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#1: The Challenge of Clayfish
By Mikel Midnight and Dale Glaser


It was in response to a call from Coast Guard Commissioner Gordon that Batman found himself at SEASTAR Labs in Queensland Park Borough, near Metropolis Harbor. He entered into a discussion with its director, Dr. Jenet Klyburn. "So can you describe to me what was stolen?"

"We've been studying tectonic activity, and have one of the world's largest and most powerful computers for analysing the data," she informed him. "Or should I say … had. It was stolen last night by this man … though we have no idea how he was able to enter our facility, much less move the computer so easily."

As she activated the video monitor replay, Batman observed the criminal at work. "SEASTAR has been very helpful to me in the past," he said, "and you may have been so again … from reports, this super-criminal has been active elsewhere; he stole equipment from an energy company doing deep-sea oil-drilling, and stole some experimental weapons from a military submarine. This is the first clear image I have of him." The man on the screen had a strong, dimpled jaw line, and black hair with a kiss-curl over his forehead. He was clad in green tights, finned at the calves, and wore an orange bodyshirt which was scaled in a manner reminiscent of many undersea creatures.

As they discussed the case, two of the other scientists working the lab came running, breathless, into the room. "Dr. Klyburn! and ... oh … Batman!"

Klyburn turned to the new arrivals, "Batman, I believe you may have met Professor Bridgette Crosby and Doctor Sarah Charles? How can I help you, Bridgette?"

Crosby looked between the two of them, hesitating a moment. "This may be something Batman would want to see, too." She activated the external monitors, to show an immense silver object descending from the skies, landing outside Gotham Harbor. Its design vaguely resembled a humanoid skull, with numerous tentacles at its base.

The Darksea Detective scowled, "This certainly bears investigating. If you will excuse me, Dr. Klyburn." Quickly, he headed to the portal which SEASTAR used for its undersea investigations. He attached his breathing apparatus and dove smoothly into the water. There, feeding, was Robin the Squid Wonder, the masked cephalopod who had been his faithful companion and closest ally in his war against crime. "To the Batfish, Robin!"

The two slid into the midnight black miniature submarine, sleek as any creature of the night, and headed to the location of the apparently alien craft. He slowed as he arrived, seeing a hatch open invitingly. "Stay with the Batfish, old chum," he said, "I am going to greet the welcoming committee."

He took his bat-trident in hand and swam towards the entrance, coming up through an airlock. "Greetings, Batman," said a voice. Warily, he removed his breathing apparatus, to inhale Earth-standard air.

The speaker was humanoid, bald and green-skinned, with a network of circuits engraved on his skull. He wore a close-fitting outfit of pink and white. "I am known throughout the galaxy as Brainiac, and I have come in search of an alliance."

Batman's eyes took in the interior of the alien craft. "An alliance, you say? On what terms?"

Brainiac waved his hand behind him, and a three-dimensional image appeared on the wall, featuring a likeness of the same criminal whom Batman had been discussing at SEASTAR. "I have travelled the spaceways battling a criminal from the planet Valair, who goes by the name of Kal-El. So far, I have been unable to defeat him, but when I monitored your world's radiographic transmissions I learned of your fame as a crime-fighter. I hoped that together, we may be able to subdue him."

Batman watched the three-dimensional image, seeing documentation of the apparent destruction left by Kal-El in his wake. "He has been causing much devilment in the cities I protect," he said, "and if he really is an alien, I would welcome any help you can give me."

Brainiac nodded. "Koko?" he said. In response, a small white antennaed simian appeared in the room, carrying with him a shoebox-sized container. He clambered up onto Brainiac's shoulder and handed him the box. "Thank you, Koko," the alien said, and then handed the box over to Batman.

Batman opened it easily, to see a pair of armored gloves which glowed an iridescent green. "What are these, exactly?"

"I had long assumed that Kal-El was a native of the planet Valair, where he originally presided," Brainiac replied. "However I have recently discovered he may be a survivor of the lost planet Krypton. These gauntlets are constructed from a rare K-metal, made from radioactive remnants of his home planet. I believe they may weaken him enough that he may be subdued."

"Thank you, Brainiac," Batman said. "My planet is in your debt."

Any further words from Brainiac were interrupted by a red alert light which began swirling and beeping on the ship's central console. "It appears our common foe has been located," he said.

Batman worked on interpreting the map with its alien coordinates as they displayed Kal-El's location. "There are many deep-sea endangered species there," he said, "Kal-El appears to be poaching them."

"You had best go quickly then," Brainiac assured him.

As the Batfish sped towards its new location, Robin examined the gauntlets curiously, turning them over and over in his tentacles. "I will have to analyse its properties carefully," Batman mused aloud to him. "I may have to duplicate the elements in my laboratory in case any other rogue Kryptonians arrive on Earth."

