Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

The Vile Vial

Scarlet Speedtrap

by David R. Black


Prologue: Run, Run, Run!

Highway Nine, on the outskirts of Central City.

Fifteen miles to go! Fifteen miles to go! I force myself to run faster than I've ever run before, but I know it won't be enough.

I allow myself a quick glance backwards, and sure enough, they're right behind me and gaining. My maximum speed is roughly Mach 1, which is nothing compared to the two angry Flashes behind me. Wally West can hit light speed, and Jay Garrick can ran just as fast as I can.

Imposing as heroes, they're even scarier now that our roles have been reversed. I'm the heroine this time, and they're the villains.

And I'm toast if Ivo's plan doesn't work.

My name is Nema Ewies…..They call me Whirling Dervish, and I'm one of the fastest women alive.

But I need more speed if this is going to work! C'mon, where's Christina?

In the Jihad, I ran to avenge my country. In Strikeforce Kobra, I ran to avenge my slain lover. Now I'm simply running for my life.

Allah, preserve me! How did I get into this mess?


Part 1: The Best Laid Plans

A few days earlier. A shuttle craft high above Keystone and Central Cities.

"We're what?"

"I said that our job is to secure both Central and Keystone Cities" said Professor Ivo to the group before staring icily at Count Vertigo. "And if that means subduing both Flashes, then so be it!"

"One Flash is enough, but two?" retorted Vertigo. "It's suicide! I may've had a death wish a few years ago, but now….Now I want to live! Live like never before!"

"And I wish to return home" I added. "Help rebuild Qurac and be a force for peace."

The shuttle suddenly fell silent, save for the mechanical whirrings of the IvoDroids piloting the craft. I looked around, noticing that my companions were either pensively studying the floor, like Ivo and Vertigo, or glancing out the window, like Christina.

We all had other things we'd rather be doing. The virus that had infected us was a mixed blessing. On one hand, we were no longer the miscreants society perceived us to be. We could use our talents to benefit the greater good rather than our own selfish desires.

On the other hand, the virus had made us realize all the harm we had done, all the hurt we had caused, and worst of all, that as villains, we had wasted precious years of our lives. Nothing feels worse than realizing how pathetic and foolish your life has been up to this point.

I don't regret fighting for my country and my beliefs, but I regret how I did it. The Jihad's methods and tactics seem so foreign to me now.

I look to my right and wonder what Christina Alexandrova regrets. She's a fellow speedster like me, but from Russia, where she once was a member of Blue Trinity. (What or who Blue Trinity is, I don't know. I hadn't heard the term until she mentioned it).

Does she regret working for Kobra? For Savitar and Vandal Savage? I know she must, for I see it in her eyes, half hidden by wisps of reddish orange hair.

Ivo spoke up, breaking the silence.

"I'll be honest with you," he said. "What we're doing may be dangerous, but deep down inside, it feels right."

"Like a taste of what could've been" interrupted Christina.

"Like atoning for past sins" added Vertigo, a hint of melancholy in his voice.

All three looked at me. I simply nodded.

"All right then" said Ivo, his voice rising like the sun breaking through darkness. "Here's the situation…."

He removed a remote control-type device from his trouser pocket and clicked it. A video screen descended gently from the ceiling overhead and came to a rest behind him.

"Our mission is tri-fold" Ivo began, as a video depicting the old Flash began playing. "First, we're to stop Jay Garrick. Sources say that he's building a massive cryonic device in and around all of Keystone City.

"The reasoning behind this is unknown, but he's been stealing the necessary equipment for the past week and a half. S.T.A.R. Labs suspects that he needs only one last component - their CryoEngine - to complete his device. Vertigo, you and I will set a trap for Garrick, using the CryoEngine as bait."

Vertigo silently nodded his agreement, and Ivo continued. A freeze frame shot of Wally West flickered onto the screen.

"Wally West's criminal behaviors show no apparent connection. One second he robs a bank, the next second it's a jewelry store, the next an entire shopping mall! Christina and Dervish, as our only speedsters, you'll be able to comb the twin cities for him faster than anyone else. If and when you find him, you're to subdue him……"

"How?" interrupted Christina. "He's the fastest man alive! If we find him, he'll just get away from us. He's way faster than Dervish and I."

Ivo pressed another button on his remote, and a pedestal emerged from the shuttle floor. On the pedestal were two sets of metallic cuffs.

"As you no doubt recognize" he said. "These are metahuman restraints on loan from the DEO. Place them on West, or any other metahuman for that matter, and when he tries to use his powers, he'll get an unpleasant shock of electric feedback."

"Get those on him and he won't be able to run at all" added Vertigo.

"That's right. Any questions?" asked Ivo.

"The third part?" I inquired.

"Ahh, yes. I forgot. Agents of Ra's al Ghul are suspected of plotting to release the virus in Central City. Captain Cold is already working to undercover the exact plans, and should the need arise, we're to help him."

"Should the need arise?" asked Christina suspiciously.

"Well, I think I have every angle of this worked out" replied Ivo, with just a hint of arrogance in his voice. "But, if anything, my experiences as a villain taught me that nothing ever goes according to plan."

