Author's Note: A short story, set in a possible future of the DCAU, narrated by an Original Character whose daddy just happens to be The Fastest Man Alive. Her real name is Agustina West (called "Tina"); recently she has begun to manifest powers inherited from her father's side of the family, so now she's in the process of learning to use them properly. Wearing a superhero costume and fighting villains is still far in the future (or so her parents insist). The story is happening perhaps 15 years after the final episode of Justice League Unlimited. I assume that during that time, several of our beloved heroes got married.
P.S. I mention "the Speed Force" in this story. I think it was vaguely referred to, just once, in the episode "Divided We Fall," and that was its only mention in any series set in the DCAU continuity. So if your main familiarity with Wally West (Flash) comes from his TV appearances, you shouldn't feel bad if you're not familiar with the concept. In the Flash comic books, the Speed Force is presented as a cosmic force which is responsible for the powers of various "Flash" characters and at least some of DC's other speedster types; they somehow form special connections allowing them to draw upon its energy.
Just Slow Down
(Excerpts from the private diary of Agustina West)
"Just slow down."
That's what Daddy said today when we were testing how quickly I could run a three-hundred-mile course in the Australian Outback, and I overshot the finish line by at least fifty yards before I dampened my body's connection with the Speed Force.
Daddy says the Outback is a great place for a fledgling speedster to practice. Zillions of square miles of open space. Stay away from Alice Springs and a few other inland cities, and you're not likely to run into anybody in the first place, and even if someone is close to your intended path, you'll probably see them a mile or two away, which gives you a moment to veer off before you reach them.
"Remember it is not like stepping on the brakes in a car," he said, forgetting I wouldn't know about that because I'm not old enough to drive yet. "There you want to ease the pedal down so that the car gradually slows until it comes to a standstill at a spot you selected well before you got there—such as a stop sign. Trying to screech to a dead halt in a split-second would be hard on the brakes, hard on your neck, hard on the tires . . . but all that only applies when you're worried about friction and inertia and whiplash. The Speed Force doesn't care much about the regular laws of physics. Vast quantities of momentum can appear or disappear in the twinkling of an eye without 'acceleration' or 'deceleration' doing any harm to your tender flesh.
"Watch this," he added, and zipped back to the finish line I'd overshot, then returned in a jiffy. I saw what he meant—he maintained the same speed right up until he was about two paces away from me, then stopped all of an instant.
"Like I said! Wait until your leading foot is already touching the spot where you want to stay put, and suddenly tell your body to slow down. Don't try to gradually taper off. Now run back the way you came, and I'll be right behind you if anything happens!"
About twenty seconds later and three hundred miles away, I only overshot the mark by sixteen feet before stopping.
"Better!" Daddy said cheerfully. "Now try again!" He pointed back the other way.
I wonder how many more thousands of miles it will take before I get the hang of it?
"Just slow down."
That's what Aunt Diana said while we were sparring in her husband's cave. It's the sort of place that would have given Edgar Allen Poe the creeps.
Of course she wasn't really trying to hurt me, but I found myself reacting faster and faster each time she tried to tap me with a fist, or grab my wrist, or whatever.
She thought that defeated the purpose of such training. "Tina, I may still be quick enough to block bullets with my bracelets, but you're already a lot faster. According to your father, you'll keep getting even faster with practice. The problem is that when you dodge me that way, you don't learn anything except how to depend on superior speed to always be there for you!"
"Won't it be?" I ask dutifully, sure she has a response on the tip of her tongue.
"Who knows? It's a crazy world we live in. I can easily imagine you someday facing a new foe who's just as fast. Or an evil mastermind could find a way to suppress your powers so you were brought all the way down to his level in a hurry. Either way amounts to the same thing—if you don't see each blow coming at you 'in slow motion,' giving you all the time in the world to evade, then how will you cope with someone bigger and stronger who really wants to hurt you? It's a problem women have been facing for thousands of years, and the best answer involves lots of training for worst-case scenarios so your mind and body will know what to do when the real emergency comes along!"
