Aqualad jumped forward to shove one Toxxon guard away from the huge bear that loomed above him. Other deer, bears, and wolves raced around the compound.
Suffering shad! I don’t even know if these animals are native to Denmark. Some sure look more like North American species, he thought in his ignorance. He caught another bear and struggled for a moment before gently pushing him away from a frightened guard.
Ulla flew overhead and carried guards to safety. She released them and whirled to spot a huge man with a bushy black beard and a face as tanned and rough as that of any outdoorsman.
“Stop the rape of my brethren! Do not dare corrupt my domain!” he cried as he smashed down a wire fence with casual disdain.
“Who are you?” asked Ulla.
“I am called Father Nature!” he said. She noticed that his words seemed to translate for each hearer. To Garth, his words had been English, while she heard him in Danish.
Aqualad said, “I can see these animals are under your control. I can even guess why you had them attack these polluting creeps, but you can’t make a right out of two wrongs.”
Ulla said, “Violence never solved anything.” She stopped suddenly and pushed a guard aside as he fired a rifle at the deer nearby. “Stop it!” she shouted.
Garth also gently freed a bear from the burnt wreckage of a fallen fence. “Easy, Yogi,” he said.
Father Nature frowned. “I also knew you two to be of one mind with me. Thus for your sake, I take my children and depart. I leave you to end the ruin of my domain by such as these!” He vanished along with his animals.
A silvery figure then flew down from above. His vaguely hawk-like symbol marked him as Toxxon’s defender. “Those creatures were all over the compound. I just held them off, and then they all disappeared,” he said, frowning as he saw Ulla. “The pin-up girl of Denmark — you come to cause trouble like your tree-hugging old man?” he sneered.
Aqualad pushed him back out of Ulla’s face. “Listen, we just saved your little compound from them. Maybe we could leave you to face them alone if they come back. You sent your goon Volcanus after us for Ulla’s father’s protesting your chemical dumping. Perhaps we should return the favor,” he said.
Silver Shrike cursed and raised a gleaming talon. “I can gut you, fish-boy!” he said.
Before Garth and the aggressive Silver Shrike could come to blows, a florrid-looking man in a costly suit rushed out. “Stop!” shouted the CEO of Toxxon. “This gentleman protected our men from that eco-nut. Do not think of striking him!”
“Look, Roger, he’s begging for it,” said Shrike.
Roger Hollandsworth shook his head. “I saw it all. He helped our men when they were attacked. You were doing the same thing on the other side of the compound. He and you should be allies.”
“Let’s not get carried away,” said Ulla. “We did stop Father Nature from hurting your men, but I agree with his anger. Your company is to blame for polluting the area. You escape the law through red tape and bribery, but you are behind it. I’d wager you sent Volcanus after my father.”
Garth put an arm around her and eased her back a bit. “Ulla is excited. Her father was attacked. We just want to resolve matters between his ecological group and your company. There must be common ground. Father Nature was clearly a magical entity with perhaps a naive view of today’s world.”
Ulla knew he was trying to learn more, and she respected his cool manner, but she hoped he had not been fooled by the oily executive. Surely not.
Hollandsworth said, “Let me show you around our little facility. Reasonable men can always meet halfway.”
Ulla followed uneasily.
As Aqualad toured the huge plant, he tried to see beneath the smooth surface of the factory. He believed they were guilty of both pollution and of sending the thug Volcanus after Mr. Påske. Still, he needed proof, and felt he was more likely to get it by playing it cool.
Ulla’s worried that I’ve been snowed by this guy. She should have faith in me. Wish I could tip her off that I know Hollandsworth is a crook. I can see through his facade. He’s another Mad Mod or Karshan underneath, he mused.
Meanwhile, in another part of the complex, Silver Shrike glided to a landing before a stern figure in a helmet of peculiar design.
“Karnak, you have the trust of Vulko and Aquaman himself from your past services to them during various conflicts. You have risen to be a top soldier of Atlantis. Now all you want to do is help me destroy part of the very undersea kingdom you fought for for so long?” said Shrike.
Karnak nodded grimly. “Indeed I do. It is because I love Atlantis that I want to see it grow strong once more. The half-breed king is too soft. If you and I sabotage your rival company’s new high-tech cruise ship so that it accidentally destroys an Atlantean outpost, there will be war between the surface and the deep sea. I, as a soldier, will have the war I need in order to shine and gain enough favor to usurp the throne itself. You will gain the destruction of Toxxon’s rival, Rande Corp.”
Shrike nodded. “As I thought, but it’s good to hear it again.”
The Alexandra was the Rande Corp’s marvel of design and function, a ship with its own regenerating energy source. Now, as elegant women and well-dressed men mingled aboard the gala premiere launch, Aqualad scanned the waters. He knew the ship was a prime target for trouble; his instincts told him that. Plus, he had been talking to the aquatic life, and all agreed that suspicious types were aboard.
If this boat is attacked, then I know it’ll be by Toxxon’s goons. They’re Rande’s number one competitor, he mused as he swam around the craft.
