Firestorm battles not one, but two Hyenas. The were-hyena infection continues to rage in Firestorm's bloodstream. Ronnie visits Eastside Hospital trying to get contact information for Dr. Shi. Summer Day inexplicably disappears. Stein's ex-wife Clarissa is feeding surveillance information on the Professor to an unknown entity. The Hyena attacks Ronnie and Stein, leading to a final showdown between Firestorm and the two Hyenas. Following the fight, Firestorm is unable to transform back into Ronnie and the Professor!
Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)
Horror. The twin spires of the World Trade Center stand out in the night, a radiant full moon shining behind them. Professor Stein hurriedly tells Ronnie “Dear Heaven, boy, are you out of your mind? You’re not on the roof of some two-story building - - this is the World Trade Center - - and your nuclear blast has thrown Summer Day over the side!” Firestorm is locked in vicious hand-to-hand combat with Dr. Shi in Hyena form. Plummeting, face first, arms stretched, eyes wide in panic, Summer Day is falling to her doom. Stein yells “You’ve killed her, Ronald! You’ve killed the sister of the girl you love!”
Ronnie lands a kick to his jaw with a stunning “Krak!” and breaks free from Dr. Shi. He tells Stein that he didn’t think because he was so caught up in fighting this new Hyena. When Summer showed up, he just reacted when she lunged at him. Stein urges that there’s still time! Save her! Firestorm leaps over the side of the World Trade Center tower, flying straight down at top speed!
Summer falls helplessly, a chilling scream emanating from her mouth. She twists and turns in the air as the lights in the streets below become brighter and brighter. A streak of light passes her! Firestorm has microseconds to act! He aims a burst of restructuring energy at the pavement. Summer is barely 100 feet above the ground now. The atomic burst hits, turning the pavement into a small sea of water. Summer plunges into it with a gigantic splash and spray! A car driving along the street also sinks headfirst into the water. Stein quickly points out that the water may have broken Summer’s fall, but the driver of the car now needs rescue or he will drown! As Firestorm pulls the driver out of the sinking car, Stein demands that he must use their atomic restructuring powers more sensibly. Coming to the surface and moving the driver safely to dry ground, Ronnie tells the Professor to shove being sensible. The job got done and the driver got wet - - “So what?” Ronnie asks. Crowds are gathering at the spectacle. They recognize Firestorm, but…one asks, what is wrong with his face? Someone else yells to call the police.
In the confusion, a figure slips away into an alley. A trail of water is left behind along its path. The Hyena form of Summer Day leans against the wall of a building, shaking off the trauma of the near-fatal fall and unbelievable landing. Her body hurts badly. Her rage is building inside of her. She wants to kill someone…punish someone…tear someone apart! Looking back at the crowd, she realizes her rage before it goes out of control. She thinks no, that rage is not her, not Summer Day. She has to remember who she is, even through her Hyena form. She has to remember she came here to help Firestorm, not hurt him! Summer blames herself for Dr. Shi becoming a were-hyena. But she is having trouble concentrating. She must hide…hide, and think!
On the street, Ronnie is getting agitated. The brown fur on his face from the slowly worsening hyena curse can be clearly seen by the people. A woman loudly asks “Hey! Did he just snarl? He did!” Ronnie tells them to back off! The driver he rescued recoils away, yelling that Ronnie snapped at him. Ronnie yells for the people to stop crowding him, and Firestorm launches straight up into the sky! Stein asks Ronnie about Summer Day, saying they can’t just leave without finding her. Arriving back on the World Trade Center rooftop, Ronnie sees that Dr. Shi has escaped while he was down below saving Summer. He angrily says that he’ll have to search for Dr. Shi from scratch. Stein, worried about Ronnie’ state of mind, urges him to calm down. The Professor has never seen Ronnie like this, full of hostility. As they fly away from the World Trade Center, Ronnie reviews the events that have transpired leading up to now.
