Behind-the-scenes at the Moderators' meeting

Written: 31 May, 2000

The month of May brought sunshine to the sky, but there was trouble brewing outside the stately mansion which the world knew as the home of earth's mightiest moderators. Outside the gates, a few disgruntled protestors complained that their posts had been deleted from the message boards, or that there weren't enough minority Moderators, or simply to get in range of the TV cameras which recorded the spectacle. Only an hour before, the gates had opened to allow one of the team's most legendary members inside, and now he could be found within the mansion's training room, engaging in a rigorous physical workout which would be the envy of an Olympic athlete.


He ignored the voice that intruded upon his actions, and pushed himself still further, sweat forming on the face beneath his mask. There were those who said this moderator was "the world's greatest moderating machine," and anyone who had such a reputation would feel compelled to live up to it. Usually, however, the struggle to live up to an ideal barely showed; he simply was the man about whom all the stories of valor and heroism had been truthfully told. The man who fought the Axis armed only with a shield and a great idea, whose body was preserved in a block of ice and worshipped by Eskimos, who returned just when his nation needed him the most only to find that the battles had much changed during his sleep. He found a place for himself in this strange modern world and continued the good fight in pursuit of making the American dream a reality. He usually made being what he was look easy for him, but today as he tested the limits of his fighting skill against everything the Moderator's gym had to offer, the strain was apparent to the butler at the door whose voice had gone unheeded.

"Cap?" the butler said again, and this time Cap stopped and caught his breath from the strenuous workout.

"Yes, what is it, Jarvis?" Cap asked, perhaps a bit too impatiently than he had intended.

"The other Moderators are assembling in the meeting room. I thought that you would want to know." The butler began to close the door of the training room, but stopped and looked up when Cap turned.

"Thank you, Jarvis. Before you go," Cap said, walking toward the balding butler, "you know that I've always valued your opinion, old friend, and I'd like to know..."

Jarvis stopped him. "You want to know if you did right in your actions recently, is that it?" Cap nodded. "It's a difficult task that you have made for yourself," Jarvis offered, "but I think that you represented the team well to those outside this mansion. If their comments were harsh, perhaps that is the result of them not seeing what goes on within. For myself, I can only say that it is an honor to serve with you, sir."

Cap smiled and placed his red-gloved hand upon the butler's shoulder. "Thanks, Jarvis. Sometimes talking with you helps me put things into perspective. Still, I can't shake the feeling that I may be slipping somewhere. Something that someone out there said to me recently. That perhaps I have not lived up to all that this uniform represents. Have I been selective in the freedoms which I protect?"

The butler walked with Cap toward the meeting room, from which the sounds of conversation could be heard emanating. The question that Cap posed would have to linger in the air unanswered as the moment of his arrival signaled the beginning of the Moderators' weekly meeting, as stipulated by the team's consititution. Jarvis quietly closed the door behind Cap, and returned to the kitchen to make sure that Donar would have plenty of mead for after the formal session. The butler passed a costumed person who sat in the hallway, but paid no special attention because such figures were commonplace in this mansion's halls.

Idle chatter emanated from the meeting room. Paradox was surprised to find Albert Ching attending the meeting. "I thought you had quit a few months ago," Paradox said.

Albert shrugged. "I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd stay for the meeting. Besides, I was hoping to take a ride in the quinjet later."

"Once a Moderator, always a Moderator," Bouncing Boy said.

The meeting room was filled with only the Moderators, an exclusive club of sorts, gathered around a silver table in the center of the room with a giant "M" emblazoned upon its gleaming surface. All around them, the sounds of computers which monitored all the boards for any activity whirred and beeped in the background. At all times one of the Moderators had monitor duty to keep an eye on the boards for any trouble while the others were away. This time, however, the Moderators were all assembled and a signal would blare if trouble arose and they could immediately survey the situation from any one of the nearby terminals. Moderator business required that all active Moderators attend these weekly meetings, and they were all here today, gathered around the table, as Cap slowly lifted a brown gavel and banged it onto the table, an action which formally opened the meeting.

