S.T.A.R. Labs. I'd heard of that place. The one most people know about is in Metropolis, but there are satellite centers around the country. We have one on the outskirts of Central City. Chet's father has done a lot of work out there. I don't know very much about what they do, but according to Chet, a lot of it is classified, top-secret stuff. I'd even heard his father say something about the place making the X-Files look like Sesame Street.
I made my way through Keystone City and back to the Interstate. It was early evening, and it had finally begun to cool down, but obviously there was more drama. If police officers from Keystone City were heading over to Central City, something really big was going down. Before I knew it, I was headed to S.T.A.R. Labs myself.
The S.T.A.R. complex is actually on the outskirts of town, the opposite side from Keystone City, but you could see the chaos from miles away. There was huge cloud of black smoke hanging in the air. Once I got closer I could see that there was a huge fire burning out of control at the main building. Oh, man! It stopped me dead in my tracks. It looked someone had dropped a bomb on the place. There were fire trucks, police cars, rescue workers, people running around screaming and crying. I'd never seen anything like it ever before! Honestly, I was really sorry I'd gone there.
I felt someone grab my shoulder from behind. "What the hell are you doing here?"
I turned around and saw it was Uncle Jay, and he was pissed. I couldn't even say anything. It was the first time he'd ever come at me like that before.
"I said, 'What are you DOING here?'"
"I was just…I was…I," was about all I could say.
Uncle Jay took a deep breath, shook his head, and sighed "Damn." He looked over at the burning building, and then looked back at me. "We've gotta move, and we're gonna put this fire out."
The look on my face must've been screaming "WTF?" because he said, "Just do what I tell you to do, and this'll be easy. Follow me."
The next thing I knew, Uncle Jay was sprinting at hyper-speed-like ME--around to the backside of the building. Once we arrived at the back of the building, without stopping, Uncle Jay said, "All right, get as close to the building as you can without touching it."
I did what he said. Flames were leaping out of the building, and I could feel the heat, but it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. The flames were moving in slow motion, though. I'd never seen anything like that before.
"Okay," Jay continued, "keep your speed up. Don't worry about the flames. As long as we're running, the flames can't hurt us. Keep going in a circle around the building."
This place was I-don't-know-how-many thousands of square feet around, but we kept running around in a circle, and I saw that the flames were starting to die down.
"That's it, son!" said Uncle Jay. "We're creating a vacuum and smothering flames! We're just about done!"
When the flames were out, Uncle Jay said, "All right, now we gotta make sure everyone is outta here! You take the first floor, and I'll take the rest!"
Man, I never thought I'd see the day I'd run inside a burning building, but I did. Well by that time, the fire was out, but there was smoke everywhere. I'd never been in this building before, but I did my best to scour it as much as I could, and I hoped to God that I didn't I miss anyone. It seemed like I was running around forever even though I knew it was only a few seconds.
All of a sudden Uncle Jay was back, and he had someone draped over his shoulder. "Let's go, son!" he yelled.
We ran out of the building and into a wooded area just behind the building. Uncle Jay laid the body of a guy out on the ground. He was bald guy, unconscious, covered in smoke.
"Is he alive?" I asked.
"Yeah," began Uncle Jay, "he's alive…and I think he's our firebug, too. Hang on a second."
He removed a walkie-talkie from his security belt and held it up to his ear. "Hey, Frye, this is Garrick! I think I have your perp!"
I managed to work my back way into the crowd of civilians standing behind police lines and barricades. I watched EMTs load the guy from the building into an ambulance, and then I watched Uncle Jay doing "police stuff." I saw him talking to another old-timer, a guy I recognized: Darryl Frye. The guy was Barry's boss down at Central City Police headquarters when I was a kid. I remember talking to him a few times when Barry used to bring me down to the lab.
By this time, there were quite a few TV news vans on the scene, and apparently Uncle Jay and I weren't the only ones who came down from Keystone City. KFMB-TV was there, too, and that meant that their star reporter was there: Linda Park…reporting "live from the scene." Keystone City residents voted her their favorite local news personality. On TV she comes across like this oh-so-caring and sensitive reporter. She's not like that in real life. I've couriered things to her before, and she's a straight-up beyotch! I mean she talked to me like I was some sort of animal, and don't even get me started on how she talks to the people that work for her. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have to be around that chick day in and day out for hours at a time. God, I feel sorry for the poor bastard that ends up marrying her.
