Kid Flash stared out into the bay at the T shaped building on the tiny island. He could hear the hushed murmuring of tourists taking pictures behind him. He glanced back in a microsecond. A tour bus full of Japanese tourists. You got that a lot in Jump City. And he didn't care about people taking his picture. He was fourteen and a half now, nearly five foot eight and 129 pounds. He was proud of how he looked and had worn the tighter than his own skin red and yellow suit so many times now that he just didn't care what people would say.
He ignored the whirring and clicking of tourists with real cameras behind him. That building on the little island perplexed him. Why would somebody build a building in the shape of a "T"? Was their last building an "S"? Will the next one be a "U"? And why build on that island? There wasn't regular ferry service to it or anything. He'd checked and the island had been owned by Stone Industries. But now the City said Stone Industries was no longer the owner. But they couldn't say exactly who was. What the . . ?
He stared at the 14 story, T shaped building trying to make sense of it. He wondered if it somehow had something to do with the recent sightings of other heroes. That little green dude from Doom Patrol, Beast Boy, had been mentioned on line as having been sighted in Jump. There were stories about some guy like a black Robocop. And a couple stories on line and in the paper had even mentioned that midget asshole, Robin. He sighed. Didn't they know about territories?
His thoughts were interrupted by a couple taps on the small of his back. He spun around and there was the cutest little japanese girl ever, perhaps five years old, tops, in a sort of half ballet outfit with a tutu.
"Would . . please take picture with me, Mr. Kid Frash?"
He nodded. Of course. How could anyone turn down such a cute little girl.
For the next few minutes he stood next to this tourist and that, wrapped an arm around them or draped it over the little kids' shoulders and smiled for the camera. Finally, he knew it was coming all along, finally a little eight year old boy asked him to do a super speed trick. He picked the boy up and sped down from the railing in the park overlooking Jump Bay down the paths to the water and then across the bay to the little island with the T building and back. He put the boy down next to his parents and the kid immediately launched into frantic japanese at almost the rate Kid Flash could talk to Flash. He gave a wave and sped off.
He needed to patrol. He normally wouldn't have stopped in one location where nothing was happening like that but that T shaped building perplexed him. He had to keep up on things in his town. It was part of the job. And he was good at it, really good at it. He'd been heroing, that was the way Speedy had described what they did, heroing, it didn't sound as stiff as . . fighting crime. He'd been heroing, as Kid Flash, for almost three years now. And he was really. really good at it.
He knew all the police code numbers by heart. He knew as much about police procedures as almost any of the cops on the Jump City Police Department. He could do all the super speed tricks, arm cyclones, lifting crooks off the ground by running around them, vibrating through walls and things, he could do all of them just as well as Flash. He didn't have to make a special effort to concentrate and go through a series of steps to vibrate through a concrete wall. He could choose to do so at a millisecond's notice and just do it. All these things were second nature to him now. He was really good at his job and he knew it.
He'd won over most of the Jump City Police force to his side. And why not? He was incredibly talented and very earnest. And now that he was almost man sized it didn't seem so humiliating if he caught crooks that the police couldn't or dealt with super villains who completely overpowered them. On top of this, the orange haired kid had a wiseass streak toward the bigwigs, the police captains, the chief, all the police brass who'd mostly never done any actual police work on the streets but who somehow had become bosses over all the guys who did. The cops on the beat resented them. So did Kid Flash.
While the cops on the street were pretty quick to get past their initial suspicions about the kid in the skin tight red and yellow suit, the police brass was caught up in a game of perceptions. They obsessed about credit, who got credit for catching a crook or stopping a villain. The police brass were the ones who did interviews with the local tv stations, who issued press releases and tried to manage the department's image. The cops on the street just wanted things to get done. Kid Flash helped that. He helped it a lot. But the brass always wanted the department to get the credit. They hated how all these annoying local channels promoted the kid. What were they, his publicity agents?! Did they have to play it up every time the kid did anything? They never missed a chance to get the little freak in his neon spandex suit on the air.
Kid Flash couldn't help but pick up on this undertone of resentment toward him from the police brass. And he watched brass, at crime scenes and back at police headquarters, talk down to the plain clothes cops and the detectives. Those cops couldn't do anything about it. Kid Flash could.
