About a month after the Children of the Sun case, Donna Troy cuddled close to her husband Terry Long. “Well, the good news is that Roy has settled down nicely with little Lian, while her mother remains in prison,” she said. “He’s decided to stick with the name Arsenal. And speaking of names, we’ve all agreed to drop the Teen in our group name, given our ages. From now on, we’re simply the New Titans.”
“How’s Gar doing?” asked Terry.
Donna sighed. “He’s become more inactive due to grades and the care poor Steve Dayton requires. Still, with Questor and Jillian giving him support, as well as the occasional team mission to keep him busy, he’s holding up okay.”
“Vic will be there for him also,” said Terry.
“Yes, he’s a rock for all of us,” she said.
“I don’t really know Hawk all that well,” said Terry. “That name makes me think of the 1960s.”
“He’s heading out west,” she said. “Though I really wish someone could be his partner to keep his darker moods reined in, like poor Don used to do.”
“He does need a new Dove, but that’s one job I know I’d hate to take on,” said Terry, shaking his head.
“Garth is getting better, too,” she said. “He’s almost put Tula’s death in perspective. Arthur’s recovery from his own guilt over the loss of his JLA members seems to have helped, too. I hear he’s had a romantic encounter with another aquatic heroine as well, if Roy’s account is right. (*) As for Jason, he really came through for us. The new Robin makes a great new member, but Batman keeps him pretty busy. You know about the troubles in Gotham.”
“Wally’s working with the JLA, too, isn’t he?” Terry asked her. “Oh, that reminds me — I found something while looking through the want ads,” he said, showing her a newspaper from a small pile of them. Having recently lost his teaching position at Manhattan University due to his failure to produce the needed academic papers, Terry spent much of his time these days searching for employment and taking on odd jobs. “Captain Comet’s team seems to be doing fine, too. The tabloids claim he even has Supergirl working for him now.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: The Return of Supergirl.]
“Those rags always get things wrong,” Donna sighed. “Anyways, Lilith is serious about staying on Earth to fight her many siblings on behalf of the Oympians. She is also a man-magnet like always. Gnarrk, Dove, the winged alien — they all went crazy over her. She is sweet, though. Demigoddess or not, she still carries this aura of spaciness with her.”
“Joe Wilson and Kole are back as Titans, too, right?” he asked, as if confirming a given fact.
“Yes, and they are really helpful,” she said. “Still, I don’t feel right about Dick.”
Then, as if on cue, the phone rang. “Dick?” she gasped as she heard his greeting.
The next day, Dick Grayson sat across from Donna Troy at a trendy eatery. He looked fit and well as he smiled boyishly at her.
“Donna, I’d better say this now and get it off my chest,” he began. “I’m sorry for everything. I acted like a jerk. I’m really sorry, and I hope you’ll forgive me.”
Donna was in his arms before he could continue. “Thank you. It’s forgotten. I love you, and I’m so glad to see you back — the old you, I mean.”
“I love you, too,” Dick said with a smile. “Funny thing about mending fences — once you start, you can’t stop. Raven and I are both okay now. She and I almost had a romantic moment after escaping from Brother Blood, but I suppose we were just both feeling a bit vulnerable at the time. We’re friends again, and she’s eager to rejoin the team, as am I.”
“The New Titans can’t survive without their leader,” said Donna.
“I hoped you’d say that,” he said, still grinning. “I want to head home for a bit, though. Bruce and I need some time together just to make everything right.”
“So after that, you’ll be back?” asked Donna.
“Count on it,” he said.
At that moment, the famous form of Starfire streaked into view. “Dick! Donna! Thank X’hal I found you,” she said breathlessly. “I’ve been battling through space for weeks now. An invasion fleet is coming!”
“Kory? Calm down,” he said excitedly as he held her. “Where’s Karras? Is it Komand’r again?”
“No!” she said. “Other worlds have formed an Alien Alliance against Earth. And Karras is dead!”
