Titans West: Two If By Sea, Chapter 2: Latent Power

by Martin Maenza

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The Marine Marauder had spent the majority of the day since his return in a locked room he had set up in the cave. Eventually, he emerged from the room with some equipment.

“Now’s the time, a walrus once said,” remarked the villain. “And I would know, eh?” He laughed.

He had tied Lisa up to a rock cropping earlier so that she wouldn’t disturb his work. “Why are you doing this?” she asked him again, even though she’d never received any answer before. “What could you possibly want with me? I’m nobody.”

Wrong, my pretty,” the Marine Marauder finally explained. “You aren’t nobody. You’re somebody, somebody who once exhibited the abilities to command the creatures of the sea.”

“What are you talking about?” Lisa said with denial in her voice. While the man was right, she wasn’t about to admit it. She very briefly possessed the abilities to breath underwater and to communicate with sea creatures, in exactly the same manner as Aquaman did. But those powers had faded as mysteriously as they came.

“Don’t be coy with me, Miss Morel,” the Marine Marauder snapped. “I know all about you and your little secrets. I got it straight from the horse’s mouth — your father!

“My father?” Lisa asked. “My father is dead.”

“Yeah, but before that, he was a famed ichthyologist. The man studied fish, but he also drank like one, too.” Marine Marauder laughed. “I guess you didn’t know that the great Dr. Hugo Morel was also a huge barfly, did you, honey? Yeah, he liked to drink — a lot!

“Not uncommon; the drunker he got, the more loose his mouth got! See, I was a marine biologist too, though not nearly as big as your father. I happened to run across him in a bar one night about four years ago when I was laying low from the crime scene. I recognized him from some of the lecture circuits from the late ’70s. I bought him a drink; we got to talking. And eventually, daddy dearest started to brag about his daughter.”

Lisa swallowed hard. She knew her father had problems coping when her mother died. He had some alcohol problems but was able to kick them with her help. The two of them had been fairly inseparable through her high school and college years. But Lisa eventually had to step out from under his shadow and make her own way in the marine biology field. If this man was telling the truth, it would correspond to a time after she left home.

Now that she thought about it, she did recall smelling liquor on her father’s breath a few times over those years. Could he be telling the truth?

The Marine Marauder continued his tale. “So, one night your father’s really ripped, and he starts in telling me this story about you, Lisa. Says that out of the blue, one day, you fell overboard while doing some research and couldn’t get back out from under the boat. Next thing he knows, you can breathe underwater, and then you start to communicate with fish. Even met Aquaman. You were nicknamed Aquagirl. (*) Well, that got me to thinking.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Aquaman Meets Aquagirl,” Adventure Comics #266 (November, 1959).]

He headed over to the equipment and pulled out a cap-like device. “See, years ago I found a way to make equipment that would allow me to use radio waves to communicate with air-breathing sea creatures. I can talk to them and even control them — get them to do my bidding. But my ultimate goal has been to be able to affect all the creatures of the sea. That’s where you come in.”

“You’re insane!” Lisa said. “You kidnap me because I had some fluke power once?”

“Yep,” the Marine Marauder said. “I don’t believe in accidents or flukes. I think maybe you’ve still got that latent power inside your brain somewhere. And I mean to tap into it with this.” He started to raise the device to her head.

Suddenly, there was a splash in the water pool. A porpoise popped its head above the surface and began to make some chattering sounds. The special equipment within his mask allowed him to interpret the creature’s thoughts via telepathy.

“What?” the Marine Marauder asked. “A boat offshore, you say? No need to worry.” He turned back to Lisa. “See, that’s why I chose this place as a base of operations. Last time, I used a wooded cove that anyone could come up upon. By using this island with its hidden, subterranean caves, I don’t have to worry about anyone on the island above stumbling onto this place.”

He reached out and placed the cap upon Lisa’s head. “We can continue uninterrupted,” he said, and began to adjust the settings on the helmet before connecting it up to a power source. “Soon, I’ll have your little secrets, Miss Morel. And then, our business will be complete.”

“I-I’ll be free to go?” Lisa asked.

The Marine Marauder smiled. “Ah, who said anything about letting you go?” And he laughed wickedly.

***

As darkness fell, the three costumed heroes arrived upon some caves in the center of the island. “These are them,” the Golden Eagle said. “I spotted them earlier when you, like, had me do an aerial fly-by.”

“Perhaps Lisa is here,” the Bumblebee said, “using the caves for shelter.”

“We might as well be thorough and look,” Aqualad said. The trio entered the largest of the caves, the one most likely suitable for a person. They continued in the darkness with little difficulty. Aqualad’s eyes were used to the dimness of the bottom of the ocean and adjusted accordingly. The Eagle and the Bumblebee each had specialized lenses in their masks to compensate as well.

“Look,” Aqualad said. “This path slopes downward.”

The Bumblebee touched the walls and felt a little moisture. She put it to her lips and tasted it. “Water,” she concluded. “I wonder if this goes down below the island?”

“Let’s find out,” the Golden Eagle replied. And down they went. After another five thousand meters, the path ended in a solid rock wall. “Uh-oh. We’re totally out of luck.”

