This story is based in the 5 Earths Project continuity, and is built on what was written before by myself, Brad Cobb, and Martin Maenza. For those unfamiliar with the setting, it assumes that there were 5 earths left after the great Crisis on Infinite earths. Earth 4 is a combination of Charlton and MLJ/Red Circle characters.
The man was an unknown. He had invited several future colleagues to a meeting in a hotel in New York and was pleasantly surprised to see that all of them had accepted his invitation on the strength of a promise.
Of course, he had provided the transportation for most of them as well.
"I am glad to see that you have all agreed to come to this meeting. Hopefully we will be able to come to an agreement which will allow us to expand our horizons to unimaginable levels."
"Get to the point," said the largest of the attendees. He wore a suit, coat, and hat to help conceal his gorilla features. A small amount of image projection did the rest of the convincing that he was a large, bald man.
"Please be calm, Mr. Grodd," said the host. "I am coming to that in my own way. We all want to have the power to rule our prospective worlds without the interference of certain individuals. If you assist me in my goal, I am more than prepared to help you in yours."
"Let's cut to the chase then, shall we?" asked the bulky Brain Emperor. Trails of lightning ran around his transparent dome.
"I propose to use all of your mental powers to take over a group of heroes of this world called the Crusaders. They will then be used to bait and trap your old enemies as well as securing the means by which we can elevate ourselves to rulers of the three worlds."
"Why should we believe you?" asked Henry King, the Brain Wave.
"Because I offer proof as to what I can do," said the host. He gestured and a figure stepped into the room.
Grodd's eyes widened in amazement.
How did you accomplish that?" he said, mentally scanning the figure in front of him.
"It wasn't easy," said the host. "Our good friend is strong of will and mental ability."
"And you plan to do this to the Crusaders?" asked the Emperor.
"With your assistance, of course," said the host.
"I'm in," said Grodd. He kept staring at the new figure at the meeting like he was staring at a headless chicken come back to life.
"We're all in," said Henry King.
The plan proceeded as targets were selected and lured out one by one.
The first to fall was Lancelot Strong, the third Shield.
He had been on maneuvers at Fort Armstrong, when reports of a monster reached his position. Instantly he deserted, donning the red, white and blue to deal with the threat.
He flew to the scene with dazzling speed. His enhanced mentality told him there was something wrong with the monster as soon as he reached the battlefield. He realized it was just a mental image as six bolts of mental lightning blasted him into the ground.
Lancelot struggled to rise as a man in a green robe appeared in front of him. There was a flash of light. The hero knew only blackness.
The rest of the intended victims fell just as easily to murderous group.
Darkling and the Web were taken outside of Crusaders Headquarters.
Fly and Fly-Girl were swatted from the air and secured before they could use their insect powers.
Jaguar was surrounded and blasted at the zoo.
The original Shield was investigating some hate literature that had come to his attention. The manufacturers of the paper trail blasted him through a wall and then took his mind.
That left one, who didn't know he was all alone in New York.
His name was Kip Burland. Friends and comrades knew him as the Black Hood.
He rode his black motorcycle home for the night. He had done some things and hoped the city was a better place for that. Now he needed sleep and was unprepared for the visitors he had in his apartment.
Burland only recognized one of the intruders. That was enough to cause him to draw his pistols and fire as he threw himself clear of the apartment.
The specialized bullets disintegrated on some type of field, the Hood realized as he ran down the hall.
The strange group walked into the corridor behind the retreating Crusader. They allowed him to board an elevator, blocking his snapped shots with their mental powers. Then the five mental giants merely thought, and telekinetic lightning ripped the elevator apart.
"So much for the Black Hood," said the Brain Emperor, with a gloating leer.
Brain Wave created an image for their summoner later when they returned to the rented rooms of the hotel. He displayed the Black Hood's death methodically.
"Time for phase two, gentleman," said the host.
"Too bad," said the Emperor. "I wouldn't mind spending some time with these beauties."
He chucked Fly-Girl and Darkling under their chins.
"Perhaps later," said the green robed man. "Right now we have to go forward with out plans and gather our supplies and equipment.