Still, though, I was trying to wrap my mind around what I'd just seen Uncle Jay do. My life was getting really weird. Just a short while ago, I'd witnessed an attempted murder; I'd pushed a giant in front of a tractor-trailer, and then that giant disappeared without a trace; and now…this. What the hell was going on?
As if in answer to my question, Uncle Jay appeared beside me. "I think we need to have a chat, son."
"Yeah," I agreed. "I think so, too."
"Somewhere where I can get something to eat," I answered.
"You've known all this time?" I asked Uncle Jay as I chowed down on my third box of carry-out linguine with marinara sauce from my favorite Central City Italian cafe. We were back at my house. Mom and Bart were gone.
"Yep," he said matter-of-factly. He wasn't eating; just having a cup of coffee.
"Then you knew about Barry, too," I continued.
I didn't know what to think. All these years, I thought only Barry and Bart knew about what I could do, and I thought we were the only ones like that. Now, I was finding out I was wrong.
"Well, how did you get your…?"
"I was there when Barry got his powers," Uncle Jay interrupted quietly. I must've looked really dazed and confused.
"Well, let me back up a bit," he resumed. "Your uncle hadn't been on the job for more than eighteen months or so. I think I'd talked to him a few times on the phone concerning a case or two that had crossed jurisdictions. He seemed like a nice young man. I was in town that day to meet with the Central City chief of police. I figured since I was here, I'd stop by the police lab and meet Barry in person.
"As I was getting ready to go into the lab, one of the younger officers stopped me to say hello. I turned and spoke to him, and I was pushing the door to the lab open. Just as I turned back around and got the door open enough to walk inside, I saw a flash of light and heard a boom! The next thing I remember was coming to on the floor of the lab, fumes in the air, and smashed glass everywhere. I don't have any idea how long I was out."
"Where was Barry?" I asked.
"Well, from what he told me, he was out saving your Aunt Iris," Uncle Jay laughed. "You know, I had to wait a few more days before I actually met him? He came up to visit me at my home while I was recovering."
"Is that when you both figured out that you both had super-speed?" I inquired.
"Well, in Barry's case, he got his powers all of a sudden," Uncle Jay responded. "I felt normal at first, but by the time he came to visit me, I'd noticed some 'changes'."
"Were you as fast as Barry?"
"Oh, no!" Uncle Jay exclaimed. "Not in a million years! We kind of figured out that there were a couple of things that accounted for the difference. First, I was a lot older than Barry. He wasn't much older than you at the time, a young man in the prime of his life. And secondly, he took a direct hit from the lightning and those chemicals. What I got was residual."
"Well, what about me?" I wondered.
Uncle Jay sighed. "Barry called me the day it happened. He couldn't believe it had happened again, another bolt of lightning, and the exact same chemicals. What were the odds?"
"You've known since the very beginning?" I asked again. "How come you never said anything to me about it?"
"That was something that Barry and I agreed to," began Uncle Jay. "He would look out for you, and I would keep an eye on you from a distance. If anything happened to him, then I would step in when the time was right, and it looks like that time is now."
Neither one of us said anything for a few moments
"Well, how come I'm not as fast as Barry?"
"That's a good question," Uncle Jay answered. "Barry wondered about that up to the day he died. He figured it had something to do with the fact that you were only eleven years old when it happened, that you would grow into your powers."
"Well, I'm an adult now," I began, "so what's up?"
"I don't know, Wally," answered Jay. "All I can say is that each one of us is different."
"Tell me about it!" I exclaimed as I slurped down the last of my linguine. "I mean, I never saw you or him eat the way I do. You don't get sick after you use your powers. Why am I so different?"
"I wish I had an answer for you Wally, but I don't," he answered. Then he added, "But you can tell me how long you've been playing superhero."
"Oh, I've never done anything like what we did tonight," I said. "I just have my couriering gig."
"I see," said Uncle Jay. "Anything happen in the last few days?"
"Anything like what?" My God! Did he know about what went on with that agent?
"Anything that you might want to share with a close friend who can relate to you in more ways than one?"
"What makes you think anything has happened?"
Uncle Jay leaned in close. "Well, for starters I've known you since you were a little kid. I know you well enough to know when something's up with you. And I'm a cop who's been on the job for over thirty years."
I kinda felt like he had me by the balls, so started with, "Well, you know that agent that got beat up down in Texas?"
Uncle Jay's eyes got really big, and he sat back in his seat. "Aw, come on, Wally!" he exclaimed in disbelief. "I was hoping you were gonna tell me about a girl or something! You should've told me earlier! We've gotta roll!"
And just like that, we were off and running again.