Wally wasn’t a terribly knowledgeable guy. He left the tough research and science and analysis to men like J’onn or Bruce. But what he lacked in brains, he more than made up for with keen instincts. So, the moment he stepped into Central City, Wally knew something was wrong.
He checked his surroundings, but everything looked fine. It was a bright, clear Wednesday in a nice, midwestern city. The sidewalks were crowded with businesspeople headed home from work and the streets were jammed with the usual traffic. It was a perfect image of an average day.
“Maybe,” Wally wondered aloud, “I just imagined it.”
But he didn’t quite believe that. Determined to figure out what was putting him off, Wally set off on a quick check on the city. He wove around cars, peeking into alleys and picking up litter along the way.
“Hi, Martha! How’s your cat doing?” he called to an old lady he recognized. He’d rescued her pet from a tree the other day.
Instead of waving back, Martha threw Wally such a dirty look that he almost tripped and fell.
“Huh, someone’s having a bad day,” he muttered to himself, taking care to give the woman wide berth.
The odd experience did nothing to quell his conviction that something was wrong. But, as far as he could tell, nothing sinister was up. Wally kept running. On a whim, he decided to veer towards Central City Park. He knew some of the kids that always wanted a push on the swings there, and their cheerful faces could do him some good. He zipped to the park, scrambled through the tanbark, and screeched to a halt at the swing set.
“Hey guys, who’s up for some high-speed swingin’?” he called, grinning at the children already playing there.
Wally expected the kids to start clamoring around him, all wanting the chance to play with the Flash. To his surprise, not a single one of them moved. A few had looks of worry on their faces. Wally walked up to one of them, a child he’d pulled out from a burning building a few months back.
“Heya, Tommy,” he said, crouching down next to him. “What’s gotten into all of you? You haven’t forgotten me, have you? I wasn’t up in that darn Watchtower for that long.”
The kid took a step back, blue eyes wide and bottom lip quivering.
“Tommy!” A lean woman cried as she rushed over. “Tommy, are you all right? Stay away from that man!”
She picked up the little boy and glared at Wally. Her face mirrored her son’s, both alight with fear. The woman backed away from Wally without turning around, as if she didn’t her back to him.
“You have a lot of nerve showing up here,” she hissed, trembling. “You’re a monster. If you don’t leave, I’m calling the authorities.”
Wally couldn’t move. He stood stock still as the woman threw him another furious look, collected the rest of the children near by, and hurried away. A feeling of unease bubbled up inside of him. Had something happened in Central City while he was away? Something that he hadn’t heard about? It was unlikely, but that was the only possible explanation. Why else would someone here give him a look on par with the one he reserved for the evilest criminals, the worst of the worst? He had to get to the bottom of this mess.
Wally considered what the woman had said. The authorities! The police in Central City had always been on good terms with the Flash. Wally was sure Stan, up at the station, could clear this up. Unwilling to spend any more time in the deserted park, Wally took off without a second thought.
“Stanley, buddy, something’s going on here and I really don’t like it.” Wally swept through the police station and up to the sheriff’s desk.
Stan, the sheriff, stiffened in surprise. He jumped to his feet, chair tumbling down behind him. He didn’t reply to Wally as he grabbed the walkie-talkie clipped to his belt and said, “Officers, the Flash is in headquarters. This is a Code Red. This is not a drill.”
“I – what? No, Stan, what’re you –” Wally started forward, but froze when Stan pulled a gun from his holster.
“I don’t know what you’re doing here,” Stan began.
“Sheriff, what are you doing? Put the gun down,” Wally ordered. He glanced around. Other officers had congregated around the sheriff’s desk, guns trained on Wally.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Flash. And if you make any sudden movements, we will shoot to kill,” Stan said.
Wally bit his lip. The guns weren’t any real threat to him – he could be out the door before the cop with an itchy trigger finger twitched a muscle – but this was all wrong. There wasn’t a police officer in Central City who’d try to hurt the Flash. That wasn’t how things worked. He was their hero. Wally tried to swallow, but his mouth was completely dry.
“I’d ask you to put down your weapons, but you’re the weapon,” Stan continued. “So I’m giving you ‘til the count of three to get the hell out of my station and out of my city. After that, my boys have orders to open fire.”
“Stan, whatever you think I’ve done, you’ve got it all wrong,” Wally said pleadingly. “Just have everyone put their weapons away and let’s talk about this.” He assumed the most un-threatening position he could think of, raising his hands in surrender and shuffling his feet.
Wally turned to some of the other officers he recognized. These were people he sped by on their ways to work. He brought them coffee on late nights and he’d handed over countless criminals to them. And now there were about to shoot him. “Guys,” Wally said, “you’re not thinking straight. I’m a superhero. I help this city. Put down the guns.”
“Please, explain to me what’s going on,” Wally implored. “I don’t understand.”
No one said anything. No one moved.
A bead of sweat slipped down his spine. Out of the corner of his eye, Wally saw someone’s finger begin to curl around the trigger. Before they could fire, Wally bolted.
He sprinted harder than he had in years, desperate to get out of whatever bizarre city he’d stepped into. The familiar streets and cruel, unfamiliar people blurred to a multi-colored mess as he sped away.
Wally ran for what felt like hours before his foot snagged a root in some middle-of-nowhere apple orchard. He crashed face-forward to the ground and slid several feet before coming to a stop. Chest heaving from the shock, Wally lay there, not trying to clear the dirt and grime that lodged itself under his cowl during his fall. He barely felt the burn in his lungs and the stinging cuts on chin and knees. He raised one trembling hand and frantically pressed the communicator.
“One to the Watchtower,” he managed to gasp out. “Help.”
He cast his thoughts back to Central City’s intimidating behavior. Someone in the League had to know what was going on. But, as he was teleported into space, Wally realized that he had no guarantee he wouldn’t get a similar reception upon his arrival at the Watchtower.
He scrambled to cancel the transmission and keep himself from being delivered into the hands of a group of super-powered, deadly individuals. But it was a little too late. As the safety of the apple orchard disappeared, Wally had only one thought. If the League wanted him dead, being the fastest man alive certainly wasn’t going to stop them.