"Is everyone ready?" said the de facto leader.
The telepaths placed heavy circlets on their heads. Energy raced through their frames.
"Why should we follow you?" said Psimon, with a trace of his old arrogance.
"Because the rest of us will kill you if you mess this up," said the Emperor.
Psimon could see Grodd nodding in a confirming way. The leader of the Fearsome Five decided now was not the time for a coup. Later he would make these fools recognize his superiority over their simple minds. Now he decided to continue with the plan until he could rid himself of these upstarts and have everything for himself.
The green robed man made gestures in the air. The telepaths blinked as the air flexed and warped in front of them.
All but the wizard's first victim. He had blank eyes and no will at all.
The Crusaders stepped into the energy wave and vanished.
Ted Grant wheeled through the Gotham City of Earth Two on his cat cycle. He wore his familiar black fighting gear, and his artificial ears flapped behind his head slightly.
An unfamiliar figure in red swept down through the air toward a museum a few blocks away.
Curious, Grant followed the stranger. He thought he knew all the super beings operating in the city. He didn't remember one with a red costume and leopard spotted belt and shoes.
The stranger touched down on the steps of the landmark Finger Museum of the Arts. He walked up to the doors slowly and pulled them open with a sudden move. He stepped inside as the alarm rang for assistance.
Grant rode his bike up the stairs and at the stranger's back. He had no doubt the man could survive an impact with the customized motorcycle.
The bandit turned slightly and caught the front wheel of the cycle and lifted it into the air. Grant threw himself clear as his bike flew into the wall. He landed gracefully, hands up, as the stranger moved toward his destination.
Wildcat glanced around for some type of weapon, as the red powerhouse smashed open a display case containing a jewel on a black velvet bag. He pressed his signal device. He needed some help to deal with this powerhouse.
The man in red turned quickly. His eyes were a little off to Grant. They seemed to belong to a sleepwalker.
The newcomer took to the air. He headed for the shattered front doors. Grant realized he didn't have a hope of stopping the guy, so he latched on to the robber's waist and tried to buy some time.
Maybe Power Girl would show up before his foe got away.
The Jaguar grabbed Wildcat by the scruff of the neck and pulled him loose. Something was wrong with him, Grant decided, as he saw those blank eyes. The next thing he knew he was flying straight up.
Lancelot Strong flew into Earth One's Metropolis, heading for his appointed goal with a single mindedness of purpose. He smashed through the roof of Jerry Shuster's mansion with a temporary rearrangement of his molecules.
Shuster was taken by surprise, but managed to press his silent alarm control as the star spangled intruder went for his prized collection of artifacts from around the globe.
Across the city, an unusual pair of ears heard the alarm. Their owner took to the air and sailed towards the mansion faster than a speeding bullet.
Unless he was mistaken, this looked like a job for Superman.
Lancelot Strong smashed open a glass box and removed the glittering crystal from within. He placed his prize in a bag as he headed back to the hole he had created in the roof of the mansion.
A costumed stranger stood there.
"I think Mr. Shuster would like to keep his collection intact," said the stranger. "Give back the gem and we will talk down at police headquarters."
Lancelot raced forward and landed a solid right on his unknown foe. He was gratified that the man was blown through the wall. He took to the air and sped away.
Superman picked himself up and took to the air. His invulnerability had protected him from the unexpected strength of that attack. Now he chased the intruder across the Metropolis skies. Superman knew he was faster than his quarry. As he closed the gap, the intruder turned and loosed a display of lightning that slammed into the man of tomorrow's red diamond and sent him into the street below.
Lancelot Strong turned and flew away at top speed. He had accessed the threat and dealt with it as swiftly as he could. His mind realized he had not killed his opponent, but had merely slowed the man down. He was too much a prisoner in his own mind to worry about someone he didn't know. Something had been ripped there. Some of the real him was extending itself to the forefront of his brain.
All he needed was time.
Until then he had to follow orders.
