DC Universe: The Race, Book 2, Chapter 1: Big Shoes to Fill

by Immortalwildcat, Starsky Hutch 76 and Vendikarr DeWuff

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Continued from DC Universe: The Race, Book 1: Candidacy

In a penthouse apartment in New York City, a massive, oversized hand fumbled with a remote control.

“Why must all technology be designed by idiots who expect all users to be the size of children?” snarled the owner of said hand.

“Please, allow me, sir.” A trembling aide took the remote from his master’s hand. “How far back did you want to go?

“The whole speech, Cartwright. I want to hear the whole sanctimonious thing again.”

On the television, Jay Garrick’s acceptance speech for the All-Star Party’s nomination for President played again.

“What a load of drivel. Still, if these so-called heroes want to play at the political game, they will find that they aren’t alone.” A large finger stabbed at a button on a neighboring phone. “Gunderson? Get up to New York; we need to talk. OK, wait until after the floor vote, but I want to see you here tomorrow, Congressman.”

Disconnecting the call, the Ultra-Humanite leaned back in his seat. “Now to think of a suitable party name.”

***

In the sub-basement of the Metropolis headquarters of UltraCorp, the phenomonal mind behind the technology company reviewed the results of one of his most ambitious experiments.

“Amazing, simply amazing. The isotopes my men located near Gotham were surprisingly easy to synthesize. Those reports of a shapeshifting criminal may well have been true.”

As he watched, the man before him slowly metamorphosed into a double for the man shown on a video monitor. When he spoke, his voice was rough and dry, as if coming through vocal chords that had not fully formed.

“How is that, sir?”

“Very good, Rudy. Excellent, in fact, under these circumstances. Tomorrow, when Congressman Gunderson arrives, you will be able to get the rest of the information you need.”

Indeed, thought the Ultra-Humanite. The other part of the experiment conducted on Rudy Jones with Alexis Luthor’s help had been an attempt to duplicate the fate of Jones’ counterpart on Earth-One: the creation of the Parasite. However, instead of a creature that drained power from people and objects around it to increase his own, the attempt to alter the poor janitor’s body chemistry to absorb and convert energy had instead made him a type of information sponge. Any knowledge, skill, or memory possessed by one touched by Rudy was instantly absorbed and assimilated. The victim was totally unaware of the theft. The Ultra-Humanite had taken care from the time of the discovery to ensure that he never came into unprotected contact with Rudy.

Now, with the ultimate doppelgänger at his disposal, the longtime foe of Superman and the JSA was poised to start a secret war against them and against the USA.

***

It was business as usual at the meeting of the Justice Society of America. The roll was called, ending with Wildcat’s usual yo instead of a here or present, which still never failed to get a snicker out of Johnny Thunder.

Then the minutes from the last meeting were read. “Any old business?” Hawkman said.

“Jay’s final act as a member last year was to recommend Johnny Quick as his replacement,” Red Robin said. “It was seconded by the Atom.”

“All in favor?” Hawkman asked. A resounding “Aye!” came from around the room.

“It’s unanimous. Welcome to the JSA, Johnny. The Flash’s chair is now yours.” The room broke into applause.

Thanks, guys,” Johnny Quick said. “These will be some pretty big shoes to fill. Hope I’m up to it.”

“You’d better be. You’re the only guy fast enough to fill those winged booties!” Wildcat said, drawing laughs from around the room.

“On a more serious note, Alan had another timely nomination,” Hawkman said.

Green Lantern stood. “I know some of you might think David Knight is too young or perhaps not experienced enough to join, but remember, we said the same thing about the kids in Infinity Inc., and look how wrong we were.”

“No kidding,” Atom said.

“I’ve seen the kid in action. He’s got the stuff,” Wildcat said.

“We’ve benefited by letting in young blood in the past such as Power Girl, Huntress, Robin, and the Star-Spangled Kid,” Green Lantern continued.

“I appreciate the young comment,” Red Robin chuckled.

