by Martin Maenza, adapted and expanded from Crisis on Infinite Earths #9-10 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
In the space craft in orbit, Lex Luthor watched the monitors of the battles below and shook his head. “Unfortunately, despite our control, Brainiac, the battle is still weighed evenly on both sides,” he said. “But that’s fine with us, isn’t it? Sure, we’d like our side to win, but it’s hardly essential to our goals. Let them all kill off each other, that’s what I say.
“And don’t worry your capacitors. I haven’t forgotten why we teamed up. No matter which side wins, the two of us will do in Superman. Then we’ll worry what to do with those who refuse to accept us as their leader! I don’t know about you, Brainiac — but I don’t want to be the one to go up against things like Chemo or Validus. Got any ideas?” Luthor turned to his metallic partner, who had been standing silent and motionless for quite a while now. Perhaps he was in some kind of odd mode, crunching numbers or something.
“Brainiac?” Luthor asked. “You listening?” The man grew a bit concerned. “Pal, you haven’t said a–”
Suddenly, Brainiac’s entire body began to shake violently. Sparks flew out from his chest cavity, and energy began to envelop the super-computer’s form.
“What in blazes?” Luthor cried. “He’s shaking… sputtering… BRAINIAC?” He didn’t need his great intellect to realize what would happen next. “My God! Brainiac’s going to–” And indeed, the super-computer shattered in a loud, violent force of energy. Shards of metal and circuitry showered about the room.
Lex Luthor was thrown to the ground, his battle armor taking the major brunt of the blast. “Unhhh,” he said as he rose to his knees. He grasped his head, his ears still ringing. “Sneak attack… but the sensors never indicated anyone approaching.”
“Brainiac…” he called out desperately, not expecting any answer. The only sound was the hum of the space ship. “Brainiac…?” The scientist picked up a few pieces of cable and chips that were in front of him. “This is all that’s left of him?!” Luthor looked up. “Who did this?”
Suddenly, Luthor realized he was not alone after all. He looked up to see the purple-robed form of a familiar figure before him. “Look no further, Luthor,” a sinister voice cackled. “I blew Brainiac’s body into so many pieces, not even my old partner Gizmo could put him back together again.”
The newcomer’s brain, visible under a clear dome at the top of his head, began to glow. “You assembled our group hoping they’d kill the heroes for you and then you would march in to claim victory.” The man smiled. “A good thing I’m a rather suspicious sort, isn’t it? Well, Luthor, I killed Brainiac, so now — PSIMON SAYS LUTHOR MUST DIE AS WELL!”
Luthor winced in pain as the first blast from Psimon hit him. Beads of sweat began pouring from his skin as he writhed in agony.
“You two really had a scheme going there, didn’t you?” Psimon scolded. “Not nice, Luthor… not nice at all! Recruiting all us so-called super-villains… sending us to take over three of the Earths and to battle their mightiest heroes… And no matter which side won, you intended to pick up the pieces and rule by yourselves!” Another burst came from the villain’s expanded brain.
“Fortunately, I am a rather suspicious type… I stayed behind and overheard you,” Psimon continued as his enemy writhed on the ground, suffering. Unlike Brainiac, this one would suffer a slow, painful death. “So now, you will die while I let your plan continue — only with me in charge. Such a good plan, Luthor. Psimon thanks you for it! What a shame you won’t live long enough to enjoy it!” The energy crackled about his domed brain.
“Nor shall you, Psimon,” a mechanical voice said as a blast of energy shot the man’s skull from behind. Psimon’s brain was completely obliterated by the forceful beam of energy, and his dome skull shattered like a window pane. The villain’s body fell lifeless to the floor. Psimon was dead.
Lex Luthor gasped for air, slowly recovering. He looked up to see Brainiac with a smoldering laser weapon for a right arm. Was it really him?
“This ship is part of me,” the computer said, still speaking to the now-dead Psimon. “Each circuit interfaces with one of mine. I monitored your presence from the moment you came aboard. You could not hide from me. You were a fool to think you could.”
Luthor stood. “Brainiac? But I saw him destroy you.”
“No,” the machine replied. “I transferred my data into my ship’s computers. Only my outer shell was destroyed. And I was able to command the living metal of this vessel to form a new one.” Brainiac turned back to the monitors. “Psimon is eliminated. Our plan continues.”
“It sure does, pal,” Luthor said. “You and me… against the heroes of five worlds. Brainiac, we can’t lose!” And although his face hid it well, Lex Luthor was a bit concerned. If Brainiac could so easily eliminate Psimon, what would stop the machine from doing the same to Luthor? Could a machine be loyal and honorable? The bald man was starting to have his doubts.
The world continued to burn in chaos even after the arrival of the Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol. Freedom was gone, stolen by those with powers and abilities far greater than those of any mortal man. Chemo continued to stand at its post on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, mindlessly staring before him at the water, which continued to burn due to the chemicals that were deposited there. The life-giving ocean had become a poisonous sea. If an automaton could feel satisfaction, Chemo surely did at this moment.
