Once a Legionnaire...
The room brightened again, as staggering amounts of energy exploded from the young women suspended within the medical unit. Where she had been crying out and shuddering with the discharges, her body only jerked a single time, and then hung limply, her eyes barely fluttering open and her mouth tightening as the only visible signs to the pain she must be enduring.
“Get her out of there!” Garth cried out, pounding his fist uselessly on the transparency that separated them from Ayla’s out-of-control energy surges.
Brainiac Five didn’t respond to him, but looked instead to Cosmic Boy and then Saturn Girl, in turn. Imra noticed the silent plea, and moved to Garth’s side. <We can’t do anything for her here, Garth. We’re just in Brainy’s way.> Rokk, who had been trying to make some sense of the readings, moved forward as well. “I’m not leaving.” Garth said angrily. As Rokk put his hand on Garth’s shoulder there was a crack of electricity and Rokk pulled his hand back quickly, “Not. Leaving.” Garth said again, not waiting for his friend to speak.
Rokk turned to Brainy, “Isn’t there something we can do to help? None of us are used to being powerless…” Brainiac Five looked up from the data which was flying past faster than any human could read. “No. Saturn Girl can help. The best thing you can do is get him out of here. His presence is not merely distracting to me, it’s distracting to *her.*” There was an electrical popping sound from Garth’s vicinity again, and everyone in the room could feel the buildup of static as he turned to glare at Brainy.
Brainiac Five looked instead to Ayla who began building up to another surge, her body twitching slightly. “See? Your presence is making things worse. You can walk out or Saturn Girl can sedate you and you can be carried out.”
Saturn Girl looked surprised at this, but at a signal from Rokk, she turned to Garth, who flinched as Ayla underwent another power surge, discharging arcs of lightning from her entire body, and writhing as if being electrocuted in the process. He smashed the glass again and turned and walked out, and both Imra and Rokk shared a look of relief before Cosmic Boy quickly left the lab in pursuit.
<How can I help.> Imra asked matter-of-factly. “You can’t help me,” Brainy said curtly, and Imra repressed a smile as she agreed with that statement, “but you can help to keep her mind off of the pain, and try to keep her calm. Emotional reactions appear to play a part in the cycle, and the more she fears and anticipates an event, the faster it builds up.”
<Done.> Imra said, having already been trying to keep Ayla distracted with memories of her life before the accident on Kobol, but now extending her efforts to drop Ayla into a state of dreamless sleep. <Do you have any idea what’s causing this?>
“She’s producing more energy than her brother, and it appears that the gender-related physical and hormonal developments which her body was undergoing at the time of exposure has resulted in her undergoing a more pronounced change than his, and in a shorter time.” Brainiac Five said distantly, while still perusing data. For a moment, Imra thought she could make out a snap-shot of what he was working on, but instead of some form of energy dissipating harness, which was what she thought he’d been working on, he seemed to have moved on to some sort of medical solution.
<It's because of her sex that she can't handle this power?> Imra asked, not sure whether or not to take offense at this notion.
“It's because of her sex that she's producing 70% more energy than her brother, and surviving well past what would have killed him already.” Brainy snapped.
Ignoring the curtness in his reply, and recognizing that any apology for her own assumption would be wasted on the Coluan, Imra pressed on, <So what’s the solution? Rewire her nervous system? Some sort of storage glands built into her musculature?> Brainy looked up at her and squinted, as if trying to see through her. “No. I’ve already considered those ideas, and the power levels she’s outputting are far in excess of anything that could be done alone those means.” He still had a curious look on his face, and Imra had the sudden fear that he wanted to dissect her, because she’d done the unthinkable and aroused his Coluan curiousity…
But he turned back to his readouts, which displayed now a complicated polymer chain. “This organic compound will spread to coat her nerve-endings and dampen the process that generates her powers.” <So the discharges will stop, but will she lose all of her power?> Imra asked, trying to understand how simply re-coating Ayla’s nervous system would stop the gigavolts of energy she was releasing uncontrollably. “Yes. It’s all or nothing at this point. And since her powers are killing her, as well as making her a threat to those around her, it’s the only solution, for now.”
