Jacob 'Polaris' Richter
Guiding Star: Profiling Jacob Â‘Polaris' Richter
--by Jamie Easton, New York Times
Everyone knows his name. Everyone knows his legend. Congressman Jacob Richter has spent the past two decades trying to distance himself from the name Polaris and much of what the name represents. To many, the name is a sign of respect, and gratitude. To Jacob, it's a reminder of unreasonable expectations and a life he did not choose. But in my latest profile of prominent members of the Delta Community, I learned there is more Polaris in Jacob Richter than he'd like to admit.
Author's Note: The world of Delta Factor diverges significantly from our history beginning with the events of September 11, 2001. This piece discusses those altered events in some detail.
Editor's Note 1: Ms. Easton has cordially interacted with Mr. Richter on numerous occasions during her career. The New York Times proudly boasts our reporter as the only journalist Mr. Richter has ever called 'Not a Parasite.' High praise, indeed.
Editor's Note 2: Mr. Richter is known in the media for his colorful use of words. In an attempt to remain true to his intent, we have kept his language intact wherever possible. We apologize if this language crosses the bounds of decency for some readers.
I begin the third in my series of profiles of prominent members of the Delta community with a warning, and an admission:
Jacob Richter is my hero.
On September 11, 2001, Jacob Richter saved my father's life, along with the lives of thousands of others. His actions and words since then have only reinforced my opinion of the man. Readers expecting a hard-hitting expose will be disappointed. While Jacob has as many - more, he will say - flaws as any other man, he is still a hero. He is still my hero.
May 5, 2021
When I asked for an interview, I received an invitation to lunch. So, on a pleasant early afternoon, I'm shown to the terrace of the Richters' penthouse apartment, where odors and sounds of steaks sizzling greet me. Next I see my host and grillmaster. I'm struck once more by how how average he looks - if you ignore the constant violet glow. He is short, thin, with receding hair trimmed short and a day's growth on his chin. He's casually dressed, and wearing an apron which invites me to Kiss the Cook - If his WIFE isn't looking. As with most Deltas who have been around a while, he looks many years younger than his 58.
'Jamie,' he greets me with a smile. On television, he always sounds annoyed. Perhaps this is understandable if you dislike the sorts of questions he is usually asked when someone points a camera at him. But in person, his tone is soft, and he approaches to shake my hand. As we clasp hands, I tell myself the thrill which runs up my spine is only the tingle of energy as he permits me past his force field. Then we sit, and Janice, Jacob's wife of thirty-five years, offers me coffee.
Jacob returns to the grill, as his wife and I enjoy coffee on the settee. Janice Richter is in many ways her husband's opposite. She is a tall, lean, handsome woman, well-coiffed, her appearance neat. While she looks older than he, she still carries her own fifty eight years well. She dresses more casually for me than her usual conservative suits. While lunch is prepared, I use the time to observe the couple as we talk, and see an easy give and take, a comfortable love not lessened by the years together. Then, steaks ready, we move to the table, where we begin our meal and the interview in earnest.
While Jacob's early life is well documented, he has often been reluctant to share his personal thoughts. We know he was born the youngest of three brothers, grew up neither rich nor poor. We know he had more than his share of childhood ailments, including moderate to severe Asthma which would follow him into adulthood. And of course we know he met his wife while attending Columbia University, and it was love at first sight.
'It wasn't love at first sight,' Janice tells me. 'No,' offers Jacob. 'It was more like, Â‘waiter, there's a fly in my soup' at first sight.' Janice's face lights up at the memory, and she laughs. 'And you were so cheesy. What was that line you used?' Jacob laughs now, too. 'It just wanted to be near you.'
So Jacob worked as a waiter? 'Yup. For three years at a place near the university. I had to make ends meet, and Coffee Shops weren't quite so much of a thing back then.' He shakes his head. 'It sucked. But I think it gave me a good appreciation for... well, for not having to wait tables for a living, mostly.'
