Worst Case Scenario

Family Affairs

Aqualad reached out with his mind, sensing a pipe full of water in the wall next to him. Now that he had the waterbearers, he had a chance of summoning it. Of course, Black Manta would shoot him before he had time for that.

And then there was the tiny matter of a little revelation.

"You are not my father" said Aqualad. He believed this was one of those moments that Robin referred to as 'cliché', but he didn't care.

"I'm sorry Kaldur, but you know that's not true."

Aqualad's tattoos glowed and he slammed one of the waterbearers into the electric barrier behind him. Using all his focus, he channeled the electricity through him, creating a lightning bolt that arced across the room, striking Black Manta.

The mercenary cried out as the electricity surged through his armor. Stumbling back to the door, he just barely managed to replace his helmet as Aqualad threw all his power into the water pipe. There was a creaking as the pipe twisted before the water burst through it and the plaster wall and poured into the room.

Focusing all his fury, Aqualad unleashed the water in a concentrated blast, knocking Manta through the door and into the hallway.

"My father's name is Calvin Durham" said Aqualad, trying to contain his emotions. "He worked for you as a spy, until he met my mother."

"Sha'lain'a" said Black Manta, getting to his feet. "Still as beautiful as ever, I assume?"

Kaldur willed the water coating the floor into a fist, smashing it into Manta and knocking him down again.

"Did you ever check the official records, Kaldur? Did you notice that you were born sixteen years ago, and yet Durham only defected right before then? Didn't you wonder where I got the knowledge needed to genetically alter a human to have gills in the first place? Your mother helped us. She loved me."

"Liar!" shouted Kaldur, striking Manta again. Two sharp hard-water swords formed in his hands.

"It's the truth. In fact, she's the reason I learned of Atlantis in the first place."

"No!" cried Kaldur, bringing his swords down at Manta's head. The mercenary rolled out of the way and leaped to his feet.

"Your mother always wished to spend time in the surface world" said Manta, backing up and dodging another slash. "But the old king was the last of a rather xenophobic line, who had forbidden contact with the outside world. Of course, Sha'lain wasn't the type to take no for an answer. Eventually she snuck out of Shayeris and made it to land. And there, she met me."

Kaldur could feel his anger running out of control, but he no longer cared. Electricity sparked through his swords as he unleashed another fury of blows, which Manta either parried or dodged.

"We fell in love, and she told me so much about what was happening beneath the waves. Do you know how much knowledge Atlantis has kept from the world for centuries? Science, magic, medicine? Do you know how many lives around the world could be saved if they weren't so greedy? If they didn't have to keep it all to themselves?"

At this point, Kaldur was out of words and simply roared and charged again. Black Manta dodged his swipe, grabbing his wrist, striking his elbow and flipping him over his shoulder. The hard-water swords dissolved as Kaldur lost his concentration.

"Sha'lain went back when that fool Aquaman came to power, thinking he might be different, but there was no change! Atlantis stayed isolated from the world, trying their best to ignore all the suffering on the surface!"

Kaldur rolled out of the way of a blast from Manta's gauntlet. "King Orin does help the surface!" he shouted, lunging at his opponent. "Why do you think he became Aquaman? Why he helped found the Justice League?"

"Ah, the Justice League" said Black Manta, trading punches with his son. "Such an impressive contribution to the world. One Atlantean fights crime on the surface. Well, two, counting you. But I didn't finish my story, did I?"

Twin energy beams fired from the eyes of Manta's helmet, striking Aqualad in the chest and sending him spinning down the corridor.

"Sha'lain returned to me and I decided to do what had to be done. She didn't know, of course. I'd had some scientists examine her before, and they'd found a way to replicate the process; to allow humans to breath underwater."

Aqualad put his fist into the water pooling on the floor. His tattoos glowed as he poured electricity into it, traveling through the puddle and into Black Manta's feet.

Manta grunted and stumbled a bit but remained standing. "The suit's Faraday shielded, you know" he said, firing another pair of eyebeams at Kaldur, who barely rolled out of the way as the concrete exploded.

Oddly, Aqualad found himself calming down, the anger fading away, clearing his head. This was good, since he was officially out of magical energy. He had only his fists and his wits now.

"So I built this suit, gathered a crew and took the name Black Manta. Durham was the first one to volunteer for the procedure, since he had no home to go back to. It worked, and I sent him down to Poseidoneis with Sha'lain. I didn't know she was pregnant then. Durham was supposed to disable the main defenses so we could attack, but he betrayed us at the last moment. I take it you know the rest."

Aqualad lunged again. Manta fired but Kaldur was expecting it and had changed his attack midway, ducking low and spinning around. The energy beam flew over his head and his foot connected with Manta's chest, sending him to the ground.

Kaldur punched Manta's helmet, once, twice, three times. He grabbed the helmet and ripped it off, revealing Manta's face. The man raised his hands in mock surrender.

"What are you going to do, Kaldur? Kill me? Your own father? Aquaman would be proud, wouldn't he? You're a loyal soldier, after all."

Kaldur punched him again.

"Of course, the Justice League wouldn't like that very much, would they? What about your friends up here? Would they agree with you? Or would they ever trust you to control yourself again, once they see what you can do?"

Kaldur drew back his hand again, but it froze. Conflicting emotions swelled up inside of him.

"What are you, Kaldur? A soldier or a hero? Your choice."

Kill him said a little voice inside Kaldur's head. He is your king's greatest enemy. You have killed his men before, have you not?

That was in battle said another voice. This would be murder.

Kaldur looked down at the emotionless face before him, the one so very much like his own.

"Here" said Manta. "I'll make it easy for you"

And then he jammed the taser built into his glove into Kaldur's side, pouring tens of thousands of volts into the boy. This was followed by a hard punch to the jaw.

Kaldur collapsed.

"Too bad" said Manta, getting to his feet.

"We would have worked well together."


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