Dick gasped and held her tightly. “I’m sorry,” he said, jumping immediately into action. “We’d better organize to fight this threat. Tell us more.”
As Donna also hugged her friend, Dick’s mind raced. What does Karras’ death mean for us? he thought.
Later, as the New Titans fought the alien invaders alongside other heroes including the Outsiders, the Green Lantern Corps, and Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad, the action kept them all too busy to have time for personal reflections. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors.]
The Flash, meanwhile, was fighting for his life at the same time, as the Justice League of America battled desperately to stop an entirely different alien invader — a transformed and more powerful Despero. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pyre.]
Lilith Clay had also participated in the alien invasion battle, but was soon kept busy dealing with an entirely different issue — the passionate ardor of Azrael. The winged alien youth had tracked her down with uncanny instinct.
“My love, you have returned!” he cried dramatically as he entered her loft.
“I dreamed you would find me,” she said with a smile.
As they embraced and soothed one another’s worries and desires, Lilith had another vision. This one shook her shapely form as she gasped and saw fighting forms, colorful costumes, and ancient evils.
“It’s starting all over again!” she screamed.
Sometime later, Wally West sat next to a lovely blonde woman in his Central City apartment.
“Frances, I know you don’t relish the heroic life, but I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to have you to talk to,” he said.
His girlfriend glanced around the apartment. It was a nice one, but was neither gaudy nor the living quarters of a wealthy man. “You’ve had so much to adjust to lately,” said Frances Kane. “That lottery money you gave to charity would have changed most people.”
Wally nodded. “Barry lived on his cop’s pay and never thought of using his powers for gain. I even considered doing that before I won, but then I realized that keeping just enough of my winnings to allow me to pay for my education and not worry about keeping down a steady job was plenty. The Barry Allen Foundation will help send a lot of police science students to college, as will the Iris Allen Photojournalism Scholarship I set up at Central City Community College.”
Frances smiled. “Barry would be proud.”
“After surviving the fight with Despero, the clean-up from the alien invasion, and some duty with the Titans and JLA, I’m just thankful that my old speed is back,” said Wally. “It’s ironic that Mento himself was responsible for it. Seems it was largely a psychological barrier holding me back. It was like I was fighting against being anything like Barry as the Flash, and by having only a fraction of his speed, I didn’t feel as if I was stealing his role. That changed after Mento planted those vivid nightmare images of a distorted version of my life in my head. Fighting through them broke open my mental barriers. Funny, it was after the Despero case that it happened all at once.”
Frances snuggled closer. “Tell me more.”
“It was a stormy night, like the night I first became super-fast,” Wally explained. “I had dreams of Barry being disgusted with me for things real and things imagined. I struggled to justify my career and my actions, and then he spoke to me. Barry spoke to me through that dream, and it saved me, like he always saved everyone in need.
“I just cried out in the dream, ‘I’m not worthy. I know that. I have felt that for years, but I need to do my part to preserve Barry’s legacy. He’s counting on me! I’ve had so many shallow impulses lately. I did consider using the speed for material gain, and I have broken a few hearts. Still, I would never do anything to hurt him. I want to be worthy, and I will try to live up to his legend in my own way.’
“Then, when things looked darkest in the dream, the lightning flashed, and there was Barry. ‘Son,’ he said as he appeared in the lightning, ‘even super-speed can’t help you with life’s journey if you lose your way.’
“‘Barry!’ I said tearfully. ‘Oh, it is you this time! I feel it.’
“‘Wally, I can’t come back, but I’ll be with you,’ he told me. ‘I’ll see you in your dreams, and that’s all this is — just a bad nightmare. I want you to know that I believe in you, and as always, partner, I’m counting on you. You have never failed me yet. Iris sends her love, too.’ And then he vanished.
“I smiled, and with renewed purpose, I whispered, ‘You never failed me, either.’ It was then that my speed increased to its old level again. I had broken the barriers that held me back,” he concluded happily.
Wally West truly was the Flash, the Fastest Man Alive.