The Chimaera looked up from where he had been ministering to the stricken Princess Amymone and said, “A Lemurian warship! During Amy’s clandestine visits to the surface for our meetings, I always feared her people might send some troops to check up on her, but I never expected anything like this! Of course, she was never away from home for more than a matter of hours during our all-too-precious times together!”
“It all makes sense now,” said Aquaman. “The Lemurian princess was abducted by Captain Demo when he found her at Dr. Krill’s lab in Java. Her family naturally became worried when she didn’t return home. They sent out this war party for some reason.”
“Demo did use parts from our cities for that sub,” said Dolphin. “I guess the Lemurians think the peoples of Tritonis or Poseidonis were behind Amy’s disappearance!”
As the dragon- or sea serpent-shaped craft drew closer, a dozen armored figures emerged from some portal behind the dragon’s ornate artificial head.
“Surrender the Princess Amymone, or we will annihilate you!” cried a bald man whose face was marked by a tattoo that ran across the left side of his head.
“Warlord Barras — I’ve heard Amy speak of that old brute!” explained Chimaera. “He desires her, while she thinks he is a common savage. He leads the Lemurian army.”
“You better do something!” said Cascade. “They mean business!”
Aquaman nodded and cupped his hands to his mouth as he shouted, “I’m Aquaman. We aren’t your foes! We came here to rescue your princess from a criminal!”
Warlord Barras scowled as he shifted a trident from one hand to another. “Your lies won’t buy you mercy,” he said. “Prepare to be boarded!”
“He won’t listen,” Chimaera said. “He’s eager for war of any kind. How else can a soldier advance except through victorious warfare? It is sort of like the way a goon becomes a super-hero by tormenting those gifted individuals that society can’t pigeonhole!”
“Your father was a criminal,” Aquaman pointed out. “I stopped him from robbing from others who were true innocents. You can accept that or not. I don’t really care.”
“Look out!” Dolphin yelled, as Barras activated a control, and the red eyes of the dragon craft emitted beams of energy that struck the group aboard Captain Demo’s ship and left them stunned.
“Gather them up,” commanded Barras. “We’ll take them all to Lemuria for trial!”
A soldier looked quizzically at him and said, “You could have harmed Princess Amymone! I think that you’ve become far too reckless!”
Barras spun around with his trident and impaled the startled man before dropping him into the water below.
“No. Now that was reckless!” he said with an evil grin.
If the precious Amymone dies — supposedly at the hands of these dolts — before her irate sibling finds us, then war will be a certainty, he thought as he shifted his weapon from hand to hand. If he, in turn, dies in battle, then I will claim the throne of Lemuria for myself!
The war that Barras desired so fervently was becoming a certainty as another dragon-patterned craft bore down on the city of Tritonis. Lenora Lemaris had already alerted Ronal and Jerro to the threat of invasion, so the city of mer-people had rapidly assembled their troops, and the finned fighters were swimming in a tight formation as the menacing vessel came ever closer.
The Mermaid was leading the troops, since Ulla Påske possessed greater physical strength than the normal citizens of Tritonis. Her mutant birthright as the child of parents from Poseidonis and Tritonis gave her other advantages, too.
“I can’t stay underwater for more than thirty hours, but I can do my part against those invaders!” vowed the blonde champion.
She frowned as she caught sight of a swiveling nozzle that moved on one side of the ship and then erupted outward in the path of the army. “Get back!” she cried, diving forward and catching the projectile as her allies scattered to each side.
Ulla hurled the strange sphere back at the dragon-ship and nodded in approval as it exploded. That could have decimated our forces! she thought. It barely dented that ship, though.
“Are you hurt, Ulla?” asked Jerro.
She smiled warmly and said, “No. We’d better take advantage of the lull, though!”
They swam closer to the ship and began to fire their own weapons. The concussive blasters rocked the dragon-ship but failed to slow its approach.
“I can sense waves of hatred within that ship,” said Ronal. “The minds of these invaders are almost completely consumed with hate for us!” He frowned as his telepathy touched yet another mind. “Odd — one of them is unlike the others. His sheer sense of self is so powerful that it threatens to overwhelm any telepath.”
At that moment, a quake shook the seabed as a cloud of smoke rose above the city itself.
Ulla gasped and said, “Something has happened within the city! I think it must have been an explosion!”
Jerro nodded grimly. “We’ve been fooled,” he said telepathically. “This ship was meant to do nothing more than distract us! For all we know the real invasion has already penetrated the city itself!”
Ulla nodded as she thought of her loved ones. If only Garth was here, she thought.
Earlier, Garth himself had received the shock of his young life as his former girlfriend emerged from the hood and kissed him passionately. His purple eyes widened, and his mind reeled as he tried to make sense of what had happened.
“Tula? You can’t be Tula!” gasped Aqualad. “She died! I know she died!”
The brown-haired girl before him said, “Yes, she did, and I am not your Tula. Forgive me for assuming her form. It was a reflex. I drew the image from your mind when you touched me. It is something of a defense mechanism with my people.”
