by Immortalwildcat and Starsky Hutch 76
“Good afternoon, Congressman.”
“Good afternoon, Cartwright.” Stan Gunderson briefly shook the hand of the dark-suited butler. “I believe he is expecting me.”
“Yes, indeed, sir. I’ll show you in now.” The butler led the way down a short hallway, opened the door, then stood aside.
“Good afternoon, Gunderson. Please, sit down. Coffee? Tea?” Gunderson nodded at the second choice, prompting his host to direct the butler to bring tea for both of them. “How are things down in the Capitol?”
“Some progress has been made on the weapons registration bill. We had to reduce the waiting period, but it looks like the committee will give their approval.”
“Excellent, excellent. With any luck and a little patience, we can extend control of pistols and rifles to include all those malicious little toys that the mystery-men types love so much. Make materials like that harder to get, maybe we can discourage any newcomers from donning an idiotic mask and costume.”
Congressman Gunderson considered the irony of that. References to idiotic costumes seemed strange indeed coming from a person who had his brain transplanted into a giant albino ape, and who normally wore a red-and-gold-armored breastplate.
“The shooting of President Reagan that you staged gave us a good public relations boost, sir. But surely you didn’t call me here just for a status update?”
“Yes, you’re right.” The Ultra-Humanite paused while his manservant served tea. “It’s time for you to step a little closer to center stage, Gunderson. We need to step up our program.”
“Now, sir? I don’t wish to argue, but it seems to me that with Reagan’s popularity, people are following his lead. I fully expect his party to sweep the elections next year. To step up our opposition now is risky.”
“Ahh, you have obviously been spending too much time in the Capitol Building, and not enough time keeping up on events around you. There is a new party, a new candidate out there with his eyes set on the White House. He has the drawing power, I believe, to make a serious run for the office.”
“Then wouldn’t that make our situation all the weaker?”
“Not if we can destroy Jay Garrick and his All-Star Party first.”
Stan Gunderson thought about this for a moment, his head swimming with the possibilities. “I see. With proper timing, Garrick could steal away sufficient votes from both the Democrats and Republicans; then, if he is brought down, and the people see a fourth choice, one that embodies ideals that Garrick claimed to believe in… Yes, it could work.”
“Oh, it will work, Gunderson.” The Ultra-Humanite rose from his chair to stand over the smaller man, whose head was now aching as spasms started to wrack his body. “Unfortunately, while you have served me well these past five years, you lack the spine and charisma to carry it out. However, rest assured, you will be well-rememberd.”
The door opened, and Gunderson turned toward it as he pitched forward out of his chair. Any hope he may have had for rescue from the butler Cartwright were dashed, as he instead found himself looking up at his own face.
“And in local news, Congressman Stanley Gunderson narrowly avoided death today as he was driving to Metropolis Airport for a return trip to Washington, D.C. Gunderson was in Metropolis, ironically enough, for the dedication of UltraCorp’s new Wayne Memorial Medical Research and Treatment Center. Shortly after leaving the ceremony, a tire on Gunderson’s rented car suffered a blowout, sending him careening across three lanes of traffic on the Metro Freeway. The car overturned and landed in the median strip.”
The television picture cut away to a view of the smoking wreckage of a red convertible, with a young man reporting from the scene of the accident.
“Congressman Gunderson was thrown from the car as it entered this ditch. The Congressman was wearing a seatbelt at the time, but the entire seat broke away from the car. Rescue workers here at the scene agree that the failure of the bolts holding the seat in place probably saved the Congressman’s life.”
“Thank you, Jack. A spokesman for the Congressman tells us that he was taken to the Wayne Center for treatment. In an unusual turn of events, they also released this videotape of the Congressman.”
