It was barely sundown, but Guy was already asleep on a cot set up in the corner of Tina's lab. His busy day had exhausted him completely. Tina pulled the blanket over him and kissed his cheek.
Barry brought in a handful of clothes. "For Guy when he wakes up. Mom always said kids grew up fast, but…" He shook his head. His life had been crazy since he'd become the Flash, but the past twenty-four hours had been right off the weirdometer.
"I don't know what to do," Tina complained.
"Welcome to motherhood; they tell me that's par for the course." Barry yawned. "Have you got another cot around here somewhere? I've been up nearly thirty-six hours. I'm beat."
Tina nodded. "Supply closet, next floor up. There's always someone who has an experiment they can't leave."
Barry yawned himself awake three hours later. He rose reluctantly from the cot, looking for food. Half a roasted ox, by preference. He found the fruit bowl, ate three apples and two bananas, then wandered over by Tina. He peered over her shoulder at the computer. "Haven't found anything yet, have you?"
"Actually, yes. I've been analyzing the neural mesh. It looks like it has two modes. Passive mode has been giving him skills as he grows, how to talk, how to feed himself…combat experience. The active node –"
"Controls the aging?" Barry guessed.
Tina shook her head. "The active mode taps into the part of the brain that controls violent behavior. It's obvious he's been designed as some sort of assassin or warrior."
"Warrior, yes, assassin, no."
Tina reminded him, "Barry, he killed a man."
"He killed him to protect you. Maybe some idiot at the Pentagon with more brass than brains wanted to create a super soldier."
Tina said, "You've seen what he can do. Now the only question is –"
Guy interrupted, "Am I meant to kill?"
Tina and Barry turned their heads. A teenaged Guy stood behind them, dressed in his new clothes. He had moved too silently for them to hear him approach.
Guy demanded, "What am I? What the Hell's wrong with me?"
Tina corrected him sharply, "Watch your language, young man."
Barry nodded in agreement. "You're too young to cuss."
"What, I'm old enough to fight and kill but not swear?" Guy retorted.
Barry tried to calm him down. "We're gonna find out what's wrong, Guy. Everything's gonna be all right."
"You don't know that. You don't have a damned clue what's wrong with me. I'm just a freak," Guy complained.
"No, you're not." Barry was more offended by 'freak' than if Guy had used the other F word.
Tina asked, "Have you eaten yet? If you've just had another growth spurt, you'll need to replenish your caloric intake." The scientist replaced the mother figure. "Protein would probably be best."
Guy sneered, "This isn't something cookies and milk can solve, 'Auntie' Tina."
"Calm down, Guy." Barry reached out a hand to comfort him.
Guy slapped away the hand. "You calm down. You're not the one this is happening to. Why did you save me if you can't do anything to help me? I hate you!" He stormed off.
Tina looked up at Barry. "He didn't mean that. He just needs time. Teenagers– "
"He doesn't have any time. None of us do."
Tina looks concerned as Barry walked off.
A minute later, Barry was back. "Guy's gone."
"I'm gonna go find him." He dashed out.
"Wait," she said too late. Quietly, to herself, she finished the sentence. "We'll cover more territory if we split up."
The Flash ran through the town. Through the suburbs, through downtown, through the barrio and the ghetto, one street after another.
Tina sighed. This was the third teen dance club she been to, but she'd finally found him. "Guy, we need to talk."
"Go away, Aunt Tina." He turned his back on her.
A young punk with a pierced ear came up behind them. "Hey, if you don't want her, I don't mind older women."
Two friends came up behind him. "Yeah, older women are so good at … sharing their experience," one said.
"I like sharing," the other added
"Get lost," Guy ordered.
"Make us," the punk retorted.
Tina frowned. Her eyes widened as she realized what was about to happen. And she realized she had no way to stop the destruction that was about to ensue.
Davis, now in black denim pants, a black turtleneck shirt, a Kevlar vest, and a black knitted ski cap, reported to Tamashiro. "My men just intercepted a report on the police scanner. Disturbance in a teen dance club." He pulled a miniature tape recorder out of his pocket and played it.
"All units in the vicinity of Sheridan and 12th, possible riot at Club Slippery. You are looking for a male Caucasian, mid-teens, violent and dangerous. All available units, please respond."
