Black Bison Rides Again! last edited by ltjfleetwood41 on 08/08/18 09:12PM View full history

Firestorm rescues a young couple when their hansom cab goes out of control in Central Park. A mystical woman named Silver Deer is attacked by muggers in Central Park. She kills them in self-defense, and then retrieves the Talisman of the Bison Cult from the bottom of the Park Zoo seal pool. Lobbyists make an offer to Senator Reilly. Detectives Mackey and Wilson investigate the Central Park killings, leading them to arrest John Ravenhair at Bradley High School. An attorney obtains the release of John Ravenhair, but the attorney is not who he appears to be. Black Bison reappears, resulting in a battle with Firestorm.

Firestorm826's Panel-by-Panel Story Summary (Spoiler Alert)

“Heads up, Professor,” Ronnie alerts Martin Stein. They fly over Central Park and, down below, a horse-drawn hansom cab carrying a young couple is speeding out of control. “Halp!” the man yells out. “Looks like we won’t be getting you home to bed as early as we thought,” Ronnie says, diving down to help. The lady in the carriage points up at Firestorm as he comes into their view. “Whoa, horsey,” Ronnie says, but the horse keeps right on galloping. “Well, it always worked for Gene Autry,” Ronnie notes, coming down to ride bareback on the horse. Its head snaps back to view the unexpected weight on its back. “Okay, what we’ve got here is a run-away horse,” Ronnie observes, “Not exactly the sort of problem covered in the ‘Superhero Handbook,’ but maybe we can improvise.”

FZAAAM! “Ronald, what are you doing to that lamppost?” Stein asks. The lamppost instantly transforms into a huge stack of hay. “Just a little atomic restructuring,” Ronnie says as the horse comes to a stop. “Ta-da, one instant haystack. I thought that might catch Scout’s attention,” Ronnie explains, “It’ll take him a second to realize it’s plastic.”

The riders of the carriage sigh in relief as their ordeal comes to an end. “Th-thanks! Aren’t you Firestar?” the young lady asks. “Close, but the name’s Firestorm,” Ronnie says taking flight, adding, “Accept no substitutes.” The hansom cab manager runs up, out of breath. “You kids okay?” he puffs, “Old Bess never ran off before.” Bess munches on the hay, disappointedly realizing that her unexpected meal wasn’t quite so appetizing as it first appeared. “Sure, we’re fine. Matter of fact, that was the best hansom ride I ever had,” the young man replies from the carriage, asking, “What did that guy say his name was again?” The manager crosses his arms, watching Firestorm fly off. “Firehair, I think,” he replies, “One thing I know - - he sure ain’t the Lone Ranger.”

Elsewhere in Central Park tonight…Three shady characters cling to the shadows near the Central Park Zoo as Firestorm flies overhead. “Duck, you guys! Don’t let ‘im see us!” one whispers. “Who, him?” another answers, looking up, “What’s he care about us, Skye? To him, we’re just dirt…But maybe get him down on the ground with the other flea-bags, we could teach him - - hey…you hear?” The group turns toward the softly approaching noise. “Yeah. Footsteps,” Skye answers Iggy quietly, “Sounds like they’ve stopped over in the zoo. Here they come again…Get wise, guys…Time for a little late-night entertainment.”

A young woman approaches from the darkness and walks along near the animal cages. She wears a long, flowing coat. Her high-heels strike the sidewalk with each step. Clik-clak-clik-clak. She walks on. “Geez, Skye, it’s a frail,” Iggy sneers, “Haven’t seen a frail here at the Park at night since your Momma…” Skye snorts back, “Shut your mouth, Iggy. Geez, this is gonna be fun.”

The woman stops walking suddenly as a voice calls out to her. “Hey, lady. Maybe you’re lost, huh?” Skye asks. “Huk-huk-huk,” laughs Iggy. Skye tells him to shut his mouth. The three thugs quickly move to surround the woman. “Lady, you got money? Maybe you got some money,” Skye tells her as he balls his fists threateningly, “You could give it to us and we’ll help you get home.” She stands unafraid, answering, “This is my home. All this land is my home.” Iggy gets annoyed with her, saying, “Aw, she’s a lame, Skye. It’s no fun when they’re lames.”

