by Martin Maenza, partially adapted and expanded from Crisis on Infinite Earths #8-9 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
“Why that arrogant, insufferable dog!” Kobra cursed at the top of his lungs. “Who does that worm Luthor think he is? How dare he exclude me, the Grand Naga, from his inner circle?”
Vandal Savage stroked his beard silently, listening to the golden-scale-costumed conqueror rant. He had his own opinions about the whole situation but kept them to himself. Centuries of life experience taught him that there was a proper time for action and a proper time for patience.
“I tell you this, Savage,” Kobra continued. “Lex Luthor will rue the day he crossed Kobra! I will make him pay for his effrontery!” The man spun around to storm off, and his green cape trailed behind him. As he walked across the room, he noticed a figure had his eye on him. Kobra started to pass and then spun back around quickly, getting into his observer’s face. “What are you looking at, dog?”
Copperhead’s gaze was a firm, unyielding one. He stared into the crimson lenses of Kobra’s cowl with a stern look on his face. “Nothing,” Copperhead hissed before he slithered off. But there was quite a bit more on the reptilian rogue’s mind, more than he was willing to voice. Lost in his own thoughts, he ran right into a large hairy figure.
“Watch it!” growled Gorilla Grodd as he turned around. Then, a smile crossed his jagged grin. “Well, look who crawled out from under a rock? My old playmate, Copperhead!”
Copperhead glared at the super-ape and slithered off in anger. Grodd laughed loudly.
Another gorilla nearly Grodd’s height but almost half his mass made an inquiry. “Grodd, what iz that about?” he asked in a French accent.
“Just an old grudge that I refuse to let die out, Monsieur Mallah,” Grodd replied. “Sometimes it is fun to mess with the humans. They can be such emotional creatures.”
Mallah was about to make a comment when the cylindrical robot form that housed the mind of his partner the Brain started to roll up; Mallah held his tongue.
Copperhead, meanwhile, tried to find a quiet corner to sulk in. Unfortunately, the main area of the spacecraft in which all the villains had been placed was fairly crowded and loud.
“…that’s no lady, that’s my wife!” the Joker said as he finished the end of a joke. He then began to laugh rather loudly in the maniacal way that was one of his trademarks.
A man in a yellow and orange jester-like costume with green tassels that had red balls on the end laughed out loud. “That’s a good one!” Punch exclaimed, slapping his knee.
Standing next to Punch was a blonde woman in a short checkered skirt and brown top with gem-shaped accessories. Jewelee gave her partner the look, the one of disapproval that most couples understood. Had Punch not been enjoying the Clown Prince of Crime’s jokes, he would have picked up on her vibe.
“That costume!” a towering man with white skin and hair exclaimed. “I know that costume! You Superman!” Solomon Grundy wore a gray shirt, a black suit jacket and pants, torn and ravaged. He lunged toward the other figure. “Superman friend of Green Lantern! Grundy hate Green Lantern!”
A yellow energy beam caught the behemoth’s huge white fists and held them back. “No, Grundy,” the red-skinned Sinestro exclaimed. “That’s not Superman!”
“Red man wrong!” said the white-skinned being in a costume similar to Superman’s; the only difference between the costumes was a backwards ‘S’ insignia and a carved round rock hanging from his neck. “Me am Bizarro! See?” He held up the rock that had his name carved in it. “Me love Superman! Love him to life! He be a friend!”
Solomon Grundy had a rough time processing Bizarro’s backwards logic. “Aaargh!” he growled. “Grundy smash super-friends!”
Nearby, at one of the windows looking out into space, a black-haired man in a blue military uniform with orange trim and a red cape glanced down at the partially merged Earths below. “I wonder,” he said aloud, “if each of those world’s below has my beloved Modora. And if so, I wonder what role of greatness they might play in the world economies.”
Standing next to Sonar was a young woman with long blonde hair dressed in a green costume with orange gloves and trim. She had her eye in a different direction, toward the five partially merged moons. “Mmmm,” Lady Lunar purred softly. “Five times the power. I can feel the increase within me.”
“Ah, such a beautiful sight,” a wicked voice said from behind her. “The lovely moon and a lovely young woman.” Lady Lunar spun around on her heel to see the source of these words. She saw it was a man in purple and black whose face was a twisted visage with the entire right side and part of the left with an odd bluish tint to it.
“Excuse me?” she asked in indignation.
Eclipso noticed the half-shaped moon on the villainess’ green mask above her goggles, and smiled a jagged smile. “Well, now,” he said, licking his lips. “I was right! We have something in common.” On his own chest was an image of the full moon, one eclipsing the sun. He reached his purple-gloved hand forward and began to caress her exposed cheek.
Lady Lunar slapped his hand away. “How dare you?!” she exclaimed, then stomped off.
Eclipso merely smiled wickedly. “Feisty! Just the way I like them.” He watched her go, thinking that things between them was far from over.
