At the Institute for Metahuman Studies, Martin Stein attempts to piece together what happened to Dr. Simon La Grieve in a series of recollections. Killer Frost escapes her cell and chases Martin through the building. Martin encounters the odd pair of Dr. Caius and Dr. Pangloss. Martin visits Lorrraine Reilly and learns about the current nature of the Firestorm matrix. Martin encounters Dr. Morrison. Firestorm intervenes at the Institute and confronts Killer Frost, allowing Martin to make his way to the hospital where Dr. La Grieve's killer is identified.
Insitute for Metahuman Studies, Vandermeer University, late one night…SCHRAK! SCHRAK! SCHRAK! SCHRAK! Ice daggers pierce the glass of the Insitute door.
“The door! If I can just reach the door!” thinks a panicked Professor Martin Stein. He sprints to the exit as a figure looms behind him, firing icy projectiles from the hallway. “She found me!” thinks Stein, looking over his shoulder.
“Leaving, Professor Stein? So soon?” Killer Frost calls to him. “Don’t.” FASHH! An icy blast radiates down the hall as Stein tries to protect himself. “You owe something to Killer Frost, Professor…Your life.”
Stein turns and runs toward the stairs. “Running away again, Martin?” Killer Frost calmly says as she walks behind him. “That won’t help. It only makes me mad.” FASHH! Another blast of arctic air surges through the lobby. “You can’t run far enough…fast enough…to escape me, Martin!”
“How’d I ever get myself into this?!” Martin thinks, cowering against a corridor wall. “It must have been close to midnight - - just last night? - - When I was passing the Institute,” he recalls. “I couldn’t sleep - - my insomnia will be the death of me yet. La Grieve’s light is still on. I wonder if he’d mind my bothering him?”
BLAM! “Was that a…gunshot?” Martin thinks, whirling to look towards the Institute. He rushes inside. “If my insomnia doesn’t kill me, surely my curiousity will,” he thinks. Just inside and ahead lies Dr. Simon La Grieve, face down, with blood trickling from under his white lab coat.
“Who - - ?!” Stein gasps. “Doctor La Grieve! Doctor La Grieve! It’s Martin Stein! Who did this to you?”
“S - - Stein? Lor - - Lorraine Reilly…must get..!” moans the wounded La Grieve.
“I got Doctor La Grieve to the hospital where I found myself being questioned by a Lieutenant Blackbourne,” Stein recalls. “Look, why are you asking me all this? I already made my statement to the Police,” he tells Blackbourne.
“Maybe because some of us don’t swallow it. In fact, some of is are wondering if maybe you didn’t shoot him,” Blackbourne says accusingly. “Me, for one.”
“Come on out, Martin,” Killer Frost calls as she climbs the stairs. Ice trickles down the stairway railings as she passes. “There are no escapes up here.”
“There is a fire escape, but I’m not sure in which room!” Stein thinks quickly. “I have to hide - - create a diversion…something that will give me a chance!”
“Oh, cute, Stein,” Killer Frost says. FASHH! She sweeps her arms as she walks, the force of the icy air moving the doors in the corridor. “All the classrooms are open, so now I’ll have to search them all,” she says. “You aren’t making this easy on me, Martin, which means I won’t make your death easy. In the meantime, you can forget about creeping back down the stairway.”
Killer Frost explodes in a rage, firing icy blasts up and down the hall that rip into the open doors. “I want you, Martin!” she yells. “I want you dead, Martin! Room by room, I’ll freeze you out! You’re going to die, Martin! Very, very soon!”
“I know,” Martin thinks. He ducks behind a desk, trying to hide. “I’d hoped to delay her while I snuck out the fire escape, but I picked the wrong room. And now I don’t know what to do! I don’t know who released her, though I think I know why. What I understand least of all is - - why does Killer Frost hate me so much? Think, Martin, think! What did you learn when you began investigating La Grieve’s shooting on your own? I started with one of the security guards that I’m friendly with. Charlie.”
“The cops is nuts, Professor,” Charlie says as they walk together.
“Thanks, Charlie,” Martin replies. “You were on duty when the shot was fired, correct? Did you see anything?”
“Not a t’ing, but even if I did, I couldn’t leave my post,” Charlie explains. “Most I can do is call Campus Security or 911. Someone’s gotta watch this sweetheart.”
