by Dan Swanson
Bonnie Marlowe Drake was sitting at her desk in the DMT Agency office, contemplating the events of yesterday. She was sure Grant Gardner knew who Captain Democracy was, but Gardner had a valid point — since Captain Democracy had done nothing wrong, why was a detective from Chicago’s best agency trying to find him? Her immediate reaction to learning about a new super-hero had been to investigate, but Captain Democracy had as much right to a secret identity as Todd or Tomas.
It was time for the midday news. She turned on the radio right in the middle of a special report. “A dozen armed men and women are holding hostages at the DuPaul chemical plant. This group claims to be a ‘liberation squad’ from the Soviet Union, and they are demanding the release of two prominent industrialists who were recently arrested for passing military secrets to the Soviet Union. They promise they will kill the hostages and set off explosives throughout the plant if their demands are not met. The Soviet ambassador in Washington categorically denies any connection between this group and his government.”
Bonnie quickly turned on the TV. All the stations had the identical picture: a group of men armed with machine guns, standing guard around a dozen or so figures lying on the floor of what seemed to be a chemical laboratory, with all the benches and cabinets pushed against the walls to leave the center of the room clear. Several more men and an attractive woman, also armed, were sitting at another table facing two men in suits and one in a uniform. She recognized the mayor of Chicago and the governor — William G. Stratton and Richard J. Daley, respectively.
“This is John Seeger for KCGO from the I.E. DuPaul plant in Chicago. The guerrillas have allowed one reporter and one TV cameraman to witness the ongoing negotiations. They are demanding the release of two ‘comrades,’ transportation to the airport, and a fully fueled military transport and pilot to take them to Mexico. If their demands aren’t met, they say they will kill their hostages, who include the entire Chicago Homicide Squad, William DuPaul, the manager of the Chicago plant, and the relatively unknown super-hero named Captain Democracy. As well, they have planted high explosives throughout this vast chemical factory. The governor has called in the National Guard, and the mayor has ordered the evacuation of Chicago.”
Somebody back at the station was on the ball, because the picture cut to show dull green military transport trucks bringing troops in, surrounding the giant plant. But they weren’t taking any action. A second later, the picture cut to show some of the streets out of town, which were now crowded with cars. If this was an evacuation, it certainly wasn’t orderly, and nobody was getting anywhere fast.
The picture switched again, showing a big Sikorsky S-56 helicopter warming up on a pad at the nearby Air Force base, and a big Douglas C-133 Cargomaster taxiing out on the runway.
“The mayor has acceded to the demands, and the National Guard is preparing the required transportation. The spokeswoman for the ‘liberators’ has revealed that, if all demands are met, no harm will come to any of the hostages. As insurance, several of the hostages, including Will DuPaul, the plant manager, a member of the DuPaul family, Captain Anthony Spinelli of the Chicago Police Homicide Squad, and the mysterious Captain Democracy, will remain captive and will be transported with the mercenary group to Mexico, where they will be released.”
Bonnie could hear the blaring of horns, and realized that this massive traffic jam wasn’t all that far from the office. Damn! Todd Drake was in Milwaukee today, and Tomas Thomas hadn’t returned from his out-of-town case yet. Looked like the authorities couldn’t count on any super-heroic assistance right away. She wondered what she ought to do, and the answer was obvious. She went upstairs, picked up little Jack, and prepped him for a trip, and told the daycare worker about the situation. Then she headed down to the garage, hopped into her car, and headed south. She left a note for her husband Todd, letting him know she was headed for Calumet, and he should look for her at Tomas’ house.
When the first mercenaries had come through the lab door, Captain Democracy had been sitting in the corner, cleaning his shield with rags and solvent he’d scrounged in the lab. Since Spinelli was standing between him and the liberators, the Captain took a chance and dropped his shield into the laundry bin, quickly covering it with rags and dirty lab jackets. With all those machine guns, he didn’t dare fight just yet.
He hoped that Guinea, Spinelli, wouldn’t give him away. He still couldn’t believe that, with World War II only just over a decade ago, an Italian could be the detective in charge of the Homicide Squad in Chicago. Had America already forgotten World War II? Well, the Spirit of the Bill of Rights had warned his father, and his grandfather, and all his ancestors that this would happen. He was lucky the Spirit had selected his family, or he might get taken in, too. Heck, the Brits had been pretending to be allies for so long, even he himself would have believed it without the Spirit’s warning.
“Everyone down on the floor!” commanded one of the group, and the other members fired short bursts from their machine guns into the lab ceiling to punctuate the command. Captain Democracy hit the floor with everyone else. Of course, his colorful costume stood out among the other captives, and he was noticed immediately.
“Hey, look what we got here! An American super-hero! I don’t recognize him, though. Comrade Louie, tell me about this man!” He spoke with a heavy Russian accent, as did most of the others. But the Captain recognized the woman and Comrade Louie, though he didn’t know their names. As Ernie Earnest, he had never talked to either of them, but they were DuPaul employees, and he remembered seeing them in the streets, halls, and lunchroom.