Snort! Negg! Grunt! The animals nearby grow restless in their cages. “What’s with the animals? How come they’re making so much noise all of a sudden?” Skye asks. The woman replies, “They sense you mean me harm.” Skye points Iggy towards her, ordering, “They do, huh? Good for them. Do it, Iggy.” His cohort steps up to the woman and snatches off her necklace. “What’s this you got, lame?” he asks, “Naw, not jewels - - beads! What’re you, a crummy Indian?” The woman remains calm and unfrightened. “I am Silver Deer,” she replies, her voice unwavering, “And you will regret laying hands on me.” She flings off her cloak and poises herself, ready to strike!

“Oh, I’m scared,” Iggy says demeaningly, “Let’s show the redskin lame how scared we are, Skye!” They move to attack the woman and… “Yowwwww!” Skye yells as Silver Deer springs forth and slams hard into both of them! They are knocked flat by her powerful impact! She stands over them, a mystic light shining from her raised fist. “Let these be the first,” she says with anger, “Trickster! Shape-changer! Your daughter calls upon you - - let it begin!”

In an instant, Silver Deer has transformed into the towering bestial form of an angry bear! It snarls and growls above the cowering miscreants. “Wh-where’d the frail go - - where…Oh, God!” Skye yells. “It’s her, Skye!” Iggy sees, “Oh, lady, we never meant nothing to…” ROAARRR! The angry bear pounces to attack. “Yaaaaahhh!” Iggy screams in terror, first to feel the deadly claws and fangs. His terrified friends do not have to wait long for their turn.

The screams last only a few seconds. Watching, the animals in their cages are strangely composed. Then it is over. And the silence is broken only by the soft clatter of heels on pavement. Clik-clak-clik-clak. Silver Deer walks quietly past the motionless, lifeless bodies of her would-be attackers. She nears a large pond, home to the Zoo’s seal family. “Here is where he lost it, months ago,” she says to herself quietly, “It has lain, untouched, at the bottom of this pond…waiting for one to come who knows its secret and its purpose.”

In the moonlight, flesh squirms and changes color, form, size, and density. Silver Deer leaps over the rail toward the water, transforming into a seal in mid-air. The Zoo’s surprised seals can only stare, their animal minds unable to comprehend what they see. Down into the murky darkness, the Silver Star dives, returning to the light with a glittering Talisman clutched in her jaw…A moment more and the silver-furred seal is gone. Footsteps echo briefly in the Park…followed by the return, at last, of silence.

Interlude: The next morning, in the Washington, D.C., office of Walter Reilly, Senator from New York. Several men sit conferring as Lorraine Reilly looks on. “You and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye in the past, Senator, but you can ask my boy, Boswell, here - - I’ve always liked you. Heck, truth is, I’ve admired you,” a portly man says from a chair in front of Senator Reilly’s desk. “I admire any man who can’t be bought. But you see, buying men is my job, Senator - - that’s why I’m the highest-paid lobbyist in Washington,” he continues, “Now that you’ve got problems, I figure we can help each other. I hear the Senate’s going to vote for your expulsion, on account of you sold your vote to Hewitt Industries. Right, Boz?” Standing next to him, a man waves a large stack of bills around and answers, “Yes, Mr. DiSalvo.”

“That was dumb, Walter. Boswell, give me the money,” DiSalvo orders, “Walter, if you were gonna sell out, you should have sold out to me. Take my money, okay? Then we can cut a deal on this Senate vote.” Senator Reilly throws the money down in disgust. “DiSalvo, you can go to hell!” he yells furiously, “I let myself be blackmailed by Henry Hewitt. I won’t make the same mistake with you. Get out!” DiSalvo rises from his chair. “You’re making a mistake, Reilly. Whether you know it or not, I own your butt,” he answers as he turns towards Lorraine, adding, “Umph. Sorry, miss. Talk to your father. Tell him he’s crazy.” DiSalvo and Boswell quickly walk out of the office.

