with this thing! What was that all about?" Lyle said angrily, moving right into the shapeshifter's face and shouting as Cham recoiled back a step.
Chameleon decisely placed a hand in his chest and pushed him back with surprising force, only this time he was relieved to land back in his chair, instead of on the floor. Cham stood over him, his smooth face tight and almost trembling with some sort of restrained emotion. 'Probably anger. I've got a real gift for pissing Legionnaires off.' Lyle thought resignedly.
"What I'm about to tell you, few know, and if I read a scientific paper about it on the public nets, I'll tear you apart cell by cell, digest your biomass and excrete what's left as trace minerals." Cham said in a flat tone that sounded many times more menacing for containing not a trace of emotion.
"Okay…" Lyle said, eyes wide and finding that his normal arsenal of witty retorts appear to have run off and gone into hiding. He wished he could join them…
"The life form currently attached to your shoulder is composed of Durlan tissue, and while incapable of surviving on it's own, would be considered to your species the equivalent of a Durlan child."
Cham stood silently, letting Lyle process that information, watching conflicting emotions of disgust, disbelief and shock war on his all-too-human features. How humans had ever developed a game like poker, when their innermost feelings were written all over them remained one of the universes great mysteries.
"That's not even possible, that Wanderer dude wasn't a Durlan, how the heck would he stick a Durlan baby on my arm?" Lyle began, stammering slightly as he built up a head of steam.
Cutting him off before he degenerated further, Cham interrupted, "Do you honestly think that all Durlans look the same Lyle Norg?"
"The Wanderer was indeed a Durlan, and while my particular training and gift is in rapid changing of form, the Wanderer is a breeder, able to generate independent masses of tissue that can become new Durlans, or, in this case, be grafted onto another living being to replace damaged or lost tissue." Gesturing at Lyle's 'alien arm,' Cham added unnecessarily, "Such as an arm."
"Is it sentient?" Lyle said, looking for all the world like he wanted to crawl away from the appendage in question.
"No. It's intelligence is animalistic. If it were capable of surviving independently, it would have a chance of developing sentience, but given it's mass, and it's circumstances, the chance would be very small. Most likely it would just crawl around and eventually be eaten by a more predatory Durlan sub-sentient."
"What?" Lyle said, grabbing his arm and holding it to his chest in an ironically protective gesture.
Cham sighed dramatically and punched up datafiles on Durla on the mission terminal. "When the humanoids of Lallor first discovered Durla, they found a world with a thriving ecosystem, with creatures that resembled plants and animals occupying many ecological niches, with some serving as producers, others as consumers and still others as predators. The sentients they met appeared humanoid, much like themselves, but seemed to dwell in organic structures that did not fit their physical forms… It was only later that they discovered that there is only one single type of life on Durla, the Durlans. As sentients, most of us are capable of reproducing sexually, by melding tissue and generating a composite entity from shed mass, an entity of animalistic intelligence that may go on to live as a 'plant' or 'animal,' depending on it's nature and some element of chance. These smaller sub-sentient Durlans consist of the vast majority of Durlan life, and they live and grow and feed off of one another. Very rarely, one of them of sufficient mass evolves mentally and makes the jump to sentience, and from them, we come."
Lyle scanned the data in the file, somehow finding it more *real* to read it than to hear it, even coming from the Durlan's own mouth. "You create thousands of little spawn and then let them run around and *eat* each other?" he said, unable to conceal the revulsion he felt at this notion.
"I have done no such thing. I'm not a breeder. But yes, that is how my species reproduces and self-evolves. The 'plants' on my world are Durlans that have not yet attained sentience, and most of them will never do so. The 'animals' of Durla are Durlan. The 'buildings' of Durla are composed of non-sentient Durlan tissue. The Wanderer is a specialist, able to actually generate stable life-forms independently, such as your arm."
The implications of something said earlier finally registered in Lyle's mind, having been fluttering around the edges of his subconscious, like a bird afraid to land, "What happens to this," he said, gesturing with his alien arm, "when my new arm is done growing?"
"It is not a stable form, and is not advanced enough to be capable of shapeshifting into a more survivable form, so it will die after it is removed, if not immediately, of shock, then within hours, of separation trauma." Chameleon said, with that same infuriatingly calm tone. Lyle could sense underlying that tone, something that Lyle wouldn't have heard before, but could now recognize, like subtext hidden in-between his cold words and rigid posture.
"What aren't you saying." Lyle said, unable to figure out where Cham was leading with this discussion.
"If, for some reason, the death of this tissue disturbs you, you could choose to train it to be able to survive the separation, although this may not be within your abilities, and would likely take many weeks, requiring you to put off attaching the cloned arm the doctors are growing for you…"
He could hear it again, like the enthusiasm a salesman gets as he completes his pitch, and Lyle knew that it was *Chameleon* who didn't want to see the Durlan 'tissue' just cast aside after it had served it's role in saving Lyle's life. The curmudgeonly shapeshifter wouldn't admit it openly, but Cham was arguing for the 'tissues' life.
"Show me what I have to do." Lyle said. Cham looked at him, and Lyle could recognize surprise in the smooth features. "To train it to survive. Y'know, *after.*"
Cham reached out his arm again, and Lyle reached up with his new arm to meet him halfway.
"I have never done this." Cham said hesitantly, their hands touching.
