by Martin Maenza
It was after midnight at one of the large outdoor stadiums in Gotham City. The sky was clear and the air crisp.
Earlier today, the maintenance crews were occupied with last-minute preparations — bulbs were checked and replaced on the large tower lights, rails were touched up with last-minute paint applications, the grass of the infield was clipped to regulation measures, and the dirt was raked for the base lines around the diamond. Even the vendors ensured their supplies were all in order: pennants and hats for sale, hot dogs for sizzling, popcorn for popping, and beverages to be poured.
All was prepared for the first pitch to be thrown this next afternoon. For the day that would be dawning was opening day of the new baseball season.
Amid the shadows cast down by the full April moon above, a figure lurked in the darkness. The high collar and the puffed sleeves from his tunic were barely discernible in the dark. He kept himself hidden, though he doubted anyone would be around at this hour. “Only the rats and us criminals,” he laughed to himself.
He moved stealthily behind the bleachers in right field, heading toward the dugout area for the home team. “So clean,” he noted to himself softly. “Not one dropped wrapper, nor any spilled popcorn or discarded cups.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t seem right. Nothing even for the rats tonight. I guess that just leaves little old me. Hee-hee.” Pulling a piece of paper from his yellow-and-black-striped belt, the man squinted in the moonlight to read the words.
“The Gotham City Giants versus the Metropolis Metros,” he said to himself. “Both teams look good this year. A big crowd is expected, as well. Too bad the match-up won’t be happening, because I have plans to rain on that parade! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
And with that, the mysterious man slipped into the shadows of the night and was gone.
Thirteen hours later, in the announcers booth at the very same stadium, two men went back and forth with banter as the players were on the field warming up.
“Good afternoon to all our listeners in Gotham and the surrounding area,” the one man with brown hair said in his deep radio voice, “and welcome to the first big game of the season. I’m Jimmy A., and I’ll be calling the play-by-play to today’s Giants game. It’s a gorgeous Tuesday, the temperature is in the upper fifties and sunny. Perfect weather for a ballgame.”
“I have to agree,” chimed in the other man, who was blond and slightly older.
The first man smiled. “Listeners, let me introduce someone to you. He’s an old friend of mine, and we’ve worked together on and off for the last few years. Curt S. is here from our sister station in Metropolis. He’s come all this way today to watch his home team lose, I’m afraid.”
The second man pouted slightly. “I wouldn’t go that far, Jimmy. The Metros have some new players from this year’s draft — Rodriquez, Kappen, and Schultz, and are looking very sharp. I watched their drills the other day, and they’ve got their hustle down solid. Don’t count us out before the first pitch has been thrown.”
“I don’t know,” Jimmy replied. “Over ten thousand fans in the stadium, here, might have to argue with you otherwise.”
“I doubt the Metros fans here today would argue with me,” Curt answered. “You know whenever these two teams play, the stadium is usually filled by fans from both sides. The cities are relatively close, after all.”
“True. Well, in any case, it looks like the warmups are just about over,” Jimmy said. “Any minute now we should be ready to go.”
There was a loud rumble in the sky. Given that the sky was clear, most thought it was probably just a passing aircraft at first. But the rumble was loud and long, reverberating as it went.
Both announcers and most of the people in the stadium looked to the heavens as a second rumble happened.
The sky suddenly grew very dark, very fast. Heavy full clouds came in out of nowhere from the west and began to open up. Rain drenched down from the sky in a strong, steady current, sending folks ducking for cover or trying to use whatever they could to shield their heads. The players on the field scurried, too, their cleats slopping through puddles that were already forming on the field. Their crisp, pressed uniforms were now soaked and stained. The equipment managers rushed about collecting the bats and balls as best they could.
Lightning shot down from the sky in a shocking streak. It was accompanied immediately by a thunderous boom that shook the whole stadium.
In the booth, Curt and Jimmy sat slack-jawed. Neither had ever witnessed a freak storm come up so fast. Finally, the announcer from Metropolis said, “I thought you said this was going to be perfect weather for a ballgame, Jimmy?”
Jimmy glanced at the man. “Well, Curt, I guess the weathermen didn’t see this one coming.” He glanced down at the field as the rain continued to come down in heavy sheets.
The puddles were starting to run together, making bigger and bigger pools. There didn’t appear to be any indications that this freak and sudden storm would stop as quickly as it came up and started. “Hold tight, radio fans. We’ll check with the officials to find out how much of a delay of game we’re looking at,” Jimmy said.
Another lightning and thunder burst answered him. There would be no ballgame today.
Four days later on the steps of the Central City Police Station, a man in a tan raincoat with his collar turned up rushed up to the double glass doors. A blond-haired man who had just stepped out of the rain a few moments before held open one of the doors. “Hey, thanks a lot, Barry,” the just-arriving man said as he shook off his coat before stepping into the marble-floored foyer.
“Not a problem, Darryl,” Barry Allen replied. “What brings you into the station on a Saturday? Paperwork?”
“None that I had planned to do,” Darryl Frye said as the two men started down the hall together. “I had planned on going out to see the Stars play with my neighbor, but Mother Nature must not be in a good mood.”
The forensic officer nodded. “Yeah, I hear that. Iris and I were supposed to cook out with my parents today. Ah, well, I guess a little rain is good for the environment, though. April showers and May flowers, you know.”
Thunder echoed in the background, and the rain fell harder.
“Just as long as we don’t get any flooding, eh?” Darryl said.