"This meeting of the Moderators is now in session," Cap began. "The first order of business today is the return of Kon-El to the co-moderatorship of the Superboy board. Are there any objections?"

There were none. Kon-El had been a Moderator for quite some time but had recently gone on a brief "leave of abscence" from the board. Such temporary departures were not unusual for The Moderators, and very often a change in membership was not much of a change after all. The media often would make a great to-do about such changes whenever they occured, breathlessly providing updates to a fascinated public about who was leaving what to moderate which board, but in the end it usually amounted to the same faces shuffling around to different posts.

"The second order of business," Cap continued, "is the motion by Kon-El to nominate a poster named Kator as moderator of the Anime board. Kon, you have the floor."

Kon-El stood up and addressed the fellow Moderators. "Thanks, Cap. You all know how there's been increasing call for 'new blood' in the group, and I think that we all agree with that. My own feeling is that the poster named Kator has proven himself to have a clear head in the heat of battle. I think he's the ideal candidate for joining the Moderators and in time will make a great one. I invited him along today to the mansion, but I made no promises to him about what the team's decision might be. I have him waiting in the hallway because I have a feeling there will be no objections to his joining."

Then the deep voice of Donar asked, "We knowest thy record, brash Kon-El, and thy enthusiasm which knowest no limit. Pray tell, how knowest thou of Kator's mettle, of which thou spake? In yon battle, sayest thou, but against what foe or threat did young Kator fend?"

Kon gulped a little. It was always a bit intimidating talking to Donar, especially since Jurgens started writing his dialogue. "Well, Donar," he answered, "the evidence can plainly be seen on the various boards. During one recent episode, the boards were taken over by unknown forces. We had let our guard down because the rest of us all thought it was Starving Writer, Cap, or Alvaro playing an April Fools' gag. It was only Kator who found the true source of the takeover: the dreaded Leech-Man, who had added hacking to his list of crimes! Ever since then, we have been on alert for future attacks. I think Kator surely proved himself worthy of the name Moderator during that episode."

"Aye," Donar mused, "albeit yon boards hath not been the same without a board for the fair wench called Britney! Verily, the gods hath wept that her new tour doth not include Asgard itself!"

Cap thought to himself, "I like Donar, but his world of gods and magic is frankly antithetical to my scientific mind."

Kon-El sat back down, and Cap addressed the other Moderators. "We will now put the nomination of Kator becoming a Moderator to a vote. All those in favor, say aye..."

"Aye!!" The Moderators said in unison.


There was silence.

"Me!" rang out a voice. But it was Plaid Goblin and he was only kidding.

Cap banged the gavel again, then turned to Kon-El. "I think it's time that Kator was welcomed into the meeting room now, since he has just been confirmed as a Moderator. Kon, please show Kator in..."

Kon went to the room's door and opened it. The door led to a hallway where a green and yellow-garbed figure was sitting on a little bench biting his nails. Kon gestured for him to come inside, and his face lit up with expectation. "You mean...?" he began nervously.

"That's right, kid," Kon-El said. "Come on inside the meeting room. The others are waiting. You're a Moderator now."

The other Moderators stood up as Kator walked over to the table appearing to be almost in a state of shock. Cap was the first to greet him, and shook his hand. "Welcome to the Moderators, Kator," he said with a smile. "We've heard nothing but good things about you."

Kator was almost too stunned to speak. Here was Cap himself, a man he had grown up idolizing and who embodied all his ideas of heroism, congratulating him upon his induction as one of earth's mightiest moderators. He never could imagine such an honor being bestowed upon him. And then to have the legendary Donar, who called himself a god, who had the power to wipe out an entire board with one finger, slap him on the back and wish him well in pseudo-Shakespearean language -- it was the fulfillment of all his dreams.

"I hope that I prove to be worthy of this privilege," Kator stammered. "I admire all of you so much...have followed your exploits for years..."

