The Crev Café was already crowded when Lyle arrived, even though it was early evening. The presence of so many people disconcerted him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like being around people –unlike Brainy, he constantly reminded his fellow Legionnaires, Lyle didn’t mind being in a crowd. He didn’t always interact with others, but he liked to observe. It occurred to him that even when he wasn’t literally invisible, he liked the pretend he was: just observing, not participating.
Tonight that was going to change.
Yet once inside the sprawling, glittering dance club, he reverted to form. He wandered around a bit and then, feeling awkward, sat at the bar.
“What’ll it be?” a two-headed bartender asked.
Lyle looked around for a menu. He had no idea what to order.
“Try a Venusian latte,” one of the heads said. “It boils your insides!”
The prospect didn’t sound appealing, so Lyle ordered a Daxamite Mocha, a beverage he’d heard Mon-El talking about.
“Leaded or unleaded?” the other head asked.
Lyle glared. Lead jokes were not funny to Legionnaires.
Lyle sipped his unleaded (alcohol-free) Daxamite Mocha and went about observing people. Then, amid the gyrating bodies on the dance floor, he noticed someone staring at him: a girl with long, brown hair and dark eyes. At first, he thought she was Duo Damsel, the Legionnaire who had recently married and retired. But this girl was younger and stunning.
Confidently, she walked up to him.
“Want to dance?”
She didn’t waste time. Lyle liked that.
“I don’t know how,” he said.
“I’ve been busy,” he replied. Sure, he thought, if battling the Fatal Five and Dr. Regulus isn’t “busy,” what is?
She smiled widely, baring perfectly formed and pristine white teeth. For a moment, Lyle thought she might be Venusian carnivore, sizing up her prey before eating him. He dismissed that thought quickly.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll teach you. Unless you’re afraid to try.”
Lyle smiled to himself. Yep, she didn’t waste time.
“What’s your name?” he finally said.
The girl looked away, mysteriously. “Call me ... Myriad.”
“Myriad?” Lyle repeated. “As in multitudes? Tens of thousands?”
“If need be,” she replied, her smile mysterious and inviting.
An hour later, Lyle thanked her for the dance and left. Any hopes that something more would happen didn’t materialize. Lyle believed his habit of observing people was the culprit. Something about Myriad didn’t add up. After the dance, they sat down at a table, and Lyle ordered drinks – Tequila Sunbursts, this time, something more daring than Daxamite Mochas.
She asked him questions about what he did for a living. He was a scientist, he said, not wanting to draw attention to being a Legionnaire. She wanted to know where he worked and how far from here it was. He answered as best he could without giving away specifics. But she was cagey when he asked her about herself.
This was odd, he thought, considering how much else she wanted to know about him. Lyle tried to dismiss his suspicions – being a Legionnaire had taught him to be wary of those who asked too many questions. But the warning signs were too powerful to ignore.
Under the light above the table, he looked into her eyes. She had the blackest eyes he had ever seen. Psychiatry was not one of his specialties, but he had done some reading on the subject; such eyes, certain theorists believed, were the mark of insanity.
Nothing else about her demeanor suggested something was wrong, but it proved enough for him to lose interest. He made a lame excuse about having to go out of town in the morning (which was true – he was due to leave for a Legion diplomatic mission to the planet Pasnic), and left.
As he passed the alley next to the Crev, something caught his eye. It was Myriad.
“How did you – ?” he asked. He had left her inside the club less than a minute ago.
“I know who you are,” she said, forcefully. “You’re Invisible Kid of the Legion.” Lyle wasn’t really surprised that she recognized him – it’s not like Legionnaires wore masks. “The Legion has something I want, and you’re going to help me get it.”
Before Lyle could respond, someone shoved him from behind. He stumbled into the alley and turned to face another Myriad, accompanied by yet a third.
“A Carggite!” he exclaimed. That’s why she at first reminded him of Duo Damsel. She was from the same world, Cargg, where all natives could replicate two identical bodies at will. Duo Damsel, in fact, had first joined the Legion as Triplicate Girl. Later, one of her three bodies was killed by a Legion enemy; nevertheless, she had been a credit to both the Legion and to her world. Myriad, obviously, had no intention of being a credit to anything. “If you expect me to help you, you’re wrong,” he said. He sized up all three Myriads – none had weapons that he could see.
“Oh, you will help us,” one of the Myriads replied. Then all three added, “whether you like it or not,” in a stereo voice that sent chills down his spine.
As the three closed in on him, Lyle turned invisible. While they looked around for some sign of where he was, he could easily walk past them and notify the nearest sci cop that some Carggite nut was on the loose.
But he never got the chance. Lyle watched in amazement as the three Myriads stretched out their arms, and a fourth Myriad appeared, then a fifth, then a sixth. Even though Carggites could only split into three bodies, Lyle found himself surrounded by ten identical young women.
He hit the ground with enough noise to alert a Saturnian thought-beast.
Instantly, the Myriads were on top of him. The last thing he remembered was the sensation that the Myriads kept multiplying with delight as they pounded and kicked him.