Artemis loved this. The fight, the hunt, the twirling, the chase, the twang of her bowstring, the feather between her fingers, Artemis did not seek out war but it was an expression of the hunt and she was made to hunt. Her only concern was that the quiver was running low and the approaching hoard didn't seem to be slowing. Not for the first time that day she wished for her brother's return, the twins fighting together, the sun and moon in their dance. Arrows firing in tandem.
Still, the scent of the hunt was marvellous; Artemis had tasked herself with hunting out the core of this fight. Every hunt had a core, a prize, the ultimate kill; she would find it in this one. She released another arrow and smirked with satisfaction as the blood of the great beast splattered her face. An excellent kill, but not the one she was looking for.
She had one wound, a small one. Artemis grinned, it had been a long time since she'd seen her own ichor, the golden blood of the gods, and it reminded her of the thrill of this hunt. It had been many years since she'd had a challenge like this. In this modern era good hunts were few and far between. The goddess fought on, losing track of time.
A tingling ran through Artemis but the goddess ignored it as she plunged an arrow into the heart of a foe. Then a call rang across the mountain, the horn of Hermes -the order for the gods to retreat to the temple of Zeus for a final press. Artemis scowled but obeyed, "Cowards," she hissed. "Zeus probably skinned his knee. We are far from beaten. We are immortal, they are not."
Weaving and dodging smoothly through the corpses she made her way back to the temple as requested, her flight feet leaving her opponents behind. She had been on the fringes, waiting to surround their enemy while the heavy hitters remained at the core. She could just make them out a vast mob of energy swirling and battling, dust rising, a great ruckus. She pulled another arrow from her bow and took aim from a distance, a large Minator getting her attention. Just before she could fire a hand grabbed her arm and pulled her behind a nearby column. The arrow fired off into the air.
Artemis cursed at her assailant, prepared to pummel them then her eyes widened in surprise when she saw Athena crouched before her. Still Artemis was angry, "Athena," she hissed, "what are you doing? I had a perfect shot." Then she did a double take, "why are we hiding from these mortal fools?"
"Because it is the best tactic," Athena whispered, "we have little time Artemis. You must listen to me, I need you to flee this fight and go to Earth."
The goddess of the hunt looked indignant, "Flee? Never. We will defeat these fools even if it takes a thousand years."
Athena shushed her, "We don't have a thousand years Artemis, we don't even have a day. This is a fight we will lose." She cut Artemis off before she could protest again, "Look at your arm, I see you are wounded."
"It matters not…" Artemis began, then paused, confused at what she was seeing. It was hard to make out against the monsters blood splattered along her person but, "I'm bleeding." Artemis breathed. The little red line oozed from her cut, not the golden ichor of gods but the pathetic red blood of morals.
"We all are." Athena confirmed, "somehow Enyo has turned us mortal."
"Impossible," Artemis breathed.
Athena smiled wryly, "Apparently not." She grew serious again, "Artemis listen to me. You need to go to Earth, speak to Diana and warn her of the danger to her daughter." Athena cut off Artemis' protest, "I'm sure you've heard the rumours, that she was only brought back to life to save us later on."
"Of course," Artemis said, "Aphrodite was gossiping to everyone, but that's surely just a rumour."
Athena nodded, "As far as I know but Enyo is here to free Ares and Ares isn't going to take that chance. He'll hunt her down and kill her just in case, not to mention what satisfaction he'd get from killing Diana's child a second time."
Artemis nodded curtly, it fit with Ares, "Why don't you go?" She raised her bow, "I'll hold them off."
"It needs to be you Artemis," Athena said urgently, "Enyo will miss my presence here before yours. She'll think you're hiding in the bushes waiting to strike. Artemis, you must do this. And if anyone can get into contact with Apollo it will be you." The younger goddess took a deep breath and nodded. Athena smiled, "Don't worry, Apollo and I know what we're doing. Find Diana, tell her she needs to bring her daughter back to the ones she loves. Find Apollo and ask him about the prophecy, ask him if the rumours are real."
Artemis nodded, "Where is the young princess?"
"I don't know." Athena said.
Artemis was shocked, although she had known that Athena had put a blanket block to prevent all the gods from tracking Sarah of Themyscria she'd assumed Athena had made herself exempt, "What? She could be anywhere."
Athena adjusted her shining armour, "Diana's husband is a detective, he will search for her. This is also why you need to find Apollo, he may know where she is. A decade ago he set himself up as the child's patron."
