by PaladinLgt and CSyphrett
The dark-haired, well-tanned woman in a blue suit cursed loudly as she fished her non-regulation tennis shoes from the large puddle of water. Both shoestring laces had come undone while she was busy typing up her incident report inside the car, so when she stepped out, the shoes fell off into the puddle. She had known it was going to be one of those days when she wished she’d just stayed in bed.
She gathered up the two-page report and headed inside the Secret Service headquarters with her shoes squishing loudly on the hard-tiled floor. She nodded to the guard at the security checkpoint as she stepped through the metal scanner. “Morning, Fred.”
The alarm began to beep loudly as Frank pulled out his handheld scanner. “Morning, Rene. I see that you are having another one of your days.”
The scanner got within two feet of her body and went completely nuts before shorting out. She sighed loudly as the scanner short-circuited. “You can say that again, Frank. I had to use my powers last night to catch the bad guys because of someone else’s over-eagerness. I had hoped that I hadn’t overdone it, but this morning proved me wrong.”
“Well, you are living proof about that saying, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, Rene, so before you destroy my big scanner, I’ll let you go on through. The boss has a special assignment just for you, but I bet you won’t like it.” Frank waved the young woman on.
“Today you can probably count on that, though, Frank,” the young woman replied as she headed deeper into the building. Lights, computer monitors, and other electronic devices went nuts as she passed the offices. Her co-workers all said various greetings without looking up from their work as the devices returned to normal. The random chaotic effects began to lessen as she moved toward the steps.
She cursed again when her first three attempts to swipe her security card to deactivate the alarm did absolutely nothing. The fourth attempt succeeded as the red light on the stair alarm turned to green. She ran down the three flights of stairs to where her boss kept his office. Some sort of perverse desire had made him move his office down instead of up like anyone else.
Opening the stair door, she expected the alarm to go off, but instead found her boss waiting for her and holding the key that deactivated the door alarm in his hand. She handed him her report, which he absently folded and put into his jacket pocket.
“Renenet Murphy Fortune, I have a special assignment that only you can handle.” Her boss gave her his best shark smile as he reactivated the alarm and then moved toward his office. He gestured to the sole other chair in the room as he leaned on the empty desk.
Rene sat down, halfway expecting the chair to break as she tried to match the shark smile her boss had on his face. “I quit.”
“You know that you could never quit until you knew what the assignment was. Your curiosity would eat you alive,” her boss said as he pulled the report out and tossed it haphazardly onto the desk.
“That was good work you did last night. For a so-called rookie agent, you act like a seasoned professional, unlike that agent who screwed up last night.” Her boss shone with sincerity as he complimented the work that was done last night.
“You must want me to do this assignment rather badly if you are forced into giving me compliments, boss,” Rene said in reflex to dismiss the compliment.
“In all candor, you are probably the only agent capable of doing this job, Rene. Do you know about the new political party that was formed recently?” her boss said as he watched her eyes.
“The All-Star Party with Jay Garrick running for President is what you are talking about. You want me to guard the Flash?” Rene answered the question while trying to control the flush of pleasure that the thought of guarding one of her childhood heroes brought.
“No, not Jay Garrick. Who I want you to guard is his son, John.” Her boss got up from the desk to look at the pictures, which were of the last sixty years of presidents and their extended families.
“His son? I didn’t even know he had a son.” Rene now tried to keep the disappointment from her face and voice at the letdown.
“We arranged to keep it quiet out of respect for the decades of good deeds Mr. Garrick has done this country. That became impossible to do when his boy announced that he was Whiz Kid of the Junior JSA. Now we need someone who can protect him from super-villains and still manage to keep up with a super-speedster.” Her boss smiled as he turned from the pictures.
“I’ll do it on two conditions. I am being completely serious about this, boss, and will quit and move out to California to live with my sister Shai if you don’t agree.” Rene stood up from her chair, looking intense.
“Let me guess these two conditions. One is that you refuse to wear a costume, and the other is that you get to keep your tennis shoes. No problem about either one. In fact, you have my written authorization to ignore the Secret Service dress code completely while on this assignment.” Her boss grinned triumphantly as Rene’s face lost the intense look.
“I hate it when you give in so easily. I thought I was going to have to argue with you for an hour.” Rene smiled at her boss with genuine pleasure.
“Oh, I had better warn you that your new charge has experienced some rough times recently. His new girlfriend turned out to be Savant — of the Junior Injustice Society — so he might not appreciate having a very attractive and intelligent female bodyguard.” Her boss sat in his chair, gingerly expecting it to slide out from under him. The chair remained stable, fortunately. Rene went to open the door as her boss spoke. “I know that you would rather guard Garrick, but the boy needs your protection more.”
Rene shook her head disbelievingly. “I don’t know what I did to deserve this.”
