by Hitman 44077
The Flash felt some discomfort as he made his way through the streets of Central City, but he refused to let the pain stop him. If it isn’t Albert, then I should be able to stop him easily, he thought, continuing his run. But, if it is him, then there’s going to be some trouble. He’s at his best when under the influence of evil.
It wasn’t a long search for Flash, as he finally located the menacing foe, who had done considerable damage to various properties within the city. Likewise, Mister Element spotted the man whom he knew he had to kill in order to save his wife. “Well, Flash,” Element sneered, trying to cover up his regret. “It seems that you’ve come out to play. Ready to play with fire?”
With that threat, Element fired his elemental gun at the Scarlet Speedster, and the air suddenly ignited with searing flames. Using his speed, Flash avoided the heat by running out of the flames’ path, then created a small whirlwind with his arms to smother the flames.
Mister Element wasn’t deterred, as he fired his weapon at Flash again, this time converting the air around him into deadly concentrated carbon monoxide.
This guy is good, very much like Desmond, but I know I can take him, Flash thought, using his speed to cause the carbon monoxide to dissipate and simply vanish into nothingness.
While Flash did that, Element fired his weapon at the street on which Flash was standing, transforming the ground into a tar. Flash was momentarily distracted by this trap, doing what he could to free himself from the sticky street, even as Element moved in.
“You’re too good to be an amateur,” Flash said as Element pointed his weapon directly toward Flash’s face. “What’s going on? If you’re Albert Desmond, then why are you doing this? What do you have to gain by engaging in the kidnapping of Barry Allen’s friends and family?”
“Perhaps you’ll find out once you join Barry in the afterlife!” Element said evilly. He began to squeeze the trigger on his weapon, but he couldn’t make himself fire the weapon. Oh, no, no, no! Element thought, trying desperately to fire his gun. I’ve got to do this for Rita. I’ve got to save her life — I must! But… but, God help me, I’m not a killer.
The Flash watched the confused actions of Mister Element and managed to free himself from the tar that held his legs in place. He simply snatched the gun from Element’s hand. Flash watched as Element dropped to his knees, weeping over failing to kill his enemy and, unknown to the Fastest Man Alive, to save his wife.
Within seconds, Flash managed to use the elemental gun to change the altered structures back to their normal states, running with his super-speed. He was back before Element even noticed he’d been gone. Flash pulled Element’s mask off, and, though he’d hoped that Albert wasn’t the man he’d been facing, the truth still hurt him deeply. He looked at the anguished face of Albert Desmond and knew something was wrong. He — he seems as if he’d been under some influence, like he had been before, the Flash thought, genuinely concerned for the man who had, moments before, tried to kill him.
“Albert,” Flash said softly. “What’s going on with you? I know you, and I know that this isn’t who you really are. What’s happened?”
Mister Element thought to himself, and all he could think was how he’d failed his wife. I’m sorry, Rita, I’m so sorry. You’re going to die because of me — it’s all my fault. But maybe… maybe I can keep you safe… until I figure out what I can do next.
“Albert, were you behind these abductions?” Flash asked Albert, which brought him out of his pained thoughts. “So many of Barry’s friends are missing. You were seen kidnapping Daphne Dean. Anything you know could help the police and I.”
Albert thought quickly as he stared at the Scarlet Speedster. I can’t prove that I have some innocence in this. Not after yesterday. If I say anything in regards to Alvin’s threats, he’ll definitely kill Rita. But, as long as there’s a chance Alvin won’t kill her, then I’ve got to take it. He then addressed Flash. “I know nothing,” he defiantly lied, trying to sound tough. “Even if I knew anything more, I wouldn’t even bother telling you.”
The Flash wasn’t fooled by Albert’s behavior, but he played the part of unsuspecting hero well. “Well, with Daphne Dean missing, and the fact that you were seen kidnapping her, then I have no choice but to haul you off to jail. Perhaps they’ll be able to learn something from you. I’m sorry,” he said.
“Don’t be,” Albert said quietly, sounding much like his normal self. “I did this to myself.”
“Where’s Rita?” Flash asked softly.
“She — she left me,” Albert lied, knowing that any cooperation could put Rita in further danger.
“I’m sorry,” Flash said, before growing serious. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing more I can do for you here. Let’s go.”
