Dark Lightning
A Justice Lords/Justice League companion universe to Comrades in Arms
They wanted a better world.  A different world.  What they got was a nightmare.
In the episode "A Better World", there was no Flash among the Justice Lords.
They implied he'd been killed.  Then they told a different story.

But the truth is much, much worse.

*Coming in the unforeseeable future*

Teaser from "And Justice For All": (posted Dec. 1, 2005)
scene between Bruce Wayne and Justice Lord Batman

“Are you saying The Flash isn’t dead?”

“There are worse things than dying.”

The other man’s voice is resigned, hopeless.  By all rights, he should be happy if Wally’s still alive.  There’s something more, and Bruce feels as if the room has suddenly gotten colder.

“Start from the beginning.”

“He disappeared.  One day, out of the blue, he just disappeared.  We searched for him.  Everywhere.  Electronically, telepathically.  Clark x-rayed so many places, he lost his sight for a week.  Burned out.”

The other man moves to the small table and sits down in one of the chairs.  Bruce remains standing.  He needs to keep some distance from this, and he’s not sure he can do that if he has to look into the mirror of the other man’s face.

“We were lost without him.  None of us realized how much we needed him.  How much he meant to … all of us.”  Bruce hears the tremor in the man’s voice.  He tells himself it doesn’t mean anything.  “Luthor was doing his best to bring down the League.  A media smear campaign on one hand, smart robots with Kryptonite-laced weapons on the other.  It—it wasn’t pretty.”

Bruce nods.  Luthor’s never liked anyone else holding power.

“What happened?”

“We confronted Luthor.  A group of us.  We just wanted to scare him, shake him up to see what he knew.”  A clenched fist pounds on the table.  “He taunted us with Flash’s disappearance.  He knew more than he was telling, and so we pushed.  Hard.”

Bruce blinks.  He knows exactly what that means.  And Luthor would’ve pushed back just as hard.  It’s a game no one wins.

“What did he tell you?”

Batman folds his gauntleted hands together, forming a leathery bridge.  He leans his forehead against it.  His voice is hushed.

“That Flash was dead.  That he died begging for his life.  Screaming for help from us.  He died from torture in a lead-lined, sound-proofed, telepathically-dampened room.  He died thinking we hadn’t tried to save him.  Luthor kept feeding him lies about us, breaking him down bit by bit until he really believed we’d abandoned him.  And then Luthor let him die.  Alone.”

“And you killed Luthor in revenge.”

“Not right away.  We did everything we could to bring him to justice, but we couldn’t prove anything.”

“You never saw a body.”

“No body, but we didn’t think Luthor had any reason to lie.  He was playing with fire.  For months we thought Flash was gone, and we vowed never to let Luthor have that much power again.  Or anyone else.  We decided to enforce the law.”

“You became the law.”

“Some day you’ll understand the lines aren’t always that clear.”

Bruce knows this isn’t time for a philosophical debate with himself.  “But The Flash wasn’t dead.”

“The Flash we knew was dead.”  The man raises his blue eyes and looks at Bruce.  “Wally was dead, and what was left in his place wasn’t anything like the man we knew.”

Bruce feels a shiver of fear ripple along his spine.  “What do you mean?”

“Luthor told us he was dead, and he was right in his own way.  Flash had been experimented on.  Tested.  Tortured.  The Wally West we knew died in that laboratory.”

Bruce doesn’t know what to say.  He waits until the other man starts to speak again.

“Then one day, he came back.  Just like that, he came back.  Would never tell us how he escaped, just that he had.”

“And you realized you killed Luthor for no reason.”

“It wasn’t for ‘no reason’!” Batman yells, and there’s a flash of pure anger in his eyes.  His emotions are closer to the surface than Bruce’s.  More volatile.  “It was for Wally and what Luthor did to him, and nothing you can say will make me regret watching that bastard die.”

“But Wally wasn’t dead,” Bruce prompts.  He’s beginning to wish someone else was telling the story.  He doesn’t think he’s this bad for getting across the relevant details, but maybe he is.  He hasn’t spent a lot of time in long conversations with himself.

