At Kennedy Airport, Cameron Chase spied the newspaper headline. “What the hell is this?” she murmured as she snagged on in the terminal. “Who let this information out?” She turned to Amanda Waller, who was accompanying the press junket. “Is this your doing? Damn it, my personal life is supposed to be just that — personal!”
“Whoa, there, honey; this is the first I ever heard about your daddy being a super-hero. I got enough trouble getting Mr. Garrick’s information straight for the press, I sure don’t need to mess with anything about a DEO agent,” replied the muscular African-American woman.
“If this was Max’s doing, so help me–”
“So help me what, Miss Chase?” asked Jay Garrick, turning back toward them as he caught snatches of the conversation. “Seems to me like there shouldn’t be any secrets among the people working on this campaign. Now, I remember the fellow that killed your pop, and I was there at the trial. I’ve respected your privacy on this issue, but you are not going to cause a ruckus among these good folks because a matter of public knowledge gets splashed across the front page. Kapeesh?” While his voice never rose above his usual easygoing, slightly nasal tone, everybody present could hear the steel behind it.
“Yes, sir. But what I don’t understand is this matter of my giving an interview this afternoon. This is the first I’ve heard about it.”
“Well, I do know that I’m scheduled for a session with them after lunch. Wouldn’t surprise me if someone got their wires a bit crossed up.” Jay stepped toward the young woman and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Miss Chase. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea, I’ll have a word with them, all right?”
“Thank you, sir.” Jay turned away, and the group continued on out of the airport to their waiting limousine.
Three hours later, that same limo pulled up in front of the WPIX television studio. Cameron Chase was still undecided about the upcoming interview, while Jay was relatively nonchalant about his own discussion with their news staff. As they made their way through the winding corridors and seas of cubicles, several pairs of eyes watched with interest.
In the studio, Cameron stood behind the cameras with most of the studio staff and the campaign staff. Before the cameras, Jay sat facing Jack Ryder, WPIX’s news anchor. It was evident to those who knew Jay that he was being forced into new territories, areas of thought and opinion that he had not considered before in any great detail.
“So, Mr. Garrick, what is your assessment of the current relationship between the U.S. and Quebec?”
“Well, as you know, our relations with Quebec have never been the strongest. We share more in common with Canada, and to be honest, I was not in favor of the split. Quebec includes much of the industrialized areas of the former Canada, and that loss has been keenly felt by the people of both Quebec and the remaining provinces. Therefore, the U.S., rightly I believe, has focused on providing aid for those people. However, I think the time has come for us to treat both of these fine nations as equals.”
“And how about the legalization of marijuana, Mr. Garrick? There are many who believe that the government is spending far too much money pursuing and prosecuting so-called criminals who are using a low-risk recreational substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”
“Mr. Ryder, this question covers a couple of different issues. One of those is the idea that a law should be changed because people believe it costs too much to enforce. Yes, we spend a lot of tax dollars trying to shut down the drug trade, and marijuana is currently on the books as one of those drugs. We should never change a law simply because it is unpopular or costs money to enforce. Laws are put into place for a reason, and that reason should not involve either popularity or economics. Number two is the question of whether marijuana is indeed a harmful substance. As a chemist, let me tell you that marijuana is in truth far more harmful to the human body and psychology over a long period of time than alcohol. And if these people believe that alcohol truly is so harmful, perhaps they should be looking at further regulation of that, rather than a childish ‘if A is OK, why isn’t B?’ approach.”
Jack Ryder smiled, nodding his approval of the answer. “And what about vigilantism, Mr. Garrick? Do you approve of people risking their lives, and the lives of others, while avoiding responsibility for their actions by hiding behind a mask?”
There was a collective gasp from those gathered in the studio, as they awaited Jay’s answer.
“Tis far better that they hide their faces, and lurk in the shadows of anonymity, than face the consequences of their actions in the cruel light of day!” This, spoken in reply to a question to Jay Garrick from anchorman Jack Ryder, did not come from either of the speakers on the stage. It came from somewhere above them, its source obscured by the various spots and runner lights that illuminated the stage for the interview.
Just as I figured. He’s up there somewhere, thought a burly man holding a boom microphone out over the stage. The place is locked up, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have figured an exit that I missed. Just hope my ace-in-the-hole is on the job.
As others looked around, trying to find the source of the strange comment, Cameron Chase felt a cold chill run down her spine. She knew that voice, remembering it from the courtroom in her interrupted childhood. Immediately, she reached for the semi-automatic pistol tucked in the waistband of her slacks. As she did so, cries erupted from people around her as they suddenly found the studio equipment delivering a high-voltage shock.
“Damn!” cried Ted Grant, dropping the boom. “Bastard must have gotten here sooner than I thought.” He ducked backstage, re-emerging in seconds clad in the blue-black bodysuit and mask of Wildcat.
