02:03:30 - Shootout at the Roy Thompson Coral

"Come on lady," the gypsy said. "It's either one or the other pick one. This game isn't really that hard."

The woman with the plastic bag looked down at the empty card table again, squinting to make sure she wasn't missing something. Still, she saw nothing. With an indifferent shrug, she walked away.

"Hey!" the gypsy called. "Hey, come back! Come on, I'll give you 5 to 1 if you win!! Aw, dammit. Not one paying customer all day."

"I would play," Roger said, walking up to the table. "But I know the game is rigged."

"Not you again," the gypsy muttered, holding his hands out as if he were expecting to be handcuffed. "What is it this time? Am I wearing the wrong color clothes? Or maybe speaking the wrong language? Although that would explain my luck today."

"You're under arrest for violation of Galactic Customs code ST-401, section 14, sub-section B, header 3 of Galactic Treaty T-655," Roger said. "Operation of an unlicensed extra-planetary gambling device on an unauthorized planet."

"Unlicensed?" the gypsy protested. "Extra-planetary? I bought this device in Vegas."

"Really," Roger said. "Are you aware that the indigenous people of this planet cannot see Nth Space, and therefore cannot play this game?"

"Aw crud."

"Besides, everyone knows that on the third rotation the peg disappears from under the cotro shell, making winning impossible, even to..."

"Holy shit!" the gypsy shouted, leaping from his chair.

"Really now," Roger said. "There's no call for such..."


Roger turned around.

"Holy shit," he muttered.

"Told you," the gypsy replied.

A dark shape rose above the Toronto skyline. It looked like a fortress propped on six, spidery legs. The entire thing seemed to be made of bluish ice, so blue it was almost entirely opague. Emblazoned on the front of the main section was a crystalline etching, a ten metre high snowflake. As it slowly marched its way across the city, the body section swept back and forth, as if it were searching for something.

Roger turned around to find the gypsy had run off. Roger also noted that that wasn't such a bad idea.

"Hey Jack," Rhino said, walking into the break room. Jack and Carla were seated at the table, their backs to the door. "Jack, Roger just radioed in. There's an unregistered advanced technology..."

"We know," Jack said, pointing at the television. Rhino looked up and saw Toronto, complete with its new inhabitant.

"That's big," Carla said.

"Mighty big," Rhino said. "I thought Roger was just being Roger again."

As they watched, the crystalline mammoth came to a stop over Roy Thomson Hall. Slowly, it lowered itself down until it was resting on top of the building, it's legs folded along its side and feet neatly planted in the surrounding park. As they watched, the face of the main portion shifted, and two connical shapes emerged.

"People of Toronto," a voice called, the cones acting as megaphones. "I do not wish to harm your city. I am merely looking for... an old friend. If, however, he fails to appear in one hour, I will begin destroying the city one building at a time. Time is ticking. Oh, and if the League of Heroes has any thoughts about interfering, know this: I will destroy one building for every spandex outfit that comes within a mile of this park."

"Aw christ," Rhino muttered.

"Get Phil, Roger, and Shimo back here on the double," Jack said.

"They're already on their way," Rhino asked. "Want me to get our gear ready?"

"No," Jack replied. "We're not going out there. I'm calling in support. I'll be in my office, and I am not to be disturbed."

Ignoring Rhino's questioning look, Jack walked out of the break room. Rhino looked at Carla, but she simply shrugged, as confused as he was. With a shake of his head, Rhino walked toward the comm.

"What did Jack say?" Phil asked. No sooner had the transport come to a stop than she was out the door and at Rhino's side.

"He said he's calling in support," Rhino said.

"Support?" Phil yelled. "We don't need support!"

"I know that," Rhino replied, looking at the ice fortress on the display screen. "And you know that. And Jack knows that. Something's up, but I'm not quite sure what it..."

"Mr. Fournier," the voice inside the crystalline structure called. "Where are you Jack? Time's a wasting!"

"Oh yes," Rhino said, "something is definitely up."

Jack came out of his office and walked into the ready room to find the team seated at the table. The reporter doing the voice-over was telling how Captain Toronto had made a charge at the ice fortress and ended up encased in a giant block of ice for his troubles. But no matter how frantic the reporter sounded, nobody in the room was watching. Instead, they had all been facing the door when Jack walked in, and now they were all staring at him.

"What's going on Jack?" Phil asked.

"GC support will be here in..." Jack started to say, but Carla cut him off.

"Our friend asked for you by name," she said, indicating the screen with a tilt of her head. Jack winced, but said nothing.

