Chapter Thirteen

15th Gotham Park West was considered the finest high rise in the city. The two limestone towers housed several spacious units inside ranging between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet, complete with multi-directional views of the city and park, private dining rooms and libraries, screening rooms, health club, rooftop pool, and even individual wine cellars, Being that there were only four to five units per floor, most residents had to pick and choose what amenities that wanted, unless of course you were an eccentric billionaire who just took over the entire 20th floor and knocked all the walls down in-between.

As Maxwell Lord and his entourage entered the building, the old doorman jumped to attention, his feet and knees aching from his long hours of standing and greeting residents. Lord walked by the old man, barely acknowledging him except for a gentle patting of the elderly man's head, like he would a subservient dog. The two models he held under each arm giggled at the gesture, blowing kisses to the old man as Lord's two security guards waited ahead keeping the lift doors open.

As the elevator reached the penthouse, Lord and his girls remained inside the car waiting while his team, checked the security system and swept the residence before the group entered. Such was protocol, and god knows Lord loved protocol.

Once the system was disabled, the two beefy guards took their place outside the residence door while the threesome made their way inside.

Lord wasted no time pouring himself a strong glass of Johnny Walker Blue as the girls sat down on either side of him, loosening his tie and shirt, all the while taking turns undressing each other. A satisfied smile crept across the billionaire's face, as the women began massaging his arms and shoulders. It had been a long day. A bath had been drawn for him prior to his arrival and soon all three of them would be enjoying the water. Maxwell smiled as the girls stripped out of their remaining clothes and headed towards the bath. Things were shaping up to be a very enjoyable and eventful evening he thought, as well it should be. He was a man used to getting his way. He'd worked hard and thanks to his keen foresight his company was in line to almost double its profits from the previous year. He'd worked hard and now it was time to reap the rewards. If the evening went well he might takes his companions to the islands, possibly Europe. It just depended on what kind of mood he was in - in the morning, but for now he intended only to relax, quit thinking, and enjoy the show. That's when all hell broke loose.

xxx

Artemis sat alone at her desk, brushing up on the latest International Investing Guidelines recently released by the SEC. She liked to stay ahead of the game and even though the new rules did not take effect until the start of the year, it was the perfect time to go over them line by line while the office was closed and the staff finally received some well-deserved time off for the holidays. It was quiet all but the sounds of the cleaning crew down the hall, and the archer focused on documents before her The report was thick and she was more than happy to review it in the solitude of her own office as opposed to hauling the documents several blocks home in the chaos of Christmas in Gotham.

To be honest she was a little nervous as well. She had never been to a high society function like the Wayne parties before. Zatanna had taken her shopping and made her buy a dress that was not only almost two weeks' salary, but one she was sure she'd never wear again.

But when no one was around, when she was alone with herself, she begrudgingly admitted the dress was beautiful, she felt beautiful. That was not a word ever spoken if her in her home, and in the years since leaving that difficult life growing up on the wrong side of Star City behind, it was very hard to actually see herself in that light.

The first time she remembered wearing a dress was to her high school graduation and even that came from Goodwill. She proudly wore it around the house for days, actually felling some semblance of pride and normalcy. Just this once she wanted to know what it felt like to be equals around kids who'd never wanted for anything their entire lives, to just feel like she belonged. For a fleeting moment she felt pretty, confident, until her father laughed and berated her, sending her to her room to change out of the ridiculous outfit and do her training.

A pencil snapped in her hand before she realized how deep and raw those memories still were, but she reminded herself things were different now. She had a new life now, much more thrilling and satisfying then she'd ever dreamt possible. She had never dared to dream before, always awaiting another disappointment, another heartbreak. She kept her guard up, always shielded, always protected. That's what helped her survive, even though it had led to a lonely and solitary life sometimes, but things had changed recently, she had changed.

Artemis now had the job of her dreams, a lifetime and another world away from the slums of Star City. She had a friends and teammates who wouldn't judge her, who didn't care who her father was or where she'd come from, instead caring for and supporting her, allowing her to use her gifts for good and wash of the stigma of her crime ridden past. She now had the ability to give the mother who had protected her all those years, and paid the ultimate price for it, a chance at a new life to. She wasn't a fool, her shields would always be on stand-by, but for the first time in her life she actually felt something that was as foreign to her as a green skinned girl from Mars, she felt hope.

