Aquaman: The First Wave, Chapter 5: Pretext for War

by Libbylawrence

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Captain Demo gasped in pain as a burly soldier slapped him across the face.

“Air-breathing degenerate!” yelled the slender soldier. “You will pay for abducting a princess of the realm! You and all your kind will suffer! Already our warships are attacking your underwater cities, and in time, we will bring death to the world above the waters as well!” And he walked out of the cell.

Demo sighed and tried to catch his breath. He was frightened, and villain though he was, he had very little hope of escape. Demo, laddie, ye’ve done it this time! he thought. These subsea savages will skin me alive.

At that moment, the cell door opened to reveal Barras. The warlord of Lemuria was alone, and he smiled coldly as he drew a gleaming sword. “You thought to enrich yourself by stealing the secrets Amymone could give you, but she fell ill before you could question her,” he said. “Well, in taking her, you did me a good turn! I intend to use your little plot as the seed from which a war will grow. That war will rid me of my enemies and gain me a throne! However, you are a loose end that must be dealt with. I’m letting you go. Get out swiftly and steal one of our small crafts. I’ve called away the guards. When I claim all the undersea kingdoms for myself, I will remember you as a possible ally from above.” He shattered the chains that held Demo, and the wily pirate grinned crookedly.

“Aye? Well, Demo is at your service! Ah, I will be wantin’ compensation for the loss of me vessel!”

Barras scowled, and Captain Demo sheepishly backed away and said, “A lad must try, eh? No harm done! Nary a bit of harm done!” He slipped down a hallway and spied a small one-man vehicle in a docking space. This looks easy enough to operate, he thought.

Opening the hatch, he climbed inside, only to gasp as he realized the vehicle was not empty. The still form of Princess Amymone was in the pod-like craft. The girl’s dead! he realized. What is the meaning of this?

Barras approached with a group of armed guards and yelled, “The surface cur has taken the princess again! Her blood is on his head! He and his race will pay!”

A spear thudded next to Demo’s head as he tried to activate the craft. They mean to frame me! he thought. That black-tongued rogue wants me as his scapegoat! He shoved Amymone’s body out of the pod and clutched the wheel as it rocketed out of the ship and upward.

Captain Demo glanced back in alarm as the pod began to shudder. “Sabotage!” he gasped. “Barras rigged this craft! It is about to fall apart!

Just as the weird pod began to break apart, Demo was hit in the face by something hanging from above. He sputtered and grasped a rope ladder.

“Welcome aboard, mate!” shouted an evil-looking man with an eyepatch over one eye. “I could use a man like you in my crew!”

Captain Demo looked up at a flying ship full of pirates, and a broad grin spread across his face. “Demo, your luck is changing. Yes, it is,” he said as he climbed aboard and felt the flying ship soaring away from the scene of his near death.

***

Back aboard the dragon-ship, Dolphin and Casacade screamed in unison as guards rushed inside to see Chimaera standing over Aquaman’s body.

“He has killed Aquaman!” cried Dolphin.

The guards pulled Chimaera away from the fallen hero, then yelped in pain as his costume’s energy-sting surged through their bodies.

Giving up all pretense of being dead, Aquaman leaped up and tackled another guard as Dolphin whirled around to flatten another with both of her hands linked together.

Cascade grinned as she allowed a guard’s trident to pass harmlessly through her chest as she turned partially to water. “I’m recovering my strength!” she cried with a laugh.

Chimaera punched the soldier in the head and said, “Well done! Now, let’s find Amymone! She can clear this mess up once she’s better!”

They raced down the passage until they entered a larger room where Barras and his personal guards were standing over Amymone’s body.

“Amy!” bellowed Chimaera as he pushed forward to take her in his arms.

Aquaman frowned in concern. “She’s too still,” he said. “I don’t like the look of this!”

“She’s dead!” yelled Barras. “Between her time with that pirate and your own treatment of her, I’d say her system simply gave out!”

“You lying creep!” said Chimaera. “She hated you! You killed her, not us!” He charged at Barras, only to be stopped by a group of armed warriors.

“Kill them all!” ordered Barras. “Who needs a trial? The body is evidence enough! The surface world and the cities of Atlantis are equally to blame for the murder of Princess Amymone! War alone will achieve our revenge!”

