It took the police 3 hours in order to wake up Ray Palmer. And even after they did, they needed to get him some glasses and food before he would be well enough to talk. Every time he had re-gained consciousness, he'd vomit and faint again, because the only thing he'd see is atoms, billions upon billions of atoms. He dreamed while he was unconscious. About his family, his home. Everything.
First, he dreamed about when he was just a child. He lying down in his bed, hearing his mother sell herself to prostitution from the other room. He didn't understand how, or why she did it. All he remembered about it was that she always managed to sneak it in while his dad was at work.
They lived in downtown Gotham City, and to top it off they lived in a mangy apartment filled with drug dealers and gangsters. Most of the time, Ray didn't mind it. He would just sit in his room, read, and wait it all out... Suddenly, his dream grew blurry. It faded out, and he awoke to feel the cold metal of handcuffs- then he realized he was strapped to a chair, in an interrogation room.
"Ray Palmer. Professor Al Pratt's assistant. Height, five-foot four inches, and weighin' a slim 110. Petit thing, ain't ya?" The police officer sitting across from him chuckled, going over Ray's file.
However, all Ray saw was the millions if not billions of atoms that made up the table, and instantly felt a massive migraine. Feeling woozy, he hurled again, and went back home.
Ray was back in the sleazy, musty apartment he called home as a child. Only this time, he was standing in the doorway of his parent's room, watching the two yell at each other. His dad had discovered what his mother was doing while he was away by coming home early from his law firm- he had been fired. The two must've argued for a good two hours before his mother grabbed the keys to her car and took Ray away from the apartment. The last thing he ever remembered his mother saying was, "Cmon, Ray. We're going to Uncle Pratt's."
Ray and his Uncle had never been too friendly with each other. In fact, the last time they saw each other, Ray had ruined his Uncle's boat by urinating in the motor when he was two years old. Of course it was accidental. But he had done it nonetheless.
Now, the two were living with Ray's uncle, in a small house in Ivy City- and that was when Ray learned the truth about his mother, by overhearing a conversation between them.
"Look, Al, I need ta go. Mkay? You can take care of him. Show him all yer sciency stuff-" He could hear his mother's voice.
"Wait, you're dropping him on me? I can hardly afford to feed myself-" His uncle snapped back.
"I have AIDS, Al. I need you to watch over him. I can't let that kid watch his mutha die." His mother started to cry.
That was the end of the conversation. The next day, his mother hugged and kissed Ray, before saying she was going to her parents. Little did Ray know, his grandparents had died before he was born. So she left- and Ray Palmer became Uncle Al Pratt's assistant.
Suddenly, Ray felt a splash of cold water on his face, and he was back in the real world. "Wha? Who?" He muttered, and noticed he was wearing glasses. Strangely enough, they helped him focus on what things actually looked like- he could only see atoms if he wasn't focusing.
"Hey, sleepyhead, there y'are." The policemen snickered. "Lets see... Brown hair. Blue eyes. Neat signature. How old were you when you took this pic, huh?" He asked, showing him his driver's license.
"Are you... you can't go through my wallet..." Ray said slowly, recollecting what he knew of the laws.
"Sure I can. I'm a cop, ain't I?" The dirty cop chuckled. "Besides, on freaks like you, we do whatever we want."
Ray stood up to try and fight him, but instantly recognized it as a bad idea, as he was exhausted. Stumbling, he fell down by the cops feet, and drifted back to Uncle Al's.
"Ok, if you want to be my assistant, you're going to learn the rules," His uncle started, showing Ray the laboratory. It was huge- maybe the biggest room Ray'd ever been in. The ground was littered with nuts, bolts, failed projects.
"Where do I start, Uncle?" Ray had said, innocently- he was merely 14.
"Ah-ah-ah! You call me..." Al Pratt started, and Ray finished for him.
"Sir..." Ray said with a huff.
"Good. Now, you may start by getting a lab coat, getting one of those science books, and start reading. We need you to tell the difference between a dinosaur fossil and an atom." His uncle said bitterly as he too went to work.
So it was, Ray being his uncle's office monkey for thirteen years. When he was twenty-three, his uncle had helped him find a small apartment in Ivy City, and his Uncle had started paying him. Life was boring for Ray, up until the incident.* He went to school of course, and was the top of his class- but was less popular than Branden Grey. Who? Exactly. So he had more time to work with his Uncle.
Finally, they got Ray to wake up again, and had a big plate of food in front of him. Without asking where he was, he dug in- the last time he ate must have been a good nine hours ago. They had given him some red gelatin, roast beef, and a tall glass of wine, which he gulped down. When he had finished his food, they sent in an interrogator, and he sighed as he dully answered boring questions- where do you live, why did you start growing...
"You do realize you could go to jail for destruction of property?" The interrogator said with a raised brow.
This caught Ray's attention. "What? No... I can't go to jail! That was an accident!" He started jerking around in the handcuffs, before he felt himself literally phase through the handcuffs. His atoms had literally moved around the cuffs for him, and reformed into his hands once he was out of them. It was amazing, like nothing Ray had ever seen before!
Quickly, without questioning his new ability, he started running away from the interrogator, out of the interrogation room, when it suddenly felt like the whole room was getting bigger. No, not bigger- he was getting smaller! Not again,Ray thought desperately as he kept running for the door. Soon, he could fit nimbly through the crack in the door, and kept shrinking. He saw atoms of oxygen and the dust in the ground, and for the first time he recognized it as an incredible experience.
The cops couldn't find him- he was smaller than a piece of dust now. Slipping out of the door to the outside world, he looked around before seeing the road sign- good, he was close to home. Maybe he could get some answers there. And then, he'd pay a visit to his Uncle.
*See the Atom #0!