So, when a police captain acted like a total jerk berating officers for not catching some bank robbers that Kid Flash eventually apprehended, it was suspected that it was Kid Flash who filled the captain's hat with lemon meringue filling right before he went on the air and clamped it down on his own head as cameras were about to roll. The officers on the beat fell down laughing off camera.
And when the overbearing captain in charge of the city's SWAT team who wore his black uniform everywhere was setting up to do an interview with Cindy Sommers of the Action 7 live team, he brought his helmet with the special flip up face guard. It was very hot to wear, though. He wanted to put it on just before going on air, pull it on, step before the cameras, flip open the face guard and talk to Cindy Sommers. Only when he did, channel 7's viewers got to see a police captain with a face full of custard pie.
The Jump City Police Department brass had the worst luck with pies.
And when the JCPD chief, a man who promoted an image as a kindly, wise old grandfatherly sort, was about to go on the Jump City Today morning show and screaming at subordinates right up until he took a seat on one of the two front and center chairs on the set, it was suspected that it was Kid Flash who had spooned chocolate pudding onto his chair a microsecond before he sat down. It was a live interview. When he suddenly got up in shock at the wet feeling, the brown stains on his khaki chinos, well, Jump City's residents could only draw one conclusion.
The chief looked incontinent. Kid Flash had been on 7 continents. Because just as being a super speedster was a like a license to prank, it was also a license to travel. Kid Flash could be struck at any moment by an idol curiosity about what Paris looked like at night or just what Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia looked like. And he could speed there in seconds with no problem and satisfy his curiosity.
He hesitated for just a moment to follow his curiosity one early summer night. He wanted to check in on the Parker kid But there was the territory thing. All heroes knew about the territories.
There weren't lines on maps with labels on one side of them, Batmanistan, Flashville, or anything like that. There weren't hard and fast official boundaries. There weren't even less official markings. It wasn't like heroes were dogs or something. Batman didn't piss on the telephone poles as you entered Gotham City to mark his territory and let other heroes know that it was his town. At least Kid Flash was pretty sure he didn't. Kind of sure.
Anyway, there were territories. Different heroes patrolled different cities. Batman was the man in Gotham. It was Superman in Metropolis, Flash in Keystone City, Green Arrow in Star City, etc, etc.
But it wasn't like you had to check in with the hero who patrolled that particular city before you entered. This was especially relevant for super speedsters. Green Arrow wouldn't just zip over to Gotham City on a moment's whim. A super speedster could and probably would. Kid Flash loved to run. He would become curious about what Fiji looks like or Paris in fog or the skyline of Gotham City and, because he was a super speedster, he could just run over to those places right then and satisfy his curiosity. Still, even speedsters had to respect the unofficial code of other heroes' territories. You didn't want to cruise into some town and bust some mid-level henchman of some villain only to find that another hero had the whole thing lined up for a much bigger take down of the entire organization and you had just ruined it. The unofficial rule was that you could take care of any immediate issue, a bank being robbed, a high speed chase you come across, that sort of thing, if you happened to be there. But for deeper investigation it was understood that you'd check in with the hero who made that city his base.
So Kid Flash didn't have any deep plans in mind about fighting crime in Gotham City when he sprinted out there early one evening. He was just idly curious about Gotham City. Okay, he was also keeping an eye on that boy Peter in one of the other boroughs. And he turned out to be just in time. Some jerks at his school were going to knock him down and break his science project displays. He'd gotten first place at the science fair. But the jerks ended up tripping and falling over and over each time just as they were about to reach young Mr. Parker. He got home and proudly waved his winning ribbons for his uncle Ben to see. The bullies at his school fell into mud puddles and tripped and face planted into mail boxes a block behind him. Funny how that happened.
So, there he was, fourteen and a half years old Kid Flash in Gotham City just after sundown, the lights of the skyline twinkling alluringly. He decided to go for a run through the place. Why not? He was having fun running, all full of super speedster endorphins, and it was a beautiful moonlit night. All the grit and dirt and grime of Gotham was out of sight. The lights of the skyscrapers were like a transition to the stars of the sky and looking at it you were put in the frame of mind of sophistication and elegance and all the upside of a great city.
