The Atom had found himself drawn by a scream into a bizarre clearing in the middle of heavy jungle vegetation. He frowned as he fought to clear a path through the undergrowth and see into the clearing beyond. I’m sure glad Ray and Ira fixed my gear so I can retain my costume at normal size, mused Adam Cray as he pushed into the open and saw a curious sight. The clearing housed what appeared to be a small village with thatch huts and tiny occupants.
“Small tribal villagers! Ray ran into beings like these in our era. He said they were aliens, and fire destroyed them and their hidden home. (*) I think I see the source of their panic.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Stormy Passage,” Sword of the Atom #1 (September, 1983) and The Atom: The Ivy Town Project.]
He saw a beautiful young girl with long, flowing black hair, who was staggering forward above the small village. A number of tiny red darts protruded from her leg. “They’ve drugged her!” he realized. “She must have resisted the drug long enough to get to their home. If she falls upon it, she could kill them all!”
The Atom reduced his own size, adjusting his size-and-weight controls with precision. At only a few inches tall, he sailed forward on an air current and returned to normal size in time to sweep her off her feet and into his arms. “Easy, there, Miss. Don’t be scared,” he said in a soothing tone. “My name is the Atom. I want to help you and protect the small people down there, too.”
She struggled for a moment and then fainted in his arms. “OK, since I saved their community from becoming a pancake, this is not the reception I expected.” He saw dozens of tiny men race out of the huts below and raise small spears or darts in anger.
The Atom lowered the stunned girl to the ground away from the tribe and then reduced his own size until he stood before them. “Stop! I mean you no harm,” he said. They drew closer to him, staring at him in amazement. Grunts, growls, and weird barks greeted him, but none of the tiny people spoke in anything close to human language.
“Me Atom. You Jane?” he said with a smile as a blonde woman in a tunic came closer and stared at him. He raised his hands in a placating manner as the villagers jabbered wildly. They seem to be less aggressive since I reduced my size. They may think I’m one of them! Indeed, the odd beings did not try to harm him as they stared at him.
I see the reason I’m such a novelty to them. They look like little people, but they have feet and hands like those of small chimps. These poor people aren’t human at all! They are some type of monkey/human hybrid! He heard a groan and saw the human girl sit up abruptly. “She’s stirring! That won’t go over well with these guys. I’d better get her to safety.” He shrank down to microscopic size, and then as the villagers cried out in surprise, he made his way to the girl and enlarged himself to normal size.
“Miss, we need to get moving!” he said. “You are something of a Mothra to those people below!”
“I am Spirit,” she said. “You speak like Kamandi! You are a mutant?”
“I’m not from these parts!” the Atom said, helping her as they fled from the jungle clearing. He listened to her story.
“Kamandi and I were near the Great Western Wall when an energy surge brought me here,” she explained. “I need to return to him!”
“If the Great Western Wall is near the energy source we detected on the JLA Satellite, then it’s in Australia,” said the Atom. “I’ll get you back there if I can. I may need to summon a ride from a pal, though!”
Spirit nodded appreciatively as she leaned against the Atom as he made his way through the jungle.
Hawkman and Aquaman were more than a little bewildered as they came face to face with more of the odd, intelligent animals of the world after the Great Disaster. The heroic duo had materialized in a terrible, barren landscape full of deep craters.
“This looks like the terrain of the Moon!” said Hawkman.
Aquaman nodded. “I’d say we’re both fish out of water here. It staggers the mind to imagine the kind of disaster that could have resulted in this type of drastic alteration to the environment.”
Hawkman nodded and replied, “Cosmo said he would send us where we were needed. I guess that’s what he did. This is certainly not the location of any powerful energy source.”
“And yet life still exists here,” said Aquaman. “I hear voices!”
Hawkman nodded grimly and said, “I do, too. I wonder what type of exotic life form could survive something like the events that made those craters.”
Aquaman led his friend across the barren fields until they came to a strange community that began when a row of trees rose into view beyond the craters. “Well, this is really more your territory, but I’d say they are toucans!” He pointed to a flock of brightly hued birds.
Hawkman nodded and called out in the language of birds. He had learned how to speak to them via the use of a device called the Absorbascon from his native world of Thanagar. His efforts brought the large birds down to the ground, where they surrounded the heroes until one especially colorful toucan spoke in English.
“How sad!” said the leader of the toucans. “This poor thing combines the features of animal and bird.”
“Actually, I’m bilingual,” said the JLAer. “My name is Hawkman.”
The toucans fluttered around in excitement. “He does speak! This strange hybrid has some wit about him!” said a bird.
“We’re not from your realm,” said Aquaman. “We were brought here for a reason. Can you help us find that purpose?”
“They can’t, but I’ll sure try to!” cried a teenage blond boy who emerged from the trees to stand before them with wide eyes. He was a well-muscled, handsome boy with bright and intelligent eyes. His only clothing consisted of raggedy blue pants and boots.
“Kamandi! These odd fellows are beneath the notice of a god like you!” said the head toucan.
Aquaman placed one hand on the boy’s shoulder and said, “Son, what is this place? We come from a different era, and your world is a real puzzle to us.”
“You aren’t from this era!” said Kamandi. “I know you! You are the Sea King! Your deeds were on the microfilm of my grandfather’s collection! You come from the Age of Heroes!“
Hawkman whispered, “The boy acts like he reveres you.”
“I’m used to it. I was a king,” Aquaman replied. “Kamandi, what turned the world we know into this one?”
Kamandi shook his head and said, “The Great Disaster was some kind of natural disaster. It may have come from some other terrible event, but all we know is that the world where men ruled over animals was turned into this one where animals are supreme. I’m the only normal human left. My destiny is to help my people regain their rightful role. I was trying to help some friends tap into the Great Western Wall’s Great Vortex when the energy had a kind of backlash. It sent me here, where my friends the Incan Toucans took me in.”
“Can you take us to this Wall?” asked Hawkman. “I wager the same energy flux that swept you here also brought us here.”
“I’ll lead you there,” said Kamandi. “My friends may be there still, too. I have met one from your time. I’ve even visited it very recently. The Batman is my friend.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “This Earth Is Mine,” The Brave and the Bold #120 (July, 1975) and “Time, My Dark Destiny,” The Brave and the Bold #157 (December, 1979).]
“Batman?” said Aquaman with surprise. “He does get around. He’s one of us. We have a group called the Justice League.”
“Perhaps the purpose Cosmo spoke of us was reuniting Kamandi with his allies,” said Hawkman. “If he is truly the last intelligent boy on Earth, then he carries a huge weight on those shoulders.”
Aquaman watched the boy as he said goodbye to the odd toucans. “Katar, the way he looked at me like I was some kind of legend makes me want to rescue him,” whispered Aquaman. “Should we try to take him back with us? No boy should live like this!”
“We can’t alter history,” said Hawkman. “Superman could vouch for that immutable fact. All we can do is help him find his friends. Arthur, if we took him away, then who would be the hope for this era?”
Aquaman nodded and said, “This is much like the burdens I used to encounter when I ruled Atlantis. Sometimes the greater good can leave things pretty rough for the individual.”