Aquaman had reacted to Lenora Lemaris’ news with a determination unaltered by the many perils facing his home. “I’m going to help Dolphin free the captive Lenora sensed within that submarine,” he vowed. “Vulko already mobilized our soldiers to unite with those from Tritonis to meet this invasion fleet Cascade spotted.” He spoke rapidly as he took Mera’s hand and drew her into his arms.
“Take care of Nautica and Atlena,” he said as he kissed his wife. “I’ll be home as soon as possible.”
Mera returned his embrace and said, “I’ll be here waiting.”
He smiled broadly and said, “I know. That’s why I’ll be sure to come back safely. I’m a lucky man with too much to lose.”
Mera smiled as she watched him depart. She was worried about him, but that worry was balanced with a calm assurance that he could triumph over almost any foe.
Aquaman reached the reef and nodded grimly as he saw the broken fragments where the sub had rested and then departed. “Lenora had to join the others on the Council in order to prepare Tritonis for the invaders, but I wouldn’t have needed her to guide me here, anyway. The signs are pretty clear.”
He crossed over the broken reef as the odd craft loomed into view. Lenora was correct, he thought. That thing is at least partially built out of Atlantean materials.
As the Justice Leaguer approached the sub, a barrage of energy beams rained down at him from several small spheres that lined its sides. He dodged the beams and managed to place the reef between his body and the sub. No doubt that thing has other defenses as well, he thought. This may require a bit of misdirection.
Concentrating, he allowed his remarkable telepathic power to radiate across the ocean until a pod of whales came into view in response to his command. They swam beneath the sub and lifted it from its position until the rocking and swaying caused the barrage of energy beams to cease.
Aquaman smiled grimly. “The sheer size of my friends, there, prevents the localized electrical charge that that thing can generate from doing much damage. Still, they’ve done their part, and I don’t wish to see them suffer.”
He ordered the whales away, and then he dropped down again and plunged into the ocean before rising again and erupting out of the water to sail upward and into view of the sub. “I figured that buffeting would force it to surface for a damage check.”
Sure enough, he spotted the sub’s top portal begin to slide open to release an odd crew who intended to begin working on its observation deck.
“You boys look like you need some help,” he said. “What happened? Did you forget your spare tire?”
Three men in fanciful pirate attire over modified diving suits looked up from their maintenance work to see the hero’s dynamic approach. “Aquaman! Blast his hide!” bellowed a fat man with a heavily scarred face.
Before they could aim their guns, a flock of seagulls swooped down into their faces and startled them at Aquaman’s mental command.
The hero gripped a railing and hurled himself up and over its edge. Bringing both feet into the biggest pirate’s chest, he toppled him into a smaller man. As the third criminal covered his eyes to protect them from the wildly screeching birds, Aquaman clipped him with a right hook. Before the other two could do more than punch him with blows that he barely felt, he had flattened them both.
Aquaman gazed up at the circling seabirds and waved in salute. “Thanks, friends! I hope Hawkman won’t sue me for copyright infringement!” he quipped.
Noticing the hatch was closing rapidly in response to some automatic signal, he said to the dazed and battered pirates, “Your boss must not place much value on human life if he’s willing to leave you outside.”
Aquaman caught the edge of the portal and strained against the mechanism to shatter the opening and break it free from its supports. “Poor workmanship and my own enhanced strength make for a useful combination,” he said. Dragging the pirates inside the vessel, he dropped them down a hatch before following with an easy acrobatic grace.
Water glistened on his orange shirt and dripped to the floor as he moved deeper inside the sub. Had the besieged pirates had the presence of mind to pay attention to the pool of water, they might have noticed it stream down the aisle with an almost human clarity of purpose.
An energy beam blazed past Aquaman’s head as he raced forward into a barrage of gunfire with the broken hatch held in front of his body like a shield. He slammed into the gunmen and brought three of them down with stinging blows before hurling the hatch down the aisle into other approaching thugs.
“I saw that in an old comic,” said the hero.
A pirate dropped down to brandish a sword in Aquaman’s face, but the ex-Sea King merely swatted it aside and then pummeled its owner until he collapsed. He dived away from another rain of energy beams and then gripped a hanging net in one hand and pulled it down with one mighty heave. As decorations and devices crashed down amidst the sailors, Aquaman moved swiftly, battering them with skill and experience.
“Ye won’t be a laughin’ when I’m a-done with ye!” screamed Captain Demo as he hurried into view, holding a long rifle in his hand.
“And you won’t be submerging with that hatch cracked apart, either!” said Aquaman.
“I thought I might be ready for you this time!” said Demo. “I built this here vessel with parts taken from your undersea cities! I paid heavy fees for the goods from the likes of Fisherman and Black Manta! They saw me as naught but a joke, but my money was good!”
Aquaman stared defiantly at the criminal and said, “You dress like someone out of Robert Louis Stevenson and expect to taken seriously? Well, you achieved your goal, Demo. I take you very seriously. You’re not a joke to me. You’re a menace that I intend to stop right here and now!”
Demo grinned and said, “I know you could vanquish me scurvy crew, but I have hostages!”
“And I have a bad temper!” said Aquaman, leaping upward on mighty muscled legs and ramming his head into the villain’s stomach, the impact causing the rogue to drop his gun. Aquaman slapped Demo to the deck and then grabbed his jacket to lift him skyward. “Take me to your captives!” he said. “Hurting them won’t help you now!”
Demo struggled in the hero’s grip and then said, “Release me! Release me, or I’ll have them executed!” But his smug expression changed to a look of shock and dismay when one of his pirate crewmen sailed through the air to land on the deck as Dolphin climbed into view, smiling sweetly.
