Chapter One: The Search is Over.
"And today marks the fifth year anniversary of the disappearance and presumed death of billionaire industrialist Robert Queen, his son Oliver, and the entire crew on the Queen's Gambit. The ship went down in a freak accident. Having been scheduled to return a week after it departed, concern crew when Robert Queen, Oliver Queen, and their crew did not return. Moira Queen arranged a search party, but no survivors had been found, and no news of the wreckage."
A week and five years passed since the Queen's Gambit disappeared. A seemingly innocent trip turned into a nightmare which caused several lives to be turned upside down. The news media had been hammering the incident hard on the anniversary, today being the official anniversary of the day which the Queen's Gambit had gone missing.
'Five long years, and still nothing.'
The newscaster prattled on continued to prattle on about the Queens and the disappearance of the crew and guests. Every time the anniversary passed, over the past five years, there had been news story after news story about the Queen Gambit. A fresh batch of sightings rolled in with people claiming they saw Oliver Queen, Robert Queen, or both.
All of them turned up to be dead ends. They were no closer to finding out what happened today as they were five years ago.
Storm clouds started to roll in. A dark haired woman stepped outside and looked up into the sky, with a frown. She dressed in a tank top and a pair of workout pants which fit her lower region like a glove. A beautiful summer day turned into a raging storm.
Just like what happened five years ago on this day, it was almost eerie how the weather reflected the same exact patterns five years and a week later. She saw it as an omen something was going to happen. There was going to be news, but would it be good news?
She just wasn't certain the news would actually be good news, or something which confirmed the worst fears they've been wrestling with for the past five years. The thunder clapped in the sky and followed by a flash of lightning. This pattern continued for several minutes, building up an intense storm.
The woman took a step inside and the image of Oliver Queen appeared on the screen. The first couple of months after the Gambit disappeared, the mere mention of his name caused her stomach to turn. Just a few weeks before, she had given him one more chance, and now it had been thrown up in her face.
If he had come home in those early months, she would have throttled him.
Five years healed a few wounds, although the reminder of the anniversary opened up the wounds on one Dinah Laurel Lance. She saw this day as very bittersweet for a number of reasons.
Oliver, her then boyfriend, left on the Queen's Gambit. She later found out her younger sister, Sara, snuck away on the ship to join Oliver. Laurel could have slapped herself for not seeing the signs.
She wondered what might have happened if the signs had been clearer, or perhaps if she had been more willing to see them.
'Maybe, if I hadn't….it doesn't really matter, does it?' Laurel thought. 'There's not enough time for could havebeens, have to focus on the future.'
Laurel had plenty of time to distance herself from what happened and focus on her own career, her own life, beyond being that girl whose boyfriend left with her sister. Hell, she hadn't thought about it unless it had come on the news.
She sat down and thought about flipping the news station to something else. Laurel settled the remote control down and turned around before she headed upstairs. Anything to get away from the painful reminder of this gruesome day, she would take.
Laurel walked up the stairs. She stepped into the room and walked in to see the picture of herself and Sara. It was the first thing she saw every time she entered her bedroom.
The desk had been scattered with files from her job. Next to those files on the desk contained a small stack of newspaper clippings she collected over the years. They painted a grim picture of how Starling City changed over the years.
Some cities evolved, Starling devolved though. Some joked Starling City was the diet version of Gotham City, a city who had a notorious crime rate which spoke for itself. They might not have had the collection of colorful criminals, but Starling City made up for it by the sheer amount of crime.
The crime rate steadily climbed up over the years. It actually became a worse problem over the past couple of years. One Mayor already left Starling City in a body bag due to pissing off the wrong person and another resigned from the office when his family had been threatened
The crime rate wasn't nearly as bad as a couple of other cities, but it was getting there. The police department tried to keep up with the crime. They had been understaffed, underfunded, the city had a huge budget problem and those who suffered for it were on the lower end of the spectrum.
Six months ago, the vigilante appeared, for the first time. Actually, the first official time, Laurel couldn't verify how long she had been active. A couple of white collar criminals had been found bound and gag, with plenty of evidence to put them away.
