by Martin Maenza
Sitting in a jail cell in the prison just outside of Central City, a brown-haired man dressed in prison grays lay on his bed, a strip of canvas on a rough frame that hung down from one of the walls by two strong chains. The man was no stranger to long stretches in the can; it was almost like a second home to him.
It wasn’t a bad deal, really: a roof over your head, three square meals a day, no bills to worry about, and a bit of recreation. The State made sure of that. But at this time of the year, during the winter months, the prisoners rarely got a chance to go outside for recreation.
Ironic, he thought to himself — ice and snow was actually getting him down. He started to chuckle. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about it. Maybe a nap before dinner would be good.
A slight sound caused him to open his eyes. Now what? he thought.
He rose from the cot and crossed his small cell to the stone wall that faced the courtyard. It was as if the sound was coming from the large cement bricks that made up the wall. He put his hand to the stone. It was cold.
Colder than usual, he thought.
Suddenly, the sound got louder. It was a cracking sound. He noticed a strange-but-familiar compound forming between the very tiny gaps in the wall. He stepped back fast, right before the brick wall exploded apart.
The man stepped over the rubble that had been the wall just as the prison sirens started to wail. He stepped to the opening and looked down to the ground; his cell was on the third floor. A man dressed in green with white gloves and a white helmet over his head looked up. “Are you Len Snart?” the costumed man asked.
“Yup!” the prisoner in gray replied.
The man in green nodded, hoisted up a gun-like weapon that was attached to a canister on his back, and fired up at the opening. Ice formed in the air, creating a slide from the hole to the ground. “Make it fast! We’ve got to get out of here!”
Without hesitation, Len Snart hopped down and slid to his freedom. He wasn’t one to look a gift-jailbreak in the mouth.
“I don’t know about this,” said a blond man dressed in a blue turtleneck sweater and slacks as he paced back and forth in the bedroom of his home in Central City. For each word he said, he went back and forth to the dresser or closet, retrieving items and placing them in a suitcase on the bed. He did it all in under three seconds, for he possessed super-speed.
A woman with wavy brown hair, dressed in a mauve blouse and black skirt, carefully folded a sun dress. “Barry, slow down,” she said. “You are so wound up and stressed.”
“Of course I’m stressed, Iris!” Barry Allen exclaimed after sitting on the edge of the bed next to the open luggage. “Len Snart broke out of prison yesterday, and I wasn’t around to stop him. The Justice League and I were in Happy Harbor, wrapping up a case involving the Key, Mark Shaw, and our old mascot, Snapper Carr. (*) By the time I got back to Central City, Cold’s trail was, well, cold.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Face of the Star-Tsar,” Justice League of America #149 (December, 1977) and “The Key, or Not the Key,” Justice League of America #150 (January, 1978).]
“Even the Fastest Man Alive can’t be everywhere at once,” his wife reminded him.
“I know, I know,” Barry replied. He started to rearrange the items in the suitcase, sorting them first by color and then by his and hers. “I was just thinking us going on a vacation right now is not a good idea. I should be out there scouring the city looking for Snart.”
Iris tossed down the item she had been folding, took Barry’s face in her hands, and stared him in the eyes. “Now you listen to me, Mr. Police Scientist,” she said in a firm-but-loving manner. “We’ve both been very busy of late with our jobs and everything else. We need this vacation. We’ve been planning it for months! And I’m not about to let you worrying about one of your Rogues interfere with that. He’ll turn up eventually; they always do.”
She gave him a little kiss and then went back to her packing. “Now, our flight leaves in a couple hours, so let’s try to get this finished, okay?”
“I don’t know why we need to fly,” Barry said. “I can get us to any place in the world in a matter of moments.”
“Barry, for once can we try to just live like a normal couple?” Iris pleaded. “I know it’s hard, but let’s try, okay? Life is too short as it is to be rushing through things. You’ve got to learn to appreciate even the most simplest of things, everyday things.”
Barry smiled. His wife, a photojournalist by profession, knew all about taking time to look at things for what they were. “Okay, deal,” he said. “I’ll go and gather up the toiletries.”
Even though he promised Iris, Barry still couldn’t help but think about Len Snart. What was he up to?
The man who was on Barry Allen’s mind stepped out of a bathroom in a sleazy motel room many miles away. Gone were the prison grays, and instead he now wore a more comfortable, familiar outfit: a blue parka with white-fur-trimmed hood, gloves, and boots. “Much better,” he said, adjusting the golden belt that holstered a weapon on the right side.
Captain Cold eyed the man in green who still wore the white helmet. He had heard stories about this guy, but this was their first meeting. He heard that the man known as Mister Freeze rarely took off his special suit, preferring to keep his body at a very cold temperature. Honestly, he could care less about the reason. No sense in getting involved with yet another super-criminal’s personal life; he’d done enough of that with the members of the Rogues Gallery.
“So,” Cold said, “I guess it’s time to move past the icebreakers and get down to business. Why’d you go about and spring me from the old cold storage, Freeze? Not that I’m complainin’, mind you. Its just that you and I are aren’t best of buddies or anything.”
“I’ve heard of your reputation,” Mister Freeze replied. “Your weapon is much different from my own. Where mine employs the use of chemicals to create its icy effects, yours works with a miniaturized cyclotron to super-cool the air in compressed streams. I find that to be rather fascinating.”
“So, you wanted to swap hardware tips?” Cold wondered.
“It would certainly give us something to discuss,” Freeze said, “while we take a little trip. My specially designed refrigerated truck is parked outside, and we’re ready to go.”