The only thing that was slightly bittersweet about the evening was she'd be saying goodbye to a person who she'd actually started to like, a person who was in some ways as guarded and cautious as she was. While Artemis hid behind a cold steely persona, Wally hid behind the make-up of a clown. When he lost focus and let his guard down, she caught glimpses of the real person behind the mask, the shy, insecure genius that probably had as much trouble growing up and fitting in at school as she had. Somewhere along the line he'd found a place, a group of people that he could be himself and use his gifts and abilities to help others, and now she had too.

She laughed to herself when she remembered glancing back at the stunned speedster, blushing and completely lost for words. When his mouth wasn't moving a mile a minute he really could be quite charming, and a pretty damn good kisser too.

Jesus Artemis, fangirl much? she asked rolling her eyes in annoyance..

She could deny it all she wanted, but one thing was certain. She was going to miss him, and she wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Artemis looked at her watch and sighed, realizing the time had gotten away from her. She closed the leather bound report and left it on her desk and stood to gather her things. She refused to let Dick send a car for her, more than happy to pay her own way for a taxi. It would be an expensive cab ride out to the hills, but the ride would allow her a chance to clear her mind, shake off her doubts and insecurities, and just have fun.

She leaned down and reached for her backpack and overnight bag. She'd packed her uniform because Zatanna told her that at and after the Wayne Christmas parties anything could happen. She didn't know exactly how to take that, but decided it was always best to be prepared. She locked her office door when her communicator went off.

Artemis was half expecting a scolding from a certain raven haired sorceress for her tardiness, but definitely didn't expect a frantic Dick Grayson on the other end of the com unit, and Dick never did frantic. Her bag and backpack fell to the floor as Nightwing hurriedly explained the situation up to this point.

"I have Megan and Conner headed to Wally's apartment, Kaldur is going to Lords place out in the Hamptons, Zatanna's checking out clubs and restaurants Max's known to frequent, even Roy's on the lookout around Lord's corporate office on Wall Street."

"What do you want me to do?' the archer asked urgently.

"I'm on my way to Lord's condo, its five blocks from your location, meet me there fast…and Artemis, we have to find and stop Wally, no matter what it takes."

Her throat tightened at his words. He was Wally's' best and oldest friend, but his message was clear. If he had to hurt the speedster to save a life, even a scumbag like Maxwell Lord…. he would. That was the code, that's what heroes do.

Artemis closed the channel and ran into Dick's office to change. For a moment she paused when she caught a glimpse of herself in the reflection of the window large windows. It really was a ridiculous dress, she smirked, but a small part of her hoped she'd have the chance to wear it again, but for now there were much more important things to do then dressing up like a princess and going to the ball. There was a life to save, and she didn't mean Lord's.

xxx

Dick scaled down the elevator shaft until he reached the 20th floor. He had expected more comings and goings of the elevator car between floors, but it had been mostly silent and still, not a good sign.

He inserted the flat end of his asp into the seal between the doors and pulled them open ever so slightly to see what lay up ahead in the hallway. Twenty feet ahead he saw the two bodyguards slumped onto the floor, blood oozing from their noses and mouths. Dick pried open the door the rest of the way and raced ahead, leaning down and checking for a pulse from the two fallen men before he began entrance into Lord's apartment.

Thank god he thought when he felt their heartbeats. He looked up at the security system panel; still reading disengaged, and pulled out his master key picks to unlock the door to gain entrance. It took seconds for the tumblers to align and Nightwing packed the kit away, in return pulling out a jet injector and a fully charged Taser. Dick packed the triple dosed sedative into the gun, while upping the voltage on the Taser by 50 percent. If he could catch Wally off guard, or still for that matter, it would probably take both of his armament to take him down. He hoped that's all he'd have to use.

Bruce had called to Dick as he arrived in front of the building to tell him he had reached the rest of the team and relayed the message, all the while trying to calm his partner and tell him he was being too alarmist.

"This is Wally were talking about," the Dark Knight stated evenly, "he wouldn't do something like this anymore than you would."

But Dick had a dark secret he'd kept from Bruce, from everyone. Even after a lifetime of training, of lesson after lesson about justice versus vengeance, Dick feared…he knew…. if he had a chance to end the person who'd killed his parents, he probably would.

He also knew Wally had guessed it long ago, and would do anything in his power stop him, because that's what best friends do.