Senator Reilly hangs his head in his hands at his desk, despondent. “DiSalvo may be right, Lorraine…Maybe I am insane, turning down his offer. Only a man with his connections can save my career now,” he tells her, “The Senate’s in recess. When it resumes, the Ethics Committee will make its recommendation…expulsion.” Lorraine walks near him to comfort him, saying, “They can’t…” He cuts her off, explaining, “Oh, they can. They will. The public was outraged by the mild handling of the ABSCAM case…and so my colleagues are prepared to toss them a sacrificial goat. The terrible truth is, I deserve it. I betrayed my trust.” Lorraine shakes her head, telling him, “Dad, that’s not true…” But he is resigned to his apparent fate. “It is, Lorraine. God help me, it is true. Henry Hewitt bought more than my vote when he blackmailed me by kidnapping you…” he replies, “He bought a piece of my soul.”

Meanwhile, in the lobby of the Senate Office Building, DiSalvo and Boswell’s departure does not go unnoticed. Senator Darcy stands with reporter Roxanne Sharpe, watching the two men walk out. “DiSalvo? Now, there’s a story for your Six O’Clock News report, Ms. Sharpe,” he tells her, “Carmine DiSalvo in the Senate Office Building…Visiting whom, I wonder?” Roxanne turns to him, saying, “You’re head of the Ethics Committee, Senator. If you don’t have a good idea, no one does…” He crosses his arms in thought for a moment. “I have a notion, Ms. Sharpe,” he replies, “Off the record - - I’d say DiSalvo was here to see Walter Reilly. Pity, really. Once upon a time, Walter Reilly was one of the Senate’s brightest stars…but, of course, all that’s over now.”

Morning, Central Park. Police officers and EMTs work the scene of a gruesome triple killing near the Zoo. “Pretty grisly, huh? Looks like somebody tore into them with a buzz saw,” Detective Mackey tells his partner, “Want a pistachio?” Detective Wilson kneels at one of the bodies, looking at it from under a raised sheet. “Gimme a break, Mackey,” he answers, “I’m ready to lose my breakfast as it is.” Mackey suggests that might do him some good, telling his partner, “You’ve been puttin’ on a little weight around the belt buckle lately. All I need is a paunchy partner.” Wilson continues to examine the body. “Stuff yours - - hey, now,” he says, discovering a broken bead necklace next to the body.

“Find something?” Mackey asks between bites of pistachios. “Beaded necklace. Looks Indian,” Wilson tells him, showing it to his partner. Mackey thinks quickly. “Hey, now…Why does that ring a chime? Indians in Central Park…?” Wilson also remembers, “A few months back…before you were transferred down from the 87th precinct,” he begins to recall.

“We had us a dust-up between that boy Firestorm and a character named Black Bison. Bison was some kind of Indian shaman…He brought statues to life, tried to kill Senator Reilly’s daughter because her father collected Indian art - - something crazy like that,” Wilson remembers, “Bison took on half the NYPD before Storm showed. He was stronger than human…scary and weird. He got his power from something called a Bison Cult Talisman. Lost it somewhere in the Park - - the thing was controlling his mind. Turned out he was a teacher up at Bradley High, by the name of John Ravenhair…With the Talisman lost, he was just like anyone else. The D.A. refused to press charges…knew he’d lose the case on a temporary insanity plea. Say, Mackey, you think…?” Mackey scowls, tossing another pistachio into his mouth, telling Wilson, “I think we should have a talk with this boy Ravenhair. Now.”

Bradley High, during mid-morning break. Ronnie walks along the hallway between classes. “Spent all night after dropping the Professor off talking to Lorraine on the phone,” he yawns and thinks to himself, “I promised I’d help her with things in Washington since she gave me a hand with Bug ‘n’ Byte, but the truth is, my life’s a complicated mess these days. How much help can I be to anyone when I can’t…” A soft touch brushes his shoulder. “Ronnie, I want you to know, I think you’re acting like a creep,” Doreen tells him, interrupting his thoughts. Ronnie spins around to face her, blurting, “Doreen…Oboy.” He tries to explain. “I meant to call you, Doreen,” he says, “I wanted to explain about Lorraine and me. It’s not what you…” Doreen cuts him off, waving a hand up. “I saw you two together, Ronnie. We all did,” she reminds him, “Carmichael, Jefferson, and me. I waited for your call. I thought you’d want to talk. But it’s been two days and you haven’t said a word to me. That’s rotten, Ronnie. I thought you were better than that. Guess I was wrong.” She stomps off down the hallway. Ronnie leans dejectedly against a locker. “Ah-boy, ah-boy, ah-boy, ah-boy,” he thinks, “Doreen’s right…I’ve behaved like a first-class creep. But the truth is, I don’t know what to tell her. As Ronnie Raymond, I love Doreen…but Lorraine is Firehawk, and as Firestorm, I can’t resist feeling…”