The Hawkmen of Earth One and Two both worked as curators of museums and archaeologists discovering history. On this fine day in June, they shared one more thing in common: They were beset by emerald and gold intruders.
Carter Hall of Earth Two had found a small tomb in the upper reaches of Egypt, when a woman dropped out of the sky with a buzzing sound like that of a fly. He watched as she blasted the tomb open with a strange pistol she wore at her hip.
Hall raced into his tent. He opened a chest he kept under his cot. Inside laid his world famous attire and feathered wings. He quickly changed and grabbed a length of rope, and the flail that was in his chest.
The Hawkman took flight as the intruder came out of the tomb, clutching something in her hand. He pulled the rope from his harness and tied a loop into it. He flew down and dropped the noose, intending to tie the young lady's arms in place until he could find out what was going on.
A yellow gloved hand caught the noose, and a simple pull yanked Hawkman into the ground.
Katar Hol found himself in a similar situation at his museum in Midway City on Earth One.
He was going over some bills of lading when he heard a crash of smashing glass.
Hol, also known as Carter Hall, leaped from behind his desk and ran to find the cause of the disturbance.
A man clad in yellow and green hovered over one of the displays with the buzzing of his winged collar. He punched through the heavy glass, and took the gem there.
Hall picked up a staff from one of the displays. He stealthily crept forward to knock the intruder from the air and secure him for the Midway Police Department.
The thief spun in place, a wide barreled pistol in his hand. There was a loud buzz and Katar Hol was thrown across the room.
The Fly flew up and out of the building through the hole he had created to get inside. He had to get to his pick-up point to deliver the prize.
In Calvin City on Earth Two, Al Pratt jogged across his college campus in his normal sweats. He noticed a colorful figure disappear into one of the research labs.
Pratt veered to follow this costumed man as his instinct demanded. Even in semi retirement, Pratt was a card carrying member of the JSA as the mighty Atom, and recognized trouble when he saw it on the hoof.
He yanked the building's door open. A crash resounded in one of the rooms down the corridor. Pratt rushed forward to intervene, as a star spangled man came out of one of the labs. The short hero threw a punch into his opponent. His fist impacted against some type of armor.
The stranger picked Pratt up by the neck and threw him over his shoulder. He walked out of the lab, as Pat Patterson came out and tried to help Al to his feet.
On Earth One, Star City lay sleeping as a black clad adventuress moved from shadow to shadow. Her blond hair caught the street lights as she rode through the streets on her motorcycle.
An odd shadow fell on her, catching her eye.
The Black Canary frowned as the shadow dropped into emerald and gold solidity for a moment and then was gone from sight.
Another costumed crazy, she thought as she pulled into an alley and left her cycle. A fire escape allowed her to get to the roof where she had seen the burglar land a minute before.
A quick survey pointed an open door to her attention. She cautiously descended from the roof after the intruder.
What could be so important here?
She noted the burglar had defeated the security system with ease as a trace of light led her to a closed office door.
Black Canary paused at the office door. She wondered why she hadn't heard of a burglar with a costume like the one she had seen.
Must be a new guy, she thought as she kicked the door open with her foot.
The burglar glanced her way as he scooped a large gem from the safe. He secured it in a bag on his belt and backed toward the window.
"Hold it," The Canary said. "You're under arrest."
The stranger back flipped into a dark inner office, and a second later the Justice Leaguer heard the crash of breaking glass.
She charged into the room, focused on the window. She realized her mistake when the edge of a hand descended against her neck.
She came to a minute or two later and pushed into the outer office, rubbing the back of her neck. Being played for a sucker was something the Canary didn't like at all.
It was time to check the JLA files and see if she could find some kind of lead to her quarry.
At least Ollie wasn't around. He would "mother hen" her until she broke his arm.
The Canary retrieved her cycle and rode to where the transporter booth was invisibly stationed. A second to put in her pass code, and she was instantly moved to the venerable satellite that the group had used for years.
Only the Atom was supposed to be on duty, but when she arrived some of her other colleagues were already there, and they seemed to have had similar experiences to her own.
Wildcat could tell he was in for a rough landing as he began to descend from the top of the arc he had been thrown.