Lord had taken something pure, something miraculous and perverted it into a financial weapon. He'd not only taken a child's life, but several innocent people as well, with possibly countless more to come. A small part of Dick's soul wondered if he should try to stop him at all, but the hero in him quickly convinced him otherwise.

When he was eleven, Bruce Wayne took his young ward to Japan on business. During the tedious negotiations Bruce and his lawyers attended, Alfred Pennyworth had taken the fledgling hero on a tour of the countryside, lecturing the young man on the great history of the country, its noble traditions, and its most terrible failures. As the duo toured the Nagasaki museum, Dick stared in awe of picture after picture of suffering and destruction, unbelieving that the sheer power involved to cause something like that actually existed. Those images never left him to this day.

As he walked through Lord's devastated apartment, he once again stood dumbfounded at Wally's personal ground zero. Windows everywhere were shattered and walls destroyed, as if a body had been thrown through them multiple times. Dick felt assured one had. The cold Gotham air chilled the apartment like a morgue, and what was left of the furniture and appliances lay in ruin around the room. Suddenly Dick heard movement coming from the far end of the condo and checked his weapons before heading back towards it.

He stealthily made his way to the last door standing, and counted to himself before kicking it open, his Taser gleaming through the dust filled air, only to come across two naked women cowering in the corner. Dick took a deep breath and un-tensed, putting his weapons away and finding random blankets scattered around the room to cover them.

The blonde was sill visibly shaking while her partner sat in shock.

Dick wrapped the brunette in a heavy comforter, and she nodded thankfully, unable to put her racing mind into words. He repeated his chivalrous action for the blonde when the dark haired woman finally looked up at the hero with a stunned fearful gaze. "I've never seen anything like it before, it was like a hundred tornados hit this place."

"Where's Lord?" Nightwing demanded.

The blonde looked up at him and stuttered. "Th…th…the lightning took him."

"Fuck," Dick cursed, rubbing his hands through his hair helplessly.

xxx

Artemis ran down the emergency stairs of Wayne Towers, forgoing the elevators and run in's with tenants and employees that might be working late like she'd been. Plus superheroes running through the halls of one of Gotham's most iconic buildings can be a little news worthy sometimes, and right now she didn't need the press.

As the floor markers began to decrease numerically, she realized she'd made it to the floor Wally's office and lab were located. Dick never mentioned checking there, either because he somehow had the office monitored,(it was a Wayne owned building after all), or he assumed she would have the foresight and common sense to check twelve floors down for the speedster before blindly leaving the office building. She chose to err on the said of caution and exit the stair well.

The hallway was dimly lit when she reached the main entrance. She may not have had the fancy lock picking set Nightwing owned, but you don't grow up in the Crock household without learning a few things. A credit card and bobby pen later and she entered the lobby and made her way back to the lab.

Artemis searched in the darkness for the light switch unsuccessfully, before pulling out a flashlight from her quiver and scanning around the lab. It was much the same as she last saw it. Wally's office may have been a hodge-podge of movie posters, empty food wrappers, and psychedelic versions of the periodic table, but his lab was always meticulous. She walked in and immediately noticed a slight chill. She shined the light over and found the source; a refrigeration unit had been left open. Something wet was pooling around the floor and when she directed her light downwards she was the trail of broken vials and chemicals shattered throughout the room. Shining her halogen lamp around the corresponding walls she saw more of the same pattern. She looked inside the unit to find one holder with four undamaged vials tucked in the corner. She grabbed them, wrapping them up carefully and placing them in her bag. The archer could hazard a guess what they were, but Dick was the detective. After a search of the remaining office space, she exited and finished the remaining two dozen flights down before exiting the building street level.

She ran to the alley on the backside of the building where she could operate in darkness. Artemis pulled out her com unit, activated the GPS locked on Nightwing's last transmission and quickly found Lord's address. She had to hurry. The bitter wind howled through the streets and alleyways around her, and the archer tried her best to ignore the chill, but the skin of her stomach began to burn, immediately thinking a bare midriff was not the smartest of superhero fashion choices. With a shudder she took the compound bow off her shoulder and fumbled in the darkness for her grappling arrow. It slipped from her shivering hand and fell to the wet pavement. Cursing herself, she once again turned on the halogen lamp and searched for the fallen arrow.

She found it less than two feet away lying next to a discarded item on the ground that appeared to be leather wallet. She picked up both the arrow and the wallet angrily, disgusted that while she was upstairs preening in the mirror, some guy was outside getting mugged, probably thinking he was going to die.