Ronnie’s thoughts are again interrupted. “The Junior League Don Juan, in person,” Cliff Carmichael announces sarcastically as he and Jefferson walk up to Ronnie. “For a while there, I almost started to like you, Raymond. But I guess I should have trusted my first impression from when you first transferred to Bradley,” Cliff tells him, “One look and I thought you were a jerk. After the way you treated Doreen, I’m sure of it. You coming, Jefferson?” Cliff starts to walk away. “One mo’, Cliff,” Jefferson calls back to him, pausing to speak to Ronnie. “Man, how could you be so stupid? Next to my Stella, Doreen is the classiest…” he starts. “All right, all right!” Ronnie yells, frustrated, “First Carmichael, now you! I admit it, okay? I’m an idiot! Does that make you feel better? I swear, Jefferson, I never wanted to hurt anyone.” Jefferson reminds Ronnie of how he apparently didn’t want to hurt the basketball team when he missed a bunch of practices. “You never want to hurt anyone, man. You just do,” he says, walking away.

Ronnie leans against a window, looking outside. “Wonderful. I don’t care about Cliff, but Jefferson is my best friend…was my best friend…and now he’s mad at me,” he thinks, “Somehow, I’ve got to get this straightened out…Huh?” Outside, a police car in the school parking lot catches his attention. “Mr. Ravenhair…and the police?” he asks himself, looking on in surprise, “Holy cats, they’re arresting him…That’s Mackey, one of the cops I’ve run into as Firestorm…and Mrs. Tremont, the school nurse - - she’s Mr. Ravenhair’s fiancée…the way her shoulders are moving, I think she’s crying.” Ronnie watches as the detectives put the handcuffed Mr. Ravenhair into the patrol car. “Suddenly, my problems don’t seem all that tough anymore,” Ronnie thinks as the patrol car departs, “If Mr. Ravenhair’s in trouble with the cops, it has to have something to do with Black Bison. I’ve got to think about this…and then get in touch with the Professor…”

Police Headquarters, downtown Manhattan, less than twenty minutes later. Detective Mackey sits at his desk, holding up the beaded necklace recovered at the Central Park crime scene. A man in a trenchcoat stands before Mackey’s desk as Wilson looks on. “Let me get this straight,” Mackey tell the man, “We arrest a guy a little over fifteen minutes ago - - and now you show up to bail him out? Who are you? What’s Ravenhair to you?” The man introduces himself. “To answer your question in parts, Officer Mackey, my name’s Lewis Muggeridge, and I’m an attorney for the Minority Defense Union,” he explains, “As for ‘what John Ravenhair is to me,’ he’s a man accused of a crime because of his race.” Mackey waves the necklace, replying, “Nuts! We’ve got evidence…” Muggeridge stops him, interjecting, “Circumstantial, and worthless before any jury. I won’t argue with you, Mackey. You’ve got your bail bond - - release him.” He points to John Ravenhair standing nearby. “Great, just great,” Mackey sighs.

Moments later, Muggeridge leads a freed John Ravenhair into a stairway. “Look, Mr. Muggeridge, I’m not sure I like this. I’ve got nothing to hide, and now the police will think…” Muggeridge stops and turns to face him in the secluded stairway, interrupting, “Let them think what they will, Black Cloud, but you should know…my name is not Muggeridge. I am not with the MDU.” His form begins to change before Ravenhair’s stunned eyes. “But I am indeed, your friend…if you’ll have me. I am Silver Deer, daughter of the Trickster,” she announces, returning to her female form, “I bring you the gift of liberation.” Ravenhair looks at her in shock, replying, “God in Heaven - - am I going out of my mind? What happened to Muggeridge?” Silver Deer calmly explains that Muggeridge was never real. “No more real than your white man’s identity, Black Cloud,” she tells him, “He was a shape I took to deal with those who would have imprisoned you.” She faces him, staring, and holds up a golden Talisman etched with a gleaming bison image. “But I am real,” she says softly, “and so is this.”

