Funeral For a Flash, part 2
Mark Mardon had been a captured crook on his way to jail in a train the day his second life started. He'd jumped the train, found out it hurt a lot more when you hit ground than it seemed to in the movies, picked himself up, and started running. He made it all the way to his brother's house. His brother was a scientist. He was also dead.
Clyde Mardon had been working on a device to control the weather. Shortly before he keeled over at his desk from a heart attack, he had perfected it. Mark read of it, incorporated its elements in a long wand of his own design, and made himself a green mask and costume. Super-villains were raking in the big dough and big attention these days, and Mark figured he could pull off bigger and better robberies as one of them--as the Weather Wizard.
The heists did improve, and he was able to avoid the cops by blasting them with hailstones and lightning or causing ice to form under the wheels of their prowl cars. But being a super-villain brings you to the attention of super-heroes, and since he chose to work near Central City, that brought him into the purview of the Flash.
The Weather Wizard had made a good showing against him during their first fight, but he eventually lost and went back to the joint. Once inside, he learned the tricks of the trade from some of the other elite who had gone up with him. That group, which welcomed him as a brother, included good old Sam Scudder, Henry Darrow, Lenny Snart, and Al Desmond. In their suits, they were known as Mirror Master, Pied Piper, Captain Cold, and Mr. Element or Dr. Alchemy. They'd started an informal group they called the "Rogue's Gallery" and traded tips and information. There were others later on--Captain Boomerang, Heat Wave, the sadly-departed Top, the Rainbow Raider, and a couple whom Mark forgot--but he was the fifth, almost in on the ground floor of it.
One of the tips was: always stash a good portion of your loot where it won't be found when you get sent back to the joint. Because, fighting the Flash, you were inevitably going to be sent back to the joint. But you'd also get out, and it paid to have a nest egg.
Another tip was: don't kill anybody. Except maybe try and kill the Flash, because nobody seemed to hold that against you. But if you committed murder, you could expect to go up for the rest of your life, or maybe face Old Sparky. Central City was not Gotham and they didn't pack you away to Arkham there.
Another tip: Be nice to your fellow Rogues. Once you were in, you were a family man, and you were expected to help out in family duties. Such as the annual conventions, or whenever the boys got together and said this time, they really, really had a surefire plan to do in Flasheroo himself. They never worked, of course. You could tie the guy to a giant boomerang and send it into space, turn him into a puppet, make him into an old man, turn him fat, transform him into a mirror, hit him with heat and cold at the same time, even put grease under his boots, and he still managed to make it through.
But that was part of the job. Like Scudder said, "You might have more job security tackling cops. But if you want anybody to pay attention to you in the whole Midwest, you have got to take on the Flash!" So they did.
There was that thing about the Flash: deep down, despite all the aggravation the guy caused them, busting up their surefire crime-plans and sending them back to the joint...
...they all kind of liked him.
It wasn't really talked about in that way, of course. They still all tried to kill him. After all, he was the freakin' competition. But it was like the affection that builds between cops and petty crooks. Once you get to know the guy that well, if he's a decent sort, it's hard to hate him so much.
And the Flash was a decent sort.
He seemed to feel the same way about them, too. More than once, he said, "I'm glad I have guys like you to tangle with, and not the Gotham mobs or some megalomaniac like Luthor." But he also let them know that if they killed anybody, the gloves and good feelings would be off. So they didn't.
The Weather Wizard had gotten bored with the action in Central City and the sameness of its jail cells, so he was the first to branch out and tackle another hero. (Well, some of them had gotten into those jumped-up villain groups designed to fight the Justice League, but that didn't count.) He went to the East Coast and tried his luck in Gotham. After all, Batman and Robin didn't have powers. But they did have brains and hard fists, and he found out about both of those qualities. Once was all it took. He was glad to resume ops in Central.
Hell, once he'd even gone down to Blue Valley to try his luck against that undersized Kid Flash. Turned out the kid was paired up with Elongated Man on that gig. The Wizard lost, but at least it was another change of pace. So was a gig he got which put him at odds with Hawkman. Kind of fun, really.