Aquaman clenched his fists and prepared for battle. Things were growing darker every moment.

***

Things were growing darker every moment. This was evident as Ulla Påske and Jerro turned away from the dragon-ship to see Tritonis engulfed by quakes and rubble.

“The invaders are already inside the city!” cried the Mermaid. “We’ve been duped!

“My mind is full of fear and death!” said Jerro. “I can sense the thoughts of my people within the city!”

The dragon-ship fired again, narrowly missing the two mer-people.

“We can’t just forget about that thing, though!” said Ulla. “It will get us if we try to flee!”

At that moment, a newcomer swam into view. He was moving rapidly in spite of a very awkward technique. He had a body that was much larger than that of a healthy athlete, and he seemed almost distorted by the enormity of his muscular development, with a sloping forehead and a few stay blond hairs across his skull. His hands were massive, and he used them to clutch at one side of the dragon-ship. Grunting in concentration, he slowly began to rip the side panel off the vessel.

“Neptune’s trident!” gasped Jerro. “How can that thing be so strong?

Ulla nodded and said, “He’s tearing it apart with his bare hands!”

“He must be nearly as strong as Supergirl was!” said Jerro.

Ulla nodded silently. She knew, as most Tritonisians did, that Jerro had been in love with Supergirl and still mourned her passing.

The beast continued to pound away at the dragon-ship, even as he ignored energy blasts that struck his skin without harming him. He roared and began to use the rubble of the ship to pummel those warriors who swarmed out to attack him.

“We have to help him!” shouted Ulla, darting forward and using her own speed and strength to subdue some of the warriors.

Jerro helped as well, but he also gently probed the creature’s mind, and his eyes widened as he found answers that shocked him. “That thing was once a normal surface man named Peter Dudley! He wanted to replace Aquaman and hired a criminal scientist to experiment on him. The process initially made him into Aquaman’s exact double, but it continued to evolve him until he became a creature Aquaman called Aquabeast! He was lost in an undersea fissure after a whirlpool swept him away. (*) But he survived, and his transformation continued until he became the hulking brute he is today!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Aquabeast the Abominable,” Aquaman #34 (July-August, 1967).]

Aquabeast turned toward the smaller beings, hesitating as Ulla gently touched his arm. “Thank you!” she said, a winning smile on her delicate and pretty face. “You are a real hero! You saved our lives!” He smiled back at her with a crooked grin and began to follow her as she led him toward the city.

Jerro smiled as well. That poor man is a real tragic figure, he thought. Perhaps he can be cured. At least it looks like he is willing to use his super-strength for our cause.

The odd trio made their way toward the city, and Ulla covered her mouth with one hand as she saw the horrors within. “Oh, no!” she cried. “The whole city looks like a bomb detonated inside! What could have happened? How could the invaders have caused so much damage so swiftly?”

Ronal and Lenora Lemaris swam toward them. “How?” said Ronal. “By unleashing a one-man army! The quakes were caused by a trident being used by one warrior!

“He claimed in his boasts that the trident belonged to Neptune himself,” added Lenora, “and it certainly produced quakes and tremors worthy of that god!”

“This is my friend,” explained Ulla, indicating the so-called Aquabeast. “He helped us. What shall I call you?”

The former Peter Dudley opened his misshapen mouth to say, “Caliban.”

Ulla nodded slowly, even as she recognized the name from Shakespeare. He thinks of himself as a monster, she mused. Still, if Caliban is the name he wants to use, then that is his choice.

Jerro realized Dudley apparently had no desire to use his real name, or perhaps he had renounced it along with his humanity.

Lenora smiled and said, “Caliban, you are welcome here!”

Caliban nodded and stared at the woman with obvious admiration.

“When the warrior with the trident failed to find what he wanted, he swam away,” said Ronal. “I fear he is heading for Poseidonis.”

“Aquaman will have to face him there,” said Jerro. “We will be all too busy repairing the city and treating the injured.”

“Help,” Caliban grunted. “Caliban help!”

Lenora nodded and said, “Thank you, my friend! We can use your help!”

The brute began to lift a fallen beam with ease, and the group hurried to help those fallen or in need of medical help.

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