DC Universe: The Race, Book 1, Chapter 6: Running Mate

by PaladinLgt, Doc Quantum and Starsky Hutch 76

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Kompera Lee strode regally into the restaurant, breezing right by the check-in desk. A young lady tried to stop him from entering the restaurant.

“I am sorry, but unless you have a reservation, I will have to ask you to wait at the desk for a table to become available,” the young lady said insincerely.

Lee turned his flashing green eyes on the officious woman before speaking in a commanding tone, “I am here to meet with Maxwell Lord. Why do not you make yourself useful and take me to his table? Also, if you continue to speak in that tone of voice to me, young lady, I will arrange to have you fired.”

The young lady replied, looking delighted to be able to deliver this news, “I am sorry, sir, but our restaurant is privately owned, so you cannot fire me.”

Kompera Lee gave her a once-over before smiling. “Actually, I own the restaurant, so I can fire someone who acts so completely full of herself with remarkable ease. Now take me to Lord before I arrange it so you would have trouble finding a job washing dishes.”

The young lady’s attitude completely changed as she stammered, “R-right this way, sir.”

She quickly led Lee to the table where Lord was sitting and examining a menu. The young lady left quickly, looking back several times somewhat fearfully at Lee as she went back to the check-in stand. Max Lord rose and offered Lee a respectful small bow that Lee returned.

“I see that you are looking in excellent health, Kompera,” Max said as he sat back down, returning part of his attention to the menu.

“I would offer you a similar sentiment, Maxwell, but you are looking a trifle frazzled,” Kompera said as he seated himself.

“It’s the strain of running a political campaign while still keeping up with the business,” Max said, speaking with complete honesty to his sometime business rival. Max looked around for a moment, as if trying to see someone before looking at Kompera.

“My assistant is busy in Gotham, if that’s who you are looking for.” (*) Kompera opened a menu to flick through the contents before closing it.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Corona and Arsenal: Girls’ Night Out.]

“That’s right; your company opened a research facility there recently.” Max picked out what he was going to order before closing his own menu.

Kompera gave Max a slight smile that didn’t touch his eyes. “I can indulge in this chit-chat for several hours if you want to, Maxwell, but I find it much simpler to be blunt and ask, what do you want from me?”

“I had almost considered asking you if you wanted to be Vice President, but Garrick has the right to pick his own running mate. What I really want is for you to endorse the All-Star Party and become an active participant in the campaign.” Max spoke with a deep, heartfelt sincerity as he looked at Kompera.

Kompera looked directly at Maxwell Lord, somewhat startled by the request before replying, “You know that I have actively resisted becoming involved with any political party despite frequent requests to do so, Maxwell, so why do you think I would be interested in your All-Star Party?”

“I know about your family history, Kompera, but you can be on the ground floor in making a new political entity so what happened to your family and you won’t ever happen to anyone in the future.” Max stopped speaking when the waiter came over to take their order.

“I do believe in making the world a better place, Max, but through private enterprise and not the political system. Look at the people who consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt a great president; but he is the one responsible for my family being placed in an internment camp because their parents were from Japan. I was born there and watched my mother and father die in that place because of ill health. My father believed deeply in the American dream, but he was betrayed by a political decision that took his freedom away.” Kompera expounded passionately on the subject as he stared at Maxwell with his glittering green eyes.

Maxwell Lord looked disappointed. “So you won’t consider joining the All-Star Party at all?”

Kompera’s eyes swept the room as he considered several replies before answering Maxwell. “Your Jay Garrick is a good and decent man, so that is the only reason I will think about your offer. That’s all I have to say on that subject for now, so we can get back to the business chit-chat.”

“How about those new computer systems your company is rumored to be developing?” Maxwell looked relieved at the offer not being completely refused as he reverted to business talk.

“People seem to love spreading rumors, Max. I have heard that my company has a secret strike force that roams the world searching for powerful mystical artifacts.” Kompera laughed when he said this.

That’s about as ridiculous as the one about me being able to control people’s minds, Kompera.” Maxwell joined in the laughter as the two talked about the business world.

***

“Gentlemen,” began Max Lord as he addressed Daniel Dunbar and Neptune Perkins, “we now have the task of selecting the Vice Presidential candidate for the All-Star Party. I’m sorry to say that Waller doesn’t feel you’re the right candidates for the job, and I’d have to agree with her there. If we’re going to front a super-hero for president of the USA, we’ve got to have another candidate with an entirely different background.”

Dunbar and Perkins just looked at each other for a moment and continued to listen.

