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Superman: Creature of the Atomic Age
(© Robert Denham)

Page 1

Dedicated to the memory of Noel Niell
The first--and the best--Lois Lane.

5:45 am; Atlantic Ocean

An hour and a half out of the docks, the sun just clearing the horizon in slightly-overcast skies, the fishing boat FULL CAPACITY  bobbed in choppy waters, slowly trolling, looking for the day’s first catch.

"What the hell is that?" Mike Franke asked, indicating the blip on the fishfinder readout. "Look at the size of that reading."

"Could be a whale," Derek Morgan, owner and captain of the fishing boat, replied off-handedly. "We’re far enough out; either that, or it’s a huge school of something. Tell the guys to go ahead and drop the nets, port side, and let’s see what goes."

The three-man crew did as told, and the heavy nets sank into the foamy wave caps. Morgan smiled; "Whatever it is, it’s big, and we’re almost right over it. We could get our whole day’s catch, right here. Finish up early and get on home for the weekend."

Franke nodded brightly. It did happen.

Suddenly, the waters parted violently, and a deafening, unnatural roar filled the still, salt-tinged air. As the roar faded, only the sound of the eternal waves slapping against the hull cut the silence.

Even the gulls hitching a ride on the boat’s rigging were speechless.

For a moment. They suddenly took to the air, squawking raucously, fleeing in alarm and heading in the direction of shore.

The five men stood on the vessel’s worn, rusty metal deck, staring upward in dumbfounded terror.

It was not a whale.

It definitely was not a large school of fish.

The floating wreckage of the FULL CAPACITY was found almost two weeks later, by a Coast Guard vessel. No bodies were among the debris.

10:32am, Washington, DC

The group was assembled in the Situation Room at the White House.

"It’s fifty-eight miles out to sea from Metropolis, at the moment, Mr. President." Admiral Wilkins advised the assembled group, which included, besides the president, the other members of the Joint Chiefs, and a scientist named Doctor Vance, supposedly an expert on this particular problem. "It’s on a bearing straight for the city. It’s not in a big hurry, though; it’s fast, but it’s like it’s taking its time, somehow; keeping a bearing on something. We expect it to reach the coast within three hours, give or take."

"How many ships do you have in place, admiral?" the president asked tensely, gazing at the satellite image on the overlarge screen.

"Four, right now;" Wilkins answered, "three destroyers and a carrier. We’ve positioned all of them out of its direct path, but within striking range of their guns. They’re keeping pace with it. It’s not hard to get eyes on, that’s for sure. More ships are en route, but we doubt they’ll get there before the thing makes landfall. Given past experiences, though, we don’t think anything we have will have any direct effect on it, anyway. But then," he added, "...Metropolis does have its own defense."

The president nodded, uncertainly. "If he’s around...or even on the planet."  And that was always a big ‘if’.

There was only one of him, after all.

"Both the mayor’s office and the state’s governor have been alerted," he said. "The Metropolis police are evacuating the waterfront areas as we speak, but there isn’t time for a full evacuation. No one outside the ‘need-to-know’ circle is being told; there would be a mass panic." Which one was worse, there, he couldn’t actually say.

General Gatsby, the Army representative, spoke up, then; "The governor has called up the National Guard; they’re setting up a perimeter for ten blocks around the evac’d area. They have tanks, artillery and air support, such as choppers and drones. Like the admiral said, though, we don’t expect to have much, if any, effect," he said grimly. "Look at what that thing did to San Francisco,"

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:Science Fiction
Type:Medium length story
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