In New Venice, even as Cal Durham and his loyal men fell to the punishing force of Jackhammer’s blows, a rugged man emerged from a tiny boat. “I bins around the oshund too long nots to know when somethink’s fishey!” he said with a scowl. He wore a battered white sailor’s cap and idly chomped on a seaweed compound.
“Who are you? Ahab?” sneered Jackhammer.
“I may nots be a liberrian, but I knows about that bad king from the Good Book. Now, let me introduce meself. Cap’n Strong’s me name!” he said as he splashed through the waters to leap skyward and grab Jackhammer’s boot.
“Let go, you crazy mug!” called Jackhammer.
“Nots while me new home is endangered by a costumed punk wit’ iron mittens!” said the determined and remarkably strong sailor.
Jackhammer kicked out and frowned as Captain Horatio Strong crushed one of the jet-boots. “I’m gonna fall! You’re crazy!” he gasped.
“I yam what I yam, and admits ta being committed… to beatin’ the whale outta ya!” said Captain Strong.
They fought on as Cal Durham began to take hope.
Quakemaster, having finished his goal in Tritonis, now turned his attention toward Poseidonis. He mused within his costumed wet suit, The boss is paying me plenty to clear off those coral formations and attract Aquaman’s attention while I do it. Funny, he’s not here. Guess that second-rate Jackhammer got lucky and is the one the fish-man is going after.
He prepared to shatter another coral formation and swam for the city Aquaman called home.
Meanwhile, in Poseidonis’ royal palace, Mera received a swift series of blows that broke her nose. “You blonde tramp! You’ll pay for disfiguring me!” she said.
Dolphin flipped free and hurled a blanket over Mera’s head. She knew it would not hold her for long, but she had to blind her to keep out of the path of the deadly projectiles.
Vulko stirred suddenly and said, “Mera… she’s a traitor!”
Dolphin dived under his bed to emerge on the other side as Mera turned to slap her across the face.
“You tried to seduce my Arthur! I’ll teach you that no leggy blonde can have my man!” she shrieked. “Not Kandor! Not Arthur!”
Dolphin frowned. “Kandor? The city?” She slipped as Mera solidified spilled water around Dolphin’s bare feet. She fell hard and wondered if she would ever see her father or Will again.
She raised her hands, and as her emotions surged, energy crackled around her in the famous symbol of her father, Arion. She vanished, and Mera gasped.
“That flash of magic was the crest of Arion!” the mad queen gasped. “That near-naked fish girl has his magic within her!”
Vulko sat up. “Mera, you’re mad!”
Mera smirked. “And you, my portly old fossil, are dead!”
Meanwhile, back in New Venice, Aquaman emerged from the transporter to see the battle. That’s one of the Sargasso-trapped mariners! Captain Strong, wasn’t it? He’s holding his own against Jackhammer, Superman’s old sparring partner, mused Aquaman.
Cal Durham called out, “Thank goodness! Aquaman!”
“I’m here,” said Aquaman, smiling. “Now to shake up this one-man wrecking crew!” He concentrated, and as Jackhammer fell into the waters beneath Captain Strong’s relentless attack, Aquaman summoned dolphins to carry the fading Strong to safety. “I’ll take it from here. Thanks, pal!” said Aquaman with a wink. He knew the old sailor had some type of time-limit on his super-strength based on the changing nature of the alien seaweed that empowered him.
“Thanks! I coulds use a break,” he called as his wife Olivia Strong greeted him from a distance, and their infant son cooed.
A fat man in a derby hat munched on a hamburger. “Quite stimulating, isn’t it?” he asked another onlooker.
“Jackhammer, this is my home,” said Aquaman. “I don’t appreciate the intrusion.”
“Yeah?” said Jackhammer, grinning. “Well, too bad. I got paid to wreck this town, and if I can crush you, too, then all the better!”