Albert didn’t protest as Flash picked him up without further incident and took him back to the Central City Police Department. Once there, Flash turned Albert over to several cops, even as Captain Frye walked over to his friend.
“I’d hoped it wasn’t true, but apparently I was wrong,” Darryl Frye said sadly as the police officers took Albert away to be booked.
“I’m not convinced he’s behind the abductions,” Flash said as he remembered Albert’s demeanor on the battlefield. He handed the elemental gun to the captain. “I can’t get any real answers out of him, and we’re going to need him so we can get to the bottom of this. Anything new on the tape?”
“Not yet. They’re still going over all the messages, particularly the message — or lack thereof — concerning Cecile’s call. I think you’re right about Albert, though. Seems like too much of a coincidence that he’d return to crime in such a public manner, but that crossed my mind yesterday, too,” Frye admitted. “I only hope that–”
Suddenly, even without the use of super-speed, Flash began feeling the crushing pains in his chest. He buckled and fell to his knees, even as he clutched at his chest. He bent his head down in pain, even as he tasted a bit of blood in his mouth.
“Dear God!” Frye shouted as several police officers ran toward their captain. “The Flash–”
“N-no…” Flash said through gritted teeth. “I… I’m… fine.” Slowly, the Flash stood up, even as the pains began to fade.
“No, you’re not,” Frye said, noticing a little blood on the speedster’s lip. He handed Flash a tissue and watched as Flash dabbed the blood away. “I’ve never seen you like this.”
“I’m serious — I’m fine,” Flash said almost angrily, lying to his friend. He tossed the tissue in a nearby garbage pail. “The battle with Albert was somewhat difficult. Look, I’d better go. There’s some things I need to check up on elsewhere. I took care of the structures Albert altered, so there’s no more need for the gun. Lock it away.”
“Just where are you heading?” Frye asked, still worried about his friend.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be back later,” Flash said, somewhat rushed.
“Look, if this happens again–” Frye said, with concern.
Flash cut Frye off, speaking sharply. “I can take care of myself, Darryl. OK? I’m not a kid anymore.”
Frye stood there, not quite hurt by the behavior of his friend, but sad, as if Wally West didn’t trust him. “All right,” Frye said civilly.
Flash saw the pained look in Frye’s eyes and genuinely felt bad over shooting his mouth off. “Darryl, I’m sorry,” Flash admitted softly. “I just have so much on my mind right now. I know Barry’s friends well myself, and I just feel overwhelmed — about a lot of things. I shouldn’t have taken any anger out on you.”
He offered his hand to Frye, and Frye saw that his friend’s words were genuine. “Friends still?” Flash asked, still regretting his actions.
Frye grasped the speedster’s hand and spoke. “Friends forever,” Frye said, determined. “This case has me on edge, too. Frank and I are greatly concerned. We’ll interrogate Albert and try to make some headway. Hopefully, when you come back, we’ll know more. By the way, take care wherever you’re heading.”
The two released their handshake, and Flash waved to Captain Frye. “I will, Darryl. See you later.”
Flash walked outside the CCPD and stood for a few minutes. That never happened before, the Flash thought, somewhat scared. The only times I’ve experienced the pains were when I was using my powers, but this time — this time was the worst. I felt the pains as if I’d been using my abilities, even though I wasn’t even moving. And the blood…
He still tasted a little blood-like aftertaste within the back of his throat as he swallowed. I have never had that happen to me. It’s like I’m burning away, almost as fast as my quickest speeds. This is starting to really do a number on me, physically and mentally, and there’s only one thing I can do — one place I can go.
The Flash braced himself, almost afraid to run, but he felt he couldn’t use the JLA transportation device, since he’d taken a leave of absence the previous day.
New York — and STAR Labs. I know it’s only been two days, but maybe Mac’s had a breakthrough, the Flash thought, trying to believe that this was the case. It’s entirely possible that he called within the past two days, or even since I delivered my answering machine tape to Darryl. No matter the risks to me, this is something I’ve got to do.
He psyched himself up and took off for New York, trying to brace himself for any more pains.
The Flash arrived in New York winded, which was part of his now-usual routine, but he still managed to make his way toward STAR Labs without any real trouble.
