The Flash: Terminal Velocity, Chapter 5: Leave of Absence

by Hitman 44077

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Suddenly, Amazo began twitching and then attempted to grab Lex Luthor, but the circuits inside the creature’s head seemed to be burning. Lex wisely moved away quickly from Amazo. The android’s eyes smoked, as did its mouth. Within seconds, the android collapsed to the ground as Lex stood over it. Or was it Lex?

Mimicking Luthor’s voice and his heartbeat seemed to trick this thing, the so-called Lex Luthor thought, pulling away some sticky mask-like makeup, and pulling his familiar blue cowl over his face. Amazo had been defeated by Batman himself. The coating I placed on my hand seeped through the metal shell Amazo had for a head and instantly attacked the creature’s circuits. I should have done this years ago. It would have prevented these rematches and possibly saved more innocent lives, he thought, removing the rest of the clothes he wore disguised as Lex Luthor. He bent down to the recovering Flash.

“Are you all right?” Batman asked, now dressed in full costume as Superman himself finally arrived.

“No… yeah, yeah, I’m OK, Batman,” Flash replied, trying to cover up the pain building inside his body.

“I’ve had enough of Amazo,” Superman said, angrily. “I’m taking this thing and throwing it into the sun.”

Wonder Woman, the recovered Martian Manhunter, and Elongated Man walked toward the three heroes. “I’m not sure if this is another of Anthony Ivo’s plans or something else entirely, but this is something we need to discuss further on the satellite,” the Manhunter said. “We’ll hold a meeting as soon as you return from depositing Amazo into the sun.”

“Will do. I’ll see you there, and I’m sorry I was late,” Superman said, picking up the android body and flying off.

“While we were limited in members, we managed to defeat Amazo nonetheless,” the Manhunter said. “This is a well-deserved victory for the League.”

The Flash thought silently to himself, feeling angry and guilty, Here I am, trying to help the League, but what good did I accomplish today? I wasn’t able to prevent Ralph or Hank from being hurt, and I was too damn slow against Amazo to make any type of difference. I would have been dead, too, had it not been for Batman. I have to make a few choices — for myself and for the welfare of the JLA. I just hope I make the right choices, he thought.

“Hawkwoman, teleport us back to the satellite in a group of three and a group of two,” the Manhunter said. “It will be two trips for the five of us here in Cleveland.”

“I’m already working on that,” Hawkwoman said before the Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and Batman vanished.

“Wally, are you all right?” Ralph Dibny asked, feeling somewhat better but sensing the discomfort within his friend.

“I guess, Ralph. Just got a lot on my mind,” Flash said, speaking another half-truth.

“You want to talk about it?” Ralph asked, concerned for his friend.

“Maybe later, after the meeting. That’ll probably be best,” Flash said as the two of them were transported back to the JLA Satellite in space.

***

Aboard the JLA Satellite sometime later, the Flash stared outside, viewing the untold billions of stars that inhabited space. It’s breathtaking, and yet the sight just isn’t helping me right now, the Flash thought, still reflecting on the disease killing him, among other things. This is something I have to live with — the disease, I mean. I know I have no choice when it comes to dying, but I’m not going to take my friends with me.

“Wally, how are you feeling?” a voice called behind him.

The Flash turned around as the slightly bandaged Elongated Man walked toward him, his smile still intact.

“Ralph, I’m OK as long as you’re still here,” Flash said with a relieved smile. “How’s Steel?”

“If he wasn’t what he was, a cyborg, I honestly think he would have been dead,” Ralph confessed. “Luckily, he’s going to be OK. He’ll still need to be checked out in regards to his cybernetics and the flesh covering his face, but after that’s complete, he should be as good as new.”

“I’m glad,” Flash said, grateful that Steel would survive. “He’s young, but he’s really proven himself as a hero. What about J’onn and Nubia?”

“Nubia is as resilient as Diana ever was, and J’onn is feeling better than he was. He puts up a strong front, but that fire could’ve been fatal to him,” Ralph said in a serious tone. “He was right, though. This was an impressive victory for the JLA. Of course–” Ralph’s words were interrupted by the voice of the Martian Manhunter.

“Let us all assemble in the meeting room,” the Manhunter said.

“Duty calls!” Ralph said aloud, which made the Flash smile. “Let’s go, Wally.” Together, Flash and the Elongated Man walked to the meeting room and sat down in their chairs. The Martian Manhunter began speaking to the heroes assembled.

