Star Labs was far different than Cisco remembered. He and Caitlyn would have never let it fall this far. The lab was a messy chamber, lined and littered with countless bottles and chemicals. Broad, low tables were scattered about which bristled with parts of machinery, test tubes, and little burners with their flickering blue flames.
In the midst of all of this, Dr. Wells, Sherlock, Mycroft, and Barry weaved in and around, talking rapidly to each other. They were working out some sort of solution, or equation, or something that Cisco should probably be helping with. They were trying to see if it was possible for Barry to open a hole between the universes.
Cisco crossed his arms over his chest. “This is… weird.”
John, who was beside him, gave Cisco sympathetic smile. “Believe me, I get it. Sherlock faked his death once and I didn’t see him for two years.”
Cisco turned, eyebrows raised. “Seriously?”
“Yup. I took it much worse than you, I’m afraid.”
It had been Cisco’s fault really. He had kept himself in the dark by not answering anyone’s calls. Many people wanted Harrison dead and so Harrison stayed dead publically. He said that he tried to contact Cisco but couldn’t get ahold of him.
It was still a shock.
Suddenly across the room, Barry let out a frustrated shout and sat down heavily. “This is ridiculous. We are never going to figure out how to do this in a single day!”
Cisco frowned. He peeled himself from the corner. “Why would we need to do that?”
Barry’s gaze met his and then fell away. He chewed his lip. “It’s nothing.” Quickly, Barry stood and began pacing. He growled to himself in irritation. “It’s just…” He stopped now. “My ability came with a consequence.”
Cisco stilled, frowning. “That’s not right.”
“I wish that was true.” Barry ran a worried hand through his hair. “Dr. Wells couldn’t get to me fast enough and I ended up with a strange sort of brain damage before he rescued me from the hospital.” He looked almost irritated. “I’ve already been awake for twenty hours and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to sleep eventually and when I do…” He trailed off and Cisco waited, slightly impatient. The other men’s attention had been caught and they watched on.
“Barry does not have the ability to process memories while he sleeps and put them into his long-term memory,” Dr. Wells picked up quietly. “Tomorrow morning…”
“I’ll have forgotten today. Just like I forgot yesterday and the day before that… To me, yesterday I woke up in Dr. Well’s lab and he told me I was fast.”
Cisco leaned back, shocked. A spark of pity flew through his chest and he hid it quickly. “That’s why you were glad we changed all of this.” No wonder.
Barry blinked. “What?”
“Never mind.” Cisco changed the subject quickly. “But you remember your condition? Your abilities? Dr. Wells?”
“Yes. A peculiarity I am very grateful for.”
“And so,” John spoke, finally. “Unless we solve this before you fall asleep, we’re going to have to explain this all again.”
Oh gosh. That was not going to work.
Barry nodded. Eyes on the ground now. Embarrassed, probably, by the attention. “I won’t remember any of you. From my point of view, I haven’t met anyone new for a year.”
It was then that Cisco registered the awfulness of such a condition. How long can you stay awake? Twenty-four? Thirty-six hours? Forty-eight at the most. At that point, you would hallucinating and falling into microsleeps. It wouldn’t really be living.
You can do a lot of things in two days. Travel across the globe. Meet a friend. Give a gift. Bake a cake. But how much of life is really found in forty-eight hours? It’s a snippet, a glimpse, a trailer of reality.
Could you get a different job? Meet new people? No. Barry would never learn anything he did not already know or fall in love with someone new. Every day was unique, different and changing and Barry would never remember why.
It would feel like being stuck. In a single slice of time. Would he wake up someday as an old man? Cisco shivered inwardly. He couldn’t imagine… No. He could. It made his stomach hurt.
“You haven’t met anyone you can recall, Barry,” Dr. Well’s inserted. “Although, I assure you, you have met several new people.” His face set with determination. He slapped his hands down on the table. “That’s another reason why we need to work faster. Better. Quicker. First, because you lot can’t live here much longer without unraveling. Second, because Barry needs to remember all of this. We are the most advanced scientific minds in this universe. Surely we can pull off a wormhole.”
Nodding in agreement, they pulled together around a diagram. They could do this. They had to.
The diagram was complex, filled with math and bits that even Cisco could hardly understand. However, after a moment Cisco shook his head. He realized that he recognized the diagram in a distant part of his mind. “It won’t work.”
Sherlock snorted moodily. “Optimism must be a British thing,”
“I’m not trying to shoot it down, but I… well, I suppose I am. It’s just not going to work. We can’t waste time with it.”
“Why not? Why wouldn’t it work?”