“No, he wasn’t dead—not physically anyway—but Luthor had fucked him up.  Bad.  He was different.”

“Different how?”

“Little things at first.  He was quieter, didn’t laugh as much.  He took more chances.  Got angry more.”  There’s a pause and Bruce can see the other man weighing how much to reveal.  He takes a deep breath and meets Bruce’s eyes.  “He was much more insistent about what he wanted.”

Bruce can’t hide the momentary look of surprise.  “The two of you were involved.”

“Yes.”  The man’s eyes drop to the table.  “I’d wanted him for a long time.  Couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it, and he flirted—with everyone—but he didn’t seem to be interested in anyone in particular.”

Not like this timeline, Bruce thinks.  Here it was the opposite.  Wally flirting with him for ages before Bruce decided to get a clue.  How different things would’ve been if he’d been the pursuer.  How very, very different.

“He was messed up and he needed someone, and God knows I understand being messed up.”  His laughter is weak and bitter.  Bruce hopes his own doesn’t sound like that.

“But you wanted the old Flash, didn’t you?  The one from before Luthor took him.”

“Yes.”  An almost whisper.  “I wanted—I needed the Wally I’d always known.  The one who joked and smiled and laughed.  I didn’t even realize I needed him until it was too late and he wasn’t that person anymore.”

“Why didn’t you end it?”

“End it?”  A hoarse, helpless laugh, and Bruce really wishes the other man didn’t sound so broken.  He doesn’t want to think this Batman is anything like him.  “God, the world really is a simple place for you, isn’t it?  He was broken and I—I wanted to fix that.  Fix him.  I needed him in ways I never thought I could need anyone.  You know what that’s like.  I can see it in your eyes.”

Bruce swallows and doesn’t nod.  His relationship with Wally isn’t open for discussion.

“I couldn’t end it any more than I could stop breathing.  It was the only time we both felt alive.  Whole.”  Batman’s looking off towards the corner of the room, yearning written all over his face.  Bruce feels embarrassed for him.  It isn’t right to see someone else’s desires so plainly.  He resents being made to look into the face of those emotions.  He tries to bring the conversation back to what went wrong.

“So, Luthor’s dead and the seven of you are meting out justice as you see fit.  You and Wally are together.  Sounds like a perfect world.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Bruce.”  A heavy sigh.  “We just wanted a better world than the one we were living in.  One where we won more often than we lost.”

“But Wally wanted more than that.”  Bruce is starting to get an inkling of what went wrong.

“He’d been through hell.  It changed him.  I thought I could handle it, that I could be enough for him, but he was becoming … dangerous.”

In that word, Bruce understands something fundamental about his double.  He’s not a man easily given to fear or exaggeration.  An aggressive partner wouldn’t bother him, nor would a lover who was strong or given to indulging his darker fantasies.  Bruce knows it, can see it in the eyes.  This is about something deeper, something that runs right through to Bruce’s core and leaves him cold.

“You were afraid of him.”

“We all were.”  Batman’s voice has become a dull whisper.  Bruce can’t imagine a world where anyone’s afraid of Wally.

“Why stay with him?”  He needs to understand this, needs to know.

“I love him.  You know what that means, how hard it is to say.  Once you’ve committed to it, you can’t go back.  It’s forever and God forgive me the things I’ve done for him, but I need him.”

Sudden understanding comes over Bruce.  “He was there when we were.  He wasn’t dead; he was hiding.  It was him that was calling the shots.”

“We couldn’t lose him again.”  The blue eyes meet his and it’s clear that the man who was asking for his understanding is now offering him something else.  An apology.  “Please try to understand.”

Bruce doesn’t bother to reach for his batarang, his communicator, or anything.  He knows none of those things will help.  In the distance, he can hear a sound like a freight train.  There’s shouting and gunfire and the scream of metal on metal.

“What did he want?” Bruce asks.