They arrived to see Kal-El trawling some of the deepest sections of the ocean with a strangely woven net. He turned as if sensing their presence. "You came from Brainiac's ship," he said.

Batman wondered how he knew that, but continued on, disembarking from the Batfish. "Yes, we did. I suggest you surrender quietly." He raised his trident, pointing it at the other.

Kal-El shook his head. "I have other plans, I'm afraid."

Batman let the trident float free, and Robin wrapped his tentacles around it as the former swam closer. Robin sent the trident hurtling towards their opponent, but it bounced off his skin without affect. Kal-El turned around and glanced at the floating artefact. Suddenly the water around it began to boil and the metal of the trident began to melt into slag. Batman could feel the increased temperature from where he was, and understood the true danger of the threat he was dealing with.

"Let's see if you have any more tricks up your sleeve," he said, and opened the box containing the K-metal gauntlets, slipping the gloves onto his fists.

Kal-El gasped, as if in pain from the mere proximity of the radioactive substance. "What are you … " he began to swim away quickly, only to find his way blocked by the Batfish, Robin at its helm.

Finally, he turned and began to fight. Batman could sense the immense power the man contained, but he seemed to grow weaker by the moment, and his skin began to take on a greenish hue. Finally, he seemed to fall into unconsciousness.

Robin approached warily, and began to tow Kal-El over to the Batfish. "I think I had best keep hold of our guest," Batman said, wrapping his mailed fists around the man's shoulders. "You can take us back to Brainiac's ship."

Brainiac was relieved and grateful when the space-criminal was returned to him, and full of praise for Batman abilities as a detective. As they returned to their underwater Batcave, however, Robin noticed that he seemed in a pensive mood. The squid tapped his shoulder questioningly.

"When my parents, oceanographers Thomas and Martha Wayne, were slain by petty diver Joe Chill, I vowed to devote my life to the prevention of undersea crime," Batman reflected. "But I have misgivings about the general way Kal-El acted when confronted; not very like the criminals I have encountered in the past. Given the level of power he evidently possessed, he could have defeated us easily before I had an opportunity to use Brainiac's gifts."

He approached a top-secret communications device. "Seagrin?"

The man's bearded, smiling face appeared in the viewscreen. "Batman! I am honoured, masked one. How can I assist you?"

"Your people have a database of alien planets, don't you? If you have any information on a planet called Valair, can you transmit it to me?"

Seagrin nodded, "That ought to be quite possible. I must consult our keeper of information, but I will soon send you what we have."

Several hour later, Batman was back at SEASTAR laboratories. "Dr. Klyburn," he said, "I presume your laboratories have some sort of x-ray detector devices?"

"Of course," Klyburn replied.

"When your computer was stolen, did your detectors pick up any stray x-ray radiation?"

"Let me see," she said. She took him through the labs, checking the taped records of machine after machine. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Why?"

Batman looked thoughtful. "I had been told that your thief was from the planet Valair," he said, "but Valairian criminals are tattooed with a mark that emits x-rays so they can be detected by their law-enforcement officials. Most of this Kal-El's crimes seem like they were perpetrated by an earth-criminal with insider knowledge, and not an alien criminal." He looked over at Klyburn with an intense expression. "Can you take me back to the crime scene?"

She guided him back to the computer lab, and he assessed the room carefully. Magnifying glass in hand, he started to examine the area in which the computer had been located. A slight brownish-grey smear caught his attention, and he swiped a gloved fingertip against it, rubbing it between his fingers. "Clay," he muttered, "and familiar-looking clay at that." He removed a sampling vial from his utility belt. "Thank you, Doctor, you've been most helpful."

Brainiac's starship still lay on the ocean floor, and the Batfish approached it in stealth mode. Batman examined the mechanisms which activated the entrance hatch, and with the help of Robin's dextrous tentacles, was able to open it. Silently, the Darksea Detective entered the alien vessel.

He bypassed the control room he had visited earlier, and made his way to the security cells where he had deposited Kal-El into Brainiac's care. On the way he passed what appeared to be an auxiliary control room, where he saw the figure sitting at a control board. He approached from behind, and kicked the seat the man was on, causing him to spin around with a startled, "Wha … ?"

Batman looked him up and down. "You seem pretty comfortable for a captive, Kal-El."

The man's eyes widened. "I was able to escape, and was, um … "

Batman almost sighed. "Give it up, Clayfish."

The mutated, sentient sea creature known as Clayfish emitted a low, rumbling growl. His body began to shift and change into a deadly land shark, and he lunged at Batman.

Batman stepped aside, allowing his opponent to become entangled in his cloak. He wrapped his arms around the shark's neck, muscles straining, then recoiled with a shout of pain when Clayfish morphed into an electric eel.