“I believe we could benefit from the addition of the new Starman as well. It’s also the best way to honor the legacy of Ted Knight by offering his son his chair.” Green Lantern sat down as the gravity of his words set in.

Hawkman broke the silence. “All in favor?” Another unanimous, loud “Aye!” resounded from around the room.

“It’s unanimous,” Hawkman said, with a touch of emotion in his voice as he banged the gavel. “Welcome to the JSA, son. Take your father’s chair.”

David Knight seemed moved to tears as each member rose and either shook his hand or, as in Wildcat’s case, grabbed him in a bear hug. As he sat down in his father’s chair in his father’s costume, the JSA seemed complete again for the first time in a long while.

***

“Thirty-seven percent,” said the jovial Maxwell Lord. “Gallup reports that if the election was held today, Jay would have thirty-seven percent of the vote.”

“That’s amazing. And the election is still almost two years away,” replied his co-chair, Amanda Waller. “I hate to admit it, Lord, but you were right. People are disillusioned with the current political structure and see it as a time for change.”

“Yes, Amanda, but without the right candidate, we would be nowhere. You have great instincts.”

“And you better remember that. I’ve heard you have been meeting with potential Vice-Presidential candidates. It’s a little too early for that, and Garrick certainly gets a say in the matter. But your leading contenders are good. I especially like Dan Turpin. Solid background.”

Lord stood from his desk and looked at his watch. “What time is Jay supposed to arrive?”

Amanda checked her watch and replied, “He’s got another thirty seconds. I have come to realize Mr. Garrick is prompt. Gets there exactly when he’s supposed to arrive. I like that. I just hate being kept waiting.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” said Lord.

“Just watch,” Amanda said as she kept an eye on her watch. She then said the word, “Now,” just as Lord’s secretary buzzed his office to announce the arrival of Mr. Garrick. Amanda just sat there with a smug smile on her face.

Lord told his secretary to admit Mr. Garrick, and moments later Jay entered the room. Lord walked over to him and shook his hand. “Welcome, Jay. It’s good to see you.” Jay nodded in return and had a seat beside Amanda Waller.

“Have you had a chance to look over the party’s platform papers?” asked Waller. “We really want to get your input.”

“Yes, ma’am, I did,” said Jay Garrick. “It’s a lot of work running. So many issues to consider. Energy, foreign and domestic policy, the Post-Crisis reconstruction. It’s so mind-boggling.”

“Do you agree with the positions in those platforms?” asked Lord. “We still have plenty of time to adjust these things.”

“I am with you for the most part. But there are a couple of things, like gun control. Given my career as the Flash, I have a real problem with guns. I am for tougher controls than you call for here. I read about a Congressman Gunderson who’s pushing for some very tough gun legislation. I can get behind that. Is there a chance we can convince a man like that to come over to the All-Stars?”

“Afraid not, Jay,” said Lord. “Gunderson is a party loyalist. There would be no budging him.”

“Jay, there were a few things we needed to speak to you about,” said Amanda. “First we wanted to go over the polls.”

“I saw them. Thirty-seven percent wouldn’t win the election. Is that good?

Very,” replied Amanda. “It’s still early. If we keep moving forward, we can continue to gain. In a three-way race, we could win with a percentage in the mid to upper forties.”

“But that’s not a majority. Wouldn’t a significant number of the people be upset that a president who did not have a clear majority was elected? The way I see it, we need to have at least fifty-one percent. The majority of the people have to want this.”

“Very idealistic, Jay, but not the way the process works. We should go for the numbers we need. And we are not far from that now,” said Lord.

“Jay, I agree with you. And we will make a clear majority our target. But if forty-six or so wins it for us, then we are in,” said Amanda.

“I suppose. But I guess there is no worrying about it until we get closer to the election.”

“Exactly!” said Lord. “Now, there’s another item or two we need to talk about. The Secret Service has approved you and your family for coverage. That helps us even more. It legitimized us in the eyes of the public.”

