AC: Bush43 Daily Week Four

Jason Kenney jasonkenney at
Tue Jun 27 06:49:05 PDT 2006

Artifice Comics -

And the train keeps a'rollin'!


Bush43 #36
By Jason S. Kenney


They saw me coming, so there was little I could do to avoid them.

The four smokers in the press corps were quick to stub out their
cigarettes, as I approached.

"How are you feeling, Mister Carter?" said one real quick, a young guy
out of the Star.

"I'm fine, Robert, thanks," I said.

"Thought you had bed rest?" asked another one, a guy from one of the
local television affiliates that I couldn't remember at that moment.

"I've never been good about listening to doctors' orders," I said, and
I stopped at the doors to city hall, turning to the small gathering.
"Off the record, what's the word on Ferguson?"

"They pulled another four out in the last hour, two of them alive,"
Robert said before the others could talk.

"Thank God for small things," I muttered.  "Any of you guys got an ear
to the ground with the feds?  Any word why they've been snubbing us?"

"Other than the obvious?" said the sole woman in the group, a short,
old lady that must have covered the big bang for KGPC.

"Anything specific?" I asked.

"Just that,, if the Mayor wants to run PC like it's its own country, he
can handle it himself," said the guy I didn't remember the name of.

"Great," said with a short nod.  "Nevermind people are dying.  All
right, I gotta go; thanks."

I turned and walked into City Hall.  Few people were in the lobby,
being a Sunday, but more than usual given the news of the day.  Most of
them looked my way, as I walked toward the elevators.

I pressed the up button and stepped back, waited, looked to a few other
folks waiting, and nodded.

"How are you, Mister Carter?" asked one, a blonde lady that I'd seen
around the building before, that had avoided me completely before.

"I'm doing okay, all things considered; thank you," I said.

"You put up one hell of a fight last night," said a gentleman I hadn't
seen before, smiling at me, nodding his head back in some sort of

"I'm just glad no one got seriously hurt," I said, as an elevator
opened.  "Me included."

I gave them a smile that they all returned, one of them chuckling, and
I stepped on the elevator, all of them following.  I pressed the button
for my floor and the lady leaned over and pressed for another floor and
the doors closed.

"You sure you're all right, though?" asked the lady again.  "You went
through that piano pretty hard."

"You'd have to go through it hard to go through it at all," said the
third person, a short, balding man named Walter that did a lot of
interoffice mail deliveries.

"I must have hit it right because I'm pretty okay," I said, as the
elevator stopped and opened.

My floor.

Thank God.

"Good to see you're all right," said the lady, as I stepped off.

"Thank you all very much," I said, nodding and giving an embarrassed
smirk, as I stepped off.

I didn't bother to look back and walked towards my office, as the
elevator closed behind me.

"Good evening, Miss Meyers," I said, as I approached.

"Seventy-two hours is three days, Mister Carter," Nancy Meyers said.

"I'm not here to do any heavy lifting," I said, reaching for my
doorknob. "Just to get up to date."

"You can start by working on thank you notes," she said, as she
continued typing, and I opened my door.


The sight in my office answered that question.

"Why is there a jungle in my office?"

Flowers on almost every flat surface greeted me, as I stepped in.

"There is also a stack of telephone messages and print outs of e-mail
well-wishes on your desk."

"Yippie," I said, as I stepped back out of my office and closed the
door.  "I'll deal with that later.  What are the latest numbers on dead
and missing?"

"101 confirmed dead; they believe there are another twenty-five still

"And, the Australian government won't help?"

"They have not responded to attempts to contact them."

"Has anyone tried the American consulate?"

Meyers stopped her typing and looked at me.

"For what, Mister Carter?"

"To put pressure on the feds.  I counted no less than three Americans I
recognized from the consulate at the Hilton last night, so I would
think that they have a slight personal interest in this."

Meyers just looked at me for a bit as if waiting for more.

"Is the Mayor in?" I asked.

"He should be in his office."

"Great," I said, and I headed for the stairs.


"And, why would the American's react any differently?"

