The swamp was a bayou of sorts, shallow and wooded, surrounded by lush reeds and grasses. Not far beyond it was the bog, covered with plant debris and water-growing moss creeping out from the water's edge, nearly blanketing its surface. In this a wetland of soft, spongy ground without a drain, there were pools, marshy areas that might have been quicksand, grassy tussocks rising from the murk with moss hanging from them, as well as creepers, vines, and dead-black orchids. Here and there, tall dead trees rose out of the water, of a kind that had thin trunks that started 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.
The largest pool was situated in the center: an expanse of black water, smooth and untroubled, reflecting the surrounding trees like dark glass. Occasionally ripples appeared here and there on its surface, spreading out from tiny points where something had pricked the water.
A shrill cackle echoed through the swamp, followed by the rapid cooing of a bird. Somewhere a witch was laughing.
The first rays of the sun warmed the swamp's still surface and with them came cascading ripples of growing waves dotting the murky black waters, moving away from an epicenter of determined origin. 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, something marvelous and bizarre and terrible, lifting itself above the water like a mighty artificial hilltop. It was made of black metal, and shaped rather like a child's top. Its bottom was tapered, the rim flared. Like black eyes, pairs of dusky obsidian windows were set on every side of the Hall's façade. Those fifteen-foot-wide, twelve-foot-high teardrop view-ports possessed titanium alloy lids that could be quickly sealed to protect the eighteen-inch-thick, pressure-proof glass at a moment's notice. On other parts of its surface were regular grooves and depressions. Near the bottom were black grilles from which stagnant water was disgorged..
All in all it resembled the shining black helmet of some ancient warlord.
The Hall's creators were proud of their fortress, and they concealed the location well. The swamp was yet unknown to their foes, and would likely never be known to them. It could have been any swamp on Earth: perhaps it was Slaughter Swamp that was located outside of Gotham City, or the Louisiana bayou where the Swamp-Thing was frequently sighted. Any swamp at all.
There would be no raids from representatives from any of the world's governments, nor would costumed prodigies come 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 time would come – its creators had often promised – but until that day of days came to pass the Hall would be safely concealed away in filthy swamps.
Within the Hall, intimidating, almost gothic corridors snaked for hundreds of feet only to loop back on themselves. Pools of orange light spilled from overhead, filling these corridors with menacing shadows. Laced beneath the surface of those corridors was circuitry for both teleportation and holographic technology – both extremely useful for the team of super-villains that called the Hall home. An amalgamation of the best of Coluan and Korugarian technologies, along with several impressive devices stolen from Gorilla City.
In one room of the headquarters, ranks of robot doubles gathered dust in separate alcoves full of numerous analytic and diagnostic instruments. In another, a single chair sat across from a towering wall of television screens. In the hanger, a hydrofoil shaped like an enormous manta-ray awaited fueling and repair. These special chambers were interrupted by the more common living quarters, laboratories, and armories. The lower levels contained the fuel tanks and rocket thrusters, the top levels storage and cargo.
In the middle was the Great Hall, a vast circular space of flowing organic design carved from white marble, with planks of rare mahogany comprising the floor. Menacing wooden pillars stretched upwards like trees, until they reached huge bat-wing arches of bronzed mahogany on the ceiling, forming a wide, mask-like design in the chamber's apex. Recessed lights hidden by the sculpted eaves threw pools of light upon the table, seat and floor.
(It was appropriate that the walls were lined with marble and its floor from coffin wood, for what better place for the Legion of Doom than a mausoleum?)
Plush, flowing chairs were evenly spaced around an immense table of redwood standing in the center of the wood-planked floor, shaped like a broken circle, or perhaps a tossed horseshoe. Unlike the round table of Arthurian legend where equality among peers was a respected trait, here in its middle was a high speaking lectern, its front mirroring the mask-like design of the Hall's ceiling.
The world-infamous and follicle challenged criminal inventor known as Lex Luthor occupied the primary position, his expression normally stern and glower. excitement emanated from him in waves.
In his right, purple-gloved hand was a wooden gavel.
Seated in those plush flowing chairs sat twelve of the world's most notorious supervillains.
On Luthor's 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.