Aquaman drew closer. Jackhammer was very strong. He punched out once, twice, and Aquaman measured his speed and his strength. He caught one blow and received another. Strong, but not enough to stop me when I’m mad! mused the sea king. He ducked and connected with a hard right.
Jackhammer staggered back and said, “I fought Superman. You ain’t in his league.”
“Neither are you,” said Aquaman. “The difference is that you’re not in mine, either!” He struggled briefly, then connected with a solid punch that knocked Jackhammer cold.
“Cal, Captain Strong, thanks for dealing with him until I could get here,” he called as the crowds cheered loudly. “I’ll be back to help with the cleanup!”
Aquaman beamed back down to Poseidonis in time to reel as the city shook beneath Quakemaster’s assault. “No rest for the weary!” he sighed as he swam furiously to stop this new threat to his other home. One of my old foes hired these two rampaging thugs to occupy me, but why? he mused.
He wasted little time. His powerful will summoned whales to hold up the sagging walls as workers raced to provide stability and makeshift repairs.
“Aquaman! He’ll save us!” cried one boy.
Aquaman heard the cheers and increased his speed. He confronted Quakemaster and sent eels to short out his high-powered hammers and drills.
Then, as his equipment lost its power, Quakemaster began to grow afraid. Aquaman’s a powerhouse, he thought. He could break me in half!
He turned to flee, but there was never any chance for him when faced with Aquaman’s superhuman underwater speed. Aquaman gripped his foe by the arm.
Then an explosion shook the city, and he saw guards rushing near.
“Aquaman, Vulko’s dead!” cried one.
Aquaman released Quakemaster and turned to learn more about his beloved friend.
“Arthur, dear Vulko’s dead,” cried Mera in his arms. “It happened suddenly. The quakes damaged the room and killed that poor guard. I fear the rubble crushed Vulko as well. I barely escaped myself.”
He stared at the rubble-filled medical room. The debris filled the chamber and led down through a shattered foundation to the coral reefs that stretched on for miles.
“Vulko… that poor, brave man. May he rest in peace,” he said softly.
In his embrace, Mera smiled. Her hard-water power had brought down the room, and Quakemaster’s attack had given her an excuse. Blame it on his actions. Vulko had been crushed, and all was well. As for Dolphin, she’d do something about her later.
Elsewhere, the Black Manta loomed over Vulko’s body. “My teleporter retrieved the old fool just before Quakemaster brought down the walls,” he said. “I’d hoped to get lovely Mera, but Vulko, here, will do. He can tell me all Aquaman’s secrets when I heal him.”
He turned to a dark man in black. “While Jackhammer and Quakemaster occupied Aquaman and covered our tracks, you managed to steal the Serum X as I requested,” he said. “Excellent, Sands, excellent!”
The Shadow-Thief smiled. “I’m not used to underwater theft, but your plan worked perfectly. I slipped into the chamber where they keep the stuff and emerged unseen.”
Black Manta nodded. “The Crime Champions have gotten off to a good start, even with Jackhammer’s capture and Quakemaster’s fleeing from us after the battle with Aquaman. They were but pawns to begin with.” He turned to a crewman. “Prepare to dock within Styx.”
Dolphin splashed ashore on Vumania, the isle of the Forgotten Heroes. She was greeted by Golden Glider, who wore a gold bikini and was soaking up the rays.
“Have a nice swim?” she asked.
Dolphin smiled back. “I think. Funny thing is, I don’t recall how I got here. I remember leaving after talking to Will, then I was here. I guess I’m getting old. Lost track of time.”
She did not realize that Arion’s spell of preservation had once more taken her away from a scene of potentially fatal injury beneath the waves and returned her to safety, with no memory of the event.
It would not do for the independent Mara to know her protective father had created such a spell during their last meeting. He knew it would only last during his time away, but then a father could not be too careful. The brief amnesia would cover his actions from the spunky girl until they could more fully discuss her career and his concern. Surely, she’d not forget anything of vital importance.