A figure in white flew onto the scene. She caught the feline fury in arms of steel.
"About time," said Wildcat in relief. "I pushed the panic button seconds ago."
"What happened?" asked Power Girl, ignoring the fighter for the moment. He could be crusty at the best of times.
"This guy in a red get-up robbed the museum, and when I tried to stop him, he threw me into the air like a rag doll."
"He's gone," Power Girl said. "I guess he was a new guy, if you don't know who he was."
"I think he's being mind controlled or brainwashed," said Grant, rubbing his chin. "Something about his eyes. Blank one moment, unbelieving the next."
"The Huntress is on duty at the brownstone," said Power Girl. "Maybe she'll know what is going on."
"Right," said Wildcat.
When the pair of heroes arrived, they found that both Johnny Thunder and the Huntress were already there. The Atom was calling them about his own experience in Calvin City.
"Two new guys?" asked Grant, as he pushed his cowl back. "Where's the connection?"
"What did you say, Ted?" asked Al Pratt.
"Two new guys," said Johnny.
"Similar experience?" asked the Huntress.
Power Girl nodded.
"Johnny, would you mind asking the Thunderbolt to bring the Atom here?" said the Huntress. Unrecognized villains meant this was their first crime. They had seized their goals with a ruthless expedience. Then they had vanished into thin air.
"Say, you heard the lady, Thunderbolt," said Johnny. "Go ahead and bring the Atom here from Calvin City."
"Instantly, Master John," said the pink lightning bolt. Al Pratt appeared in an explosion of light. "Anything else?"
"Thanks, Thunderbolt," said Johnny. "Not right now."
Two different groups on two different worlds held similar conferences.
On Earth One, that group was the Justice League of America.
On Earth Two, that group was the Justice Society of America.
Their concern was how to deal with the threat posed by these new criminals in their midst. Research showed that each gem that had been taken could have been part of a larger whole. The results of such a union were unknown to the experts available.
The two teams decided it was time to track down the unknown group responsible and find out what exactly was going on.
The Justice League had Zatanna. She could move mountains with a few backwards spoken words. She summoned the will and moved her assembled team across a dimensional barrier to the homeworld of the three thieves they had encountered, a parallel Earth similar to their own, but with differences.
The Justice Society had Johnny Thunder and his pink Thunderbolt. The spoken magic words Cei-U allowed Johnny to command the mystic Thunderbolt for one hour. A simple command sent his assembled team across the barrier from Earth Two to this new parallel Earth.
Both teams landed within feet of each other. A simple note comparison led them to believe that their new foes were within walking distance at building with a large sign at the top of it.
The sign said Hotel Zanzibar in neon letters.
All that was needed was a plan of attack. They never got to make such a plan as Lancelot Strong descended from the sky and knocked Superman in a clothing store with one punch.
A portal opened up behind the two teams and the Shield sent both Zatanna and Johnny Thunder to the ground with a single punch.
The Web leaped clear of the portal, kicking Wildcat in the side of the head even as the Hawkmen ascended to meet the Fly and Fly Girl.
Kip Burland watched the start of the battle from the roof of a building facing the Zanzibar. He decided that the Crusaders were engaged in a distraction for the real villains.
It was also a distraction for him and he intended to use it.
He had only recognized the Brain Emperor from his apartment, but thought those others had been telepaths. They had been so smug in their abilities, it had been easy for him to follow them to the Zanzibar.
Now the Black Hood was going to personally show them the consequences of their mistake.
Burland aimed a rifle-like weapon at the hotel and pulled the trigger. A harpoon struck the opposite building, dragging a cord behind it. The Crusader secured one end of the cord before attaching a gripper to it.
Then he slid over to the Zanzibar, unnoticed by the combatants.
Observant eyes behind a black cowl took in the scene. His comrades had been engaged by the colorfully garbed thieves they had arrived to apprehend and in the process recover the gems they had taken.
A movement near the roof of the building told him someone had to get into the hotel while the rest were dueling with the pawns.
