by Immortalwildcat, CSyphrett, Starsky Hutch 76 and Libbylawrence
August 6, 1985:
In the wake of the cosmos-spanning Crisis on Infinite Earths, humanity managed to dig itself out after the siege of the Anti-Monitor. Wounds were wrapped, graves were dug, and the world paused to remember the fallen as the combined universe moved along. Time would ease the pain of the war.
Wonder Woman, alias Princess Diana of the Amazons, had been the only casualty of the assault on the Anti-Monitor, as she had been reduced to her original clay state in the last few moments of the combat. Her remains were brought back to Paradise Island, where there was hope she could be created anew.
Only one act remained in the play.
The worlds would need to be separated again, according to the Monitor’s plan. That task now fell on the one individual able to view the universe from his home on the Rock of Eternity. Only the ancient wizard who resided there could complete the task ahead with power borrowed from the Monitor to make everything the heroes had fought for worthwhile.
The wizard Shazam stood on the Rock of Eternity. All around him laid the shattered remains of worlds, of universes — the crumbled wreckage left behind by the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Directly in front of him spun a solitary world — Earth.
“A single Earth, symbolic of a single, unified multiverse. It has happened. It could even survive and prosper. But this is not how it is meant to be.”
He turned abruptly, his robes swirling around him, and strode into his chambers within the Rock. Inside, he went directly to the Book of Knowledge, in which was recorded all that was and is, and all that has ever been. As he flipped through it, the pages swirled and blended into one another.
“No, this will never do.” He raised his arms over the book. “Now that the agent of destruction responsible for this is destroyed, let the damage be undone.” Waves of magical energy emanated from the ancient warrior, permeating the Rock of Eternity and reaching out to the chaos surrounding it.
It took time — time that passed beyond the awareness of those on the affected worlds. When Shazam’s spell was completed, five worlds spun in the ether around the Rock of Eternity, where before there was but one.
“I have done what I can,” he said to nobody in particular. “The other universes were beyond saving. Now for the final precaution.”
He stepped out to view the symbols of the five universes. “Never again can they be allowed to merge. The multiverse must be protected from this type of destruction. In the last twenty-five years, the boundaries between the worlds have grown weaker, which allowed this to happen. Let those barriers be fortified, that none but the most powerful and determined, or those with the right to return to their own world, may cross them again.”
Bolts of light flew from the ancient wizard’s hands. They spread and coalesced to form walls between the worlds before him.
“And lastly, so that I myself might not unwittingly weaken the forces that keep these realities separate, I must limit myself to but one plane of existence. From this time forward, I shall only act within that reality in which my chosen champions reside. Otherwise, this universe would lose its mightiest heroes — the Marvel Family.”
Late August, 1985:
Billy Batson was having a nightmare. He dreamed of worlds dying. Heroes fell to shadowy creatures as they fought to save their worlds and their people from the great worlds of antimatter that consumed everything in their path. Eventually, the forces behind this Crisis were beaten, but the multiverse would never be the same.
He awoke in a cold sweat. He’d been having the same dream for almost three weeks, but this time, he knew it wasn’t a dream. It had been real, but his young mind had not been able to accept what had happened. “Holey moley…” he muttered to himself as reality set in.
Had Freddy and Mary been able to remember? If so, how could they have let him go on for weeks on end, pretending as if he hadn’t taken part in these events that had shaken the world?
He had to know how the other worlds were doing. He got dressed, stepped out his back door, and said the magic word, “Shazam!” and the lightning bolt issued forth that transformed him into Captain Marvel.
As the World’s Mightiest Mortal, he took to the sky and flew in the direction of the Rock of Eternity, preparing to fly around its peak to make the dimensional jaunt to Earth-One, where he would find his answers. As he did so, he suddenly collided with an unseen barrier.
The force of the impact was so great that it sent him flying in reverse. He landed in the desert, leaving a trench in his wake as the sand parted with his impact. He raised himself up, scratching his head in confusion.
“What the heck is going on here?” he said.
In a mansion in the Catskills high above New York City, an odd gathering was occurring. A dapper man in a tux and a silk black mask sat at the head of a long table. He was surrounded by numerous strangely costumed women and men. They had gathered for a common purpose.
“Welcome to the first meeting of Revenge, Inc.,” said the man. “I am the Horned Hood! As you know, we all share a common goal. We want to see the ruination of the Squadron of Justice — the group of loosely associated crime-fighters like the Marvel Family, Ibis, and Mister Scarlet that have plagued us since the war. I was inspired by a dream I had recently — a dream in which all villains worked together for a common goal, not only the villains of this world, but those of other universes as well! In my dream, when all the villains united to attack the Marvel Family and the Squadron of Justice, we were successful! We outnumbered the heroes ten to one, and they stood no chance against us. (*) I want to make this mere dream a reality.
[(*) Editor’s note: The Horned Hood is half-remembering the events of DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War.]
“Since our reawakening from that suspended animation wrought by Sivana, we have seen it as a curse — being in a world generations removed from the one we knew last. However, I have good news. My investments flourished during those years and in the decade since then, and my heirs have garnered many assets for me. This home is but one. I propose to back you all in any scheme you arrive at to kill those costumed do-gooders. So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow — so to speak — the heroes die!”
Loud cheers greeted this announcement from all but one gray-clad figure, who began to weep. “I’m so very happy,” said the Weeper. “All I can do is cry!”
“Dry those tears, fool!” said a stately, almost regal man of dark features and grim demeanor. “They little befit a man of peril.”
“Oh, Black Pharaoh, we can’t all be so sober and cold,” said the tearful man. “You do feel something, don’t you — hatred for your rival, Ibis?”
He smiled evilly. “You know me better than I thought.”
A beautiful blonde in a silky red gown whispered in a breathy voice, “Well, Dark Angel is all too happy with the news. Soon, Minute Man will pay.”
The other woman who spoke up was a warrior princess in white and ebony. “I would give much to see the Allied nations’ heroes die for what they did to my home in Germany.”
“Oh, Illyria, let that Third Reich die,” said a sneering man who looked like a human rat. “Live for yourself!” The super-strong Black Rat crushed a glass into dust and said, “I’d make a woman like you forget the long-dead past.”
The Weeper blew his nose and said, “What of you in the mask?”
The man called the Laughing Skull lived up to his name by bursting out with mad glee. “I live only to bring death to the living — especially the heroes!”
A winged man shuddered. “That green-masked creep gives me the chills, huh, Doc?”
“Be easy, old chum. Doctor Death will keep the Hawk safe from the undead,” said a bored man next to Hawk.
“A toast!” yelled a hooded man in red. “I predict victory for all in Revenge, Inc.!” he yelled.
“Trust the Murder Prophet to try to predict the future,” said Dark Angel.
“Ah, my beauty, I believe he’s right for once,” vowed the Horned Hood.
“What of Dr. Sivana? Will he not be joining us?” asked the Hawk.
“No. He thanked me for the offer but said he had his own plans,” said the Horned Hood.
“Probably working on another giant robot or something,” said Dark Angel, rolling her eyes.
“He actually said, ‘The rightful ruler of the universe has no need of some has-been never-was! Heh! heh! heh! heh!” whispered the Black Rat.
The Horned Hood frowned at him but ignored the comment.