Rating: PG-13, for gore and language
Warnings: Experimental piece, inspired by Martin Amis's "Time's Arrow or The Nature of the Offense." Great book. Spoilers for "A Better World."
Character: The Flash, Wally West
Summary: An exploration of the Justice Lords' world and why the Flash's unfortunate fate changed the other six forever.
We keep coming back here because the momentum keeps bringing us. Wally West is our momentum. His super power is speed but his real skill is manipulating the momentum of any given object. Why do things move? Why do they stand still? It's all because of Wally.
Wally dies on a Thursday, and it's fitting because the old Mother Goose rhyme says, "Thursday's child has far to go." Wally wakes up slowly to a countdown and a lot of pain. The fog around his brain tells him one thing: his knees are warm and sticky and he can't feel anything below the pain there. He is afraid because someone is pushing on his chest and counting down from five, like when a rocket takes off into space. It's going to take more strength that he has to simply open his eyes. He doesn't think there's any way he'll be blasting off.
The smell of chemicals and smoke finally rouse him. Wally is alone now but he thinks he likes that better than being pounded on. His legs hurt even more though and he is sobbing out of control, not very fitting of a superhero. He finally musters the strength to lift his head. The sight of the oozing stubs where his legs were does wonders to sober him up. It must be his resolve to face this. Wally concentrates on taking deep breaths even though the air is heavy and burns his lungs. Breathing becomes easier each time, his lungs repairing themselves. The explosion is coming soon, but it feels like he waits for hours. It's all this running around. It makes waiting a bitch.
When it comes, it knocks Wally to his feet and the white inferno retracts back into the laboratory. It's an amazing thing, this creation. The building is pulled together. The pain is gone and Wally's yellow boots are on his feet which are on his legs. The adrenalin in his veins is coursing through him again and he just wants to get back to the fight and find President Luthor. He puts his hand on his comm to talk to J'onn.
"Don't do anything on your own. Wait for us," the Martian says.
"I think I got lucky, found the lab my first try. There are definitely signs of a big research project here in Madison," Wally says and he speeds off, back to the others.
"I'll check them out, it'll only be a second," Wally says as he stops in front of the Justice Lords. He winks at them.
"We'll need to split up to look for Luthor's research facility," J'onn says.
"Don't worry, Batman and Wonder Woman are there with him," GL says.
"I hope things don't get out of hand," Wally says nervously. "Is that such a good idea?"
"Superman is dealing with President Luthor," Hawkgirl says. This finally comforts Wally and his stomach stops rebelling. They all fly back to the Javelin and Wally sprints after them. They tell him to be careful. J'onn flies them to Washington to pick up the rest of the Lords. Superman looks particularly ready to crack some skulls at first, but Wally is too busy to think about that anymore. They're on their way to Los Angeles to help with the relief effort. It takes all of Wally's attention, and in the end the city is pulled back together in a blast of white fire, just like the lab and just like his legs. The people caught in it heal and stand up and go back to their lives. The Lords go back to the Watch Tower.
Wally fights crime in Central City, mostly solo, but sometimes he fights with the Lords too. First they release the criminals from the prisons. Then they fight them. In the end they always get away, but it's okay because they clean themselves up. They get the families and jobs and homes that they miss. They become respectable members of society. They fix the demolished buildings. Wally is happy to let them get away. Things work out.
He works in a forensics lab during the day, which is pretty amazing. He gets to dismantle chemical tests to their basic elements. It passes the time. He isn't quite sure what he would do if he had to just wait. He is always fighting crime.
The Lords are all afraid to cross Superman, and Wally is no exception. Batman is the only one who ever does, because Batman is just like that and won't take his shit even if he's skirting a dangerous line.
Wally doesn't know why he thinks he can do it too. One day, Superman slams him into a wall and tells him to watch his attitude. Wally, of course, has to make a joke, because that's what he does. He's afraid, but apparently it's exactly the right thing to say because Superman calms down, still uptight, but not angry anymore.
The whole presidential election really helps improve the moods of the Justice Lords. Luthor is sworn in and he leaves the White House. In the polls he dominates his opponents, but the next day he begins to lose support. The polls go down. The Lords feel less gloomy, almost cheerful.
Wally starts seeing this girl. One day he zips into her apartment and finds a broken lamp. She is crying on the bathroom floor as the paramedics leave and drive away with their ambulance wailing. Wally sits down with her and holds her hand. It's weird because he seems to know her so well but he's never mentioned her before, never met her. He thinks he might have thought about her, or dreamed about her but he's not sure. He thinks about girls all the time.
