Chapter 1

The Perilous Adventures of Atom Boy


Eight fucking forty-five. Robbie stared in numb disbelief at the glowing red numbers on his clock radio. He stared at it, knowing that he was already late; there was no way in hell that he’d be able to get up, get dressed, get into his car, and drive the seven miles to work before nine. So he lay there and stared.

        Eight forty-eight. Okay, he decided, I’ll be late – again. He sat up in his queen-size bed and dressed from the pile of clothes that occupied the other side of the bed (he hadn’t gotten around to putting them away yet).

        He stepped into his shoes, not bothering with untying the laces from when he’d stepped out of them the night before. Socks were stuffed into his jacket pocket to be put on later. Breakfast was a laughable notion, and his face hadn’t seen a razor in a week.

        He climbed into his car; the only thing, he was fond of telling people, that he owned outright (this was not entirely accurate, but he liked saying it).

        He listened to the radio as he drove to work. This was pretty much the only time he ever heard the news, since they didn’t play the radio at work and he despised TV news. Like everyone else, he had become mildly addicted to the news when the war started. He got over it. Now he just listened to catch up.

        The lead story was about some presidential advisor or some-such facing charges for doing the same thing that everyone in the White House was doing and getting caught at it.

        The second story was a mention that the Department of Homeland Security was offering a general amnesty, along with a token reward, for the surrender of any Tejhla artifacts or technology. After the war, it seems, many private citizens still had items they had taken from the invaders as “trophies,” and the government was getting twitchy about so much potentially dangerous material in the hands of “untrained and unlicensed” individuals. Good luck with that, Robbie thought.

        The mention of the war pulled his eyes up to the rear-view mirror where he unconsciously glanced at his neck. To his dismay, he noticed that the shirt he had put on was missing the top two buttons, and that his scar was visible. “Shit,” he said aloud.

        It was going to be one of those days. An alien day – an abductee day – a “were you on the same ship as my uncle?” day. He hated those days.

        He pulled into the back-lot at work and saw that he had beaten Sam, the owner. So that meant no lecture today, at least.

        The phone was ringing as he unlocked the door and sprinted to the security panel. “Goddamn it,” he muttered as he punched in his code and answered the phone; there was no way of telling how long it had been ringing.