On board, Dr. Påske and a lovely Ulla Påske in a green gown enjoyed the party.
“Rande is unlike Toxxon in that they meet all safety standards; I support them fully,” he beamed.
Ulla nodded. “I hope Garth’s plan works. He says Toxxon won’t be able to resist ruining this ship.”
Her keen eyes spotted the furtive movement of a shadowy form. “Be right back, Papa,” she said, slipping down below to the main engine room, where she heard the oddly helmet modulated tones of Karnak.
“By activating the generator without the proper safeguards, the engine will explode, and the radiation will kill most of the Atlantean outpost far below,” said Karnak. “Then your company will triumph, and I will get the war I need for career advancement.”
Silver Shrike grinned. “To success.”
Ulla kicked off her high heels and tore the hem of her gown for freedom of movement. She kicked in the door and said, “I’ll have you toasting parole, not success!”
The Mermaid charged in and flew toward the grinning Karnak. “You won’t be smirking without that bowl atop your head!” she said as she kicked the helmet to pieces.
Karnak whipped out his ray gun and fired, even as he began to choke. He hurried out on deck and dived into the waters. The guests screamed and pointed, and he realized that his secret role in the accident-to-be was now a thing of the past. The fish saw him, and he knew all too well how close a tie Aquaman had with all aquatic life.
“Going somewhere, traitor?” asked Aqualad as he met the warlord beneath the waves.
“You? The minnow?” he roared. “Well, your pretty paramour cost me my glory. Now, I’ll get my revenge by slaying you!”
Aqualad grappled with the larger man and began to lose, lacking this soldier’s years of military and combat training. He was slammed into a reef, and as his vision blurred, he reached for the ray gun. He tightened on the trigger, and the ray burst sliced across the hip of its wearer. Karnak gasped, and Aqualad delivered a left hook that dropped the soldier to the seabed.
“Now for Shrike,” mused Garth as he saw the fish surround the stunned warlord.
Aqualad boarded the ship to see Mermaid dancing away from the gleaming talons of the bird-themed thug. He sliced at her, only to miss as she twisted aside and slapped him across the deck. Shrike cursed and said, “I want to live, so I’ll give this fight to you, Mermaid.” He flew off as the heat of the out-of-control engine began to reach the deck.
“Garth! The engine!” cried the blonde. “It’s been damaged!”
He frowned. “I can’t shut it down, thanks to Shrike, but if the turbines don’t meet, then there can’t be any release of energy.”
“Good lad!” called Dr. Påske.
Garth entered the room to see a mighty muscled figure wrenching the turbines apart by sheer power. His stomach suddenly sank as he recognized him, for this mutant creature had once tried to destroy both Aquaman and Aqualad, believing the former to be evil. This was the Liquidator.
He was an unusually large, well-muscled mutant creature with reddish-purple skin and finned ears, and he had three appendages that he used to attack his foes — a four-taloned claw where his left hand would have been, a kind of cat-o-nine-tails whip-like array where his right lower arm would have been, and two radiating discs atop horns on his head. The Liquidator was able to sense evil, and he had the power to dispense justice. Whenever anyone saw this mutant avenger approaching them, they knew that they were in serious trouble.
“This brute strength should be enough to shut down the whole thing. It was a flawed design in my opinion, anyway,” said the huge figure who tore the metal apart in his webbed bare hands.
“The Liquidator! Aquaman and I have not seen you in years! I should have guessed any threat to sea life would bring your wrath down on the one who did the wrong,” said Garth as he held Ulla’s hand. The Liquidator, he remembered from a long-ago case, was a mutant with the ability to sense evil, which he sought out and destroyed with righteous vengeance. At the time, an Atlantean named Ragnar tried to frame Aquaman into being destroyed by the Liquidator, and Aqualad himself was in peril thanks to his close association with his mentor, until the deception was cleared up. At the conclusion of that case, they left the Liquidator as allies, if not friends. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: The Liquidator’s one and only appearance was in “Justice Is Mine, Saith the Liquidator,” Aquaman #38 (April, 1968).]
“My, what a little beauty you have there,” said the purple creature.
“I am Ulla Påske, the Mermaid,” she said with a puzzled look.
“This is a, uh… friend of mine,” explained Garth. “He is the Liquidator; Aquaman and I met him years ago. He defends all undersea life with a vengeance.”
The Liquidator grinned as his wide-finned head shook with pleasure. “I do my best, lad. I have mellowed a bit from my early days as a type of avenging fiend of the deep.” He chuckled.
Dr. Påske rushed in with the Rande Corp engineers. “The Shrike escaped, but his mere presence is enough to justify an investigation into Toxxon’s doings. We may shut them down this time, thanks to you and Ulla,” said the smiling scientist.
Ulla kissed Garth and smiled herself. “I knew he’d save the day. Isn’t he wonderful?”
Garth smiled back. “So are you.”
The Liquidator said, “Isn’t anyone going to kiss me?” A few uneasy seconds passed, then loud laughter boomed from his broad chest.