“I don’t know, Comrade Ivan. He isn’t famous; I’ve never seen his picture in the paper or anything.”
Ivan kicked him in the side of the head. “Who are you, Mr. Super-Hero? What are you doink here today?” The Captain started to spring to his feet, but a burst of bullets into the cabinet next to him stopped him quickly. He could see liquid leaking from the cabinet — it was a storage cabinet for chemicals. The lady looked very unhappy.
“Comrade Ivan, it isn’t safe to shoot up the place like that. You might cause an explosion, or some kind of chemical reaction or something.”
“Bah!” he replied. For a moment, it looked as if he might turn his gun on her, but he got control of himself. “Thank you, Comrade Laurie. I will be more careful in the future.” Laurie was edging away from the chemical spill on the floor. “Stand up, Mr. Hero, and introduce yourself!”
“My name is Captain Democracy,” he said, and loaded his voice with all the contempt he could. “‘Comrade’ Louie is right. Nobody knows about me — yet!”
Ivan and a couple of his comrades broke out laughing. “Captain Democracy! How clever! How very American! After today, Captain, you will be famous — a laughingstock the world over!”
Laurie spoke up excitedly “Ivan, we’re in luck! That guy in the suit is one of the DuPauls! They’ll have to listen to us now! They’re the richest family in America!”
Ivan replied, “OK, we are lucky. We have Mr. Big Shot DuPaul, here, and an American super-hero, and all these policemen as hostages. No doubt they will quickly meet our demands, and free our comrades.” He pointed at DuPaul and a couple of officers. “Use the handcuffs on these, and bind the others. Typical capitalist slime! Getting rich on the backs of his workers. His kind make me sick!”
Ivan and his crew bullied DuPaul into calling the mayor and explaining the situation. Laurie acted as spokesperson for the group. She explained that she and Louis were part of the American Communist Party, and they were happy to help this squad of liberators free two true “heroes of the people” from their wrongful imprisonment at the hands of the decadent American establishment. The Captain looked at the other members of the group and figured that they weren’t quite as idealistic as the two young Americans.
The Russians spoke Russian amongst themselves, confident that no one would understand them. And none of the captives seemed to understand what was being said. Captain Democracy sure didn’t. All he knew was that they laughed a lot, and he hated them — they were enemies of America.
While they were waiting for the “decadent American authorities” to arrive, DuPaul, who recognized the two young Americans as employees, asked them why they were helping these criminals. The mercenaries apparently decided that, as long as they were talking, they wouldn’t be trying to escape, so they let the two talk, and when other captives joined in, they just watched and listened. They seemed to find everything that was discussed amusing.
“Louie and I are members of the American Communist Party, and we are just fighting for what we believe in. People like you…” She spat at DuPaul. “…who have power you don’t deserve, get rich from the work of others — you’re no better than the rest of us. After the Revolution, we’ll all be equal. There won’t be any rich or poor. The State will take care of us, and we will take care of the State!”
Captain Democracy was making good progress with his bonds. The Doc Savage exercises included such things as untying complex knots with your hands behind your back, and these guys weren’t masters with knots. Still, he felt as if he had to join this philosophical discussion.
“Comrade Laurie, you know the communist philosophy, don’t you? ‘From each, according to his ability, to each according to his needs’?”
“Of course!” she spoke contemptuously. “No more slaving for hours for negligent wages, no more people on the streets begging for food, no more crime. Everyone will have everything they need. Everyone will be equal. If you are really a champion of democracy, as your name suggests, you should be on our side! In a democracy, everyone is supposed to be equal, right? How can you support a system where people like him…” She spat at DuPaul again. “…never have to work a day in their lives, while people like me and Louis, and these oppressed policemen, have to work all day just to make enough money to survive? How fair is that? How democratic is that?”
Nobody else seemed to be willing to keep the discussion going, so the Captain responded. “You have to realize that won’t work! If everyone is treated the same, why should anyone work harder than anyone else? There’s always someone who tries to get by with doing nothing, and in your system, he’d get the same rewards as everyone else. The people around him would see this, and they would stop working, too.”
She had a ready answer. “There will be incentives to make sure people do their jobs.”
The Captain had the answer for that one, too. “If you incentivize them with rewards, how is that different from money and capitalism? If you incentivize them through punishment, how is that different from fascism?”
“OK, that’s enough!” Ivan said, and once again kicked Captain Democracy. “No more talking! Comrade Laurie, the mayor and the governor are arriving. You will be the spokesman for the group. You know our demands, right?”
“I do, Comrade. They free our brothers and give us free passage to Mexico, and we don’t hurt anyone. They don’t meet our demands, and we destroy Chicago!”
“Da. All right, Comrades Derek, Kristov, and I will watch the hostages. I want the rest of you to clear the room.” It only took a few minutes to push the cabinets and benches from the center of the room and set up a negotiating table. The Captain was relieved to see that no one had noticed his shield in the dirty laundry. Shortly after the hasty “redecorating” was finished, several armed gunmen ushered in the mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois, along with a man in uniform who was introduced as Major General O’Neill, commander of the Illinois National Guard.