The scene changed to a hospital room. Stan Gunderson laid in a bed, his head bandaged. His wife and two daughters stood beside him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I want to assure you that I am all right and will be back to work as your representative within a day or so.” He paused to catch his breath. “However, this incident has taught me that life is far too short. As your representative, I have trod the middle road, taking always the cautious path. As of now, that changes. I will step up the battle for the Brady gun control legislation. I will carry the battle for federally funded housing and education for the poor and disadvantaged to the Capitol, and see that the government fulfills its duties in the care of all Americans.”
The television screen went blank as the Ultra-Humanite pressed the remote control. “Now that should get the ball rolling.”
Three days after his near-fatal accident, Representative Stan Gunderson was in the news once again, this time with a press conference called in Arlington National Cemetery before the memorial for the Unknown Soldier.
“As I told the people of America from my hospital bed three days ago, my brush with death has made me realize that the time to make a difference in this world is short and precious. I have spent many hours in reflection and careful consideration, and come to an inescapable conclusion: I cannot make the kind of difference in this country that I think is needed so long as I remain a part of the established status quo of Washington. Therefore, effective immediately, I am resigning from my party and joining with a number of other likeminded representatives to form the Humanist Party. I am joined in this new party by Senators Minerva Schuster of Pennsylvania and Dolph Brunner of Illinois, and Representatives Claude Herman of Virginia, Michael Schubert of Texas, Lance Runevelt of Washington, and William Carne of California, all of whom have worked with me in the past on legislation aimed at ensuring the health and welfare of the American people. We will continue to represent the people who elected us, even as we seek to enlist others to our party, and even as I mount a campaign for the office of president of the United States.”
The applause that broke out was enthusiastic, if not overwhelming. Reporters from the Capitol beat rush off to file reports. Television and radio correspondents attempted to ask questions of Gunderson and his companions, but all were brushed off with the reply, “More information will be forthcoming.”
“You arrogant bastard! How dare you put your pet Congressman into the presidential race? That stupid little twit can barely string a half-dozen words together without a squad of speechwriters!”
The Ultra-Humanite settled his massive body back into the chair and placed his hands together before his face. He looked down at the beautiful redhead who stood before him with an expression of outrage on her face.
“Now, Alexis, you truly didn’t expect me to remain completely idle while you play the corporate magnate, did you? For over a year now, you have been pursuing your own goals as the public head of our little company. Actually, if I didn’t know better, I would swear you quite enjoy life as a company woman, my dear.”
Alexis Luthor looked down for a moment and quietly answered. “Yes, I find that I have a, shall I say, aptitude for it. There’s a challenge there that is very different from plotting crimes. Still, it is only a means to an end. We have other plots in motion, after all.”
“Indeed, and this is one of them. That wasn’t Stan Gunderson out there today; that was your erstwhile recruit, Rudy Jones.”
“The clay-forming isotopes?”
“And much more, Alexis. He possesses not just Gunderson’s form, but also his memories and personality. Oh, and by the way, don’t allow him to make any kind of direct contact with your body. Not unless you want him to share your every private thought.”
Alexis Luthor made a mental note to avoid Rudy Jones, a task made difficult by his shapeshifting abilities. It wouldn’t do for Ultra to know of the plans she had for her partner and their company.
After Alexis left the room, the Ultra-Humanite slumped back in his chair. “Insufferable witch. She has no call to be questioning my decisions. Bad enough that Mekanique abandoned our projects to pursue that futuristic version of the JSA, but it appears that I’m losing young Ms. Luthor to the challenge of running UltraCorp.” (*) His thoughts strayed to the female ape body that he had prepared in the basement. (*) “At some point I hoped to persuade Alexis to shed that fragile human body of hers for something a bit more durable and, yes, desirable. However, even my own considerable mental powers can’t convince her to pursue that course totally against her will. I’ll have to find some way to make UltraCorp less attractive to her.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Legion of Justice: Saving the Past and DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 4, Chapter 1: Odysseus Unbound.]
