When one spends five hours cramped in the belly of a pint-sized pickle jar laughingly called a “submersible jetplane,” one’s mind begins to wander. There’s a certain tendency to see things that aren’t there. Cabin Fever.
My ears pounded. “There’s a gremlin on the wing!”
Sloughing between Puck (who seemed oddly at home in the miniature transport) and our camerawoman, Yvette Sumberland Jr., I toyed with the release hatch.
“That’s a hood ornament!” Puck quashed, as hands sprung from the cabin to slap me back down. Nachos spilled… everywhere.
The S.H.A.R.C. lurched incoherently through the air as we wrestled the controls. General Abernathy was clearly no General Prince — in terms of proper spending — Prince was a peach of a pug. Prince would have made sure that all of these outdated, oversized tea kettles were retired instead of— of— retrofitted. Conservation my Aunt Peachpug!
Abernathy could have had a fleet of truculent autogyros kruzzing through the enemy’s gates while they stood agog… instead, we’re zubbing toward blue ocean like a sick polliwog, ’cause that lug of a pug with his pug-fugly mug wouldn’t loosen his belt for a plea or a welt!
Snap. The ocean!
“Thank Zoroaster I didn’t open the escape hatch,” I murmured mundanely, the machine mincing through the murky marine meniscus. A bilious buoy lodged in our bilge, outputting an off-putting signal. “Still, I stand by General Prince’s truculent autogyros; their output rate is nearly double the gasoline and iridium intake in these bulky class-82 hot rods.”
Puck grabbed his chest, the joker! Yvette patted his shoulder while flipping on the projector lamp: what sights to behold!
Monstrous squids and their cephalopod brethren bleated our bow, peering at us strange invaders of their undersea utopia. Yvette cranked the camera, capturing curious cuttlefish in play and pickled sea cucumbers frolicking in their frothy flower beds. A bleached coral reef marked the end of these creatures’ domain and the border of a major industrial area.
Atlantis. We started to idle our engine, lest we break the speed limit of 200 knots. What? The S.H.A.R.C. may be obsolete and cramped, but its engine is second to none.
Statues with features unmarred by millenia of floral growth and erosion guided us to the central spi— the central spire. The castles of Europe were mere sandcastles compared to these not-quite ruins. And the people! Sweet Koala of Walla Walla!
A bizarre bazaar ran through the heart of the city; from our slow descent I could make out individuals, hawking wares from eel belts to steel boots. Bottom dwellers of every shape and stripe bartered and bantered; one could find anything here, for a price.
Above us swam gigantic blue whales with passenger boxes fastened to their bellies, gallant zeppelins of the sea. So fixated was I on their ultra-organic design and coordination that I failed to notice of our position until we were already in the decompression chamber. “Soi jove!” I chortled, struggling to remember my basic Atlantean.
We emerged from the transport, eager to stretch our lungs. Yvette panned around, soaking in the briny air. “Where’s the welcome wagon?”
“Maybe they think we’re ghosts,” I postulated.
Half a dozen Atlantian Guards marched through a side panel, armed with reverse-SCUBA suits and crested pikes. One held a container of three sea-blue vials which would allow underwater breathing for 24 hours, and a ceremonial Muppet head. They definitely didn’t think we were ghosts, but I wasn’t willing to rule out Zombie Theory.
“GRAAAAHHHH! ME NOT ZOMBIE! ME FRIEND!” I roared at the bewildered Atlantean.
Yvette and Puck each downed two of the vials while I pocketed the third. Atlantean anti-drowning potion is very hard to find, because its creators are so secretive about the key ingredient. Hint: it’s people. But under the guise of diplomacy, I now had a full vial at my disposal! All I had to do now was analyze it in a scientific setting, and I could produce 12-hour knock-offs and sell them by the gallon. The only adverse side-effects would be colic, melancholy and kneecap reversal.
But getting back on track, we followed the contingent through water-filled hallways, unlike any I’ve seen on Youtube. This facility was built for someone with gills. It was by the grace of a higher power that I’m anaerobic, and do not need oxygen to crack jokes.
“This Namor sounds lame-or!”
Puck glared, obviously amazed that he could hear me underwater. Any other kind of amazement was forbidden.
“So, what shall we chance this week, cadet?!”