Doreen’s big sister comes home from an Arizona clinic, supposedly cured of the curse that makes her turn into a were-hyena when she is under emotional pressure. Then one night she disappears, and when Ronnie goes looking for her, he finds a second Hyena who just happens to also be Summer’s boyfriend, Dr. Jivan Shi. He attacks and slashes Ronnie with his hyena-cursed claws, and now Firestorm is slowly turning into a were-hyena just like them! Ronnie angrily questions Stein as to why he shouldn’t be hostile. With his teeth looking like fangs, Ronnie vows that when he finds Dr. Shi, he’ll kill him!
Firestorm’s return flight to Eastside Medical Center where Dr. Shi works as a resident is eerily quiet. Stein says nothing to break the uneasy silence. In an unseen corner at the rear of the building, Firestorm transforms into his two component parts, a worried Professor Stein and an abashed Ronnie Raymond. He apologizes to Stein for the way he acted, figuring that the fever is making him more hot-headed than usual. With a word of understanding, Stein says that he can almost remember what happens as Firestorm now that he is aware of their shared persona. Taking no offense, Stein says he is sure Ronnie didn’t mean what he said in anger. Ronnie says he’ll catch up with the Professor later, hoping that he can get a line on Dr. Shi here at the hospital.
Walking inside, Ronnie accidentally bumps shoulders with a man. The man grunts at him, taking offense at the contact, and tells Ronnie he should watch where he is going. Ronnie apologizes and asks if the man works at the hospital. He scoffs at Ronnie with an irritated tone, “Work here? Young man, I am Dr. Barry Gleason. I am Chief Resident of Eastside Hospital – and you are keeping me from my dinner.” Ronnie is a bit surprised at this reaction, and apologizes again to Dr. Gleason as he walks away. Thinking Gleason to be a creep, he says no wonder Dr. Shi has it in for this place as long as guys like Gleason are in charge. Outside, a familiar figure looks down from a rooftop at the brightly-lit hospital entrance…Hyena!
Ronnie approaches a nurse at a desk, who politely tells him that he will have to return tomorrow because visiting hours have ended for the day. Ronnie explains that he only wants the home address for Dr. Shi. The nurse offers an apology and informs him that information is unavailable. Ronnie thinks that he’s not much at investigating, so much for the great detective. Summer is gone and so is Dr. Shi, and he doesn’t have a clue where to find them. Nothing has gone right on this lousy night, and Ronnie thinks it’s time to crawl home. A familiar voice calls out “Ronnie!” to interrupt his thoughts. Doreen runs up to hug him, relieved to see him. As they embrace, Ronnie can feel her shaking nervously. She explains that their friends Jefferson and Stella came with her. They were looking for Summer, but she has disappeared and no one knows where! Ronnie thanks Jefferson and Stella for sticking with Doreen. He offers to see her home. Doreen calms a bit, saying finding Ronnie is the first nice thing that’s happened on this unusual evening. “I think - - I really need you,” Doreen tells Ronnie as they depart the hospital.
Dawn’s sunshine rises over the morning skyline of the city. Professor Stein walks to his lab office at Concordance Research. With a gasp, he sees a memo taped to his door. It is addressed to him from Quentin Quale, the project director. Stein reaches for it and starts to read. The memo directs that, as of today, Stein’s services will no longer be required by Concordance Research. Stein is instructed to turn in all keys and company identification at the Personnel Office by 9:30 am. The memo falls to his side. He stands dejected, shoulders sagging. He thinks that he’s been waiting for the axe to fall since Quale told him that his contract would not be renewed. And now the axe has fallen. He wonders…is this how a career ends? With a note on an office door?
The voice of Harry Carew greets him. Stein’s co-worker tries to console him, saying Quale is a lower lifeform. Carew says that is what he will tell Quale the next time he sees him. Stein is appreciative, but tells Carew not to make trouble on his account. Stein thinks that perhaps Quale is right, that he’s an alcoholic wreck and is finished as a research scientist. Carew offers moral support, saying that Stein’s been hit in the gut but he will recover. He reminds Stein that there are other jobs, other companies. Stein thinks about that, and replies “Not for me, Harry.” Carew says he is taking the day off. He tells Stein that what he needs is a Harry Carew Vitamin Special and invites the Professor to his apartment.