Anna Romanova leaned back in her seat and took a drag off of her
cigarette.  After about a minute of her questioning why I was there and
me trying my damnedest not to yell at her for Eldritch's attack, I had
mentioned the consulate.  The look on her face was priceless.

"At least three American's of note from the consulate were there at the
Hilton last night, so there is a vested interest in helping us capture
the villains.  Part of that is assisting search-and-rescue operations,
so an investigation can begin sooner rather than later."

"The Australian government has failed to respond to public pleas for
assistance from me.  Why would they cave to anyone else?"

"The international community is watching to see what happens here,
Anna.  The Red Cross has decided to set up operations; why can't the
feds come in?"

"By the time they respond, search-and-rescue will be over, Jeffery.  I
have given them an opportunity to step to the plate, and they have
chosen to avoid it.  I honestly do not want them in this city, so why
should I go out of my way to try and have them show up?"

"What if it worked out differently?" I said, as I thought of something.
 "What if Australia doesn't show up, what if we don't ask for
Australia's assistance.  Instead, we ask for America's."

"I want them here even less," said Anna with a glare.

"Or, we simply ask America to criticize Australia's actions."

"America and Australia are very close allies, Jeffery, especially in
the wake of the War on Terror."

"Shit," I said, leaning back, thinking.  "Do we have names and origins
of victims?"


"Are any of the deceased American?  Or, better yet, are any of the
missing American?"

"All of the missing are locals, Jeffery.  But, two Americans are among
the dead."

"Any survivors?"

"Yes.  What are you getting at?"

"The consulate's going to want to know about Americans involved, maybe
even publicly visit them.  Call them to personally set it up."

"To what end, Jeffery?"

"If the US won't come out and say they don't approve of what
Australia's doing, then we can show their disapproval by highlighting a
visit by the American consulate to the wounded."

"That is hardly a sign of reproach."

"It's all about spin, Anna.  I don't see any Australian officials
coming to visit the wounded, do you?  But, the Americans will.  They'll
brave the dangers of Pacific City, work with the local government, just
to make sure their people are okay.  How many survived?"

"Two," Anna said. "Half of a family of four."

"Even better," I said.  "So few Americans, yet their government will
still be there for them.  Where is Australia in her people's time of

A smile started to spread on Anna's face.

"Don't," I said, pointing at her.  "No, don't take this for something
bad or negative.  I'm not doing this for you; I'm doing this for then.
I mean it when I ask where Australia is for her people.  They had a
goddamn duty to show up, and they didn't.  So, we'll make them pay for

"It might not work, Jeffery.  The international community will not

"But, the people of Pacific City will.  When Pacific City needed help,
where did it come from?  Not from the federal government; no, it came
from local fire and rescue and City Hall.

"Then, we'll see how your approval rating looks."

"And, this wasn't for me?"

"If the people approve of you, then they'll be more likely to approve
of what you're doing, and, if that is making them safer, then so be

I pushed myself out of my seat.

"Call the Consulate, Anna.  They're going to want to visit the victims
anyway; you might as well beat them to the punch and invite them.  And,
have you been down there yet?"

Anna shook her head and leaned forward to stub out her cigarette.

"Okay.  I'm going there now, you should schedule something tomorrow or
sometime before the American's go, so your first time showing up isn't
to impress the foreign crowd."

"And, why are you heading down there?"

"Because we need to have someone show up as a sign of involvement.
That and I want to see how things are going first hand."

Anna narrowed her eyes and smirked, as she leaned back again.

"I'm not going to start digging people up, if that's what you mean.
But, I need to go down there.  I have to satisfy myself that much."

"Have you visited your girlfriend?"

I closed my eyes and breathed deep, resisted the urge to say that she
wasn't my girlfriend, then remembering something she told me.

"I have," I said. "And, I don't appreciate your grilling her last

"Is that what she said happened?"

"That's what I'm saying happened," I said.  "She is not a suspect in
any of this and should not be treated as such."


