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Tomorrow's Lesson, by Samuel Hawkins
By SAMUEL HAWKINS


Chapter 5: A Difficult Teacher


“Helmets on!” Cosmic Boy shouted. “Brainy, get an airlock open!  Superboy, get out there!”

The instant the airlock slid open, Superboy slipped into the vacuum of space.  He arrived just in time to deflect a laser blast fired at the Legion Cruiser from Mordru’s suddenly visible ship.  The blast made even him tumble, and he required a few seconds to right himself.  Those seconds produced a volley of laser bursts from Mordru, and though Superboy recovered in time to block most of them, one strayed past him and found the Cruiser.

Even through the near-vacuum, he could feel the shockwave as the Cruiser was struck.  When he looked back to the ship, he found it spinning wildly out of control.  He dove after it, only to feel a hot sensation in his back as another of Mordru’s lasers stung him.  He gritted his teeth, and ignoring both the pain and its cause, headed after his teammates.

They’d gone only a few kilometers when he reached them, but the speed with which they were rotating made him hesitate.  He couldn’t bring the ship to a sudden stop, lest his comrades be injured or killed by their impacts with the interior.  His mind raced to the only similar scenario he’d encountered, and for the briefest of seconds he prepared to use his speed to form a wall of high air pressure that would brake the vessel enough for him to safely grab it.  Then he remembered that, unlike that Piper Cub over Metropolis, air pressure was not a consideration out here.  His mind raced again, especially upon glancing over his shoulder and spotting an approaching Mordru. 

He had to think of something.  And fast.

Finally, he decided.  He’d just have to do this the hard way.  He accelerated to catch up with the Cruiser, then, matching its speed, flew to the underside of the craft and began rotating like a pinwheel in the opposite direction.  Then he slowly pressed upwards, and ever so gently came into contact with the spinning ship.  Avoiding the temptation to push forcefully, Superboy felt the ship spin around several more times while the friction of his costume began to act as a drag on the out-of-control vessel.  The wait was agonizing, but he knew it was necessary, having learned in his short career that even a Superboy can’t completely ignore the laws of physics.

As soon as the ship’s rotation had wound down to a more manageable speed, he reached up and grasped it.  The shock was still significant, but hopefully insufficient to cause serious injury to the Legionnaires inside.  Fighting to maintain his hold on the ship as it attempted to sheer away from him, he gripped it so hard that the metal began to bend.  He loosened his grip momentarily, then snatched at the craft again, and at last he had it under control. Certain that his friends needed some solid ground beneath their feet, he headed for a small moon in the vicinity, and, with perhaps his most difficult feat up till then achieved, he lightly touched down with the Legion Cruiser.

Within seconds, the bulkhead hatches had opened and the Legionnaires came spilling out.  “Are you all okay?” Superboy asked as the teens gratefully reached for the ground.

“A little shaky,” Cosmic Boy admitted as he quickly surveyed his team. Most were rubbing one or another bruised body part, and all of them looked at least a little queasy.  But they were alive.  “But I think we, and the Cruiser, will be okay.  Thanks to you.  Now,” the Legion leader said with a look to the horizon, “where’s Mordru?”

Before Superboy could answer, the moon’s thin atmosphere came alive with the arrival of Mordru’s ship.  “Right behind us,” Superboy said evenly.  He turned back from watching it land, and asked, “What’s the plan?”

”Besides staying alive?” Cosmic Boy asked, and then switching to an open communications channel, said to the group, “Same thing, everybody.  We have to know if he has the Nullifier.  Fan out into a skirmish line.  Lightning Lad take the left flank, Sun Boy the right.  Superboy, you’re in the middle with me.  Let’s move. ”  

They did, and when the door to Mordru’s ship opened and he exited, they were waiting.  “Last chance Mordru,” Cosmic Boy said as the tyrant descended the walkway like royalty. “Let us search your ship.”



Mordru replied with a wicked grin and one word.  “Burn,” he said, and Cosmic Boy did, suddenly convulsing uncontrollably as mystic fire crawled over his body. 

“Let him alone,” Superboy shouted, and launched himself towards the ancient wizard.

The next thing the Boy of Steel knew, he was on the ground.  It happened so fast that it took a moment for him to realize exactly what had occurred.  As he had approached Mordru at what he knew was a fantastic speed, the mystic had simply smacked him out of the air. 

