Darin and Stan McIntyre could not believe their luck. The siblings had managed to steal an armored car full of payroll money meant for the Drake Foundation. It was a remarkable theft, since the two young men had never pulled off a robbery before. “Oh, man, Stan! This is like something from a McQueen flick!” shouted Darin. “We got the stuff of dreams back there! We ditch this baby and make off with the cash to our cabin in the woods, and then in a couple of months, we’ll be living like kings!”
Stan nodded. “It’s good to be as young, smart, and rich as we are!”
They drove rapidly and soon cleared the city limits. They turned off the road and entered a dark forest, where they parked and rushed out to unload their ill-gotten loot. “You see some kind of light? It’s getting bright and hot!” said Stan as he brushed sweat from his brow.
“Our futures are bright. Now get moving!” said Darin.
Then they gasped as a white light drew closer and blinded them. “Something is flying! A UFO!” whined Stan.
A feminine laugh dispelled that notion as the white light dimmed enough to reveal a woman. She hovered before their startled eyes and then landed. “You punks robbed the Drake Foundation,” she said. “I frown on that kind of antisocial behavior… unless it comes from me!”
Stan pulled out a gun and yelped as her mere proximity melted it to liquid. “Darin, she’s inhuman!” he cried.
Darin moved to flee as she turned and waved one muscled arm toward his path. Instantly, a bolt of white heat sliced through the woods and brought a tree crashing down in his path. “Naughty boy! You must not realize that what I can do to wood can also be done to your skeleton!” she said as she flew closer and knocked him through the air.
Stan dropped to his knees and pleaded with her. She loomed over him, although he was over six feet tall himself. She was powerfully built, and her costumed body rippled with muscles. She wore a blue and gold costume with an atomic emblem on the chest and a red fin on her hood.
“You… you’re dressed like that JSA guy — the Atom!” gulped Stan as she lifted him in the air with one hand and pressed her lips to his. He melted to bone and then to pulp as she wiped her mouth and flew toward the truck in a nimbus of white light.
“Of course I am — the Atom is my lover!” she declared.
Janice Kane had been chief of police in the college comunity of Calvin City for over fifteen years. She looked as young as a woman half her age because of her intensive regiment of diet and exercise. She was capable and respected and had never encountered even a hint of sexism. No one messed with “Killer” Kane, as she was called by her men. She ran a hand through her short, upswept blonde hairdo and sighed. “We’ve have three robberies in the last week. All have involved superhuman power, and every site has become radioactive after the robbery. The one witness we have claims that she saw a woman dressed like the Atom. I’ve called the JSA Headquarters, and they deny his involvement. He should be here soon to make a statement.”
A fat cop named Len Blush said, “Do you think this is some gal sidekick gone bad, or maybe one of his kids turned crooked?”
Janice stood up and said, “We know nothing about his family life. He has operated here since the early ’40s and possesses a so-called ‘atomic punch.’ The female perp dresses like him. That’s enough for us to ask him about her, but hardly enough to bring charges or allegations against a national hero like Atom. No JSA member can be lightly accused of anything.”
“Yeah, but didn’t Atom go mad a while back?” said Blush. “He was on a rampage at a power plant. (*) And that big guy in Infinity Inc. mimics his atomic motif, too. Could be that runt has a litter of glow-in-the-dark brats!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Atomic Dreams, Nuclear Nightmares,” Infinity Inc. #8 (November, 1984).]
At that moment, the Atom entered and stood behind Officer Blush. He crossed his muscular arms and waited. “I do! They’re names are Sparky, Killo, and Volt. Volt’s the youngest. She’s getting her own fusebox any day now!” he said with a laugh.
Blush jumped back and whirled around. “Sorry, pal. I was just… just…!”
The Atom eased him aside and said, “You were shooting off your big mouth. Now, if you’ll hit the pavement, I’ll talk to an adult!” Blush blushed and ran out.
Janice Kane smothered a laugh and asked the Atom to sit down. “Atom, please forgive Blush,” she said. “You can understand why he’d make the connection. You know about this woman in a copy of your costume?”
The Atom frowned. “Look, lady, if you dressed in a harem outfit, it would not necessarily make you kin to Barbara Eden! I have no idea why some super-powered woman would copy my costume.”
Kane leaned forward. “I know you aren’t a criminal. I hoped you’d help us catch her and eliminate any possible doubts the folks on the street might have about you.”
The Atom shook his head. “Sure I will. Sorry if I bit your head off. My height is not the only thing short about me. My temper is short, too!”
Kane nodded. “I noticed. She has hit places for large amounts of cash. Her radioactivity makes me feel a guy like you could track her. How about doing what my force can’t do?”
The Atom stood up and said, “I appreciate your candor. I’ll try to track her down and solve the mystery.”
That night, as Al Pratt, alias the Atom, worked in his lab and frowned over a small device, a pretty blonde wearing a black teddy entered and shook her head in irritation. “Al, come out of the lab!” said his wife Mary. “It’s after midnight! I’m feeling a bit neglected.”
Al grunted and continued to work for another few minutes. “Sorry, Mary. Almost got this thing done. Now, you were saying?” he said as he glanced up to see an empty doorway. Another door slammed shut down the hall and indicated that Mary James Pratt was more than a little upset with her husband.
Man, I’ve been so busy with my classes and the JSA that I’ve been leaving Mary and Grant out of my life for too long, he mused. I hope I can sweet-talk her into letting me into our room. That couch is too small, even for a guy my size.
The next morning, Al woke up next to his wife with a contented smile on his face. He had indeed managed to charm Mary into forgiving his neglect. He hoped to use his device to track the energy emitted by his female foe and end her career quickly, so he could take his wife out to dinner that night and maybe go bowling with their adopted son, Grant.
