Late August, 1988:
The All-Star Party’s nominating convention was a modest affair compared to the earlier conventions of the two major parties that summer. Even Stan Gunderson’s Humanist Party held a bigger event, at least in terms of dollars spent and the arrangements made. However, the two-day affair held in Keystone City drew some of the biggest crowds that town had ever seen.
Jay Garrick’s selection of Manhattan District Attorney Thomas Tompkins as his running mate was met with a chorus of cheers from a crowd eager to see a presidential ticket clean of Washington insiders. In the run-up to the convention, one of the strongest issues for Garrick had been the fact that he was not a part of the traditional federal power structure. Tommy Tompkins had pulled himself out of a life of poverty as a newsboy in Suicide Slum to pursue a career in law, making a national reputation for himself by pursuing fraud on Wall Street and equal rights for minorities. (*) The choice of Tompkins thus generated a strong surge in the poll numbers.
[(*) Editor’s note: Tommy Tompkins was a member of the Newsboy Legion who regularly had adventures with the Guardian in the 1940s; see “The Story of the Newsboy Legion,” Star Spangled Comics #7 (April, 1942).]
On the final night of the convention, an hour before Jay was to speak to the gathered delegates and supporters, Alex Holton met with the candidate at his home.
“Jay, I know that, what with being home and all, you’re feeling more at ease and relaxed, and that’s not a bad thing. But you need to keep in mind that whoever tried to attack you at the debate is still at large. This is the biggest gathering you’ve been in since the campaign started, and it would be very easy for one of those Kr — one of the terrorists threatening your campaign to slip through our guard.”
“I’m not going to hide, Alex. Get used to it. I have people that I trust watching out for the campaign team and my family, and that’s going to be sufficient. Now, let’s get down to the convention center.”
“Tonight, my friends, we are making history. Never before has a third-party campaign gotten the sort of national support that we have. And we have even inspired a fourth party, giving the people of America even more choice. The old-line established parties are running scared, and change is coming to America. And the leader of that change is the man who will be our next president. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the All-Star nominee for president of the United States, Jay Garrick!”
The Keystone City Convention Center erupted in thunderous applause and cheers as Jay Garrick, his wife Joan, and their son John strode down the center aisle of the conference hall as balloons and confetti streamed down from above. Near the stage, most of the members of the JSA stood in costume, shouting their approval. Volunteers and staff members ringed the stage, and his security team watched warily from positions around the hall.
“My fellow Americans, thank you! Thank you for the confidence you have shown in me and my associates, not just during this campaign, but over the past forty-eight years that I have tried to help America and the world. We are poised to take a leap forward, a leap away from politics as usual, a leap back to government by and for the people. But I want all of you to understand, the presidency is not enough. You need to work in your states, your counties, your towns, to find and elect women and men who respect your views, who remember that the Constitution is not a grant of power to one group over another, but a set of limits on how much control the government may have over us all. Tom and I can lead the effort, but we need support in the Senate and the House to carry out the work of you, the people.”
Jay continued speaking for twenty minutes as the level of the applause alternately rose and fell, but never died out completely. Behind him, Helena Bertinelli scanned the crowd of supporters, watching for anybody reaching for a hidden object or trying to get too close to the podium. Off to her left, the masked and wigged American Girl scanned the catwalks and rafters above. At the back of the room, Americommando studied readouts from his suit’s built-in scanners and from remote sensors placed around the building.
Alex Holton stood off to one side, listening to the radio conversations of his security detail as he looked over the crowd, paying particular attention to the gathering of costumed figures near the front. He saw Superman’s head tilt to one side, and the Man of Steel started to frown. He started edging through the crowd, away from the stage and toward the exit. Green Lantern spied this, and a glowing green headset appeared on his head. Alex saw Green Lantern’s lips move in what appeared to be a question. Superman appeared to respond, shaking his head. Alex’s lip-reading skills weren’t particularly strong, but it looked like Superman said, “I can take care of it.” Alex smiled as he saw Superman reach a side door and slip through. The security chief smirked as he imagined the Metropolis marvel disappearing into a blur, arcing into the sky toward his home town of Smallville.
Fifteen minutes later, as Jay was working his way through the crowd, the ceiling of the convention center burst downward over the crowd. A man-sized projectile hurtled toward the newly minted presidential nominee, a blur of red and blue. Applause turned to screams as the crowd realized what was happening. A quick as thought, twin shields of emerald green and golden light appeared over the crowd. American Girl and Americommando burst into the air toward the figure bearing down on Jay, as the candidate himself grabbed those closest to him and started carrying them away from the place where they had been standing. He was joined by Johnny Quick, who grabbed others and started moving them away. The attacker turned to follow Jay, only to be met in midair by a woman clad in a white bodysuit with a red cape.
What? thought Alex Holton. Power Girl was supposed to be in Gotham, according to the briefing from the JSA he’d received earlier. He watched as she stopped the hurtling Superman in midair. As the Man of Steel attempted to break the grip of her right hand on his wrist, the Maid of Steel’s left hand lashed out with a chopping stroke to her cousin’s throat. Instead of the meaty sound of flesh on flesh, the screech of rending metal was clearly heard by all within fifty feet. The sparking head of the robotic Superman fell at Holton’s feet.
“Nice work, Power Girl,” said the head of the security detail as panic started to turn into relief around them. The twin energy shields started to roll into a large ball containing all of the debris from the destroyed conference center roof, with Green Lantern and the second Starman directing the spheres up and out of the building. “Maybe we can find some clue as to who sent this–”
“Nice try, Holton!” Alex started at the voice behind him. He felt strong hands grasping his arms, and looked over his shoulder to see Hourman had hold of him. “Doctor Mid-Nite saw your reactions as Superman left and this robot came through the roof. You weren’t surprised by it at all. Imagine that!”