Shortly after at Carew’s nearby home, he tells Stein that what he needs to do is to take better care of himself. Stein wouldn’t get so depressed that way. Stein reminds Carew that losing a job is hardly a reason for good cheer. Carew says there have certainly been other setbacks and asks about the explosion at the Hudson Nuclear Facility, the one Stein talked about on the tape he made. The tape! At the mention of the tape, Stein quickly asks what Carew is talking about. Clearly, Carew has been hiding knowledge of something. Carew admits that he is not proud of himself. He explains that he has always been turf-conscious and saw Stein as a threat when the Professor joined Concordance. He admits that he broke into Stein’s lab and stole an erased tape from a recorder, which he reconstructed using advanced audio-science techniques. He planned to use anything he could learn from it against Stein. After he and Stein became friends, Carew had a change of heart. Stein is distressed, recalling that he revealed everything about Firestorm on that tape! Carew admits that he never finished listening to it, and offers to play it so Stein can hear it for himself. He pulls out the tape and loads it onto a tape recorder. Pushing play, they are both surprised to hear not the sound of Stein’s voice but instead music from the speakers. Perplexed, Carew says he doesn’t understand and swears that Stein’s tape was there.
A sporty red car is parked on the street outside Harry Carew’s apartment building. Inside sits Clarissa Stein. She thinks about poor Martin, the man’s life is in shambles. He could never deal with stress, and always had a tendency to collapse under pressure. She holds something…the unexpected presence of a radio microphone is seen in her hand! A voice crackles over a speaker and says “Your report, please, Operative Nine.” Clarissa raises the microphone to her face. Clicking the transmit button, she says that Martin and Harry are in Carew’s apartment. She details that she’d say her dear husband is almost at the breaking point, concluding with “Clarissa Stein, reporting out.”
It is afternoon at the Bun ‘n’ Bun. It is by no means the worst fast-food burger joint in Upper Manhattan, but it would be a stretch of the truth to say it was among the best. Ronnie serves up an order for two Gastro Specials with Secret Sauce and crispy fries to two patrons. Inwardly, he wonders how anyone can eat that stuff. Professor Stein enters and calls to Ronnie. Surprised, Ronnie asks what the Professor is doing there. Stein says they need to talk. Ronnie says he’s not off duty for another hour and asks about Stein’s job. It is gone, Stein explains, but that is not the reason they need to talk. Speaking softly, Stein reveals: someone may have discovered their secret identity of Firestorm!
Walking together along the sidewalk a short while later, Ronnie is incredulous that Stein would have made a recording about them that revealed everything. He asks the Professor not to take his concern the wrong way, but wasn’t that a dumb idea? Stein says he did erase the tape, but unfortunately it fell into the hands of a master of audio science, Harry Carew. Using a computer, Carew recreated the original recording just as computer enhanced imaging systems would recreate planetary probe photographs. Ronnie worries that the tape has now vanished, figuring that someone switched tapes on Carew and they must find out who that person is. As they speak, a bestial shadowy form is seen jumping above them from one rooftop to another.
The calmness of the sidewalk is suddenly shattered! Hyena! “Great Scott!” exclaims the Professor. “The Hyena?!?” Ronnie yells. A maniacal cackle rings out as the Hyena appears out of nowhere. It strikes frightened bystanders as it lands along the sidewalk. With lightning speed, the Hyena runs off between buildings. Stein quickly identifies this Hyena as Summer Day. She saw Stein and Ronnie and it seems like she was taunting them. Ronnie yells for the Professor to move and they give chase. Ronnie guesses that Summer recognized him, since he is her sister’s boyfriend, after all. He thinks she wants him to follow her, and he will, but not as Ronnie Raymond. Summer runs, teeth gleaming, laughing loudly.
In an instant, Firestorm appears! Stein reacts to the transformation with shock. Every time they change into the Nuclear Man, he can see that the hyena transformation has progressed further! Claws now appear at the end of Firestorm’s gloved fingers. Stein explains that their peculiar nuclear metabolism has altered the nature of the infection. Even though Ronnie Raymond is the carrier of the infection, it is Firestorm who is changing in response to it! Ronnie dismisses the explanation, telling Stein to save it for the Sunday supplement. Of more important concern right now, the Hyena is still around somewhere. Ronnie vows to track her down if it takes all night. Stein tells him to listen to himself – he…they…they’re becoming bestial! Ronnie says he feels great and soars along.