She backed away from him, and her body trembled as her appearance changed once more. Now she had long green hair and a delicate, pale green complexion. Her clothing consisted of a brief yellow swimsuit. “I am Sirona,” she said. “You once met my sister, Sirene. (*) Our world in is peril, and I have come to enlist your help!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Duel of the Sea Queens,” Aquaman #16 (July-August, 1964).]
Aqualad nodded slowly and said, “Sirona, this is a bit of a shock, to say the least. If I can help you, I will, but we’re actually right in the middle of a crisis all our own! In time, Aquaman and I could offer you aid.”
“It is too late!” screamed Sirona. “They’ve found us!”
Seconds later, both of vanished thanks to a teleportation ray from beyond.
Aquaman himself awakened to find himself locked in a cell along with Chimaera, Dolphin, and Cascade.
Dolphin rushed to his side and clasped his hand in her own. “Arthur, are you OK?” she asked. “You took the brunt of that blast.”
Arthur Curry nodded slowly and replied, “I’m fine. We’re aboard that dragon-ship, aren’t we?”
Dolphin nodded and said, “I heard one of the guards say they were supposed to bring us to Lemuria, but their leader Barras has plans all his own.”
Aquaman turned to Cascade and said, “I’m surprised you haven’t tried to escape by turning to water and passing out some opening.”
Cascade grinned sheepishly and said, “I can’t go wet, as I like to call it, without a bit more rest than I’ve had since meeting you. I’m still recovering from what I did aboard Demo’s ship.”
“I can get us out of here, and I will,” said Chimaera. “I just didn’t want to leave you ladies alone.”
“Karel, that is your name, right — Karel Krill?” said Aquaman. “I don’t know what your father has told you about his own past, but I can assure you that I have never had any malice toward the man. He was a genius. I don’t deny that. However, he turned that brilliance toward criminal pursuits. He gave certain superhuman abilities to a punk who came to call himself the Human Flying Fish. I arrested them when they tried to pull off a few robberies. That is the extent of my involvement with your father.”
“My father served his time, but having to live without him made my childhood difficult, to say the least,” explained Karel. “My mother used to cry when she thought I couldn’t hear her. When father was released, we welcomed him back, but it was like trying to connect with a virtual stranger. He and my mother departed for some private time together a few months ago. He found a firm that was willing to sponsor his research and pay him to consult with other global scientific minds. I stayed behind, and one day, while testing out some of my own experimental devices, I met Amymone! We fell in love and began to meet secretly. She was making illegal use of a formula that allowed her to breathe air for a short time. Our romance was abruptly ended when Demo attacked and left me for dead.”
“I am sorry for your pain,” said Aquaman. “I didn’t bring your father to justice out of any desire to make his family suffer. I didn’t even do it to hurt him. I was just doing my job. You can’t hate me for that any more than you’d hate a police officer for arresting a thief.”
“The police are entitled to do their job — they’re paid to operate under government-sanctioned law,” said Chimaera. “You have no business interfering with other people’s lives. Who appointed you champion?”
Aquaman raised his voice and shouted, “I’ll champion any cause I choose! If that means bringing down madmen and thugs, then I’ll do it again and again, regardless of the cost to their loved ones. Blame your father for your pain, not me!”
Chimaera raised his hands and generated a burst of energy that struck Aquaman’s chest and knocked him to the ground. The hero jumped to his feet and charged at the enraged youth, even as energy bursts continued to strike him. He gritted his teeth and plunged through them until he was close enough to knock Chimaera backward.
Rising into the air, Chimaera kicked Aquaman in the face. “Flight is but one of my powers!” he said.
Cascade and Dolphin yelled at the two men to cease their battle, but both of them were too lost in anger to listen. Aquaman grabbed Chimaera’s leg and received a swiping blow from the man’s ribbed, glider-like cape.
“The Chimaera is a ray. You’ll regret getting close to my sting!” cried Karel Krill.
Aquaman groaned as red energy crackled along the Chimaera’s costume and the ridge on his back and burned Aquaman’s gloves. “I can take it long enough to shut you down!” said the hero. He caught Chimaera and slammed him into the wall again and again.
Finally, Dolphin dived between them as Cascade placed calming hands on Chimaera’s shoulders. “Stop it! This isn’t like you, Arthur!” said Dolphin.
Cascade whispered placating words in Javanese, and Karel nodded slowly, replying in a mixture of the Javanese and Dutch languages.
Aquaman nodded and extended one hand. “Chimaera, I’m sorry,” he said. “I lost my head. I don’t know what came over me.” He touched his head above one eye and pressed gently for a second before lowering his hand. Headache. All I needed at a time like this, he mused.
Chimaera laughed harshly and said, “Save your apologies. We’ll never be friends.”
“Very well,” said Aquaman, “but we are allies. We have to be, if we hope to get away from Barras and his gang.”
After a moment the hero added, “Actually, that little brawl we just had gives me an idea!”