So, without any particular intention, Kid Flash found himself zooming down the boulevards of Gotham City. He only realized exactly where he was at any moment when he saw the signs on specific landmark buildings, parks and sports stadiums.
He sped through the city streets gawking like any other out of towner taking in the sights, keeping his speed down to a measly 600 miles per hour through the downtown area to give himself extra time to look at them.
If he hadn't been looking up like a tourist, albeit a super speedster tourist, he never would have seen a figure silhouetted against that night's bright moon. It was a slender figure 12 stories up jumping from a building on the left side of the street to a building on the right side of the street. Serious frigging jump! It took place 5 blocks down the street so he didn't get a good look. He didn't think that much of it. He just sort of went, hmmph, figuring it must've been Batman. It was Gotham, after all.
He sped around downtown Gotham seconds more and, again, saw a figure leap across the street 12 or 13 stories up in that same area. Now he knew it wasn't Batman. And it sure as hell wasn't any little jerk Boy Wonder. First of all, there was no cape. But, more importantly, this figure was slender and curvy, definitely a woman.
He stopped a moment at a street corner oblivious to passersby pointing at the outrageously athletic teen speedster in the red and yellow suit. He kept looking up at the buildings nearby and a minute later, the figure jumped again, a black outline of a woman against the pale moon. This same figure had now leaped in three different directions off of the same low, nondescript glass and steel tower.
Hmmm. He pondered. What to do, what to do?
There were territories, but he had to know. Besides, this was sort of an in-progress type of thing.
He zipped across the street to the last building onto which the figure had leaped, vibrated through the entrance door then zoomed up 12 flights of stairs and then vibrated, again, through another metal door onto the pea stone covered roof.
He could see her now. He gulped. She was even hotter than he'd imagined she'd be, yes, slender and also just curvy enough as revealed by her tight black uniform, some sort of silk-spandex composite except for the cat ears at the top of it. She was bent over looking at the building across the street.
He didn't breathe for several seconds.
"See anything you like, Boy W-", she began, spinning casually around.
"Oh," she said her smile still there but diminished after seeing she had misidentified the hero boy staring at her. "I've heard of you. You're Flash's protege."
Kid Flash nodded but stayed where he was 30 feet away. The light danced like lines of a white liquid along the slender curves of her shiny black suit as she approached with a casual sway of her hips. He couldn't breathe.
"If you really had been the tiresome little . . Boy Wonder, you already would have leaped and tried to kick me by now. You're different."
Kid Flash just shrugged. He wasn't ready to speak anyway. Her body! That suit!
"Maybe you just wanted to stare a bit longer."
"Maybe." He raised his gaze to her eyes, suddenly remembering that this was a woman about whom all sorts of things had been said. Master thief! Agent for hire! Fling with Batman!
Hmmph, she tilted her head to one side as she openly checked him out, finishing with a chuckle. "Sure you got that suit in the right size?"
He sighed in frustration. "Yes."
"Just wondering," she said through a carefree laugh. "I mean . . wow."
"Can we get past this? I've heard all that stuff so many times. Maybe it'd be quicker if I just said it for you. 'oh my god, that suit is like ballet to the power of disco' or 'oh my god, that suit's so tight I think I can see your internal organs' and let's not forget 'how do you get the power painter to spray the colors on you in that pattern?' I've heard 'em all by now."
"Well?" she chuckled.
"Speedsters have to wear tight uniforms."
"Okay . . you don't need to be defensive about it."
"Well, you're hardly in a position to be criticizing other peoples' tight uniforms. I mean . . " he gestured toward her with one hand.
"Fair enough little Flash. What brings you to Gotham, anyway?" she asked licking at one claw tipped finger of her glove.
He shrugged. "No special reason. Just out for a run and ended up here."
She looked at him for several moments and then broke into a smirk. "You'd never make it as a bat. Where's your angst? Where's the grrrr! Where's the 'I'm gonna make them all pay!'"
He wasn't sure what to say. She was smirking at her own remarks. "And . . what are you doing here?" he finally asked.
"Well, that's a start," she said now moving again, slowly circling around the young speedster.