Their crimes were small time compared to most. It was two less dangerous people off of the street.
'It's a start.'
No one had been able to take a good look at the vigilante. Some people swore whoever did it disappeared like a puff of smoke.
Legally speaking, the Starling City Police Department was obliged to catch the vigilante, but it was hard to catch something very few people verified existed. The first couple of months, they kept the vigilante's activities under the hood.
More time passed, though, and it was becoming obvious they couldn't keep this person under the hood for long. He or she or whoever was underneath the mask, stepped one step away from Starling City's finest.
'For all I know, it could be a collective of people,' Laurel thought. 'They're all white collar criminals and a few mob enforcers right now…..not too high up the food chain, but it's making people very nervous.'
The cell phone rang just in time to bring Laurel out of her recollections.
"Hello?" she asked.
"I don't want you to get your hopes up," the voice on the other end of the cell phone said. "But, I think Sara's been found."
The cell phone slipped out of Laurel's fingers and landed on the ground with a thud. The woman could not believe it. It was the phone call she dreamed about receiving news about for years. But she never thought it would happen. Yet, it just might happen.
'Boy, this might be as awkward as you ever dreamed it would be.'
Laurel picked up the cell phone with a steady hand. She thankfully managed to balance it in the palm of her hand.
"Are you still there?"
"Yeah, I am."
Laure didn't know what to say. She thought sooner or later, she would wake up, the dream dead, her sister still not alive. It was almost odd this happened five years to the day she had been reported missing in the first place.
"Are you sure it's her, Babs?"
"Well, I did tell you not to get your hopes up."
Laurel figured if she thought it might be Sara, than there was a ninety-five percent certainty it was Sara.
Starling City General Hospital bustled with activity the majority of time. Several times, men and women have gotten wheeled it having been shot by the men criminal elements which had been moving around the city.
Today, though, an attractive blonde girl in ragged clothes had been wheeled on a gurney. She looked rather ravaged, with scratches all over her face, and a few bruises. The doctors and nurses moved on the other side of her.
"Don't worry, we'll get you medical help."
The girl looked very annoyed at being brought here, and tried to tell them she was fine. Not that it did any good, because they brought people here who assured them they were fine on a daily basis.
"I'm fine, I'm just…a little sore that's all," she responded.
"With your injuries, you could have internal bleeding," the nurse said.
The woman responded with a nod after a few more token protests.
A teenage girl of the same height of the girl on the gurney followed the group of doctors and nurses into Starling City General. She looked to be around sixteen or seventeen years old, Eurasian, with long black hair which came down past her shoulders. The girl continued to walk at a rapid pace, ignoring the nervous looks the doctors and nurses gave her.
"Who are you?" one of the doctors asked.
The girl didn't say a word and instead stared a hole through them. The doctors looked at her nervously, almost expecting an attack. She motioned for them to keep going.
"Don't worry, she's with me," the blonde girl said. "She's a friend…trust me….."
The girl turned towards her friend.
"Don't attack them, they're only trying to help."
The Asian teenager responded with a nod, once again not saying anything. Her eyes fixated on the blonde woman. She insisted on sticking to the woman's side without saying a word and was extremely persistent about doing so.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to wait outside," the doctor said. The teenager's arms folded and she continued to stare forward. "We need to check your friend, make sure she's okay. We're not going to do anything to hurt her."
The teenager stubbornly rooted on the spot. She had received the order to protect her companion at any cost unless she told her not to. The doctor looked about ready to remove her forcefully, something which would trigger her own defensive instincts.
"It's fine," the blonde woman said. She tried to flash a smile at her companion. "Trust me, it's fine, it's going to be okay. Just sit outside, let the doctors check me over. The sooner you let them do their job, the sooner we get out of here."
The teenager finally relaxed her stance and stepped back a couple of inches to let the doctors get their work done. She still peered outside of the window, but at the very least, it got the doctors some room to work.
"Are you feeling any pain?" one of the nurses asked.
"No, just…a bit tired, and a bit hungry," she said. "We were out there for a very long time."