“Well,” my dwarfish companion licked lightly his lilliputian lips— utterly unnecessary underwater. “We can either come up with plans to conquer the overworld, or come up with three awesome Olympic events.”
“Let’s make conquest an Olympic event, break it up into three parts and call it synergy,” I said with a smirk.
A pounding sound stopped us dead.
With a ka-boom, one bejeweled, rotund Atlantean burst open a sealed, ornate door. He grabbed me, violating my personal space! “That’s the kind of thinking that can get a man…” he grinned. “Promoted.”
“And who might you be?” Puck asked this burly jack-a-ninny with more politeness than was warranted.
“Who am I?!” he yelled. “Who am I?”
An unseen piano began firing off a continuous loop of orchestral notes.
“Who’s the most remarkable, extra-ordinary fellow?!” he pointed both thumbs at himself. “Namor, the sea-king!”
He poked me in the eye!
“I’m. A-fraid of. Nobody. Under the sea.”
He upturned my hat!
“All. The. Fish. Pay. Homage. To only me!”
Winding down, he rubbed his stomach, sporting an ear-to-ear grin. “Who’s the most phenomenal, extra-special kind of fellow?! Who?!”
“Gyrobo the robot,” I retorted, untucking his shirt from his pants.
“Who fills the water with notes so sour, and dares to challenge Namor’s power?!” He looked down at me.
“We’re here to help you, your majesty!” Puck explained, ready with a Powerpoint presentation should Namor ask us about our Olympic planning. Yvette circled us, shaking the camera slightly for that authentic camera-shaking effect that you just couldn’t get with CG filters.
“Noi soi! So, you must be here to help me with my aquatic ambitions…”
“We don’t ‘help,’ we ‘teach.’” I handed him a brochure. “Our planning committee is top-notch, whether you’re into Olympic planning or international conquest. We’ll turn you from a flounder to a quarter-pounder!”
Looking over the literature, he fleered. “Have you any references?”
“Just… Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.” I shed a bitter crocodile tear.
“Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar?”
The piano changed to a more somber yet upbeat tune.
“We ran his campaigns in the steppes’s outer plains,” Puck hesitantly broke in. “But with hearts full of woe, we were sadly too slow And he died on the blade of a whim.”
“Ah yes, dearest Puck, he was plain out of luck,” I added with full-breasted zeal. “But he picked that fight on that pitiless night, When he fell ’fore that Mameluke’s heel.”
“‘I hear you’ve talked smack behind of my back,’ He told Ivan Skavinsky Skavar. And when Ivan refused to refute this ill news, The brute drew a curved scimitar.”
“And what was the name of this man you disdain?” Asked Yvette with her voice calm and clear. “His name, if I must,” I said without fuss, “Is Abdul Abulbul Amir.”
“Do not refrain! I must ask what became Of Abdul Abulbul Amir,” King Namor gushed, then quickly he hushed, Mind racing with suspenseful fear.
“He, too, was destroyed, in Ivan’s last ploy, And now they both share a tomb. Most likely, I think,” Puck said with a wink, “That that’s all they wanted — a room!”
Namor clapped as we bowed. He wiped a tear from his eye, which I thought odd considering we were under thousands of feet of salt water. “Ah, me! Ah, my! Now, tell me your p-p-p-plans,” he shivered. We were far from both the sun and the Earth’s molten core.
“As I said… mwa ha ha! Synergy. You need separate plans of conquest, correct?”
“Correct!” He answered, holding up a bent index finger in a cartoon-like manner.
“And you need three Olympic events, jo pan?”
“Then I propose the following,” I tore off Puck’s shirt to reveal a comprehensive Olympic event proposal tattooed on his chest. He was such a team player, he might get a trophy. “Three events: Aerial Invasion, Land Invasion, and Naval Invasion. All participants will think they’re competing for gold medals, even as your mighty whale-zeppelins glide to victory over the overlanders!”
“Graz nijit! Would it work?”
“According to this context-less bar graph, the numbers just keep going up over time.”
“Then it’s settled.” He thumbed through the papers. “Solid.”
Yes. But… before we headed back to the surface world, I had one more thing to say.
“I must give you a hand,” I announced to the band “You’ve certainly pushed my case far: Whether harpoon or sword, you’ll never go bored With Namor or Ivan Skavar!”