". . me-ow!" he heard her laugh from over his shoulder. And it occurred to him that it was dangerous to be letting a sort of, maybe villain circle around him.
"Look," he demanded as she circled back around in front of him. "Are you a hero or a villain?"
"Mmmm . . . yes."
"What?! It's a binary field of options."
"What a Flash thing to say."
He sighed with a roll of his eyes. Caught in Uncle Barry's uber nerd rep again!
"Nope," she added with a smile. "False dichotomy."
"No it's not! It's not a false dichotomy. You're either a hero or you're a villain."
She gave a carefree chuckle as she stepped back to the railing at the edge of the roof and casually leaned back against it. "What if I do some . . good things . . some of the time and some . . naughty things at other times? What am I?"
"I . . . " the speedster ran one red glove through his hair unsure what to say but then coming up with something. "Well, what were you up to now?"
Catwoman smirked at the teen speedster's indecision and attempt to get out of it. "You really think I'll tell you?"
She chuckled at his sigh of frustration. He stood there for several moments staring at her trying to figure out what he should do. This had never come up before. There wasn't any question that Gorilla Grodd was a villain or that guys shooting at cops in the course of a high speed chase or in the process of robbing a bank were bad guys. He finished his ruminations with another sigh.
She laughed. "You're so different from the little bat."
"Well, I'm not some little fascist in elf shoes who jumps on the heads of guys who're already practically knocked out."
She smirked. "You two don't get along?"
"We haven't met."
"The general public assumes that all you hero types, including you . . sidekicks all get along great. One big happy crime fighting team!" she mocked.
Kid Flash rolled his eyes. "No."
"So . . you don't all pal around together?"
She smiled carefully assessing the teen speedster, a mischievous smile playing at her lips. "And . . . the girls?"
"What about 'em?" he asked disconsolately.
"You don't see the hero girls all the time, pretty hero boy like you running around in that suit?"
Blue eyes rolled. "I wish. Nothing ever works out."
She didn't do much to suppress her growing smile.
"Oh, is my trouble meeting hero girls funny to you?" he continued.
A siren got louder obviously approaching and then diminished in volume after it passed their building. Kid Flash zipped to the edge of the roof to look over the edge at a police cruiser but there didn't seem to be extra urgency to this. He stayed where he was. When he looked back to Catwoman he could see that she had been watching him intently.
"You are a fast one. Anyway, what you say, it does run counter to the prevailing image that everything works great for heroes."
"Well, if you're a hero boy, trying to meet the right hero girl, everything doesn't always work out great. Trust me on this one."
"You don't have to go out with a hero girl, do you?"
"Are you kidding? Being with a civilian girl turns out to be just about impossible there . . there would be so much lying trying to keep-"
"No, silly, what about a villain girl?"
"A . . what?!"
"What about a villain girl? Why couldn't you have a relationship with a cute villain girl?"
He was silent a few moments trying to get a hold of this notion in a way that it didn't seem crazy. Hey, maybe water could be not wet. Maybe gravity would make things float in the air. He failed. He shook his head emphatically.
His mouth hung open. How did she not understand?! Have affection for someone who hurts people, who injures people, who casually ruins people and steals from them?
"Okay, you're having a hard time getting past what they do."
He gave her his best no shit sherlock look.
"But, what's the greatest achievement you can make, playing fireman or cop over and over again answering call after call, following up after every act of a villain or getting that villain to be on your side and never doing those things again perhaps even doing good? Would you rather put a villain girl in prison or convince her to be good."
Kid Flash took a half step back, dumbstruck at the unexpected wisdom of this. Catwoman watched him intently with a faint smile.
"That's so . . Sun Tzu," he whispered.
There was a long pause between them as he kept trying to consider this and she waited patiently. She gave a slow catlike blink of satisfaction. There were no sirens or beeping horns. The city was unusually quiet.
"How does someone even become a villain?" she started again.
He shrugged. "You know, I-I guess I don't really know. I probably should, but-"
"Do you think every villain wanted to be a villain?"
He slowly shook his head. "No."
"How many villains were shunned or bullied as kids, made to feel like normal society had no place for them, made to feel like the only way they could express their energies, their abilities was in the template of," she made rabbit ear quotes "villain."