"I can see that," the nurse answered. She looked towards the patient with a stern, almost motherly look. But all it did was come off as a bit self-righteous. "But, you should know you're very lucky you got picked up by a fishing boat, and not by someone else in the area. There are a lot of pirates out there."
'You don't say?'
Boy did she ever know it, but that was a long story. The girl remained silent and polite while the doctors looked her over. All she needed was some fresh clothes, a warm shower, and a nice hot meal, but they decided to run all of these tests.
'I swear if they try to give me a sedative, I'm sticking their stethoscopes where the sun doesn't shine.'
"What's your name?" the nurse asked.
The announcement of this particular name caused the doctor to almost drop the equipment he carried. The other doctors and the nurse all realized something.
"You're the girl who was on the ship with Oliver Queen," the doctor said.
"Yeah, I left with him, it was five years ago."
Sara's entire body deflated at the memories. She left five whole years ago. It might as well have been another lifetime ago.
"Call my father, Quintin Lance, he'll….he'll want to know I'm here."
One of the nurses almost tripped to leave. Sara knew the type immediately. She was going to start spreading gossip about the fact a dead girl showed up in the hospital.
"Just get some rest, Ms. Lance, and if you need anything, we'll bring it to you."
The doctors leaving gave Sara the one thing she craved more in her life than anything else. Peace and quiet and she had it now. Sara collapsed down on the bed and let a sigh out of her body. Silence and privacy was bliss.
'Finally,' she thought.
Sara slipped the two items she shoved into her pocket. One was a shining diamond ring, and the other was a shining bracelet made of Greek origins. The other item she cherished, an elegantly made dagger, she kept it in a safe place which she would recover.
The Asian Teenager slipped into the room and sank down at the edge of one of the beds. She regarded Sara with a very curious look.
"No, this really isn't the way I wanted to return home," Sara said, answering her unasked questions. The girl shrugged in response. "I knew I'd have to show myself sooner or later."
Sooner, obviously, and Sara hated the fact it was sooner. She needed about two or three years to get done what she needed to get done, at the most, she hoped.
'Well, we'll see if I can make this work.'
Sara slipped the two items she took out for a moment back into her pocket when footsteps had been heard. She wouldn't want to share them with the world, at least not yet.
"To add to our around the clock coverage of the five-year anniversary of the Queen's Gambit, we have some amazing, and shocking late breaking news. One of the people aboard of the Queen's Gambit has been found."
Thea Queen's hands slipped out from underneath her chin and her face drooped from her hands. She had woken up in a haze, and the around the clock coverage of the assumed deaths of her father and brother made her want to slip further into one.
'It can't be.'
Thea crossed her fingers. She wasn't the religious type, but she still prayed for a miracle.
"Sara Lance, who was a girl who joined Oliver Queen on the Queen's Gambit, has been found by a Fishing Boat off of the coast, and brought to Starling City General Hospital," the newscaster said. "While, Ms. Lance hasn't made a statement, this renews hope that more members of the Queen's Gambit are still alive. We'll keep you posted here for more coverage as it breaks."
For the first time in a while, Thea smiled a genuine smile, and not one was a put on. Was it possible her brother could be alive? Sara was, so Oliver could be as well. Finally, things had been looking up, for the first time in years.
'Boy, wait until Laurel finds out, that's….um, that's going to be pretty awkward,' Thea thought, finding amusement in the uncomfortable situation.
Given the rough turn her life took in over the past five years, Thea got her kicks wherever she could. It allowed her to cope with the loss of her father and her brother.
The footsteps caused Thea to look up from her lazy stance. Someone approached her room and a knock on the door followed.
No sooner did the words come out of Thea's mouth, the door did open, and Moira Queen stepped in.
"You might have heard the news by now," Moira said to her daughter.
Their relationship had been pretty frosty, the times they've interacted. Thea went through the always enchanting teenage rebellion stage.
"Sara's alive, I know, I'm sure the Lances are very happy," Thea said. She pulled herself out of bed a second later. "Does that mean Oliver or Dad could be coming home?"
Thea didn't like the look in her mother's eye when she hesitated to answer that particular line of questioning. In fact, when she didn't answer straight away, it caused Thea to wonder.