"At ease, son," Cap said, and gestured for the new Moderator to sit at the table with them so that the meeting might continue. "Take your rightful place here beside the Moderators. After the meeting, I can discuss with you privately the weekly stipend our benefactor, the wealthy businessman Alvaro Ortiz, arranges for our members. If you find the amount to be insufficient, I'm sure that Mr. Ortiz can accomodate that. We also provide lodgings within the mansion for those without outside residences, should they wish to, and a full-time staff to see to our needs. After we conduct a retina scan, we'll issue you an I.D. card."

Kator, not able to take all that in immediately, slowly sat at the table next to Kon-El and looked around in a kind of disbelieving daze as Cap swung down the gavel once more.

"The final order for business today is the recent criticism we've had to face from outside forces. I think you all know that to which I refer."

Kator had no idea what he meant but nodded solemnly along with the others. He still couldn't believe it: He was a Moderator now!

Cap continued, "Outside these walls, there has been a lot of clamor and outcry about the life-and-death decisions that we Moderators have to make every day. A lot of people who don't know what it's like to serve in this capacity don't seem to appreciate the thankless task that this job really is. But if we can keep one person safe from attacks, then it's all worth it. The precautions we took after the recent Leech-Man fiasco have led some posters to question our judgement. Some people are saying that the Monkey Alliance which has criticized our methods is simply a peaceful orgranization devoted to the development of the human mind. And yet, having read some of their posts, I find that unlikely."

All of the other Moderators could see the strain that this ordeal was taking on Cap. During the recent turmoil, one of the protestors had accused Cap of not standing up for the freedom which he had always claimed to protect and cherish. Perhaps somewhere within himself, Cap's guilt was persecuting him. For every time that he had failed to act, for every time that he had ever erred, the memory of failure, however tiny such would be to normal men, ate away at his self-esteem. Even the proudest of heroes could be laid low by his own conscience, judging himself by such impossible standards. Even Cap had become disillusioned in the past, taking on another moniker once when the very name he represented had seemed to betray him.

The other Moderators recalled some of the most difficult decisions in Moderator history. One winter, Cap had been moderating a board when a flamer appeared out of nowhere and threatened to flame an innocent poster. Cap acted fast -- some said too fast, in retrospect -- and the result had been a lightning-quick "lifetime-banning" for the unfortunate troll who had dared to put Cap in such a tight situation. Before that time, some of the more disrespectful posters had mocked Cap for never banning people, even during the war, but they never laughed at him again after that traumatic incident.

Perhaps Cap had regretted his quick use of the lifetime ban, because later it was Cap who stood alone against the other Moderators when they argued that a particularly powerful flamer should pay the ultimate price of never being able to post on the boards again. Cap alone argued for mercy on the flamer's behalf, but in the end it was for naught and the other Moderators administered their terrifying decision upon the objectionable poster. The memory of these events caused a collective shiver among those in the meeting room.

"In conclusion," Cap said, "I hope that we shall remain strong as a unit in the coming months ahead. These will be trying times, to be sure, with perhaps some of our enemies striking against us through more unconventional means, and trying their best to drive the Moderators apart. Let's not forget about who we're doing this for: the innocent who have no one else to protect them. I'm not going to let them down, and I trust that neither will any of you."

They were used to Cap making speeches like this, but Donar was ready for his mead and so it was decided that the Moderators would break for lunch. According to a quirk in their original charter's by-laws, the Moderators had to achieve a unanimous vote before any decision on what to eat for lunch could be made. Some voted to order a pizza, the rest voted for McDonalds, with Bouncing Boy holding out for both. The matter was resolved as it always was, with Jarvis quietly interrupting the meeting and announcing that the kitchen staff had already prepared a large meal for the entire group, and so the meeting was adjourned. As the Moderators filed out of the door and into the hallway, Jarvis mused quietly to himself that perhaps the outside world might benefit to know these Moderators as he knew them, real people sincerely trying to do good for their boards, ordinary people who had overcome extraordinary odds and gone on to achieve great things. Perhaps if those who criticized them had the privilege of being a fly on the wall at the present meeting, their opinion of these men might change. But such was not to be, and the aroma of the home-cooked meal wafting into the hallway led them all to the mansion's elegant dining room, where thoughts of trouble were finally far from everyone's mind.