Some hero I am she thought dejectedly, opening her bag to place the wallet inside, When this was all over, the least she could do was return it to the guy. She unzipped the small storage pouch and placed the wallet inside, but not before a credit card slipped out and fell to the ground.

What kind dumbass jacks a guy's wallet and leaves the credit cards inside? she wondered. The archer reached down in the darkness and retrieved the black American Express Centurion card. Momentarily impressed with the exclusivity of it, she squinted in the darkness to read the name inscribed on it when her heart stopped.

Maxwell Lord.

She didn't have to be the world's greatest detective to realize this was a huge clue. He'd been here, recently too. She scanned all around the alley looking for signs, clues…anything.

Artemis pulled the com unit from her belt to call Nightwing or anyone else who'd answer. The bitter Gotham wind died down for the briefest of moments and that's when she heard the screaming. It was faint, but somewhere nearby. The howling weather had masked it up to this point. She scoured the cityscape trying to listen for it again, when suddenly fifteen or so feet away, a loud crash and metal chiming cascaded in the darkness. She ran over with her light to find a shattered iPhone, diamond incrusted money clip, and gold dollars rolling on the ground. The second scream cut through her like a knife. She looked up towards the shadow of Wayne Towers and immediately recognized the source.

"What in the hell is wrong with you? You made me look like a fool last night jackass. The only thing that is stopping me from dragging your sorry ass to the top floor of this building and pushing you out the closest window is that you're my boss's best friend and killing you would look bad on my resume!"

"Actually I think the windows are sealed shut up there, something to do with people jumping out of them during the Great Depression."

Their conversation from months ago became as clear as yesterday. She activated the emergency transponder on the com unit and raced back inside, praying she could reach the top of the Tower in time.

xxx

Maxwell Lord raced around the Skydeck atop Wayne Towers frantically searching for an exit. Every time he neared an air vent or maintenance hatch, he would find himself knocked senseless ,rolling closer and closer to the edge of the building. He'd been drug all across the city by his silent assailant; The Thomas and Martha Wayne's Children's Hospital, Gotham Memorial Gardens, the GCPD morgue, some filthy and drug filled crack house near Suicide Slums, and finally Wayne Tower.

He'd begged until his voice hurt. He'd promised wealth, power, women, whatever his abductor wanted if he would set Lord free, but each plea was met with a deathly silence. Underneath a spotlight on the west end of the building, Lord eyed another maintenance hatch, one he'd not tried before. It was only about fifty feet away, but it might as well been a half mile. Whatever had captured him continued to blow past him at ungodly speeds, spinning him in all directions leaving him dizzy and nauseous. When he wretched he'd find himself seconds later lying face down it. Whatever was doing this to him was enjoying it and he's had enough.

"God damnit….Stop! Do you even know who I am? I'm one of the most powerful men in the world; I can give you literally anything. Just tell me what it is and stop this shit!"

Suddenly the rushing blur around him stopped. With his vertigo subsiding momentarily he quickly composed himself, believing he'd made a connection, opened a dialog. He considered himself a master negotiator, always the smartest guy in the room; it was time to prove it. This wasn't some hostile takeover of a hapless company he'd done countless times in the past, this was his life.

"Tell me what you want, and it's yours" Lord spoke calmly, believing he'd drawn in his prey.

"A life," the figure stated stepping out of the darkness. "I want a life. The one you stole."

He thought he recognized the voice, but wasn't sure until Dr. Wallace West stepped out of the shadows. The speedster wore his stealth suit, blending easily into the darkness, all except the cowl that pooled around his neck and shoulders, his face and identity exposed. Wally had broken the first rule Barry Allen had ever taught him, and he couldn't give a damn less, in a few more minutes it wouldn't matter.

"My god," Lord gasped, "You're the Flash?"

"Not anymore," Wally coldly replied.

The irate businessman, monetarily forgetting his predicament lashed out. "How dare you…"

"How dare me?" Wally screamed. "How dare you - you sick fuck!"

He sped to Lord and in a blink of an eye the billionaire found himself slammed violently against the cold steel outer wall of the electrical room, his head screaming and ears ringing. He felt himself beginning to black-out when a harsh slap of a leather glove brought him back.

"You took my compound, my life's fucking work and turned into a disease."

"It's not that simple," Lord protested.