But now it wasn't such a bright new world. Flash had taken down Professor Zoom, that nutty Reverse-Flash who hadn't really ever been One of the Boys, and he'd had to kill him to do it. The Rogue's Gallery had destroyed old Reverso's body for a send-off, then collaborated on the Big Sir thing, and Flash had gone to trial for murder. They figured he'd walk in a week.
The jury had convicted him, he went to the joint himself (hell, the Trickster was almost in tears about that), and he left to go to the 30th Century. That was the biggest bummer Mark Mardon had seen in all his days, outside of those trips to the joint. Who was going to take up where Flash left off?
Boomerang and Mirror Master had tried their luck with Batman. He'd warned them against it. Did they listen? Hell, no! They got their butts handed to them, Boomy more than once. Served ‘em right. If he never heard that ruddy Queensland accent of Boomer's again, he'd be satisfied.
Now...well, he'd heard that Flash might even be dead. But he didn't see how they could tell. If he was 1,000 years down the line, how would you get a death notice from there? Still, it didn't really matter. The Red Guy was gone, and the Rogues would have to make do with what they had.
Mardon was biding his time in a motel room in Ohio under an assumed name, with a disguise, and didn't think anybody could make him. Going down to the local McDonalds for a Big Mac, fries, and orange seemed totally secure. He'd been thinking about that notice he'd gotten from Lex Luthor himself, about a new Secret Society of Super-Villains. Kinda like One Big Union. But he wasn't sure he wanted to get involved with the Bald Guy. There was something about Luthor that just creeped him out. He had enough money stashed to get him by, anyway.
On his way down the street, a couple of muscular types in suits, looking vaguely foreign, had come out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere, but nowhere he was looking. He guessed that was the point. Mardon had yelled, "Help!" But one of them had stuck what felt enough like a gun barrel in his ribs to make him decide not to yell "Help!" anymore, or he might not be around to get any.
He tried reaching for the weather wand in the inner pocket of his jacket. One of the guys had said, "Don't," and grabbed his arm. He yelped in pain. A brown car was in front of them, at the curb. The door came open and he was shoved into the back seat. Another foreign guy was between him and the door. He ended up being sandwiched between them. This all took place in broad daylight and somebody really, really should have called the cops. Or maybe they did, and the fuzz just paused for one last donut.
Mardon tried to reach, slowly, inside his jacket again. "No," said the guy on his right, and jabbed him with something. He decided it was a needle, not a knife. It hurt like hell, anyway.
Within three seconds, he was unconscious.
Mardon was never quite sure how they got him on the plane. All he knew was that he woke up in a straitjacket, in a private aircraft, with an armed man covering him.
"Who are you?", was about all he could get out.
The man didn't say anything.
"Why did you take me?" he tried.
This time, the man, who had a handlebar mustache to go with his Uzi, said, "We are paid to."
"By anybody I know?"
The man looked like he wanted to bash Mardon with the Uzi, so Mardon said, "Forget it," and subsided. He noted his hunger, and said, "When do I get to eat?"
"Soon," said the man.
"Soon" proved to be after they had gotten off the plane, in a Middle Eastern airfield. Mardon was brought off in cuffs, but at least he was out of the straitjacket. Guarded by two armed men, he wondered how Flash would pull off a rescue in this position. He decided, not having super-speed or access to his weather wand, that it was currently out of the question.
There were onlookers at the airport. They looked at him sympathetically. He thought about calling out to them, but didn't know if they understood English or if his captors wouldn't cosh him over the head for trying it. He went quietly.
Into a car. Blindfold. He had no idea of which way he was being taken. That count-the-turns-the-car-takes thing was for the birds, as far as he was concerned. Especially if you knew nothing of the city to which you were taken.
The hard guys got him out of the car, still blindfolded, and marched him to a room. They guided him to a chair and had him sit down in it. A metal door closed. Finally, they yanked the blindfold off of his eyes.
It was a prison cell. He expected that, but at first he couldn't figure out which nation was holding him. Then Mardon's eyes focussed a bit more carefully. Most of the men in the room with him looked Arabic. One man, standing closest to him, wore a Russian Army uniform. Before him, on a table, enclosed in a glass and metal box, was his weather wand.
"You are telling us about wand, and how to duplicate it," said the Russian.
"It won't work for anybody but me," Mardon began, and the big Russian hit him in the mouth, very hard.