"Remind me to tell you about my time in the Suicide Squad" muttered Count Vertigo.


Part 2: Fear The Reaper

Later that day. WayneTech Labs, Keystone City Branch.

"Don't make me take that from you, Lou" snarled Jay Garrick.

Lou Zinkland, the gray haired bespectacled assistant director of the lab, tightened his grip on a metallic box containing dozens of microthermometers.

"Jay, please, fight it!" begged Lou, knowing that if Jay wanted the box, he could grab it and be gone before Lou blinked. "This isn't like you! The recent thefts from labs around the region….."

"I finally realized what a sap I've been" snapped Jay. "All those years spent trying to save people were for nothing!"

"Jay, whatever do you mean?" Beads of sweat trickled down Lou's forehead, belying the calm tone in his voice.

"The people I've saved, the people I loved, my friends and colleagues……Most of them are gone! They're dead, Lou, dead!"

"Jay, you're over eighty! It's only natural that many of your friends have passed away….."

"Barry….Ted…..Johnny….." Jay's eyes mellowed at the memories of those he loved more than life itself. "Did you know that I went to memorial services five out of seven days last week?"

"I'm your friend, Jay. Let me help…."

"No! No more! I won't lose anyone else - especially Joan!" raved Jay. "Till death do us part, but I'll stave off death for us…..For all of Keystone!"

"No! I know what you're planning, and it won't work" replied Lou. "Something that large is impossible. Besides, de-"

Before Lou could utter another syllable, Jay removed the box from Lou's possession and was gone. A strong breeze was the only tangible evidence of the elder Flash's departure.

"-Death can't be postponed indefinitely by cryogenically preserving an entire city!" finished Lou, not realizing that he was now alone.


Part 3: Cold In Name Only

St. Maximillian Cemetery, on the outskirts of Central City.

"Hiya, sis. Brought some flowers fer you. Daffodils and buttercups, yer favorites."

Len Snart knelt and placed the flowers alongside the tombstone. It was a simple grave marker, sunk flat into the earth, and Snart brushed away the lingering piles of snow from atop it.

"Sorry I haven't visited in a while….Heck, can't remember the last time I was here" began Snart before removing his blue goggles so he could see better on the overcast February day. " I've been busy with the usual stuff. You know, robbing banks, bustin' in and out of jail, ending up in parallel dimensions…."

Snart's voice trailed off, and a single tear trickled down his face, landing on the fur lined collar of his blue and white costume. He stared at the gravestone, lost in thought.

Lisa Snart, read the inscription, 1972 - 1998. Beloved daughter and sister. May you glide up to heaven's golden gates. In the upper left corner was an engraving of a pirouetting figure skater.

"I remember that time when we were kids and Mom took us to the Ice Capists. Lord, you fell in love with the ice right away. Wanted to be a figure skater in the Olympics.

"And you remember our private eye firm from a few years back, right sis?" continued Snart, smiling at the warm memories. "Golden Snowball Recoveries. Call 1-800-GET-COLD. Gawd, we made a helluva team. I'd make the ice and you'd skate right down it and collar the bad guy…."

"You miss her, don't you?" I asked from a few feet behind him.

"What the hell?" yelled Snart as he jumped up and menacingly pointed his freeze gun at me. "Gawd, don't sneak up on a guy like that!"

"Sorry." I replied. "Ivo wants to know if…."

"Tell Ivo that Captain Cold know what to do" snapped Snart. "My contacts in the underworld tell me that Ra's' agents will strike tomorrow evening at City Hall. I'll be there to stop them."

"I'm sorry for interrupting." I said gently. "Truly sorry….Speedsters like me aren't known for our tact. Always barging in unannounced."

"Dervish, I've fought Flash for years" smiled Snart. "I know all about him barging in at the wrong time."

"I was just paying my respects" he continued. "My sister was the Golden Glider, a member of the Rogue's Gallery just like me. Gawd, I miss her."

"I know," I whispered. "My brother died during Qurac's was with the Karrocan Empire, and my lover was killed while battling the Outsiders. I'd do anything to get them back for just one minute so I could tell them…."

"Tell them that you love them" finished Snart, turning to look at the gravestone once more.

We stood in silence for a few moments, the cold winter breeze blowing like a mourner's wail. He put his goggles back on and walked towards me.

"C'mon, Dervish. Let's get out of here" said Len Snart, alias Captain Cold, as he put his arm around my shoulder. "This is depressing."


Part 4: Standing Eight Count

The next day. S.T.A.R. Labs.

"Just relax, this won't hurt a bit" said Dr. Marie Martin, an attractive brunette in her mid thirties, as she put a dab of rubbing alcohol on Count Vertigo's left arm.

Vertigo closed his eyes as Dr. Martin stuck a needle into his arm and drew a sample of his blood. Needles made Vertigo feel nauseous, and this time was no different.

"Unnnnh….What's this got to do with stopping the Flash?" questioned Vertigo, trying to keep from thinking about the needle.

"Nothing really" replied Dr. Martin matter-of-factly. "But if we're ever to find a cure for this virus, we need to determine how it works. I'm curious to know how this has affected your…..condition. I heard it resurfaced a year ago."