"But I do see those blows coming at me and I react in a hurry. Survival instinct, right? Couldn't I practice combat drills with someone who can keep up with me all the time so I don't have to keep a damper on the urge to touch the Speed Force in self-defense?"
"Whom would that be? Somehow I can't imagine your father really putting his heart into the task of trying to knock you down. And your Uncle Clark has better things to do with his time. Don't bother mentioning the Kent kids," she added, reading my mind before I could say it, "because they aren't well-trained either, so they wouldn't press you to your limits. Even if they had more than half of their father's speed, which is going to leave them way behind you when you're fully acclimated to the Speed Force."
Aunt Diana shook her head. "No, Tina, you really need to practice staying at normal speed, or something close to it, even when you're under lots of pressure and something exciting is happening. Partly for the sake of better combat training; partly for general courtesy. If you do it right, then after you're wearing a costume you may find you don't grate on the nerves of your peers nearly as much as Wally sometimes did in the early days, darting to and fro at the drop of a hat, just to show off. Or that was how it seemed at the time, anyway," she added reflectively, apparently wondering if she'd been a little harsh on him in the days when the League just had seven members. (Since I wasn't around back then, I wasn't going to argue about it.)
Just slow down.
That's what Mommy and Daddy used to take turns saying to me at the dinner table. That was long before my powers kicked in, and nobody was sure if they ever would—I didn't even know anybody's "secret identities" at the time. But my parents already felt I was in danger of turning into a speed-eater who treated mealtime as a hit-and-run operation.
Mommy says that eating together is supposed to be an occasion for social bonding. This requires some real conversation along the way; not just a contest to see who can be first to gulp down the necessary amount of nutrients and then make a hasty escape from the other people at the table. Sometimes I wonder if Mommy had to give that lecture to Daddy a few times before I ever came along. I don't think it would be polite to ask, though.
So now I make sure to remind myself to just slow down every time I sit down to eat with other people. In this case, the other people were Phoebe and Atalanta—Aunt Diana's twin daughters. After their mother was done with me for today, there was still plenty of time to chat before Daddy would be showing up to take me home. He says I'm not nearly ready to get myself all the way from Central City to Gotham and back without him as a spotter.
Daddy has also warned me about not eating too much. Not because it will make me fat, but because it won't! Apparently one of the side effects of regular use of the Speed Force is that any "extra" calories just get burned off harmlessly when you're running across a continent or whatever, but the ones you really need are left alone so you stay healthy. Daddy says he doesn't talk about this much outside the family because he doesn't want to make other people jealous of how easy it is for him to keep his waistline under control, and he thinks I'd better follow his example so other girls don't turn green with envy.
So I paced myself as we ate some of Alfred Pennyworth's homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and wash them down with milk. I'm still getting used to just calling him "Alfred" when I visit. At my age, I'm usually supposed to say something more respectful to an adult and include the surname. "Mister Smith" or "Doctor Brown" or "Officer Gomez."
A bunch of the older generation of the Justice League have known each other long enough to think of themselves as an extended family. So we kids, even before we're old enough to be trusted with knowing about the League connection, all grow up calling our parents' friends "Uncle Clark and Aunt Lois," "Uncle John and Aunt Mari," "Uncle Vic and Aunt Helena," and so forth. But Alfred Pennyworth is just plain "Alfred," even though he's easily old enough to be my grandfather.
Today I mentioned this to the twins over the cookies. I said I'd never had a butler in the house, but the ones in movies usually got called by their surnames instead of their first names. A butler named John Smithers would be just plain "Smithers." So why not "Pennyworth"?
Atalanta explained. "We've wondered about that too. Apparently it became a Sacred Tradition here at the Manor umpteen years ago when our grandparents were alive, and now nobody wants to mess with it. Phoebe and I once suggested calling him 'Uncle Alfred,' but he said no, calling your butler your 'uncle' . . . Simply. Is. Not. Done." She grimaced, then added, "We tried to appeal to a higher court, but Mom and Dad backed him up. As usual."