Outside, barely ten minutes later, Martin Stein hurries along the busy sidewalk. Mind drifting in thought, he accidentally bumps into a man coming the opposite direction. “Excuse me, sorry,” Stein tells the man, thinking to himself, “Martin, Martin, always walking around in a daze.” The man’s female companion speaks. “Hurry, Black Cloud, my apartment is only a few blocks from here. There, we can talk,” she says, and the two disappear into the crowds of people going places. “Black Cloud…Why is that name so familiar?” Stein asks himself, “And I could swear I’d seen that man’s face before…Never mind. Belle Haney asked me to meet her in her lab at Concordance Research this morning, and I’m late enough already.” He jaywalks across the street to the Concordance Building entrance, prompting a beep from an impatient car. “’Scuse me, sorry,” Stein says as he hurries inside.

Several blocks south, not long after, John Ravenhair and Silver Deer are talking in her apartment. “My - - home - - in the white man’s city. In these rooms, I feel as if my spirit were suffocating,” Silver Deer says, nodding at her surroundings, “But I had to come here, to learn what I could about you…and to find the Bison Cult Talisman.” John eases back into a sofa, looking at the décor. “You’ve got interesting taste in furniture, I’ll give you that,” he replies, “Very eclectic. You’ve got artifacts from Hopi, Tewa, Navajo, Apache…Sorry, I’m babbling. Truth is, I’m still a little stunned by that trick you pulled at the Precinct House - - who or what are you, and why did you come after me?”

Silver Deer moves closer to John, leaning across the coffee table. “My father was Thunder, and my mother was the Wind, and I am the daughter of Coyote, the Trickster,” she explains. John nods, “Right.” She continues, “It is the white man who has stolen your spirit and who mocks me with your voice, Black-Cloud-In-Morning. But I will help you to find your true soul, to find the memory of what you were and the reality of what you will be. We will start with this, the symbol of your shaman authority - - the coup stick of a warrior.” She picks up the coup stick from the table and holds it out as if to present it to him. “No…Lord, no…Not that nightmare again!” John worries.

Meanwhile: Concordance Research. “Belle, Sorry I’m…” Stein rushes in, taking off his coat. “Martin, I need advice,” Belle Haney quickly says, “I’ve been so confused in my life. The past few days, I feel like I’ve lost my mind.” She nods to a technician working nearby. “Chuck, would you finish that later?” she asks, “I’d like to be alone with Martin.” The technician leaves, and Belle sits casually on her desk. “Belle, we’re old friends,” Stein tells her, “College friends, at that. You can talk to me if…” Belle interrupts, “My children tried to kill me, Martin, something terrible has happened to them, and it’s my fault.” Stein leans close to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder to reassure her. “Years ago, their father divorced me…wouldn’t let me see them. They grew up hating me,” she continues, “Now Frank, their father, wants me to come back - - but I don’t love him.” Stein thinks for a moment, then suggests, “Talk to them, Belle, especially to the children. Try to explain…” Martin Stein has barely time to turn when it happens. He feels Belle Haney pressing close, feels himself drawing her closer…they kiss…and at precisely that instant: FZAAM! Martin Stein disappears before her eyes! “Martin?” Belle asks, looking around the suddenly empty room, “Oh, God, I am losing my mind. Now I’m kissing men who aren’t here…”

Simultaneously, in Silver Deer’s apartment, she tells more of her story to John Ravenhair. “Listen to me, Black-Cloud-In-Morning. Listen with your heart. Listen with the heart of your people. I am the bobcat - - the bear - - and the eagle,” she says. Each time she mentions a different animal, the shadow on the wall behind her becomes a silhouette of that animal as if in response to her voice. “I am all that stalked, all that soared, before the white man came to rape our land,” she continues. She flings off her heavy green overcoat, moving in a beautiful, mystical dance in a white bodice, short native dress, and fishnet leggings. “I am Deer Woman, Bringer-Of-Death, strange shape in the night, Trickster of the morning! Who I was before I was reborn has no consequence,” she explains, “no more than your life, before this moment.”