There’s the shrieking sound of a door being ripped off its hinges, and suddenly Bruce can’t breathe.  The room fills with a wind so strong it steals his breath, and he’s only held in place by the gloved hand pressed against his throat, the wall at his back.

When the wind stops, he’s staring into green eyes that hold no warmth at all.

“Justice,” Flash whispers just before everything goes black.

To Be Continued  ...

Teaser 2 (later in the story)
scene between Clark and Bruce

“Bruce?  Can you hear me?”

Someone is saying his name from very faraway.  Bruce mumbles something in reply, but his mouth feels like it’s filled with cotton and he can’t open his eyes.  There are hands on his neck and something cool against his lips.  He licks out and tastes water.  And blood.  His stomach heaves and he feels like someone’s tearing out his insides as he throws up into the silver bowl that’s suddenly there in front of him.  Everything’s bright and white and silver, except for the contents of the bowl.  He closes his eyes.

“Try some water,” a voice says, and there’s the rim of a plastic glass pressed against his lips and he manages a small sip.

“Good.  That’s a start.”  The hands lay him back down, and Bruce takes a breath, and he swears he can feel every rib aching.

“I hurt all over,” he says.

“I know.”  Something warm is draped over him, and Bruce decides he’s somewhere safe.  He’s hurting too much to be dead, but less than he remembers from before he blacked out.  The last thing he remembers is calling for …

“Clark?” Bruce opens his eyes and sees Clark sitting beside him on the edge of the bed.  He’s wearing a grim smile and he’s still dressed in his uniform.  There are blood stains across the front.

The room seems too bright, and Bruce glances at him through slitted eyes.  He can tell there’s swelling around his eye, and his vision’s a little blurry.

“Dim the lights,” Clark says, addressing the wall, and suddenly the room seems a lot less bright.

“I usually have to clap.”

“You do not.”  There’s a hint of frustration in his voice, but mostly it’s relief, and Bruce feels Clark’s warm hand on his arm, and when he looks up the blue eyes are watching him with concern.

“The Fortress?”


“That bad, huh?”


Clark doesn’t use the Fortress as a first-aid station.  He never has.  The AI’s powers aren’t meant to interfere with the course of human events, and Clark was the first to realize he couldn’t possibly bring every sick or injured person here to heal.  It was impossible.  So, the Fortress stands as a sort of last resort.

“I expected to wake up in a hospital.”

“I didn’t expect you to wake up at all,” Clark says.

Bruce meets his eyes, and nods.  Neither of them says anything.  Clark helps him sit up and take another drink of water.  Adjusts the sling that’s supporting his arm while it’s healing.  Bruce doesn’t want to look at the rest of his body.  Knows it’ll be covered with fading bruises—the AI works fast.

“Do you know what happened?”

“The Justice Lords are gone.”  Clark sounds tired.  “Beyond that, I’m not sure.  I’ve been kind of busy.”

“Sorry,” Bruce says softly.

Silence again, and Clark busies himself rearranging items on a side table, pressing buttons on a nearby computer panel, and arguing with the AI about Bruce’s condition.

“You scared me,” he says finally, not looking at Bruce.  “I wasn’t even sure it was you.  There was that much blood.”

“I’m so—”

“Don’t tell me you’re sorry!” Clark says, and his fist leaves an indentation in the metal table.  “You were pinned to the floor with metal furniture that had been driven six inches through the concrete, Bruce!  You were practically naked, and there were—there were bones the AI had to recreate from powder.”

Clark turns around and takes Bruce by the shoulders.  His eyes are round and frightened.  “There were words written on the wall in blood—your blood.  What the hell are we facing?”

“What did it say?” Bruce asks, not really wanting to know.

“Dark Lightning.”

Bruce closes his eyes.  Dark Lightning.  Not the Flash any longer.  Something stronger, more sinister, more terrifying than they could’ve ever imagined.

“Bruce?  What does it mean?”

“It means we’re in a lot of trouble.”

To be continued ...