Artemis' jaw dropped but before she could ask more questions Athena's sword raised into the air, "They're coming. Go Artemis, run. Gaia help us all."
The mortal goddess of the hunt went stumbling off, running into the forested part of the Mountain she knew well. The mortal goddess of war and wisdom threw herself into the enemy's path. As Artemis fled she could hear the screams behind her.
The pictures faded from their minds as J'onn's eyes lost their glow. The founders looked at the mortal goddess lying unconscious before them in the Watchtower infirmary. Despite the crowded conditions they'd managed to get her a single room.
J'onn resumed his ministrations, "Although I won't show you she had a difficult journey here without her powers and was pursued by many foes." Artemis didn't look well, she was pale, bleeding outwardly, had a broken arm and a nearby x-ray showed extensive internal bleeding. In short she looked like a human who had run from death itself.
"Diana," Bruce said, his tone unreadable.
That one word was all she needed, Wonder Woman snapped back to attention, "We need to rally the League. Enyo will free Ares and they will attack Earth together. Shayara, get the JLJ and put them somewhere safe, eventually Ares will come to finish what he started twenty-one years ago. Donna and I will rally the Amazons. John, see if you can call New Genesis and get us some gods of our own. J'onn, see how many League members you can patch up in time to fight. Wally, I need to you read every book you can get your hands on until we learn everything about Ares and Enyo. Kal, fly to the fortress and get that blade that cuts even your skin. Ares will not get another chance." Her eyes burned brightly. "And what are you waiting for?" She asked her husband, "Batman needs to track down Apollo and our daughter."
He stared at her then reached over and handed her a steel IV pole, "Snap it."
She stared at him like he was crazy.
"The gods are mortal, the same gods you get your powers from." He folded his arms, "We go nowhere until I know you're still at 100%."
She snapped it into two pieces and threw them at him, "Happy?"
"Somewhat." He just kept standing there. Clark tried to gesture at him from behind Diana's back that he better start moving or his wife was going to kill him. Bruce just stood there maintaining eye contact with Wonder Woman.
Diana snapped at him, "Don't you have a computer to go to or something."
"I'm already running every scan I can with the information we have." Batman said bluntly, "I'm waiting for you to calm down and let me tell everyone what we actually have to do." He saw her temper flare and continued, "Diana you're thinking emotionally. We all are. But this isn't a war to wage, this is a defensive battle. It's a race. Our first priority should be to find Sarah, not gather more data on gods we know everything about anyway or to force wounded Leaguers to fight before they're ready. Enyo timed everything perfectly."
"Bruce," Wally said, "I know you want to find Sarah and all but isn't Diana right? Shouldn't we be planning for war? He is."
Batman scowled, "No he's not. He is war. He doesn't have to plan for it. In terms of strength besides us calling New Genesis both sides are for war ready as they're going to be. We need to think like Ares and if Artemis' memories are right Ares is going to be thinking that he needs to neutralize Sarah. He's going to act like this 'prophecy'" Bruce's tone conveyed what he thought of the word, "is real, so we will too. First we find Sarah."
Diana's glared soften slightly.
"And how do we do that?" Shayara asked, her own detective skills peaked slightly.
Batman strode past the founders and they turned to follow him, "We talk to the one person we know she's spoken to who can remember it."
"Jay," Flash filled in, "the twins are with Linda, back in the conference room."
"We have to talk to Aaron too," John jumped in. Shayara sighed and rubbed her forehead, nodding in agreement.
Wally looked confused as they scuttled down the hallway, "Isn't he too little to remember Sarah?"
"Yeah," Shayara said, "but she said she's been watching him. He's a quick kid, maybe he's noticed someone hanging around." Batman nodded once.
Diana lagged behind slightly and called after them, "We have this too." She held up the next letter from the pile, a postcard that clearly depicted a mountain in Tibet. There was no writing on the postcard, just a swirling symbol in black calligraphy on the back. Batman backtracked and snatched it up immediately, examined it for five seconds. Then he barked into his communicator, "Come in Nightwing." There was a pause, "NOW"
A voice crackled in, "Hold your horses B, your grandson is terrorizing the Watchtower cafeteria."
"What is Apollo doing on here?" Bruce snapped, "it's not safe."
"Because," Dick was trying to sound patient, "all of our babysitters are either wounded, on clean-up or still on active duty. He'll be fine."
"Fine," Bruce said, "I need you to get Talia on the line. Now. I don't care what you have to do, storm the whole League of Shadows if you must. But do it now and do it fast."
