S T R A I T O F M A L A C C A
Hours earlier | Indonesian Archipelago, Pacific Ocean
The SS Sun Vista lay under more than two hundred feet of water, in the middle of the busiest shipping strait in the world.
The shadow passed through the halls of the majestic ocean liner. It was perhaps even more crowded inside now than in its golden age, when it ferried passengers between Italy and Australia in the late 1970s. Large schools of small fish moved in and through the wreck. Eels passed through shadow, tucked away in the cupboards and closets. A blue-clad hand passed through the lightless expanse, a fog of silt passing through the water.
A porcelain plate was withdrawn from the cupboard, disturbing an eel that spiraled along the youth's arm before shooting off into the inky darkness. The white enamel was emblazoned with colorful tones of lapis lazuli and gold. The plate shone under the violet light of a pair of vibrant purple irises that pierced through the darkness. The Atlantean boy turned the plate over in his hands, inspecting it for a moment, before he returned it back to the shelf and withdrew a tea cup that was emblazoned with a similar pattern.
The Prince of Idylls hovered in one of the galleys that had serviced the many lounges across the ship that had ended its career as a cruise ship. Much of the flatware was recognizable from Themyscira, when Garth had visited during the Isthmian Games, such as the spoons and knives. But the one object he could not identify was a most perplexing form. It was like a miniature trident, no larger than a spoon, with four prongs instead of three.
Turning the small utensil over in his hands, the youth hovered there in the galley looking over the object as he tried to imagine its purpose.
Come on, Tadpole. You can explore later.
The words were not spoken so much as they were thought. Transmitted might even have been the apt term. At the telepathic summons, the young Garth altered his buoyancy without so much as a thought to what he was doing. Effortlessly, the child rose up through the sea, emerging from the inside of the ocean liner that was resting on its side on the sea floor. Halting his ascent, the youth glided through the water toward where an iconic hero of orange and green waited for him. Why do they have miniature tridents? the boy asked, holding out the object that he had found.
The Aquaman was looking upward. Overhead, the silhouette of a large oil tanker blotted out the sun with its massive shape. A plethora of smaller shadows created large wakes around themselves, as the distorted sound of muffled gunfire tricked down through the water. Turning his head toward the boy, Arthur paused for a moment. A quizzical looked crossed his face at the question. It's a fork, he uttered simply. Now, come on.
With that, Arthur began rising up toward the surface. Garth followed beside, starting to push with strong dolphin kicks as he fought to keep pace with the Aquaman as the two built up speed. The surface of the water was coming up fast.
The pair exploded from out of the water. Arthur arcing through the air like some Greek hero of the ancient legends. Cresting from out of the top of a wave, Aquaman sailed from out of the sea to land on his feet atop the bow of the tanker.
Garth followed, shooting out of the sea like a flying fish. A brief panic knotted the pit of his stomach, as he felt the water fall away and the air hit him. Feeling a loss of control, the boy's arms floundered as he realized that swimming in the air really was not a thing.
The boy smacked down on the ship, face-planting as he effectively belly-flopped the landing next to Aquaman.
Keep your head down. Look out for any crew that are in trouble. Arthur's words echoed from inside the boy's head, as the Aquaman launched himself toward one of the small boats.
Pushing himself up from off the deck, the boy found himself gripped in a moment of vertigo as he slid with the sudden roll of the ship, listing in the open sea. Staggering, floundering, and possibly screaming, the boy struggled to find his balance walking upright on the moving deck of the ship. The sound of bullets whizzed by, men shouting in an indistinct language, as Arthur's orange and green form moved from boat to boat.
Holding a hand against the side of the ship's superstructure, the boy crouched down low as he traveled around where he imagined the crew would be. As he rounded the corner, a man wielding a rifle popped out of a doorway. For a moment, the two just stared at one another. Then the man leveled the gun at the boy.
"Ah!" the Aqualad yelped. Not at all sounding like a twelve year old girl. Nope, not even a little bit. Well, maybe a little bit.
Panicked, a sweep of the boy's arm to knocked the barrel away had the effect of smacking the weapon right out of the man's hand. As the rifle spun through the air, it was all that either could do to just watch in surprise as it sailed over the side and splashed down into the water. The pair then looked at each other again for a moment, before the modern pirate drew a machete.
Ducking to one side, the boy side-stepped his attack, then ducked as the man lashed out with a backhand slash that caused the machete to thwak hard against the side of the ship's structure. The man's arm came back for another strike, as Garth lunged forward with a shove.
This didn't go how either planned. In rapid succession, the two connected. Then they were no longer connected. Garth's foot slid out from under him, dropping the boy to his knees as he nearly face-planted a second time. The pirate, meanwhile, went airborne. Straight over the ship's railing.