"You mean my manic depression." Vertigo replied candidly. "My good days now outnumber my bad days, and I feel….I feel like I've never felt before."

"Hmmm, the virus may have counterbalanced the chemical imbalance in your brain" postulated Dr. Martin. "But I'd need to run more tests to determine…"

"You say you want to find a cure" interrupted Vertigo, looking the doctor straight in the eye. "But what if I don't want to be cured?"

********************************

"We can't let Garrick get the CryoEngine! Ivo, are you sure this will work?"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" asked Ivo angrily.

"Well, your track record is less than stellar" said Dr. Olaf Johannson, the director of S.T.A.R.'s Keystone Branch.

Lou Zinkland, having arrived to tell them of Jay Garrick's most recent theft, nodded his agreement.

"Fine! You try outwitting the JLA" huffed Ivo before calming down. "Trust me, I know what I'm doing."

"And besides," he added as he patted the side of a large, seven foot tall wooden crate next to him. "I've got an ace in the hole, just in case."

A security guard entered the office and whispered into Johannson's ear before leaving briskly.

"Get ready, Ivo" said Johannson. "He's headed this way."

********************************

The lab's high ceilinged entryway, Ivo's hand picked location to stage the ambush, was empty save for Ivo's wooden crate and the CryoEngine. The CryoEngine rested against the rear wall, as far from the outer doors as possible. Stationed on the second floor balconies which overlooked the entryway were numerous S.T.A.R. security guards, each equipped with the latest and greatest laser rifles money could buy.

Ivo stood nervously at the top of the stairway leading to the lower level.

"Did you position the IvoDroids as I asked?" he said to Vertigo, who was standing to his left.

"Yes, all we need now is….."

"The Flash!" shouted one of the security guards as a red blur burst through the double doors and came to a sudden stop in the entryway.

"Now!" screamed Ivo.

Guards burst from their hiding places behind the balcony railings and fired their weapons into the entryway below. Having paused long enough to get his bearings (and realize that he'd been set up), the Flash resumed running, heading in the general direction of the CryoEngine. The smell of laser scorched carpet filled the air as the guards kept up their bombardment.

Bobbing and weaving through the laser bursts cost Jay a few extra seconds, but he had already removed the CryoEngine from two of its four moorings before Vertigo swooped down from above.

"Cease and desist" ordered Vertigo tersely. "Or else."

"No! I'm doing this to save Keystone!" shouted Jay as he unhooked the third and fourth moorings.

Vertigo responded by stretching his arms out from his body, forming an inverted v. Wave pulses radiated outwards from his palms and toward the elder Flash.

Vertigo's powers wrecked havoc with an opponent's inner ear. The electromagnetic pulses he emits make the inner ear fluid vibrate and slosh around, as if caught in a washing machine's spin cycle. The result was always consistent - dizziness, disorientation, and vertigo.

Jay Garrick was feeling all of those things.

Dropping to his hands and knees, Garrick writhed in agony. Distracted by the pain in his ears (it felt like the worst ear infection he had ever had), Jay forgot about the security guards above, who were still firing at him. One shot found its mark, and Jay howled in agony as the laser tore into his backside, ripping a hole in his red shirt.

"You don't understand" pleaded Jay. "I've lost so many friends to the ravages of time….Please, no more…."

"I don't understand! I don't understand! snarled Vertigo, his mood shifting violently. "My whole country was destroyed by one of your comrades! Vlatava! Everyone and everything I've ever loved!"

Vertigo signaled to Ivo, and two IvoDroids came rushing out from their hiding places behind the wooden crate next to the CryoEngine. They held metahuman restraint cuffs, and ran towards Garrick, readying to apprehend him.

Jay saw the IvoDroids approaching, and fighting the nauseating sensation caused by Vertigo's powers, he managed to stand up. The first droid reached for Jay's wrist, but Jay anticipated the move. He grabbed its lower arm and landed a succession of blows to its shoulder in lightning quick fashion. Jay tugged on the droid's damaged arm and severed it at the shoulder.

Wielding the severed arm like a baseball bat, Jay beat back the two droids, then wheeled and threw it directly at Vertigo. Unable to react in time, the metallic arm struck Vertigo flush on the jaw, and he fell to the ground below.

Jay grabbed the CryoEngine and started towards the door, but still dizzy, accidentally careered into one of the walls. Lasers rained down on him as he struggled to his feet.

"Your backup! Do it now!" hollered Dr. Johannson, in one of the balconies above, to Ivo.

Ivo nodded and pulled a lever on a nearby computer console. The seven foot wooden crate at the far end of the ground floor opened up, and a metallic form emerged from within.

"New and improved, I present…..Amazo 2001!" shouted Ivo dramatically to no one in particular.

Amazo, who in a previous incarnation had stolen the powers of the entire Justice League, lumbered over to the fallen Flash. Garrick tried to stand up, but toppled over again, his inner ear having yet to fully recover. Looming above Garrick, Amazo's 'mirror genes' began mimicking those of the Flash. The robotic mirror genes effectively allowed Amazo to replicate the superpowers of any metahuman.