“Because…” Cisco let his words drop and his gaze fell with them. He’d have to tell his friends eventually. He might as well face it now. He’d avoided talking about himself long enough and it hadn’t made him feel much better anyhow. “I know because, on Earth One, it didn’t. Not the way we need it to work. It’s because they created a wormhole that we’re in this mess in the first place.”
Sherlock, who looked ghostly in the damp lighting, replied quietly. “Earth one?”
“A root parallel universe,” Cisco explained quickly. “I… get, um, visions, I guess, from other universes. People, things, places, will trigger it. It’s… complicated.”
Why, thank you, Cisco, he thought to himself. That was brilliantly articulate.
The others didn’t react the way he expected them to (then again, he wasn’t really sure what he expected). They nodded their heads thoughtfully and didn’t question him. Strangely, Dr. Well’s was not particularly surprised.
“You’re a Meta,” Harrison confirmed.
Cisco bit his lip, almost instantly denying it, but instead he nodded. “Um. Yeah. A pretty pathetic one, but… yeah.”
It took a moment but then Harrison smirked. “I’m not so sure about that. It’s certainly useful when dealing with multiple dimensions. What do you suggest we do?”
“I might have a plan.”
The basement with the accelerator was dark, dreary and dry. Cisco fumbled for the light switch and when he finally found it, white lights fizzled on high above him.
He was alone.
Careful to keep the fragile silence in one piece, Cisco walked down the steps and stood still on the cement floor. He could almost feel the vibrations of the machine squirming up from the souls of his feet. But that wasn’t right. The machine was shut down. The cool of the deactivated accelerator radiated from the walls and Cisco shivered. Around the massive machine, there was a cement runway. It was certainly convenient, almost as if the creator expected speedster to run on the track at some point. Cisco paused at the thought. Could Dr. Wells have-? No. Of course not.
Turning in a slow circle, Cisco imagined Barry, a streak of red and yellow racing around and around the accelerator. Soon. It was happening soon.
After a moment Cisco sighed. He was dangling by threads here, going off of the words of an alternate Barry Allen who he hoped he understood correctly.
He knew that whatever world they entered would be just as evil as this one. Earth One Barry made that clear. There was death, destruction, grief, just like now.
But Earth One had something to combat it.
They had each other. They were a team. Barry, Caitlynn, Cisco, Iris… the list went on. In contrast, everyone here, from what Cisco could glean, was alone in one way or another.
Cisco? He was alone by choice.
Dr. Wells? He had to train an amnesic speedster while pretending to be dead. A lonely pursuit by far.
Sherlock? John? Mycroft? They had each other, but they were alone in this universe, fraying on the edges.
And Barry Allen was the most alone of all. He was stuck in his own injured mind. Never to make new relationships for as long as he lived.
“We need a better plotline,” Cisco muttered. “This sucks worse than Catwoman.” He smirked ruefully at himself, but his smile dropped quickly. With a soft sigh, he settled on a metal step and placed his chin in his hands.
This wasn’t a story. He shouldn’t treat it as such. This was not a tale a kid might browse on the internet. He doubted reading this would even be entertaining. Oh look, Cisco Ramon doesn’t know what to do… again. How riveting.
No, at least in this universe, Cisco was facing a reality. He couldn’t run from these problems even if he was faster than the Flash.
Oh. That was good. Cisco mouthed the name and it itched the back of his mind. Something about it was so freaking familiar-
Cisco started and lost the thought. Swiveling, he got to his feet.
It was Dr. Wells. He stared down from the entrance into the basement. Elevator doors slid shut behind him. Dark shadows lined his eyes, giving him a haggard, nearly wild appearance. “It’s almost time. What are you doing down here?”
“Just thinking.” Quickly Cisco jogged up the steps until he stood before his former mentor. Dr. Wells was taller than him, Cisco noted. He smelled like smoke and ink. “Do you think Barry can really do it?”
Wells chewed his words for a moment before nodding slowly. “Creating a wormhole to a root universe seems much more possible than a wormhole to another branch. Sherlock and his friends will stabilize in such a world. It’s merely theory, at least in this universe. But if it’s happened in your other universe, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work here.”
Slowly, Cisco nodded in agreement. He look a small step back and changed the subject. “Are they coming down?”
“We’re already here.”
Sherlock Holmes stood with his hands in his pockets as the elevator doors slide open. The whole crew walked out. Barry looked positively exhausted, but he kept a nervous smile. John and Mycroft were both silent and tired. They nodded in Cisco’s direction. They were going to travel out of this universe and into a stable one. Hopefully.
“Alright.” Harrison clapped his hands. “We’re about to see what we can do. Are you ready, Barry?”
“Ready as I can be.”