“Two potential candidates came to mind, and I thought I’d run them by both of you before we spring them on Waller,” Lord said as he tossed down a few file folders and three photographs, putting his finger on the top one. “This man is–”

“Tommy Tompkins,” said Dunbar.

“Oh, you know him?” said Lord, smiling.

“Uh, yes, slightly,” said Dunbar, the one-time super-hero known as Dan the Dyna-Mite. “He was a friend of a fellow member of the All-Star Squadron — the Guardian — during World War Two. He and a few friends over in Suicide Slum in Manhattan formed a gang called the Newsboy Legion and were headed for trouble when they met Jim Harper, the policeman who became the crime-fighter called the Guardian. TNT and I once teamed up with the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion on a case, before… before Tex died.”

“Sounds like you know his history as much as I do,” said Lord.

“No, actually, I haven’t seen him since then.”

“Well, he grew up in Suicide Slum in New York, as you said, but entered law upon reaching adulthood. He had an amazing career as a lawyer before being appointed first Assistant D.A. and then District Attorney in his part of Manhattan. He’s in his mid-fifties now and in perfect health.”

Perkins, who had been reading the file on Tompkins, looked up and said, “Very impressive. He’s certainly got the background in law and politics for the job, Max. Not to mention that he worked himself up out of the slums and has done a lot of work cleaning up his old neighborhood. The man may never have put on a costume, but he’s certainly been a hero to many young kids in the neighborhood over the decades in his volunteer work there.”

“I thought you’d like him. We can discuss him further a bit later. Now I’ll show you the other two candidates I’ve been considering.” Lord took the bottom two photos and placed them side by side.

“Why both at the same time?” asked Dunbar.

“Well, they both have a similar background. This man,” Lord said, pointing to the photograph of a rock-jawed, somewhat rough-looking man in his mid-fifties, “is Dan Turpin. When he was a kid in World War Two, he was known by the nickname Brooklyn and was a war orphan who, along with three other orphans, were the mascots of an American Army unit stationed in Great Britain. They soon became their own fighting unit called the Boy Commandos, headed by Captain Rip Carter, and undertook countless special missions behind enemy lines until the war’s end.”

“I’ve heard of them,” said Perkins as Dunbar nodded in affirmation as well. “They were kept top secret during the war, but Carter wrote a book about their World War Two and postwar adventures in the mid-’50s. Pretty impressive for a group of kids, even though I can’t imagine the U.S. Army pulling the same trick nowadays, sending kids into battle.”

“After the war, the Boy Commandos stayed together, although they now operated privately instead of under the auspices of the U.S. Army, and that’s when our next candidate joined them,” Lord said, pointing at a strong-looking, red-headed man who looked to be in his late forties, dressed in a military uniform. “This man is Major General Theodore ‘Tex’ Wilson, U.S. Army. He was a member of the Boy Commandos for two years until they disbanded in 1949. He had a famous cousin named Chuck Wilson, who was a member of the Blackhawks.

Dunbar smiled at the memory of the how the Earth-Two had almost lost the Blackhawks when they traveled from their world to Earth-X to fight the greater Nazi threat there. (*) While Uncle Sam’s Freedom Fighters — including Plastic Man, Doll Man, the Ray, Phantom Lady, and Black Condor, among others — had elected to remain there, the Blackhawks returned to Earth-Two after a few months after it turned out that Earth-X already had its own team of Blackhawks that were nearly identical. He wondered if any of those transplants to Earth-X had left any family behind, but his idle reverie was interrupted as Lord continued.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis Point,” All-Star Squadron #50 (October, 1985).]

“Anyways, getting back to Dan ‘Brooklyn’ Turpin, our Mr. Turpin joined the FBI in the early 1950s after he had come of age and has had a very successful career in law enforcement since then. His file’s right there if you want to take a look at the details, Senator Perkins.” He pointed at the particular file, then continued. “Major General Tex Wilson, as you may know, joined the U.S. Army and had an impressive career, including a long stint in Vietnam, where he singlehandedly rescued a group of captured POWs by going behind the lines. He was later awarded the Purple Heart of Valor and soon rose in the ranks to where he is now, currently working out of the Pentagon.”

“They’re both very impressive candidates,” said Perkins as he glanced through Wilson’s file. “And both in their prime. But are they right for the All-Star Party’s image? I’m not against the military per se, but I think this should be taken into consideration when picking out our Vice-Presidential candidate.”

“Let’s bring Jay into this,” said Dunbar.

“I agree,” said Perkins. “And when we do, make sure he gets a chance to see these files before Waller talks to him. She might have some candidates of her own, and he should have an unbiased opinion of these three candidates for his running mate.”