This is getting to be more trouble than it’s worth, the Flash thought, bending over slightly to catch his breath as he stood in front of the lab’s entrance. I just hope I can stop whoever’s behind these abductions before it’s too late.
Flash entered the facility and approached the same receptionist whom he’d spoken to two days before. “Jenna, right?” Flash asked the woman.
“Hey!” Jenna said, somewhat surprised. “I didn’t expect to see you here so soon!”
“I’d like to see Dr. Ryan, if it’s all right,” Flash said politely, though his wear and tear showed through. Jenna watched as Flash nearly dropped from fatigue and knew something was very wrong with the Scarlet Speedster. He braced himself from falling before Jenna could answer.
“I’ll page him immediately. Better yet, I’ll just take you to him,” Jenna said, noting the urgency of Flash’s condition. “You want me to grab a wheelchair for you? You look as if you’re going to drop.”
“No,” Flash said wearily, briefly removing his mask to wipe the sweat that poured off his head, then placing it back on. “I can make it. I just need to… take my time.”
“Kelly,” Jenna said to another woman helping with the front desk. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Watch the front desk while I’m gone?”
As Kelly sat down in Jenna’s reception seat, Jenna walked slowly with the Flash toward Dr. Mackenzie Ryan’s office.
I almost feel like I’m an old man, the Flash thought, discouraged. And I keep pushing myself beyond what I should be doing. But this isn’t about me. Not now. It’s about the people who were important to Barry — the people he liked and, more importantly, he loved. I won’t let them down.
The two finally reached Dr. Ryan’s office, and Jenna opened the office door as Flash walked inside. “Do you need anything?” she asked the Fastest Man Alive. “I can grab a Gatorade if you’d like. Or some ice water.”
“Yeah, that would hit the spot,” Flash said graciously. “Either one. Thanks.”
“OK. The doctor should be here soon. I’ll come back with something cold to drink,” Jenna said with a small smile before walking off.
The Flash closed the door and sat down in a chair. He removed his mask again and felt as if he were burning up. My heart still hurts, as does my chest. Hopefully, Mac’s come across something to help me, Wally thought, trying to stay positive.
About a minute later, Dr. Mackenzie Ryan walked into his office, carrying a bottle of lemon-lime Gatorade and handed it to Wally. “Jenna said you were here and–” Mac paused, seeing that Jenna hadn’t exaggerated when it came to Flash’s condition. Before Mac had time to make another remark, Wally opened the Gatorade and downed it within a second using his super-speed.
“Thanks. I needed that,” Wally said appreciatively.
“You look like you’re in bad shape, Wally. Much worse than the other day,” Mac said, somewhat sternly.
“I know, and that’s why I came here. I haven’t had time to go over any phone messages since I saw you last, and I wasn’t sure if I’d missed a call from either you or STAR Labs regarding any possible treatments for the disease,” Wally said, keeping himself strong.
Mac grew quiet as he slowly turned away from Wally. The actions told Wally that nothing had changed even before Mac could speak. “I said I’d call you if there was any change, but things are the same as you left them two days ago. I have personally tested the blood you gave with different types of radiation to possibly kill or maintain the disease flowing through your body,” Mac said solemnly as he slowly turned back around. “Unfortunately, nothing has worked. The disease doesn’t even react to the radiation, nor to samples of bone marrow, which I’d hoped would be able to combat the disease. I have other options, but they are growing smaller and smaller by the day.”
“I understand,” Wally said, not quite surprised. “I appreciate the fact that you’ve helped me so far. I’d like to engage in some more tests, though. Earlier, I experienced something that’s never happened to me before.”
“What was it exactly?” Mac asked, puzzled.
“I used my powers to fight a criminal threatening Central City. Oddly enough, though I was sore and winded, I managed to stop him without any serious problems. However–” Wally paused as he remembered the pain he’d suffered through. “–for the first time, without using my powers, I experienced the staggering pains to my chest, and I coughed up some blood.”
A horrified look appeared on Mac’s face. “My God,” he said, sensing that the disease was progressing. “How active with your powers have you been since I saw you?”
“I’ll be honest,” Wally said, “I haven’t cut down on using my abilities. There have been troubles in Central City and elsewhere, and those emergencies mean more to me than–”
“Your own life? Even without tests, I can tell that you’re burning yourself out,” Mac said, his voice an equal mix of concern and anger. “I told you before, and I’ll tell you again: quit using your super-speed. As your doctor, and as someone who regards you as a friend, you have to quit now.”
