by Starsky Hutch 76 and JSAGL
The royal court of Atlantis, deep below the surface of the ocean:
“You’ve requested this audience, my son,” said the king in a booming, courtly voice as he stared at his son with pride. “What is it you would request of me?” Truly, Arthur Junior did cut a striking figure with his long, flowing mane of blond hair, standing in front of his parent in ceremonial armor. He possessed the hearts of most of the girls in the kingdom, though he was completely oblivious to it.
“I wish to venture to the surface world where you once came from, Father,” Arthur Junior said, “and find my own destiny.”
“You can’t find that here in Atlantis?” the king asked.
“If I am to be king one day,” Arthur Junior replied, looking as though he were choosing his words carefully, “and if I am to be even half the king that you are, then I should pattern myself after you. I should journey to the surface world and experience it as you did. Carve out my own exploits, my own adventures. Become such a man as you are.”
The king seemed to swell with pride, testing the confines of his throne. “You make me proud, my son,” he said. “But it’s not as though I haven’t told you that before. Your request is granted.”
Suddenly, a shrill voice echoed through the royal hall, “If he’s going to the surface, then I want to go, too!” A slip of a girl broke through the assembled crowd of the royal court and marched forward, taking her place next to her older brother. A scandalized whisper moved through the crowd.
“Not now, sis,” he whispered angrily to her out of the side of his mouth.
“Stuff it, goody-goody,” she said, elbowing him in the side.
“You know this is not possible, Mina,” the king groaned.
“Because I’m a girl?” she said, hands on her hips in defiance. “I don’t have the right to carve out my own path, too?”
“Because you’re too young!” he explained in a tone that pleaded with her to see reason. She was so much like her mother — same red hair, same fiery temper.
“He’s not that much older than me! Just a few years!”
“A little over five years, to be exact,” Arthur Junior added. “Almost six.”
“I wasn’t talking to you!”
“Request denied!” the king said firmly.
“Whatever Arty wants, Arty gets!” Mina yelled. She turned on her heels and began to storm out of the royal court.
“You haven’t been dismissed!” the king exclaimed.
“What are you going to do? Throw me in irons?” she said, looking back over her shoulder.
“Let her go,” the queen coaxed, rubbing his shoulder. “Let her cool off.”
“Very well,” the king said with a wave. “Dismissed.”
“I’m sorry, My Liege,” Arthur Junior said. “Perhaps a private audience would have been better.”
“It’s not your fault, Arty,” the king sighed. “Mina will always be Mina.” He rubbed his temples and continued. “You know, in my days on the surface world, I fought alongside a team of heroes on a few occasions. It was truly rewarding. Unfortunately, this team is no longer together. The surface world was at war at the time, and once the war was won, they went their separate ways. But the progeny of many of their members have formed a group known as Infinity Inc. Perhaps you should seek them out and offer your aid.”
“Thank you, father. I shall do that!”
Mina sat in a windowsill, holding her knees to her chest as she watched the colorful fish swim past the window. The cavernous depths of the large courtyard had carried their words to her. So Arty was going to go to the surface and join a team of heroes, was he? Permission or no permission, she would go, too. She wasn’t about to let him be the only one to have adventures. And if this team of heroes wouldn’t take her, she would find one that would.
Inside the decimated nightclub you could almost hear a pin drop. Well, if you didn’t count the popping from the smoldering flames or the creaking from the structure that was perilously close to collapse in many areas.
“Well, Dad, are you and your buddies ready to finish me off?”
Beth Chapel could scarcely believe her ears. “Wait just one minute. This boy is your son? You could have killed him!”
Happy Terrill looked at the woman and smirked. “No pain, no gain.”
Beth went to grab Happy but instead found herself falling right through him and sprawling on the floor. Roy Harper rushed to her side and picked her up.
Happy turned his gaze on his son. “They’re not my friends.”
“Well, you sure could have fooled me. You and the guy in the red seemed pretty chummy.”
“Fooling you is a relatively simple task, but consider today’s lesson over.”
With that, the Infinitors were blinded by a brilliant light. When their eyes cleared, Happy Terrill was gone.
“Where’d he go?” Hector asked as he tried to gain his bearing.
“He’s gone. I can’t detect his power anywhere,” young Ray Terrill said as he collapsed to the ground on his knees. Beth Chapel rushed to his side.
“Roy, get my bag. It should still be there where we were sitting,” she said as she began to examine Ray. “Well, now that dear old dad’s gone, I’m Beth, also known as Doctor Midnight. And you are…?”
Ray struggled to focus. His father had taken him to hell and back, and it was just now catching up with him. “I’m the Ray — I mean Ray… Ray Terrill.”
While Beth and Roy were tending to Ray, Hector Hall and Todd Rice were headed outside. Emergency vehicles had lined the streets, and the police were keeping the crowd back. Hector scratched his head, wondering how this had all been organized so quickly.
