by Hitman 44077
Manfred Mota stood silently within the warehouse that he used to hold his prisoners and looked out at the many buildings that made up Central City. He was content, knowing that things up to this point had gone better than planned.
Central City — my home, Mota thought to himself, smiling all too briefly before a look of anger grew upon his face. And the home of the man I’ve hated for so long — the Flash. Yes, things have gone very well up to this point, but I may need to strike sooner… to lure the scarlet speedster to me.
Mota turned around and walked toward the hostages that had been taken within the last three days. The Allens, the Nathans, Cecile Horton, Daphne Dean, and Rita Desmond all sat within their chairs, unable to move thanks to the bonds that held them secure. That didn’t stop them from voicing their anger at their captor.
“It’s only a matter of time before the Flash finds us and stops you, Mota!” yelled a defiant Cecile. “You forget he’s the fastest man alive, and he’ll have you in jail before you know it!”
Mota walked up to Cecile and spoke directly to her, bringing his hand and forcibly raising Cecile’s chin up so he could speak face to face with her. “And I’m supposed to be worried, dear girl?” Mota said, almost with amusement. “Rest assured, I know the Flash better than you’d think.” Mota let go of Cecile’s chin, even as she jerked her head trying to escape his grasp. She stared angrily at her captor, even as he smiled coldly.
“If I was free, I’d lay you out, you old jerk!” Troy Nathan said, trying to keep himself strong in light of the danger he was in.
Mota walked toward the young man and spoke. “Your mouth is going to buy you a world of hurt, kid. Leave the remarks in the school yards, OK?”
“Leave my son alone, pal!” Mac Nathan said, trying to lure Mota away from Troy.
Mota turned to Mac and spoke. “The good father, eh? You’d be well-advised to do the same as I suggested to your son.” Before he could continue, Mota grabbed the hair on Mac’s head with one hand and used his other hand to punch Mac squarely in the face.
The punch bloodied Mac’s mouth somewhat, even as Troy screamed, “No! Leave Dad alone!”
Mota continued to hold Mac by the hair and finished his sentence. “Unless, of course, you desire to join your wife in the afterlife.” He then let go of Mac’s head, even as it dropped down, a little blood slowly sliding down his chin.
“Dad! Dad! You OK, Dad?” Troy asked, fearing for his father’s safety.
Groggily, Mac responded. “Yeah, I’m OK, Troy. Don’t worry.”
Mota walked away from the Nathans when Daphne Dean spoke. “What hatred blinds you? What satisfaction can you gain by hurting good people?”
“Maybe I can answer that,” a voice called from down the hall. Daphne looked toward the direction of the voice, only to see a man walking that looked exactly like Barry Allen.
“Barry?” Daphne said, hoping against hope.
“It’s not Barry, Daphne. Nora and I found that out the hard way,” Henry Allen said from his seat.
“You stupid old fool,” Ross Malverk said aloud to Henry as he inched closer to Daphne’s face. “Let’s let Daphne be the judge of that.”
With that, Ross forcibly kissed the mouth of Daphne Dean. Knowing that this man wasn’t Barry Allen, Daphne bit Ross’ lip sharply as he engaged in his kiss, which caused him to yell aloud. “Oww!” he screamed, bringing his hands to his bitten lip. But within a brief few seconds, Ross had regrouped and prepared to slap the woman’s face. “You dare do that to me?” Ross screamed, fueled by anger. “I’ll teach you to–” Before Ross could engage in his slap, Mota grabbed Ross’ raised wrist.
“I told you before — you’re my ace,” Mota said, holding his anger in. “That means no screw-ups, not until the Flash is dead! Got it?”
“What’s going on here?” Lady Rogue asked as she and Doctor Alchemy walked through a door that instant.
Mota, not wanting to divide his forces until he’d finished with his plans, let go of Ross’ wrist. “Barry suffered an insult, but I stopped him before he could do something he’d regret,” Mota said in a calm voice.
Ross, who knew he had to keep Lady Rogue thinking that he was Barry, added to Mota’s lie. “Yeah, I was lucky. I’m glad Mota stopped me.”
“If anyone tried to hurt you–” Lady Rogue began to say.
“Then it would be necessary for you to help stop Barry,” Mota said. “But after all Barry’s been through, it’s understandable why he’d grow so angry.”
“Uh, Mota,” Doctor Alchemy interrupted, somewhat concerned.
“Yes, Alchemy?” Mota asked.
“There may be a small problem. The Flash managed to defeat my brother. We heard about it on the radio,” Alchemy said, meekly.