But that was impossible, Superboy thought.  No one could possibly move that fast.

As he raised himself to his knees, Superboy suddenly had an inkling of how other people felt around him.

The thin atmosphere was suddenly alive with Mordru’s roar.  “I suppose this will make my point as well as anything,” he said.  “Come, Superboy,” he said with a beckoning wave.  “Let us measure your greatness.”

Superboy looked backwards and checked Cosmic Boy.  He wasn’t convulsing anymore.  No one else was either.  Maybe Mordru couldn’t attack them all simultaneously.  Good, Superboy thought.  It was best for the others if he could keep this between himself and Mordru.  It wasn’t from a lack of courage, Superboy was sure, that none of the other Legionnaires were attacking the Dark Lord.  It was just that none of them had any ideas as to how to help.  It was up to him.

His ears still ringing with the force of Mordru’s blow, Superboy stood and headed forward again.  He was more cautious this time, and when Mordru swatted at him, he was able to back out of the way.

“Running away?” Mordru taunted.  “The renowned Last Son of Krypton afraid of an old man?”

Superboy ignored the mocking and darted in at the sorcerer.  He took a glancing blow for his trouble, but figured that the pain was well worth being in position to deliver a shot of his own to Mordru.  This would quiet him down.

Superboy reared back and let fly a mighty blow that struck Mordru square on the chin. The Dark Lord’s head rocked backwards, and for a moment, he tottered.

But then, his eyes rolled down to glare at Superboy.  With a sneer, he asked, “Is that the best you can do?”

Superboy’s eyes widened.  He’d hit him.

And he was still okay.

Things weren’t supposed to still be okay after he had hit them.

What would it take to bring him down?

With a growing and unfamiliar anxiety, Superboy began to move in and out of Mordru’s reach.  Ducking and weaving, poised to strike if an opening presented itself, Superboy maintained this intense dance for what seemed like hours, but were actually only a few seconds.

Then Mordru began to laugh.  “Oh little Kryptonian, you are the quick one.  How you tax my spells of time dilation.  You almost make me forget myself.  Who is Mordru to brawl like some common street urchin?”  He smiled, and with a gesture, the air around Superboy ignited.  As the youngster screamed, Mordru asked, “Feeling a bit … overmatched?  That’s good.  You are!”

More from reflex than plan, Superboy pulled backwards from the flames, then shot upwards.  For a split second, he hovered in the air, then suddenly reversed course. Angling himself towards Mordru’s side, Superboy plowed into him.  Mordru staggered, and momentarily went down onto one knee.  As soon as the Legionnaires steadied themselves from the shockwave created by the impact, they began to cheer.  Superboy had come through.  He’d knocked Mordru down.

Maybe things would be okay after all.

But with a speed that defied his size and apparent age, Mordru sprang to his feet.  With the merest trickle of blood on his lip, the wizard smiled.  “Then again, it’s been centuries since I was in a good fight.  Perhaps some points must be made … personally.”

Trying to press his minor advantage, Superboy charged in again, only to be met by a charge of Mordru’s own.  The collision knocked the hero onto his rear end, but he didn’t stay there long.  Violently, Mordru grabbed the youngster by the shoulders and lifted him, then thrust him down into the rocky soil of the moon.  Superboy found himself half-buried, but was quickly extracted, only to be slammed down again.  Mordru repeated this maneuver one last time, then grabbed the boy by the throat and began to slap him across the face.

“You dare … challenge me!” the Dark Lord roared.  “You dare … touch me!  You … child!”  Then he pulled back his arm, and looked at the Legionnaires.

“Here … here is your champion!” Mordru said, and with an ease that left no doubt as to whom was the more powerful, he held the battered Superboy aloft.

Then hurled him into the side of a nearby mountain. 

The collision echoed through the thin atmosphere, sending the Legionnaires tumbling.  As they struggled to stand, lines of mystic force retrieved the unconscious Superboy and unceremoniously dumped him at their feet.

“Now,” Mordru asked, “do you understand?  I suspect you do.  But it is too late.  The time for you to flee is past.  Though you are as beaten as your Kryptonian, you may still pose some … slight threat.”  He paused, and the very air around him began to glow with his fury.

“I suppose I should … remedy that.”

 


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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.


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