"Like Dad would ever dare contradict Alfred regarding a point of etiquette," Phoebe muttered theatrically. "Probably still afraid of being sent to bed without any supper. Old habits die hard!"
I'm pretty sure she was joking, but she got her point across. In certain areas, Alfred's word was law. If he wanted to be called just plain "Alfred," that was that!
"Just slow down."
That's what Daddy said when he dropped in on me during my math test, although nobody else knew he was there. He said it in maybe one millisecond and then he was gone.
I knew what he meant. He thinks using my speed during school exams is cheating, even though it's not my fault if the teacher has his notes right there on his desk in plain sight where anyone (who moves too fast for the teacher to see, anyway) might zip over and peek at them.
Daddy always says he never tried to raise his grades that way when he was young and still working out rules for using his powers properly. But I saw Mommy roll her eyes the last time he said it. I think it's one of those things daddies feel obligated to say to their children; I don't have to believe it.
(In my heart I know he's right, though, even if he didn't always follow the rules when he was about my age.)
"Just slow down."
"That's unfair, Mommy! I hear that all the time when I'm using the Speed Force, but I wasn't even touching it just now! I swear!"
She smiled. "I believe you, honey, but at your age it doesn't make much difference when you get really excited. You were rattling off all those cute ideas for your future heroic alias so fast that my ears couldn't even keep up! What were they? Cyclone-Windjammer-Sirocco-Impetus-Velocity-Whirlwind-and-I-forget-the-rest?"
"No, that sixth one was 'Wayward Wind,' like the Gogi Grant song. Or maybe just 'Wayward'? Either way, it would be different from the garden-variety superhero names. Certainly not as silly as calling myself 'Lady Flash' or 'Flashgirl.'"
"Whatever," Mommy said patiently. "The point is that you were talking such a blue streak that my ears were lagging far behind by Number Six!"
I blinked at a new idea. "Wait. Say that again?"
Mommy is no fool. Instead of repeating all of it, she took a moment to decide which part of her last sentence I was probably reacting to, and then repeated the key words: "Talking . . . a blue streak?"
"Blue Streak. That's . . . almost right. Just needs a new paint job to make it a serious contender. 'Streak' is a lot like 'Flash,' and making it 'Green' would cover your side of the family. 'Green Streak?' Or run it all together in one word—'Greenstreak?' Then add a costume kinda like Daddy's, but not red—at least two shades of green?"
"That's not so bad," Mommy said judiciously, "but you still have plenty of time to make up your mind. You know what your father says—no crimefighting until you're at least sixteen, unless you actually see someone waving a gun around at your school or some other nasty threat."
"So when I'm sixteen, can I dye my hair to match the costume?"
"No. Once you are eighteen, all bets are off, but your hair stays 'normal' until then. Besides, you'll have a secret identity to worry about."
"Green wig, then?"
She paused. "You mean, after you're sixteen, and only wear it as part of the costume? That might work. Or you might change your mind half a dozen times about the name and costume before then. Ask me again when you're one month short of your sixteenth birthday, and we'll talk about designs."
So I settled for what I could get. But I still think I'd look a zillion times cooler if my hair were green instead of this mousy brown.
Author's Note: I've been thinking about Tina (or "Greenstreak") and a bunch of other original characters for quite some time as I outlined some plot ideas for a lengthy "next generation" serial fanfic featuring the kids of several members of the JLU cast. But don't hold your breath waiting for it! I have no intention of posting any of that serial until I've wrapped up a few other projects here on FF, and there's no telling how long that will take me.
But just recently, as I was thinking about Flash's daughter, the separate idea for this self-contained short story popped into my head, and I decided, "Hey, why not give it a shot? The worst that can happen is that people either hate it or ignore it, and I've survived that kind of thing before!"