Jack Washington (junior) had been the protégée of Jack Simmons practically since he could walk.
You see ‘Big Jack’ – as a younger J-W-J usually referred to him - had been a close personal friend to both the first Jack Washington and Jack junior’s godfathers Hank and Tommy Griffin. Given that all of the three had been killed shortly after the Second World War it is little surprise that Jack Simmons (Who never forsook a friend - or their family) had taken an interest in the boy, beginning a series of what would become regular visits shortly after the murder of the Human Tank and Gunner.
J-W-J – as Simmons swiftly dubbed him to avoid confusion – was stricken by an acute case of Hero Worship. The Patriot, the real honest to goodness Patriot, had come to his house, had told him the swellingest stories about his adventures (J-W-Js coinage, not mine) and shown off some acrobatic manoeuvres. He’d even shown him how to perform some (More simple, less dangerous).
This was even better than finding out that his Dad was the Steel Commando – He hadn’t been told, he’d just worked his way into the armour room in his Dad’s lab – because the Patriot was just as he was in his stories, even out of costume. While Jack’s Dad was swell, but . . . just Dad outside of his armour. He never told stories about his adventures, kept sorta quiet about it, changed the topic. He didn’t want his son anywhere near that life.
Jack Washington junior doesn’t remember this, since his birth father has been little more than a memory to him since a little before J-W-Js 13th birthday and memory can change, especially with a little help from well-meaning friends.
You see, after Jack senior’s death and his own retirement as The Patriot, Jack Simmons had made looking in on J-W-J a high priority. This was made easier by Martha Washington’s decision to move back to her hometown Freehold, which happened to be Jack Simmons old beat too.
It was a rare week that didn’t see the Washington household receive a visit from Simmons – Who had helped Martha’s father, an influential politician, as a young beat cop almost twenty years before. (A connection which would help ensure his selection for the Patriot Project) – And Jack was glad to be able to talk with his old friend’s son, help him through the problems that he couldn’t tell his mother about, introduce him to other old friends of his father like Michael O’Connor (senior) himself a childless bachelor at this point in time (He would marry later in life, Michael junior a child of his age. J-W-J would act as one of Mike junior’s godfathers, before. . .) who would often tell stories ‘as they really really happened.’
J-W-J would know his father better through these stories than from actually interacting with the man. It would be his patently-obvious desire to follow in his father’s footsteps – and the memory of his father’s old enemies - that persuaded Jack Simmons to start training him from a young age in Jack’s skills, physical and leadership.
J-W-J would love and remember the tales of the Golden Age of superhumans, using them to help him to follow in his father’s footsteps, reciting them to himself like a mantra whenever his determination or spirits flagged, using them to flog near-superhuman efforts out of mind and body.
Twenty-year old Jack Washington junior would be one of the first trainees to be put through the AEGIS training course - known informally as the ‘house of serpents’ since you had to be quick, whip-smart and shed a bit of skin to get through the course (not to mention the old Urban Legend that those who got through and still didn’t meet standards would find out that the floor beneath them was a trapdoor and . . . well, you get the idea). This nickname was quietly dropped during the 80s. – And would pass with flying colours. He would even be there when the first AEGIS agents (trainees and field-rated) saw action as a unit for the first time, fighting SHADOW.
Afterwards, when Jack Simmons approached him with the offer of a full commission as an Agent of AEGIS, saying that it would be the proudest day of his life if J-W-J accepted, J-W-J refused – and then made him even prouder.
Using his connections to JFK – which partly derived from the fact that Jack’s maternal grandfather had been a supporter of the Kennedy’s practically since before they arrived on the scene – Jack Washington junior became the second Steel Commando and helped to found, and then led his own team of superhumans, the Freedom Alliance.