And now, despite having superspeed, Amazo remained motionless.

"Capture him! Capture him!" shouted Ivo to his creation.

Sensing something was amiss, Amazo refused. His creator was acting differently….benevolently…..and that was unusual.

"Ivo! What the hell's he doing?" shouted Johannson.

"I don't know….He should want to help apprehend Flash! Amazo was exposed to the virus at Belle Reeve…." stammered Ivo. "Robotman and Cyborg brought us both in. I was standing right next to him!"

Amazo lurched towards the security guards and began attacking them, trying to get to Ivo.

"Offhand, I'd say he wasn't affected by the virus!" cursed Johannson. "Ivo, you imbecile! Why didn't you check beforehand?"

"I-I-It didn't occur to me."

In the resulting confusion, Jay Garrick regained his balance, grabbed the CryoEngine, and zoomed out of the building.

"Damn it!" yelled Johannson at the sight of the fleeing Flash.

Amazo's forearm smashed into the balcony, creating a gaping hole and causing security guards to spill out onto the floor below.

"Can't you shut him off?" yelled Johannson to Ivo.

"Y-Yes. I can override his positronic brain with the push of a button" replied Ivo.

Reaching into the pockets of his white lab coat, Ivo pulled out a fistful of remote control devices. Each one had numerous switches and buttons on it.

"Now, let's see, I think it's this one" mumbled Ivo as he pressed a red button. "Nope, that didn't do it. Maybe this one…."

Regaining consciousness to the sounds of the conflict, Count Vertigo clambered to his feet, then launched himself into the air towards Amazo.

"Let's see if robots can get dizzy!" he shouted.

Amazo turned to confront the blonde haired Count, and ran towards his new opponent at superspeed. Vertigo barely had enough time to react, but luckily for him, Amazo's stability subroutines were just as affected by his powers as were the Flash's ears.

Amazo tumbled to the carpeted floor with a thump, and Vertigo kept his distance, making sure the robot couldn't mimic his powers, too.

"Now I remember! It's this button!" exclaimed Ivo happily as he fiddled with another device.

With a loud whirring sound, Amazo's body went limp and slumped over, deactivated.

"Whew! Got us outta that jam just in time, didn't I!" boasted Ivo.

Vertigo, Johannson, and the remaining security guards all glared angrily at the absent minded professor.


Part 5: East Meets West

The kitchen of Wally West and Linda Park's home.

Joan Garrick hastily dialed 911 on the phone next to the refrigerator while nervously watching the unfolding argument out of the corner of her eye.

"Get your hands off me, Wally! Don't touch me!" ordered Linda Park, her face contorted in anger.

"But…But, Linda…..At least look at what I've brought you!"

Wally opened a brown sack labeled 'Leslie's Jewelers' and pushed it towards his wife. Inside were hundreds of precious gems - rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds, to name a few. Linda's eyes grew wide at the sight, but she quickly pushed them away.

"You don't like them?" asked Wally, a puzzled look on his face.

"No, I don't like how you got them." answered Linda, shaking her head. "How many stores did you rob to get those?"

"Police are on the way, dear." Joan interjected gently.

"Yeah, like they'll get here before I'm gone" snorted Wally.

Joan sunk into a nearby chair, afraid of the angry young man whom she cared for like a grandson. Joan knew what the virus had done to Wally and her husband Jay, and she didn't hold them responsible, but nonetheless, it frightened her to see the dark sides of two men she loved so dearly.

"Wally West, get out of my house!" commanded Linda.

"I'm only doing this because I love you" said Wally tenderly. "I want to give you all the finest things the world has to offer…."

"You've got a funny way of showing it, becoming a one man crime wave" she retorted. "If you really want to do something for me, work on finding a cure for the virus."

"What! And go back to being Wally West, deadbeat husband?" he shouted. "As a full time hero, I didn't get paid squat! I run around with the JLA all day while you bust your butt working to pay the bills!"

"Wally, that doesn't matter to me…."

'What kind of husband was I, using my powers unselfishly instead of for our own benefit?" asked Wally. "Well, that's changed now. No more worrying about bills, baby, when you're married to the fastest thief alive!"

"I'm not married to a thief" replied Linda, pushing a lock of black hair behind one ear. "I'm married to a hero. You may physically be Wally, but you're not my Wally."

Joan Garrick nodded her head in agreement, having had a similar discussion with Jay.

********************************

Christina and I had no real plan as we went about trying to find Wally West. We simply ran throughout Central City at top speed, looking for any sign of him.

Wearing a slightly modified version of her Blue Trinity costume (having replaced the white star with a white thunderbolt running down the front and adding a mini-cape in the back), Christina was nothing more than a fast moving blue blur to those we sped past. In my tight fitting purple spandex pants and matching halter top, I suppose I was a purple blur.

Having reached the city limits without finding him, we doubled back and began our search anew. Fate smiled upon us, and while passing West's home, Christina saw him through an open door.

We slowed to a stop and hid ourselves behind the overgrown shrubbery near the door.

"Do you have a plan?" I asked, knowing that Christina had more experience dealing with other speedsters than I did.