Cham exuded resolve, and Lyle felt their hands melting together again, that indescribable not-pain that caused his breath to hitch. He heard Cham's voice distantly, as if from far away, "I will need to interface your nervous cells more fully with the Durlan cells, I would be very surprised if this doesn't hurt more than losing your arm did in the first place…"
The world dissolved into sheets of freezing pain slamming into him like icy water, shredding him into bloody ribbons, and Lyle lost track of anything said afterwards.
When Lyle woke up, he was in his room, and Chameleon was sitting in a chair across the room, apparently asleep. He expected excruciating torment from his arm, only to look over and see a completely human arm attached to his torso. Sitting bolt upright in bed with a shout, he startled Cham into jumping up as well.
"Is something wrong? Does it still hurt?" Cham asked, sounding concerned, and Lyle could recognize that he was not just concerned that he'd done something wrong, but actually concerned for Lyle.
"What happened, where the arm?" Lyle said, looking around as if it was lying around the room.
"It's attached to your shoulder," Cham said patiently. "It's a Durlan arm. It can look like your arm if it wants to, and you can show it how."
"Whoa." Lyle said wonderingly, flexing his human-looking and human-feeling fingers.
"I helped you show it how to do this. You will be able to train it to take other forms as well, but it will require great effort on your part, as with a human child learning to walk upright for the first time."
"It's gotta learn this, 'though, right? To be able to take other forms, so that it can survive on its own?" Lyle said, staring at his arm and squinting as he willed it to change color, or size, or shape, or *something.* He looked up to see Cham's antennae bobbing and recognized somehow that the shapeshifter was laughing at him.
"Yes. I'll show you how to train your arm. In time, you'll be able to make claws," and with that Cham's own hand turned into a fearsome-looking black-taloned claw, "or armored skin," red scales flowed up and overlapped, covering the entire length of Chameleon's left arm, "or even expand the tissue," and with that the red-scaled black-taloned arm stretched to twice it's length, hanging down so that the black talons clanked against the flooring. With a twist the monstrous limb shriveled up into a normal looking humanoid arm in less than a second.
"Wow." Lyle said, looking again at his human-looking arm. "And this will help it to be able to change on its own, after I get my new arm?"
"Yes. Once it has learned to shift it's form quickly, it will have a powerful advantage over other Durlan sub-sentients, which often can only make minor or slow changes over time."
Looking up at Cham, Lyle wondered aloud, "Were you one of those once? A 'sub-sentient.'"
"Of course. We all were." Cham said matter-of-factly. "I was an herbivore, a fairly large one and part of a great herd of those like me, grazing in the plains, avoiding the predators, changing my coloration to better blend in with the Durlan foliage I consumed and changing the length of my legs to run away from the Durlan predators who wished to consume me."
"How did it happen? Did you just wake up sentient one day? Or is it mass-dependent, gain a certain critical mass and bang, sentient?"
"It is not mass-dependent, or else the Durlan forests and buildings would be geniuses of Coluan caliber. Mass is required to reach that threshold, so a mass the size of your arm could not develop sentience, but the exact circumstances appear to be unique." Chameleon hesitated before continuing, and Lyle remained quiet, knowing that the shapeshifter was gathering thought, "In my case, I was attacked by a predator, and as it attempted to consume me, our minds merged. We both recoiled from the experience as alien thoughts and feelings flooded through us. I could feel the predator's hunger and need to feed, the predator could feel my fear and need to escape and live another day. I don't remember clearly, but I think I was the one who moved forward and renewed contact, after we had pulled away in confusion. We both realized that we were more than animals, that there was more to the world than feeding and being fed upon, and, together, we traveled to the cities where the other sentient Durlans lived and were recognized as having become sentient together, shocked into higher intelligence by our first contact with another mind, another viewpoint."
"Is that normal? Mental contact like that? Like between you and my arm?"
Cham appeared pensive, but finally continued, "It is how we communicate, and how most of us reproduce, but it isn't a common catalyst to awaken. Because we had become sentient together, the predator and I studied and learned together. I suppose, in humanoid standards, we were brothers, although Durlans typically have no concept of family, save for those that we choose. It seemed that the predator recognized me now as part of the pack, and I recognized the predator as part of my herd."
"Did he remain on Durla, your brother, the predator?"
"The predator nature was strong, and we both developed great proficiency in shapeshifting, even by our people's standards. We both also left Durla, and that one is now a predator still, only know hunting other sentients, first as a bounty-hunter, and then as an assassin, when the love of the kill grew too strong to contain. It seems that Lightning Lad is not the only Legionnaire with a 'crazy brother.'" Cham finished with a flat tone. Lyle could tell that the attempt at humor was forced and that Cham was troubled by the fate of his 'brother.'
"You both retained your nature, it seems." Lyle commented.
"What do you mean?"
"The predator is still a predator, and you're still part of 'a great herd.'" Lyle said softly, pointing at his Legion Flight Ring.
Cham's face tightened up and Lyle could feel whatever openness had existed between them slamming shut. "The Legion is not a herd. It is a bunch of squabbling fixed-form sentients who have no understanding of family or trust or intimacy." Chameleon's face blurred to take the form of team-mates so quickly that Lyle could just barely resolve them before they blurred into other forms, but he could see Rokk and Shady and Jo and Violet among them. He also saw his own face, and his cheeks flushed with the memory of his own acts as a Legionnaire, earning the distrust of many.
Chameleon had moved to the doorway and was stepping out into the hall when Lyle realized what had once again gone unsaid. "You said my arm was lonely. You meant that *you* were lonely, didn't you?" he shouted as Chameleon stiffened up and turned away, activating his flight ring and soaring out of sight.