“One thing to make people think Superman or Power Girl tried assassinating someone with heat-vision, but using a robot to fake an attack? Not smart. Not smart at all,” said Hawkman, stepping in front of Holton. “I can’t believe we didn’t see it before — Alexei Luthor.”
“Not exactly,” said Superman, dropping down from the hole in the roof. “This appears to be a clone. Minor differences in his DNA give it away.” He took hold of the vanquished younger man. “But like your predecessor, you’re going to be spending a lot of time behind bars.”
“Not on your life, Superman!” snarled Alex as he moved his jaw to one side, then bit down. “Not on your life, or mine!” There was an audible popping sound, then Alex’s body went limp as a greenish foam erupted from his mouth.
“Is he–?” asked Johnny Quick.
“Dead.” Superman scanned the clone with his x-ray vision. “Whatever that was, it’s triggered some sort of cellular breakdown.” As he said this, the body started to wither and smoke. In less than ten seconds, there was nothing but an empty set of clothes.
“Garrick’s security chief turns out to be a clone of Luthor, and that’s all you have to say?” Stan Gunderson stared at the man responsible for his campaign with wide eyes. “This could be our biggest break yet!”
“Or our downfall.” The Ultra-Humanite stood staring at a large television screen where the scene of Alex Holton caught in Superman’s grasp was frozen. “Don’t underestimate the power of sympathy among voters, Mimic. Many may vote for Garrick because of this.”
“Naw, there’s got to be some way to turn it against him.”
“Oh, we will try. Even now, the advertising people are working on spots claiming that Garrick’s history as a costumed mystery-man will attract more attacks and schemes such as this, against him and against the nation. We will portray him as more dangerous to the country because of his position. All anonymously, of course.”
“Sure. That should get the people riled up against him better than those ads you ran about them sitting out World War II.”
Ultra turned to fix Gunderson with a fierce stare. “Those were not our doing. I have my suspicions as to who was behind it, but that is all.”
“If you say so. Now, I better get back to the hotel.”
“Got a few minutes, Jay?”
Jay Garrick looked up from a briefing paper on Central American policy to see a pair of familiar faces in the doorway of his study. “Alan! Carter! Come on in; you know I’ve always got time for you guys!” Jay closed the folder, got up, and walked over to a cabinet. “Something to drink? Just mineral water and soda pop in here, but I’m sure Joan can rustle up something more spirited if you like.”
“Don’t trouble her, Jay. I’ll take an orange pop if you have one,” said Alan Scott, walking over to shake his old friend’s hand.
“Water for me,” added Carter Hall, spotting a couch and taking a seat.
“So, what’s up, fellas? Don’t tell me the JSA is already closing up shop again with me gone.”
“No, nothing like that. We miss you down at the brownstone, but Johnny’s fitting in pretty well.” Alan took a seat in the corner of the room, while Jay pulled a battered leather chair out from behind his desk and sat down.
“It’s about the campaign, Jay,” said Carter. “Alan and I, well, we’ve been talking things over, and we’re concerned.”
Jay’s head cocked to one side, and his hand went up to where the brim of his helmet would normally be, out of reflex. “Concerned? About the campaign? If it’s my safety you’re worried about, well, I think the security boys and girls here have shown that they’re capable enough.”
“They’re doing swell, Jay. I know Ma wants to talk to American Girl about meeting the Junior JSA members, and I think Wildcat’s about to burst with pride over Helena.” Alan’s grin faded quickly. “We’re concerned about you, Jay.”
“Jay, why are you doing this?” asked Carter. “We’ve, well, that is, I always figured that we were here to help and protect people, not to become leaders. Half the guys we’ve fought over the years have been out to take over the world, and now, here you are, one of us running for president of the most powerful country in the world. Lots of folks are liable to think, well–”
“That I’m out to take over the world? C’mon, Carter, you know better than that!”
“Of course I do. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t. Most of the people in the country don’t know you; they don’t really know any of us. That’s why they’re always ready to believe that one of us has gone bad. Remember what happened when the Batman diary got published?”
“Of course I remember. I also remember that it was a hoax, an elaborate trick of Batman’s to stop Degaton’s final plot. (*) And people were rallying behind us long before we discovered the truth.” Jay leaned forward in his chair. “Look, guys, I’ve always tried to give back to my community, both as the Flash and as plain old Jay Garrick. I’ve always figured I got these powers in order to help people, but I’ve tried to do that without my powers as well. You know, I ran for the Keystone City Council back before we brought the JSA out of mothballs.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “D-Day for Degaton,” America Vs. the Justice Society #4 (April, 1985).]
“I never knew that,” said Carter.
“I remember it. You did pretty well, too, as I recall.” Alan chuckled. “It’s a pretty far cry from running for president, though.”
“Is it? Remember, Eisenhower wasn’t a politician before he ran for president.” Jay got up and walked over to a window, looking out at the rain falling from the night sky. “I want this, guys.”
“Who else wants it, Jay?” asked Carter. “The people that came to you — why did they pick you? Who else was involved in that decision?”
“I’ve thought about that, Carter. I have some ideas, and I know how I’m going to handle it.” Jay looked up at his friends. “Alone. At least for now.”
“You only have to ask, buddy. We’ll be here to help.”
“I know. And I appreciate it. But if it comes down to it, I’ll need to handle it myself, or it will be meaningless.”
“All right,” said Carter, getting to his feet. “But we’ll be ready if you need us.”