That would not last. As the giant continued to stand there, a lone form of energy shot through the air. The black outline was that of Negative Woman, and she was full of rage. “Fiend! How many lives have you destroyed?”
Chemo merely gurgled loudly, the chemicals inside him sloshing around.
The heroine stretched her energy form about the automaton a number of times, binding its arms to its side. “Do you even care what you have done?” Negative Woman screamed. She got no answer. Chemo merely moved, acted, and killed; it was without a mind and incapable of communication. “You cannot be allowed to survive!”
Negative Woman had originally fled her home in the Soviet Union because she longed for freedom. And she would not allow this Earth or any Earth to be held in the iron grip of tyranny. She contracted her energy trail together, squeezing around Chemo’s body. Eventually, the force of her power was greater than the creature’s shell, and Chemo exploded apart violently. The contents of its very being showered out into the already polluted harbor. Maybe some of these raw chemicals could help the situation rather than feed it.
Still farther away in the oceans, far from the pollutants, Aqualad swam desperately. In all the excitement, he had forgotten he was on Earth-Four and not on his own world and was headed for where Atlantis would be. But it didn’t matter. Please, Tula, don’t die, he thought. You can’t die! I… I love you.
He looked into her face, her eyes barely able to stay open, and her breathing so shallow. Sh… she’s so silent… barely breathing, Aqualad though. Lord, she won’t make it. It’s not fair! It’s not at all fair! The woman would soon die in his arms.
On the streets of New York City, the other heroes still fought desperately.
The dark-garbed Black Adam laughed sinisterly. “You two are no match for me!” he scoffed. With his mighty fist, he swatted back two heroes — a bronze humanoid robot and a blue-and-white-clad hero — as if they were mere flies. “I have all the powers of Captain Marvel and more.”
A woman with crystalline wings flew in from above. Don’t know who he is, she thought to herself, but I know who he’s hurting! That’s Robotman and Dove! Well, it’s time for Kole to do her act! The teenager began to gesture with her hands, causing her unique powers to go into action.
Black Adam raised back his right fist to strike but then stopped. “What?” he exclaimed. “Who dares attack Black Adam?” He looked to his arm, and his jaw dropped. “M-my arm… it’s turning to crystal?”
Dove and Robotman had recovered from the first blows. Dove pointed at Black Adam and said, “Now he’s all crystal.” Indeed, the mighty villain was frozen in his stance like an intricately carved statue. “How did Kole do that?”
“Who cares, Dove?” grumbled Robotman. “She’s given us the chance to get rid of this bozo once and for all!” The metallic member of the Doom Patrol wound back his left fist.
“N-no!” screamed Dove, grabbing Robotman’s arm and holding it back. “You can’t! It’s not right to hurt someone else, no matter what he did to us.” A pacifist at heart, he was a firm believer in turning the other cheek.
“Kid, are you for real?” Robotman asked. He put down his arm after realizing Dove would not stop holding him back. “Well, OK. If you feel so strongly about it.”
Dove nodded. “I do. We must remember that we cannot stoop to their level, or else we’re no better than they.”
Not far away, Cyborg rounded a corner to see one of his allies about to be ambushed. “Celsius — behind you!” he cried out in warning.
The brown-skinned woman dressed in red and blue raised her left arm and hurled a blast of fire. “No problem, Cyborg,” she said as the flames struck the black-and-red-costumed Electrocutioner before he could finish charging up. “I can handle both of them.”
The female leader of the new Doom Patrol shot an icy blast with her right hand, freezing the hands and arms of the green-and-purple-costumed Quakemaster to his giant jackhammer weapon. The ice quickly spread to cover the whole device. “Press me and I can also chew gum at the same time,” Celsius quipped.
“Not bad, kid,” Cyborg said. “Not bad at all! Sure you don’t want to join the Titans?”
“No thanks,” the woman replied. “I can only stand so much of Dayton’s adopted son as it is. I’ll stick to my own team, thank you.”
Not far away, some of the villains were guarding the Sentinels of Justice and other captured heroes. Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Nightshade, and many more were held fast by the villains’ special bonds. “The time has come!” Doctor Spectro announced. “Time to kill these fools before they can be rescued.”
“Who’s first?” asked the armored reactor called Tokamak. He looked down the row. “How about this patriot puss?” He pointed to Liberty Belle, a trained female astronaut-turned-hero on this world of Earth-Four. She wore a star-spangled costume of red, white, and blue.
“A fair place to start,” Spectro agreed. “Cavalier, do the honors!”
The mustached man dressed like a French musketeer hesitated. “Start with her?” he asked. “I don’t know.” His own personal code of honor prevented him from seriously injuring a woman, no matter who she was.
“Back off, you pantywaist poof!” sneered a bald man dressed as a pirate. “If ye can’t kill the wench, allow me!”
With his large cutlass, Captain Stingaree ran the blade right into the platinum blonde-haired woman’s chest. Liberty Belle cried out in anguish before collapsing.
The villain withdrew his bloody blade and said, “See? Easy as can be. Who’s next?”
“No one is!” a voice boomed from above. The collective villains turned to see Hawk and the other New Teen Titans and Doom Patrolers bearing down upon them.