In another corner of the ship, a heated debate was going on amongst a large group of villains. “Why are we even here?” Chameleon Chief asked. The orange-skinned Durlan had an angered look on his face. “What difference does any of this have on our timeline?”
The red skinned Tyr and the metallic female called the Silver Slasher agreed with him.
“If you bothered to pick up a holovid every once in a while,” the half-man, half-cyborg Tharok snapped, “you’d know this is a period of uncertain history.”
“Right,” the green-haired Emerald Empress said, agreeing with her fellow member of the Fatal Five. “We have no way of knowing for certain whether our participation was pivotal to these events or not.” Behind her, a huge emerald eye of glowing green energy floated. Radiation Roy and Esper Lass tried to step out of its view, as the eye gave them an uncomfortable feeling.
“I’m with Tharok on this one,” the green-and-red-costumed Lightning Lord said. “Besides, if the fabric of time is so frail that we all can be here, it’s very possible that our mutual enemies might also be present.”
Villains like the red-haired powerhouse Titania, the matter-manipulator Cosmic King, the armored Mano, and the cosmic ax-wielding Persuader started to talk amongst themselves over this possibility. Nothing would please them more than to see their enemies dead.
The all orange and slightly blazing Sun Emperor nodded. “Yes! Why, if we have a chance to strike at the Legion of Super-Heroes now, in the twentieth century, then we clear the way for our own dominance of the thirtieth!”
“Exactly,” Tharok said. The villains of the future began to laugh and cheer.
Nearby, a man dressed in red and yellow futuristic garb overheard the entire discussion thanks to his advanced helmet. The bearded man shook his head. He came from the Earth’s future — the year 3786 initially — but he had spent countless years traveling throughout the time stream, from the distant past to as far as one billion A.D. He knew of the time period where these villains came, for it was one of many possible futures. He had long ago concluded that the future could be altered greatly by even the smallest of events.
Despite all that, this time period and this particular time of Crisis fascinated him most of all. The details of the Crisis’ outcome was a shrouded one, even to one with access to so many advanced tools such as himself. The Lord of Time knew also that this juncture point seemed to spawn more than its share of possible futures. Any one of them could include that from which he came. And all the rest — well, they were of little consequence to him.
No, he wasn’t here to exploit the events. He was here to observe them as well as ensure his existence and well-being. And if by chance his hated enemies, the Justice League of America, were to somehow suffer severely because of these events, then the Lord of Time would be satisfied.
Two days earlier, the Anti-Monitor had suffered a major setback when the Earth-One heroine named Supergirl succeeded where her other allies had failed. Kara Zor-El destroyed the mighty shell that housed the evil one’s true essence, and in doing so she was at the heart of a deadly explosion. Superman’s cousin sacrificed herself in hope to save her adopted homeworld and the other four universes.
But her valiant death was not the end of the war. The Anti-Monitor fled and restored himself in a new and improved armor, then just a few hours earlier began to oversee the completion of a mighty weapon. His antimatter cannon would succeed in destroying the remains of the positive matter universe. Feeling so confident, he had little thought that the captured Flash from Earth-One, Barry Allen, would pose any threat to his plans.
Meanwhile, in a ravaged satellite headquarters 22,300 miles above Earth-One’s surface, the Justice League of America had retrieved one of their own enemies in hopes to save another of their fallen teammates. A dark-haired man with a pencil thin mustache dressed in a white lab coat was escorted to a laboratory by the green skinned Martian Manhunter, Vixen, and the flame-haired Firestorm and Firehawk.
Thomas Oscar Morrow stared at the figure on the table. The form with the red and yellow costume lay still, its chest cavity opened with circuitry underneath exposed. Another impressive piece of work, an African-American young man with silver metallic components integrated to a majority of his body was standing over the damaged form of Red Tornado. “Hey, who are you?” Morrow asked.
“Name’s Cyborg,” the young man-machine replied, “and I got more than a passing knowledge of things like this.” He leaned over the table. “Only this guy’s far outta my league. Only hope the Atom can dig up something.”
Ignoring a conversation between the Martian and the flame-haired woman known as Firehawk, Morrow moved closer and enquired, “You said something about an atom?”
“The Atom,” Cyborg corrected. “Used to be with the JLA before he took off. Which is why they asked him to come back for this.” Cyborg gestured with his metallic left glove to a screen. The image was that of a cutaway of the android’s head, and a green blip moved on the screen. “He’s inside the Red Tornado’s body. There!” The member of the Titans flipped on a switch to communicate with the shrunken hero inside. “See anything strange in there, Atom?”
Amidst the circuitry and conduits, the Atom examined things with a special set of goggles. “Everything’s strange, Cyborg. And this is beyond my science, too. Ray Palmer was good, but not this good.” That was why, he knew, they called in an unusual source for help.
Outside, T.O. Morrow beamed. “When I build ’em, I build ’em right,” he said smugly.