Aqualad moved up to the wall. “Shhh,” he said as he pressed his ear to the stone. “I heard something.”

“What?” Golden Eagle asked.

Aqualad hesitated for a second. “A voice, screaming!” he said. “I think a woman!”

“Lisa!” the Bumblebee exclaimed. “We’ve got to get through that wall!” She adjusted the setting on her stinger-blaster to turn up the frequency to maximum. The blasts hit the rock wall but barely caused a crack.

“Karen, stand back,” Aqualad said. “Let us give it a try!” The hero began to pound his blue-gloved fists into the stone. Even though they were above the water, his strength was pretty formidable.

“Yeah,” the Golden Eagle said as he dug at the wall with the sharp claws of his gloves. “We’ll get through this in like no time.” And the two Titans attacked the wall with determination.

***

Aaah!” Lisa Morel screamed in pain. She struggled against the bonds that held her fast but could not. She desperately wanted to remove the device that felt like it was ripping her very soul from her body.

The Marine Marauder monitored the readings as the device continued its work. “Almost there, my dear,” he said. “I should know how you were able to communicate with sea creatures naturally in a few moments.”

“I’ll kill you!” the blonde screamed.

The Marauder laughed. “Not if I kill you first.” He used his special equipment to summon a pair of sharks to the pool area. They swam around waiting for further instructions.

Suddenly, there was a loud rumbling in the cave. Portions of rocks showered down to the floor and pool. “Wha–?!” the Marauder exclaimed. “That can’t be a quake!”

A portion of one of the upper walls fell in. The dust filled the air, and from the cloud came three figures. “Lisa!” the Bumblebee exclaimed as she and Golden Eagle flew down.

Aqualad had leaped down, somersaulting and landing on the ground. “The party’s over, Marauder!” the sea hero announced.

“Aqualad!” the villain exclaimed. “We’ll see about that!” He ripped the wires from the helmet on Lisa’s head, tucked the device under his arms, and dived for the water. He reached for one of the sharks and gave a mental command. The creature obeyed and dived under the water, taking the villain with him.

“Eagle, circle around the other way!” Aqualad ordered. “I’m going after him this way!” The young hero dived into the water.

“Right!” the Golden Eagle replied, his mighty wings carrying him back up into the cave and out the tunnel.

The Bumblebee hurried to where Lisa was bound as more rocks came raining down. “Lisa, we’ve got to get out of here,” she said as she worked on the bonds. “Aqualad and Golden Eagle must have loosened some of the structure breaking through that wall.”

Lisa looked up as the ropes fell away, exhausted but relieved that the device was gone. She blinked a second as if finally registering what was happening. “Karen?” she asked. “Is that you?”

The Bumblebee was caught by surprise. She stepped back just as some rocks were coming down. “Oh!” she exclaimed, stepping backward and toward the edge of the pool. Her boot slipped on the wet surface, and she tumbled into the water.

The remaining shark, spying an opportunity to feed, lunged for her.

“Karen, the shark!” Lisa warned.

The Bumbleebee screamed. She aimed her stingers at the beast and fired. “No good!” she cried. “They just made it angrier.” Her wings did not work well in water, limiting her options to flee.

The creature moved in swiftly, raised its head out of the water, and opened its mouth to attack.

“No!” Lisa screamed. As she did so, she felt a strange sensation in her head.

The Bumbleebee turned her head so as to not see her final fate, then opened her eyes when the bite did not come. She then saw the shark turning away and diving under the water at the far end of the pool. The heroine scurried to the side of the pool to climb out. “What happened?” she said, looking at Lisa, who was holding the side of her head. “Lisa, are you OK?”

“I–” Lisa started to say, then paused. “I don’t know.”

“We’ll get you some help, I promise,” the Bumblebee said. The cave shook again. “Let’s get out of here first.” She lifted Lisa and flew her out of the cave through the opening above.

***

Outside the island cave, the shark towing the Marine Marauder reached the surface. “Damn!” the villain cursed as he caught his breath. He had thrown just about every shark, porpoise, and whale nearby at his disposable at the pursuing Aqualad but hadn’t bought enough time. “That kid commands all fish, just like Aquaman does.”

A large whale swam up and ducked barely under the surface so that the villain in green could scamper onto its back. Then the whale rose out of the water, lifting the man into the air. “No matter,” he said. “As long as I can get away, I have something to show for it.” He glanced down at the device in his hands. “With this information, I, too, will be able to command all sea creatures. Then I will be invincible.”

“Yeah, right!” a voice called from above. “You and Pat Benatar!”

The Marine Marauder turned his head at the sound just as two gauntled fists slammed into him hard. The villain lost his grip and plunged into the water. The device was knocked from his hands and sank as well, unrecoverable.

“I, like, totally got into that song,” the Golden Eagle said.

Aqualad surfaced from the waves. “Hey, Eagle,” he called. “Did you lose something?”

“Uh,” the winged hero said as he flapped his wings to remain aloft. “Well…”

Aqualad smiled. “Relax, I’m just yanking your line.” He raised his right arm and pulled up the Marine Marauder, whom he held by the front of the costume.

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