Maxwell Lord smiled and said, “Gentlemen, I agree with you entirely. I’m glad we had this little meeting.”

***

“Now there’s a candidate I can get behind,” Marty O’Brien said as the commercial advertising Jay Garrick’s presidential candidacy played on the TV mounted on the wall.

“Me, too,” the older man beside his bed said. “But stop trying to change the subject, Marty.”

“I’m not. I was just saying, was all,” Marty said, cutting the sliced roast beef sitting in his hospital tray. “Jeez, you cops are always so serious.”

“Your son is out there somewhere, and Ape-Face is still gunning for him.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Stretch O’Brien: Earth-Two Romance.]

“I know that, Jack,” Marty said. “I’ve got the bullet-holes in me to prove it. But if anyone should be looking for my boy, it’s me.”

“You’re in no shape to do that, Marty,” the veteran cop said. “You were always a friend to the force, just like your old man. I hope that’s not about to change because the apple fell too far from the tree this time.”

“Stretch is still a good boy,” Marty said, pointing with his fork. “He’s just had some hard knocks in his life.”

“So have you. More than your share. But somehow you’ve managed to remember right from wrong.”

“It’s not Stretch’s fault,” Marty sighed. “It’s mine. I wasn’t the best father to him. But I want to make it up to him. Get me into STAR Labs or one of those other fancy places where they can give me back my Plasticman powers. I’ll find him before Ape-Face does.”

The old cop grimaced and said, “What makes you think–?”

“Aw, bull$#!^, Jack!” Marty snapped. “You guys take super-types in there all the time for one reason or another. If one of you had done this for me years ago, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation!”

“I’ll see what I can do,” the old cop sighed. “But I’m not making any promises.”

“You do that,” Marty said. “My old man started out on the wrong side of the law, too, but you were always telling me how much Plastic Man helped you guys out when he turned his life around.”

The door suddenly opened, and a nurse and a doctor walked in. “We need to run a few more tests on the patient,” the doctor said.

“It’s OK. I was just leaving,” Jack said, reaching for his hat. “Take care of yourself, Marty.”

“You too, Jack.”

As soon as the door closed behind the old cop, the nurse leaned over and kissed Marty on the cheek. “Hello, Daddy.”

Marty’s eyes darted open in shock, and he looked at the nurse as if seeing her for the first time. “Maggie?” Sure enough, beneath the red wig and glasses, it was her. She giggled at his surprise.

Marty turned and looked at the doctor. His features suddenly began to morph into those of his young son. “What’s up, Pops?”

Stretch! What are you doing here?!” Marty hissed in a whisper. “There are cops crawling all over the place!”

“Hey, I fooled you, didn’t I?” Stretch said.

“Yeah, and I taught you that trick, so don’t get cocky. Anyways, what the heck are you doing here?”

“Me’n Maggie would’a been halfway to Cancun,” Stretch said. “But then I heard about…” His words seemed to catch in his throat, and he looked down.

“I don’t want you blaming yourself for this,” Marty said. “You were protecting someone you loved, and there’s nothin’ more noble than that. That’s what led me to this. I was trying to protect you kids. You think Ape-Face shot me for the heck of it? I pissed him off bad enough to want to kill me so he couldn’t force me to talk. And I’d sacrifice myself a hundred times over if I thought it would keep you two safe. Luckily, I still retained enough of my powers to pull the old moving around my vital parts to avoid the bullet trick.”

“Dad, I–”

“Shut up and listen. I know all about the coke.”

Believe me, Pops, I didn’t set out to take that. I thought it was Maggie’s clothes in there,” Stretch said.

“Honest truth,” Maggie said, raising her hand like a Scout’s salute.

“But once we found it, we weren’t about to flush it down the toilet,” Stretch said. “I mean, there’s people willing to pay good money for that stuff.”

“Jeez… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but now that you have the money from the deal and the feds have the coke, go somewhere and start a new life. Put all this garbage behind you, for God’s sake!” Marty said. “This ain’t no way to live.”

“That’s all we ever wanted, Pops,” Stretch said. “Well, we’d better be going. Don’t want the cops getting suspicious if we’re in here too long.”

Bye, Daddy,” Maggie said, kissing Marty again. Stretch changed back into the doctor, and they headed out the door, looking over their shoulder one last time. Marty mouthed, “Be careful,” as they waved goodbye before shutting the door.

“Some super-hero I turned out to be,” Marty groaned sadly as he leaned back in his bed.

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