As Firestorm passes the edge of a building, a familiar yet maniacal laugh rings out as the Hyena leaps onto the back of the flying Nuclear Man! She laughs again and asks “How do you feel, Firestorm? Do you feel like killing someone? Do you lust for the taste of fresh blood?” Ronnie calls out “Summer!” Wrapping her paws around Firestorm’s back, she says that she heard him talking to himself and warns that is a sure sign of insanity. She explains that he’s going mad, he can’t deny it. She says she knows what the curse can do and laughs loudly. Irritated, Ronnie tells her to get off or he’ll…She asks or what? Kill her? With a smile spreading across her bestial jaws, she says “That’s what you want to do, isn’t it? Kill someone?” Ronnie can only agree, and asks what is happening to him. She sits astride him like the rider of a mystical flying horse as they pierce through the sky. It is a curse, she says. It transforms more than just the body, mentioning what has happened to her love, Jivan. Ronnie says he’s been searching for Dr. Shi. Summer tells him that she has also. She knows where he is going, but she is not strong enough to stop him alone. Seeing this as their chance, Stein urges Ronnie to take it!
Summer guides Firestorm through the sky. She has a destination in mind. She tells him that she saw one of Doreen’s boyfriends and the boyfriend knows about Summer’s were-hyena curse. She thought she could make him could follow her and he would call the police, but says that Firestorm will do so much better. “Heeehaha!” she cackles. Firestorm asks where they are going as Summer directs him down towards a penthouse apartment coming into view. She laughs and compliments the posh residence, telling Firestorm that it belongs to Dr. Barry Gleason, the Chief Resident of Eastside Hospital.
Inside Gleason’s apartment, chaos reigns. Dr. Gleason lies on the floor, and Dr. Shi in Hyena form stands over him! The apartment looks as if it has been ransacked, with shelves knocked over, furniture displaced, and broken items strewn around. The Hyena hisses that he missed Dr. Gleason twice at the hospital. He laughs and reveals that he knows Dr. Gleason is a busy man, so busy with his investments, his corporation, and his stocks and bonds. The Hyena says it is a wonder that Dr. Gleason can find the time to practice medicine. Dr. Gleason is propped up on his right arm, left arm outstretched before him. He is trying to process the strange sight before him, surprised the Hyena can talk and asking if it is wearing some type of mask. The Hyena replies that it is not a mask; it is the real body of the beast that Dr. Gleason sees. As he cowers nervously, Dr. Gleason asks “Who are you? What are you going to do?”
The Hyena tells that he is a doctor, saying he is unlike Gleason whom he pronounces to be an overfed parasite. The Hyena describes being a refugee, a foreigner, and how in the eyes of Dr. Gleason and his Medical Association, that makes the Hyena a second-class citizen. He laughs, and tells of how he was forced to start his medical career over from the beginning when he is more of a physician than Dr. Gleason ever was. He again says that he missed Dr. Gleason twice, but finally has tracked him to his penthouse lair. “Now, I’m going to kill you,” the Hyena chillingly says.
At that instant, Firestorm phases his density and bursts through the penthouse wall with a loud “Fzoom!” Aiming a powerful left fist that connects hard on the Hyena, Firestorm asks “Who writes your dialogue, Bow-Wow Breath? Smilin’ Stan?” As the impact snaps the Hyena’s head back, Dr. Gleason, clothes tattered, calls out for help.
Rage. Frustration. Hatred. Those pent-up emotions that have been bubbling below the surface explode like lava from a human volcano. Firestorm connects two more hard blows against Dr. Shi. The Nuclear Man becomes a beast, a mirror image of the nightmare he fights. Stein calls to Ronnie, yelling his name twice trying to break through the uncontrolled release of rage. Stein says it is happening again, just like last night on the World Trade Center tower. He warns Ronnie that he is losing himself, losing his humanity! In fury and anger, Ronnie replies “Know what? I don’t give a damn!” He pummels the Hyena with quick, successive strikes. Dr. Shi, in a moment the two are separated, laughs and recalls a saying Americans use: “No holds barred. Have it your way!” He charges at Firestorm, grabbing him in his clutched arms. The inertia causes them both to crash through a window, and the two begin to plummet as they struggle with each other. The Hyena laughs!