"No, not really." she confessed. "He's faster than both of us, so we'll have to rely on the element of surprise."

"OK. He seems distracted, talking in there. Maybe we can rush him…."

"…and then slap the restraints on him!" finished Christina. "Good idea. Ready to go on the count of three?"

I nodded.

"Three!"

We zoomed through the open door and into the kitchen. By the time West had noticed our presence, we were already upon him. Christina grabbed his left leg, I grabbed his right, and picking him up, we used our momentum to slam him into the cabinet behind him.

With a thud, all three of us smashed into the cabinet and toppled to the floor. Dishes bounced out of the cabinet and shattered as they rained down upon us.

"Get him!" I yelled to Christina, as I struggled to regain my grasp on West. Hitting the cabinet had dazed me more than I expected.

Christina went to apply the restraints but was too slow, despite moving speeds over a couple hundred kilometers an hour. West began to vibrate his molecular structure at a faster rate, and the restraints passed through his ankles as though he were immaterial.

"Too slow, gals!" harrumphed West as he quickly stood up.

"Don't know you" he said, grabbing my long ponytailed hair before I could react. "So I won't be as rough."

Picking me up, he threw me into the kitchen table. I struck it with such a force that it splintered into pieces. Joan Garrick and Linda Park shielded themselves from the flying wooden bits of table, which was a good thing since I was in no position to help them.

"Awright, who's next?" shouted West.

"You bastard!" yelled Christina as she charged at him.

"A-ha! Christina Alexandrova! " mocked West as he grabbed her wrist in mid punch. "Heard you were in town with Ivo. What're you calling yourself this time? Lady Flash? Lady Ivo? Or is it still Lady Savitar?"

Christina struggled to free herself from his grasp while he rocketed around her at superspeed, pummeling her with a thousand super fast punches.

"Unnnh….Damn you…." moaned Christina.

"So the Flash family's little emotional sponge is giving playing heroine another shot" laughed West unmercifully. "How cute…."

Dropping her to the floor like a limp dishrag, West ran towards the open door.

"See ya around, toots!" he said to Linda before speeding away.

********************************

When I came to, Joan Garrick was wiping my forehead with a cold washcloth.

"Just lie still for a bit" she told me. "That was quite a nasty spill you took."

"Chr-Christina?" I mumbled.

"She's fine. Already sped off to help Captain Cold with some crisis downtown" Joan replied.

"Yeah, she even apologized to me for trying to ruin my honeymoon!" interjected Linda from across the room. "Really turned over a new leaf."

"Y-Yes." I replied.

"Shhhh….just rest." ordered Joan gently. "If you're anything like my Jay, your super fast metabolism will have you fixed up in a few minutes."

I nodded and gazed at the caring elderly woman before me. The white hair, the face creased with wrinkles, the glasses….Joan Garrick, if only her skin were a tad darker, could've been my own grandmother. She had that same loving aura about her as she tenderly tended to my wounds.

I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. Were I still a member of the Jihad, we would be waging war on our country's enemies. And Joan Garrick would've been one of them.

"We're not so different after all…..Not at all…." I whispered.


Part 6: Cold Shadow

Dusk. An alley alongside Central City's courthouse.

The setting sun cast shadows across the plaza in front of the courthouse. From his hiding place in a nearby alley, Captain Cold could make out the silhouetted forms of the television and newspaper reporters gathered at the bottom of its steps.

They swarmed like mosquitoes, kept back by a thin blue line of police officers who protected the steps as if they were sacred ground. Behind the gaggle of reporters was a medium sized crowd consisting of protesters, curious on-lookers, and assorted others. Officers mounted on horseback patrolled through the crowd, keeping it orderly and under control.

"Whoo-ee! Crowded place like this is a perfect place to release the virus" uttered Cold to himself.

"And I'll make sure you do no such thing" came a voice from the shadows behind Cold.

"What the…? Who said that?" asked Cold as he looked but saw no one there.

A man dressed in a purple, kevlar lined bodysuit and wearing a silver headpiece and mask stepped into the light, becoming visible.

"I did" said the costumed figure. "With both Flashes gone bad, someone has to stop you. And Argus is just the one to do it."

"Argus?" wondered Captain Cold aloud. "Oh right, the second-rate 'New Blood' hero who turns invisible in shadow. Haw! Haven't you read the papers lately, bub?"

"No. Been busy recapturing mobsters and other criminals who escaped…."

"Yeah, yeah. During that thing the press has dubbed 'Villainy on Vacation'" said Cold impatiently. "I know all about it. Now c'mon, go away. I need to stop Ra's' agents."

"You mean you're not here to free Acquava?" asked Argus, a bit bewildered.

"Haven't a clue what you're talking about."

"Emil Acquava. Head of the Combine, big time crime gang." Argus said. "Escaped from prison with all the others. I recaptured him. His preliminary trial is going on right now in the courthouse."

"Hmmm…that explains the crowd" Cold replied, before his voice took on a suspicious tone. "Say…You didn't take Acquava to Belle Reeve when you caught him, did you?"