Sensing there's more to it, I push. What was it really like? 'Demeaning,' he tells me after a moment's thought. 'Not the work, but the way so many people treat you, like your only role in life is this. And the way they treated the women was even worse.'
That can't have sat well with someone as outspoken as Jacob. 'I wasn't, back then.' He considers his next words for a moment. 'Back then, I was quieter. I didn't speak up as much. I think I was afraid, though it all felt normal at the time. Hell,' he adds after a moment. 'It took all my nerve to say that thing about the bug.'
But he did say it, and the two began dating. They dated throughout college, then married. Janice joined her father's law firm, while Jacob went to work for Klein, Roberts & Winston, a noted investment firm. As a junior stock analyst, Jacob's work would garner some notice. But that same fear would hold back his career.
'No,' Jacob amends. 'There was more to it than that. I'll admit I played office politics poorly. Other people would get credit for my work, would schmooze the bosses to get noticed. And Janice would bug me sometimes about standing up for myself more. But... I also didn't want more at my job. I figured out early, everything I wanted from life was at home. Work was just to pay the bills for me.' He looks at his wife and smiles with his eyes.
'Some guys are all about career. I was all about earning enough to enjoy my time at home.'
So Jacob had a good job as an analyst while Janice established herself as a shark among sharks in the legal world. They had two lovely children and a third on the way, and no financial worries. In many ways, it was the American Dream. Then came D-Day.
September 11, 2001: Delta Day
When I ask about that day, Jacob's glowing field flares a little, and he becomes very still. He is quiet for a very long minute, thoughtful, but then he looks at me.
'I've always told people it was a blur, that I don't really remember very clearly, that it all happened so fast,' Jacob explains. He's silent for another long moment. 'I think because I wanted it to be a blur.' I see the dread creep into his eyes, just a little bit. 'The truth is, I remember it all perfectly. I don't think I can properly describe the terror I felt, but I remember it. Sometimes, I wake up in the night, and I'm there. Sometimes, I dream about how it might have happened if I didn't express.'
Jacob takes a moment to collect his thoughts before continuing. 'You feel it first,' he says. 'There was this hard jolt. It shook the building and made it sway worse than the worst wind I'd ever felt. There was a sound, but... it came through the building and your bones before it came through your ears.' Janice reaches for his hand gently, and he clasps it as he continues. 'You know right away something's wrong. But you don't know what. We all rushed to the windows to see what we could see. We were about 20 floors below, and at first, we couldn't see anything. But then... smoke... falling debris... falling people...'
Jacob takes a few more moments to gather himself. 'Then, the shock wears off and the fear and panic set in. Alarms only made it worse. Some made for elevators, but most of us made for the stairs. But they were already clogged by people coming down from above. I ran back to my office, tried to use the phone.'
Jacob trails off again, and Janice reaches up with her other hand, placing it on his cheek. She looks into his eyes and worlds pass between them. Jacob calms, and smiles for her. Then he looks at me, and continues.
'You begin to lose hope, faster than you'd think. I thought it was over. And then... I don't know why, in that moment, I decided to pick up the fallen picture frame. But I did, and there was Janice and the kids.' Jacob looks at his wife. 'Our most recent family photo. Janice was five months pregnant--'
'The last month I would let anyone point a camera at me before she was born,' Janice interrupts, lightening the mood a bit. Jacob laughs, but resumes.
'And I was just thinking... I'm never going to see her again. I'll never see David, or Ari. I'll never get to meet whatshername--' Here he smiles briefly. 'We couldn't agree on a name, and I'd taken to calling her Â‘whatshername' just to be annoying. But at that moment... it was the end, and I just loved them so much, and... I got really pissed.'
The particular emotion raises a question. He shakes his head, as if a bit embarrassed by the admission.
'I'd love to say that my thoughts were of my family, and unselfish love and hopes for their futures. But the selfish truth is, I only thought of me. I had this nice life, this beautiful wife, wonderful kids, and now some random act of God - it had only been minutes; we still didn't really know what had happened - this random act was going to take it all away from me? Hell, no!
