The swamp was shallow and wooded, surrounded by lush reeds and grasses; a bayou of sorts. Not far beyond it was a bog, a wetland of soft, spongy ground without a drain. The bog was covered with plant debris and water-growing moss creeping out from the water's edge, nearly blanketing the water's surface.
There were pools, marshy areas that might have been quicksand, grassy tussocks rising from this swamp with moss hanging from them, as well as creepers, vines, and dead-black orchids. Tall dead trees rose out of the water, of the kind that had thin trunks that start on a black tangle of roots that barely come out of the surface. The trunks were black for the first few feet or so, and after that length they became bone-white with small black spots, and they were naked and without branches; and grew tall, ending at the very top in a small head of thin branches with tiny gray leaves.
A shrill cackle echoed through the swamp, followed by the cooing of a bird. Somewhere a witch was laughing.
The tips of the first rays of the sun warmed the swamp's still surface and then cascading ripples of growing waves dotted the murky black waters, moving away from an epicenter of determined origin. Then the pattern of the ripples began to change into something more chaotic.
Suddenly the body of liquid bulged, lifting into the sky. The churn became a great boiling, the waves lifting dozens, perhaps hundreds of feet tall, flinging gobbets of froth into the air. The dome of water then broke, revealing to the surface world something breathtaking.
The Hall of Doom's dome reared up over the swamp like a mighty mountain peak. Its bottom was tapered, the rim flared. Twin oval windows of dusky obsidian glass were set to either side of the Hall's façade, resembling two black eyes. Those fifteen-foot-wide, six-foot-high teardrop view-ports possessed titanium alloy lids, which could be quickly sealed to protect the eighteen-inch-thick, pressure-proof glass at a moment's notice. All in all it resembled the shining black helmet of some ancient warlord.
The Hall's creators were proud of this fortress, and they concealed the location well. The swamp was not known to their foes, and would likely never be known to them. It could have been any swamp on Earth: Slaughter Swamp located outside of Gotham City, or the Louisiana bayou where the Swamp-Thing was sighted frequently. Any swamp at all.
No representatives from any of the world's governments would conduct raids on this place, nor would costumed prodigies knock on its door. No, the Hall's creators had given their headquarters the ability of surface, subterranean, or underwater travel. When linked with the time conveyor or similar device, the Hall could also journey into the depths of outer space or other historical periods. If they so desired they could move the Hall to the top of the greatest mountain on Earth in triumph. That day would come, its creators had often promised, but until then it was always docked in swamps for the purpose of concealment.
Within shining corridors of metal ran for hundreds of feet only to loop back on themselves. Laced beneath the surface of these halls was circuitry for teleportation and holographic technology. All in all, the Hall of Doom was amalgamation of Coluan and Korugarian technologies, filled out with some devices from Gorilla City.
In one room of the headquarters ranks of robot doubles, each one nestled in an alcove full of numerous analytic and diagnostic instruments, gathered dust. In another a single chair sat across from a towering wall of television screens. In a hanger a hydrofoil shaped like a manta-ray awaited repair. These special chambers were interrupted by the more common living quarters, laboratories, storage rooms, and armory.
In its center of the hall was a huge chamber decorated in copper trim. It was appropriate that the walls were lined with cold marble, for what better place for the Legion of Doom than a mausoleum?
The Legion's members waited around a large horseshoe-shaped table of redwood stood in the center of the wood-planked floor.
Seated behind a high speaking lectern, Lex Luthor occupied the primary position, his expression one of excitement. At his right, purple-gloved hand was a wooden gavel.
On his right sat Captain Cold, Cheetah, Solomon Grundy, Gorilla Grodd, Brainiac and Sinestro. On his left sat Scarecrow, Bizarro, the Riddler, Toyman, Giganta and finally Black Manta. Their chairs were high-backed and comfortable, upholstered in leather.
These were the world's greatest villains and this was their place, the place where evil kept watch over the world. This was the place where the Thirteen gathered to lay their plans for their triumphs, and lick their wounds from their inevitable failures.
And now the Legion waited for Luthor to speak. The air was stuffy, the echo of their breathing flat and short. And he could hear them, but when he tried to speak, he was unable to say a word, so great was his excitement. At first he flushed, then grinned. His gaze was glassy.
Luthor then realized he needed a visual aid if he were to reach them.
As Luthor removed a device from a pouch on his vest, he recalled those strange events of yesterday...
The device was a modification of the interspacial time conveyor-a piece of technology that Luthor had acquired in the Legion's dealings with the Fearians, a strange, tripled-headed race who had in turn taken the technology from beings stranger still. Beings that created a brand of technology so advanced that it bordered on magic.
While Luthor was a talented scientist who able to consolidate the latest technological achievements from all over the globe, he preferred to learn bits and pieces of knowledge from those who did the tedious experimenting and inventing. Indeed, Luthor sometimes compared himself to the mythological Prometheus. He knew the sciences of long dead alien civilizations: not just those Krypton that he gleaned from his occasional intrusions into Superman's Fortress of Solitude, but also the ruins on that unnamed planet that Luthor himself had christened Lextor and was virtually a god among its inhabitants.