“Amazo has never been easy to defeat, as we know, but that may not matter anymore,” the Manhunter said. “Thanks to the incendiary chemicals coated on the flesh-colored glove of Batman, Amazo’s circuits were completely eaten away. Superman deposited the shell that remained of Amazo into the sun, so it would seem that Amazo has been stopped — for now. Unfortunately, all of us here know about the evil genius behind Amazo, and that would be Professor Anthony Ivo. He may very well create a tougher model of Amazo, but we need to be prepared just in case.”

The Manhunter’s words didn’t seem to register with Flash, who felt he’d failed the JLA in their battle against Amazo, and his growing insecurities about the disease killing him finally had him decide on what he felt was best for him and the JLA.

“J’onn… everyone,” the Flash interrupted, not sure just what to say, but knowing that whatever it was needed to be said. “I have an announcement to make.”

“Flash?” the Manhunter said, somewhat confused.

“The battle with Amazo had me asking more questions about myself — how I fit in here and what I can contribute to the League. Also, there have been pressing matters that I need to deal with in Central City. I’ll be blunt: I feel I dropped the ball today,” Flash said.

“Wally, you–” Ralph began to say.

“Ralph, I need to finish,” Flash said shortly. “All of us were hurt today by that thing, and I almost got myself killed. All because I screwed up. I can’t do that to the League. I can’t become some liability, because we depend on each other, and I won’t allow any of you to become liabilities with me at the scene. I feel right now, for the benefit of the JLA and the members that belong to it, I need to take a leave of absence.”

The League members in attendance stared at Flash in shock, almost not believing the words spoken by the fastest man alive. “Wally, you can’t mean that,” Ralph said, still concerned for his friend.

“Ralph, trust me,” Flash said quietly, feeling his fear building inside his body. “This is for the best. Until I can be someone you can trust with your lives–”

“You already are, Wally,” J’onn J’onzz said, himself now feeling concern for the speedster. “While in pain, I witnessed you tackling Amazo, who sought to attack Nubia. We do not doubt your capabilities. You are your own man.”

“I wish I felt like that, but I just don’t, J’onn,” the Flash said, trying to hide his concern. “Look, it’s not like I’m quitting the JLA. That’s something I won’t do, believe me. But right now, I feel this is for the best. I’m sorry. I really am. I’d better go.”

The Flash stood up and left the meeting room, but as he walked down the hallway, a long arm stopped him before he could continue forward. “Wally, what’s going on?” Ralph asked the speedster, greatly concerned by the general change detected in Flash’s words. “I can tell there’s something wrong.”

“Ralph, I — I’d like to talk, but–” Flash began to say.

“Listen to me, Wally,” Ralph said, almost sternly. “Don’t shut us out. Whatever is going on, I’m sure we can help you.”

“I don’t know about that, Ralph. I don’t even know where to begin,” Flash said, almost prepared to tell Ralph the truth.

“I think I know,” a voice called out from behind.

Flash and Ralph turned their attentions to the speaker of the words — Superman. “Wally, nearly two years ago after the Crisis had ended, Firestorm dropped you off at STAR Labs after you received the blast of antimatter. Firestorm mentioned to me afterwards that you said something about a disease in a delirious state, something killing you,” Superman said, concerned. “Is this disease back? Are you dying again?”

“Dying?” Ralph said as the words spoken by Superman began registering inside his head. “You were dying at one time, and you didn’t tell anyone?”

“Yeah,” Flash said quietly to Superman. “The disease is back. I found out yesterday at the New York branch of STAR Labs. As for not telling anyone,” Flash said, turning toward Ralph, “when I had it before, I only told Barry and my girlfriend. I’d like to keep this between the three of us, to be honest.”

“We can do that,” Superman said. “Has there been any luck with a cure?”

“No, not yet,” Flash replied sadly. “I’m not holding out for a miracle cure, but as long as I can keep Central City protected, I’ll continue fighting the good fight.”

Superman thought to himself for a few minutes, then slowly smiled. “Wally, I have an idea,” he said.

“What is it?” Flash asked.

“I may have mentioned New Krypton to you in the past,” Superman began to say.

“Isn’t that the planet where you enlarged Kandor on?” Ralph interrupted.

“Yes, it is,” Superman replied as he turned his attention back to Flash. “New Krypton has many great scientific minds that could be able to help you. Right now, it’s in proper alignment with our universe. You want to make a journey there?”

The Flash began to smile, feeling hope once again. “You bet I would,” he said to the Man of Steel. “When can we get started?”

“Right now, if you’d like. It would be nice to see some familiar faces,” Superman said, as he remembered the many friends and family he had on New Krypton. “Let’s head to the ship, and we’ll begin our journey.”

“Good luck, you two. Stay safe,” Ralph said, waving to the two men.