'I got madder than I've ever been. I was still scared, too, but the anger just welled up inside. And... it started to burn. It started to burn right through me. I felt like I was on fire. But... also calm.' He's quiet for a long moment, reliving it. 'And then I jumped.'
Everyone has seen the famous footage. Bystanders with camcorders (ask your parents, kids) caught a man, plummeting from on high, seemingly another desperate bid to escape. He wasn't the first such caught on film... but then a violet light flared to life around him, and he pulled out of the dive. Instead of falling the glowing figure was flying.
'My brain instantly rewired,' Jacob explains. 'I just... knew. Whatever was happening, I knew how to use it.'
Use it, he did. As cameras watched, the figure circled the building, spiraling back up. It reached the level with the wreckage, and a violet beam of energy reached out. More debris began to fall from the tower.
'Whatever happened to me came with the knowledge of how to make it work... but it didn't make me an engineer. I tried to grab what was left of the jet and pull it clear, but... the jet and the building just weren't two different things anymore, But I could see a lot of smoke and flame.'
Cameras followed the figure as it flew around the building a couple of times, and then into the building. The smoke quickly abated. 'My field is semi permeable by default,' Jacob says. 'But I can make it airtight. I found the worst of the fire and smothered it. I found where fuel was feeding the fire and pulled it out.'
With the fire and smoke reduced, the figure began removing people from the building. 'Lots of people were panicked, but I noticed a lot of them nearest the crash were blinded by the smoke and fumes. Some of the people who fell that day jumped on purpose to escape the fire. But some just stumbled blindly out.' Then the figure began lowering people to the ground, a few at a time. Within minutes of the first strike, more than a hundred people had been safely lowered from the damaged skyscraper. But then...
'I'd moved to the floors above the impact. As I was pulling one woman clear, her eyes went wide and the color drained from her face. She pointed. I looked, and saw the second jet. I dropped her back onto the building and rushed toward the jet.' He smiles, in spite of the memory. 'People say I saved that jet and the South Tower, but if that woman hadn't seen it... I still don't know who she was. I never saw her again.'
The first news crews had arrived, and cameras recorded the violet streak hurtling away from the WTC. Cameras tried to track the movement, and caught up in time to watch the form blast straight through an engine on the jet.
'I knew I wouldn't be able to stop a 767 in flight. I just... knew. But I also was pretty sure it wouldn't be able to stop me. I took out an engine the fastest way I could, and then was able to force it off course, push it down. I could see terrified people inside looking out as I aimed for the water and prayed.'
The second jet ditched in New York Harbor. The impact killed the hijackers in the cockpit, and passengers managed to overpower the remaining men. Meanwhile, the glow returned, and continued helping people down. An hour later he'd ferried all of the people he could. At this point in the tale, Jacob shakes his head sadly.
'You know, everyone says I saved the Towers,' he says. And he did. The damage to the north tower was repairable, and the south tower was almost untouched. 'But hundreds of people died. I knew some of them. I saw the bodies. I heard the screams of the ones I couldn't...' Jacob stops, unable to continue for a moment. He takes a breath, then continues.
'All I wanted by then was to to get the hell away from there. So I lowered the last man to the ground and flew off.' He flew home, where he found Janice in the living room. She tells me about the moment her husband came back to her.
'I'd been getting ready for work. I turned on the news. And then...' She shakes her head, but looks at me, her emotions more in control. 'I remember... nothing. I just sat there, staring. Thinking of Jacob, terrified. I was still just staring at the TV when Jacob called my name.' Now she smiles, and shed a tear.
'I'm not a devout woman. But that moment, hearing his voice, seeing him there... well, there's room for miracles in science.' This shark among sharks looks at her husband and squeezes his hand. 'Everything that's happened since... all the hate speech and fear mongering and accusations of small minds... a thousand adjustments to our lives, some huge, some insignificant... it's all been worth it because of that moment.'