His position as leader of the Legion of Doom afforded opportunities to learn from other brilliant minds: Gorilla Grodd and Brainiac (although these two were unsettlingly inhuman in their thought processes and were often reluctant to share their knowledge with a 'mere human'). Even madmen like the Riddler, the Scarecrow and Toyman occasionally had their own unique insights and were more inclined to share them. Luthor would also have enjoyed examining the inner workings of Sinestro's power ring, Leonard Snart's cyclotron or any of the miniaturized alien cities in Brainiac's collection stolen from countless inhabited worlds.
His frequent clashes with his foes gave Luthor chances to hone his intellect-the Batman's mind was keen; the synapses of Flash's thought processes were accelerated as much as the rest of the Scarlet Speeder's body, the database of Green Lantern's ring contained vast constellations of alien knowledge, and even the hated Superman was said to possess some degree of superhuman intellect. All were worthy opponents for the great scientist, and Luthor - more often than not-was able to outwit them all on numerous occasions.
But now he would perform this one experiment himself. Modified, the time conveyor would not transport him in time, but rather to another place, a place not of this universe. There could be an infinite number of parallel universes, countless alternate Earths in which existence might be slightly different or even unrecognizable.
In moments, if his experiment worked, Lex Luthor would break open a doorway into another dimension, a parallel universe-maybe even more than one: an infinite passage to a million, million dimensions. One of them could provide what he had sought for years: the means to destroy his hated foe and take the world as his own.
He held up the rectangular pad with its many dials, buttons, and lighted displays, and a satisfied smile touched his lips. He had possessed this item for many years, and, through experimentation, found that it could transport any desired object to a certain place or time-a useful feature when escaping the Justice League if one of the Legion's schemes were foiled. Its other abilities were still unknown to him, but occasionally, the device emitted an odd sound-a ping-ping sound at random moments.
From what the Fearians had told him, beneath its metal casing was constrained an actual black hole, and the unfathomable power of that celestial event was at his fingertips.
Luthor knew what a black hole was. When a star died, it collapsed in on itself, became so dense that nothing could escape its terrible gravity, not even light. It was perhaps the most destructive force in the universe. The device used that power to fold space-time.
Before he began the experiment Luthor took a moment to look around the laboratory. It contained the full diversity of interests, all his pastimes and fascinations. A long shelf ran along every wall, crowded with racks of vials, stoppered bottles of glass, and assorted rocks and mineral specimens. Many were different forms of Kryptonite. In a beaker on a table were black crystalline fragments, samples from the Monolith of Evil that Luthor hoped could one day be grown into a replacement. On another table were the arranged stolen components for a super-computer that would rival the Justice League's if it were ever completed. Leaning against one wall was the enlargement ray during the 'Giants of Doom' conquest. The device itself was the size of a tractor. An impressive device, though, without its Sorium fuel, it was useless.
Taking a deep breath, Luthor flicked a switch. A circuit had been completed.
In the next instant a glowing line of orange appeared several feet in front of him. The line expanded, and with a deep thunderous BOOM resounding through the laboratory, the line grew into a tall oval. A very tall oval.
A thrill of triumph raced through him. The power of the cosmos-unleashed yet contained. A doorway had been opened, connecting two worlds that were never meant to touch. He had an urge to throw his head back and laugh into the chaotic fury of the rift. The scientific mind within resisted the urge. He wished to exploit the opportunity to the fullest possible extent, to extract from it the greatest possible advantage, and he must, therefore, not act precipitously. The thrill of discovery could be as intoxicating as wine, and many times more addictive.
In front of him, the portal's color darkened, somehow taking on the color of nothingness. All around, the laboratory seemed to be sharper, clearer, as though everything around him had focused, revealing incredible amounts of detail.
Luthor knew that he was on the verge of discovering his destiny. Grandiose as such a notion might be, he sensed that the secrets of victory over the hated Superman would be revealed to him in this experiment.
But then how many times did he encounter this same feeling before? How many times was he convinced of success only to have it dashed to pieces? What was the number of his defeats? Of the Legion's defeats?
The Legion had imprisoned and lost control of a being that claimed to be the incarnation of Evil itself. They had bent time and traveled across the millennia to conquer a future Earth devastated by war. Even the very climate of the world had once been changed through their actions on behalf of an alien race they had aligned themselves with.
Yet every time they were thwarted. Sometimes by the League, other times by their own arrogance. He needed something more, else the Legion would lose coherence. The fact that Luthor led such a diverse and bickering group was a testament to his persuasive abilities, and for years these skill had enabled him to keep control.
Now he was losing that control. Luthor sensed that. That much was clear. If he failed now, the Legion would disband, return to their individual and seperate vendettas or flee to distant regions of the world and hide.
Desperation takes over where rationality fails.
Quickly Luthor donned a white vinyl, airtight spacesuit; an adapted version of the standard gear that NASA had developed for astronauts, intended primarily to shield the wearer from the icy vacuum of interplanetary space. A clear glass helmet completed the suit, equipped with internal breathing purifiers and an oxygen reserve.
Girded for whatever came next, Luthor raised one trembling hand, as if signaling "hello" to someone, and eased it forward into the portal, feeling for the transition point between this world and. . .whatever lay beyond the doorway.
Then the power, a force beyond reckoning that reached around him, intruded into his universe, enveloping him without pause for consent or complaint.
The void rose up around him, embracing.
Unresisting, Luthor fell into the space between the worlds and was gone.