by Starsky Hutch 76, PaladinLgt, Immortalwildcat and Vendikarr DeWuff
“Yes… I see,” Commander Steel said to the voice on the other end of the phone. “Thank you for passing that along.” He set the receiver down in its cradle.
“Jay Garrick for president. Interesting.” He couldn’t think of a better choice for the All-Star Party for its first candidate for that office. Garrick was honest to a fault, and unlike some who’d held the office, he would put the interests of his country first.
No, it was the choice of campaign manager and co-chairman who concerned him, and the promises made to her once he was in office that likewise concerned him. She held a grudge against him for the problems they had when she was in his employment. Problems, ironically, that had come about because they were both so much alike. Neither one was willing to surrender control.
He would keep an eye on this race. If Jay Garrick won, he would do what he could to mend fences. If that didn’t work, he might be forced to tear them down altogether.
“John, what are you doing sitting by yourself in the dark, son?” Jay Garrick said, switching on the lights as he stepped into his teenage son’s room.
“Just thinking,” said John Garrick.
“About the news?” Jay said, pulling the chair out from the desk to sit and face his son, who sat pensively on the side of his bed.
“How could you agree to it without saying anything to me, Dad?”
“They didn’t exactly give me a whole lot of time to think it over.”
“That whole thing with Savant — I’d never been hurt like that before. (*) It seems like all the bad things that have ever happened to me have been from you being in the public eye,” John said. “And now it’s just gonna get worse.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society.]
“Believe me, son, if I could go back and keep myself from ever having revealed my I.D., I would,” Jay sighed. “We never expected to be able to have children at our age. You were a miracle.”
“What happened to laying low?” John said. “To just being any guy named Jay instead of the Jay Garrick? It was easy when you were just a winged helmet and a blur, but now you’re gonna be plastered all over every newspaper and magazine!”
“John, you’re old enough now that I don’t have to protect you like I used to. Especially now that your powers have surfaced. I have a chance to help lots of people — more than I ever have before. And that’s what we Garricks do. You understand that. I notice you’ve been suiting up as Whiz Kid for a lot more than just your Junior JSA meetings lately.”
“Yeah. But at least I wear a mask when I go out,” John chided jokingly.
“I wouldn’t call those goggles you wear a mask. That’s hardly a disguise,” Jay said.
“Tell that to Superman,” John said, grinning.
“Heh-heh, no kidding,” Jay laughed, mussing his son’s wild mane of hair. “Things are going to be all right, John. You’ll see. Who knows? Maybe I won’t even win.”
“Yeah, right!” John said. “When’s the last time anyone’s ever beaten you in a race?”
Ira Quimby sat at his desk, looking through his personal correspondence and trying to catch up on it all. The telephone beeped several times, distracting him from the letter he was reading. Quimby picked the telephone up, saying, “This is I.Q. Advanced Securities. How can I help you?”
He listened intently to the voice on the phone. “Yes, I do remember you, Mr. Lord. Why are you asking about that? Oh, then yes, my company still has its government security clearance.”
Quimby pulled out a small notebook and flipped through it intently. “Certainly I can arrange to be there with my top people, if I move a few of the less critical items on my calendar around.”
He closed the notebook as he leaned back in the chair. “I could meet you there in about seven hours by catching a private flight out of the city, if you feel it’s that critical.”
He listened for a moment. “My political beliefs? No, I wouldn’t have any problems with that, Mr. Lord. It’s a pleasure to work with someone who appreciates the quality of my work. Yes, I do still have the contract with that company to review their security. Certainly I could contact him if you want me to, after I meet with you. His political beliefs? No idea at all about that.”
There was another pause. “I will be there twelve hours from now then.” Quimby then hung up the telephone with a smile on his face as he sprung into motion. He quickly placed a few items in a briefcase and left his office, locking the door behind him.
“No, this ain’t no joke, Al!”
“Come on, Ted! I mean, the president? Jay’s going to run for president?” Al Pratt sat bolt upright in his chair. “He doesn’t even run his own company himself! You know Jay — he’s always slaving over his test tubes, and he hires accountants and business managers to take care of all the paperwork.”
“I know, buddy,” said Ted Grant on the other end of the phone line. “But you’ve got to admit, he knows how to find good people for the job. You’d’a thought that, at least once, some slimeball would try to sneak into the company because of him being the Flash, but he found out the only ones that ever tried it before he could hire them.”
The diminutive daredevil known as the Atom relaxed again. “You’ve got a point there, Ted. So, are you going to support him?”