One reporter likened the as-yet-unidentified glowing form to a Â‘...beacon of hope, like the north star guiding us in the darkness.' Word spread as fast as the airwaves could repeat it. Cameras had tracked Jacob home, and soon reporters were camped out around his building.
'I had to do something, so I flew back to the scene after a couple of hours. Feds had secured the site. I landed, wanting to talk to them. There were a lot of confused people there, a few guns came out. It was... a pretty tense moment. But then a firefighter came up to me, and shook my hand. Then another, and another.'
The next day, the world was introduced to Jacob. His glow dimmed as much as he could manage, special filters on the camera lenses, the world saw a man who looked nothing like their expectations.
'I was a skinny, balding, asthmatic Jew with glasses before. I was a skinny, balding Jew with glasses after,' Jacob quips. His wife adds, 'don't forget short,' with a laugh of her own. But what about the asthma? 'That cleared right up.'
Jacob addressed the nation, still the humble, unassertive man he'd been. Many still remember his soft words, his talk of being glad he was able to help, his answers as to what exactly happened being completely unhelpful. 'I didn't know. As far as I was concerned then, it was a miracle. Since I hadn't been to synagogue since the wedding, I wondered why I was chosen, but that was the only reason I could see for what had happened, and why.'
Today, of course, we know Jacob was only the first of thousands. Twenty years later, there are nearly three hundred thousand Deltas in the United States, and four times that number worldwide. Since the Independence Day Surge last year, there are an estimated thirty thousand Deltas classified Two or higher - Deltas with real power. But as the first...
'There were a few issues,' Jacob understates. 'I was new, different; decidedly not normal. Reactions covered the entire spectrum. People were grateful. Or suspicious. Thankful. Or accusatory. I was a miracle. Or a demon. And everything in between. Reporters hounded me and my family. Every government agency wanted to talk to me. The President wanted to meet me, but I didn't vote for that asshole, so I blew him off.'
What about the man on the street? 'That was awesome, I will admit,' Jacob tells me with a grin. 'People stopped me at the store, told me Â‘good job' or Â‘keep it up.' The guy running the local deli kept trying to give me free bagels and lox, and named a new sandwich after me. I got cards and letters from hundreds of people who worked in the towers and their families, and from all over, especially from New Yorkers. Jon Stewart did a whole segment on what a hero I was.'
'It went straight to his head,' Janice says with a laugh.
The Dawning Age of the Delta
While his appearance was novel, and certainly the most dramatic, Jacob was only the first. Within a month, there were a dozen new expressions. Within six, there were a hundred. Then a thousand. Since those early days, science has learned much about the genetic predisposition and triggers for Expression. But in those early days, people struggled to understand and accept a new world. How did Jacob adjust?
'I went back to work,' he says with a shrug. 'I'm an Ivy League educated Wall Street guy. No matter what happened on 9/11, I still felt... like me.'
Jacob received a promotion, 'which I pretend was on merit and not because of what I did.' And he went to work the same as before. 'Well, not quite the same. I usually flew.' Over the next three years, Jacob worked while expressions continued to appear. 2003 saw the first of the so-called 'Zeroes,' Deltas with purely cosmetic alterations and no special ability. They quickly became targets of discrimination and oppression.
'I think it was... April of 2004,' Jacob begins when I ask how he became an activist. 'I'd enjoyed an incredible privilege for the past couple of years. Riding the tide of hero worship, I'd been... isolated in a lot of ways from the growing problem. Honestly, I probably still am.
'One morning, coming to work, I passed a woman as I entered the lobby of the tower. It was someone I'd seen... you know... you pass through the same doors every day you begin to recognize people who pass through them too. Only today, she was leaving as I was arriving, carrying a box of her things. She was crying, and...'
Jacob trails off for a moment, thinking. 'Her skin... she'd developed patches where she had scaly formations. I stopped, and asked if she was alright. She was in tears, but she told me the company she worked for had fired her. She was no longer Â‘presentable,' they had told her. Well... I got mad. The unfairness of it boggled my mind. I told the woman to wait, that I'd fix it, and I marched up there and pushed my way in. I was Polaris, dammit, and I told the man he couldn't treat people like that. I discovered that, technically, they could.
