Chapter 3

Astrid sat on top of the computer desk, speaking with Caitlin about Barry's condition. Next to her, Cisco sat on his chair at the computer. He was focusing on something with intent and had gone back to not speaking to Astrid.

"I want to help you protect Central City." Barry's voice made all three of them jump. 

"Dude! Don't sneak up on people like that!" Cisco gasped as he stood up to greet Barry.

"I apologize, but I mean it. I want to help. Just tell me what you need me to do." Barry looked over at Astrid who had gotten to her feet. 

The group set up a selection of gear on level 25, including a makeshift suit for Barry to wear. 

"Remind me again what all these wires do?" Barry asked Cisco who was linking the wires to Barry clothes.

"These wires will monitor your speed. They will then transmit the reading to this baby here." He held up an IPad that he had personally upgraded for this exact reason. 

"We need you to just run until you get tired, Bar." Astrid told him, "I have a stop watch here. We need to establish what your limitations are. How's the suit going, Cisco?"

Cisco double checked all the connections to make sure they were all in place and then ensured that the IPad was working properly. "Ok, Barry. You're ready to go." Barry took a breath and then began running.

All they saw was a mere blur streaking past them continuously, creating a warm energy. Caitlin had brought up a crate of water bottles to quench Barry's thirst for after the experiment and was preparing the first aid kit.

Astrid's phone rang from in her pocket she pulled it out. The caller was Oliver, so she stepped away to answer it. "Oliver, Hi. Is everything okay?"

"Hi, Astrid, I figured I would check in to see how Barry was doing. Felicity asked that I call... in fact she told me to call." Astrid smiled at the thought of Felicity making demands of Oliver.

"That Felicity, huh?" she joked, "Well Barry is actually more than fine. He's currently running laps as we speak."

"Laps? Barry didn't strike me as much of a capable runner?"

"You would be surprised, Ollie. But let's be honest. I know you, you're calling for another reason. What's up?"

"Do you remember that photograph of your father that you left here?"

Astrid knew the one that he was referring to. She had thrown it into the waste paper bin at team Arrow's headquarters. "Oliver, I threw it out. Nonetheless, why would that be of any concern to you?" 

"Well, I had Felicity analyze the time stamp. So it turns out, the time stamp was in fact, accurate." 

Astrid froze, "Oliver. What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that your father was alive a month after the meteor shower. I can't confirm if he is still alive now. But I just thought you should know." 

Astrid didn't know how to respond to this news. In her mind she had considered her father dead, but the thought that he could actually be alive and hadn't visited her made her feel more hurt than ever before.

"Astrid, are you still there? Are you ok?" Oliver's voice was still in her ear. A tear ran down her face but she wiped it away quickly. "I'm still here Oliver. I'm fine."

"Good, I also want you to know that I settled things with the media. I told them that we're not a couple. Just two friends, comforting each other after the death of your father." 

"Thank you Oliver. I appreciate it. But I really need to go, I'll talk to you soon. Ok?"
They said their goodbyes and Astrid turned to see Cisco staring at her. He looked away in frustration. 

"What's your problem, Cisco? Just tell me!" 

"My problem is that you won't even admit that you're seeing Oliver again." He replied, trying to remain casual. Caitlin was watching them both and Barry was still running.

"For starters, it's none of your business who I see. Second, if I were seeing him, you would know as I would actually tell you, and thirdly... Oliver called me to say that he found proof that my father was alive a month after the meteor shower. So right now, your attitude is the last thing that I want to deal with! So drop it!" Astrid spoke in an angry whisper, leaving Cisco speechless by her words. He hadn't expected any of that.

"Your father can't be alive," Caitlin interrupted their conversation, "Your father loved you, if he were alive, he would have come to see you when you were in your coma."

"They were my thoughts exactly, Caitlin." Astrid told her, changing her tone. "But I was given a picture, back in Sterling City. The time stamp was exactly a month after the time that he should have died. I just received the call that it was, in no way, forged."

"Well we need to find him," Cisco chimed in. 

Astrid took the IPad from Cisco and changed the subject. "Has Barry really done 500,000 laps in this amount of time? That's... That's impossible!"

"Astrid, your deflecting the subject." Caitlin told her.

"Yes I am, and I want the two of you to take the hint. I saw the photo. My father was not being detained in any way. He was dressed in a suit and he was on the phone. He should have called to at least see how I was. But he didn't. So for the last time, drop it!" 

"You can't possibly be..." Cisco began.

"If you're not going to do it because I asked... you'll do it to keep your jobs. Just listen to me, ok?" Astrid didn't mean to pull the 'boss card' and she regretted it the moment she said it, but in Astrid's mind her father was dead. She had to accepted it, and they needed to as well.

Caitlin nodded and went back to her post. Cisco took the IPad out of Astrid's hands and said nothing.

"Ok, Barry. I think that's enough for now!" Astrid called out. He instantly appeared in front of her. 

"How many laps did I do?"

"The fastest Olympic runners in the world, would be put to shame." Cisco told him, "You just ran 520,006 laps in seven minutes and twenty-two seconds."

"Wow Barry, your suit is actually smoking." Astrid said patting Barry's arms. "Next time we are going to need something that is a little heat proof." 

"Drink some water, Barry." Caitlin said, handing him a bottle of water. He thanked her and sipped it. 

"I should probably go home." Barry told them. "Joe will get concerned if I'm late."

"I'm going to head home too, so I'll walk you out, Barry." Astrid told him. 

As they made their way towards the underground carpark, Barry broke the silence.

"You know, I may not be an expert when it comes to people, but I sense that things aren't going well with you and your friends, you have also always been there for me, so I want you to know that I'm here if you need to talk."

Astrid wanted to keep her mouth shut, but because her two best friends were not speaking to her and her current mission was to encourage Barry to trust them, she had to open up. 

"Ok." She started, "As far as anyone knows, my father died in the meteor shower. But just recently I caught up with some friends of mine in Sterling City. We came across a photograph of my father that was dated about a month after the meteor shower happened. Ollie just rang me and confirmed that the time stamp was not a forgery. Which means that my father is supposedly alive. But in my mind he is dead. I feel it. If he were alive he would have come, the minute he found out that I was in a coma. No one believes me and most of all, my friends, they are not willing to accept it." 

"I know what it's like to have no one believe you. You believed me when no one else did. So for what it's worth, I believe you. But why would someone go through the trouble to put you through this?" Barry asked her. 

"I don't know? To bring Sutherland Labs down? To bring down Luthor corp?" 

"Or to make you investigate Luthor corp. Everyone knows they're hiding some big secrets and you have the power to find out. I was always a big fan of your father, I read every book that he wrote. Something tells me he would want you to uncover the truth. Maybe we should see it as a sign to investigate Luthor Corp."

Astrid laughed. "You know that might be the smartest thing I've heard all day, Barry."

"I know. It was bound to happen sooner or later." He joked.

"Ok, Barry, this is my car. Did you want me to give you a ride home?"

"No thank you. I can walk... better yet I can run." He replied and in a flash, he was gone.


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