The Weather Wizard screamed in pain as he went over backwards, chair and all. In a moment, the sole of the Russian's boot was pressuring his forehead.
"You are teaching us how to duplicate wand," he said. "In larger version."
"Yes, yes," said Mardon, glad his mouth only contained loose blood, not loose teeth. "I are. I am. I will."
And Mardon, who had no idea whether or not God heard the prayer of a super-villain, nonetheless prayed that somebody would send in the Flash.
Wally West was running at near-Roemer speed to the Arab state that the CIA man had indicated was the place to which Mardon had been taken. Served him right to get nabbed by a group whose prisons made American ones look like resort hotels. But what was happening was something the government, and the JLA, had been worrying about for years.
Inevitably, if enough criminals created enough super-tech weaponry, sooner or later an enemy power was going to kidnap them and have them work on their side. Those boys generally had a looser view of civil rights, intellectual property, and restraint than the authorities in the U.S. In America, when they asked Mark Mardon to help them modify the weather or teach them how to, he said no, and that was that. In the state that Mardon had been taken to, saying no just got you a little more persuasion.
The Flash doubted that Mardon could take much pain, and thought he would be an idiot if he did. The state was a client of Gorbachev's boys as well. Whatever secrets he divulged to the state would be in the hands of the U.S.S.R., too. The CIA guy had told him that President Reagan was definitely watching this one, and Wally didn't blame him.
Weather control, in the hands of a government, would be more than just the Wizard's tool of plunder. It would be an unbeatable weapon to be used against national enemies. Or to conquer the world.
One of the advantages of running faster than anyone could see you was that you could generally cross borders with impunity. Vibrating through fences designed to keep normal humans out, passing by motion detectors that were too slow to read his presence, the Flash passed through security barriers as if they were air.
Wonder if I should have told the Titans where I was going, he thought, idly. Nah. I gotta get this done before Wiz loses any body parts.
Wally's high-speed sight took in the scenery of the Middle Eastern nation, the mosques, minarets, roadways, close-packed buildings, the milleu of people and the standing army that enforced the ruler's orders. Impetus enough to make him get Mardon and get back to the red, white, and blue. Of course, he'd have to decelerate long enough to pick the guy up, once he found him. But he'd done tougher things.
He rolled up his sleeve and consulted the tiny map strapped to his wristwatch. The agent had given him the most likely three sites where Mardon would be held. The first was here, in the capital city. The Flash wound his way through streets, vibrating through passers-by, leaving a sudden wind in his wake that blew the headcloths of citizens away from his passing.
The heat was palpable. It didn't quite catch up to him, as fast as he was moving, but he could feel its presence. Sometimes he was disgusted with himself, with his ability to run across an entire ocean so quickly that he didn't sink, to sprint over a whole nation where 100 degrees in the shade was often temperate and not register its heat. This was something the vast billions of people on Earth could not do, and he had become, God help him, used to it.
It was something that was off-putting. Wally had spent some time in retirement from both his Kid Flash identity and from the Titans, had even taken off time from college. Eventually he came back to it all, because it was what he understood. He had been given the Flash powers, so he would use them. He had to.
All the girls he'd known, most of them just passing through his life briefly--he resisted the mental phrase, "flashes-in-the-pan", but it seemed to fit. Only the Titans girls really seemed interesting...first Wonder Girl, in the original group, but she never tumbled for him that much. Then he thought of Raven as intriguing, but that didn't work out well, either. Considering what had sometimes become of Raven, that might have been a blessing.
Now there was Frances Kane. Would she stay? Would he? No way of telling. But perhaps, this time, being out of college and looking for a job, being out of the Kid Flash suit and into the one worn by Barry Allen, maybe things would look up.
Well, there was enough time for that kind of reverie later. Right
now, he had a job to do...his first one as the new Flash. If he kicked
this one around the block, it would haunt him as long as
(as Barry's killing the Reverse-Flash?)
(don't EVEN go there)
Ah. The prison. Odd how you could make it out so clearly even when moving at near-light velocity. Your perceptions slowed things down, your brain processed them at the correct rate. When he was moving at only human speed, he had no problem with that, either. It was only at super-speed that people and things seemed to be moving...so...slooowly...