“Ah, yes. Killer Frost resides here, correct?” Martin says, peering inside the glass of a cell door.
“Yeah,” Charlie replies. “The medicos are all getting worried about her. She’s just been wasting away and no one knows why.”
“According to my file, I worked on the original research project with Killer Frost…Whitney Frost,” Martin says. “She evidently fixated on me as the cause of her problems and tried to kill me.”
Killer Frost sits on the bed in her sparse cell. She looks up and sees Martin’s face at the window.
“You sound awfully cool about all that, Professor,” Charlie says.
“I have no direct memory of it, Charlie,” Martin replies. “A brain tumor took away the cells with most of my memories. As, she seems to have noticed me.”
Killer Frost walks over and pushes her hands against the door. “YOU!!!” she yells. “You’re the one who made me what I am!!! I kill you!!!”
“Yow! Get away, Professor!” Charlie warns. “Reading’s just went inta overdrive! I’m initiating emergency containment measures! Get away!”
“NO!!!” Killer Frost yells as a flood of particles surges into her cell.
“Them was super-cold pellets - - liquid oxygen or some such thing - - I dropped in,” Charlie explains. “They’ll lower the temperature a bit more. Cold knocks her out. Don’t ask me why. I’m just glad it does. I wouldn’t get too close, Professor. She seems to have a real hate for you.”
“But why?” Martin asks. “It was her predecessor who had a quarrel with me! Her I barely know! Why does this Killer Frost hate me so intently?”
“I dunno, Professor,” Charlie replies. “Maybe you’d want to take it up with the two birds who’ve spent the most time with her - - Pangloss and Caius.”
“Excuse me, gentlemen…I wonder if I might talk with you?” Martin says, walking towards the two men nearby.
“And whoooom are youuuuu?” Dr. Caius says.
“Twit! Don’t you recognize that Stein fellow that La Grieve was working with?” Dr. Pangloos chides his colleague.
“Whuh-hy should I?” Caius answers. “I never had much to do with the feh-low. B’sides, isn’t he that one who killed La Grieve, hmmmm?”
“May I point out, Doctor Pangloss, that La Grieve isn’t dead,” Martin explains. “And, in any case, I didn’t shoot him; I merely found Simon after he’d been shot.”
“Harumpf! So you say!” scoffs Dr. Pangloss.
“Getting your facts muddled again, eh, Pangloss?” Dr. Caius interjects. “Don’t mind my colleague, sir. He’s been very testy since being questioned by the Police on the matter. I believe they think him a suspect!”
“I can’t believe, Doctors, that the Police think that either of you is capable of shooting Doctor La Grieve,” Martin replies.
“And wh-hy not?” Dr. Pangloss says, waving his arms excitedly. “Why, I’m an ex-cellent suspect! I had oppor-tun-ity, means…motive. All things necessary..!”
“I merely meant..” Stein retorts.
“What you mean, young man, is that you can’t seriously believe either of us capable of such an act!” Dr. Caius adds. “What - - don’t you take us seriously? That would be an error! I was alone in my apartment reading and - - hence - - no alibi. I believe the guns have no prints and I had talked about getting just such a gun for protection. As for motive - - it was well known that I originally meant to head IMHS. Instead, this upstart La Grieve, with far fewer University credentials, was given the job. Men have killed for lesser reasons, hmm-mm?”
“Balderdash!” Dr. Caius continues, shoving Dr. Pangloss. “I am a much better suspect! I was actually in the IMHS Building that night, working late.”
“OOF!” Dr. Pangloss grunts.
“Supposedly, I was walking home at the time, but why did it take me a half hour longer that night than usual. And the gun could just as easily have been mine!” adds Dr. Caius.
“You also have, I suppose, a motive?” asks Martin, scratching his head as he leans against a desk.
“Heh heh! Well, there have been rumors of my taking advantage of my position with comely underclass co-eds,” snorts Dr. Caius. “I’ll neither confirm nor dey the rumors, sir - - but being caught in such an escapade…could cost me my position. And, before he lapsed into a coma, did not La Grieve gasp out one co-ed’s name? Is it all inconceivable?”
“You! You strutting, misshapen troll?” fumes Dr. Pangloss. “Poof! So much for your credibility, hmmmm?”