Batman cut off Dick's question and slid the postcard into his belt. The founders were staring at him, "Keep moving people." Batman said herding them towards the conference room, "this just got significantly more complicated."
When they burst into the room the two women in the center of it didn't even flinch. "Took you long enough," Lois said without looking up, "look what a couple of powerless reporters cooked up while you were gone."
The conference table was covered in photos and maps. Photo albums were piled up on the seats. Linda used shuffled a few photos around and then stepped back to admire their work, "Sarah's life," she explained, "as near as we can get."
There were dozens of photos of Sarah. Some were whole class photos from when she went to school with Jay, others were clearly more personal and pulled from the West's scrapbooks. A young Sarah smiling next to Jay, Sarah and Jay playing with a baby boy, Iris, Sarah and Jay in the West's kitchen, Sarah and Jay with a Wonder Woman project poster, Jay with his arm around Sarah, then there was a large gap. Finally there were a bunch of images of Iris, John Kent, Jay and Sarah before prom.
Linda held out a photo to Diana, "it's the most recent one I could find." The shot had caught Sarah mid-laugh as she adjusted Jay's bow tie, pulled in tight on their faces.
Diana ran her fingers over the image, "thank you," she said softly. Sarah had Bruce's eyes, her hair, her mother's nose.
A blur filled the room and FazeFlash stood before them, the papers rustled slightly but stayed put. Both women lived with speedsters, they knew to tack everything down. Iris pulled back her yellow sleeve and check a watch, "Right on time as directed," she chirped, "what's up?"
Linda's brow was furrowed, "I asked Jay to come."
"Yeah," Iris flapped her hand, "but he's busy, I owed him a favour. You just need something run somewhere right." Iris shrugged, "I'm faster anyway." Then she caught a glance at the table, "why are we so interested in Sarah Donnell?"
"Iris," Wally said sternly, "we need Jay."
Iris kept looking at the table, "Uh yeah Dad but like I said he's a little bit busy."
Batman leaned forward, invading her space, "Go get FlashBomb." He growled.
She shivered slightly, "Sure thing Uncle B, ten seconds, the teleporters are slow." The blur whisked away and returned. "Ummmmmm slight problem." She held out Jay's communicator, "I found it stashed in a bush."
Fear instantly appeared on Wally and Linda's faces.
Iris rushed to reassure them, "No, no, no, he's fine. Don't worry. It was clearly placed there. We ditch these things all the time when important stuff comes up. If we're moving fast enough you can't tell who it is anyway, we're just blurs. We cover for each other." Then her brain caught up to her mouth, "And we're going to get in a lot of trouble for that aren't we."
"So you have no way of contacting him." Linda crossed her arms in a way that meant Iris was severely in trouble later, Linda didn't care if she was 22.
"Um no." Iris blushed, "but seriously, what are you doing with all this stuff on Sarah?" She tried to change the topic.
Wally was flying past the room's monitors setting them to find his son as soon as possible, "Do you know what Jay's doing that's so important?" He paused long enough to say. Then he peered over Bruce's shoulder from where he was examining the pictures, "I always loved that one," he pointed to a shot of a smaller Jay and Sarah, "Rodger was great with a camera." Batman froze.
"Um no, not exactly." Iris said, "I mean this doesn't usually happen, Jay covers for me not visa versa." Iris shrugged, "It's usually for important dates, birthdays, that time I had to get the new Pauper or Princess album and had to wait in line, when Rex broke his wings. You know, important stuff. Knowing Jay it's something dumb like they're releasing a new video game, he'll be back soon I bet."
Linda put a hand out to slow her daughters motor mouth, "Iris, sweetie, it's okay. He'll turn up. I need you to think carefully before answering. I'm sure you remember Sarah Donnell?" Iris nodded, "When was the last time you saw her." Iris opened her mouth immediately, "Stop." Linda commanded, "think it through, be sure."
Iris paused, quirked her head a little and then said, "Last time I saw her in person would be prom. Last time I spoke to her would have been maybe three months after that."
Linda tried to keep her voice calm, it was later than anything else they had. The founders shifted in place, "What did you talk to her about?"
"Ummmm, well she didn't call to talk to me exactly. She wanted to talk to Jay but he wasn't home so I took a message." Iris was drumming her fingers rapidly on the table, she didn't meet her mother's eye.
"And what was that message?" Linda prompted.
