The Flash: To Battle Brainiac, Chapter 1: An Arsonist in Central City

by Hitman 44077

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Central City, an early Tuesday morning, October, 1987:

Normally, these hours before the beginning of another working day were quiet. Yet the tumult that now began to unfold couldn’t exactly be considered an anomaly — not in this town.

A fire raged, consuming the once-prominent Central City National Bank within its dangerous grip. With several firetrucks parked all around the large building, the firefighters tended to the blaze. They struggled to face it head-on, even as their work seemed to be at best matched by the intense heat. The crisp October weather did little to aid the firefighters in their efforts, even as the firetruck sirens continued to fill the air.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” one of the firefighters said through gritted teeth, fire hose in hand. His expression bordered on anger and sadness as he spoke again, aloud and not directed at anyone in particular. “My life savings were in there.”

“Get a grip, Wilkes,” the taller, heavier, moustached man said as he aided his partner in the firefighting efforts. His expression told a similar story, but he managed to remain focused. “We need to concentrate on this first, and then we can worry about what to do.”

Wilkes spoke again, nodding his head slightly. “Believe me, I get that, Barnes. But–”

Without warning, portions of the burning bank building began to break apart from the engulfed structure, including a large section where the two men were fighting their portion of the blaze. Both men stared in shock as the flaming mass was about to hit them. The Central City Fire Chief, witnessing this turn of events, yelled in vain to the pair. “Barnes, Wilkes — move it!

But there was no time for movement, no time indeed, especially when fear took hold.

“My G–” Wilkes began to say, eyes wide as his worst nightmare was about to come true.

Suddenly, with the sound of a fast wind-gust and the brief sight of what seemed to be flames, the two men found themselves right next to the Fire Chief’s car, watching as the structure hit the ground in the very spot where they’d been standing.

“–od!” Wilkes finished, his eyes still wide, now in disbelief.

“How–?” was all the Fire Chief was able to muster as the three men watched a cyclone engulf the burning building, capturing the flames within its foils and holding it there until the flames finally dissipated. The charred mess of a building still smoked as the other firefighters grasped control of the situation.

“Two long hours battling that blaze, and within seconds it’s taken care of?” the Fire Chief asked, his voice almost a whisper. “It’s a miracle.”

“No, not a miracle,” a voice called out from behind. “Just me.”

The Fire Chief, as well as Barnes and Wilkes, turned around to see the champion of Central City, who walked toward the men.

“The Flash!” Wilkes said, taking his helmet off to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.

“I had some money put away in this bank, too, like others in this city,” the Flash said solemnly. “The saving grace here is that this bank is FDIC-insured. But it’s going to be a while before things are restored to normal.”

The Flash looked over to the charred remains of the building, his expression showing some disappointment, and he addressed the three men. “A few hours ago, I was asked to deliver a replacement heart overseas to Tokyo’s premiere heart surgeon, since time was so dangerously short for the intended recipient,” Flash said calmly.

“Hey, we’re just glad you got here in time, Flash,” the Fire Chief said appreciatively. “Fire’s one thing, but preserving life is another. And you definitely saved some lives here today and, from the sound of it, over in Tokyo as well.”

“I do what I can,” Flash said with a confident smile. “And you can bet I’ll get to the bottom of this arson.”

“I have no doubts about that,” the Fire Chief said, tipping his hat to the speedster.

Using his speed, the Flash cleared what wreckage he could. Once done, he spoke to the Fire Chief.

“Looks like things are set here. I’ll let the police look for anything that could help in this case, and I’ll do some searching of my own,” Flash said, waving to the firefighters. “I’ll see you later, and keep safe, all of you.”

“You too, Flash,” the Fire Chief said.

With a small smile, the Flash sped off, racing about the city, his thoughts as fast as the feet that were carrying him. I’ll chalk that one up to coincidence, he thought as he turned a corner. Still, a fire at the Central City National Bank? It’s a bizarre target, seeing as how money seems to be a criminal’s appetite. What’s to gain by torching it instead of stealing from it?