“That we don’t need,” Barry said. He motioned to the vending area. “How’s about a hot chocolate? My mother always used to make it on days like today. It seems to hit the spot.”
Darryl nodded. “Sounds good, but I better get a black coffee instead. You know how the paperwork can be. I can use the caffeine.”
Barry laughed in agreement. The two men chit-chatted a bit more before spending the rest of the rainy day in the office.
Two nights later, in a small community just outside of Denver, Colorado, a dark-haired man rushed upstairs from the basement. His pants were soaked all the way up to his upper thighs.
His brown-haired wife looked up from the table where she sat. “Gracious, Randy, what happened down there?”
“Sharon, grab little Stan and Shelly and head upstairs fast!” the man replied as he rummaged under the sink for a plunger.
“The kids? Why?” Sharon Marsh asked as she put down the jar of baby food and spoon. She undid the tray on the high chair and hoisted up the little boy, just a year old, into her arms. “What’s the matter?”
“Baby, I’ve never seen springtime runoff from the Rockies get so bad,” he said with some concern in his voice. “The water in the basement’s starting to rise up higher every minute! I’ve got to try and see if there’s a clog in the drains or something.”
“Be careful!” Sharon said as she started to move into the living room where young Shelly was watching television. The phone rang just then.
Sharon shifted the infant in her arms and answered it. “Hello?” Sharon said. “What? No, Liane. I don’t think you and baby Eric should try to come over here!” She moved the curtains back from the front window and looked out into the street. She saw one of the trash cans float by on a torrent of dark water that rolled down the street. Thunder rocked the skies. “Its coming down like cats and dogs out there! I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to drive anywhere.”
Sharon stretched the extension cord on the phone far enough to switch off the television.
“Hey,” the four-year-old girl said after pulling her thumb out of her mouth. “I was watchin’ that!”
Sharon turned the phone to her shoulder. “Cartoons will rot your brain,” she said to her daughter sternly. “And you’ll need braces when you get older if you don’t stop sucking that thumb!”
Shelly shoved the thumb back into her mouth defiantly.
“Liane, I have to go!” Sharon said, scowling at the girl. “Randy wants me to get the kids upstairs to higher ground. If you see any flooding from your basement, you should do so too. OK? Talk to you soon. ‘Bye.” Sharon Marsh hung up the phone, grabbed her daughter’s hand, and hurried the kids to the second floor.
Three days later, in a large satellite orbiting the Earth 22,300 miles, a blond man dressed in an orange shirt and green pants sat in front of the Justice League’s monitor screens. Given the sometimes tedious nature of monitor duty when things were quiet and the recent circumstances in his own life, Aquaman was lost in thought.
After he abdicated the throne of Atlantis, to which his old friend Vulko took up the position, Aquaman seemed besieged with one battle after another. Starro the Conqueror and Black Manta, and then most recently the Fisherman, the Scavenger, and Kobra. Batman and Green Lantern had helped the defender of the oceans in that last fight, putting a stop to the would-be world conqueror’s plans. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Armageddon Conspiracy,” Aquaman #61 (April-May, 1978).]
But the battles kept the sea king’s mind off the fact that his personal life was crumbling down around him. Black Manta had kidnapped his son, Arthur Jr., and held the child as a hostage until Aquaman and his young protégé Aqualad could be forced into a battle to the death. The sea king managed to figure a way out of the no-win situation without either of the heroes having to die in the process, but his actions came at a cost.
Arthur Jr. was dying as a result of Manta’s holding him captive. Aquaman vowed to track down his escaping foe to make him pay. Aqualad, however, refused to help him track Manta, for the young hero felt betrayed by the fact that Aquaman would have killed him to save the infant. The two partners parted on not-so-good terms, their long-term relationship strained.
To make matters worse, while Aquaman was rounding up Black Manta, his wife Mera took off for parts unknown in hopes to try to find a way to save their dying son. Unfortunately, the child passed on while she was off seeking assistance; Aquaman knew that things would be very difficult when she returned. (*) As soon as his monitor duty ended, he planned to return to Atlantis and grieve properly with his wife.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams,” Adventure Comics #452 (July-August, 1977).]
“Enough!” he said to himself aloud, pounding his right fist into his left hand in frustration. “These thoughts only serve to make me angry again!”
Aquaman felt the need for a distraction. And since the monitor board was not providing him anything to focus upon, he turned on a television monitor that picked up broadcasts from the Earth below. “I wonder how Clark is doing with the evening news.”
On WGBS, Steve Lombard, a brown-haired broadcaster in a tan sports coat, was discussing the latest sports news.
“Tonight’s game between the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners was called on account of rain in the sixth inning,” Lombard said, talking to the camera as if it were a buddy in a bar. “The Mariners were leading three to two when officials had to stop play. After over thirty minutes delay, they had to call the game completely. That makes four Major League ballgames in the ten days since the season opened that have been a washout. Not a good start to the season. League commissioners are considering rescheduling if more continue.”
Normally, Aquaman would have not cared about the comments. He rarely followed the events of the surface world, or more in particular the sporting ones. But something about this nagged at the back of his head. It almost seemed strange to him.
Steve, meanwhile, was finished with the scores and was exchanging banter with anchorman Clark Kent and the evening weatherman. “Any chance of the Metros getting rained out tomorrow, Oscar?” Lombard asked.
“The entire East Coast looks free of fronts,” replied Oscar Asherman, the weatherman. “I’ll have more details in my full forecast coming up.” The broadcast cut to commercial.
Aquaman turned to the computer keyboard next to him and started to pull together some information.