“Wipe off that smirk, Morrow,” threatened Cyborg without turning around, “or I’ll do it for you. Atom, go for vision-scan. We wanna see what you’re looking at.”
The Atom complied, and the picture on the viewing screen changed. The green image showed some kind of metallic egg-like item amidst the systems that looked more organic than mechanical.
“No!” Morrow exclaimed. “That’s not the insides I constructed. The Red Tornado’s been changed. I — I don’t understand any of this.”
Morrow soon got to work on his creation, trying to figure out what had changed. Soon, the azure-skinned hero known as Blue Devil was brought to the satellite and began watching over him.
“I’m going to remove his head now,” the scientist announced.
Blue Devil’s eyes grew wide as he watched the monitors. As a stuntman by trade, he really wasn’t sure what he was looking at, but he could tell when things looked out of the ordinary. “Doc, something’s happening. His inside gizmos are glowing.”
“No matter,” Morrow said as he pulled the head away from the body, “this will be over soon enough.”
“NO!” yelled Blue Devil. “Stop — DON’T DO IT!”
Before Blue Devil could shout out another warning, the Atom came flying out of the android’s chest cavity. This was quickly followed by a large explosion that consumed the lab and the android.
Blue Devil barely had time to grab Morrow and pull the scientist away to safety. While Cyborg, Firestorm and Firehawk tried to contain the explosion, Morrow began to flee for his life down the satellite’s corridors. “Wait a second, you turkey,” he called after the criminal scientist, “we’re in deep space!” Chasing after the man, Blue Devil saw him vanish in a swirl of lights.
Seconds later, T.O. Morrow materialized in Brainiac’s living metal spaceship. “Where in blazes am I?” he muttered. Before him was a wide array of beings, some of the most powerful who had ever or would ever live. Some he recognized while others he had no clue as to their identities. They flew about or stood chatting amongst themselves on the floor. A few — such as Chemo, Validus, Overmaster of the Cadre, and a primitive-looking god from Earth-S called Holocaust — even towered like giants over the others.
Morrow turned to a few faces he recognized. “I was aboard the Justice League satellite,” he began, “then–”
“Great, just what we need,” Mirror Master scoffed. “Another jerk!” The frozen female called Killer Frost looked on rather concerned.
“Quiet, all of you,” barked the blue-and-purple-armored Doctor Polaris. “I know what happened to our Earth… and you don’t.”
“Listen to Doctor Polaris,” a man in a purple robe said. The top of his head was clear with a dome that exposed his massive brain. “He and I have witnessed this Crisis firsthand. Indeed, I was nearly slain by it, my atoms dispersed by our foe. Only my psionic abilities saved me and brought me here in safety.”
“Don’t believe it, Psimon,” another voice said. Lex Luthor stood on a platform slightly above the others, the living computer Brainiac sitting behind him. “My science and Brainiac’s saved you.”
“Were it not for us, you would have perished,” Brainiac added coldly. “Indeed, our foe has fled or has died. For not even I — a living computer — can detect his presence, either in our universe or his. My calculations must be true, the Crisis he created is over.
“But now the Earths are in chaos — seemingly normal, yet partially merged. We, although for different reasons, all crave power. Now during this Crisis, it is time for us to strike! Not even the heroes of the five remaining Earths can withstand our combined power.” There was a collective cheer from the amassed villains before Brainiac continued. “Listen now to Luthor of Earth-One — for he shall be our field commander. We have the worlds within our grasp. It is our time now.”
“Wait one bloody second!” a red-haired man in gray prison garb said. He burst his way to the front of the crowd, pushing past the likes of the Cheetah from his own world, Kanjar Ro, and Doctor Spectro. “Who appointed that second-rate lab rat our spokesman?” The others began to murmur, wondering who this audacious man was. A few of them actually knew him.
“I’m the Luthor of Earth-Two!” Alexei Luthor announced. “My genius is far greater than his! You don’t need him!” Alexei had met his Earth-One counterpart once before and had developed an intense dislike for Lex with that single meeting.
Brainiac’s thought processes kicked in. “You speak logically, Luthor!” he said. “But I assembled this group! The decision for leader is mine.” High above the room, a piece of equipment sprang from its position and slowly changed its focus of attention to the floor below.
“But you are correct,” Brainiac continued. “We do not need two Luthors!” The equipment altered its shape, becoming a weapon of sorts. A beam of crimson energy shot from it and nailed the red-haired Luthor squarely, incinerating him instantly. “Farewell!”
In a moment, the place the villain once stood now held nothing more than a smoldering pile of ash. Those immediately around the spot reared back in shock, and a hush moved across the room as they and the other villains turned back to Brainiac. The computer continued to sit, no emotion showing on his steel face plate, but it was obvious he was challenging anyone else to question his decisions.
After a long pause, Lex Luthor smiled and said, “Good!” He turned to address the assembled ranks. “OK, boys and girls… Here’s the plan!” And Lex Luthor of Earth-One began to explain the details of their upcoming conquest.