As the police and and paramedics headed inside, the two Infinitors turned to see Albert Rothstein, AKA Nuklon, coordinating with the police captain. “Sorry I was late, guys, but thanks to Todd calling me, I was able to get the authorities on the scene here in time to help the civilians.”
Hector looked at Todd with surprise. “Damn, Todd, that was quick thinking. I never even heard you call Al.”
Todd was about to say something back to Hector when a woman rushed up to the trio. She threw her arms around Hector and cried, “Oh, Hector, I am so glad you’re OK.”
Al looked at Todd. “Who in the world is that?!”
“I dunno. Some girl Hec was dancing with in the club.”
Prying the woman off of him, a somewhat red-faced Silver Scarab answered his friends, “Uh, guys, this is my new friend.”
The woman looked at Albert and smiled. “How nice to meet you. My name is Helene… Helene Astor.”
And high above the scene, visible only to the younger Ray — if he had known how to see him — Happy Terrill looked down into the damaged building as Beth Chapel tended to his son.
Well, at least now he’ll think that joining up with these Infinity kids was his idea, Happy thought, a smile on his face. He’d be too damn stubborn to join if I suggested it. Shame about what happened to the building, but that’s why God invented insurance. I just hope these kids can help Ray live up to his potential.
The stillness of the harbor was broken as the great metal leviathan rose, parting the surface of the water. A door opened, and the silence was broken again by the whir of motors as a metal walkway issued forth to meet the pier. Prince Arthur of Atlantis stepped out and walked down to the pier, turning back to click a button on a remote control that made it sink once more beneath the surface.
Walking out to the main road, he hailed a cab. “Would you be so kind as to take me to Stellar Studios?” he asked.
“You got any money in that fancy getup?” the cab driver said, eyeing the prince’s ceremonial armor.
“Will this suffice?” he said, handing him a gold coin recovered from a shipwrecked Spanish sailing vessel.
“Oh hell, yeah!” the driver said, taking it greedily.
Seconds after the cab left, a second, much smaller figure rose from the water.
“Stupid Arty!” Mina sputtered angrily. “Nearly shanghaied me back to Atlantis!” She swam to the pier from the spot where the leviathan she had stowed away on had once been.
When any of his younger teammates were around, Sylvester Pemberton was usually reserved. For once, though, it looked as if he had the place to himself. And so he felt free to sneak into the kitchen in his boxers and T-shirt for a midnight snack.
He opened the fridge to see what he wanted to take back to his room. There was still some cold fried chicken that looked good, so he grabbed a leg. He needed something to drink, so he grabbed a Coke. Then he saw the leftover bowl of chips from the earlier meeting, so he decided to grab it as well. Neither hand was free, though, so he grabbed the chicken leg with his mouth and used his now-free hand to grab the bowl.
As he began to make his way back to his room, he was snapped out of his reverie at the main hall when he nearly bumped into what looked for all the world like Sir Galahad, complete with sword.
“Are you Sylvester Pemberton?” the supposed knight asked.
“Uh-huh,” Sylvester said, nodding, with a voice muffled by the chicken leg.
The knight knelt and said, “I am Arthur Curry the Second, prince and heir to the throne of Atlantis. I offer you my sword.” As he spoke, he offered up the ceremonial sword as a show of his loyalty.
Sylvester’s jaw dropped, and the leg fell into the bowl of chips. “Uh… thanks!”
“There’s a lot of paperwork you’ll have to fill out, Art,” Syl said, placing the stack of paper in front of the Atlantean prince, who was sitting at the kitchen table. “Hmmm. There’s also the matter of your citizenship. Your father was an American citizen, so it might carry over. I’ll have to check into that.”
“Is this really necessary?” Prince Arthur said. “I’m willing to offer my services for free. Payment isn’t necessary.”
“And I’d love to take them for free,” Syl laughed, “but as part of my deal to keep the land this studio is on, I have to have a team of costumed heroes here on my payroll.”
“Costumed heroes?” Arty said in confusion.
“You know. The union suits we all traipse around in for our adoring public,” Syl said. He opened up a book he had on heroes and flipped to a page with a photo of the assembled All-Star squadron. “See, even your father had one,” he said, pointing to a younger version of the Atlantean king. His finger scanned past other heroes such as Superman, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman. “As you can see, everyone else had something like it, too.”
“I have such a suit as this,” Arty said.
“You do? Great!”
“It is a form-fitting suit used in espionage by our soldiers. It camouflages them by mimicking the ocean currents.”
“Sounds perfect,” Syl said. “Just fill all that out paperwork, and I’ll get it pushed through. I can get you a green card if you need one. The son of Aquaman on my team — the city’s gonna love this.”
“That is what I will call myself,” Arty said, “in honor of my father — Aquaman.”
“Welcome aboard, Aquaman,” Syl said, grinning even wider as he shook Arty’s hand.