The Atom: Not Another Pleasant Valley Sunday, Chapter 2: A New Start

by Libbylawrence

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“Juliet! It’s me — the Atom!” he yelled.

Hesitating, Juliet Thayer finally let the other shoe drop from her hand. Adam Cray noticed that her outfit and her hairstyle were different from her previous appearance. “The Atom! I read that Uncle Ed knew you, but I never imagined I’d really meet you.”

The Atom frowned and said, “Hold it! We met hours ago, or did we?”

“I’ve been out of town, and I just got back,” explained Juliet. “I had to walk here from the terminal. I couldn’t imagine why Uncle Ed didn’t meet me! No one answered the phone, either.”

“Miss Thayer, I have a long story to tell you,” said the Atom. “Can I assume you won’t toss another high heel at my head?”

She blushed and retrieved her shoe as the Atom explained what had occurred earlier. As he spoke, Juliet began to weep, and she finally said, “If anything has happened to Uncle Ed, I’ll just die! He raised me!”

The Atom gazed up at the pretty blonde and said, “Tell me about the nature of his work.” She complied in halting phrases as her feelings overcame her composure.

“I’ll find him,” vowed the Atom after she finished her story. “If what I suspect now is true, then he may not be too far away. Dial a number for me on your phone, and I’ll get an extra belt. Once I have my equipment working again, I’ll be able to solve this mystery and rescue Ed. Call Ray Palmer and ask him to bring me an extra belt.”

Juliet dabbed at her eyes with a paper towel and hurried to obey the Atom’s orders. She spoke hurriedly and listened as Ray Palmer took stock of the crisis on the other end of the line.

Minutes later, a miniaturized Ray Palmer himself emerged from the phone into the Thayer home. He greeted the frightened girl and swiftly grew to normal size. “Here, son, take my belt,” said the original Atom. “I’m here as backup if you need it, but I have confidence that one Atom will be plenty for this case!”

Adam Cray thanked his mentor, and in a few moments, the hero had donned a duplicate size-and-weight-control belt.

Ray listened to Adam’s hurried story as they talked, and he said, “You must get back outside at once. Thayer’s main invention has always had one flaw. It needs the power source found in his lab. His lithium generator powers it. From what you’ve described, that creation is the answer to the mystery.”

“I need you to show me his lithium generator,” the Atom said abruptly to Juliet.

The pretty girl replied, “He keeps it in the workshop out back.”

What workshop?” asked the Atom. “I looked out earlier and saw nothing except a clear field!”

“It’s right there!” said Juliet.

The Atom saw a large wooden building directly behind the house. He was shocked to see it, since knew that he had looked right through it before. “Stay put!” he said.

Ray nodded and said, “Be careful. I’ll keep Juliet safe until you return.”

The Atom took her hand briefly and then hurried out on a breeze. He clicked his size and weight controls expertly and swiftly made his way inside the workshop from below. It was easy enough to shrink down to microscopic size and then emerge from between the wooden floorboards.

Inside the workshop, he saw a bound man in a chair and noticed a pulsing generator with an odd yellow glow. He also saw a dynamic woman with pink, spiked hair, which was upswept in an alarming punk hairdo. Her metal collar was studded, as was the hot pink jacket she wore over a brief black body suit, which left her legs bare until they met her pink high-heeled shoes.

She was taunting the prisoner while idly caressing the generator. “Like, you know, you’re kind of cute for the kind of guy who would invent something with as lame a name as the illusio-meter,” she said. “Still, by any name, the sensational, sexy, and sultry Spellbinder will happily use your little toy to add some spice to my own hypno-contacts.” The super-villainess followed this up with a shrill laugh.

Watching, the Atom recognized the prisoner as Ed Thayer. Amazing! She had him out here the whole time, because his invention’s power source is not portable. She also must have posed as the first Juliet before she clobbered me! He knew that he would have to time his attack precisely. If she noticed him prematurely, then he would be lost. Thus he waited, and then he crossed the room and furtively cut off the generator. It stopped running, and the glow faded.

Spellbinder pouted and flounced over to the machine. “This totally reeks! I’ll be better off just selling the old dude to the Soviets or something. His toy may broadcast illusions over a wider area than my special gear can do, but if it is this bulky and unreliable, then this chick is outta here!” She moved closer to the machine and bent over to examine the problem.