The feeling of relief at no longer being attacked quickly drained aware to a feeling of impending doom at the sound of the man splashing into the sea. "Ah!" the boy yelped again, scrambling back to his feet and over to the side of the ship.
The pirate was floundering in the ocean, sputtering as he was lifted and pulled away by the seas. I can do this... the boy thought, as he brought his hands out in front of him.
The child's purple eyes burned with a vibrant, violet light. He could feel the tide. I can do this...
You will fail.
You're just a tadpole. You can't do anything.
Sucking in a breath of air, Garth pushed his hands forward. As he did, a swell lifted the pirate up in the ocean. Turning his palms inward, the boy then made a rowing motion, pulling his arms back toward the sea. As he did, the swell transformed into a wave that swept back toward the ship. Gritting his teeth, Garth planed his hand out as the crest of the wave reached the side of the ship.
The wave crashed into the side of the ship, slamming the pirate against the superstructure. Bouncing off the bulkhead, the pirate slapped down on the nonskid deck.
Garth winced, shying back at how that had been... a little more rough than what he'd had in mind.
But wait... it worked? Purple irises shone brightly as he child looked over the water-logged, semi-conscious pirate. It worked. IT WORKED! "WAHOO!" the boy shouted, jumping up into the air with a newfound energy.
The sound of something landing on the deck behind him caught the boy by surprise. An Arthur-sized shadow passing over him. Withering, the boy seemed to shrink as he anxiously turned to look back at the Aquaman.
Arthur brought a hand up to sweep his water-soaked hair from out of his face. Looking over the nervous, suspiciously guilty-looking, hand-wringing Aqualad and the unconscious pirate sleeping in a puddle on the deck, it was all that the man could do to give the lad a nod of respect. Good job, Tadpole, Arthur remarked simply, before moving the boy aside so that he could reach down and pick up the pirate, then wordlessly moved to carry the man back toward where he had tied up the others on the deck.
Garth just watched, wide-eyed and breathless.
It had worked. It had worked. And... had Aquaman said good job? To him? A nervous giggle slipped from the child's lips, only growing louder as the boy tried to hold it in. Grabbing hold of the front of his red shirt, the boy cautiously walked out toward where Arthur was being joined by the crew of the tanker. They were coming out to congratulate and thank their hero.
Shyly, the boy skirted back toward the shadows. He gave an involuntary jump when his back hit against the railing. Turning his head, he looked down the side of the tanker to where the sea looked inviting below.
Excited about your date with Donna?
Arthur's voice caused the boy to whip back around with a gasp. Then, he gave a scowl. Across the forecastle, Arthur was laughing with the crew, seemingly fitting right in with them. The man cast a spare glance over toward the boy.
It's not a date! Garth voiced in protest, an involuntary shudder passing across his body as he stuck his tongue out in disgust. A date? With a girl? Much gross. Many no thank you.
Wait, what day is it? the boy thought, panic taking hold as he suddenly remembered that Donna had said something about meeting some of the other kids that hung around the Justice League. They were going to some place called New York.
Which, why was it New York? Was there an Old York?
Now | Midtown, Manhattan, New York City
The boy's feet didn't reach all the way to the ground.
You do not belong at this table.
Awkwardly, the Prince of Idylls was squirming in his chair as he looked around the table. He wished that he could be invisible. It was just so amazing. The Kid Flash. The Batgirl. Wonder Girl. These were teenagers who were real heroes.
Not like him.
The boy was quiet as he watched the interaction between Wally and Barbara, taking cues from them as to how he was supposed to eat the pizza. Which, the hands was that it was okay to use hands. That suited Garth just fine. With all the stories that he'd heard from Arthur, about multiple spoons and needing to know the difference between which plates of food that they went with, Garth had some very peculiar ideas about what surface dweller table manners were like. But, these seemed like normal people eating normal flat bread. Which, was really quite good. They didn't have anything like this in Poseidonis. It actually reminded him of Themysciran flat breads, which were one of his favorite foods to get during the Isthmian Games or the Arrhephoria festival or Thesmophoria.
You definitely couldn't get flat bread at Thierna Na Oge's Thesmophoria celebration in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Atlantean youth reached across the table, pulling out a salt packet. Opening the contents into a glass of water, the boy swirled it around for a moment before he brought the glass up to drink. It wasn't sea water, but it helped to mask the taste of that fluoridated tap water that had been supplied by the waiter.
In retrospect, Garth wasn't sure whether he heard or felt the explosion. A tremor rattling the windows as the loud BOOM rolled like thunder. The boy choked as he had been mid-drink, spilling some water on himself as he looked around the table.