"Perhaps if you spent your time actually looking for the people
involved in this instead, we could make progress on catching them," I
said.  "I will not have the people in my life picked apart for whatever
fucked up reason you may come up with, Anna.  She is not part of this,
and you will leave her alone."

"Are you finished?"

I glared at Anna, as she smiled.

"Jeffery, my questioning of her was brief and only to satisfy my own
curiosity as to her relationship with Simon Cooper.  I left in
agreement with you, that she is not a suspect in any of this.  Aside
from that, I have every right to question whomever I want, whenever I
want, and whether or not that detracts from what you think is the
priority is no concern of mine.  Am I clear?"

"Yeah," I said with a dismissive waive, as I turned to head for the
door.  "You do whatever the hell you want; I just dance when you tell
me to."

"I'm glad you understand," said Anna, and I glanced over my shoulder to
see her smiling.

I turned and left without saying anything else.


Red Cross had set up a temporary shelter in the gym of an elementary
school only a few blocks from Ferguson Place.  I was surprised by how
few people were actually inside, only about thirty or so, and it only
took a moment for me to realize that this was all that was left in the
way of survivors or those who weren't seriously injured.  Minus the few
who got hotel rooms or were staying with family.

I prayed that it was a hell of a lot more than a few.

"How are you on food?" I asked the woman that stood beside me, her head
only coming to my shoulders, her brown hair pulled back into a pony

Rebecca Sears adjusted her glasses with one finger on the bridge and
took a deep breath.

"We're okay, actually," she said.  "We brought some supplies with us,
and the community has really stepped up and given more than enough."

"Cots and blankets and such?"

"All covered, Mister Carter," said Sears, as she looked to me with a
small smile.  "There are people who are well trained in handling these
things, you know."

"I know," I said, as I just looked at the people milling about,
families gathered around, some folks playing cards, a guy with a guitar
in the corner, everyone just trying to act as normal as possible.  "Why
don't we just put them up in hotel rooms?"

"That's not something we do, really," said Sears.  "We're better able
to meet their needs in a setting like this, but, in the long term, that
is something the government may want to look into."

"If the government even bothers," I said with a hint of bitterness.  I
looked over to her.  "May I?" I asked, nodding to the gym.

Sears nodded, and I turned and walked out of the doorway and to the
nearest family.  A few other heads looked up to take notice of my
entrance.  Or, maybe it was the small group of reporters and camera men
that followed me in, despite my best efforts to ward them off.

I stopped before I reached anyone and turned to the group of five that
halted a few yards behind me.

"No pictures unless the family says it's okay," I said, wagging a
finger at them.  "This is bad enough; they don't need to be hounded."

"We've been doing this long enough to know the rules," said one
smartass photographer.

"And, you'll let me reiterate them, or you'll be tossed," I said,
glaring at him.  "You respect their privacy, understand?"

Nods and agreements, the photographer suddenly very interested in his

I turned and approached a family of three that sat around playing a
board game between a couple cots.  The father looked up, as I
approached and was quick to his feet, his wife joining him, as she
noticed what was going on, but I tried to wave them back down.

"I'm sorry; don't get up," I said, and the gentleman just shook his

"It's no trouble," he said, their kid getting to her feet.  She looked
no older than six or so.

"Jeffery Carter," I said, extending a hand which the father shook.

"Ernest Pride," said the father, his grip firm but not too firm.
Professional, nothing to prove.  "This is my wife Trisha," he said,
gesturing to the woman whom I shook the hand of as well.  "And our
daughter Lisa."

I crouched down to Lisa's level and shook her hand.

"Hello, Lisa," I said.

"Hi," was her quick reply, as she grasped onto her father's leg.

"What are you playing?" I asked her, as I looked down at the game.

"Chutes and Ladders," she said, still holding onto her father for dear

"I used to play Chutes and Ladders," I said, looking back to her with a
smile.  "I wasn't that good at it, though.  Are you any good?"

She nodded quickly.

"She's winning," said her mother, but Lisa just stared at me.

"They always let me win," Lisa said, her parents giving an embarrassed
chuckle.  I laughed too.