'It was later that night when I was fuming about it that Janice suggested I do something about it.'
So, Jacob began to research, and to speak out. He took time off from work, toured the nation, met a lot of people with similar stories. He wrote a book. The result? 'A lot of people told me I just didn't get it,' Jacob says with a sheepish grin. 'And they were right. But I began to understand. I kept at it. I met with lawmakers, and industry leaders. I like to think I was beginning to do good.'
A Hero in Distress
In April, 2006, Jacob's efforts bore fruit: the State of California became the first state to enact legislation which extended equal opportunity and anti-discrimination protections to Deltas. Jacob was on hand for the signing, which in true California fashion had become a media event.
'I arrived in a limo. Seeing the crowd, I wondered if they'd accidentally driven me to some big movie premiere. There was a red carpet, and a ropeline, and hundreds of people gathered. To see a bill signing? Governor Schwarzenegger? Me?' Jacob laughs. 'But I always liked shaking hands, so I went down the line, greeting people. That's when my force field fritzed.'
News cameras saw the field flicker, then vanish. 'I was just standing there, not really catching up to what what happening. Then out of nowhere I got tackled. I had no clue what was going on.' Only a moment later, Jacob was tackled. A woman - Delta - her features resembling a large feline, bore Jacob to the ground. At almost the same time, a shot rang out.
'Somehow, they'd disabled my power long enough to shoot at me. But Aeris saved me.' Jacob refers to the Delta who tackled him, whom the world knows today as Aeris Lancaster, cousin of Stella Lancaster, wife of Katrina Yamato. The two have since become very good friends. But in that moment...
'It was like... well, I'd never been saved before.'
It took a while to figure things out. Then they had the signing, while Aeris watched from a private booth. Later, she got a chance to meet Jacob.
'It was... strange,' Aeris Lancaster told me over the phone in a follow-up interview. 'On the one hand... I was one of the Deltas whose expression had been very marked. I can control it now, but for years I felt... trapped in the feline form. I'd read Jacob's book, and I thought he didn't have a clue about people like me. But... he was still Polaris. And he was thanking me for saving his life. He told me how brave I was, how much it meant to him. It was... surreal.'
'It was a new and humbling experience,' Jacob tells me. 'After 9/11, so many people would just walk up and thank me. They would say I was a hero. And even if I let it go to my head, part of me always thought they were making more of it that they should. But suddenly I'm fawning all over this young woman who saved my life, thanking her, calling her a hero.'
Jacob is quiet for a moment. 'I think that's when I started to understand how people see me. When something happens, you just act. It's no big deal to you because you're just reacting; you're just... doing what you do. But to the person you helped, it's everything. And that day, Aeris saved my everything.'
'And mine,' Janice adds.
'Ugh.' Jacob rolls his eyes while Janice laughs in merriment when I mention the rumors which surrounded him and Aeris back then. 'You wonder why I hate reporters? It's because of bullshit like that.'
Over several months, Jacob and Aeris forged a friendship. In February, 2007, a tabloid published a photo which showed Jacob and Aeris apparently moments away from a kiss, their lips parted. But Jacob says it was nothing but a cheap shot from a lucky angle.
'Aeris had called me for help. There was trouble with... well... it's not important. I arrived... just in time to help clean.' Jacob looks a little sheepish admitting to the late arrival. 'But Janice had been after me for months to invite Aeris over, so I invited her over. The asshole with the camera caught me as I lifted her to fly her back to New York.'
Janice agrees. 'I remember that day well. Jacob called and told me he was bringing a guest home. They arrived in the early part of the afternoon, and then Jacob flew off to buy steaks.' Just like today's meal? Jacob nods. 'What can I say? I love to grill and I love a good steak.'