“You, on the other hand, are a well-known virgin who can’t bear to kill your own lab specimens!” counters Dr. Caius. “Pah to your credibility!”
“Well, that was less than enlightening,” Martin notes as the two doctors continue to argue.
“Hullo, Stein,” a voice calls out. “What are Caius and Pangloss arguinig about this time - - how many metahumans can dance on the head of a pin?
“Hm? Oh, Hello, Morrison,” Martin replies. “No, they’re arguing which of them is the more likely suspect to have shot Doctor La Grieve.”
“I suppose it’s possible; they both operate just within reality,” Morrison observes. “Either could have easily strayed over the edge. The Police have many suspects, including, I believe, yourself?”
“Yes. What about you?” Martin replies.
“Perhaps. Actually, I wonder if your young vanquished ‘friend’, Ron Raymond, right? - - might have snuck back and done it. Or maybe it was Firehawk,” Morrison ponders.
“Firehawk?” Martin gasps. “But why should she want to kill La Grieve?”
“He knew her secret identity,” Morrison explains. “We still don’t know how important these identities are to our so-called ‘superheroes’. Our knowledge of the whole metahuman psychology is just in its infancy, but still, I think even a cursory glance at the data would suggest there’s motive enough for murder here.”
“Surely she would burn him instead of using a gun,” Martin suggests.
“Only if she was stupid,” Morrison counters. “A gun makes it anonymous; fire makes it her.”
“Listen, you’ve done work with Killer Frost, correct?” Martin asks. “She went berserk when she saw me. I can’t fathom why. It was her predecessor who hated me.”
“I have no idea,” Morrison replies. “La Grieve thought her condition was caused by a sort of intelligent virus, and that would have explained it…except my research didn’t show any evidence of a virus. That line of inquiry was dropped. Gotta run. Ciao.”
Morrison turns and walks off. “Hrumpf! Morrison certainly turned cold all of a sudden,” Martin thinks. “But something he said clicked something in my head! There’s someplace else I need to go - - immediately!”
Knock-knock! “Coming, coming…” Lorraine Reilly calls as she walks to her door. She swings it open. “Oh! Professor Stein...Martin!”
“Miss…Lorraine…Do you…uh…mind if I..,” Martin says with a smile.
“No, please, come in!” Lorraine replies.
“I assume the Police were already here, asking you the significance of Simon La Grieve’s words?” Martin begins.
“Yes, but I couldn’t tell them anything,” Lorraine explains. “They seem to think I pulled the trigger. I’ll admit, I don’t have an alibi. On the other hand, I don’t have any real motive, either. My only real connection with the Institute or Doctor La Grieve was through you…or Ron. So, fortunately, there’s no motive.”
“There might be - - if, as I suspect, you’re also Firehawk,” Martin says, wiping his glasses.
“Uh, excuse me? If I was who?” Lorraine says, turning away.
“Firehawk. It explains the data and so far I haven’t been able to disprove it,” Martin continues. “As a working hypothesis, it’s perfectly sound - - you are Firehawk.”
“Then - - I’m your would-be killer,” Lorraine says with a frown.
“Well, I’m certain that’s what the Police would think,” Martin replies. “I don’t, it doesn’t fall in your character insofar as I know it. Besides, I don’t think Simon was identifying you as his assailant. I think he wanted me to get something to you.”
“Martin, do you honestly believe I am Firehawk?” Lorraine asks pointedly.
“Absolutely,” Martin replies. “It feels right. Although I couldn’t say why.”
Lorraine sits on her couch and invites Martin to sit next to her. “I can explain…and maybe it’s time I did,” she begins. “Martin, it all revolves around…well, I don’t want to shock you, but it all has to do with Firestorm. Martin, Firestorm is not a single being, but a matrix of two or more beings…and originally you were part of that matrix! The other part was Ron Raymond. When you were dying of your tumor, your Firestorm fought a Soviet metahuman called Pozhar out in the desert near Las Vegas.”
