by Immortalwildcat and Dan Swanson
“My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight to offer, as best I can, an explanation for a question that was raised on these very airwaves just twenty-four hours ago. I do so as your president, but also as a fellow citizen with a strong desire that true justice be done.
“Last night, the airwaves of our great nation were pirated by parties unknown for a period of ten minutes. During that time, a broadcast whose source remains a mystery to authorities showed us all the horrors of World War II, while making accusations against the mystery-men of our great nation and attempting to place at least a part of the blame for the atrocities of that war at their feet. As you are no doubt aware, one of those mystery-men is now seeking the office of president. There can be no doubt that the broadcast we all saw last night was meant as an attack on that very man and his character.
“After careful consideration and consultation with my advisors, I have decided to make public information that has, until now, been classified for over forty years. In the dark days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, history tells us that President Franklin Roosevelt asked the mystery-men of the day to band together, forming the group we now know as the All-Star Squadron. The purpose he had in mind was not one of combat and warfare, but of domestic security and morale. In his own words, preserved by wire recording, President Roosevelt described his reasoning for this.”
President Ronald Reagan paused and looked off-camera. For the next few minutes, he sat at his desk in the Oval Office as a voice from the past was broadcast throughout the nation.
“I owe as much as anybody to these mystery-men, having been saved from certain death at least once, and possibly more than once through their intervention. Their bravery and dedication to this country is awe-inspiring, and by George, they would make a great fighting squad on the battlefield. But I cannot allow it: mankind must fight its own wars, for now at least, without the aid of flying men with Herculean strength, Amazons in invisible aeroplanes, wielders of gravity-controlling rods, and mysterious wizards. Perhaps someday the powers and abilities of these mystery-men will be a mystery no more, and shared by all. But for now, if we send them to do battle for us, we invite retaliation by possible counterparts of these heroes in other nations. Already, there are rumors that the Reich has mystery-men of their own. Until I know otherwise, I must keep faith that the Reichsfuhrer will keep those mystery-men within his nation’s borders, at least so long as our American heroes remain within ours.”
When the recording ended, President Reagan looked back up at the camera.
“Historians have verified the authenticity of that recording and of written documents which support it. My administration welcomes anyone else who seeks to authenticate this as well.
“My fellow Americans, we do not need the heroes of the JSA and others to fight our wars for us. Indeed, it is my most fervent hope that there will never be need for American lives to be risked in warfare again.”
Another stepped into view of the camera: Vice President Robert Dole. At a nod from the president, he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the United States and the world. As a combat veteran of World War II, as a long-time member of Congress, as your vice president, and as a candidate for the office of president, I ask that you look deep into your heart as you consider the proposition put forth by last night’s broadcast. Bob Dole was there and saw the horrors of the war abroad, and the heroism of the mystery-men at home. And as the political opponent now of one of those mystery-men, I ask that you reject the repugnant notion that he or any other costumed hero or heroine is now, or ever was, in any way less than one-hundred percent loyal to this country and to the causes of freedom and justice. I ask that you consider Jay Garrick, myself, and any other candidate who offer themselves for the office of president, or any other office, on the basis of their deeds and their character.”
President Reagan had risen from his seat and had come around to the front of his desk to join the vice president.
“In conclusion, we have authorized the FBI to work in conjunction with the FCC and other government agencies to track down the source of last night’s broadcast. We ask that anybody with any information, please contact your local FBI office or police department. Thank you, and may God bless America.”
Darius Gleason had grown up dreaming of becoming a mystery-man. He had stood in empty fields, arms outstretched to the clouds during thunderstorms. He had encouraged his friends to concoct potions during chemistry class. The class mechanic had constructed him an exoskeleton in shop class, and he had tried self-hypnosis when he learned about psychology in his general science class. He bought all the gimmicks from the back of the comic-books like the X-Ray Specs, the Charles Atlas course, the Green Lantern rings, and the Buck Rogers pistols, but contrary to his great expectations, he was still only a normal kid.