Tamashiro smiled. "That's my boy."
By the time Barry arrived at the dance club, it was in flames. People were still emptying out of the building. Police cars surrounded the place. He could hear fire truck sirens in the distance.
Tina drew him aside before anyone could notice the Flash. She told him what had happened.
"Property damage, yes, and probably some broken bones, but no one killed. He held back, Barry. He made a conscious decision not to do as much harm as his programming probably told him to." She coughed; the smoke was making it difficult to breathe. "I tried to stop him, but he wouldn't stay."
"Which way did he go?"
"Guy ran off down Maple Street. I couldn't stop him," Tina repeated.
Barry had been on Maple Street that afternoon. "I think I know where he's heading."
Davis and Tamashiro arrived just as the Flash ran off. Tamashiro looked at the chaos. "Mama's good boy. Such a flair for destruction. Now it's time for you to bring him back to me." She pulled the trigger device out of her purse and displayed it to Davis.
Guy lay on the grass at the park where he'd played a mere seven hours earlier. His eyes were closed. He had changed again, aging from fifteen to twenty. Barry knelt beside him and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"Slow down, Guy. I can't keep up."
Outside what was left of Club Slippery, Tamashiro pressed a button on the trigger device. The screen now read 'test subject armed.' She turned to Davis. "Now take your men and find my baby boy. It shouldn't be too difficult. Just follow the mayhem."
Davis nodded to his men. "Move out," he ordered. The four Kevlar clad men turned to go.
Barry rubbed the sleeping teenager's shoulder. He was afraid anything more would wake him up, so he kept his touch light and gentle.
Just then, Eileen Tamashiro pushed the control button. Guy's eyes flew open.
"It's okay. Everything is going to be okay," Barry lied soothingly.
Guy jumped to his feet and punched Barry without warning. Not expecting the blow, the Flash was knocked down. Barry got up, and Guy grabbed Barry's shoulder with his right hand. His left hand Guy pulled back, preparing to punch him again.
"Guy, why are you doing this?" Barry asked.
"It all fell into place. I know why I was born. Why I was made," Guy corrected himself.
Barry ducked the punch. "Why?"
"To kill." Guy kicked at the Flash, his foot making a solid connection against Barry's thigh. "And it feels good."
Barry dodged the next three blows. "Don't do this, Guy. It isn't you."
"Oh, yes, it is." Guy aimed another punch at Barry's jaw.
Barry caught the boy's hand, then stepped back and released it. Taking a deep breath, he realized what he would have to do, and he wasn't looking forward to it. He let the next few punches land, weaving slightly to lessen the impact, but not running away, not avoiding them completely, and not hitting back.
"What are you doing?" Guy cried out after a minute. "Why don't you fight back?"
"Because the battle you should be fighting isn't between the two of us. It's inside you."
Hitting, dodging, neither spoke for a minute. Barry was tempted – so tempted – to run away. It would hurt far less, but Guy needed to know that he could defeat the ultimate enemy … himself.
"You can fight your programming. You don't have to be what people expect. I know it's hard, but you can choose." Guy got in a good strong kick. Barry fell. "You can choose to hurt people, or you can choose to love people." Moving far more slowly than he was accustomed to, he got to his feet.
Guy pulled back his fist. "Why should I listen to you?"
Guy halted, surprised by the answer.
"The only person you should listen to is yourself. It's not genetic engineering or programming that defines who you are, Guy. It's you, and the choices you make."
Guy's arm remained poised in mid-air.
"I face my demons every day. I'm different, too. With my speed, I could go anywhere, steal anything, hurt anybody. But I choose to use my gift to help people."
Guy stared up at him, openly confused.
"There are a lot of things I don't know, but one thing I know is true. You can be anything you want to be. Anything." Barry reached out and took the hand that was ready to punch him. He curled his fingers gently around the fist, then pulled the boy into a hug. "It's okay."
Guy's programming conflicted with his emotions, overwhelming him. "Uncle Barry?" Then nurture won out over nature, and he hugged back.
"It's okay." Barry heard something. He looked up to see four men dressed like burglars or special forces coming across the park. "I might have been a tad premature."
"Kill the Flash. Take the kid alive," Davis ordered.
"I ain't getting paid enough to fight the Flash." One man turned and walked away.