"At the very lease you could find solace in the fact the nightmare is over for one of our families," Moira said.
If only she had been insistent of her son not taking the trip, if only she had, but if she did, then….well things might have ended a bit differently.
"Yeah, I guess that counts," Thea said. She shook her head a little bit, clearing those thoughts out of the back of her mind. "I want to see Sara….maybe she knows something."
Moira looked towards Thea for a half of a second. Her eyes narrowed, and in an instant, Thea wondered if there was something wrong.
"You can't even begin to guess what she might have been through in the past five years."
Thea shook her head. Moira obviously didn't know Sara well enough if she didn't think Sara could have handled herself. She just made questionable choices like going away on a boat which almost sank twice before along with her brother.
'Then again, guess third time is the charm.'
"What's your point?" Thea asked.
Moira frowned, wondering where her daughter has taken this blasé attitude.
"My point is, do not do anything to aggravate her," Moira said. "I'm sure if she knows anything, she'll tell us when she's ready."
Thea blinked. For a brief second, it almost seemed like her mother was actually acting like a parent. It unsettled Thea greatly.
"Just don't interrogate her."
"Like you won't try to," Thea muttered underneath her breath.
Moira stopped, at her phone ringing. She would deal with her daughter later.
"Get dressed, I'm heading there to check up on her in twenty minutes after I take this important call."
Moira walked out of the room a couple of seconds later. Thea stood up and she almost didn't move. Moira went further down the hallway.
The words "it doesn't look too good" were the only words Thea caught before Moira got out of sight.
The Queen heiress shrugged, and just passed it off as some business deal gone awry or something. Not really her problem.
Thea pulled herself over towards the dresser. She hoped, perhaps to the level of foolish optimism this particularly long and unsettling nightmare would have been over soon.
'Guess it might be too much to hope for.'
Laurel thought the news had traveled pretty fast. She made her way to the hospital when her father had given her the call. She tried to hide the fact she knew for about six hours before then, mostly because she didn't really want to get anyone's hopes up, especially her own.
Quintin Lance made his way down the hallway to meet his oldest daughter. The past five years had not been good for him or his health. He managed to hold it together on the hope there would be good news.
Today might be the good news he waited for, or it would be another disappointment in a long line over the past five years.
"So, do you really think it's her?" Laurel asked.
"I don't think…if it isn't, this is someone's idea of a really sick joke," Quintin said. "Just…don't try and be too hard on her, Laurel. After everything…"
Laurel realized her and Sara needed a long overdue talk. The two of them ran into a teenage girl. She looked towards both of them for a couple of moments.
"Could you move?" Quintin asked. "We're here to see my daughter."
The Asian Teenager gave them a once over and smiled before stepping off into the side. Laurel and Quintin stepped inside of the room.
"Sara?" Quintin asked. "Oh, it's really you, it's just…"
Quintin made his way over towards his daughter and gave her a hug in greeting. Sara looked towards him, looking around, and seeing her sister.
"Yeah, Dad, it's me, it's...well, it's been a long five years," Sara said.
She didn't really know what to say. Five years was a lot time, and everything changed for them all. And it changed for Sara more than her family could either realized.
A happy family reunion wasn't something she envisioned in her head to be perfectly honest at any point over the past five years. The lack of hope everything could go back to the way things were was one of the reasons why she had procrastinated with returning to Starling City, because of the fact she didn't know what to say. Sara hated to be the one to say this, but she really wasn't the same girl who had gotten on that ship all of those years ago.
'I really hope they're not disappointed with what I've become,' Sara thought. 'And what I'll have to do later.'
Laurel smiled, despite herself. She saw her father the happiest he had been in years, and the last five years had been rather rough on him.
"Your mother, she's trying to get a flight in on Central City, she never really gave up hope you would be alive," Quintin said.
"You and Mom, you're….not together, are you?" Sara asked.
"Yeah, we just thought it was the best to call it quits," Quintin said.
Sara didn't know what to say. She decided to turn towards her sister, who stood off to the side. Her father wouldn't be hard to break the ice with. Laurel, on the other hand, Sara had her doubts about. Given she had every reason in the world to throttle Sara.