Iris sighed, "She was saying goodbye. She wanted to tell Jay that he was right and that she was sorry and that she was going to be gone for a while. She didn't know if she'd see him again but to tell him that he was a great person even if they didn't always see eye to eye and she knew he was going to do big things. Then I asked her where she was going and she said that she was going to go find herself. She told me to look after Jay and to make sure that he knew that she wouldn't try to be that kind of gone again. Then she hung up." Iris shrugged. "I haven't heard from her since."
"You gave the message to Jay?" Batman asked.
"And how did he react?" Batman continued.
"Uh," Iris thought about it, "he smiled but it was kind of a sad smile you know? Like happy but sad."
"Anything else?" Batman pushed.
Iris' fingers beat the table faster, "Nope."
Wally jumped in before Bruce could call her on her obvious bluff, "Iris come on. This is important."
"Why?" FazeFlash jumped on the words, "Why is it so important? I'm not going to spill my bros personal stuff without good cause."
The founders exchanged the glances. Wally clearly wanted to say everything. Bruce nothing. J'onn took the middle ground, "Because Ares is coming."
Iris visibly blanched, Linda covered her mouth and instinctively reached out for her daughter, Lois made eye contact with Clark who nodded, and then sat back in her seat, hard. The founders waited expectantly.
FazeFlash swallowed, "Yep, that's a good reason. Okay, I asked Jay what it was all about and eventually got it out of him. A couple of weeks previously he'd met her as FlashBomb by accident," Iris paused and then continued, "She was trying to commit suicide, he'd talked her down from jumping off the edge of a building."
Excerpt from Jay's Journal
Long time no see huh? Like months worth and before that years worth. You were pretty dusty too, sorry about that but I've got to hide you really well. The team would never let me live it down if they knew an 18 year old guy still journaled (not a diary to anyone reading who shouldn't be, Jack I'm looking at you), not to mention the merciless teasing from Iris. Sheesh sisters. But I've got a story for you, one I don't think I should forget because it was important. This is where I write important stuff.
I saw Sarah again today. You remember Sarah right? Of course you do, she's all over a lot of these pages. Hang on, I forgot to put out the garbage. Back. Okay yeah Sarah. So I was out and about running through the city as always, stopping crime, being awesome, that whole deal. Suddenly I got an urge to eat Louie's French fries which was weird because I usually hate them but all I could see in my head was Louie's fry shop so I popped a couple cities over to grab a bunch. So I'm eating my fries in costume in an ally just beside the building when I happen to glance up and see this girl way up on like the 100th floor or something and looking down. I figure that can't be safe so I zip up there to tell her she should probably step back.
Then I get up there and I realize two things. 1) She intentionally standing on the ledge 2) It's Sarah. I couldn't help it, I didn't sound professional at all, I was just like, "What are you doing?" I shouted it and then just grabbed her arm and yanked her back, her foot was already over the ledge and we both sort of teetered and then fell backward. Then she shouted back at me.
"What are you doing? Let go!"
And then I was all, "You were about to jump off a building."
And she said, "So what? If I want to that's my prerogative, you heroes don't get to control everything." I kinda wanted to laugh because only Sarah would say prerogative in a situation like this and I was sad that she said heroes so meanly and I was confused because Sarah was trying to kill herself.
And then she climbed onto the ledge again and I pulled her back again. I said "I can't let you do that."
Then she asked me, "Why not? Is that some kind of hero rule? What you want goes ahead of what the individual wants because you've got powers. You can decide what's best for everyone. Well you can't. I make my own choices. You don't get to pick and choose who to save. I don't want saving, go save someone else."
I got a little scared there because Sarah looked super mean. But then I looked a little closer and I realized that she was crying too. Sarah almost never cries. But I tried to focus because FlashBomb doesn't know Sarah and said, "I don't have a clue what's best for people. I just try to save whomever I can, wherever I can find them. I don't pick. It's just chance. I run around and see who I can see. Maybe I wouldn't have seen you on any other day but today I had a craving for French fries and ended up here. No plans. Same as any other person, you just happen to see a kid falling out of a tree and you try to catch them. No ulterior motive. I don't pick. I guess well, the universe does."
She stared at me funny so I kept going, "Apparently today the universe wants you alive because it made me want French fries." I held out the carton, "want one?"
Sarah just kind of stared at me, but a little differently. Her eyes were scrunched up and she was biting her lip. You know, that look she gets when she's thinking. I guess it was a weird thing to say given the situation but I've always found that the simple stuff is the best. I can handle the simple.