A moment of silence fell on the room that seemed a minor eternity. During that time, four pair of eyes were locked on Jack. Finally, Rhino rose to his feet, his balled fists propped on the table.

"I know what's going on," he said angrily. "And I know who that is. Why don't you tell them, Jack?" The last part was punctuated with a hateful sneer.

Jack made no reply, but looked down instead.

"I knew it," Rhino said. He shook his head and paced around the room. "I knew it. And you know how I knew? The ring. The ring was a dead giveaway Jack. Or should I say Jack Flash?"

"What's going on, Jack?" Roger asked, looking from Rhino to Jack and back.

"Yeah," Phil agreed.

"Tell them, Jack," Rhino said. "Tell them them about the Jacks of Hearts. Tell them about Shimmerstar. Go on, tell them."

"Settle down, Ulysses," Jack said, "before you say something stupid."

Rhino snorted. "Ok, I'll tell them. Our Mr. Fournier has a secret life. See, about twenty years ago, he was known as Jack Flash. He was a superhero, and he had a partner named Jack Frost. They were the greatest superhero team ever, the Jacks of Hearts. I followed their every move as a kid. Bought all the comics. They were celebrities. Then our beloved Jack let the city down. Let the world down."

"Rhino," Jack said.

"What? Am I wrong? You are Jack Flash, the pyrotechnic wonder, right?. Why don't you tell all of us why Jack Frost is back from the dead and looking for you?"

"Rhino stop it," Jack pleaded.

"Why don't you tell them how Shimmerstar came between the two of you? How you let a woman break up the duo."

"Rhino that's enough!" Jack shouted.

"Tell them how you ran away and let Frost destroy half the city. Then you can explain to us why you're calling GC to do your dirty work for you."

"The ring is useless now," Jack said.

"Oh really," Rhino laughed. "Is that the excuse you used when you chickened out and let the League of Heroes battle against Frost alone? Or was it just that you went chickenshit? They needed you, you know. They almost didn't beat him inside that battleship that he'd turned into a fortress. He killed Shimmerstar and it's your fault. And when the UH finally emerged, everyone wondered were Jack Flash had disappeard to, and why he was never seen again. Now we know, you turned coward."

"Rhino, you've got it all wrong," Jack said with a glare. "Now sit down before I sit you down."

Still angry, Rhino threw himself into a chair.

"Phil," Jack said, turning to face her. "Get your weapons ready. Roger, Shimo, Carla, get a mobil unit ready to roll. As soon as GC support arrives, I want you ready to head out there."

"What about me?" Rhino asked.

"You're staying here," Jack said, "manning comm."

Without a look back, he stormed out of the room and into his office.

Ten minutes later Jack opened the door and checked the hallway. It was clear. He ran down the hallway to the elevator and rode up to the ground floor. Once there, he got into his car and sped off.

Frost sat in the center of the room on a massive ice throne, situated on a raised platform. Apart from that bit of decoration, the room was empty.

"Eleven minutes left," he said, as Jack walked into the room. "I'm disappointed. Usually you wait until the last minute before you make your grand entrance."

"I haven't made a grand entrance in a long time," Jack replied.

"I know," Frost said. "I've learned a great deal in the week that I've been free."

"Don't toy," Jack chided. "You want to kill me. Do it now."

"What, no bravado?" Frost mocked. "No brash comebacks? No sparks or jets of flame? That hardly seems your style."

"I don't do jets of flame anymore," Jack said. "The ring stopped working a long time ago."

"Really? Mine is working just fine as you can see." Frost stood up and walked across the dais toward Jack. "Although, I must admit it was quite weak after our battle. Tell me, how's Elaine these days?"

"She's dead," Jack replied.

"I know," Frost smiled. "Although, it's not that big loss, I must say. Why I ever felt anything for that little trollop I'll never know."

"She saved your life," Jack replied.

"And just how did she do that?"

"She... she stopped me."

"Stopped you? How did she stop you? Last thing I remember, you were melting the ship's hull around me like a coffin. It took everything my ice ring had to keep myself from boiling away in that heat. And if that heat almost killed me there's no way that Shimmerstar could have... Oh. I see."

Frost smiled and closed the distance between the two. Jack said nothing as Frost walked around behind him.

"You killed her," Frost whispered into his ear. "She ran in to stop you and died. Oh wait," he said, in mock surprise. "That means she gave her life to save me. I guess she really did love me more than you after all."

Jack winced, but made no reply.

"Seventeen long years," Frost said, walking the rest of the way around Jack. "Seventeen years I spent in that metal shell in a League of Heroes storehouse, and all that time they took credit for besting me. It took seventeen years for me to work up the power to escape. But oh what a joy you've given me, Flash, allowing me to learn the truth. Jack Flash not only lost the girl, he lost his nerve."