Janice continues. 'I met Aeris, and we enjoyed a lovely meal. She met the kids, and Lizzie gave her a card she'd made, a thank you for saving her dad. And David... he was 13, and he kept peeking at her. It was adorable.'
Aeris Lancaster is equally candid. 'I can't swear the thought never crossed my mind,' she says of the picture and rumor. 'But it never crossed his. And... once the hero worship fades, you see how normal he really is. He has his insecurities and frailties, like we all do. And once I met the family, felt the ready acceptance in spite of my appearance, even young David trying to be subtle while checking me out, that was the day I began to feel less trapped by what I'd become.'
A Family Grows
Aeris' friendship with the Richter family would grow. The coming months would see her a frequent guest to their home, even as Aeris returned to an education which her expression had interrupted. Then, the following year, the couple would stun Aeris.
'We flew out for some business,' Janice explains. 'We used it as a pretext to invite Aeris to lunch, where we told her I was pregant.' Aeris was among the first to learn Janice was expecting the Richters' fourth child, but this wasn't the part which stunned her.
'They wanted to name her after me. I was... 'stunned' is an understatement. Then they asked me to be Godmother.' The word doesn't mean what it once did, but it was still a huge sign of respect and affection. 'Of course, I said yes.'
And so on Father's day, 2008, Aeris Richter was born, the first child born to a major post-expression power.
Shortly after his daughter was born, Jacob semi-retired as a full partner in the firm he'd worked at since graduation. Klein, Richter & Roberts continues to enjoy a sterling reputation on Wall Street today. Jacob would continue to devote some time to the firm, but his main focus shifted. Having authored his fourth book, Changed World, Jacob decided to devote as much time as possible to activism.
'The more I worked with Deltas, the more I felt that was where I was making a difference. I talked to Janice, and the partners, and they agreed.' Jacob smiles at the memory. 'I began working with others around the nation. Dan Voltaire in L.A. was running a local community center for Deltas, and had ideas of making it a national thing. I wanted to help with that. Other states were working to pass legislation similar to California, and a few states weren't working toward it. Hate groups were spreading lies and fear. There was a lot to be done.'
Over the next decade, as Janice achieved full partnership in her law firm, Jacob worked to build relationships with and between Deltas and Baselines. He joined the Board of Trustees of Daniel Voltaire's newly incorporated Delta House in 2009, helping to direct the group's mission of education and support. He became increasingly outspoken, his opinions less and less... filtered. I ask him about a few of his more choice sound bites over the years.
'It's no secret I have little patience for idiots, politicians, or reporters. Er... present company excepted,' he hastily adds after a carefully measured elbow from his wife. 'When Aeris' wife got outed and her career took a nosedive, I had no trouble calling the idiots out on their nonsense. They accused her of 'hiding' among 'normal' people. I question their definition of normal, but of course she hid. She wouldn't have had a career in the first place if she hadn't; small minds and scared executives would have made sure of that. But the hypocrisy of persecuting a people, then complaining when those people choose to hide to avoid persecution. It takes a special kind of clueless idiot. Or a politician to pander to them.'
Jacob shakes his head. 'Deltas aren't the only people to deal with this bullshit. Just the most recent.'
In the early part of 2018, as the nation recovered from the recent Black Friday Outbreak and people looked in vain to the government for answers, Jacob held a press conference.
'Black Friday was my breaking point,' Jacob explains. 'That weekend, my Aeris got sick, but recovered. A family friend's fourteen year old son almost died. And we were among the lucky. Hundreds were sick, then thousands, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do, except play courier when a cure was ready for testing.' Jacob ferried samples and even delivered the cure to several pharmaceutical companies so they could use cultures to jump start their own production. 'I watched people suffer and die. Then, when it was under control, I watched as Congress dithered about, each of these self-serving bastards posturing and turning the tragedy political. Attacks on the President and his staff, laying blame, using these deaths to score points in the polls. It was business as usual in Washington. But I'd had enough.'