Wally closed his eyes and spoke. “I can’t. Not when it comes to the people who are most important to me. You seem like a good man, Mac, and if there were people who depended on you for help, and you were in my boots, would you give up on them just to save your own life? I think we both have the same answer when it comes to that road, and I’m abiding by my answer literally.”
“You’re really that genuine, aren’t you?” Mac asked, knowing that he’d do the same things as the Flash if roles were reversed.
“I know some good people, Mac. People that deserve to live. People that are held captive in some bizarre vendetta against my late uncle, Barry Allen. And if I can save their lives before I die, then I’ll have lived my life to the fullest,” Wally said with determination.
“I know I’d do the same thing if it were my daughter who was in danger,” Mac confided.
Wally didn’t expect this news. “You have a daughter?”
“Yeah, I do. Her name’s Jamie,” Mac said, a small smile appearing on his face.
“I didn’t know you were married,” Wally said.
“I was, a while ago,” Mac admitted, “but it didn’t last. My ex had some ambitions and a child and husband didn’t fit into her plans. She was in Nevada, last I heard.”
“I’m–” Wally started to say.
“No, it’s fine,” Mac said reassuringly. “We’ve been divorced for the past five years. Wounds heal over time, but sometimes it’s hard for Jamie to not have her mom around. I do what I can to make up for that.”
“It sounds like you’re as dedicated a father as you are a doctor,” Wally said with a small smile of his own.
“I try. You said you wanted some more tests performed, so let’s do that now. You feeling any better?” Mac asked.
“Somewhat, but I’ll be OK. Let’s go,” Wally said as he stood up and threw the Gatorade bottle in a trash bin. Together, the men walked toward a workout area, and the tests began anew.
Hours passed, this time much slower than the previous visit, as Wally took extra care not to overexert himself. Mac noted the changes that had occurred within Wally’s body since the appointment of two days past, and once all testing was complete, the two men made their way back to Mac’s office.
“It’s like I thought before,” Mac said with a serious tone. “Everything in your body is worse — much more than it was before. And it does appear that you have internal bleeding coming from several organs, including the heart and lungs. I’ve already given you my recommendations as to what I’d prefer you to do, but you’ve got to do what you feel is right. I’ll say this: make the best of the time you have now, because I’m not sure how much time you’re going to have left with the continued use of your super-speed.”
“Thanks… thanks for being honest. You’re a good man, Mac, and your daughter’s lucky to have you,” Wally said, offering his hand to the doctor.
Mac accepted the hand, and the two men shook hands. Letting go of Wally’s hand, Mac continued speaking. “I’m not about to quit searching for a cure to your disease, but it is growing more difficult. Is there possibly another number besides your apartment that I might be able to reach you at?”
Wally grew quiet, trying to decide if he should give the doctor Fran’s phone number. He finally decided against it, not wanting to worry her before he decided to tell her. “No. My number is the one to call. And speaking of that, I’d better head back to Central City.”
“All right. I’d recommend a bus or other transportation, but if you’re going to run, play it safe, OK?” Mac said.
“I will. Hopefully, I’ll see you soon,” Wally said, waving to Mac before opening the office door. Upon leaving the office, he shut the door and placed his Flash mask back over his face. He then made his way to the entrance of the building and exited STAR Labs.
The Flash stood there as he did two days earlier, even as Mac’s words continued to ring in his ears. “About two-and-a-half years ago, I learned I was dying from this disease, and I told no one but Barry and Fran. I was stubborn and scared to tell my folks at that time, before the Crisis, and I never told the people who were my best friends — the Titans. And now, I’m dying again. But this time… this time I’m going to handle this differently. Since I’m already in New York, what better time to see the Titans than now? I just hope they’re up for company since my last visit.”
He stood a few seconds, not sure whether to run or not. “It’s not like I have my civvies here,” Flash said, “so changing back to Wally West is out of the question. The good thing is that Titans Tower is close by.”
The Flash took off, running toward the warehouse docks where the New Titans kept their T-shaped raft, being careful not to go faster than he’d currently been running at.