Barry ordered, "Run. I'll take care of this."
"No, I'm not going to leave you."
The remaining three mercenaries rushed the pair. Barry fought two simultaneously. His muscles were feeling the pounding he'd allowed Guy to give him, and he couldn't help wondering if there hadn't been another way to convince the boy he was more than just his programming.
Guy judo-tossed the third man to the ground, then whirled and kicked one of the ones attacking Barry. As though they had choreographed it, Barry and Guy fell into a coordinated attack against the trio – trading opponents, hitting, kicking, dodging, ducking. Barry glanced at the seesaw and caught Guy's eye. Seeing where he was looking, Guy nodded once. The two jumped onto the far ends of the pair of seesaws. The other ends flew up, striking Davis and his henchman.
Although he was far outclassed, Davis did not give up, and it took several minutes before he and his men were lying on the ground, groaning in pain, too weak and battered to rise.
Guy lay on the couch in Tina's condo. He looked like a man in his late thirties or early forties … an unhealthy man in early middle-age.
"Once the active node was activated, it sped up the aging process," Tina whispered. "I'm sorry, Barry, there's nothing I can do."
"There has to be," Barry protested. "He didn't complete his mission. He stopped, he changed."
Guy opened his eyes. He squinted against the morning sunlight coming in through the curtains. "Tired. Just let me sleep."
"No, you can't sleep. You have to stay awake," Barry urged. He was afraid what would happen if Guy fell asleep again.
"We have something for you. Can you sit up a bit?" Tina asked.
As Barry helped Guy to a semi-upright position, Tina went to the kitchen and fetched back a store bought cake, decorated with a single burning candle.
"I promised you your birthday. Make a wish," Barry told him.
"I wish – I wish I had more time."
"So do we, Guy." She wiped away a tear.
"Don't cry, Auntie Tina. I didn't have a long life, but I had the best friends – the best family – anyone could ever have," Guy told her.
She cut the cake, and handed him a slice. He dipped his fork into the cake and took a bite.
"It's good." He took another bite of cake, savoring the taste of the chocolate. He closed his eyes. As they watched, his body transformed again. He opened his eyes, and he looked like an octogenarian. "Aunt Tina, Uncle Barry, th-thank you for everything." He closed his eyes and breathed his last.
The rest of the cake sat untouched on the table. For once, Barry had no appetite.
"Let me get this straight," Tamashiro said to the battered, bruised Davis. "The prototype is lost. The Flash stole my baby boy."
"They were fighting a coordinated attack, like a team," Davis replied.
"He was programmed to kill him. He was programmed to kill anything in his path." The contemptuous look she shot Davis clearly said 'including you.' She paced back and forth in her office. "How was the Flash doing it? Drugs? Some kind of counter-implant? Deprogramming? What could that speedster possibly use that would be more powerful than the neural mesh?"
"It looked to me like they were friends," Davis said quietly.
"Oh, that's it," she replied sarcastically. "He overrode millions of dollars of bioengineering and surgical procedures by becoming friends." She reached into her pocket. "Don't be insane. The boy wasn't programmed to have friends."
"With respect, ma'am –"
Tamashiro pulled the pistol out of her pocket and shot Davis before he could finish his sentence. She walked over to the window and peered out. "I know you're out there somewhere, Flash. And I will find you. You'll pay for stealing my baby from me."
Tina and Barry slept most of the day. When it was dark, they took care of one final necessary chore.
Barry found a quiet corner in Elmwood Cemetery. He took a shovel and dug the grave, far faster than a machine could have scooped it out. He lowered the coffin into the grave and refilled the dirt.
Tina took a bouquet of carnations and placed them atop the grave.
Barry picked up a chisel and rapidly carved the tombstone. He struggled to maneuver the heavy stone in place.
"Guy Rees. November 4, 1990 – November 6, 1990. We had too little time to know you," Tina read aloud. "It's very nice, Barry."
Barry swore quietly. "What kind of person – what sort of lunatic –would make a baby that's designed to kill and die?"
"The kind of person you fight," she reminded him.
"We fight. I couldn't do this without you." Barry exhaled heavily. "Let's go home." He tried to hide his sorrow, but his voice betrayed his grief and his exhaustion. He felt a hundred years old.