Justice League of America: 1983: When Comes the Conqueror, Chapter 3: Anger and Fear

by Libbylawrence

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The city of Athens, Greece, with its ancient splendor and modern sophistication appealed to Wonder Woman for many reasons. She knew the city well and relished the way in which so many of its ancient sites reminded her of her own Paradise Island. She smiled in recognition of the city for a moment before she detected the sound of violence near the Argos Research Center.

“Well, for a company named after Hera’s multi-eyed, ever-vigilant guard, this place could use a security upgrade or two!” she said, spotting three guards in uniforms with the Argos logo sprawled across the pavement. A quick examination showed that they were sedated.

She turned away from the fallen men to explore the nearest building itself. Wonder Woman noticed the doors had been blown off their hinges as well. “That must have been the sound I heard,” she said. “I’m going to lose the right to claim the speed of Hermes if I don’t hurry up and catch the intruder. No doubt this person is the one Doctor Mist sent me to stop. A research center like this one could house any number of potentially lethal devices.”

Leaping across the complex in a single bound, she then charged inside. As energy beams suddenly blanketed the area from all sides, she used her remarkable speed and talent to deflect the deadly beams off her gleaming bracelets. “This isn’t exactly bullets and bracelets, but I won’t quibble,” she said.

Wonder Woman carefully directed the beams so that they struck the turrets that had been producing them. In mere moments, the Amazon princess had destroyed the weapons and made her way forward. She smiled grimly as she saw a man in a solid black suit and dark glasses. “You don’t look like a scientist, but a quick Q-and-A session with the benefit of my magic lasso to help you speak the truth will clear that up!”

She had started to toss the rope around the man as he stood calmly before her and smiled as if he was amused by her pretensions. But before she could reach him, a mighty muscled man in the magical yellow mantle known as the Golden Fleece slammed into her with brutal fury. The Olympian! she thought, recognizing him from the last time she worked with him. (*) By Hera, he’s like a berserker! Rather than helping me deal with this intruder, the champion of Greece is protecting him!

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: The Global Guardians: Times Past, 1982: Heroes of the World, Unite! Chapter 7: To Kill a World.]

Wonder Woman felt the big man’s arms force her backward for a moment before she planted her feet more firmly and held her ground. That Fleece endows him with the powers associated with the ancient Greek heroes who quested for the item itself, she remembered. According to different accounts, the Argonauts, as they were called, consisted of several different heroes all with superhuman strength! Still, even if it is the raw power of Heracles himself that Olympian now channels, I can’t be manhandled that easily!

She raised her knee and smashed it into his stomach before shoving him across the room and into the man in black. That figure gasped in shock and then dived out of the way, but he was too late. He fell hard and struggled to rise before the Amazon princess had darted forward and deftly removed the Golden Fleece from her foe’s back.

The Olympian rubbed his eyes and covered his face as his free will returned. “That fiend’s evil voice seemed to overwhelm me!” he whispered. “I could not think or act without his leave!”

“Remain calm, my friend,” Wonder Woman called out. “I suspected you were but the victim of a mental domination. I will teach our mind bender the error of his ways! Apparently the key to restoring your will was to separate you from the Fleece. He must have somehow tapped into its bond with you.”

The man in black said, “Daedalus! Pay me the respect I deserve by addressing me by my proper nom-du-crime. I am named for the ancient genius who invented more wonders than even your Amazon science can boast!”

Wonder Woman started to rope the rogue when he lifted a small gun and fired it directly at her face. She casually raised one arm to deflect the shell as it sped toward her, but to her horror, the pellet radiated a magnetic force that drew her wrists together and bound her bracelets until the ancient magic that governed her powers left her helpless due to the fact that a male had bound her bracelets of submission. She saw Daedalus laugh as he drew closer.

“You are but a poor woman with a childlike mind! How could you hope to best one with my supreme intellect? Surely, if a man could not defeat me, a frail female who has forgotten the proper role of a woman can do nothing against me.” His smug smile faded as Wonder Woman spun around and delivered a stinging kick to his face.

Before he could rise again, the unmasked Olympian belted him with all his strength. “I see our genius failed to realize that even though being bound by a man robs you of your super-powers, you still retain the normal strength of a woman and your own well-developed combat skills!” The Olympian removed a metal device that resembled a tiny insect from the neck of his magical mantle. “This device was the source of my madness!”

Wonder Woman nodded in agreement as Olympian used the strength of Herakles to free her from the bonds created by the fallen inventor. “Apparently, Daedalus had a brilliant mind, but he was seriously flawed by a trait many males share,” she said. “He had an abiding scorn for women.”

The Olympian laughed and said, “Aye! Many Greek men have a paternalistic attitude toward the other sex. I am free of such a prejudice. After all, part of my power comes from Atalanta, the greatest female racer of ancient days, and another of my ancient patrons had a rather unique if androgynous nature, shall we say.”

Wonder Woman smiled and said, “Indeed! In any case, I thank you for your help. Daedalus was apparently hired to rob the lab for the being known as the Conqueror.”

Before she could hear the Olympian reply, the power of Doctor Mist spirited them away.

***

In the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, Aquaman extended a hand to a petite but pretty blonde girl in pink and green. “Ulla Påske, Denmark’s Little Mermaid herself!” he said. “I made a point of looking up your folks since we last met. (*) They are mighty proud of you and I was delighted to meet them!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: The Global Guardians: Times Past, 1982: Heroes of the World, Unite! Chapter 6: Waiter to the Super-Hero Set.]

The Little Mermaid smiled in a bashful way and said, “It is good to see you as well. Papa was thrilled to hear that we had worked together! As a proud citizen of Poseidonis, he was always loyal to you and supported your rule.”

