Chapter 9

Oliver, Astrid, Felicity and Diggle dined at the most expensive restaurant in Sterling City at Oliver and Astrid's expense.

 Astrid was enjoying herself, but her mind kept darting back to the message that Diggle had passed on from Lionel's associate, when he had retrieved Oliver's antidote. It must have been a hoax, some sort of trap, though photos do not lie. The black and white picture with the time stamp that John Diggle had handed her could have been a fraud.

She would look into that later. Now was not the time. She sipped her wine and pushed the thought to the back of her mind and glanced up at John who was busy engaging in conversation with Oliver about his latest case.

Astrid glanced at her phone, she was hoping to see a message from Caitlin. There wasn't one. "You look like you're not enjoying yourself." Felicity's voice broke in.

 "No, I am. I am just anxiously waiting for good news." Astrid answered her, placing her phone back in her purse.

"About your friend right?" Felicity asked.

 "Yeah, Barry. Caitlin told me that he was recovering quickly. But he is still in his ..."

 "Hold on. Did you just say Barry? Barry Allen from Central City?" Felicity asked interrupting her, as if a cord had been struck from inside her.
"Yeah. Why?"

 "I... er... may have met him a bit before the meteors struck. He came up here helping us with a case. He was very excited to meet the arrow in fact. He was very sweet. Is he seeing anyone? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked. It's just..."

 "...Felicity, you're rambling." Astrid laughed, "But you mean to tell me, that he met The Arrow. Does he know that it is Oliver?"

 "Yeah, he does. I still can't believe he's in a coma." Felicity replied, remembering why they had brought up the subject in the first place.

Astrid shook her head, though smiled. "I can't believe he knew who The Arrow was before I did and he never told me. That guy tells me everything. I sat with his father a few times,  and I am pretty sure that I am the only person at CCPD who believes Barry's story."

Felicity sighed, "But you couldn't get him out of prison?"

 Astrid shook her head. "There's too much evidence against him. They refuse to reopen his case."

 Astrid was alarmed by the sound of her phone ringing. She pulled it out of her purse, in a hurry, excited that it could be Caitlin.

Her heart sank in her chest as she saw that it was Lionel Luthor. "Excuse me for a minute," she told Felicity and made her way towards the open balcony of the restaurant, to answer her phone.

The night was cool and the sky was clear. She breathed in the air and answered the phone, clutching the folded picture in her pocket. "Lionel. Hi, I would like to thank you. We gave Oliver the antidote. It worked."

"I never underestimated that it would, Miss Sutherland. But I am calling for another reason. It seems that my associate that delivered the antidote, acted against both our best interests. you see my agent delivered a message to your associate, which I am quite sure that you may have received. I would like to tell you to take no notice of that message. Against my knowledge this associate was working for a third party. One that neither one of us can trust if we prefer to keep our business to ourselves. They want to bring down our corporations for their own personal gain. I would suggest, for your father's sake that you be cautious with whom you put your trust. I assure you that this agent has been dealt with."

Astrid knew that Lionel was lying through gritted teeth. Her father and her training as a criminal psychologist had both taught her how to tell when someone was lying. Though, which part was the lie? She couldn't be sure.

"I thank you for letting me know, Mr Luthor and for future reference, I hope you can be wiser with whom you trust." She hoped that he couldn't hear through her façade. She ended the call before Lionel could speak any further and placed her phone in her pocket. She pulled out the black and white picture.

It was an image of her father speaking on the phone, dating a month after the meteor had hit. But that was impossible. Her father had died during the meteor shower. But could it be possible? There had never been a body found. She focused on the time stamp. Could it have been forged? She wasn't sure.

In her mind her father had died. If he was indeed alive he would have found some way to return to her. She needed to move on with her life and to do this, she needed to push out any thought that her father could be alive. Astrid felt the tears emerge. A voice from behind her made her jump. "Diggle told me what the agent said." It was Oliver.

Astrid turned to face him and wiped her tears away. "Well, we have nothing to worry about. Lionel just rang. Apparently, that agent was lying. They worked for some third party whose goal is to bring down big corporations. You should be careful with Queen industries, they might come after you. This picture is a lie! The time stamp has been forged!" She showed him the picture and went to tear it in her hands, as the tears began to full from her eyes. She had finally hit breaking point and she didn't know what she was capable of.

Before she could bring herself to ripping up the photo, Oliver took it from her hands and held her tightly. She sobbed into his chest. Of all that they had been through, she was glad that she could still count on him to be there as her trusting friend, when her world was crumbling. This was why she had come to Sterling City.

Amidst her own pain, she could hear a million voices around her. No they weren't voices, they were thoughts. She was having trouble controlling her power. She could hear all the thoughts of the people in the restaurant. While she was trying to find peace within herself it was as if she had opened some sort of mental connection to the world around her.

One person took a photo of Oliver holding Astrid and was about to put it up on the web. Her head was still facing Oliver's chest. She was tempted to break away to shout at the person but then another thought broke into her mind. It was almost a whisper so she couldn't determine how far away it was. This thought meant danger.

"Oliver," Astrid spoke softly. "Diggle's in trouble. There's an assassin in one of the buildings. I can't tell how far away he is. He is a sniper. I can hear his thoughts. He won't harm anyone else, his only target is John. We need to do something."

"You warn Diggle. I'll find the assassin." Oliver told her. He hurried through the restaurant, to avoid making a scene, while Astrid used her reading abilities to determine where the assassin was coming from. Fortunately, he hadn't yet aimed his weapon. Astrid picked up her pace and led John and Felicity out of the restaurant, explaining the situation on the way.

"I can't read the man's thoughts anymore." Astrid fumed as they had reached the elevator. "It must be a distance thing."

"That's ok. I can hack into the camera systems using my phone." Felicity said as she clicked an app. "OK and done... I have video footage... and now I will link to Oliver's phone so we can stay connected... Ollie? Can you hear us?"

"I can hear you Felicity." Came Oliver's response.
 "Ok good! I think he might be across the street on the corner of Fifth avenue. Level 21. He's making his way towards the stairs..." Felicity continued to give him directions.

The hooded vigilante, known as the Arrow glided from building to building searching for the location, that Felicity had given him. She had gone quiet for now but the connection was still open. His phone was still in his pocket. He shot an anchor arrow towards the building that Felicity had mentioned. He swung in through a window on the 21st floor and ran towards the elevator. "Felicity? Which floor is he on?"

"He just passed the 19th floor and is still heading down the stairs."

 "Ok, I will go to the 17th floor and meet him in the stairwell." He climbed into the elevator and pressed the button to the 17th floor. When the doors finally opened to his chosen floor, he ran towards the stairwell, catching the attention of a group of tourists on their way out of the stairs. They were excited to see the Arrow in person and while some passed without a second glance, others tried to engage him in conversation.

Nonetheless, he pushed passed and made his way through the door of the stairwell. "Felicity, where is he?"

"The cameras have gone dark Ollie. I've been trying to bring them back up but someone has overridden my access." there was concern in her voice.

Oliver noticed a small note on the back of the stairwell door addressed to him with the four words 'Better luck next time' printed clearly.

He ran out of the stairway and after the group of tourists but none of them fit the criteria of the assassin. He had simply vanished.


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