Both Barry and Eradicator turn to the sound, watching as smoke and electricity surges from across the plant. Barry’s eyes widen as his crushed arm begins to heal. Eradicator notices as well, both watching the flames all die out.
Barry smiles to himself, thanking August as he dashes forward. His fist slams into Eradicator’s faceplate, shattering the metal into hundreds of pieces. Eradicator is sent careening through the air, crashing into one of the generators. Barry is quick to follow up, grabbing Eradicator’s cape and spinning himself into a whirlwind. The cape eventually tears, Eradicator flying over the gate into the forest outside the plant.
Barry runs over to Joe, who is holding Daniel as he regains consciousness. “Joe, you need to get him out of here,” Barry orders, turning towards where the explosion occurred. “I’ll go make sure August is okay and meet you at th- AGHHHH!”
“Flash!?” Joe calls out.
Barry suddenly drops to his knees, holding his head. He feels like he’s splitting in two, like a new presence is entering his mind. Jolts of lighting dance around his body, but they aren’t gold, rather black and white. The pain is greater than anything he’s ever felt, he can’t help but scream.
August coughs, wafting away the smoke. He’d already discarded his jacket, the clothing had caught fire from the explosion. The sparking of the destroyed generators illuminate the powerplant, revealing Heatmonger’s silhouette knelt on the ground. Panting heavily, August pulls his gun from his holster.
August storms out of Goldrush, already reaching for his phone to notify Barry. As he steps through the door, a hand grabs onto his shoulder, stopping him in place. It takes everything in him not to grab the hand and break it. He turns his head, seeing one of the various members of security for the club.
“Let go of me, now,” August says, glaring at the man.
“The boss’ informant lost contact, we assume he’s dead,” the man says, letting go of August.
“My condolences,” August scoffs, walking away from the man.
“Catch,” the man calls out, tossing an object to August. He examines it, eyes widening up on realizing what it was. “Bling wishes you luck.”
August approaches Heatmonger, relieved that the man is unaware of his position. A small clearing has formed around him, likely the steam from his vents pushing the smoke away. August uses this to his advantage, lying in wait for his chance to strike. It’s then when he notices the crack running along the right side of Heatmonger’s helmet. Looking to the ground, he scoops up a chunk of metal from the destroyed generator.
Charging out of the smoke, August slams the metal down against Heatmonger’s helmet. The makeshift crowbar splits the crack open wide, creating the opening he needs. With a smirk, he pulls the metal out, only to be met by a geyser of steam. He cries out as the hot air is blasted against his face, causing him to drop his gun.
August can’t see out of his right eye as he stumbles backwards, slamming hard into one of the intact generators. His face feels like it’s melting, his skin bubbly and burned. He tries regaining his composure, but falls to the ground, unable to take the pain. Out of his left eye, he watches the smoke around Heatmonger disperses, the villain rising to a stand. The crack in his helmet reveals his cerulean eye, surrounded by lightly burned skin.
“Big mistake, Heart,” he chuckles, the visible steam still pouring from the crack, like it was smoke. “You probably thought the suit was protection, didn’t you? A layer to keep me away from my flames like Heatwave?”
Flames begin surrounding Heatmonger’s body like an aura. Unlike the rest of his body however, the fire near the crack in the helmet is triple the size as the rest of the flames. August winces at the heat, raising his arms to act as a shield.
“My suit’s designed so I don’t melt my partner… keep all the heat inside, like a furnace,” he says, laughing maniacally as he trudges forward. “You’ve been trying to get me out of my suit to beat me, but you’ve dug your own-“
A flash of light shines in August’s eye. For a split second, all the sound around him deafens, all but the crackling of lightning. A ball of lightning flies through the air, striking Heatmonger in the center of his chest. The attack’s force is enough to send him flying through the air, crashing into one of the still intact generators. Like a domino effect, the generator explodes, fire and electricity consuming the area. The explosion causes pylons to fall, one landing on top of Heatmonger, caging him in.
August pushes through the pain, bringing himself to his knees. Turning his head, his eye widens as blue light shines on his face.
“Wally, get back inside.”
Wally looks over to Eddie, then back to the powerplant. “Are you nuts!?” he says, stepping in front of the older man. “You can’t walk without a cane! You can’t just run into battle! You’re just asking to die!”