“Due to a nuclear blast, the matrix was realigned to include Ron and the Russian - - Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin - - with your mind forming the template for Firestorm’s new persona!” Lorraine continues. “Originally, we all thought you had died out there in the desert, but the new matrix had somehow shielded you while the radiation burned away the tumor. You wandered out of the desert alive and well, if amnesiac. The Russians, meanwhile, tried to clone Firestorm and created an artificial being named Svarozhich, a soulless version of Firestorm that stole their power. Ron and Mikhail learned that Firestorm was really Earth’s Fire Elemental. To get the power back, they had to agree not just to meld together, but to fuse permanently! They did it, with Svarozhich being a part of the matrix. So this newest form of Firestorm exists independently of you for the first time.”
“My word!” Martin gasps in shock. “Well, that would certainly explain a lot, wouldn’t it? What became of Ron, why I always feel so strange when I see Firestorm on the television. I actually flew around with my head on fire? Good heavens!”
Martin stands. “I…thank you for telling me, Miss…Lorraine. I have a lot to ponder. As yet, I have no idea how to emotionally connect with this information. It’s good to know. I actually wandered around looking like a Bunsen burner? Hmmmmm? Well, that solves one mystery. Now I need to find out who shot Simon La Grieve - - and why!”
“I understand how you feel,” Lorraine replies. “It’s very hard - - being a suspect.”
“Oh, that doesn’t especially bother me,” Martin replies. “No, it’s simply that so long as Simon’s would-be homicide is not identified, he or she may try again. I find that totally unacceptable. Simon La Grieve is my friend. So, if you’ll excuse me…I’m going to go and find this would-be assassin.”
“Godspeed, Martin!” Lorraine says as Martin walks to the door. “Flaming hair or not, you’re still a hero!”
“I then got foolhardy. Following a hunch, I snuck back here, into IMHS, and into Morrison’s office,” Martin recalls. “Doctor La Grieve’s concept of an intelligent virus made sense to me. I had to know…why Morrison abandoned the premise as a field of inquiry.” Martin pages through a filing cabinet. “Based on his data, it was clear that he was either incompetent - - or a liar! Whichever it was, his work appeared to be deliberately slipshod. If he was indeed lying, I knew I had to learn why! Perhaps Simon discovered Morrison’s lies. Might that have been enough reason for Morrison to shoot him? And where is Morrison now?”
Martin walks past the view screen showing Killer Frost’s cell. “I recalled that Morrison came from the Hutchings Institute, as did Whitney Frost before she and I worked together. I then realized that it was at Hutchings that Starman uncovered an unauthorized project to create metahumans, something called the Power Elite. If that wasn’t their first such attempt, and if Morrison had a hand in it - - he could have a very good motive for wanting Simon dead! Which, as I discovered, was a good reason for wanting me dead, as well!”
Martin turns to the stairway and stops abruptly. “Hel-lo, Maaaaartin!” Killer Frost calls up to him. “How good to see you up close again - - after all this time!”
“Enough wool-gathering, Stein!” Martin thinks. “It seems you have your chance to escape - - use it!”
“I thought you might double back, Martin, so I set a trap,” Killer Frost says as she corners him. “And now, little mouse, I’m going to freeze you alive!”
FZAMM! A fiery burst explodes into the room. Martin and Killer Frost turn and duck. “Out of the way, Professor!” Firestorm says, quickly phasing through a wall between the two. He shoves Killer Frost back with a sweep of his left hand. “Get away from here! GO!”
SCHRAAK! Martin turns to run. “I’ve got to get to the hospital!” Martin thinks as he scurries down the stairs. “This is only a distraction - - the killer - - Morrison - - must be trying for Simon again!”
SCHRAAK! Fire meets cold as Firestorm and Killer Frost trade opposing blows. “Welcome, Firehair! I have a lot of fury to work off!” Killer Frost howls.
“Fury? You want to see fury?!” Firestorm replies. FZAAM! SCHRAAK! He lunges towards Killer Frost. WHAROOM! The building shakes violently.
“Hueuh heuh…! There’s Simon’s room!” Martin thinks as he runs down the hall. “Who’s talking to the security men? Morrison! The Police are letting him into the room?! Are they mad?! I have to stop him - - one way or the other!”
“HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!” Killer Frost laughs maniacally. “Yes! Yes! Your heat simpy makes me stronger, Flamebrain! I thrive on it!”