"Fuck you," Wally countered, "I'm not some crony, one of your bull-shit yes men, I know exactly what you did and why."

"Look if this is about the kid…", Lord began just as the speedster's uppercut landed, nearly breaking the billionaires jaw.

"It's about all of them," Wally screamed, "All of the innocent people you killed, all for the sake of a fucking dollar. How much is enough Max? Tell me. How much is a single life even worth to you?"

"My antibody will save hundreds of thousands," Lord pleaded, but the speedster wasn't having any of it.

"Spare me your self-righteous bullshit, this was never about saving anyone, this was about you. You murdered dozens of people for what? Another mansion, another jet?"

"We murdered," Max corrected, "You and I."

Wally stepped back, releasing Lord from his hold. The statement caught the speedster off guard. He'd never considered his culpability before, his part in all of this. He'd convinced himself he was an innocent victim, another among the countless people who'd been tricked and taken advantage of by Lord's cruelty.

Dick had warned him not to go into business with Maxwell Lord, that the man was no philanthropist, no generous benefactor. He was a cold hearted, ruthless businessman, whose only interests were power and money. When Wally saw the resources at his disposal, his chance to finally do real science without any constraints or restrictions, he chose to ignore his best friend's warnings, the barrage of violation and lawsuits Lord and his company magically made go away time and time again, and go forth with the idea of changing the world, never considering who would ultimately pay the price for it. Maybe it was blindness, perhaps arrogance, but never once had he have thought he was as much to blame as the monster that stood before him.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions his mother always told him. As his anger returned extinguishing his guilt, he knew it was time to send Maxwell Lord down that road to his final destination.

The speedster's gloved hand lashed out, grabbing Lord by this throat and yanking him away from the wall. Seconds later Lord found himself next to the edge of the 112th floor of Wayne Tower, the wind whipping around him as the building underneath swayed beneath his feet. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, he knew that, but arrogantly wouldn't give the speedster the satisfaction of a breakdown, showing any weakness. He'd caught the red head off guard moments ago when he reminded him of his part in all of this, he ventured a guess he could do it again. He had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. That's how he'd made his billions, that's how he'd save his own life.

"Do it," he demanded.

Wally stood a few feet away awaiting the courage to finish the act. Uncertainty was painted all over his face. He thought of Barry Allen, Iris and Rudy West and the hurt and heartbreak this would cause them. He remembered the lengths he'd gone to – to be a hero, to be like his uncle. He remembered the names and faces of those he'd saved…..and then he remembered the one he didn't.

Marcus.

"You know what makes this poetic justice Max? It's knowing that in the end all you cared about was the money….and you can't even take it with you."

"This isn't Justice Wally. Its revenge." a voice yelled from behind him over the tempest.

The speedster wheeled around to see the archer standing feet away, her bow cocked and aiming center mass.

"Don't do this Wally, this is a road you can't come back from, believe me I know. You're a hero, that's how the good guys work. Your words Wally, that's what you told me on my balcony. Did you mean any of it?"

Wally's temper flared back up, meeting the intensity of the oncoming storm. "Do you realize how many people he's killed Artemis? How many more will die? He's not crazy. He's not some Arkham patient, he knew exactly what he was doing, and he knows why… money…MONEY," he spit.

"He'll go hide behind some team of lawyers, drag this out in the courts, and years from now all this will go away and he'll still be doing the same shit again. We'll not this time Max, not anymore."

The archer looked down her sites, aligning the arrow with the lightning bold insignia on his chest. She'd hoped by now her back-up would have arrived, that Dick or Zatanna could talk some sense into him, stop him with some fancy bat-gizmo or a magic spell and save the day. All she had was an arrow. He was a meta-human, the fastest man alive, all she was-was an archer, with a target standing six feet away, unsure if he could dodge her shot, or if he'd even want to.

"Please Wally, don't make me do this."

"Do what you have to do," he replied, turning his back and approaching the fearful eyes of a billionaire.

Author's Note. Ok…very uncool two cliffhangers in a row I know, but the next chapter is ready, just a little proofing and it will be out in a few days. I swear I didn't want to do this, but it would have been a gigantic chapter. You won't be dangling for long. This story has taken too long to finish to begin with and I'm sorry, but you can blame two kidney stone surgeries and one open heart one for the delay. No lie. It's been a crappy 2014, but all is good now and I'm glad to be here. See you in a few days. Thanks for your patience, as always reviews appreciated.