“I appreciate that more than you know,” said Aquaman. “I know Vulko can also count on the support of good folks like your father and your mother, although her people of Tritonis don’t always see eye to eye with those from my former city.”

“True enough,” said Little Mermaid. “Many a debate has raged during our meal hour when I have been home beneath the sea. My adoptive parents here in Denmark have also thrilled to your adventures.”

Aquaman knew the girl referred to the fact that, while her mutant birth had given her the ability to fly and to switch from two-legged girl to fishtailed mermaid, the same mutation had rendered her unable to breathe underwater for more than thirty hours at a time. Thus, she had been forced to divide her time between two homes and two sets of loving parents. In spite of all that turmoil and her role as Denmark’s national heroine, Ulla was clearly a sweet, determined, and well-adjusted girl. Ever since their earlier meeting, he had also suspected from the way she gazed up at him with adoring eyes that she harbored a bit of a crush on him.

“Ulla, I suppose you might have a lead concerning just where our enemy might strike?” he asked in a deliberately abrupt manner.

Little Mermaid frowned and said, “No, I don’t. Doctor Mist alerted to me to the imminent peril, but he did not tell me anything more! However, my foster-father works with various ecological groups, and some of their research work has detected the presence of a monster! I can only connect the timing of the threat Doctor Mist warns of with the appearance of this creature of the deep!”

“I agree with your line of reasoning,” said Aquaman. “Dr. Påske is quite a man. You are fortunate to have both sets of parents.”

They moved through the waters at top speed until they came upon a cavern beneath the sea. As they floated above the location for a moment or two, they hastily conferred. “Ulla, I know you can remain beneath the sea for at least the rest of the day, if necessary, and that might be required. That cavern is enormous, and it could well take hours for us to explore it.”

Aquaman had questioned the local sea life with his own amazing powers, and while the accounts were somewhat unclear, it was evident that the fish had witnessed a powerful new predator in the vicinity.

“Papa’s friends agree that this cavern is the site at which a monster has been seen,” Little Mermaid added. “I also learned that the private lab of Conrad Dainke has been robbed in the last hour. That lab is near here, and perhaps it was the target of our mystery foe!”

“Something big is coming this way,” said Aquaman. “I can spot the waves in its wake!” They submerged, and both champions soon detected an astonishing sight.

A creature with a vaguely humanoid form but a massive body and an inhuman visage drew closer and stared at them with hate-filled eyes that gleamed a blood-red hue. One taloned hand reached out for them, and Mermaid darted aside with her characteristic agility. The monster opened its gaping maw and whirled around to sink its fangs into Aquaman’s arm. He grunted in pain and then smashed his other fist into the creature’s face until it released his now-bloodied arm.

Suffering Shad! That thing almost bit my arm in two! I can’t play games with a brute like this! He concentrated, but no aquatic life came to his aide, and he understood why as he saw Mermaid hesitate in fear. This thing radiates fear. His power is great enough to overwhelm the fish that would normally obey my command! Even Ulla looks scared to death! This fight is mine alone.

Aquaman ducked as the monster swiped at him again and then rushed forward to attempt to sink its fangs into his chest. He gripped its head and held it back for moments before its sheer power began to gain the advantage, and it drew ever closer. Pain from that wound is starting to get to me. I’ve lost a lot of blood, he realized.

He saw Little Mermaid suddenly swim away and burst out of the water high above. Before he could do anything more, Aquaman felt the monster claw at him again and again. I’m not going to let this thing make me its dinner! he thought. I’ll have to try something a bit more indirect. It is clearly some type of sea life, so maybe my own power can tame it!

Aquaman directed his powerful telepathic power to reach out to the inhuman creature, but even he hesitated for a second as he felt raw terror and hate surge through him. I don’t scare that easy! I’m picking up the thing’s own fear and hate. It is nearly mindless, but it possesses an animal cunning and savagery. I also sense that it was commanded to rob that lab for the Conqueror! He’s an ancient being in his own right. I think his people once used these creatures as hunting animals! Those were his thoughts as he fought to separate the images and feelings that swept over him.

Slowly, Aquaman gained control as the hero’s impressive willpower and raw courage began to overcome the monster’s power. As the brute slowly stopped resisting the hero, Mermaid suddenly crashed into him with stunning force. Aquaman nodded in approval as the monster collapsed. “You used your flying power to gain altitude and thus increase momentum before impacting on him,” he said. “That was a good tactic!”

Little Mermaid lowered her eyes in shame and said, “I was scared. As I was running away, something made me turn around to help. I guess I got out of the range of its fear-projection power.”

Aquaman nodded as he nursed his wounded arm and followed her to the surface. “No doubt we’ll find the device it took from the lab within the cavern. It had not had time to take it to the Conqueror yet. That’s good, because I want to find a way to keep that thing away from other beings. It needs care, but it also can’t roam loose and kill on land and sea.”

“My Danish father could keep it at his lab with help from the science my other father could acquire from below!” suggested Little Mermaid. “I know both of them would relish such a scientific study.”

Aquaman nodded and said, “I’ll also let him fix up my arm. I suppose we’re lucky to have survived at all. I picked up a name when I probed that thing’s mind. I don’t know it if is an alien or other-dimensional being of magic, but it calls itself Grendel.”

“Oh, my!” cried Little Mermaid. “That was the monster that fought Beowulf in the old saga!”

“Apparently, it isn’t a given name as much as it is a description,” explained Aquaman. “Blood beast is how I’d translate it!”

The two had begun heading back to the mainland when Doctor Mist plucked them away. As he faded away, Aquaman felt his wound heal under the miraculous power of the African mystic.

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