The Flash’s eyes narrowed, even as another thought filled his head. And could this have anything to do with Mick Rory? he thought, remembering the man in his thoughts in his more-recognizable identity — the costumed criminal and enemy of the original Flash known as Heat Wave. I’ve heard different things about him these past few years. Rumors that he’d gone back to the criminal ways in some cases, others in regards to him seeking solitude and repentance. The first time I fought Fiona in her Lady Rogue identity, she used a fire gun like Rory’s, and that made me think initially that I was dealing with Heat Wave. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: Speed Trap.]

The Flash made a turn left, then north, then a sharp right. I don’t think it’s Fiona this time. I’ve visited with her several times since the Mota incident, and she seems to be making progress. But that leads me back to Rory. Or does it? Flash thought, a basic realization coming to light. There’s other foes out in this world with a fire motif, like that Firebug guy from Gotham. I’m sure it’s possible, but still, what’s to accomplish by destroying a bank and the money it holds?

He began to slow down and finally stopped at the apartment building where his girlfriend Frances Kane lived. I know it’s early, Flash thought as he saw the sky starting to clear up, but maybe Fran can use some company.

Before Flash could open the apartment building’s doors, he realized, I can’t go in as the Flash. Not that I have a secret identity to maintain, but I don’t think Fran needs her neighbors quizzing her on the activities of yours truly.

The Flash sped back to his apartment complex, Kingsley Apartments, and, upon reaching his apartment, attained such speed that he could place his arm through the wall, knowing where his brown trenchcoat was hanging. Upon grabbing it with a solid hand, his hand sped up to the same vibration as the rest of his arm, safely pulling the coat free. Slowing his internal vibrations down, he made his way back to Fran’s apartment building.

Placing the coat on, he pulled his mask off and tucked it underneath. He looked down at his boots and smirked. Well, it could be worse, Wally thought as he opened the doors to the apartment building and, within a few quick steps, reached Fran’s apartment door.

Wally softly knocked on Fran’s door, and several seconds later, the door opened.

“Hey, you,” Frances Kane said with a curious smirk. She wore a magenta bathrobe, and her blonde hair was wrapped in a towel. “I heard about the fire this morning. Come on in.”

Wally entered, shutting the apartment door behind him, even as Fran reached over and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.

“Any leads on that matter, Wally?” Fran asked, the concern in her voice evident. “And any word on Shinya Tutetsu?

“I got the heart to Shinya’s surgeon in time. He’s expected to make it and rejoin the scientific community with time. As for the fire, no leads yet. I’m lucky I didn’t have all of my money in there. Unfortunately, others who did have money in there are going to be waking up to the news. The important thing is that no one was hurt.” Wally decided to change the subject. “Looks like you’re busy, Fran. I take it that means you got the job?” he asked.

“As a social worker?” Fran said, walking toward her bathroom. “Not quite, Wally. But I did get a second interview with the city, which helps big-time.”

Wally followed her inside, looking at her face’s reflection in the mirror as Fran applied a small amount of mascara. “You really have a kind heart, Fran. The kids out there would be lucky to have you helping them,” he said with a slight smile. He placed his hand softly on Fran’s shoulder.

Fran looked at Wally, returning the smile, and rubbed his hand with her free hand. “Thank you.”

It had been a month — a long time, it seemed — since the two had reaffirmed their love for one another. (*) But that love seemed so strong, since it was built upon so firm a foundation. It felt right for them to be together.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: Unfinished Business, Epilogue: The Truth.]

“I want to make a difference for these kids who have it rough, just as you make a difference saving lives and fighting crime,” Fran said as she finished with the mascara. “I hope I can be every bit the hero for them as I am when I help you fight crime as Polara.”

“You have, and you will. Never-ending battle, indeed,” Wally said with a smile. He slowly removed his hand from Fran’s shoulder. “Want me to put on a pot of coffee?”

“I think I’ll have time for a cup,” Fran said.

Wally prepared the coffee as Fran finished drying, combing, and styling her hair in a bun. She then got dressed in a silk white blouse, a matching suitcoat and dress, and her dress shoes. She was ready for her second interview.

“Here you go,” Wally said, handing her a cup of coffee.