“Aquaman, your plan worked!” she said. “Cascade freed us while you distracted the pirates. She told us all about it when she seeped into the cabin in her water form.”
Cascade herself emerged from the cabin, and a pale and dazed Amymone leaned on her shoulder for support.
“Nothing comes before saving lives,” Aquaman said to the modern-day pirate. “That’s why I put on this little exhibition for you and your men. I knew that my friend Cascade was secretly searching for your captives. I brought her aboard as assorted drops of water that dripped from my costume.”
Captain Demo scowled and said, “How can a pirate win against such inhuman tactics? Well, no matter! I can still leave to fight again another day!” He raised his silvery hook and aimed it at them.
“It has a laser in it!” cried Dolphin. “Be careful!”
Aquaman shrugged and said, “I can have a half-dozen sharks here in the time it takes you fire that hook. I don’t kill. You know that. However, I might be a bit slow in pulling you out of the water unless you surrender right now. You may have a chance against humans, but I doubt hungry sharks will be cowed by your Blackbeard motif!”
Demo’s eyes widened as he saw the look in Aquaman’s own eyes. “Smug devil, aren’t you?” said the villain. “Oh, it is true that I never expected you to find me this quickly. I thought with my sub and secrets taken from my last raid, I’d be able to beat you!”
“Your last raid?” said Aquaman.
“I wanted to find the means of breathing beneath the waves as you do,” explained Demo. “I learned that a scientist in Java could give me that power. I hit his lab, only to find that he was gone and his scientific processes were beyond my understanding.”
“You’re talking about my friends!” said Cascade. “I owe my costume to the owner of that very lab! Dr. Krill is the finest man I’ve ever known!”
Aquaman frowned at the sound of a name he knew very well. “Easy, Cascade. Demo said the lab’s owner was away.”
At that moment, Amymone fell to the deck.
“I’m afraid my new friend Amymone is seriously ill!” said Dolphin. “She needs to be underwater!”
Taking advantage of the distraction, Captain Demo raced across the deck, laughing madly as he darted away from the heroes. “You forgot about my hook!” he shouted. “I’ve rigged it with a signal device that just activated a self-destruct mechanism! Either save my crew or let them die!”
Cascade elongated one arm into a tightly focused stream of water and engulfed the hook. Sparks erupted from its mechanism, and she emerged to drop to her knees in human form. “Did I wreck the gizmo in time?” she asked.
Captain Demo cursed and clambered away from the girl. “Bah! I may have activated the signal in time!” he said with a sneer. “Can you really take that chance?” He raced up the passage with his long coat’s tails flying behind him as they followed.
Dolphin tackled him with a flying leap and knocked him cold with a well-placed punch. “Can you stop the self-destruct signal?” she asked as she held up the beaten thug’s hook.
“No,” said Aquaman. “It’s too late. I could kick myself for not remembering his tricks. He tried something like this the last time we fought!”
“Don’t worry, miss! His self-destruct signal won’t hurt a thing! I disconnected the explosive charges below while you fought. If I had left things up to that hotheaded thug Aquaman, we’d all be dead!”
The words came from a newcomer who climbed up from below to appear before them. He wore a striking costume that covered his head and entire body. The colors were a stark dark blue and white, and a flexible blue metallic ridge or spine ran along the back of his costume to stop at the base of his skull.
“Who are you?” asked Aquaman.
“You can call me Chimaera!” he said in a hostile tone of voice. The man moved closer and dropped down to cradle Amymone in his arms. “Amy!” he whispered. “Was I too late?”
Cascade yelped in pleasure and said, “Karel! It is you, isn’t it?”
The masked man nodded and said, “Yes, Cascade. I’ve been trailing this sub ever since Demo attacked my father’s lab. It took me a while to equip myself properly with things I had been creating in that lab.” He removed his mask from the metallic helmet that covered the back of his skull, revealing a handsome, if worried face.
“Amy, I’m here now! It’s Karel! You’re going to be fine, my love!” he said as he tried to revive the weakened Lemurian princess.
“Dolphin, secure the crew,” said Aquaman. “We’d better get her to Vulko. He may be able to help her. Was she hurt during the battle?”
“Her name is Princess Amymone,” explained Dolphin. “She breathes water. Being out of water for so long made her ill.”
“It is worse than that!” said Karel Krill. “She’s had a reaction to something. I’d imagine it was surface toxins or impurities in the air. The formula that allows her to briefly live out of water has its flaws.”
Aquaman watched as Karel Krill lifted the raven-haired princess into his arms and said, “Who is she?”
“She comes from Lemuria,” said Dolphin. “Her people are descended from one of the search parties King Thorvall sent out to find sanctuary before the sinking of Atlantis.”
“Seekers?” said Aquaman. “The expeditions he sent out were seekers! Her people must be the Seekers Atlena saw in her dream. In fact, they must be the war party Cascade saw leaving the waters off from Java! In ancient legends, Lemuria was a landmass between Australia and India. That would roughly include Java!”
Karel Krill glared at Aquaman and said, “Her people are the least of your worries. If she dies, I’ll hold you responsible! I’ve seen how much damage your heroics can do to a life!”
“Now, look here, if this is about your father,” said Aquaman. “He brought his ruin upon himself!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Human Flying Fish,” Adventure Comics #272 (May, 1960).]
“Stop fighting!” cried Dolphin. “We’re not alone!”
She pointed out to sea, where a massive vessel in the shape of an ornate green-scaled sea serpent was rising out of the waters to loom over them.
Great Scott! thought Aquaman. It makes this sub look like a child’s toy!