“We will, Ralph,” Flash said. Together, the Flash and Superman walked down the hallway and made their way to a docking ship attached to the satellite.

***

Albert Desmond arrived home from a day at the office, content with how he was leading his life. Business continues to pick up, and the market seems to be holding steady. Hopefully, it will stay this way for a long time to come, Albert thought, looking toward the positive. Even though there’s a few hours before that dinner tonight, I should probably get myself ready.

Removing his shoes, Albert hung up his sports jacket and walked toward the kitchen. He spoke aloud to his wife, whom he knew was home. “Rita, I’m home.”

Someone replied to Albert’s words, but not who he thought would. “I’m so glad, dear!” a sarcastic voice spoke, trying to sound somewhat feminine. “We have so much to catch up on!”

Albert was scared, not for himself, but for the safety of his wife. Pushing the kitchen door open, he found himself face to face with his own worst enemy, Doctor Alchemy. He had his arm around Albert’s wife, Rita, who had been transformed into glass.

Rita!” Albert screamed in horror. “What have you done to her?!” he demanded from Alchemy.

“Oh, Albert, there’s so much that you have no inkling about,” Alchemy said smugly. “I pay a visit to my brother, and this is how I’m treated? If we were blood-related, I’d be hurt.”

“Change her back, Alvin. Change her back now!” Albert seethed, his anger replacing his fear.

“No can do, Al. You see,” Doctor Alchemy said, tipping Rita’s glass form back and forth so that it teetered, “duty calls.”

“Leave her alone!” Albert screamed once more, once more fearful that tragedy would strike his wife. “Damn it, what do you want?”

“Al, it’s like this. It’s called an exchange, quite simply,” Doctor Alchemy said. “I want you to kidnap someone that’s very important. Her name is Daphne Dean. She’s going to be at some fancy little event tonight, and that’s going to be your opportunity to strike.”

Albert stared at the Philosopher’s Stone, which Alchemy held in his other hand. I had a stronger will before, he thought. Maybe–

“Too late, bro. The Stone and I have forged a stronger bond since I claimed it. You’ve just been too far away for any attempt to make a difference,” Doctor Alchemy said, anticipating his brother’s efforts.

Albert stared at his wife, and sadly, he knew what he had to do. “All right,” he said quietly. “I’ll do what you ask.”

“That’s nice to hear, but you’d better get your work clothes on,” Alchemy said, referring to the Mister Element costume.

Mister Element? N-no, I don’t want to put that back on,” Albert said as memories from his actions as Mister Element and Doctor Alchemy flashed through his head. “I–”

“You will, Al,” Doctor Alchemy said angrily, flashing a sinister smile. “It’s who you are. Who you’ll always be. Mister Element now… and forevermore.”

“I — I… all right. But my costume, it’s at the Flash Museum–” Albert said weakly.

“Well, then, if I were you, I’d retrieve it,” Alchemy said. “Oh, by the way, there’s a few things to discuss. You are to meet me with Ms. Dean by Central City Stadium. You’ll see a black van, so you’ll know what to look for.” He paused for a moment.

“There’s more, Albert. If you even think about contacting the CCPD,” Alchemy said, raising his Philosopher’s Stone above Rita’s head, as if to break the glass figure, “Rita will be in more pieces than an old nursery rhyme character. Got it?”

“Yes. You have my word,” Albert said, resigned to what he needed to do in order to save his wife’s life.

Good. Now, then, before you can do anything else,” Alchemy said, raising the Stone in front of Albert, “have a five-minute sleep. I don’t need you playing hero.”

Suddenly, the Stone emitted a brief sleep gas, which Albert had no choice but to inhale. As he slipped to the floor, his brother smiled.

“Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?” Alchemy said as he picked up the glass figure and carried it to his black van. To prevent her from breaking in the ride back to Mota’s hideout, he transformed her into a steel figure. He then sat down in the driver’s side of the van and drove back to Mota’s, even as Albert awoke at home.

Oh, God… Rita, Albert thought despairingly. I have to do what Alvin demanded to save her life. Anything is worth it to save her — anything!

Albert walked upstairs and unlocked a case that held an extra elemental gun, a keepsake from his dark past as Mister Element. I gave a gun that was identical to the Flash Museum, along with my old costume, he thought, staring at the gun he just picked up from the case. There were a couple of instances where Barry Allen required my help, help this gun provided. I just hope he can forgive me for what I have to do now.

With the elemental gun in his hands, Albert walked downstairs and left his home. He walked toward his car and entered the vehicle. He shut the car door, started the car up, and drove off toward the Flash Museum.

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