Clayfish morphed once again, becoming a mobile jellyfish, and scrambled over to the prone Batman with stinging tentacles, when the latter pulled a cryogenic cartridge from his utility belt. He stabbed his opponent with twin spines from the bat-shaped cartridge at the end of it, and Clayfish stiffened in place and crumbled to the ground.

Batman rose to his feet and brushed himself off, carefully. He didn’t need any miniature clods of clay acquiring sentience and spying on him for the primary Clayfish mind. "Now to locate the real article," he thought to himself.

Batman, a voice said in his head.

He furrowed his brow. Who is this, and what are you doing in my skull?

This is Kal-El; we met before.

You're telepathic? Why did you not speak to me earlier this way?

Brainiac anticipated my attempts to do so, and installed screening devices in his gloves. I assume you saw through his ruse. Would you mind terribly coming to free me?

Direct me to your location. The voice faded, to be replaced with a set of images of the interior of Brainiac's starship. Batman was able to follow the mental pathway, until he came to a hallway including what appeared to be a high-tech dungeon. Kal-El was there, skin tinted green and obviously in pain, due to a lump of K-metal gauntlets. Batman withdrew his sonic lockpick, and released the other from his shackles. The man crumbled to the ground, and Batman extended an arm, dragging him out of the dungeon.

With distance, Kal-El's natural color began to assert itself. "Thank you, friend," he said. "As soon as I can get into open air, I will be myself again."

Batman nodded, and aided the man towards the hatchway. "Can you tell me what is going on here? Who is this Brainiac, and what are his intentions? Why the ruse?"

"He is a living machine, of sorts," Kal-El said. "He collects whole cities, shrinking them down somehow and installing them in climate-controlled bottles. I've pursued him across the galaxy, foiling his plans when I can. Finally, I damaged his ship, and he crashed down onto your planet. He must have made contact with some of your local criminal element, and bargained to have them steal supplies to repair his ship in exchange for … well I am sure he offered to install them as rulers."

"So then he faked another arrival near Metropolis Harbour," Batman mused, "in order to enlist local support to defeat you. From the sounds of it, he hadn't managed to do so on his own. So … what were you doing with the net? I assumed you were poaching endangered wildlife."

"Brainiac uses biochemicals from certain species of fish brains to make mind-control gas to use on local lifeforms … he would have used it on you in order to prevent you from finding out the truth before his ship was fully repaired."

"I see allying myself with that cretinous Clayfish was a mistake," Brainiac admitted as he entered the room. "He had his uses, but I never ought to have encouraged him to continue our relationship with promises of dominion over this small planet." He held a futuristic-looking blaster in his right hand. "So, now I will finish you both off myself, as I ought to have the first time."

Kal-El began a retort and Batman smiled calmly, when suddenly the ground underneath the starship shifted, throwing them all off-balance. "What in the seven stars is that?" Brainiac shouted.

"That," Batman said, "is the Justice League Aquatic." He bolted for the external hatch, beckoning Kal-El to follow him. They exited to see Dolphin, Little Mermaid, Man-Fish, and Seagrin assailing the external hull.

Robin swam over to greet Batman. "Good work, old chum," Batman said to the heroic squid, "summoning our allies may have just saved our lives."

Kal-El flexed his muscles. "I can feel the light of your planet's yellow sun permeating my system, healing the damage done by exposure to the K-Metal and restoring me to my normal strength." He joined in the fray, and Batman's eyes widened as he witnessed the strength and speed displayed before him as the alien evaded and destroyed the ship's defences. He thought the man's prowess may exceed even that of Seagrin of the New Gods.

Finally, Brainiac's ship lurched into motion, retreating from the attack. The heroes watched as it sped skywards, wobbling unevenly. Kal-El grinned, "I think it will be a while before he approaches this planet again."

Batman set a hand on the man's shoulder. "Thank you for helping us, despite our … awkward first encounter, I ought not have been so easily misled by a machine."

"You have a true warrior's spirit," Seagrin said as he approached. "You would not be unwelcome in the halls of New Genesis, I think, and would be welcome to join our company."

Kal-El stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I am still needed in the starways … Brainiac has been defeated here but he is still capable of much mischief." He gaze fell on Dolphin speculatively. "But I can see your planet has a lot to offer, and I have never before known the company of others of my kind. I will certainly return to visit … and perhaps, once the stealer of cities has been defeated once and for all, I would be honored to join your Justice League."


NOTES:

Batman is from the Elseworlds 80-Page Giant

Kal-El is from Action Comics #314 although the information about the criminals of Valair-1 (or the Valair of the universe of Earth-1) comes from the Supergirl story in Action Comics #364.

I am aware that the Coast Guard doesn't have 'Commissioners.'

The DC Universe of characters, which includes 90% of all the ones written about on this site, their images and logos are all legally copyrighted to DC Comics and it's parent company of Time/Warner. We make absolutely no claim that they belong to us. We're just a bunch of fans with over active imaginations and a love of writing.