High above, Doctor Trap crouched over a hastily built control panel. “No sense killing them all at once. They aren’t going anywhere.” He toggled switches on and off, some of them electrifying the equipment, others overloading light bars and sending showers of sparks down on the milling stage crew and campaign entourage.
“That’s enough!” cried a newcomer. Turning, Doctor Trap saw only a blur of dark violet before a boot crashed into his chest. “Your madness ends now!”
“And who the hell do you think you are,” hissed Trapp, “the Purple Pussycat?”
“No; I am the Catwoman, and you are about to become a splotch on the floor below!” she replied, spinning into another vicious kick. It was aimed low, striking the madman in the knee. She heard and felt the snap, and watched with fire in her eyes as Emil Trapp staggered and dropped toward the studio floor below. Her victory was short-lived, however, as a rope snapped taut, and she saw that he wore a safety harness. It left him swinging about five feet above the floor. He slapped a release button and fell the remaining distance.
Turning, he raised an odd-looking gun. He pulled the trigger, and it started firing rapidly. Ten rounds per second fired from the machine pistol, striking the metal catwalks and rigging, shattering more lights and splintering the beams above. Catwoman ducked and twisted with superhuman agility, evading the shots. Noting a space that seemed protected by projecting steel supports, she dived and grasped a rope, and used them to swing down to the floor.
Wildcat saw his quarry fall to the floor, and he started toward him. He was stopped by Cameron Chase. “I take it this was your doing? The newspaper article, the fake interview?” He nodded, keeping an eye on Trapp. “Believe it or not, Grant, I appreciate it. But I’m taking this son of a bitch down myself, got it?”
“Don’t be a fool, Chase! Work with Catwoman and I — we stand a better chance together than pulling separate plays.”
“Oh, yes, Miss Chase! Work with them! The same sort of insipid fools that killed my Marlena, that brought about the death of your father!” They turned and found that Trapp was less than twenty feet away. “Oh, they think the masks protect them, but they don’t realize that we all wear masks! None of us are truly who we appear to be to those we love! Because we know that, if they ever saw our true selves, they would turn away!”
“You raving lunatic! My father never tried to hide from us — he was hiding us from the rest of the world!” Cameron spoke with a voice shaking with fear, desperation, and rage. “The only ones who need to hide from the people they love are the sickos like you!”
“Hold that thought, Chase, and let’s take this creep down,” said Wildcat. He spied movement behind Trapp, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, nodded his head. He balled his left hand into a fist, and slowly extended each finger, one at a time. When he extended the thumb, three people moved.
Catwoman leaped fifteen feet through the air, the claws of her costume raking down Doctor Trap’s back.
Wildcat dived low, his full two-hundred-plus pounds striking Trapp’s already injured legs.
Cameron Chase fired three shots, all aimed at the chest of Emil Trapp. The first one struck high, sending sparks flying as it ripped the lower part of Trapp’s metallic jaw off one hinge. The second and third both struck his chest, one exiting his back, the other shattering several ribs and ripping apart the muscles connecting his right arm to the torso. He fell, sprawling over Catwoman for a second until she could reverse their positions and immobilize him.
As people realized that the fight was over, they emerged from improvised hiding places all over the studio. An office door opened, and Jay Garrick quickly picked his way through the wreckage to find Wildcat helping to tie Trapp’s hands up with the power cord from some destroyed piece of equipment.
“Jay, where were you, buddy? I thought you’d be whipping up a whirlwind as soon as he revealed his location.”
“I’m sorry, Wildcat. As soon as it hit the fan, the Secret Service boys hustled me off to the manager’s office. I tried to get back out here, but one of them latched on to me and started yelling that I couldn’t risk myself, that it was more important that I get out of the situation alive.”
Wildcat scratched his head through his mask. “Man’s got a point, Jay. Might not really apply while you’re a candidate, but you’ll need to get used to thinking that way if you’re elected.”
“I suppose you’re right about that.”
Turning to the subject of Trapp’s plan, Wildcat allowed himself a small smile. “I see you were listening to me the other day.”
“I-I suppose I was. I can’t fault Dad for what he did; he felt a need to take his battles against crime out of the courtroom and into the streets.” Cameron stopped to shove her pistol back into her waistband and brush a whisp of hair out of her eyes. “I suppose I knew that all along, but…”
Wildcat stepped over to her and draped an arm over her shoulders. “Hey, it ain’t anything to beat yourself up over, kid. But maybe, just maybe, you can stop beating up some of the other masked heroes out there now.”
“Maybe. It’s just that, every time I see someone running around in a costume and mask, I think about–” Cameron’s voice cracked, and she turned herself toward Ted’s massive chest. He brought his other arm around her, trying to comfort her as the sobs wracked her body. He led her away from the others, finding a private office. There, he grabbed some tissues from a box on the desk and helped her clean herself up as best she could.