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The Third Grand Tour by Bonita del Rio

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Sun Boy held his nose while he walked to the medical bay of the Legion headquarters. As he entered what should have been an empty room, he heard the muffled sob. Instinctively, he brightened and held a ball of fire in his hand. Then he saw the other lone Legionnaire who felt the need for the medical bay.

“Dawnstar? What’s wrong?” he asked.

As she looked up, she covered herself with a loose sheet. “What happened to you?” she countered.

“Ah, my face got in the way of Violet’s boot,” he explained haphazardly, as he began to study the damage that the mock battle gave him. The nose was not broken, despite the amount of blood on his face and uniform; two shades of red clashed with each other. “It wouldn’t have happened in a real fight.”

Dawnstar gave him that look, as if she could trace truth as well as trails. “Seriously. I heat up in a real fight. Most fighters don’t want to be singed when facing an energy thrower.”

“Let me,” she snapped as he began to gingerly treat his injury.

“As long as you let me return the favor,” Dirk replied. Again she gave him the look. “I didn’t mean it that way. Oh, God! Everything I say sounds like a double entendre!” He smiled and even through the blood, it was a dazzling smile. Despite herself and her own injuries, Dawnstar smiled shyly in return.

When the nose was treated, she began to let him see the burns on her own body. “Dawny? What happened?” Dirk almost shouted.

“Wildfire,” she mumbled.

“He laid hands on you?” This time, he did shout. However, no one was nearby.

“It was not like that, Sun Boy. He… has a body now. I wanted--“

“Dawny, that body is an energy construct! In many ways it’s no more real than Jeckie’s illusions.”

“I know that now. It is just I--“ she couldn’t finish her sentence. “Damn it! (Dirk was stunned by her invective.) Why did he have to follow me?”

Dirk dimmed and dampened the fire for which he was named. “Let me have the salve. Come on,” he coaxed, taking the jar and beginning to dab the anti-burn ointment on the burns. “Why did Wildfire follow you where?”

“On my grand tour of the galaxy. And then Brainiac Five had to foul everything up!”

“Dawny, pretend I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you want to talk, I’m more than willing to listen. Computo,” he called to the Legion’s major domo. “Bring me a high tea and whatever Dawnstar has on her comfort food list.”

“I-I-I think I would like to talk,” she decided, more to herself than to Dirk. She took a piece of fruit and studied it. Then she put it back on the tray. “ When I turned eighteen, I followed my spacefaring people’s tradition of a grand tour of the galaxy. We go wherever the Great Spirit guides us and at the end, we discover our intended. Usually, we find another Starhavenite, but Drake followed me, and I assumed that my quest was over,” she finished in a small voice.

Dirk said nothing. Anything he wanted to say about Wildfire would not be taken well by his audience. “And Brainy?”

Dawnstar stood and paced in the confines of the medical bay. Then she seemed to realize that Dirk was still holding the salve in his his for her and sat back down. In stumbling Interlac, Dawnstar muttered, “Brainiac Five boosted my powers and I inadvertently took another grand tour. I met a man there, who had similar ancestry to mine. He was gorgeous, but he was sworn to a god. We brought a plague to them and instead of letting Brainiac Five and me correct our error, they sent us back to Earth with only some stolen discs to prove they were Terran through ancestry. I do not know if Jhordan survived or if I should even care.”

“We can’t save everybody.” Dirk muttered. “Me? I got lucky and had the others backing me when my turn to fail arrived.”

“You? Fail?” Dawnstar mocked and then saw the look on his face.

“It was a planetary evacuation. I was in charge or saving over a million lives and I had served on too many space missions. I had a nervous breakdown and nearly killed the people I was supposed to save and my friends. I live with that every day and I avoid leadership like a Rigel fever because of it.”

“Dirk, I’m sorry, I did not--“

“Don’t apologize. I won’t have it from my favorite dancer.”

They were quiet for a while. Dirk continued to spread the salve on Dawnstar and alternately thanking and cursing God for the burns not being in too unwieldly places. Finally, he said, “I think you should go.”

“Go where?”

“On another grand tour. A real one when no Legionnaire can foul you up. Don’t tell anyone your plans, just go. Find out who you are for yourself. You’re too smart and too pretty to just need a man.”

“To procreate is a sacred mission,” she mumbled.

“Thus saith the Good Lord.” He laughed ruefully. “Seriously, you have leave time, right. Take it. Okay, you’re all coated. Just hold on for a minute. Computo, upload warbles from my favorite night club to Dawnstar’s comm units. There. Now you have some music to dance to. The universe is a big stage. Remember to give yourself a chance to dance.”

“You will not mention this to the others?” she asked timidly.

“It’s your story, Dawny, not mine.”

Then, impulsively, she hugged him. “I will see you later.”

She left for her third grand tour and spent weeks flying and dancing among the stars. All the while she thought of a surprisingly empathic human who seemed to understand her more than she thought he could understand anyone and her bitter failure with the man she thought she was meant for.

Finally, she came to the end; a trinary star system that was barely born out of its nebula, and then she saw a familiar ship. She gently landed on it and cycled the airlock.

“Dawnstar? What are you doing here?”

“I had hoped it would be you,” she answered and launched herself at a surprised Dirk Morgna. The kiss was deep and Dirk finally got beyond the surprise and pushed the winged woman away, although he still held her arms.

“I won’t be able to stop if you don’t,” he whispered hoarsely.

“I do not want you to. Are we alone?” she asked, and she already knew the answer.

“Yes.”

She continued to kiss and caress him.

Again, Dirk held her back through sheer will. As much as he wanted what she was offering, he needed to be honest. “Dawny. Wait. If this is about reproduction, I may not be able to. The assassination attempt that gave me my powers also wrecked my DNA. I don’t know--

“Dirk, my people are master geneticists. If we are meant to have children, then we’ll have children. But for now, I realize that you are the man I should spend my time with.” She didn’t let him talk much after that.