He reached into his belt and threw a pellet at the red, white and blue figure in front of him. The miniature explosive blasted the Shield off his feet as the caped crusader passed.
He delivered a neck chop to the Web as the man was fending off the furious Wildcat. Then he was clear of the fight and leaping for the glass door of the Zanzibar, shoving it out of his way with a shoulder.
The red clad Crusader known as the Jaguar punched Batman through a display window and back on the street. Shattered glass fell around the dark knight as he rolled to his feet in one smooth motion.
Batman pulled out a batarang from his yellow utility belt. The Jaguar was the only obstacle preventing his entrance into the hotel.
Batman hurled the weapon, charging into the lobby behind it. The Crusader caught the projectile, and crushed it in his hand. He dropped the ruined weapon to meet his grim adversary.
The Jaguar was not prepared for the noxious fumes released in his face. As he tried to clear his lungs, the dark knight was in the stairwell heading up through the floors of the Zanzibar to deal with the mastermind of the fiasco.
The Jaguar turned to follow. A blue gloved hand clamped down on one shoulder. The other hand, clenched in a fist, swung hard as he glanced behind him. The Crusader flew across the room from the impact.
Power Girl dusted her hands together as she used a brass railing from the hotel counter to tie the mighty hero up. She made sure to use several lengths of pipe to hold the dazed Jaguar.
He had been captured rather easily and constrained to mind control those other heroes. As the battle between heroes started, he had been led into a circular shelf and sealed inside. The other telepaths rested in similar shelves as their mad leader went about his preparations.
They were controlling the Crusaders with the device while their organizer went about whatever he was doing. The captive was facing the rear wall.
The captive knew the criminals were using their pawns to buy time. He had a small amount of will left that he could use for his own purposes.
His mind touched that of Lancelot Strong. He was surprised that the third Shield had almost thrown off his forced obedience. In fact, the more he battled Superman and Power Girl, the freer his mind became.
The captive smiled.
He threw all the will he could muster into freeing Lancelot. The last veil was cast aside instantly.
The Crusader flew away from his opponents, smashing through the hotel wall where his enslavers waited.
Three heroes converged on the top floor of the Hotel Zanzibar.
One was Lancelot Strong. He blasted through the building's wall as easily as he had once punctured a submarine's hull.
The second was Batman, ascending rapidly up the emergency stairwell as the rest fought down below. His keen mind wondered how much time he had left.
The third was the Black Hood, lowering himself into the bedroom window to the suite of the terrible telepaths.
"If you please, gentlemen," the organizer said as he continued his spell casting.
The telepaths concentrated on Lancelot. He found himself in a wave of crushing force. He stood his ground, body adapting to the killing force.
The captive had to do something. His energy was feeding the wave as well. He had to stop it.
He saw the Hood enter the room and knew what he had to do. He poured more power into the wave, draining the shield from his side of the mental booster.
The Hood brought up one of his pistols, and fired into the booster with explosive bullets. The machine ground to a stop as the captive burst free from his shelf.
The mastermind finished his spell, joining the gems from two worlds into a staff of pure crystal. He waved it and the three heroes found themselves pressed to the floor.
Batman paused a moment to observe at the door of the hotel room.
"We've lost control of the Crusaders," stated Grodd grimly.
"No matter," said the green robed man. "I have what I want.
"Good luck, gentlemen."
The mastermind vanished, leaving his henchmen to face the music on their own.
"I don't believe it," said the furious Brain Emperor, lightning surrounding his transparent cranium.
"Believe it," said Grodd. "I think an escape is in order."
"I don't think so," said Lancelot Strong, standing in the heat haze left by the Druid's use of his newfound power.
"Die!" ordered the Emperor, directing a bolt of mental lightning at his foe. The Shield leaped out of the way.
Brain Wave headed for the bedroom to escape. He was startled by the sudden appearance of a grinning Ralph Dibny, the world-famous Elongated Man, and the sudden swinging of a huge fist. The villain from Earth Two was sent flying.
"Now for my next trick," Ralph began just before Gorilla Grodd slammed him into the wall.