His triumphs inspired tremendous, almost paternal pride in Jack Simmons, although he would give J-W-J this advice after learning of some of his more extreme behaviour (Which he plans to repeat to the third Steel Commando when they formally meet):
“It’s one thing for an Agent of AEGIS or a soldier to carry a lethal weapon and be prepared to use it to kill. I carry a sidearm.
(No, of course I don’t use it, never even unholster it, but that’s because the regs say I have to carry it, not use the d- thing. I should know; I’m the boss and I wrote ‘em. I’m good enough that I have the luxury of disabling my opponents but my agents don’t. That’s part of the point I’m trying to make here.)
Son, while you wear the suit you’re a superhero and it’s dangerous to hold to that sort of mentality. While you wear that armour, you symbolise America and all it stands for, you are an inspiration to its citizens and to its allies. You are - in essence - an icon, a walking flag. Uncle Sam in a Tin.
Sometimes you may have to get your hands dirty, do what you don’t particularly like or want to, but that doesn’t mean you need to get them bloody. You have powers and abilities beyond those of most men. Use them to find a better way and remember: Dirt washes off, but blood once on your hands will stain them forever.”
J-W-J may not have agreed with these ideas but at least he kept them on his mind, for a while. He might even have come to agree with them eventually, if not for Nixon.
Shortly after his resignation, Jack Washington junior arrived, unexpected, in Jack Simmon’s Freedom City office. Without going through security first.
Simmons was glad to see him, he’d been worried sick about the man he’d come to see – alongside much of AEGIS, including Harry Powers - as very much the child he’d never have. He asked J-W-J where he’d been. Jack Washington Junior told him everything. The secrets he’d discovered about Nixon, all his suspicions and begged Simmons, practically on bended knee, to help him throw Nixon out by main force.
The old Patriot simply stared at the haggard stranger who stood before him, for a good five minutes. (Four minutes and twenty-three seconds longer than his usual decision-making span.)
“J-W. . . Son, I swore an oath to uphold the constitution and the president of these United States. I can’t act to overthrow him based only on these . . . minor malpractices.
No, son, I’m not dismissing your information, I’m simply dismissing what won’t hold up in a court of Law and Nixon will stand trial, if I can make him.
No, I’m not going to force him. This is not only a government of men you need to fix, but a nation of law and I will not act against the laws of this nation. I can’t act against him, not –“
“You too Dad? Then damn you too.”
Jack Washington junior stormed out, concealing his shame at the outburst - and embarresment at the accidental use of that word in particular, never hearing Simmons last word: “Openly.”
AEGIS was one of the many opponents of Nixon who received hard evidence against him in the dossiers provided by the House of Serpents. Jack Simmons – with a party of similarly-minded friends some distance behind him - marched right into the White House itself, in full costume for the first time in nearly twenty years, and told Nixon, face to face, that he would resign or The Patriot would throw him out of the White House by main force – and explain his actions to the entire world afterwards.
A few hours after Nixon’s resignation, The Patriot walked to confront Nixon, heard a gunshot, ran into the Oval Office – and found Richard Milhous Nixon had blown his own brains out (Though Simmons did not immediately recognise this).
Jack Washington junior, white as a ghost, stood off to one side, fighting to make sure absolutely no expression showed on his face.
For a long, silent moment the two stared at each other, so much that should have been said just hanging in the air, silent and unspoken. Then General Venom left the room.
I wish this tale ended here.
To this day Harry Powers will swear – often virulently – that it was the shame of what ‘Kid Snake’ had become and a broken heart that killed Jack Simmons, not mere cancer.
Jack Simmons himself has never forgotten J-W-J, his pride in the boy and his successes, his feelings of paternal affection. Never forgotten the expression on Washington’s face as he saw his greatest enemy sit there in the Oval Office, dead by his own hand and not yet realising that the man he considered a father was watching.
He wondered for long time what that expression was. Hate? Fear, at what he had done? Guilt? Horror? Pain, from not-yet-healed injuries? The last is near enough the truth.
It was Failure.
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