Having made a point of shunning reporters for almost twenty years, Jacob's announcement that he would hold a press conference piqued the curiosity of many, this reporter included. Many speculated what he would talk about, but no major news source guessed his true intent.
'When I announced I was running for the House of Representatives,' Jacob recalls with a smile, 'the place just went quiet. I don't blame them. All the things I've said over the years about politics...' He trails off with a chuckle. Well, no-one was expecting it, that's certain.'
Pundits had a field day, nearly all predicting the crushing defeat of the outspoken activist. Only one voice seemed to understand the true dynamic at work.
'This wasn't a political movement,' says Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, where Jacob has guested on several occasions. 'This wasn't Democrats against Republicans, Red vs. Blue, Liberal and Conservative. This was Pissed Off New York. Jacob didn't know the political machine he was putting himself up against, but he knew Pissed Off, and he knew New York.'
Jacob ran as a Democrat, but wasted no time setting himself apart from the party. 'My political views are pretty conservative in many ways. If we could divorce the job of running the nation from the social issues both major parties love to trot out at every opportunity, I'd be a Republican. But... social issues matter, and so I had to side with the liberals.'
But not all the time. 'Hell, not even that often.'
In mid 2020, after only a year as a Congressman, Jacob surprised everyone again when he announced he wouldn't seek re-election. In his appearance on The Daily Show, he explained his reasons in true Jacob Richter fashion. I ask him about that oft-quoted statement.
'I meant it, and I stand by it. The summer I turned 13, when I discovered masturbation, was far more productive and useful than the year and a half I'd just spent in Congress.'
It was true, the freshman Representative had failed to pass or prevent any meaningful legislation. Not understanding the way the political machine works, Jacob was ignored by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. 'So I decided to return to my activism, where I felt I could make a difference.'
Some disagreed with his decision, and with his assessment of his performance. 'Jacob wasn't winning any fights, it's true,' says Jon Stewart. 'But he WAS representing the will of the people who elected him. He was - and is - an earnest voice, doing his best to deliver on his promises. He voted against his own conscience more than once because it was the will of the people he promised to represent. Sure, he didn't win, sure he was ignored. But we're New Yorkers. We're used to being ignored. It's why we all yell so much.'
Jacob laughs when I read him that quote. 'Trust Jon to make even the unfunny funny. But he had a point, and it was a point a lot of people agreed with.'
As the two parties' campaigns began, so did a new movement. Signs began to appear all over the district, calling for people to vote for Jacob as a write-in candidate. They were plastered on every surface. The city would remove them, and they would reappear almost overnight. As the election approached, both parties were dismayed as Jacob polled in the high 30s despite not running. It all came to a head when he appeared once more on The Daily Show.
'Jon asked me what I would do if I actually got the most votes. I made the mistake of giving him an honest answer.' Jacob shakes his head, as dismayed today by the outcome as he was on election day. 'I said, if elected by the people of my district despite my poor record, I would feel obligated to accept.' This was the only excuse many needed. First Stewart, then a slew of other voices, exhorted the people of New York's 13th to vote for Richter on election day. Despite a desperate last minute smear campaign, Jacob won re-election with 52% of the vote.
'If I ever find out who put up all those signs, I'll kick his ass,' Jacob jokes. At least, I think he's joking.
Now in his second term in the House, Jacob has begun to learn the ropes of the political machine. His speeches on the floor have improved, and he's begun to forge a few relationships in Congress. While never wavering in his commitment to the people who exiled - Jacob's word for it - him to Washington, he's made efforts to work with other. He's also begun to form a plan for the future.
'I think I'll run for Senate,' he tells me. 'Then President. Then, when I'm done, no-one can make me run for anything else. And then I win.'
I laugh, but something in Jacob's tone tells me he isn't entirely joking. Does he hate politics so much?
'Jamie, honestly, it's a cesspit. I'm a little afraid it will eventually infect me. But... I have to keep going.'