“I’d like to think this woman has a pattern to her crimes, like spelling her name in the targets she hits or something, but that old plot was getting smelly back in the 1940s,” he said. “I guess she robs for money, and that’s all. Her costume and powers may be all that lift her above the common crook.”
Mary lifted her head from off his chest and said, “Huh? Shop-talk again? I’m getting jealous of this mystery-woman.”
Al laughed and kissed her. “No need for that. She’s heading for a prison cell with lead lining when I catch her!”
Mary rolled over and propped herself up on her elbows. “Al, could she have any connection to Albert’s late grandfather?” she asked.
“Let’s see,” said Al. “Terry Curtis — or Kurtzberger, before he changed his name — was a blackmailed scientist who reluctantly adopted the costumed identity of Cyclotron in the ’40s in order to get funds to cure his daughter of her own radiation sickness. When we fought, his energies altered my metabolism and eventually produced my own super-powers years later. He died, and I helped raise his baby, who in turn later married and gave birth to our godson, Albert. Albert is in Infinity Inc. with other JSA kids. My current costume and the one this woman is wearing are both based on the one Curtis wore back then.”
Mary frowned. “I’m your wife. I know all this. I just meant, could Terry Curtis have had other children?”
Al grimaced. “Sorry about the recap bit, honey. It helps me think to talk out loud like that. I don’t think old Curtis had any kids except for Terri, Albert’s mom. Remember that he was a good parent in his way and wanted to keep Terri safe if possible. If he’d had other kids before her, he’d have been worried about them, too. Plus, they would lack his nuclear powers, anyway.”
The next morning found the Atom driving around the city on a motorcycle. He was trying to locate any unusually high level of radiation, but his efforts were failing badly. Nothing is showing up on the detector, he mused. She’s not active now, or at least she must not emit radiation continually.
He stopped as a man in a dark suit waved him down from the sidewalk. “Mr. Atom?” he said. “There’s a crime or something going down on Thirty-Sixth Street. The scanner just announced it!”
The Atom smiled. “Thanks for the tip, pal!” He raced off and hoped to find the mystery-woman and not a group of petty thugs. Nice to see that ordinary citizens still trust me, he thought. That cop a couple days back wanted to lock me up in spite of my years of service to this city. I guess it takes all kinds!
The detector beeped as he screeched onto the street in question. Sure enough, he saw the costumed woman blasting away as she melted the walls of a bank. “Hold it, sister!” he called. “Your little shopping spree ends here!”
The powerfully built woman was dressed in a copy of his costume, and she smiled eagerly as he saw the tiny titan. “My love, I’ve wanted to meet you for years! I’ve dedicated my life to you!” she said with a fervor both sincere and frightening in its intensity.
“I appreciate a fan, but I don’t know you,” said the Atom. “You have to come with me. You’re dangerous to those around us!”
“Call me Cyclotron!” she said. “It’s a name that shows my desire to be connected to you!” She flew closer, and her reddish hair swept back from beneath the finned hood. She glowed whitely as her energy pulsed. “I have to steal in order to fund my experiments. I need them to make myself worthy of you!”
The Atom frowned. He felt her energy and knew it was deadly to anyone except for himself. He had displayed immunity to such radiation before, but he hated to imagine what the blinding fire could do to an ordinary person. “Let’s talk this over. What’s your real name? Why do you admire me so?” he said as he inched closer. This was no time for his occasional rashness. He was a seasoned pro and could play it cool when necessary.
She smiled and landed before him. She towered over him and drew closer. “I grew up here. As Calvin City’s champion, you were and are my idol,” she said. “I realized that we were meant to be together, and I used my gifts for science to acquire powers worthy of you!”
The Atom grabbed her wrist. “About those powers, turn them off. I can’t let you hurt folks.”
She laughed. “That is one of the many things I love about you! Your concern for inferior creatures. We children of the atom should be ruling them, not protecting them!”
“I think you misjudge me,” said the Atom. “I would rather die than see anyone else be hurt. Now, tone down the energy!” She kissed him suddenly, and he felt a massive surge of energy. “My atomic punch! It’s releasing energy without my hitting anything. She’s setting off my powers by her proximity!” he gasped as he pushed her backward.
A blinding glow swept across his vision, and he bent low to try to contain the explosive power that erupted from their struggling figures. He shook his head slowly and sat up. He saw a scene of horror. All of the buildings on the busy commercial district called Thirty-Fifth Street were now rubble.
“No! That explosion leveled the street!” he gasped as he rubbed his eyes. “Can’t feel any radiation, but the sheer force must have knocked down the buildings. It was after business hours, and the cops had cleared the scene of battle, so I pray nobody got hurt, but still, I can’t stand the idea that my powers were partially to blame!” He scanned the scene; there was no sight of Cyclotron.
The Atom spent the night with the police. He made his statement and took some comfort in learning that no people had been harmed, nor had the radiation of the blast actually been evident. Cyclotron had absorbed that aspect of their energies in herself and fled in blissful delight.
Janice Kane shook her head. “I know you did all you could to stop her, but even without the radiation, that kind of explosion could destroy the city. I need your word that you can either stop her or that you will leave Calvin City. I can’t risk your having another encounter with her. You could do more harm than good.”
The Atom jumped to his feet. “I’ve defended this city for over forty years. How could you ask me to leave? I’ll stop Cyclotron and prove to you just how much you need the Atom!” He stalked out of the office and kicked himself mentally for his anger. Still her words, though justified, hurt him. “I am not a threat to anyone. I’ll prove it by bringing Cyclotron in,” he vowed.