At that moment, the Atom sailed toward her and struck her directly in the eye. She yelped and clutched at her eye, even as he wrenched a contact out of place and kicked away again.

Spellbinder cursed and dropped her one knee to find her missing contact. As she searched over the floor, the Atom grew heavier and connected with a stunning right hook. She crumpled to the floor, and he smiled as he freed Ed Thayer and helped him bind her securely with rope they found in the shed.

“Atom! Thank goodness!” the freed scientist said. “I hoped you’d come when I called, but she attacked me so suddenly that I dropped the phone!”

***

After the police had been summoned and Spellbinder was taken away, the Atom relaxed in the Thayer kitchen and talked with the reunited Juliet and Uncle Ed, along with Ray Palmer. “This is a new Spellbinder who’s taken the name and gimmicks of the original after his death last year,” explained the Atom. (*) “She uses hypnotic contacts that allow her to create vivid illusions. She wanted to steal your illusio-meter to see if it could increase her powers. That’s why she attacked you.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pawns of the Power Pirate.]

“That witch took me by surprise,” said Ed. “I let her inside because she was posing as a National Parcel gal. Then she revealed her true appearance and dispelled the illusion. I ran to the phone and placed the call, but it was too late.”

“I came as quickly as I could but dialed your fax number by mistake,” said the Atom. “That didn’t really do anything to me, but I’d never tried that before, so when Spellbinder covered herself with an illusion drawn from an old photo of your niece and then created another illusion — an evil double of myself — I fell for it. I mean, some of the things that happened to the first Atom make the idea of a fax machine creating a living double seem possible!”

“So there never was a double,” said Juliet. “She just toyed with you via her hypnotic powers and knocked you out herself.”

“Right,” said the Atom. “The twin was only in my mind, thanks to her power. Still, she would have killed had I not broken free of the laminator. When the real Juliet showed up, I noticed her hair was different, and she was a bit older. That helped me realize that the first Juliet was not what she seemed and that my double might be equally fake.”

“She tied me up in the workshop and concealed it via an illusion of an empty field,” Ed said. “She was cunning in spite of her inane chatter!”

The Atom said, “Ray tipped me off that you worked with something called the illusio-meter, and that in itself made me see that what I had been seeing might have been a delusion.”

Ray Palmer leaned over and grasped and his old friend’s hand warmly. “Ed, I’m glad to see you are no worse for wear. I told Atom, here, that you had to be near your old power source in order to work the meter. That made me suspect you were hidden in the old workshop out back.”

“Atom, I want to thank you,” said Juliet. “I’m sorry I almost crushed you with my heel. Could we start again, over dinner?”

The Atom smiled and said, “That sounds like a great idea to me.”

***

Later, back at Ray Palmer’s home, Adam Cray said, “Ray, I’ve been thinking. I don’t want to use your costume as the Atom. That would be like trying to ride on your legend, so to speak. I do think I need a more conventional super-suit, though. I also wish we could counter the problem of what happened to my mask when I enlarge myself.”

Ray smiled and said, “Well, Adam, I have a surprise for you. Ira and I were testing a new fabric that combined the features of your old suit with a new twist. You just need to make an extra flick of your palm controls for the suit to become visible and tangible, even at full size. It’s also more heroic-looking!”

Adam followed his mentor into the lab and admired the new costume. It was darker and more dramatic in appearance, and the vest had many pockets in which he had placed various miniature tools.

“That’s great!” he said. “I feel like this is a new start for the new Atom! Dr. Thayer even offered me a research assistant job when I’m not in class here. He also said I could move into their house. It’s big enough! Commuting is simple for a guy like me. I think you and Jean could use some privacy, anyway. I’ve crashed here and at your late dad’s beach house long enough.”

“We’ll miss you, but like you said, you are only a phone call away!” said Ray.

“Now that you’ve solved my heroic troubles, I’d like some advice on girls,” said Adam. “Juliet is something else!”

Ray slapped his forehead in mock dismay. “I’m afraid you’re talking to the wrong guy. Let me give you Green Lantern’s phone number!” he said as they laughed.

The End

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