Red Rocket & Tom Atomic: 1970: Disaster in the Meadowlands, Prologue: A Quiet Afternoon

by Dan Swanson

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The tenth annual convention of the National Association of Licensed Private Investigators, Madison Square Garden, New York City, January, 1970:

Todd and Bonnie Drake were returning to their hotel room after a morning awards ceremony. Along with Tomas Thomas, they had received awards for their special contributions to NALPI as charter members, with special recognition to Bonnie as the group’s first president back in 1960. Their fourteen-year-old son Jack Drake (who turned fifteen next month), and their partner Tomas had decided to go on one of the group excursions that were part of the NALPI Convention package, a Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan. Todd and Bonnie were looking forward to some quality time alone together.

Jack hadn’t been interested in going on the tour until he saw who Tomas was escorting. Delia Lynn was a trim, attractive brunette from St. Louis, whose private investigator husband had been killed by gangsters ten years earlier. When the police weren’t able to track down his killers, she got into the private eye business herself and brought them to justice. Her fifteen-year-old daughter Janet, also a trim attractive brunette from St. Louis, was going to accompany them. Jack seemed to be sweet on Lynn, and all week long, in that shy, almost furtive way that most fourteen-year-old boys who were starting to become interested in girls but were still too embarrassed to admit it, he had continually found reasons to be in the same places as she.

In their hotel room, Todd noticed that the message light was flashing. He called the front desk, and found out that the call was from Martin Martine, who had left an urgent message for Todd or Bonnie. “Please check out the TV news ASAP!” was the message.

“Well, $#!*! There goes our quiet afternoon!” Todd complained. Bonnie smirked at him; she knew very well just how un-quiet that afternoon would have been. Martin Martine was the secret identity of the super-hero Shiva, and if he was calling them, it must have been something that required the attention of their own other identities.

Todd switched on the TV. It didn’t matter what channel he selected, since they were all covering the same story. Some madman had crashed the kickoff ceremonies for the New Jersey Meadowlands Sports Complex construction project, and, using some kind of ray-gun, had disintegrated all of the construction equipment and had slaughtered all the workmen who had been poised to begin the massive project.

The perpetrator was currently holding several dignitaries hostage, including United States Vice President Spirit O. Badnews, New Jersey Governor Richard Huge, and Pendleton Maru, owner of the New York Goliaths football team. He was threatening to kill his hostages and then explode a super-powerful nuclear device that would turn the Tri-State area, including New York City, into a flat sheet of shiny glass unless he received guaranteed assurances, signed by President Richard Trixem himself, that this pristine swampland would never be despoiled by construction.

“Marty must be busy with some other crisis. Guess I had better go bail him out!” Todd said as he started putting on his Red Rocket uniform.

“Hold on there, buster! You’ve got me ready for some action this afternoon, lover boy, and I’m gonna get it one way or the other! You go without me, and you might be very unhappy at what you find when you get back!”

Todd sometimes won arguments with Bonnie, but he knew this wasn’t going to be one of those times. “Oops! Did I say ‘I’? I meant ‘we,’ of course! Guess we better let Tomas know, too. You ready? Let’s go!”

Lady Victory’s costume didn’t provide her with the power of flight; she didn’t want it, and almost never needed it. Red Rocket adjusted his gravity regulator to lift her as well as himself. He floated out the window, and Lady Victory came behind. He took her right hand in his left, pointed ahead, and off they zoomed.

She did have a helmet radio in her costume, and immediately began trying to reach Tom Atomic. But there was no reason why he would have his helmet radio with him on the cruise. So Red Rocket made a quick sweep up the Hudson, then back down the Harlem and East Rivers, making sure to pass low over each Circle Line boat they spotted. With his telescopic vision he was able to make out Tomas and Jack on the third boat they overflew, and he made sure that everyone on that boat got a look at the two flying heroes. Then the two headed west at top speed. They had a madman to catch.

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