“Barry is up there, fighting those two from the hospital,” Eddie says, placing a hand on Wally’s shoulder. “I let a friend fight alone before… I won’t do that again.”
Wally opens his mouth to protest, but is cut off by a booming of thunder. He looks up to the sky, raising an eyebrow at the sudden massing of dark clouds. “What the… Mr. Jones!?” he shouts, turning to see the man holding his head, dropping to his knees. “Mr. Jones! What’s wrong!?”
The sound of another large scale explosion from the powerplant steals Wally’s attention. The redhead looks between his mentor, body surging with white and black lightning, and the explosion. His breathing picks up, mind racing.
It’s then when he recalls Barry’s offer. The offer to be partners, to be a hero with him. Heroes don’t let people die, and partners don’t abandon one another.
“With all the force of a great typhoon,” Wally pants with a small, triumphant smile. His red hoodie is ruined, singed from the cyan lightning dancing around him. His focus quickly shifts to August, as does his triumphant smile to a worried frown. “August, you okay? Can you stand?”
“You… have powers?” August mumbles, staring at Wally in awe. “You… you threw lightning?”
“Y-yeah… I kinda learned how an hour ago,” Wally says, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck, “but that isn’t important, you don’t look so good, are you alright.”
August doesn’t speak, his head falling slightly. He stares at his hands, watching as they shake. His head. Then turns to the destroyed generator, where Heatmonger lays unconscious. His hands close into tightly clenched fists as August brings himself to a stand.
“You can, that’s great!” Wally exclaimes. “We should get to Barry, he definitely needs our help.”
August again ignores Wally, instead taking slow steps towards the unconscious villain. He scoops his pistol up off the ground as he walks, checking the magazine.
“A-August… he’s down,” Wally says, stepping in front of the man. “We’ll worry about him later, Barry is fight Eradicator… alone. Please.”
“Right…” August finally mumbles, eyes still locked onto Heatmonger. “Daniel and Joe are still in danger.”
“Daniel and Uncle Joe are here!?”
Barry writhes on the floor in pain. He recognizes this feeling, he’d felt it mere minutes ago when he entered the other plane. Raijin is the only answer. He sees Joe and Daniel, both unphased by the neural attack. It confirms their suspicions, Raijin was somehow connected to the Speed Force.
“Daniel, help me carry h- Agh!” Joe begins, before being shocked by the lightning coursing through Barry. “Dammit, we’re gonna have to… oh no.”
Barry, out of the corner of his eye, sees the red cloaked man outside the fence. He raises his hand, swiping it across the metal and turning it to dust in seconds. Barry tries to stand, but is unable to move. He’s forced to watch as Eradicator approaches Joe and Daniel.
Joe begins firing shots at Eradicator as he backpedals, Daniel staying behind him. Eradicator treats the bullets like flies, swatting them away as he walks forward. Joe and Daniel turn to run, but Eradicator slams his palm onto the ground, causing it to rupture under their feet. Daniel falls backwards, Eradicator’s hand clamping around his neck in seconds. Joe, seeing this, tries to fight back, but is taken down with ease and found in the same position.
“Stop… it…” Barry grunts, his fingers digging into the ground beneath him. Golden lightning begins to spread throughout his body, overpowering the black and white. He slowly pushes himself to a stand, his body wobbly. “Let them… go!”
“You’re fighting back against Raijin’s power?” Eradicator says, eyebrows raised in shock. “It doesn’t matter how you struggle… his will shall prevail. I will mak-“
At that moment, Eradicator’s eyes go white. Barry watches as he stands frozen, grip not wavering on either Joe or Daniel. Barry tries to take a step forward, but his body simply won’t move. His teeth grit together as he tries to push himself, as he tries everything in his power to take that step.
“Flash,” Daniel mumbles, scared out of his mind, “help us… please.”
Barry screams out, slowly lifting his right foot off the ground.
Barry freezes in place, his foot falling back down. Eradicator kicks the back of both Joe and Daniel’s knees, dropping them to the ground. His hands move from their necks to their heads, his palms wrapped around their skulls, fingers hovering just above them.
Barry is unmoving, breath caught in his throat. “Wh- what!?” he shouts, staring at the blood red eyes that stare back.
“Choose now,” he says once more, fingers twitching with the static of the generators. “One lives, one dies… all by his will.”
“I… you… dammit,” Barry curses, hoping, praying the effects of Raijin’s psychic attack wear off. He stands motionless, buying as much time as he can.