She kneels down in front of him, again holding out the shaman coup stick. “You know who you are. Your grandfather taught you, he who was leader of the Bison Cult. He gave you his secrets when he gave you his sacred Talisman - - the Talisman was lost - - until now. Take your coup stick, reclaim your destiny,” she urges him. John stands, waving his arms to his sides. “No, do you think I’m insane? I won’t listen,” he answers, “Grandfather’s Talisman almost destroyed me, once. I won’t touch it. What you want, I can’t give!”

She turns away from him, walking to a counter. She watches him over her shoulder as she lifts a cocktail glass. Holding the glass, she fills it with a strange liquid, and then adds a mysterious powder to the drink. “Forgive me, John,” she says, “You’re stressed…and of course, you’re right. Please…drink with me, and then I’ll take you home. She turns to walk back towards him, holding out the glass to him. Behind her, she casts the shadow of…the Coyote!

Her words are soothing, her will irresistible. John Ravenhair cannot find it in himself to say no. He takes the glass and sips from it, the cool orange liquid flowing down his throat. And even as his world goes mad - - he feels a strange sense of relief and release. Images of people, places, snakes, birds, and fierce beasts dance around his mind. John Ravenhair vanishes in a swirl of mist and memory…and Black-Cloud-In-Morning wakes as if from a dream.

He stands now clad in native attire. Silver Deer kneels before him, holding up the coup stick. “These clothes - - how did I…” he asks. “I dressed you, my Chief, as you slept,” she answers, “But the time for sleeping is past.” He reaches for a large bison headdress, lifting it into position on his head. “I dreamed I was another man, trapped in a spirit cold as stone, like one dead,” he says as a look of fierce determination crosses his face, “It was only a dream. I live. Black Bison lives!” Silver Deer laughs as he pulls her into his arms. The two embrace tightly and kiss passionately. There will be time enough to explain her purpose later…or will there?

KRASH! The apartment door blasts open suddenly! “Police!” yells Detective Mackey, storming in with Wilson, “I thought we’d find you in that get-up, Ravenhair - - that’s why we followed you and the lady here from Headquarters! Where’s Muggeridge, and why…” Silver Deer interrupts Mackey, saying, “The oppressors, my love - - silence them with your shaman’s coup stick!” Black Bison turns from her to face the detectives. “Look then, white-eyes, this stick is a great medicine - - symbol of my power over all things of the Earth - - living or dead - - and even that which never lived!” Black Bison tells them. He moves near a large stuffed alligator standing against an apartment wall. He waves the coup stick, and magical light dances from it to the statue. “Wake, you who sleep the dark sleep…wake, and destroy my enemies!” he commands it with authority!

AWWRRRR! The gator begins to move, coiling down from its pedestal. AWWRRR! It slithers across the floor, trapping Mackey and Wilson against the wall! Silver Deer reaches a window and opens it. She starts outside, calling to her Chief, “Great Shaman, this way…” Reacting to the gator, Mackey jumps up on a dresser and Wilson draws his pistol. “Any more bright ideas, Mackey?” Wilson asks. “Fresh out!” Mackey exclaims. Almost, at the window, Black Bison hesitates, as if caught by another spirit trapped within him. He almost turns back, to help Mackey and Wilson…but then his expression hardens; he follows Silver Deer out, and the moment is lost.

Above Manhattan, Firestorm flies overhead. “You realize what trouble I’m going to be in when I get back to Concordance, Ronald?” Professor Stein asks, “Belle saw me vanish - - how am I going to explain that?” Ronnie reassures him, saying, “You’re the brains, Professor. You’ll think of a way. Now, if I read your memory right, you bumped into Ravenhair not far from here - - and you overheard the woman with him say she lived a few blocks away.” Suddenly…KPOW! KPOW! “Gunshots!” Ronnie exclaims.