She paused, pleased at the deadly serious way the boy in the skin tight red and yellow suit was focused on her words. "Maybe she looks a bit different, so right away kids were on her. They made fun of her. They shunned her, ostracized her. She was made to feel terrible by everything and everyone that constituted acceptable society. We don't want you in our world, in normal law abiding life! They hurt her. They hurt her very badly. She wouldn't let anyone see but she cried herself to sleep a lot of the time. But she wouldn't let them crush her. She couldn't let the people who made her feel like that for no reason conquer her. So . . . she opted for the other side of things. They weren't really good so was the other side really bad? What else could she do? She thought it was her only option. Now she's done wrong and each successive act only gets her in deeper till getting out seems impossible and she starts doing these things with real enthusiasm, with real feeling behind them, not just going through the expected motions. But it wasn't always that way. If only someone had offered her a way out earlier. She could have been good."
The city was so quiet, they could hear ice shift in someone's glass on one of the nearby roofs.
Catwoman was impressed with the boy's solemn expression. His eyes even looked a little watery.
"You can't imagine what a simple, kind gesture can mean to a girl like that, the sort of thing good girls take for granted, but that a girl who's only known scorn and grit and struggle never gets."
"I . . never thought so much about this before."
"Listen, little Flash. The truth of the matter is that the good girls aren't as good as you probably think they are and the bad ones aren't as bad. Not nearly as bad."
She watched the boy speedster continuing to process this. "What sort of girl are you looking for, anyway, Lil' Flash, that you couldn't consider a villain girl?"
"Smart and attractive and . . "
"You like smart girls?"
He nodded vigorously.
"That's a start. There are smart villain girls. Back to looks, blonde and blue eyed?"
"No, not just that, although maybe that."
"What if she looks very . . different?"
He shrugged. "That Argent hero girl from New Zealand has light gray skin and I think she's pretty hot."
Catwoman smiled. "Does she have to live near you?"
"What are you, the villain girl matchmaker or something?"
Catwoman only smirked.
"Well, even though I'm a super speedster, yeah, it would help if she lived around Jump City."
"That's where you're based?"
"That's funny, rumor is that that's where the little bat went."
"Yeah, to Jump City. Word is he's starting some kind of junior Justice League. That's what the gravpevine says."
"What?! He can't do that. There are-there are territories! Jump City is mine. Besides which, how can he have a team . . in my city without me?! You have a hero team, you include a bat, an arrow, a wonder and a flash, a super too, if you've got one. That little four foot high fascist is excluding me?! Freaking lawn gnome of the law! Motherfu-"
He caught himself as she chuckled.
"So . . . you're obviously not going to go running to the Boy Wonder with news of seeing me. Are you going to go report me to the Bat?"
He gave an expression she couldn't decipher.
"What? What does that mean?"
"Well . . " he began softly, "Me and the Bat aren't exactly pals. I kind of . . teabagged him . . "
She burst out laughing.
"I mean, not really," he quickly corrected, "not like . . technically. I wasn't . . . ! I mean, I was wearing something. I was wearing this," he gestured to the front of his uniform. "I fell on top of him and my . . . " he didn't try to explain further. "And there was a small problem up in the Watchtower and I took the blame for Speedy and Plas."
"Ahahaha!" She doubled over laughing and threw her head back with one last guffaw. "Oh, god, the image of the oh-so-serious Bat getting a face full of . . Speedster package! Ahahaha!"
"So, no, I won't be running to the Bat with the news. Besides, what did I see? I saw a pretty woman make some really impressive jumps and heard her say some thoughtful things. There's nothing wrong with impressive jumps . . . and I really like thoughtful women."
She was just reaching out to pat his orange haired head when, in a blur of red and yellow, he was suddenly gone and then just as quickly it seemed he was back. It was hard to tell, it happened in a tiny sliver of a second and then the blur left again. She was left there alone with the faint sounds of the city 12 stories below. She was trying to make sense of it when she suddenly noticed that there was a rose in her hand, a white rose.
The quote about the bad girls not being as bad as you think, not nearly as bad is from a terrific old movie, The Lady Eve, which I highly recommend to you.