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
In the episode "A Better World", there was no Flash among the Justice
They implied he'd been killed. Then they told a different story.
But the truth is much, much worse.
*Coming in the unforeseeable future*
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?”
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
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.”
nods. Luthor’s never liked anyone else holding power.
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.”
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
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.”
away. We did everything we could to bring him to justice, but we
couldn’t prove anything.”
“You never saw
“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
you’ll understand the lines aren’t always that clear.”
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.”
know what to say. He waits until the other man starts to speak
“Then one day,
he came back. Just like that, he came back. Would never
tell us how he escaped, just that he had.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
hide the momentary look of surprise. “The two of you were
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
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.”
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
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
and doesn’t nod. His relationship with Wally isn’t open for
“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.
dead and the seven of you are meting out justice as you see fit.
You and Wally are together. Sounds like a perfect world.”
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.”
wanted more than that.” Bruce is starting to get an inkling of
what went wrong.
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.
afraid of him.”
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.
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.”
understanding comes over Bruce. “He was there when we were.
He wasn’t dead; he was hiding. It was him that was calling the
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.”
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.
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.
Flash whispers just before everything goes black.
To Be Continued ...
Teaser 2 (later in the
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
“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.
“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
“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.”
“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.
Bruce closes his eyes. Dark Lightning. Not the Flash any
longer. Something stronger, more sinister, more terrifying than
they could’ve ever imagined.