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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 dayís 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. "Weíre far enough out; either that, or itís a huge school of something. Tell the guys to go ahead and drop the nets, port side, and letís 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, itís big, and weíre almost right over it. We could get our whole dayís 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 boatís 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 vesselís 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.

"Itís 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. "Itís on a bearing straight for the city. Itís not in a big hurry, though; itís fast, but itís like itís 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. Weíve positioned all of them out of its direct path, but within striking range of their guns. Theyíre keeping pace with it. Itís not hard to get eyes on, thatís for sure. More ships are en route, but we doubt theyíll get there before the thing makes landfall. Given past experiences, though, we donít 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 heís around...or even on the planet."† And that was always a big Ďifí.

There was only one of him, after all.

"Both the mayorís office and the stateís governor have been alerted," he said. "The Metropolis police are evacuating the waterfront areas as we speak, but there isnít time for a full evacuation. No one outside the Ďneed-to-knowí circle is being told; there would be a mass panic." Which one was worse, there, he couldnít actually say.

General Gatsby, the Army representative, spoke up, then; "The governor has called up the National Guard; theyíre setting up a perimeter for ten blocks around the evacíd area. They have tanks, artillery and air support, such as choppers and drones. Like the admiral said, though, we donít expect to have much, if any, effect," he said grimly. "Look at what that thing did to San Francisco,"

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Genre:Science Fiction
Type:Medium length story
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