"No, why would I go there? Central City has plenty of jail cells…."

"Good. Means I can trust you." replied Cold, satisfied that Argus hadn't been exposed to the virus. "You know about Ra's' agents too?"

Argus nodded affirmatively. "Thought you were one of 'em. Sorry."

"Awright, enough jawing. We gotta find 'em before it gets too dark or we'll never stop 'em" said Cold matter-of- factly.

Both men scanned the crowd for signs of suspicious activity, but already it was too hard to see clearly. In the falling darkness, shapes and forms blended together, making the crowd seem like a massive sentient blob.

"Wait! Up on the courthouse roof!" exclaimed Argus.

"Don't see anything except those bright spotlights" replied Cold.

"Oh, sorry. I forgot that not all people can see the infrared portion of the spectrum" apologized Argus. "My Argus-Vision registers the heat signatures of four men up there. Pretty suspicious. C'mon, let's go."

"Awright, lead on."

********************************

"What are we waiting for, Pedro?" We should release the virus into the crowd now! " exclaimed one of Ra's al Ghul's agents, dressed head to toe in black.

"No. Our orders are to wait until the district attorney and police commissioner exit the courtroom" came the harsh reply from another agent. "Expose as many prominent figures to the virus as possible."

From their places atop the roof, the four agents had a clear view of the plaza and the courthouse steps. Better yet, because of the large spotlights pointing downwards, no one on the ground could see them. Those happening to look up would see only the bright glare of the lights.

Below, the courthouse doors opened, and the four agents readied to release their microscopic weapon. Each held a specially built flare gun designed to shoot a vial of the virus into the crowd below. Upon hitting the ground, the vial would shatter, releasing the virus and turning moral, law abiding citizens into amoral anarchists.

The district attorney, with the police commissioner right behind him, stepped out and began to address the media.

"On my mark, prepare to fire!" ordered the head agent.

"Oh no you don't!"

Captain Cold leapt from the shadows, and wasting no time, turned his freeze gun on the agent nearest to him. The cryogenic blast encapsulated the man's lower body in a solid block of ice, preventing him from moving while still allowing him to breathe.

Argus, being invisible in the nighttime darkness, had crept up behind two other agents. He quickly subdued them, knocking them out with a strategically placed nunchuka blow.

The fourth agent, the one called Pedro, managed to fire before either hero had reached him.

"Damn it!" yelled Cold as he grabbed Pedro by the collar and shook him. "I have half a mind to throw you down there, too!"

"Don't think so" said Pedro as he removed another virus vial from his pants pocket, crushing it in his free hand. "I've just exposed you to the virus as well!"

"Big deal!" snapped Cold as he landed a left cross to Pedro's jaw. "I've already got it. Can't affect me one bit."

Cold released Pedro and looked down at the crowd below. Sure enough, a full scale riot was underway, with police officers and citizens alike gone berserk. Interestingly enough, noticed Cold, Emil Acquava - the imprisoned mob boss - seemed to be trying to restrain the crowd and bring it under control.

"C'mon Argus, we gotta get down there and help Acquava" said Cold with a sense of urgency. "I'm calling in backup, too. Christina or Dervish can contain the crowd easier than…."

"Ah-choo! Ah-choo!"

"Argus, what're you…." gulped Cold as he came to a sudden realization. "Uh-oh….You weren't exposed to the virus before….That means….."

Argus leapt at Cold, and with a well placed nunchuka blow, knocked his freeze gun from his hand.

"You'll do no such thing!" roared Argus, his eyes wild and crazy. "Anarchy will prevail over order!"

"Damn it! Double dog damn it!" shouted Cold as he rolled backwards, kicking Argus off of him.

Argus tumbled into the shadows and disappeared from sight, but Cold could hear him moving about, ready to pounce like a cat.

"OK. No freeze gun and I gotta fight a dude I can't see" said Cold sarcastically. "I got a snowball's chance in…."

WHACK!

Cold skidded across the rooftop as Argus landed an uppercut to his chin. Quickly scampering to his feet, Cold noticed his gun lying a few yards away and made a mad dash for it.

CRACK!

A well placed kick sent Cold toppling to the ground once more, but Argus had unintentionally kicked him towards the gun. Grabbing it, Cold fired haphazardly into the darkness, hoping to land a lucky shot.

WHAM! BAM!

A series of punches to Cold's midsection sent him crashing into the rooftop's half wall. Grabbing hold of one of the spotlights to steady himself, Cold was seized by a stroke of ingenuity.

"A guy who hides in the dark," theorized Cold as he ripped the spotlight from its mountings, "Shouldn't like bright lights!"

Pointing the spotlight directly in front of himself, Cold heard Argus shriek in pain as the light pierced his darkness accustomed eyes. As Argus tried in vain to cover his eyes with his hands, Cold seized upon his momentary advantage and encased Argus in a block of ice.

"Damn second-rate hero" wheezed Cold as he glared at the frozen Argus. "You make an even worse villain."


Part 7: Building a Better Mousetrap

The next day. S.T.A.R. Labs.

Ivo, Christina, and Dr. Johansson sat idly around a large table in a conference room while Count Vertigo paced on the far side of the room, occasionally stopping to stare out a window.

