by Hitman 44077
At the Taylor Park Mall in Central City, Wally West walked toward one of several tables in the food court where Frances Kane was already waiting. He carried a tray with two slices of New York-style pizza and a Coke and sat down across from Fran, who was set to eat from her plate of varied Chinese cuisine.
“Took a little more time than expected, but at least it’s fresh,” Wally said pleasantly. “I haven’t had a warm meal in days.”
“Cereal only goes so far, unless you’re on a very tight budget, right?” Fran said with a smirk, using her spoon to dig into the fried rice on her plate.
Wally smiled and laughed before continuing. “Exactly! Being busy, especially during this time of year, can really screw with habit. In some ways, I’m glad how certain things worked out over the years.”
“Oh? How so?” Fran asked as Wally took a few bites of pizza at super-speed. She only noticed that the slice was nearly gone as Wally answered her.
“We’ve made it as a couple, for one thing,” Wally said before finishing the rest of his first slice of pizza. “I really feel we’ve both grown up and come to terms with the past. It took some time, but we’ve made a lot of progress in our lives.”
“I agree,” Fran said with confidence, nodding her head even as a slow smile appeared on her face. “It hasn’t been easy, but we made it work. You’ve really been accepted as a hero not just by the JLA or the Titans, but by this city.”
“You’ve done a lot of good yourself, Fran,” Wally answered as she took a bite from her lo mein noodles. “I was so proud when you got the job. I’ve seen how you light up for those kids, and they look to you for hope. It’s not always necessary to have the fancy suit or the super-powers to save the day. Sometimes being a hero — and I mean a real hero — means being yourself, and nothing else.”
Fran paused for a moment and smiled warmly. “That means so much to me. You really see that in me?”
Wally spoke with reassuring strength. “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t see it for myself. Those kids you’re helping — they believe in you. And me, well, I’ve always believed in you.”
Fran blushed somewhat but kept strong thanks to what he had just said. “Jeez, you know how to make someone feel good,” she said with an emotional smile.
Wally reached for Fran’s hand and placed his own on top of hers, then they held hands even as their eyes met. “What can I say?” Wally said with a confident smile. Slowly, the couple reached toward each other for a lingering kiss.
Suddenly, the sound of glass and stone exploded nearby in a loud crash. Both Wally and Fran, as well as many other shoppers, turned toward the direction from where the noise had come from.
“What the heck?!” Wally shouted aloud, even as a new noise started to ring in the ears of all present — the sound of a jewelry store alarm.
“I don’t know,” Fran said in concern.
With but a quick thought, Wally’s Flash ring opened up, and not even a second later, standing in his place was the Flash.
Fran noticed the change soon enough as she turned toward where her boyfriend had been and saw the scarlet speedster. “Shoot! And me without my costume,” she whispered loud enough for Flash to hear. “Let me try to find something to disguise myself with.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Flash reassured her in a whisper. “One of the few regrets I have is not having a secret identity. I wouldn’t want you to experience what I went through a few years back.”
“You sure?” Fran asked, a little louder.
“Positive. I’ll be back,” Flash said, quickly giving Fran a kiss on the cheek before speeding off to the direction where the jewelry store alarm was blaring.
Within the confines of the Forever Memories Jewelry Store — minus what had once been a wall leading to the outside of the mall — four costumed beings stood in matching blue and red suits. Team Turmoil was back in Central City.
One was a large, hulking figure who had long brown hair tied in a ponytail. In each hand, this well-muscled being held the male employees of the store in a tight grip by their necks. This giant of a man was called Rumble.
Another was a catlike woman who was perched next to a few customers there for Christmas shopping. She retracted her hands (paws?) and rubbed one of them against the shirt of a male customer, her claws ripping it until the man’s shirt was in shredded rags. She was the feline villainess Wildside.
The third was Caliber, the ringleader of the team. He was a normal-sized man with dark-brown hair, firearms in each hand, who pointed the weapons toward a female employee of the store. He addressed the woman, who was growing more frantic by the minute. “We all want to get through this before anyone gets hurt. That means you’re going to head to the back with me and open up the valuables too hot to keep out in the open. Or else…”
With that, the hulking Rumble started to tighten his grip on the necks of the woman’s fellow employees. They began to scream even as the woman shouted to the ringleader, “Stop! I’ll do it!”
With a quick nod, Caliber signaled for the hulking man to lessen the tight grip on the two hostages in his hands. He then motioned to the fourth member of the team, a fit woman with long brown-red hair named Miasma. “Head to the air vents and knock the place out.”
“On my way!” Miasma shouted with glee before she flew outside the store.
Turning back to the female employee, Caliber spoke in a sinister tone. “I’m glad you saw it our way. I wouldn’t want someone as pretty as yourself to become one of our many symbols of revenge. Now, let’s move it.”
Pointing the guns at her head and body, Caliber marched the woman toward the back of the store, even as Rumble and the fur-covered, catlike Wildside began to talk.
“Been way too long since we were last in Central City, right, Wildside?” the hulking man asked the catlike woman.
“Verrry much so. Morrre rrroom to strrretch and rrreclaim some dignity, Rrrumble,” Wildside said with a voice that was a mix of human and animal.