I ask why, but before he can answer, the elevator dings. I notice the time; we've talked for several hours. Jacob's twelve-year-old daughter Aeris bounds into the living room. She is short, with long, uncontrollably curly black hair, and a pretty smile. She also never walks when she can run, and never runs when she can jump or flip or bounce. And as she bounces into her father's lap, I see the answer to my question in their hug.
The appearance of Jacob's daughter leads me to the new subject. After she runs off to do her homework ('To talk about boys on the phone, you mean,' says Janice.), I ask about Aeris' Expression. After sharing a look, and a nod from Janice, Jacob agrees to discuss it.
'You know as much as we do, Jamie,' Jacob says. 'You saw the video.'
Nearly everyone has seen the viral video taken by a vacationing couple visiting the Empire State Building on that fateful day. Cries of alarm pull the focus from the view to the radio tower. A girl, only eight years old, climbing the tower. We hear a desperate and fearful shouted name, 'Aeris!' and we see the teacher, crying out for fear of her student. Then, as those below gasp in shock and fear, we watch the girl jump. Finally, the crunch and crack as the little girl damages the observation deck with her landing. Then, without missing a beat, she takes off running, arms out, playing airplane.
'Yeah... so... that happened,' Jacob says with a shake of his head. 'We got a frantic call from the school, and that was how we found out. As far as we know, she hadn't had any serious trauma to trigger an Expression. She told us she just woke up feeling really good that morning.'
Has her Expression been a challenge? Janice fields that one.
'Without going into detail, yes. It's hard enough running around after a child. Now I have to worry about her leaping off the deck and scaring people below.' Which has already happened. 'Only once,' Janice hurries to explain. 'She understands why she shouldn't and she's promised never to jump off the building ag-- Jacob stop laughing!'
Jacob laughs with humor at the thought. 'We must be the first parents in history ever to have to ask our child to promise not to jump off a skyscraper, again.'
As the afternoon winds down, I finish my last cup of coffee and ask my last question, for both Richters. What is next for the couple? Both of them consider for a moment before Jacob answers first.
'I don't know.' He's quiet a moment, but it's clear he has more to say. His wife and I wait while he finds the right words. 'There's so much left to do. It's hard to know where to begin. The new Quantum who appeared last year really touched something off. More and more masked vigilantes, not all of them as earnest as she is. All the troubles since the Independence Day Surge, all the civil unrest and violence, not just in the U.S., but everywhere... Deltas lashing out, but also looking for a place to fit in...'
He trails off, slowly shaking his head, before his focus returns. 'But I know I'm not done yet. There's more work to do; I plan to be doing it as long as I can.'
I look at Janice. She smiles, looking at her husband, then to me.
'Jacob's right. There's more to do. I have a vested interest in making sure the future is as welcoming to people like my husband and daughter as possible. Much of my practice the last few years has been with this goal in mind, and I plan to continue as long as I can, too.'
Noble thoughts, ones borne out by her record at trial. But it leaves me with one follow-up; an uncomfortable one. Each spouse has vowed to keep going as long as they can, but... how long will that be? Side by side, Jacob appears twenty years younger than his wife. How long--
'That's the wrong question,' Jacob interrupts, looking at his wife. 'It's true, thanks to my Expression, I am aging much slower. Stronger Deltas tend to age much more slowly than Baselines after the age of twenty five or so. But... as uncomfortable... and scary as that thought is... the truth is every day with Janice is already a bonus day.'
Janice smiles back, and looks at me. 'He's right. I'm certainly not eager to face my mortality, but I think of what the last twenty years would have been like if he'd died that day, and...' she shakes her head gently. 'I'll take whatever comes, however many days we have, over that imagined fate.'
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? Responses (3)
I'm very, very impressed with this. Excellent voice. I didn't mean to read it all in one sitting, but I did. I got a strong Watchman vibe from this as well, if not as dark.
Top marks! You must run a damn good campaign.
Thanks Val. This piece has probably undergone the most re-write of anything I've ever done. I'm happy to see it's been worth it.
It really is a good piece of writing.