Her boss got a wide smile on his face as she exited. “Today must be your lucky day.” The smile vanished when all of his pictures fell off the wall at once. He raised an eyebrow before saying out loud to himself as he rose to pick up the pictures, “I have to remember not to tease that girl in my office.”
Kathy Carson and her granddaughter Beth Kane were walking along the street, talking about the idea of having a genuine hero in the White House. Beth was looking at Kathy, so she didn’t notice a man in front of her who seemed to be reading the paper. She bumped into him and staggered back. A hand reached out and steadied her before she moved two inches.
“Sorry about that,” said Kathy, smiling and starting to walk around the other pedestrian.
“Runs in your family, eh?” said the reader. He lowered the paper so that Kathy could see his shark-like eyes and a rictus grin. “There are easier ways to earn cab money.”
“Oh, you,” said Kathy. “Shot any defenseless motorcycles lately?”
“Not for a while,” said the grinner. “Heard about your husband and boy. (*) Sorry about that.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Flamebird: At Grandmother’s Beck and Call.]
“It’s all right. This is my granddaughter, Beth Kane.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said the grinner. “It’s funny running into you again after all these years. Same street corner, even.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1954: Blake’s Joke.]
“Where’s your partner?” Kathy asked.
“Twitch?” said the man. “He’s coming. It’s his turn to buy dinner. You’re welcome to join us.”
The ladies looked at each other.
“You’re not fooling me,” Kathy declared. “Sure we’ll eat with you, you phony.”
Cully Morrigan laughed as he folded his paper, and they went to collect his longtime friend, Paul Twitchell.
Kompera Lee rose to take the podium from one of his esteemed colleagues. He looked out amongst the gathered businessmen and women for several moments waiting until the room grew silent. His voice was pitched to carry to the back of the room without losing any of his force of personality as he began to speak.
“I have deliberately stayed away from politics because of my own personal beliefs, but today I find myself wavering in my decision for the first time. For those of you who do not know me except for the rumors and stories, let me give you a brief history. My father and mother were both first-generation Americans whose families emigrated to this land because they wished to be free. My father built up a successful business first, and then they decided to have a family.”
Kompera Lee paused to drink from his glass of clear cool water as his eyes swept the audience. Several people wore puzzled looks on their faces as they wondered where this was going. Lee resumed his story.
“Then Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and slew many people, causing America to declare war on Japan. I will not argue the merits or flaws of such a plan, but the effects on my parents were dramatic. My parents were put in an internment camp because of their Japanese ancestry. Some of you might say it’s not as awful as what happened in Germany or Russia, but this country was founded on the ideals of liberty and freedom for all people, unlike what Germany and Russia were based upon at the time. I was born in the camp behind a cage of wire in a small room in this country of supposed freedom. My mother grew sick and died in her sleep. My father grew distracted while other kind people took care of me. He soon followed my mother, leaving me alone. I grew up raised by others dependent on the kindness of strangers. Then one day we were all set free and told to go back our lives, but for many, the lives they had before had been stolen away.
“I went from family to family, staying with each a while, trying to help them before moving on to the next. It was not the government who helped these people rebuild their lives, but individuals willing to work hard to help. That was the lesson I learned. I managed to acquire an education by working at many different jobs when a young man raised in Japan approached me. He had an idea for a company based on combining the philosophies of the East and the West. He and I put our money together and started that company, which exists today.”
Lee looked out at his audience and smiled knowingly. “You are wondering why I am wasting your time telling you about this when we should be discussing business instead. My partner and I agree that we cannot endorse the All-Star Party as such, because it would violate our longstanding position to not mix business and politics, but we can support the All-Star Party’s first presidential candidate, Jay Garrick, with a clear conscience. Some of you are aware of his business enterprise that he leaves to others to run while he works at what he loves, but everyone else knows him better as a longstanding hero of the Justice Society of America — the Flash.”
Many of the audience applauded at the mention of the Flash, while Kompera Lee waited for it to die down before continuing his speech.
“Mr. Garrick is a good and noble man who has worked hard all of his life for what he believes in. As both the Flash and Jay Garrick, he has served his community well, taking time out to help any in need. I have never met Mr. Garrick personally, but the people I have talked to say that he is a kind and generous person who is genuinely interested in making the world a better place by increasing the freedom and liberty of every individual. Mr. Garrick also believes in personal responsibility of the individual to accept the consequences of his actions. These are the reasons I am going to support Mr. Garrick for president.
“I have taken up enough of your time and now turn this podium over to the next gentleman who wishes to return this conference back to business. I thank you for your patience and wish you all a good day.”
Kompera Lee bowed slightly to the audience as he backed away from the podium to return to his seat. A slight smile crossed his face as he watched the whispers start amongst the gathered group as the next speaker talked about business.