Stein warns that the Hyena can’t be beaten on his level because he is wilder and more of an animal. Stein urges Ronnie to remember what he is: a man that has a mind! Use your mind, Stein instructs. The two land with a crash on the ground. Ronnie stands, hunched over, saying that he is hurting. Behind him, the Hyena regains his footing and charges. Vicious claws slash into Firestorm’s back and neck! Ronnie is agonized in pain by the relentless attacks!
Pain. Terror. The Hyena wraps its powerful arms around Firestorm and forces him down, biting hard between the neck and right shoulder. Firestorm falls chest-first to the ground. “He’s killing me – Professor, he’s killing me!” Ronnie cries out.
There is no sanity left for either of them. All humanity is consumed by bloodlust and mortal fear. No thoughts. No rationality. Just pure, primitive, primordial panic. The Hyena reaches a claw upwards to prepare what may be the final, fatal blow. Just then, another paw reaches out of the darkness! Summer in Hyena form! She grabs Dr. Shi’s paw, telling him “Please, Jivan. Don’t!” Dr. Shi turns to face her as Firestorm lays face-down and motionless. Standing erect, Dr. Shi questions why Summer sides with Firestorm. Laughing, he flexes and questions whether Summer wants to defend Firestorm. Anger bursting forth, Dr. Shi pounds Summer with his fist and wrestles his arm free from her grip. He screams that she will die with Firestorm!
Just an instant ago, a glimmer of humanity could still be seen in the She-Hyena’s eyes. However dimly, that glimmer was there. Now, that glimmer goes out. Only the beast within her remains! Summer launches herself forward, grabbing Dr. Shi tightly, and the two fall over the side of the penthouse! New Yorkers are used to some pretty bizarre sights. This is the home of the New York Post, but even Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper would have to stretch to equal the scene that appears when two were-Hyenas land amidst a crowd of shocked citizens. The people do the only sensible thing that is appropriate in such a situation: they run for their lives!
The two Hyenas land on the sidewalk as the people flee. Snarling, cackling insanely, they battle with a mindless ferocity. Focused solely on each other, they are unaware of a nuclear burst that forms a small metal canister in the air next to them. They are unaware that their struggle will soon be over. The canister lands with a “Poom!” and a cloud of greenish gas escapes from it, enveloping Summer and Dr. Shi in a layer of fumes. The inescapable gas seeps into their nostrils and they collapse unconscious.
Firestorm lands next to their motionless bodies. Stein says that Summer Day saved their lives. If she hadn’t attacked when she did, Firestorm never would have recovered, would never had a chance to create that gas canister. Ronnie reflects that he saw a side of himself tonight that he doesn’t like very much. He wonders, is that what all people are like when the civilized stuff is stripped away and only raw emotion remains? Stein can only respond that he just does not know.
Eastside Hospital. Inside, Summer and Dr. Shi lay side-by-side. They are restrained to adjacent hospital beds, still in their Hyena forms. Doctors and nurses tend to them as Firestorm and Dr. Gleason observe from a hallway window. Dr. Gleason announces that Summer and Dr. Shi will be kept sedated until the nature of the Hyena-infection can be better analyzed. He feels that there must be a cure, and is determined that they will find it. Ronnie asks if Dr. Gleason has a troubled conscience regarding what Dr. Shi told him about his behavior. Dr. Gleason admits that he has been arrogant and will try to change. He reaches a hand to Firestorm, reminding that the infection is also in the Nuclear Man. Ronnie says he’ll solve his own problems and asks that they just take care of Summer Day. Firestorm walks away to a secluded area behind the hospital.
Moments later, Ronnie is standing with arms stretched, sweating through concentration. Stein asks “What are you waiting for, Ronald?” and he says that he is trying. Stein urges Ronnie to transform them back as that should reverse the Hyena-infection. Something is wrong! Ronnie can’t make them split apart! He cries “We’re stuck this way! We can’t change back!”