<I’d still feel more comfortable if we talked to Garth about this first.>
“Absolutely not. If you need permission, ask her.” Brainy said, gesturing towards the incandescent figure suspended in front of them.
Imra stood for a long moment, staring at Ayla, her mind seeking out the exhausted young woman before her.
“Well?” Brainy said impatiently. <She said to ‘Do what you have to do. Make it stop.’> Imra relayed, pausing to add, <I just wish there was some way we could involve Garth in this process, perhaps relay the excess power discharge through him, so that he could help bleed it off...>
Brainy sighed, momentarily lowering his guise of intemperance, "I understand his need to feel helpful, but Ayla does not have the time for us to arrange such a thing simply to make her brother feel useful. My skills allow me to help her with the energy buildup, but it is your skills that will be needed to address this other matter, and you are welcome to it." While he spoke, his hands flew, as if possessing minds of their own, and Brainy had already synthesized the mycoprotein carrier, and readied it to be infused into the medical tube.
“She’s powerless?” Garth repeated, holding Ayla’s sleeping hand. <She’s *alive.*> Imra stressed, not surprised to note that Garth looked even more haggard than Ayla, who seemed to just be sleeping peacefully.
“She’s hungry…”came a weak voice from the bed, followed by a squawk of outrage as Garth gathered his sister up in his arms for a hug. Imra smiled and noticed that across the room, Rokk was stepping outside to tell the others. Brainy, naturally, just looked smug, as if he’d known that she was about to wake up, which he probably had, since he was monitoring the sensors attached to her body.
“I am not voting to kick out my own sister!” Garth argued strenuously.
Rokk massaged his temples, noticing that Imra had her hands folded primly in front of her and an expectant look on her face. Great, she's not going to help at all. he thought sourly, “She’s not going to be ‘kicked out,’ she’ll still be a Legionnaire, but her flight ring should be re-assigned to someone…”
“Someone with powers?” Garth said accusingly.
“Yes.” Rokk said, refusing to back down.
<Rokk is right.> Imra cut in, noticing that both men were on their feet now. Garth turned to gape at her accusingly, and she went on before he could call her the word echoing in his thoughts. <We don’t have to vote on this Garth, we decided when we made the charter that we would limit the core combat-capable teams to those with powers, for their safety and for ours.> “What about…” Garth began, but Imra cut him off, <Karate Kid is an exception, and if Ayla spends a decade mastering martial arts to his level, she can also be that sort of exception. But right now, Ayla is *not* Val, and you know it.>
Rokk attempted to soften her argument, “Nobody wants to endanger Ayla, Garth. There are plenty of things she can do as a Legionnaire without being part of the mission teams.” Picking a soft target, Rokk pressed on, “It’s not like Brainy is any damn good in a fight, and he still manages to pull his weight...”
Ayla was bored. Since the dawn of medicine, it seemed, patients had been ordered to stay in bed long after they were capable of walking to their own quarters… In the case of normal doctors, she wondered if it was just some sort of power-trip. ‘You stay here and do what I say, young lady!’ In the case of Brainy, she *knew* that it was some sort of power-trip.
The door chimed someone coming to visit (and she knew it wasn’t Brainy, as he just walked in whenever he wanted unannounced), and she wearily signaled for them to enter. It seemed like every darn member of the Legion had stopped by at some point, and half of them had awkwardly avoided the obvious, that she was no longer a Legionnaire. Gim had been particularly awkward, Cham had been oblivious, Tasmia had been stand-offish, Jan had dispensed some truly aggravating parables or homiles or something about change being good, Tinya had been so sympathetic that she wanted to get out of bed and slap her and Jo hadn’t even bothered to show up, the big jerk. Val was about the only one who showed up and *didn’t* get on her nerves or look like he was pitying her, but he didn’t have any powers to lose, so what did he know?