“Go? Go where?”
“I thought we could work together, you and I,” Freeze said. “Our styles would complement one another.”
“Hmmm,” considered Cold. “I just did the whole team-up bit last summer with another pair of cold fellows: the Icicle and Minister Blizzard. We figured while the Justice League was busy dealing with some freak ice age down in South America, we’d go and pull off some heists in Gotham City. But the heroes managed to catch up with us, as well as the Shadow-Thief, who was behind the whole thing in some plan to remake the Earth like some giant snow-globe.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Ice Age Cometh,” Justice League of America #139 (February, 1977).]
“My plan isn’t as grand as all that,” Freeze said. “My idea involves a little bit a blackmail that could have a serious payoff for the two of us. More than enough money to fund my own research into all things of a cryogenic nature.”
“Cold cash, huh?” Captain Cold smiled. “I like the sound of that!”
“Partners, then?” Mister Freeze asked, offering his white-gloved hand.
“Partners!” Captain Cold replied, shaking it. “So, what do you have in mind?”
After a few days in West Palm Beach, the Allens then drove their rental car up to central Florida and stopped at the Orlando International Airport. They were waiting at the gate when a plane from Kansas City landed, and the passengers started to file out.
A certain red-haired teenager stepped into the terminal and smiled upon seeing the couple waiting for him. “Aunt Iris!” Wally West exclaimed as he gave the woman a great big hug. “Good to see you!”
Barry Allen patted the young man on his shoulders. “Good to see you, Wally,” he said as he helped him with the large duffel bag the young man had carried on the plane. “Any baggage checked?”
“No, Barry, that’s it, thanks,” Wally said. “It was real nice of you two to invite me down here for the long holiday weekend. With Monday off for Washington’s Birthday, that gives us three whole days together.” They started to head for the escalators and the exit.
“We’re glad you could join us,” Iris said. “Your parents said you’ve been so busy with school and such that we thought you could use the break.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Wally said. “My senior year at Blue Valley High has been pretty crazy, what with taking the SATs and working on college applications and such. I really can’t wait to graduate this June.”
They reached the parking lot, and Barry put the bag in the trunk with his and Iris’ luggage. “Well, you can take a breather,” he said as he climbed into the front seat to drive. Iris also sat in front while the teenager got in back. “Believe me, son, I’ve been getting that lesson a lot over the past few days.” Iris shot him a look. Barry just smiled.
“A breather sounds good,” Wally said as the car started and pulled away from the curb. “What with the Teen Titans back together and the gang opening up a disco in Farmingdale, New York, I’m constantly zipping back and forth across states. Plus, I’ve been out to California in the last couple weeks twice.”
“Twice?” Barry asked. “How come?”
“Once was to help some old friends battle some disaster-starting nut called Mister Esper. (*) The other was helping out Captain Comet in San Francisco track down a couple of villains.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Titans East, Titans West, and Never the Teens Shall Meet,” Teen Titans #51 (November, 1977) and “When Titans Clash,” The Teen Titans #52 (December, 1977).]
“Comet, huh?” Barry said. “I’ve heard Hawkman talk of him. He was staying at the JLA Satellite briefly, too.”
“Yeah, Comet mentioned that,” Wally said. “But now he’s got his own place. Anyway, he and I had to stop a theft of some magical stone by Gorilla Grodd, Star Sapphire, Copperhead, and the Creeper.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Let the Villain Fit the Crime,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #8 (August, 1977) and “Turnabout Is Unfair Play,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #9 (September, 1977).]
“The Creeper?” Iris asked. “I thought he was one of the good guys.”
“Batman’s worked with him on a few occasions,” Barry interjected. “He’s a little out there and kind of operates on the fence. But I never figured him to work with a bunch of super-villains — especially the likes of Grodd. Also, I half-wonder what the Wizard is doing here. He’s from Earth-Two.”
“Yeah,” Wally said. “That is a strange combination of folks. And get this: Comet and I ended up getting help in stopping the villains by the Trickster, of all people!”
“Very strange,” Barry said. “About as strange as some of my recent adventures. Turns out I’ve got a new enemy in the guise of Lisa Snart, Captain Cold’s sister. She calls herself Golden Glider, uses ice skating as a motif, and was the longtime girlfriend of my deceased foe, the Top.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “One Freeze-Dried Flash, Coming Right Up,” The Flash #250 (June, 1977) and “Vengeance on Ice,” The Flash #251 (July, 1977).]
“Wow!” said Wally.
“And in another recent battle I was facing our good friend Elongated Man,” Barry continued. “An accident while taking his Gingold formula turned him into a Jekyll-Hyde kind of persona called the Molder.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Double Dose of Danger,” The Flash #252 (August, 1977) and “Don’t Mess with the Molder,” The Flash #253 (September, 1977).]
“Wow!” Wally repeated himself.
Iris sighed. She had hoped that Barry would enjoy having Wally come down to vacation with them for a few days. She adored her nephew, and Barry did, too. The two had a very special bond, in part due to the unique relationship they shared as the Flash and Kid Flash. Wally was almost like a son to them. However, getting the two together inevitably lead to them talking shop.
Still, Iris could see the gleam in her husband’s eyes as the two went back and forth. She could take the man away from work and home, but the hero would always be there. And that was part of the reason she loved the man today, even more so than the day they were wed. Barry Allen was dedicated to his family and to his friends, to his career and to helping others. It was just who Barry was.