“Am I supposed to be angry, Alchemy? Disappointed? I’m not yet, but I’ll be very angry if Albert Desmond reveals your part in this, because eventually my role will be discovered. I will not be stopped — not until the Flash is dead,” Mota said, keeping his temper in check.
“Since we have Rita here,” Alchemy said with a sneer, raising his arm as if to point in Rita’s direction, “he won’t say a damn word. Of course, if you’d like, I could sneak into the Central City Police Department and finish him off.”
“No. He’s of no further use to us, but I fear I’ll have to move the next phase in my plans up. This next phase is most important in the quest to destroy the Flash. This time, however, only Lady Rogue and yourself will be able to complete these missions. Are the two of you up for it?” Mota asked aloud.
“Of course,” Lady Rogue said, eager to begin.
“I’m game,” Alchemy smiled.
“Good.” Mota walked toward his suit of armor and unveiled his next set of plans, which he handed to the two Flash foes.
“This is perfect!” Lady Rogue exclaimed, proud of this latest assignment. “I shall not fail.”
“I know you won’t,” Mota said, a small, evil smile appearing on his face.
“Genius. You’ve thought of everything. I’m glad I’m working for you,” Alchemy said, anticipating his assignment.
“It would seem at this pace that tomorrow will be the final day in the life of the Flash. This is our final victory — the end of the Flash legacy. Now go forth and finish what we started,” Mota said, motivating the two villains. Within seconds, each foe entered a vehicle, started it up, and left the warehouse, leaving Mota, Ross, and the hostages together.
“You were very lucky back there, Malverk,” Mota said. “Had your kiss been seen by Lady Rogue, then everything I’ve worked for would have been for nothing. And I do not tolerate failure.”
“Yeah, I slipped up, but as long as I end Beverly’s life before she finds out that I’m not Barry, then I’ll be happy,” Ross said, awaiting Lady Rogue’s death as much as the Flash’s.
Unknown to the two villains and their hostages, they were being watched from a skylight once again by the mysterious figure. Things continue to build up to the final minutes. Sooner or later, you’re going to be mine, Ross. Though you still have the odds right now, I know exactly how to even them to my liking. If the Flash is to die tomorrow, then I can safely say that you’ll be joining him, the mysterious figure thought before quickly moving away from Mota’s warehouse.
The Flash stared at Titans Tower, which had once been his home when he was a member of the New Teen Titans as Kid Flash. It doesn’t matter how often I see the Tower, the Flash thought, it still impresses me a great deal.
Boarding and then activating the T-raft, Flash slowly moved across the body of water that separated him from the Tower. I saw Roy most recently with the JLA, and though it was good to see him so soon, I detected something had changed, Flash thought as the T-raft slowly pressed on toward the Tower. Of course, a lot has changed in the couple weeks since I last saw him and the rest of the team. There was the business with the wedding of Lilith and Azrael, which never took off with the arrival of the supposed John Gnarrk. And now, after what they went through, those two have left the team on separate terms. I hope that the future will bring them happiness, even in light of what transpired between them and Eros. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: The Flash saw Arsenal in Justice League of America: May the Best Man Win, and the called-off wedding of Lilith Clay and Azrael was in The New Titans: What’s Love Got to Do with It?]
The T-raft finally settled against the land of the island upon which Titans Tower rested, and Flash stepped off the device. He walked toward the entrance of the Tower and entered the T-shaped building. It’s weird, the Flash thought as he approached the Tower’s elevator and entered it. Flash pressed a floor number on the elevator panel, thinking that the team would be in their meeting room. I feel like I’m starting to have second thoughts about this. No matter. I can’t do this to me or them again.
The elevator moved up and soon arrived on the floor that Flash had chosen. He stepped from the elevator and walked toward the meeting room tables quietly, seeing that the New Titans were engaged in a meeting.
“I’m glad the two of you are back,” Nightwing said from his seat to Kole and Jericho. “Things have been somewhat… bizarre, lately. It’s not as if we’re in disarray, but even I can see that the times are changing.”
“It was nice to get away, even if it was for a little while,” Kole Weathers said with a smile as she looked at her boyfriend with affection. Joe Wilson returned the same glance. Addressing Nightwing, she grew solemn, regretting somewhat that she had been gone in the wake of things. “I wish Lilith had stayed, though. She understood me after the affair with the Titans of myth and the battle with Thia. Will she be back?”
“I don’t know,” Artemis answered in place of Nightwing, sharing the same concern for her friend as did the rest of the Titans. “What Eros did to her and Azrael was inhuman. And believe me, I know what it’s like to be manipulated.”
“As do I,” Raven said in her usually haunted voice, her memories of Trigon and Brother Blood reminding her of the danger she could have posed had she remained in their grasps. “All of us have experienced manipulations, and even I am guilty of committing that same act upon another human being,” she said with regret.