"Look, Johansson, I don't understand what this is all about. Gathering us together like this…" complained Ivo.

"All will be explained shortly" said Johansson tersely. "Just wait until….Ahhh, here they are now."

Captain Cold and Dr. Lou Zinkland entered the room, talking animatedly.

"Never gotten down to absolute zero before" admitted Cold to Zinkland.

"With a few modifications, I could get it there" interjected Zinkland excitedly. "Your weapon really is a technological masterpiece."

Cold blushed a bit at the compliment, and the two men took their seats.

"Now that most of us are here" began Johansson. "The staff and I have been working on a plan to corral both Flashes."

"Hey, wait! What about my other plan? Plan B!" asked Ivo, rising from his chair.

"Quite frankly, your last one…."

"Plan A stunk!" Vertigo said flatly. "Almost got us killed."

Ivo sunk back down into his chair and began skulking.

"The question we've attempted to answer is; How do you stop two men, one of whom can run at near light speed?" asked Johansson.

"Slow 'em down somehow" answered Christina.

"Exactly!" exclaimed Dr. Johansson, his eyes brightening. "A colleague of ours, Dr. Lene Vestergaard Hau, has recently developed a means of stopping light."

Ivo sat upright in his chair. "I've heard of that," he said. "She created a trap using magnetically chilled sodium atoms to create a Bose-Einstein condensate."

"Yes, essentially a quantum lockbox" continued Johansson. "Illuminating the atoms causes electromagnetically induced transparency, rendering normally opaque atoms transparent. The result is that anything moving at light speed is halted to a stop upon contact with the field."

"Like a fly trapped in amber!" smiled Ivo. "A speedtrap for the Scarlet Speedsters!"

"Right! Up until now, we couldn't build the device on a larger scale" explained Dr. Zinkland. "We couldn't keep the sodium atoms cold enough. But with Captain Cold's help, I think I can modify his freeze gun to do exactly what we need."

"This scientific stuff is way over my head" sighed Vertigo.

"Ditto" admitted Christina. "But how do we lure Flash into the trap?"

"I think I have the answer" I said, entering the room. Accompanying me were Joan Garrick and Linda Park.

"Dervish! I wondered where you slipped off to!" exclaimed Ivo.

"Ms. Park and Mrs. Garrick have agreed to help us," I informed the group. "By providing us with the perfect bait."

I opened a small pouch on my costume's belt and produced two rings. Two wedding rings, to be exact, one from each woman.

"Wally and Jay still love us" explained Linda. "But in their own twisted ways. Use the rings to convince them that you've got us, holding us hostage or something, and I'm sure both will come running after you."

"And Jay wants me with him in that cryogenic contraption he's building" added Joan.

"OK, that answers part of my question" said Christina. "But how do we lure them into the trap without them catching us first?"

"West's definitely faster than Christina and Dervish" admitted Ivo. "Because he's slowed with age, Garrick's probably slightly slower than either of you."

"What if Christina and Dervish ran side by side, then one lent all their speed to the other?" asked Cold. "I've seen West lend his speed to others. Heck, he did it to me once."

"Only he can do that" said Christina dejectedly. "It's in his genes or something…."

"Wait a minute! Amazo can perfectly mirror West's powers!" said Zinkland excitedly.

"Yes, but you'd need to expose him to some of West's genetic material first" explained Ivo. "And with his positronic brain turned off because of yesterday's incident, he can only be programmed to do what I tell him. No built in reactive mechanisms."

"I'm no scientist, but when the Flash beat up Christina pretty bad yesterday, perhaps…."

"Hey, he whipped you pretty bad, too!" harrumphed Christina.

"No, I see what you're getting at" realized Ivo. "When he punched Christina, microscopic pieces of his skin cells flaked off with each punch. Forensic scientists often find intact DNA under the fingernails of murder victims who fought with their assailant. If I can get West's DNA from one of Christina's bruises, Amazo can replicate his powers!"

"Well, people, what're we sitting around for?" exclaimed Vertigo. "Let's do it!"


Part 8: Keep Me Running

Mid Afternoon. A cordoned off segment of Highway 9 on the outskirts of Central City

It was a crisp, sunny day, the rain puddles remaining on the road from last night's storm having mostly evaporated. We huddled together near the newly built machine like a football team readying for one last make or break play.

"OK, Dervish, the trap's all set" said Ivo, motioning at the large machine behind him. "You just get him here and we'll do the rest."

"She knows the plan" snapped Christina. "Just remember, go too fast and you'll wind up in the Speed Force."

"OK" I said, despite not fully comprehending what she meant. Christina had told me that the Speed Force was a Valhalla type dimension from which speedsters draw their powers, but that sounded ridiculous, not to mention blasphemous.

"I'm ready" I said as I turned and ran towards Keystone City.

Christina followed alongside me for a few miles before breaking off to prepare for her role in the ambush. On the outskirts of Keystone, I found Jay Garrick putting the final touches on his device designed to cryogenically preserve the entire city.