The sisterly reunion would have to wait at least for a moment. The door opened up, and Sara expected Moira Queen to show up. Thea also followed and flashed a weak smile towards Sara.
Sara's traveling companion allowed them into the room but looked over Moira with narrowed eyes.
"Mrs. Queen," Sara said a moment later.
"Hello, Sara," Moira said. "How are you?"
Sara could have laughed. She guessed the simplest questions in the world had been the most loaded if she were perfectly honest.
"It's been a rough five years," Sara said. "I've been through things I wouldn't want to…wish on my worst enemy. The place I've been in….it's been awful. Lian Yu, they call it Purgatory for a reason."
Moira reacted to the name in a very negative way, but recovered quickly enough for no one in the room other than Sara and her companion to notice it.
"I'm just glad you're fine….we're all really glad you're fine."
"Yeah," Thea said. "We really are."
Sara smiled when getting a good long look at Thea. She had grown past her very awkward preteen stage quite nicely.
"So, when's Oliver coming home?"
One single question caused everything in the room to go sour in a real hurry. Sara didn't really know what to say.
'And here comes the part I really dreaded.'
"Thea, I've got some bad news," Sara said. "Oliver, he isn't coming back."
"Oh, the two of you must have gotten separated," Thea said.
"No, he's not coming back because….he's dead."
Everything went so deadly silent the hospital room could pass off as a morgue. Sara swung her legs off of the bed and turned to look Thea in the eye.
"He went down with the ship?" Quintin asked.
Granted, he wasn't the biggest fan of Oliver Queen. . But, he didn't want him dead, just locked away from his daughters as far away as possible. Or sent to Siberia, that worked well too.
"No, not on a ship, just…somewhere after…"
Sara came the very closest she came to break down. She held herself together. Moira reached over and placed a gentle hand on Thea's shoulder to try and prevent her daughter from latching out.
Thea pulled away from her mother.
"Well, you must have seen him slip off of something, or thought he drowned, but he must have been found by someone, I mean, it's not like you found the body," Thea said, sounding hopeful.
Sara just shook her head.
"No, what do you mean….."
"I know because I saw him….I saw him die," Sara said. "I held him in my arms when he drew his last breath and buried Oliver on the island…..he was….not completely intact….but he's dead…..really and truly dead. And I'm sorry."
'And I'm still sorry, Ollie.'
Everyone in the room looked at Sara like she had just punched them in the stomach. She didn't really know what to say about this, other than apologize several times over.
"If you find me a way to get back to the island...Oliver's remains are there, and I can bring you to his grave, to say goodbye," Sara said.
Sara didn't make the other big revelation regarding her and Oliver, but the death of Oliver was more than enough of them to stomach.
The reactions around the room showed they took it all. No one reacted worse to it than Thea did. Thea collapsed on the chair and kept shaking her head as if trying to convince herself this was not real.
"I'll believe it when I see my son's remains."
Quintin's gaze snapped towards Moira Queen's face.
"Are you calling my daughter a liar?" Quintin asked. "Especially, after all, she's been through."
"I would like to see if there's still a chance she could have been mistaken," Moira said. "You said it yourself; she's been through a lot."
"Oh, now you're calling my daughter crazy, instead of a liar? Great..wonderful….."
"Dad, watch your blood pressure!"
Laurel spoke up for the first time since she arrived in Sara's presence. Sara missed hearing her in the five years they were gone.
"If Sara wants to show you, she can, but only after she gets some rest, something to eat, and maybe a shower," Laurel said.
Laurel stared down Moira Queen and didn't blink. Many people in the business world couldn't have accomplished that.
Sara tried to catch her sister's eye with a smile, but she was already looking away.
'One step at a time.'
To Be Continued on October 11th, 2016.
So, I've been kicking up this story idea for a while, and here it is. It's kind of a niche genre within a niche genre, but it's the type of story I'll enjoy writing, so there you go.
So, how AU is this going to be? Well very AU, more so as we go further on through the canon. There are a couple of interesting references from the wider DC universe here.
Until next Tuesday.