The Flash stood there silently, remembering how he first joined the New Teen Titans. You would know, wouldn’t you? he thought, not knowing how to react. To experience so much, and yet, to never really know someone — it’s so maddening… and sad.
“Right now, I have a lot on my mind,” Nightwing said, “and I don’t know where to begin.”
“Cheer up, Dick!” Arsenal said, doing what he could to keep his own sadness from emerging. “I’ve had issues as well lately, and I know we can overcome this.”
“That’s right,” a voice called from the hallway. The New Titans turned toward that direction and watched the Flash walk toward the meeting table. “Titans together… and forever.”
“Wally!” Kole shouted, jumping from her seat and running toward the speedster. Upon reaching Flash, she gave her warmest hug for her friend.
Ever since we met during the Crisis, I’ve felt like she’s a younger sister, the Flash thought, smiling as he returned the hug. She’s definitely proven herself, both as a teammate and a friend. I’m glad she recovered. Letting go of Kole, he addressed her, his smile still intact. “I haven’t seen you in a while. Keeping busy?”
Kole released her hug even as the other Titans moved toward Flash. “I guess you could say that. Joe and I just got back from our trip, but I didn’t expect you to be here today.”
Nightwing offered his hand to Flash, and the two men shook hands. “I swear, you’re here so often, maybe you should rejoin,” Nightwing kidded. “Of course, this is the part where we get attacked by some foe set for revenge, right?”
“Not exactly,” Flash said, trying to stay positive as he released his grip on Nightwing’s hand. “I just wanted to see the group… that’s all.”
Ever the detective, Nightwing knew something was wrong with his oldest crime-fighting friend. “I’ve known you too long to forget how you get when you’re troubled, Wally. What’s up?” Nightwing asked with concern.
Flash paused for a few seconds, not sure where to begin, but he finally knew what to do. “Dick, Donna, all of you… I need to talk to you,” Flash said solemnly, removing his mask.
“Does this have something to do with the League?” Nightwing asked. “Batman said something about you taking a leave of absence.”
“It does, but not in the way you’d imagine, Dick,” Wally admitted. “It’s about me — my past and my present, and it’s something I should have done years ago. “Three years ago, when I quit the Titans, I told all of you that I seemed to be slowing down, and I thought I was losing my super-speed. A few short months later, when my Uncle Barry was on trial for second-degree murder, I began experiencing pain whenever I used my powers. I saw Barry with my girlfriend, Frances Kane, and he performed some tests on me. He discovered I had a disease within my body that caused me the pain. Barry also learned that it was fatal.”
“X’hal!” Starfire said, completely shocked.
“No way!” Changeling said, his face possessing the same shocked expression as his teammates.
“Ohmigod!” both Cyborg and Arsenal said in unison.
Jericho stared at the man whom he barely knew, even after nearly three years, but still felt the pain of this revelation as deeply as his other friends. His revelation reveals just how much he’s changed. I wish I’d gotten to know him better before now, the mute Titan thought with regret.
“Guys, we need to hear Wally out,” Nightwing said, trying to regroup them from this revelation. Turning back to Wally, Nightwing addressed him. “Wally, we’ve always been your friend. Why didn’t you tell us? We would have tried to help you.”
“Dick, you know what kind of jerk I was back then,” Wally said, trying to bring a smile to his friend’s face. “Honestly, when I was with the team, I felt insecure, and I think I had a self-hate thing going on with me. I tried so hard to be strong for me, and yet sometimes I grew angry that I didn’t tell any of you, almost like I blamed you. It’s something I never should have done, because all of you have been like family to me.”
“You seem fine now — were you cured of it?” asked Kole, who was still concerned about her friend.
“That’s a story in itself,” Wally said. “My disease went into remission when I traveled with the other heroes to battle the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis. I received a blast of antimatter, which seemed to keep the disease in check. With that in mind, I decided to keep Barry’s legacy alive, and I adopted the Flash identity. I thought that my powers had been lessened, but within months, I’d regained my fastest speeds. That leads me to the last few days.”
“Is the disease back?” Artemis asked, as if she knew the answer that was coming.
“Yes,” Flash said quietly. “It’s back… and I’m dying again.”
“Aw, no…” Changeling said, trying to fight against the tears. The green-skinned shape-shifter had gone through enough grief over the past few weeks with his adoptive father Steve Dayton being paralyzed in an accident, and this only added to his sad feelings. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Doom Patrol: All Fall Down, Chapter 1: A Gift.]
“When did you find out?” Nightwing asked, paying full attention to Wally.
