by Martin Maenza, adapted and expanded from Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
Life on Earths Four, S, and X had been savagely altered in the short span of thirty-six hours. The people of those worlds found themselves facing a plague of darkness, their freedoms — fought for in a dozen wars — stolen away with impossible ease. Their heroes, those who could raise up a defense, were quickly defeated by the other-worlders. Some paid with their lives, while others were beaten and broken.
A prerecorded ultimatum had been issued to the representatives of the world’s governments at the United Nations on Earth-Four, just as it had already been issued to similar institutions on both Earth-S and Earth-X.
“The three Earths are ours! No one can take them from us!” the voice of Luthor had stated over the broadcast. “Your lives… and your freedoms… are in our hands! Your only hope for peace lies with us. Surrender yourselves now. Or prepare to die!”
The world had found itself in chaos, the laws of civilization seemingly nonexistent amidst the turmoil and the panic that was everywhere. Earth-Four was the first to realize it had little choice but to accept the ultimatum, and the others would quickly follow.
Lex Luthor had been monitoring reports from the three seized Earths with pride. Before too long he was able to turn to his computer colleague and declare, “We have won!”
“Query: Have the governments of the three Earths surrendered to us?” Brainiac asked.
“They have indeed,” Luthor crowed. “The destinies of these worlds are ours to shape.”
“Good,” Brainiac said. “Then it is time for our next step. We must deliver our message to the other Earths, and I have calculated the venue that will give us the optimal audience.”
On Earth-One at the United Nations building in New York City, a historic meeting was taking place that afternoon. Representatives from the many different worlds had come together to report on what the press had been calling the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Alexander Luthor, Jr., Pariah, and Lyla — the former Harbinger — had been speaking to the Joint Assembly when something threw the meeting into total chaos.
A holographic image of Brainiac’s head appeared in the open air above the room. It spoke in the voice of the living computer and delivered this message:
“Earthlings, listen to what I have to say. Your very lives now depend on the decision you are about to make. I am Brainiac. And I have assembled at my side all those you humans call super-villains!
“While most of the five Earth’s heroes assembled here, we have used our power to take over the Earths designated Four, X, and S. They are completely and totally under our domination. Our demands for Earths One and Two will be explained by another. Hear him out. It would be wise to do what he says.”
The image of Brainiac vanished, only to be replaced by a full-body holographic image of Lex Luthor adorned in his battle armor. He smiled evilly before launching into his speech.
“Well, well, well,” Luthor said, “this is a pleasure.” The super-scientist was enjoying this moment in the spotlight. “The name’s Lex Luthor. And the culmination of everything I’ve ever worked for is at hand!
“As my computerized compatriot has stated, our forces are now in control of three Earths. But we believe five is a far better number, therefore we demand that your nations surrender… or we will unleash forces which will destroy the three Earths under our control. And, being linked as you are, your two worlds will be destroyed as well.
“For years you persecuted us villains because we upset your views of conformity. But guess whose feet wear those proverbial shoes now?” Luthor laughed. “So make your decision, my friends. You have, oh — fifteen minutes. Long enough to decide between life and complete annihilation!”
And with that, the holographic image of Luthor faded. The entire assembly floor broke out in chaotic discussion, a political debate on whether to give in to these demands or not.
Above the Earths in the orbiting space ship, the two villains discussed what was taking place below. “Query: Did you intend to abide by your announced time limit?” Brainiac asked.
“Not really,” Luthor said. “I don’t expect an answer in that amount of time. It’ll take that long just to contact all the world leaders to get them talking.” Luthor leaned back in his chair. “No, I figure we’ll get two results from that. First, a panic among the governments that will yield to dissension and lack of coordination. We benefit from that.”
“And the second?” Brainiac asked.
“Second, I expect the cavalry to come charging to the rescue,” Luthor said. “And when they do, our boys and girls on the worlds below will take care of the opposition for us. Once we have Superman’s head mounted on a pike, the governments will have no option but surrender to our demands.” The bald scientist let out a sinister laugh.
And true to his expectations, the second of Luthor’s results came to pass. After discovering that brute force and mystic means were no match at breaking the barrier between worlds, Lyla realized that the information left to her by the Monitor might be of some use. His studies of the Earths and their vibrational patterns would be invaluable at this time of need.
Together with Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-Two, the blonde woman sought the aid of one young man in Blue Valley. The now-retired Wally West was asked to suit up once more as Kid Flash to assist in an effort that just might be able to break the barriers between worlds.
Modifying a design of the original Cosmic Treadmill that the Earth-One Flash often used to travel between worlds and through time, the elder Flash and Kid Flash were able to construct a much-larger device. Its purpose would be an important one: to propel a large number of heroes — including the New Teen Titans, the Justice Society of America, the Metal Men, Infinity Inc., the Justice League of America, the Outsiders, the Doom Patrol, and various other independent heroes — through the seemingly impenetrable barriers to the other three Earths. Their mission: to break the reign of terror that gripped the captive Earths.
Encouraged by the words of the elder Flash, the two speedsters ran upon that giant treadmill faster than they had ever run before. Soon, their feet — and, in fact, their whole bodies — became nothing but a blur as their momentum energized the device. Not long after, the seven disk platforms that the other heroes stood valiantly upon were energized as well, and this army of justice was cast forth into the great beyond.
In space, these actions did not go unnoticed. “Luthor, my sensors indicate the heroes have broken through our defenses,” Brainiac announced, “as anticipated.”
“Well, whatever the outcome, we are going to win,” Luthor assured.
“I calculate a sixty percent loss on our side, and an eighty percent loss on theirs,” stated Brainiac.
“Doesn’t matter how many die,” Luthor said. “Our guys win — we’re still in charge. If those so-called heroes win, they won’t be in any shape to take us on.” He turned from the monitors to his computer ally. “Worst comes to worst, we can always blow up the three Earths — after all, Brainiac, you and I are safe up here in space. And there are thousands of worlds out there equally ripe to be ruled by us.”
Luthor glanced at a view of the Earths below. “I’ll miss the old Earth,” he said, considering what would happen if it came to that. “Maybe I’ll even light a candle for it on the anniversary of its destruction.” He laughed uproariously at this while Brainiac remained silent as ever. He suddenly found himself nostalgic over the loss of the old, green-skinned Brainiac; at least he had been able to revel in the mayhem rather than simply calculate loss numbers.
But that was enough of sentimental thoughts. He turned back to the monitors that watched the events on the worlds below. “No, this doesn’t change a thing. Let the heroes try and take the worlds back. They’ll soon realize our stronghold is unbreakable!”
Meanwhile, in the shadows, a form continued to listen to the duo undetected. He was ever so pleased that he had decided to stay behind. Soon, it would be time for him to make his move.