Actually, the storms and the chemicals turned Gleason into a scrawny, sickly kid, and nothing ever came of the self-hypnosis, the gimmicks, or the weapons, although the exoskeleton did slightly increase his resistance to injury. If you tried to hit him with a baseball bat, and the bat happened to hit one of the steel bars that made up the exoskeleton, the bat would probably shatter. But they were never able to get the joints to bend.
Somewhere along the way, Gleason’s goals changed. By the time he reached college, he had realized that he just wasn’t cut out to be a super-hero. Instead, he hoped to associate with and influence those with power. So he majored in Political Science and went to work as a campaign analyst and consultant. And at this, he was good — very good, in fact, and over the years, he had even acquired a sort of super-hero code name. They called him Voteman.
Faster than a speeding ballot! More powerful that a loco voter! Able to fill empty congressional seats with ease! If you absolutely, positively wanted to win an election, you hired Voteman. Somewhere along the way, he even began to believe in his own press.
And Darius Gleason had never seen a political commercial as devastating and potent as the one he had just watched. He wished wistfully that it had been one of his, or that whoever had created it was on his team, because he knew with his finely honed political instincts that it would work. For the first time in his storied career, Voteman would be on the losing team.
Part of the mythos of Voteman was that his team had never lost an election. In truth, he had once been hired by a loser. Gleason had realized that early on and had managed to get himself fired, and the candidate had fared dismally without him. He spun the event as proof of his skills — a candidate who was almost certain to win had foolishly fired the campaign consultant who would have brought him the victory. And his legend only grew.
It would be easy to do the same thing here. Gleason would simply propose a campaign that was practical and a little nasty, and Mr. Goody-Winged-Shoes Garrick would kick him out. And when Garrick lost, the legend of Voteman would grow again. More powerful than a loco voter, heck — he’d be more powerful than a super-hero.
Garrick would undoubtedly expect him to have a campaign proposal in response to this ad by the time the office opened tomorrow. Working through the night was nothing new to Gleason. He would be ready.
The meeting with Jay Garrick and his campaign manager Amanda Waller was over at 11:00, and after Amanda left, Garrick took Darius by the shoulder and steered him into a quiet corner. When he started talking, his voice was husky with emotion.
“All along, I’ve been skeptical about the value of a campaign consultant, since I already had a campaign manager. I checked into your so-called reputation and discovered just how much was pure spin — and you did the spinning. I’m glad you finally cleared the air and showed your true colors.
“Mr. Gleason, that commercial last night got me to thinking. I don’t know who this Committee to Re-energize American Politics is, or which candidate they are backing, but it really discouraged me that someone could totally besmirch my good name — not to mention all of my teammates, partners, friends and companions-in-arms as they did. It’s not fair to them, and the only way I could envision to stop this kind of emotional terrorism was to withdraw from the race.
“However, after witnessing your presentation, my determination is back. I cannot and will not back down from intimidation. The country deserves far better than what the Committee offers!”
Gleason was trying to speak, but Jay wasn’t having it.
“I’m not quite finished, youngster! I’d just like to say thank you for changing my mind. Now go ahead, say what you’ve got to say, and then git!”
Gleason was totally stunned at the difficulty of this conversation. He had faced other powerful men and been totally at ease. But he had never felt in danger before, nothing like the danger he was in at this moment.
“It — it’s hard to explain, Mr. Garrick…” he began haltingly.
“Kid, I’ve always found that when you’ve got something to say, you start at the beginning, say your piece, and shut up.” Garrick was smiling. “Although I don’t usually shut up when I’ve said my piece, as you can tell.”
“Yes, sir. Well, you see, last night — I spent a lot of time thinking about that commercial. And I decided… well, I decided I would rather have you for president than anyone who could make a commercial like that! So, like you said, it’s time for me to git back to work. It’s an honor working for you, Mr. Garrick!”
“Call me Jay, son! You’ve earned it. That has to be the most brilliant campaign proposal I’ve ever seen! Thanks for your confidence and support.”
Yes, it had been dangerous. Deciding to fight for Garrick, rather than abandon him, had been one of the most difficult decisions of Darius Gleason’s life. If Garrick lost, his rep was down the tubes. Well, then, he would just have to do his damnedest to make sure Mr. Garrick won.