SCHRAK! FZAAM! “Thank you! You’ve just given me the solution!” Firestorm says with a smile. “For as I command flame, so I also command heat! I call all the heat in this area into me. And what does that leave you?”
KKKKKKKKKRAK! The heat suddenly disappears and the temperature plunges. Ice forms around Killer Frost. “No, I won’t be beaten in this manner again! I won’t! I….” she gasps as crystals form around her.
“And now to join my brother at the hospital…and pray we are in time!” Firestorm says, sweeping up and away from Killer Frost.
“Hello, Doctor La Grieve,” Morrison says as he enters the hospital room. “No, don’t wake up. It’s only me.” He walks to the bed and reaches for the pillow. “In fact, don’t ever wake up, Doctor!” he says, placing the pillow over La Grieve’s face.
Martin dashes for the room and is blocked from the door by the security guards. “Ain’t nobody getting’ in unless Lieutenant Blackbourne says they go in,” a guard groans as he restrains Martin.
“Don’t you realize?!” Martin blurts. “You’ve already allowed in the one who tried to kill Simon La Grieve!” Martin struggles against them. “Simon! Wake up!” he yells. “Protect yourself! Call out! Don’t let him kill you!”
SCHRANGGG! Firestorm bursts into the room. “Let that man go!” he orders as the guards duck for cover.
CREAK! “The door’s opening!” Martin cries out. Slowly, it opens. “Morrison! You cold-blooded maniac!” Martin yells as Morrison emerges. “Did you - - have you - - ? Blast it, has that idiot Blackbourne let you kill Simon?!”
“The Good Book’s got it right,” Lieutnenant Blackbourne says with a smile as he steps out from behind Morrison. “’Oh, ye of little faith…”
A guard quickly restrains Morrison. The other guard pulls Martin away. Firestorm looks on as Lieutenant Blackbourne steps into the hallway. “S.T.A.R. Labs thought their report might have had something to do with La Grieve’s shooting, so they faxed us the info,” Blackbourne explains. “Seems Morrison here was part of that rogue group at the Hutchings Institute that was developing metahumans on the sly. His project used a virus - - and they inoculated the original Killer Frost with it - - without her being aware. The virus is transferable under certain conditions, but it’s ultimately fatal. Our boy Morrison here shot La Grieve when the Doctor tumbled to all this; my guess is he’s behind a lot of the mischief going on at IMHS.”
“I want my lawyer,” snorts Morrison.
“I don’t blame you,” Blackbourne continues. “You need him. And I hope for your sake that he’s real, real good. We had just about enough on you as it was, but we thought you might pull something major league dumb if you thought we suspected everyone else and you obliged royally.”
“So you never really suspected me or the others, did you?” Martin asks as Firestorm looks on.
“Nope,” Blackbourne explains.
“Charming,” Martin says with a scowl.
“You know, I love it when an intellectual tries something like murder,” Blackbourne adds. “You people are so far out of your natural element, you fall for the simplest traps that any street-smart six-year-old would avoid.”
Blackbourne turns to lead Morrison and the guards away. “Come along dopey. Got a date in the pokey,” he adds.
“Firestorm, please - - wait a minute,” Martin asks. “I think you should know that Lorraine Reilly told me of my ‘secret history’, so I’m aware of our past…’links’. What I don’t understand…is how you happened to be here at the Institute when you were. It was almost as if you were reading my mind.”
“Well…in a sense,” Firestorm replies. “These days I tend to follow my feelings. One such, a feeling of danger, drew me back to Pittsburgh. As I got close to you, I became aware of your danger…and homed in on it. Somehow I just knew.”
“Ye-es, yes, I think I can understand that,” Martin says. “I certainly accept it - - with great thanks, by the way. You saved my life. I’ve been a part of you and you of me. In a very real sense, that bond still exists. What I’m suggesting is - - well, let’s not be strangers, yes?”
“Yes,” Firestorm replies. He turns and flies out the hospital window.
“So, the mystery is solved - - not only of who shot Simon La Grieve but what became of Ron Raymond,” Martin thinks as he watches Firestorm fly off. “I still have both my friends. Simon will recover and I can see Ron in Firestorm. I now understand something more of my past and it’s no longer just dead memory, facts written on a page that could be about someone else. My past is alive and lights up the sky. My heart is content, and my soul, at last, knows peace.”