“Thanks,” Fran said, eagerly sipping from the cup before glancing at the clock. Her face changed as she realized she didn’t have as much time as she’d thought. “Shoot, I’m late!

“You want me to run you over to City Hall?” Wally asked.

“Nah, that’s OK,” Fran said as she reached inside her purse for her lipstick and compact. She quickly and effortlessly applied the lipstick and headed for the door. “I’ll tell you how it went tonight. Love you.”

Wally met her by the front door in a quick display of speed. He then shared a kiss with Fran. “Love you, too,” he said, smiling as he handed her the purse.

She returned the smile as she placed the purse strap over her arm. She then opened the door and left for City Hall. Wally watched her leave, then turned off the coffee pot.

I guess sometimes all it takes is the right woman, Wally thought, rinsing the pot in the sink. The hot water in the sink brought Wally back to matters at hand. Damn, he thought as the water scalded him. There’s still an arsonist on the loose. And the longer I do nothing, the more time this guy has time to plot.

Wally took his trenchcoat off and placed it on Fran’s couch. I can pick this up later, he thought, pulling his mask back over his face. But right now, it’s time for me to do my thing — Flash-style.

The Flash started to run, simply vibrating through one of Fran’s apartment walls and onto the streets of Central City as the new day began to take shape.

***

Space — it was a vast wasteland holding all in place, with stars and suns to keep a few rare planets illuminated and filled with life. Within its grip contained other objects as well, some man-made, and others with a life of their own.

Drifting slowly, if speed was even any consideration in space, was an object not quite large by human standards, but larger than a car, its oval-like appearance notwithstanding. Aside from the ice that covered portions of it, the oval-like object’s metallic covering seemed to reflect the shine of the stars surrounding it, almost as if it were a star itself.

It had drifted for how long now? What exactly was this metallic creation — its origins, its state of being?

Upon closer examination, there seemed to be etchings covering the oval-shaped object. It wasn’t as if they were some sign of language, but almost as if the device was built like a puzzle.

Without warning, the etchings began to glow. A whitish-blue hue began to encompass the entire device, its inner light contrasting with the light of the stars it reflected. Though it wasn’t clearly evident, the object began to build speed, no longer simply drifting in the void.

Whatever it was, if not awake, it was definitely aware. And though it seemed poised to head wherever it wished, it traveled in the one direction that it knew best — toward Earth.

***

Central City:

Aside from the early morning’s events, Central City’s business day began normally, except for a certain speedster who’d been on the job for several hours now.

It’s 7:44 AM, the Flash thought, glancing at the large clock that sat above the doors of City Hall. Maybe Forensics has something new to go by in this case. It’ll be more than what I’ve found so far.

The Flash made his way toward the police science building and entered. Now walking, he continued through the building until he found the office in question. Brings back some memories, but I’m not here for that, Flash thought, opening the door.

No sooner than he’d walked inside he was greeted with, “Unless you work here, knock.”

Flash stared ahead at first surprised, then amused, as he saw a woman in her mid-to-late twenties with short brown hair and a lab jacket examining something at a table. What she was looking at wasn’t clear.

Excuse me?” Flash said, in such a tone that the woman jumped slightly, with the same surprise Flash had seconds earlier.

“Whoa!” she shouted, her arm hitting the small object she’d apparently been examining, and it fell off the table.

With little effort — and super-speed — Flash caught the device carefully and placed it back onto the table next to a microscope.

“Careful,” Flash said with a sly smile. He eyed the young woman as she regained her composure. “I take it Patty’s not on the job yet?”

“I’ve heard of you,” the woman said with a slight smile, eyes narrowed in mock anger. She raised her hand to the soft glasses on her face and slightly lowered them to look Flash in the eye. “You’re that fast guy, Mr. Speed. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“The bank arson a few hours ago. You find out anything useful?” Flash asked.

“I thought you super-types always had the inside scoop,” the woman said, repositioning her glasses.

“Not always,” Flash said calmly. “I’m only human.” He extended his hand to the woman.

The woman looked at him for a second, then shook his hand. She closed her eyes and relaxed somewhat as she spoke to him. “It’s been a crazy night,” she said, opening her eyes once more. “I’m Angela Margolin.”