“Damn right I am! Wildcat is gonna be at that press conference when he announces, and ex-heavyweight champ and all-time fan favorite Ted Grant is gonna be campaigning for him!”
Cameron Chase threw her travel kit into her suitcase and ran and grabbed the phone. As she fumbled with the reciever, she closed her suitcase. “Chase here,” she said into the phone. “Commander Steel, I’m already packed. I already heard.”
She paused while she listened to him. “No, sir, there’s no leak in your organization. I got a call from my sister Terry, looking for some kind of confirmation. She works for the Tattler.” She paused again. “That supermarket scandal sheet about super-heroes. Appears to be a big leak in the All-Star organization.”
Chase grabbed her suitcase and put it on the floor, sitting on the bed as she spoke. “They get all kinds of information there. Probably because they pay for tips. Yes, sir, I do read it from time to time. You can find a glimmer of truth in many of those stories. I read one a couple days ago saying a certain super-powered woman has spent a lot of time in Gotham lately, in the company of a certain crimson-caped compatriot, and it didn’t seem to be all JSA-related. Yes, sir, I know you don’t really care.”
There was another pause. “She said she knew days ago but has been trying for some kind of confirmation. Yes, sir, it’s a shame when a paper like that knows something before we do. After she called, I knew I would be hearing from you, and I am ready to head for Washington. What will I be doing there?” She paused to listen. “Watching for trouble? Wouldn’t Munro and his misfits be better for that?” She listened again. “Low-key; got it. You expecting trouble, sir?” She waited while there was no comment on the other end of the phone, then her question was countered by another. “You want photographs of the crowd? Anyone in particular you’re looking for? OK… Tickets are waiting at LaGuardia? On my way.”
Chase then hung up the phone, grabbed her bag, and headed down to her car.
No sooner had Steel hung up the phone with Chase, than his office door burst open, and in stormed Arn Munro.
“No!” said Steel firmly.
The man known as Agent Liberty walked up to the edge of his desk, leaning on the chair before it. “No what?”
“I know what you want, Munro. It’s probably all around the prison by now. You cannot go to Washington.”
“Then I quit!” said Munro firmly.
“No, you don’t. This is your life. Your sense of duty will keep you here. Now get out.”
“No!” said Munro. “I won’t. Not until you listen to what I have to say.”
Steel didn’t say anything, but did lean back in his desk chair. Munro took this as a sign to continue, and said, “A super-hero president. Do you realize how dangerous this can be for him and his family? Before he only had to worry about super-villains. Now he has to worry about the everyday loon making a statement. And who will they pick? Not Garrick, but his wife and son.”
“I know that. That is what the Secret Service is for.”
“But if it’s a super-loon, then what?”
“The Service has protocols to handle super-powered individuals.”
“Possibly, but we have super-powered people here. I want the Squad protecting them.”
“For how long?” asked Steel. “Tomorrow? A week? Eight years? I won’t make that commitment of resources. And no, I won’t let you transfer to the Secret Service. I need you here.”
Munro stopped and said, “If I find someone to do the job for the long haul, will you handle the details?”
“As long as it’s not a member of my active staff, sure.”
“Fine,” Munro said as he marched back out of the office.
“I need to get a stronger door,” Steel muttered to himself, getting up to close the remains of the door for some privacy.
In a Boston hotel, his current home, Matches Malone was on the phone.
“Arn, I said I’m done. Why are you calling?” said Malone. “If it’s not personal, I’m not talking to you, Arn. I won’t work for Steel any longer. I’m retired.”
He paused for a moment. “What do you mean you have a long-term, easy job for me to do? Nothing Steel wants done is easy.” There was another pause. “OK, OK, I’ll shut up… go ahead.”
Then Matches sat and listened as Munro explained about the All-Star Party, Jay Garrick, and the press conference.
“Holy… Munro, you sure about this? Damn, who would have guessed? So you need me to go and keep watch?” He listened for a moment. “You want me to what? I am the last person to work for the Secret Service. What do you mean Steel promised to take care of everything. Does he know you asked me?”
He laughed. “OK, I will do it. I’ll be there in case of problems, and I will join the Secret Service to serve on Joan Garrick’s detail. What about the kid? OK, well, I will call you tomorrow night.”
Malone hung up the phone, packed up his few belongings, and checked out of the hotel. After exiting the hotel, he lit a match, and after his body burst into a blue flame, he took to the air and began his flight to Washington.