“Two days ago. I began experiencing the pains that I’d suffered through in the past, so I traveled to STAR Labs here in New York, expecting to see Jenet Klyburn. She wasn’t in, but a doctor named Mackenzie Ryan was,” Wally said, somewhat relieved that he’d told his friends.
“I met Mac a few weeks ago — actually both Roy and I — as we were trying to get to the bottom of Gnarrk’s return,” Nightwing said. “He’s a good guy.”
“You better believe he is. That man helped put me back together again after Mento attacked us in the week after the Crisis,” Cyborg said, remembering the near-fatal confrontation he and Changeling had engaged in with the then-insane Steve Dayton.
“Yes he is. You’re both right about him,” Wally agreed before continuing. “Mac ran some tests on me, and he learned that I’d burned the antimatter out of my body during the time I’d regained my top speed up to now. Had I not dealt with my personal issues regarding Barry, there’s a chance the disease would’ve remained in remission. He suggested that I quit using my super-speed, but I couldn’t — not with what’s happening in Central City right now.”
“I saw something about that on the news. Daphne Dean was kidnapped, right? Changeling asked, vaguely knowing the actress from his time in Hollywood.
“She and a number of people Barry was close to, including his parents and defense lawyer,” Wally said. “I’ve had to deal with the abductions as well as fighting against the pains of the disease. That’s one of the reasons I took a leave of absence from the JLA. I didn’t want them knowing about the disease, and I didn’t want to become a liability to them.”
“They’re your teammates — they could help you,” Nightwing said.
“You know, I’m proud of doing justice in Barry’s name, and that includes what I’ve done in the JLA. But when it comes to this, I guess I wanted to tell the people I was closest to,” Wally said, keeping himself calm. “The Titans were and are family to me, and I was too stubborn to admit it before Barry died. As for help, STAR Labs is searching for treatments, as is Superman’s uncle on New Krypton, Zor-El. Basically, of the Leaguers, only Superman and Ralph Dibny know, and they swore to keep the disease secret. I hope all of you do the same, too.”
“Does Fran know? Your parents?” Nightwing asked.
“No. Not yet,” Flash said, still trying to find the words to tell the most important people in his life. “They all knew before the disease went into remission, but they don’t know that it’s back. I do plan on telling them… when I know what to say.”
“Maybe we could bring you to Paradise Island. I’m sure I could talk Hippolyta into letting Paula use the purple healing ray on you,” Artemis said with hope.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Donna,” Wally said cautiously. “I remember you telling us how Gar was driven nuts by the ray. (*) And with my super-speed, if I went through that as well, I could accidentally set foot on Paradise Island. That would mean a lot of problems for the Amazons. I wouldn’t do that to them.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Friends and Foes Alike,” The New Teen Titans #13 (November, 1981).]
Slowly, Raven addressed the Flash. “Wallace,” she said in her usual tone, “I may be able to help you.”
“What do you mean, Raven?” Wally asked the woman that, at one time, he’d thought he’d loved.
“I have abilities as an empath that I learned from my training in Azarath,” she said. “I believe I may be able to remove the disease from your body, but I cannot guarantee success.”
Wally turned toward Raven and spoke softly. “Raven, I’ve watched you when you used your abilities on others, and I’ve seen the pain your body goes through during the process. I won’t do that to you. Nor would I risk you carrying this disease yourself.”
“Wallace, I once caused you great pain by manipulating your feelings,” Raven said, remembering her remarks during the meeting. She reached out and grasped Wally’s gloved hand softly. She rubbed the hand once, as she spoke. “Please, for both of us, allow me an opportunity to heal your physical half. As for my welfare, I assure you, my body can safely expunge any remnants of the disease if I absorb them within me.”
Wally was touched by her generous offer, especially since he only intended to visit his friends, not bother them to help him with a cure for his disease. He placed his free hand on top of Raven’s hand, which still rested upon Wally’s other hand, and answered the empath. “All right, Raven. Let’s see what’ll happen next,” Flash said with a somewhat hopeful smile.
“It would be best if the two of us went to the infirmary quarters,” Raven said, letting go of Wally’s hand and then removing her hood.
“I’d rather the others join us… in case your body can’t handle the pain of the disease,” Wally said as he felt concern for his friend, something he thought he’d never feel in this way again.
“Are you up for this, Raven?” Arsenal asked, feeling concern both for the woman whom he’d loved until recently and for one of his oldest friends.
“I am, Roy. You are a good friend,” Raven said, not knowing how those words stung into the soul of Roy Harper.
Together, with the New Titans following close behind, Wally and Raven made their way toward the infirmary in hopes that Wally could be cured of the disease eating away at his life.