He lifted his body slowly from the chair and strode to a darkened window that looked out over Metropolis. “Still, she seems to be handling it well. UltraCorp has been providing endless amusement as she gives the law enforcement agencies weapons suitable for eliminating many of the lesser criminals who might cause us problems. The money has been good, too.”
Leaving the window, he moved to a communications console on a desk. “I’d best see how my little Mimic is doing.”
In a Georgetown townhouse, Rudy Jones was making himself at home. A glass of scotch in one hand, a cuban cigar in the other, he reflected on the new course his life was taking. Some months ago, he was a wretched wreck of a man, barely suited to work as a floor sweeper. Then he answered a help-wanted ad for the newly established UltraCorp in Metropolis. Not only had he found a job there, he was given the chance to volunteer for an experiment that changed his life. (*) Now, he could be anybody he liked. The big ape that was the power behind UltraCorp had assigned him to take the place of a Congressman, and now he was running for president. That was nice, but the fringe benefits were even better.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 3, Chapter 5: Dark Dealings.]
He looked over to see Andrea Gunderson huddled on the floor, now asleep. Apparently, Stan was a bit of a dull fellow in their relationship. The newfound passion that Rudy brought with him was quite welcome, at least for now.
A beeping sound interrupted his musings. Rudy reached for the radiophone and answered it, updating the Ultra-Humanite on the public aspects of his mission.
When the call was done, he glanced back over at Andrea. She was still sound asleep. He then glanced out the window and began staring at the sixteen-year-old Bethany Gunderson lying on a lounge chair in the backyard.
While most single, attractive women her age might have been out having a good time on a Friday night, Alexis Luthor could usually be found perched in front of a computer screen. Most often it was to run a diagnostic for one of the many prototypes for new inventions at the company run by herself and the villain known as the Ultra-Humanite. While not missing a social life, this was not the way she had imagined spending her life.
A depression had set over her as the many months of maintaining this charade had dragged on. Years of plotting and scheming might be fine for the Ultra-Humanite; he was immortal and had all the time in the world. For her, it was tedious and boring. She wanted to don her battle-suit and pursue her goals out in the open. The brief thrill of battle when she had helped the aging villains pursue their rejuvenation was a rush she wanted again. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two.]
As she pored over the company records, she was barely conscious of what she was doing. That was, until a discrepancy hit her eye. A lot of money seemed to be going to an account that shouldn’t even have existed.
She worked to trace the expenditures and found that she didn’t have clearance to those files. She didn’t have clearance?! Obviously, it was something the Ultra-Humanite didn’t want her to see. Did he forget he was dealing with Alexei Luthor’s daughter?
With very little effort, she hacked into the files and discovered that a great sum of money was going out to maintain a laboratory on a floor of the building that she didn’t even know existed. A few minutes later, she was in the elevator, giving it his security codes so that it would take her there.
As Alexis Luthor stepped into the lab, she gasped at what she first thought was the Ultra-Humanite floating in a suspension tank. On closer inspection, she realized it was a female version of the same albino ape he’d had himself transplanted into.
Feelings of betrayal overwhelmed her as she realized that the fatherly affection he had shown her over the year and a half they had been together had not been fatherly at all. He had other designs on her. Well, he was in for a rude awakening.
The Ultra-Humanite was shaken from his slumber by the sounds of crashing and banging coming from the laboratory. “What in the hell?” he grumbled, sitting up his cot. When he regained his bearings, he leaped up and raced to the door. There was an intruder in his lab. He stumbled into the laboratory and let out a pained gasp at the sight of the female white ape as she jumped about, hooting and screeching as she sent large pieces of lab equipment sailing across the lab to smash into the computer banks and send sparks flying.
Dumbfounded and horrorstruck, he clutched his oversized robe to him and walked into the wreckage of his lab. As his gaze drifted to the opposite wall, he realized that he had lost a partner in crime. In huge letters, burned into the wall with a laser torch, was the message, Garrick in ’88.