“He made sure you wouldn’t be able to run, Flash,” Eradicator says, tugging their heads up. “You can’t save them both, so look at them. Look them in the eyes and choose who dies.”
Joe and Daniel are both crying. Daniel is struggling, but unable to break free from Eradicator’s hold, while Joe sits silently frowning. He knows what’s going to happen. He knows what Joe is going to say before the words even leave his lips. He knows, no matter how much he wishes he didn’t.
“Save my son… Flash,” Joe says, staring into Barry’s eyes. “Save him.”
“No, are you crazy!?” Daniel shouts, slobber flying from his mouth. “Don’t you dare! He’s the best detective in this city! He’s saved countless lives and can save countless more! You have to save him! You just… you have to, Flash, please! My brothers… they’ve both lost so many people… my dad he, he took them in. Gave them a home. They need him, so please!”
“Flash… it’s okay,” Joe says, smiling at Barry. “I want you to save him.”
Barry bites his lip, unable to hold back his tears from flowing. It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair to Joe, or Daniel. Why does it have to happen to them? Why does tragedy strike people who never deserve it?
“Decide now, or both die.”
Barry raises his hand, pointing to Daniel. “The boy,” he mumbles, hand shaking in the air. “I… I chose to save the boy.”
“No, Flash, stop!” Daniel cries, lashing out as Eradicator throws him towards Barry and places down his fingers. “You can’t do this!”
Barry’s body feels a sudden freedom as he grabs onto Daniel, holding him back from charging at Eradicator. He can feel Daniel’s nails digging into his skin, cutting him deep. He only holds Daniel tighter, gritting his teeth.
“This isn’t your fault. I know you’re gonna blame yourself, it’s just who you are, but please try not to. You’re gonna change the world one day… and that makes me so proud to be your father,” Joe mumbles as his body begins to crack. “I will always love you, son.”
Tears flow from Barry’s eyes as he nods, a simple gesture to Joe, as his skin begins to crackle. A gesture that says “I know, and I love you too, dad.”
“No, please! Dad!” Daniel sobs, reaching out towards Eradicator, trying with all he has to break free from Barry. “I can’t lose you too…”
Barry closes his eyes, hugging Daniel’s body to his. He can hear the way Joe’s body crumbles, chunks of stone hitting the ground before turning to ash. Daniel’s resistance is all but gone, his body now limp as he leans against Barry, silent tears running down his face.
Barry’s eyes open, head shooting towards the voice. August stands frozen, skin burned and clothes charred. Standing behind him is Wally, his face full of terror. August’s gun hits the floor as he stands, frozen.
His head turns, eyes locking with Barry’s. Barry sees something in them, something dark brewing that he’d never seen in August before. Their stare lasts only seconds before August charges at Eradicator, fist reeled back. Eradicator sidesteps the attack, grabbing August by the wrist and slamming him into the generator, hard.
“August!” Barry shouts out, letting go of Daniel and standing up. He looks over at Wally to see the boy staring at Eradicator, too terrified to move. Barry rushes forwards, but stops as the sound of thunder booms throughout the sky. Barry’s head snaps to the sky, watching as familiar golden lightning surges around dark clouds.
“The time has come,” Eradicator says, leaning in, whispering into August’s ear. He pulls away, throwing the man to the ground. Pulling his hood over his head, he steps through the whole in the fence. “I’ll be seeing you again soon.”
Barry’s eyes fill with lightning, ready to chase the man, but is stopped as lightning bursts from the clouds above. Wild streaks of electricity begin to rain down, colors ranging from gold to blue to red. Without a moment to think, Barry runs to Daniel, watching as one of the lightning bolts comes down above him. From the corner of his eye, he can see Wally rushing to August to intercept the strike coming at him, but he knows. He knows Wally isn’t fast enough, watching as the lightning strikes.
He holds back his tears as golden lightning courses through August. With no time left, Barry makes it to Daniel, leaping over him and tanking the lightning strike. He cries out in pain, feeling the way the lightning burns his skin, different from before. His body crashes into the ground, skidding along the dirt, charged with lightning.
He watches through blurry eyes as Daniel lays unharmed, but unconscious. He shifts his gaze to August, a tear rolling down his cheek as he stares at the man. He raises his hand, reaching out to him, but his hand falls as his eyes slowly shut.