“But I don’t need protection. And neither does my family. I have been a public super-hero for years. And no harm has come to them. I have always protected them from harm.”

“True, Jay, but you are going to be away from home a lot in the coming months. They will each need someone. And I’m sure that protecting them from super-villains is probably much easier than the ordinary whacko with a political axe to grind. You may be OK, but your wife and son need the help.”

Jay thought about it, and then said, “Well I can’t see the harm for Joan to have guards, but John — though he is still a boy — is nevertheless a super-hero. He can take care of himself.”

“Umm… Jay, that’s the other thing we need to discuss. John has to stop being a hero.”

Excuse me?” said Jay Garrick, not certain he heard his campaign manager correctly.

“John has to stop playing hero. Polls show people are very concerned about child safety, and letting your son run around in a costume is the exact opposite of it.”

“Mrs. Waller, my son being Whiz Kid has been the best thing that ever happened to him. He is not as shy, and he’s much more confident in his abilities. I can’t ask him to give that up.”

“Jay, I understand that, but you have to understand,” Max Lord said. “This is an issue your opposition can grab onto and really hurt us. Child heroes are not a good idea.”

“Not a good idea? Look at Red Robin. One of the finest men I know.”

“Yes, let’s look at him,” Waller replied. “Wasn’t he accused of killing the Scarecrow recently? (*) I know it was a plot cooked up by some super-villain, but not everyone will think so. Something like that can be turned against you.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Infinity Inc: A Question of Trust, Chapter 1: Framed for Murder.]

“Not to mention the fate of Dyna-Man’s mentor, TNT. People remember these things. And if they don’t, the opposition will remind them.”

Jay was silent for several moments, then said, “I had forgotten about TNT. But it makes no difference. I won’t ask John to quit. If we have problems because of it, then so be it.”

“Jay…” started Lord.

“Don’t Jay me. My mind is made up. Now, if we’re done, I have to get back to Keystone. I have to check in on a few experiments before that interview with Johnny Carson later this afternoon.” Jay paused, and the party co-chairs said nothing. “Good day, then.”

He rose and exited the room. Lord turned to Waller and said, “That didn’t go well.”

“Yes, but it went as expected.” She glanced at the door, then back at Lord. “If he won’t speak to John, we will.”

“He won’t let us talk to John now.”

“Who’s asking him? The Junior JSA hangs out in Gotham. We can find him there. And if he doesn’t agree, there are other ways of getting him to retire.”

“Amanda, I don’t like what you’re suggesting, here.”

“Get off of it, Max; you hired me because I know what I’m doing, and I’m not afraid to do what needs to be done. Trust me. John Garrick’s career as Whiz Kid is not going to be an issue in this campaign.”

She then exited the office, leaving a stunned Maxwell Lord in her wake.

***

The well-dressed young man stood in front of the large display of televisions at Circuit City. In his black overcoat, dark turtleneck, and sunglasses, he looked like a well-to-do, stylish man in his early twenties. In actuality, he was one of the JSA’s oldest adversaries. He was Clifford Devoe, alias the Thinker.

His expression remained impassive as every television blared a campaign spot for Jay Garrick. Inwardly he seethed as the televisions displayed images of Jay Garrick as a happy family man, a public servant, and an American hero.

How dare his old enemy pursue glory after he had lost everything? Jay Garrick had a successful company, a well-adjusted family, and the respect of the community. Clifford Devoe had once had all that, and then it was all taken away from him. (*) The idea that Jay Garrick would go on to the most prestigious position in the world was too much for him. He would die a thousand more deaths before he let that happen.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Flamebird: At Grandmother’s Beck and Call, Infinity Inc: A Question of Trust, and Junior JSA: The Ghost in the Machine.]

As he turned and walked toward the exit, every television in the showroom began to explode one by one in a shower of glass, sparks, and flames, drawing screams of surprise and fear from customers and salesmen alike. The Thinker’s expression, however, was without emotion.

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