"Oh, I'm sure that's not the case," I said, standing back up and
looking to her parents.

"Are you all doing okay?" I asked them.

"Well enough," Ernest said, his voice betraying him a little bit.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure you have what you
need," I said.  "And, so you can get back on your feet."

"We're not looking for handouts," said Trisha quickly.

"And, we're not just handing them out," I said.  "If you all need
anything, you let us know, you let me know."  I fished a business card
out of my pocket and handed it to her.

"You gonna personally beat up the guy that did this?" I heard from
behind me, and I turned to see one of the other people in the gym
standing a bit off, arms cross, a smirk on his face.  He was picking a

"I'm going to do everything I can to help see that he's captured and
brought to justice."

"Why don't you put on your costume and go find him, then?"

"I'm sorry?" I said with a bit of shock.

"Oh, come on," said the man, rolling his eyes.  "Everyone knows you're
one of them New Mages.  So, why haven't you all caught the guy that did
this yet?"

"I'm afraid it's not as easy as snapping your fingers, Mister..."

"Why are you here sucking up for these cameras when you could be out
there finding the sonofabitch that blew up our homes and killed all
those people?  Why don't you actually do something productive?"

"Sir, I'm afraid that..."

"You want to do something to help us?  Why don't you actually stop
these things from happening?!"


"Or, are we not worth the effort?  Are we only useful to you as
victims?  'Cause that's the only time you guys show up!  Afterwards, to
clean up, to make yourself look good and productive."

"I don't think..."

"Some fuckin' heroes.  When's the last time you even bothered to..."

"I'm only one man!" I shouted, finally shutting the man up.  "A man,
damn it, like you, or him, or anyone else in this room.  You ask why I
haven't caught the guy, well, why haven't YOU caught him?  Because it's
not that simple, because it takes time and effort, and protecting this
city is harder work than you will ever know.

"For every event like this that happens, there are untold hundreds that
are stopped.  For every person that is hurt, a hundred, a thousand get
to sleep peacefully at night.  So, I'm sorry, I'm sorry we're not as
perfect as we try to be, I'm sorry that this happened, I'm sorry it
couldn't be stopped.  But, all I can do now, all we can do now, is try
and make things better, try and fix what we can and do our damnedest to
find the bastard that did this and bring him to justice."

I stopped and realized I'd said too much, glaring at the man who'd
goaded me, a smug look on his face.  I shook my head and looked away
from him, saw the rest of the room had all heard exactly what I'd said,
had all looked up to stare right at me, a mix of emotions on their
faces, most of them just surprised at the outburst.

"I'm sorry," I said to the room.  "I'm sorry you all had to go through
this tragedy, and I'm sorry so many have had to suffer.  But, I can't
change the past.  All we can do is provide you with what you need to
get your lives back together.

"We've all been through worse," I said, looking down at my hands.
"This city's been through worse, and she's pulled through.  We've all
pulled through before."  I looked back up.  "And, we'll do it again.

"I promise we'll find the man that did this and bring him to justice.
I promise that we will learn from this and work hard to do everything
we can to stop this from happening again.  I promise that we'll get
through this and come out stronger and better.

"I'm sorry," I said with a shrug. "But, that's all I can give you right

I looked around the room and everyone seemed to wait for more, but I
had nothing left.

I looked to the Pride family, looked down to Lisa, clutching her
father's leg, and swallowed hard.

"I'm sorry," I said, and I turned, headed for the door.

Rebecca Sears stood by the door, staring at me, as I approached and
stopped next to her.

"I'd like a list of every family here," I said, as I looked at my hands
again.  "How many people are in each, what their needs are, and the

"Mister Carter, we're well equipped to take care of them," Sears said.

"Temporarily," I said, looking up to lock eyes with her.  "I'm looking
at the long term.  I'd like names and needs, please.  And, I will make
sure they're met for the long term."

She nodded and looked back to the room.  I resisted the urge to do the

"Sorry to trouble you, Miss Sears," I said, and I left the gymnasium.

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