"There. That oughtta do it!" he said to himself. "Now all I need is Joan, and…"

"Hey, Flash!" I taunted from a safe distance. "Looking for your wife?"

I held up my right hand and showed him his wife's wedding band, securely on my ring finger below Linda Park's wedding band.

"What? What've you…..?" Jay gasped as his mind raced, imagining the worst.

"She's safe. Come and get her!" I exclaimed bravely as I pivoted and ran.

Sure enough, he followed me. Angry as a hornet, he raced behind me, but I was easily able to keep him from catching me. The true challenge was waiting for me in Central City.

I found Wally West in the midst of robbing the First Central Bank. While still managing to elude Garrick, I taunted West in a similar manner, and I soon found myself being chased by two Flashes.

Running up an on-ramp to the cordoned off section of Highway 9, I poured on the speed. Twenty miles to the trap! Twenty miles! At the speeds we were going, we would be there in minutes. I forced myself to run faster than I'd ever run before.

My legs pumping like pistons, I heard both Flashes gaining on me from behind. Both men were shouting insults and threats.

Two miles in the distance, I could see the first of our 'speed bumps' - mini traps designed to slow down the two Flashes. Atop an overpass, Count Vertigo was projecting his disorienting powers onto the highway below.

With the special filters tucked inside my ears, I was immune to his powers as I passed below Vertigo. Behind me, both Flashes bellowed in agony, but they still kept after me. Running at close to the speed of sound, Vertigo's powers hadn't affected them as much as we had hoped.

Fifteen miles to go! Fifteen miles to go! I push myself to go faster, but I'm fading. I can't run this fast for much longer. I feel West's fingertips at the nape of my neck, trying to grab me. I need more speed if this is going to work!

C'mon, where's Christina? Allah preserve me! How did I get into this mess?

From the corner of my eye, I see two blurs heading towards me - a blue one and a flesh colored one. Christina and Amazo! Reinforcements!

Angling in on Garrick, Christina slammed into him at full speed. I hear the metallic clank of Garrick's helmet as it hits the pavement, knocked off by the blow.

Amazo continues running alongside me, just as Ivo had programmed him to do. I wait a second before signaling the robot.

********************************

Slamming into Jay Garrick, Christina's momentum took them over the edge of the highway, and they tumbled head over heels down the embankment. Landing in a bog created by last night's rain, the two combatants found themselves covered in mud.

Christina's job was to apprehend Garrick using the restraint cuffs attached to the belt of her costume. Struggling to get upright in the mud, she removed the cuffs and leapt at Garrick.

He slapped at her hand, causing her to drop the cuffs. Eyeing them, Garrick lunged for them, but Christina grabbed him and pulled him back into the mud.

There was no need to speak as the two speedsters grappled and wrested in the mud. Christina flung mud, and Garrick retaliated in kind. By now, they looked like two mud monsters in a B-movie, slugging one another mercilessly.

Garrick, being fifty odd years older than his opponent, began to tire, and Christina took advantage of it. Grabbing the cuffs while Garrick caught his breath, she dove headfirst into the mud.

Locking her arms around his ankles, Christina pulled up violently and upended him. Garrick struggled to free himself, but Christina held tight. She fastened the restraining cuffs around his ankles, and when he tried to move, the cuffs delivered a strong electric shock that coursed through his body.

Weakened by the shock, Garrick stopped struggling, and Christian pulled him out of the mud.

"It's like that song says" said an equally wearied Christina as she wiped mud from her face. "It takes a red-headed woman to get a dirty job done."

********************************

I give Amazo the signal, and he reaches out, touching my shoulder with a cold metallic hand.

He pours all his speed into me, and it feels like a dam has burst in my body as the speed floods through my veins. My pupils dilate, my mouth opens wide, my heart pounds faster. Endorphins rush through my body, and it feels…..

It feels….It feels better than chocolate……better than a lover's gentle touch…..better than……

Better than anything.

Running at nearly light speed, I can no longer hear West's curses, but I know he's still behind me. Still there, wondering why the fastest man alive can't catch a young Arab girl.

I smile at the thought, and up ahead, I see the trap. Ivo's operating the controls on one side of the machine, while Captain Cold and Dr. Zinkland sit atop it, regulating the temperature using a redesigned version of Cold's freeze gun.

With West still in tow, I zoom through the machine. The aura of heat around me keeps me from feeling the extreme cold of the sodium atoms floating within the machine's innards, and as I exit it, my foot trips an infrared beam. The beam activates the machine…..the machine that can stop light!

I slow myself down, pirouetting in place like the whirling dervishes I derive my name from. The asphalt melts beneath my feet, creating a giant pothole. Coming to a stop, I glance back at the machine.

Ivo is hollering victory cheers, and Cold and Zinkland are shaking hands. Through the machine's transparent exit, I can see Wally West - the Flash - struck inside like a fly in amber.

Fatigued, I walk towards them slowly, and I notice Christina and Vertigo approaching. Vertigo carries the captured Jay Garrick in his arms, and both of my teammates' faces are lit up by smiles.

Facing east, towards Mecca, I drop to my knees and pray.

"I did - No, we did it!"

THE END

David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....

 
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