The prison itself was the usual mass of concrete, razor wire, electric fences, dogs, guards, guns, and all that. Easy enough to circumvent. If you vibrated so that none of that could touch you, if you kept moving so fast an alarm system couldn't register you, you were a galloping ghost. Wally whisked over the thankfully-cooler interior floors of the place and began a room-by-room search of the place.
Seven torturings, one beating, and a few other such terrible amusements later, Wally was about to hurl his cookies. But he did find the Weather Wizard.
The Wiz was inside one of the innermost chambers of the building, with no less than five guards on hand plus a Russian army guy to whom Wally gave a super-speed raspberry. There were a couple of white-coated guys with Mardon at a table. Mardon, wearing a grey prison outfit and showing a bruise or two on his face, was sketching out a schematic on a piece of paper. His wand was broken down and laid out in parts on the same table. He didn't look like he was enthusiastic about doing this and nobody else looked like they gave a damn.
Simply enough remedied. The Flash slowed down to the rate where he would register as a crimson blip. He grabbed the paper from Mardon's hands, scooped up the wand pieces and housing in it, wadded it all into a ball, and stuffed it into his shirt through the neckpiece. It bulged a little, but he didn't figure he'd be wearing it all that long.
"Fla--" began Mardon.
The Russian guy began to draw his gun. So...sloooowly...
The Flash knocked it out of his hands with a quick chop that almost broke the man's finger. By that time, he had Mardon under the armpits, lifting him quickly out of the chair, conducting his own vibrations into Mardon's body through his hands. In a fraction of a second, the Weather Wizard was as intangible as Wally, and propelled at the same rate of speed.
The Crimson Comet (and Wally loved all those nicknames when they had been applied to Barry, but hated them when they were used on him) accelerated, and carried them both out through the walls of the prison.
Behind them, a subjectively long time later, two guards opened up on the red blur they had seen and shot themselves. Both survived.
"...sh," said Mark Mardon, breathlessly, as the two of them hurtled out into the midafternoon sun.
Wally, carrying Mardon like a bale of hay in front of him, said, "Can you hear me okay, Wiz? Say something if you can."
"I can, I can hear you," gasped Mardon. "But, Kid...you can't take me out of the country!"
The Flash looked at him curiously. "Why not?"
"Because I'll die!"
"Oh." The Flash paused. "Just great." He continued to run in the general direction of the border, but opted to turn away just before he reached it. He kept running. "Why?"
Mardon gasped, clutching his chest. "Flash. Get me further in. It's killing me."
"What is, Wiz?" Wally West carried Mardon further inland. The pain on the Wizard's face lessened, but his hand still trembled. The master of the elements unbuttoned his shirt as they sped invisibly over land.
His opened shirt revealed a metal device clamped to his chest. Wally said, "I'll take it off."
"No!" Mardon lay a hand over it. "If you try, it'll blow up. This thing has a directional in it. If I get over the border, an electric charge goes through my body--and I'm dead. They said they'll take it off once I help ‘em build the large-scale weather wand."
Wally looked at him. "And you believe that?"
"It's not like I have a big choice, Kid."
"Stop calling me that, Wiz. I'm just the Flash now."
"So the rumor's true? The first one...passed on?"
"Yeah." Wally said it tightly and softly.
"I'm sorry, Kid. You may not believe that, but I'm sorry."
"For the moment, I'll choose to believe it. So," said Wally, "is this electrical charge automatically triggered, or can they do it manua--"
The Weather Wizard's body writhed in pain. The Flash had his answer. He also didn't have a choice.
He headed for the prison, reached it, vibrated inside, and left Mark Mardon where he had found him. Mardon collapsed over the table. The two guards who had been shot were getting medical attention. The Russian guy and the scientists bent over the Weather Wizard, trying to revive him.
The Russian, after discerning that Marsdon was breathing, took another sheet of paper from the table and, with a pen from his breast pocket, wrote on it in English. He held up the paper in plain sight of everyone in the room. It read:
BRING BACK WHAT YOU TOOK OR WE WILL DO HIM AGAIN.
The next time Col. Karshov glanced at the table, the crumpled-up diagram of the weather wand was there, along with the wand itself.
This Flash was going to be so much easier to deal with than the last one.