He leaves her for a minute to go call 911 and picks up the empty pill bottle next to the phone. When he comes back she is more alert, and very angry.
"I never want to see you again! Leave me alone!" she shrieks at him.
"I'm sorry," Wally says, and he's scared for both of them because this is definitely his fault.
"Yeah, I took them all," she says, her head rolling to one side so she doesn't have to look at him.
"Did you take the whole bottle?" Wally asks. His wide eyes glance at the prescription bottle in his hands and he gives it too her. She fights him and he doesn't want to let go for a moment but she clings to that bottle like a lifeline.
"She told me you were 'involved.'"
"What did she say?"
"I met her after the movie, Wally. Tiffany told me about you."
"Go away, Wally."
"Oh my God."
It's a shitty thing to do and he knows it but Wally backs out of the bathroom. He picks up the lamp and puts it back on the table. He can hear a loud thud but he keeps going, picking up a crinkled letter on the counter by the door. It's a notice of termination. No wonder Linda is upset, but she is probably already getting better, because that's how this world works. He puts the letter back down and picks up the bouquet of flowers next to it. He sells them to the florist down the street. He goes back to his place and becomes the Flash. He lets Captain Cold loose so they can fight.
Things seem a lot easier these days, a lot of jokes and a few games, but there's something that they don't talk about that has Wally feeling nervous. Luthor's presidency campaign is just a rumor going around, so he's pretty sure that isn't it. He thinks it has something to do with Luthor though. Just a feeling. Wally takes it easy because he is developing a pain in his back, but it doesn't really get him down. He's racing toward the moment but for once his life is rather calm. Things don't have to go sour yet.
He sees Linda again at the movie she talked about. She is better, a little worried about her career, but the medicine bottle is full. The only problem is that Wally starts seeing Tiffany too, and Debbie, and Kathy. He doesn't know why he likes them because they throw stuff at him and call him a bastard. He decides to wait it out anyway, because he has to be dating four girls at the same time for some reason. Even if it's only because he's the Flash and he could probably juggle more girlfriends if he wanted to. At first he likes Linda a lot more than the rest of them, but when she asks if he's serious about her, it sends up red flags everywhere.
The Flash's fame seems to be waning a bit. His venture as an advertising icon backfires and fewer people care about who he is despite all the good he's done for them. That's gratitude for you. On top of that, the pain in his back is getting worse and the other Justice Lords follow him around closely. Superman is always on his case about overtaxing himself and being sloppy. Wally has to admit that the pain in his back makes I hard to give his all, but he is always careful. Pain always gets worst before it gets better.
But it gets really bad really quick. Wally takes medication now just so he can get out of bed. It makes everything really slow down and he thinks it might drive him insane. He stays at the Watch Tower for weeks and whenever he asks J'onn to let him leave the Martian says no, not that Wally could do much crime fighting these days. He sleeps a lot more. J'onn puts stitches in the widening gash on his back. Wally hates waiting for it to get better. He misses his apartment in Central where no one hovers over him all day. He hates himself for it but he gives up running on the treadmill when it starts to hurt too much. He isn't even really running, not like the Flash.
It gets more frustrating when he is moved into the infirmary and J'onn isn't just hovering, J'onn is always. There.
Just when Wally thinks he can't take it anymore, J'onn takes out the stitches, and Wally starts bleeding. He's scared, and so are the rest of the Lords, but he knows that this is it. This is where it all ends. This is the crux. No more waiting. They load him onto the Javelin and head for Lex Corp.
The police are waiting with Luthor and they uncuff him and send him back inside. Wally goes with him as his prisoner. Luthor drags him up the elevator to the roof and that just about does it because it hurts so damn much. Wally knows it's going to happen. It has to happen. Now is the time. Lex babbles some crazy talk in his ear about how much he hates the Lords and how much he hates Superman, that kind of thing. Wally doesn't listen to a word of it. The elevator doors open.
This is the moment.
Lex Luthor puts the knife in his back and twists it. He leaves it there for a second as he steps onto the rooftop towards the Justice Lords. Wally drags his feet, but he can already feel the pain starting to fade away. Lex pulls the knife out and they stand there talking, but Wally isn't listening. He can still feel the knife pressed against his back. This is the moment where the momentum shifts. It's all blue skies and sunshine from here on out. Well, comparatively, that is. The Justice Lords will be happier after this. This is the end of the beginning.