“Nice to meet you,” Flash said as he released her hand. “I take it you had money invested at that bank?”

“No… just other, well, we’ll call ’em situations,” Angela said. “Nothing bad… just some people can’t take a hint. Especially when I’m trying to do a job.”

“I get that,” Flash said, understanding. “So what exactly were you looking at?”

“This,” Angela said, picking up a pen and touching the small, charred object, “is the culprit. One of two, at least.”

“I take it this was filled with some flammable substance and shot inside the bank, then?” Flash asked.

“Either that or it acted with a secondary agent,” Angela answered. “It was fired from something — a gun, possibly — but there wasn’t enough force to cause it to explode from being fired. It’s like a plastic, but what baffles me is the device itself. It should have either remained intact or melted completely, and it’s basically hollowed out.”

“Bizarre,” Flash said, placing his hand to his chin. He thought for a few minutes, then looked back to Angela and asked, “What about the bank itself? Is there anything to link the arson with a bank robbery?”

“What little we found, no, not at all — charred money, charred everything,” Angela said calmly, placing the non-tip end of the pen against her lip. “It’s entirely possible Patty may be able to bring more to the table. I mean, I’ve only been here a year, and she’s been here half my life–”

“What’s that?” a stern voice called from behind. The Flash and Angela turned around to see Patty Spivot standing there, a smirk on her face as she removed her coat and hung it on a wall.

“Uh, I mean, Ms. Spivot, well–” Angela said nervously.

“She meant nothing by it, Patty,” Flash said reassuringly. “Good to see you again.”

“I know,” Patty said. “Seniority has its privileges. Good to see you too, Flash.”

“You can call me by my name, Patty. You, too, Angela. Just call me Wally,” Flash said to the women. “I’d like to stay and chat, but all of us have work to do.”

Two of you, anyway,” Angela said, as she yawned. “I’ve pulled a double since Dean called off last night.”

“Get some rest, then. I may need to call you in if he’s still sick tonight, but I promise we’ll split it into two twelve-hour shifts, all right?” Patty asked.

“Yeah. Thanks,” Angela said with a tired smile.

“Before you leave, Wally, I’d like to invite you to a fundraiser set for Halloween. Raising some money for new equipment here. Do you think you can make it?” Patty asked the scarlet speedster.

“I can probably do that. No problem,” Flash said with a wink. “I’ll see you two later, hopefully with some news.”

“Take care, Wally,” Patty said, waving at the Flash.

“Have a good one, Speed,” Angela said with a small smile.

With a wave of his own, Flash left the police lab.

With Flash gone, Angela took a heavy breath, her face no longer so self-assured. Patty saw the heavy look on Angela’s face and knew there was trouble.

“Did… Paul come by again?” Patty asked Angela.

Angela frowned and closed her eyes. She managed to pull her glasses off before the tears began. “He won’t leave me alone, Patty. He just isn’t giving up. And it’s scaring me.”

“Did he hurt you?” Patty asked calmly.

“No. There’s a part of me that still loves him, but not what he’s become,” Angela confessed. “He thinks I’m seeing someone, and he’s becoming so difficult to even talk to. He scares me so much now.”

“You have to protect yourself, Angie. Get a restraining order against him — move out from there. If you want to swap shifts so you don’t have to face him–” Patty volunteered, almost shouting.

“I can’t do that — not yet. I don’t want to make him any more angry than he already is,” Angela said with a whisper, wiping her eyes.

“You could tell Wally. He–” Patty started to say.

“I can’t do that, Patty!” Angela screamed. She stood there quietly for a few seconds before speaking again. “I’m sorry. Somehow, I need to face this my way. And I don’t want this to become some type of work gossip talk.”

Against her better judgement, yet to keep her friend’s confidence, Patty answered, “I won’t say a word.”

Angela smiled, wiping the last tears from her face, and placed her glasses back on her face. “Thank you.”

Patty gave Angela a hug, the burden of the secret heavy within her soul. “I made you a promise, Angie, but I’m not afraid to break it if I think you’re in trouble. I hope you can understand.”

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