The Age Atomic - By Adam Christopher Page 0,1

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She lies on her back, eyes closed, one hand clutching her pearls, her feet bare, her stockings torn. The cop thinks that somehow she’s asleep. For a second he thinks to go and wake her, before the shock hits and he realizes what has happened. He looks up, in case there are any more people raining down, but all he sees is the Empire State Building, silent, impossibly tall, immobile. The cop’s world spins a little as vertigo strikes, so he looks back to the body.

There are more people now. The cop scans the crowd, looking for more of his kind, but sees none.

To his left, a young man raises a camera and presses the button.

PART TWO

WINTER’S TALE

“I feel impelled to speak today in a language that in a sense is new… That new language is the language of atomic warfare.

“To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you – and therefore before the world – its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma – to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.

“But the dread secret and the fearful engines of atomic might are not ours alone.”

– “Atoms for Peace”

US President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the UN General Assembly, December 8th, 1953

TWO

She was pretty and her name was Jennifer and she was going nowhere, not tied to the chair like she was. She had long brown hair with a wave in it and was wearing a blouse with ruffles down the front that Rad thought looked nice but which meant she must have been freezing.

The man standing next to the chair was less pretty. His name was Cliff and he had a face to match, and he was holding a gun that was pointed at Rad in a way that made the detective nervous. The thug was wearing a trench coat, and beneath the coat were muscles, hard, solid; muscles that spoke of bar room brawls and violence in the small hours. Rad Bradley was a detective now and had been a boxer before, but Cliff’s frame made him decide that, when it came down to it, he didn’t want to go one-on-one with Cliff, even if he could get that damn gun out of the way. But, then again, a job like his on a night like this, punching someone you didn’t want to was likely to be in the cards.

The gun in Cliff’s giant fist was a revolver, and the hammer was back.

The back of Rad’s throat tickled. He needed a drink, and soon, assuming his stomach wasn’t going to be perforated in the next few minutes.

The lopsided slit that was Cliff’s mouth twitched into a smile.

Jennifer’s wide eyes flicked between Rad and her captor. Her lips quivered along with the ruffles on the front of her blouse. Rad thought she might burst into tears but then he decided she was more likely composing a particularly choice string of abuse. She was shaking not because of fear but because of the cold.

Cliff jutted his chin out to cut the air between them like an Ironclad steaming out of the harbor.

“Don’t tell me,” said Cliff in a voice made for radio, which was lucky given his face. “You’re too old for this kind of thing?”

“No,” said Rad, with more than a little hurt pride. What, crooks thought he looked old now? He squared his shoulders, which helped suck his gut in a little. Cliff’s smile opened with a wet click at the corner.

“What I was gonna say,” Rad continued, “was that it’s too cold for this. The city starts to freeze and now and again it gives a shake or two, and everyone’s in a panic. This makes my job a little more difficult than I would normally like, you see.”

Cliff nodded, his eyes flicking back and forth between Rad and Jennifer. He adjusted the grip on his revolver.

“The cold is good for business,” he said. “Good guys stay indoors, leaving the city to us. And sure, it’s cold out, but a job’s a job. I thought you’d understand that, detective. The way things is.”

Rad nodded. “The way things is,” he repeated. Then he laughed.

“Something funny?” Cliff snapped the gun up. With practiced ease the thug slipped his free hand inside his coat and pulled out a silver hip flask.

“Oh, I was just thinking,” said Rad, his eyes on the flask. “Reminds

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