Finally I just shook the cartoon a little and she finally reached out and grabbed one. Then she grabbed me by the front of my uniform and pulled me really close to her face. I could have stopped her but I didn't because the motion made her step farther away from the ledge. Plus she kind of caught me by surprise. So I was super close to her face and all I could think about was prom which was the last time I was this close to her face. Her eyes had looked so pretty they're this really unique blue with tiny little flecks of almost black in them. I'd told myself after prom that I was overdoing how pretty they were but apparently I wasn't.
Then she suddenly pushed me back and threw a fry at me, "No way, no way. Jay, is that you under there?"
Redheads blush, we can't help it. And it totally gave me away.
Sarah of course noticed immediately, "You're blushing like a traffic light. Jay, that is totally you. How does that costume fool anyone? A shock of red hair out the top, same chin and mouth, you're wearing the same cologne. Do you want people to figure it out?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." I blurted out.
Then she got that look that I'm really afraid of, the one that meant I just said something stupid. Not that I was stupid, but that I'd said something I was going to regret.
"You tell me the name of my little brother or I step off this ledge so fast even Flash won't be able to stop me." One look in her eyes said she'd do it to. All the adults would kill me but come on, it was Sarah! I couldn't just let her die and it didn't seem right to just whisk her off the ledge. With Sarah that just seemed wrong, like maybe I owed her this.
"Aaron," I blurted, "your little brother is Aaron, Sarah. Fine yes it's me. Happy?"
She stepped back off the ledge, stole my fries and plopped onto the ground, "Not really."
I sat down beside her, "You want to tell me what's going on here?"
I believed her. Most people would have pushed but you can't do that with Sarah. If she'd said nope, or naw then okay, she did want to talk. But no meant no with Sarah, you couldn't push her when things got bad. I still remember when her mom died, you couldn't even touch her without a recoil.
So we just sat there, silently, for hours. I turned off my communicator and we sat there and ate cold, disgusting French fries on the top of a skyscraper. Then eventually we got the bright idea to throw the fries up into the air and watch the seagulls catch them. It was like nothing else existed, like she wasn't in the middle of a suicide attempt, like I wasn't FlashBomb, it was just there. Two old friends not needing to say anything sitting on top of a building.
Eventually it had to end though. Sarah broke it. She was fiddling with the empty cardboard container, "So your dad…"
"is The Flash." I completed.
She just nodded. She didn't accuse him or bring up that day. She didn't apologize for the way she felt about him either or all the mean things she'd said about heroes. Sarah was Sarah. The Flash was my dad, I had his powers, it changed nothing and it changed everything.
We sat a little longer. "You should go," she said at last, "more whims to answer, people to save. I'm sure your team is looking for you."
I stood and extended a hand to pull her up after me, "Probably." I looked at her, it was my turn to speak about the things that were there but we were pretending weren't, "Sarah," she winced slightly, "look at me." That was maybe a little harsh in retrospect but she did, "I don't know why you were up here today or what drove you to it and I certainly don't know why I suddenly had a craving for those nasty fries." She smiled a little, "But if I know you I know two things." She quirked an eyebrow as she's inclined to do, "One, you are the nicest, smartest, most beautiful, kindest souled, strong willed, stubborn, competitive and best friend that I know." I cut off her evitable protest, "and two, the second you step off the edge of that building whatever it is that made you come here, it wins. And you Sarah, never settle for losing. Even when you don't make the top you're kicking and screaming until you get something better."
Then I kissed her on the forehead really fast, ruffled her hair and said, "you need me, I'm there in a Flash." And zoomed off.
Maybe it's stupid to leave suicidal girls alone on rooftops and I'm still wondering if I should have done everything really differently. But Sarah is Sarah and simple is best. I can handle the simple and to me Sarah is simple. And complicated. But simple.
So here's the deal, my laptop fried itself and i lost everything I'd written for these stories including partial chapters and outlines. I'm working rewriting it all but I want to thank you all for your patience. Enyo for those who don't know is basically a female Ares. It's actually kind of fun writing without an outline, I've got to remember the answers to all the questions i raised like where's apollo, where's sarah, how's talia involved, where did jay go, what's ares going to do, what prophecy, what happened to the gods, where's rodger, how's aaron?
I love to hear from you guys, reviews, requests, what you think is going to happen, the weather, things you hated, anything, complaints this was too long. Just need to update The Six and then I'll be back here!