The former captive and Psimon stared at each other in a mental duel of visible telekinetic energy. Neither gained an inch. Neither noticed the Black Hood taking careful aim with a pistol. He fired a rubber bullet into the bald telepath's leg. That left a second's opening for the prisoner to blast the leader of the Fearsome Five across the room.
Batman took careful aim with another batarang and threw it on target. It swooped around the room and slammed the Brain Emperor in the back of the head. The telepath went to a knee. Then a red gloved hand straightened him out with a clicking of teeth and the rolling back of his eyes.
Lancelot hurled himself across the room and slammed into solitary Grodd like a freight train. Even a gorilla bent to Strong's steel hard muscles and iron will. The puissant primate fell at the Shield's feet, stunned by the body slam.
The assembled teams gathered in the lobby of the Hotel Zanzibar. The captive telepaths were bound and unconscious close by.
"How did you get into that fix, Captain Comet?" asked the Elongated Man, holding a bag of ice his head. That knock from Grodd had given him a ferocious headache, even though his rubbery body had taken most of the killing impact without harm.
"I was in flight over Washington when I saw this man who was apparently in distress. When I landed to investigate, he used some type of fog on me. After that I was brought here and kept so that I could assist the other mentalists he summoned to control the Crusaders."
"Obviously he sees no more use for his assistants," said Batman. "The question becomes: how do we deal with him, now that he has achieved his goal?"
"I don't think he has," said Comet. "He needed three sets of three gems, and he only recovered the sets from Earth One and Two."
"Say, you guys, I wish those other gems would be right here," sighed a depressed Johnny Thunder.
Instantly three gems appeared in the Zanzibar's lobby.
"Good work, Johnny," said Wildcat, smiling.
"Uh... thanks," said Johnny.
Zatanna picked up the three jewels and said a spell, enclosing them in a protective box.
"Now he has to come get them in person instead of summoning them like the Thunderbolt," she said.
"He's coming," warned Darkling.
"She's right," agreed Comet. "His signature is taking shape here in the room."
A column of yellow flame took shape next to the counter. The man in green stepped forth, brandishing his staff flaming diamonds.
"So you want to oppose the Druid," he sneered as he took form. " A mistake on your parts, my friends."
Instantly, the combined forces of the Justice League, the Justice Society, and the Mighty Crusaders attacked.
The Druid let the vision powers of Superman and Power Girl pass through his body to melt the counter behind him. He absorbed the lightning from Lancelot Strong, and passed it back through the lobby floor. He let the medieval weapons of the Hawkmen shatter against his glowing shield. He paused for a moment in his defense when the Fly and Fly Girl fired their buzz guns with a pair of sonic booms. Then he knocked them out of the air with a wave of his staff.
"My gems, if you please," the Druid demanded, holding out his hand.
"I don't think so," said Comet, standing in front of Zatanna.
He heard her muttering as the Druid stalked forward, brushing aside the Jaguar with ease. He projected his will into a wall. The Druid would not get away with his prize.
The wizard brought his staff down on Comet's shield, shattering it instantly.
That was his mistake.
Batman had been waiting for the shield to drop for even a second. As soon as it did for the hammer blow that sent both Comet and Zatanna flying, he looped a length of rope over the staff and pulled it free with a quick yank.
The staff hit the floor and shattered back to its original mix of gems.
"What happened?" he said as his god-like power faded. Seeing the assembled heroes closing on him, he whisked himself away with the last vestiges of what he had become.
"I can't believe it worked," said the Black Hood.
The gems were gathered and separated. Zatanna and Thunderbolt made sure to place each in a place hard to reach and harder still to return from in case the Druid tried again.
Each of the telepathic villains were returned to a jurisdiction demanding their individual presence for sentencing.
Then the Hotel Zanzibar began to empty of its temporary guests. Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt took the Justice Society home in a flash of pink lightning. Zatanna's backwards magic caused the Justice League to fade away.
The Crusaders walked out in the street. They quietly dispersed, lost in their thoughts of the ordeal they had just gone through.
The Druid watched as they left and sighed.
He had been so close.