The hulking man named Rumble turned his attention to the two men within his grip. “You guys need a break. Here ya go!”
With that, the two men were flung toward a glass window that hadn’t been broken in their initial assault. However, before they could make contact with the window, each man seemed to simply disappear.
Both Rumble and Wildside couldn’t believe their eyes, nor could the customers being held hostage. “What the hell happened to them?!” Rumble shouted in rage.
“I don’t know,” Wildside said as she extended the claws on her hands, “and I don’t like it, eitherrr!”
Rumble ran toward the window that hadn’t been broken and crashed right through it, shouting, “Where are you punks? Where’d you go?!”
Wildside followed Rumble outside the store in a flurry of anger. “Rrrumble, you fool! Get back herrre!”
Rumble grabbed an abandoned newsstand, picking it up in rage and slamming it against another store within the mall. “People don’t just disappear, Wildside! Not out of the blue!”
“How about out of the red, ogre?” an antagonistic voice called from behind.
Both Rumble and Wildside turned around to see the Flash standing at the entrance of the jewelry store with the assorted hostages, minus the female employee, and on the ground lay the unconscious fourth member.
“The Flash!” Rumble shouted angrily, grinding his teeth.
“And he took out Miasma!” Wildside shouted bitterly.
Flash motioned for the now-freed people to make a run for safety, then turned back toward the two villains. “Ready to rumble, pal?”
The remark only served to further infuriate his large foe. “I’ll crush you!” Rumble shouted, lunging toward the speedster.
The Flash simply sidestepped the lumbering figure and, using some basic judo techniques at super-speed, managed to use his foe’s weight against him, flipping him headfirst into a car being used as a display for Grand Motors. The collision knocked the giant into unconsciousness even as Flash turned his attentions toward the humanoid cat that had launched itself in his direction.
“I’ll rrrip yourrr hide, Flash!” the raging creature said in-between swipes of her claws.
“You can’t cut what you can’t catch, kitten!” Flash shouted, easily avoiding the claws. “By the way, you follow Bob Barker’s advice?”
“RRRAAGGHH!” Wildside hissed angrily, renewing her attack.
The Flash used his super-speed to avoid contact with this latest enemy, blocking intended blows with his arms until he could simply lure her toward him in what was a small chase within the mall. He finally stopped in front of another glass window, when Wildside made her move, pouncing as a cat would toward a toy. Instead, Flash moved out of the way, and Wildside crashed through the department store window. The blow knocked her out, and within a matter of seconds, Flash had bound the three villains in chains.
That takes care of the second-rate Gang known as Team Turmoil, Flash thought, rubbing his hands before turning back toward the jewelry store. Well, almost. Now I’ve got to deal with Caliber, and he’s no Brains, that’s for sure.
By this time, Caliber, the ringleader of Team Turmoil, made his way outside the back of the jewelry store with both a bag of valuables and his hostage, who was having a panic attack even as her captor grinned. “What’s the matter, hon? You look scared!”
By this time, the woman started visibly crying, her voice trembling to the point that she wasn’t able to make much sense.
“Look, love, you have to expect this crap to happen in a city like this. I don’t see people crying in Coast City or Gotham! Look at this as a sort of rite of passage,” Caliber said in a mock-reassuring tone.
The two suddenly noticed that the jewelry store was now empty. The captive was unsure how to respond, but Caliber was alert. They quickly moved to the entrance of the store and saw Caliber’s partners unconscious a few feet away. “Somehow, those losers bungled up again!” he shouted.
“They learn from the best, huh?” a familiar voice said from behind.
Caliber turned around with his hostage in grip and saw the Flash standing there, smiling as he opened his hand and started dropping bullets — bullets that Caliber recognized as belonging to the type of weapons he employed. The ringleader’s face was one of shock and sadness as he realized that he had nothing to work in his favor.
“I’d say you’re running on empty,” Flash said calmly. “Ready to resume your prison sentence?”
Caliber stood there silently before releasing the captive. She ran toward the scarlet speedster, who held her and comforted her. “It’s all right, miss,” Flash said calmly.
Seeing a brief window of hope, Caliber lunged for any bullet he could, but Flash stopped him from reaching the bullet by stepping on the villain’s hand. “Game over, Caliber. Thanks for playing. Maybe next time, right?”
“Next time,” he said, his voice quivering. “Next time.”
A short time later, at the Taylor Park Mall, several police officers marched the four villains into an armored police vehicle designed for transporting prisoners even as Flash spoke to Fran.
“That worked very well, and Team Turmoil heads back to jail yet again,” Fran said with a smile. “Looks like you were in the right place at the right time.”
“That’d be one way of putting it,” Flash agreed, before noticing a large amount of smoke filling the sky from north of the mall. The sight served only to lessen this success as the bigger threat of Firefist was now once more on the front burner. “Damn it!” he shouted in anger.
“What?” Fran shouted herself, even as she turned an noticed the sky. A horrified look consumed her face even as she replied in a whisper, “Oh, no!”
As Fran turned back toward the Flash, he was no longer standing there. Instead, he was on his way in the direction of what he knew in his heart was another attack by Firefist.