And now we have, Dream Girl? Wow. About the only person Ayla expected to see *less* was Projectra, who probably had no idea what was going on from up in her ivory tower. Curiouser, it was Dream Girl, *acting weird,* as she entered the room, and without looking stabbed at a control panel near the door. A synthetic voice (that sounded creepily like Brainy) said, *MONITORING SYSTEMS INACTIVE* and Star Boy came into the room behind Dream Girl.
“Uh, hi. What’s with the sneaking?” Ayla asked, sitting up suddenly.
“They are currently arguing about whether or not you will get to retain your Flight Ring,” Nura said matter-of-factly, moving to help Ayla sit up. “After your brothers protests are shot down one by one, they will unanimously agree to hand your ring over to a new recruit.”
“Kinda expected that,” Ayla said, distracted by Thom moving in on her right side and taking her hand. Such warm hands, and why haven’t I managed to get him to touch me before now?, Ayla wondered.
“But they won’t have any excuse to take your ring if you have powers,” Star Boy cut in, and her breath caught as she tried to say three things at once.
“Take a breath, dear,” Dreamy admonished, “we’ve got a plan…”
Dreamy sat on the side of her bed, while Thom stood, still holding her hand as he spoke. “Shadow Lass likes to mention that she’s the ‘Shadow Champion of Talok VIII,” he began, as Ayla thought, ‘Yeah, about every five freakin’ minutes, what of it?’, “But she isn’t the only person on this team who was chosen by her people to wield a signature power.”
Ayla looked back and forth, and Dreamy clarified, “Thom is only the latest wielder of gravitational forces in service to Xanthu, and, unlike Shadow Lass, the powers are not based on any sort of family line. He won all sorts of contests and had to compete against dozens of others for the right to bear these powers.”
Thom looked embarrassed by the praise, but continued on. “And, as Champion, *I* get to determine how they get passed on, and I can choose to share a part of them with you.”
Ayla blinked in surprise, “You’d give me your powers?”
“A part of them. I’m not going to give up my place on the Legion, either.” He smiled.
“But, why? We’re not really friends, I mean, we’ve worked together and stuff, but…”
“Does it matter?” he asked. “You’ve contributed a lot to this team, your own powers nearly killed you, and I don’t think it’s right that you be pushed to the minor leagues because of that. You earned your place here, and I want to help you keep that place.”
Dream Girl cut in, “That insufferable Coluan says that your body *will* adapt to your higher electrical potential, in time. But it could take years, and this option would allow you to continue to serve as a Legionnaire until that happens.”
“If you are really willing to do this, then yeah, I’m all for it!” Ayla said, head still spinning with the possibilities.
“Lie back down then,” Dreamy said.
Thom stood over her, one hand on her forehead and the other on her stomach, and she felt his gravitational powers flux through her. She floated off of the bed, like a magician’s apprentice and she laughed as she pictured him passing a hoop over her, and then his hands were gone and she felt a brief falling sensation, that ended before she even reached the bed. She remained floating and he smiled to her. “It’s done. I’m not the one levitating you right now. That’s all you.”
With a moment of concentration, as if she was wearing a Flight Ring, she righted herself and pushed herself into the air. She couldn’t figure out how to move forward, but she could rise and descend, and she began pointing at things around the lab, sending them up into the ceiling, and then letting them fall again. Dreamy was laughing at the mess she was making of Brainy’s lab, and Thom had to duck a falling datapad, but she was having too much fun.
She turned to Thom and enfolded the surprised man in a hug, using her newfound powers to negate her own weight as she leapt into his arms. “Thank you.” she said very seriously, kissing him chastely on the cheek.
She turned to the sound of the door opening behind her, and saw that Dream Girl had opened the door to reveal Brainiac Five, who looked perplexed that the door had opened before he’d instructed it to open, and looked even more flummoxed to see half of his laboratory floating in midair, only to change to a look of strangled outrage as Ayla lost her concentration and it all crashed to the floor.
“Out! Out! All of you! I declare you healthy enough to GET OUT OF MY LAB!” he shouted as he pushed past them.