Suddenly, Jack spun toward him and let fly with a left hook, catching Frost square in the jaw. Frost fell backwards, onto the floor and slid against the wall. With a wince, he touched his face. Jack's ring had left a cut across his cheek, and Frost's fingers came away from it bloodied.

"That's the old Flash," Frost smiled. He got to his feet and leveled his arm at Jack. A blast of ice shot from his hand and struck Jack square in the chest, throwing him backwards against the wall. Jack fell to the floor gasping.

"Come on Flash," Frost taunted. "Get up and fight me."

"I can't," Jack said.

"Use the ring! You've had seventeen years to build up power. Come on! Fight me!"

"The ring doesn't work!"

"Doesn't work?" Frost asked. He threw another blast of cold at Jack, sending him skidding across the floor. "What do you mean it doesn't work?"

"It hasn't worked since..."

"Since our fight?" Frost asked. He fired a salvo of jagged slices of ice, leaving large cuts across Jack's arm. "I find that hard to believe Flash. I was in that fight too and my ring didn't lose its charge. Now fight me."

A hail of freezing sleet shot from his hands at Jack, covering him in half-frozen slush. Jack rolled onto his knees, trying in vain to stand up against the torent.

"Fight me Flash!" Frost yelled.

"I can't!" Jack cried.

"Why? Why won't you use your powers?" Frost asked. "Wait, I get it now." He turned off the spray and walked over to Jack. "You *wont* use your powers. Jack Flash, Shimmerstar's murderer, thinks he can just walk away from his past by playing dead."

With a roar, Jack charged across the room and tackled Frost. He lifted him up and carried him, slamming him into the wall. Frost gasped, clutching at his chest. Jack backed off as Frost got back on his feet.

"There!" Frost giggled. Jack looked down and saw that his hands were engulfed in flames. "There! I told you that you could do it. Now give me my due!"

Frost spread his hands and a wall of ice shot toward Jack. Jack threw his hands over his head and a white-hot flame wrapped around his body, melting the ice as it flowed around him. He climbed up onto the ice surf and threw a series of fireballs at Frost, each of which was neatly deflected.

"Come on!" Frost yelled. "You can do better than that!"

A javelin of ice appeared in front of Frost and flew toward Jack. A wall of flame leapt up in response, but the tail end of the javelin made it through, barely grazing Jack's side. He leapt through the flames and sprayed magma from his fingers. Frost countered by spraying ice and, for a moment, the two were evenly matched. However, slowly but surely, Frost was pushed backwards until, finally, he was pushed against the wall. Jack pressed the attack, forcing Frost to the ground.

"Kill me!" Frost shouted. "Kill me the way you should have done seventeen years ago!"

Frost dropped his frozen defenses, and Jack dropped his.

"If you don't kill me," Frost said, "I'll kill you."

For a moment, the two glared at each other, neither one moving.

The hallway was empty, and Jack quickly ran into his office and shut the door. However, as he entered, Jack saw Rhino sitting in his chair and his back to Jack and the door. On the display screen was the Roy Thomson Hall, sheets of water cascading down its silvery sides as the ice monster melted.

Rhino raised the remote and turned off the display, then spun the chair around to face Jack.

"Where's everyone else?" Jack asked.

"Putting away their gear I'd imagine," Rhino said. "They were all pretty upset when I told them that you'd taken off by yourself and that the GC weren't coming."

"Listen, Ulysses," Jack said.

"No, you listen," Rhino said, standing up. He held something out toward Jack, it was a one-way transmitter. "I bugged you with a nanobot when I realized you'd never called GC for support."

"I see," Jack said. "And how much did you hear?"

"All of it," Rhino replied.

"I'd appreciate if you would keep it to yourself."

"I will," Rhino said. "And Jack," he added, his tone of voice dropping. "I'm sorry. I've known you long enough that I never should have doubted you."

"You didn't know," Jack said.

"That doesn't excuse my behavior," Rhino said. "You're still my boss, and Jack Flash is still one of the good guys."

"No," Jack shook his head. "Jack Flash died seventeen years ago."

He looked down at the ring on his finger thoughtfully. After a moment, he slid it off. He walked over to the wall safe, opened it, and dropped the ring inside.

"Buy you a beer?" Rhino asked.

"Yeah," Jack said with a smile. He shut the safe and spun the dial. "I am a little parched. Ulysses, I'm going to let you in on another little secret."

"What's that?"

"I hate the heat."

Rhino laughed. Jack offered his hand and Rhino shook it.