In Silver Deer’s apartment, the angry gator has seized Wilson in its powerful jaws. AWWRRRR! Mackey fires his pistol’s entire clip into the beast. “Damn! Bullets don’t stop that thing - - nothing stops it! It just keeps coming,” he cries in horror, “Wilson - - oh, God, Wilson!” Ronnie flies up to the window, tracing the sound of the gunshots to here. “Holy spit!” he blurts out as he looks in at the chaotic fight for survival going on inside. “Yowww!” Wilson groans in pain as the gator flings him around. Suddenly, FZAM! A nuclear burst hits the gator! Atomic rings of restructuring swirl around it, reforming it into…SPLOG! “What the - - ice cream?” Wilson cries out, now finding himself covered in gobs of it. “Thanks, kid,” Mackey nods with relief to Firestorm, “We sure made a mess out of things this time, didn’t we? If you hadn’t shown up, Wilson and me would’ve been alligator lunch.” Wilson makes the best of the situation, scooping up a handful of ice cream. “Banana fudge ripple…my favorite,” he thinks, breathing much easier now. “If you want to show your appreciation, Mackey, you might tell me what all this is about,” Ronnie asks, “Starting with why you arrested John Ravenhair…”

A quick update later…Firestorm flies above the running figures of Black Bison and Silver Deer. “So John Ravenhair has again become Black Bison - - undergoing a complete change of personality!” Stein observes, looking down at them, “But I thought the Talisman controlling his powers was lost…” Ronnie answers, “That woman with him must have found it, and now we’ve found them.” He swiftly flies into position and comes down to land in front of them. “Hi, Bison. I’ll try to make this quick,” he announces as they come to a stop along the sidewalk. “I - - know you - - from a dream!” Black Bison says when he sees him.

FZAM! A burst of energy, and the molecules in the dumpster behind the Nuclear Man are rearranged to a new form, just as the animated alligator had been, minutes before. A second burst sends the reformed dumpster flying…CLANG! It lands on top of Black Bison and Silver Deer, trapping them within! “A cage! He traps us like hunted animals!” Silver Deer cries out. “But we are not animals, woman, so long as our spirits are free,” Black Bison answers, “We may soar like the eagles!” He reaches his coup stick out of the cage. KRASH! It strikes a display window of an adjacent toy store and shatters the glass! Inside, on the display shelves, sit dozens of stuffed animals. Black Bison waves his coup stick, beckoning to them, “Live, you that were never alive! By the medicine in my shaman’s staff, I command you - - Live! Hate! Kill!”

An explosion of animated stuffed animals bursts out of the broken window, swarming towards Firestorm! “Oh, man - - I don’t believe this!” Ronnie stammers at the unbelievable sight coming at him, “I’m being attacked by teddy bears! Give me a break, this is ridiculous!” The animated animals bite, nip, scratch, claw, and climb all over him. “Ridiculous or not, Ronald, you mustn’t let them distract you!” Stein warns. “Professor, what do you want me to do - - zap a few dozen toys into sawdust?” Ronnie asks, struggling with the sheer number of aggressive little beasts, “Be serious, will y - - youch! Hey, some of these things have teeth!”

Silver Deer stands in the cage, straight upright, arms extended along her side. She concentrates deeply and focuses mystical energy from within her, emanating a bright blue-white radiance around her. The feathers on the sleeves of her bodice stand straight out in the medicine magic’s aura. “Now,” she commands, transforming herself into a brilliant silver cobra on the sidewalk just outside the cage bars! HISSSSSSS! She uncoils and slithers towards Firestorm, her hood extended aggressively. An animated teddy bear clings to and holds Firestorm’s leg still for a moment, allowing the cobra to strike! She bites, fangs sinking deep into Firestorm’s leg! “Aaaarrrrhhh! My leg!” Ronnie cries out in pain, “My….leg…”

Black Bison grips the bars of the cage. “Silver Deer, you are the daughter of the Trickster. Free me,” he commands. “And then, my Chief,” she asks, “Will you follow where I lead? Will you help me free our people from the bondage of a century?” Silver Deer again focuses mystical energy, transforming herself into a massive silver elephant. Using her trunk, she wraps it around the cage, lifting it to free her Chief. “You already know my answer,” Black Bison replies, walking along the animated army of animals.

Ronnie falls to the sidewalk, becoming overcome by the venom from Silver Deer’s bite. The animated animals swarm him. “Ronald…we must get help!” Stein urges him, “Venom…in our bloodstream…deadly…Ronald…” His voice trails off as the animals overpower Ronnie’s ability to resist. Black Bison and Silver Deer flee the battle, leaving Firestorm weakened and almost defenseless. “Let his death at our hands be a warning to those who will resist us,” he tells her as they run, “A warning and a prophecy!”

Ronnie tries to raise an arm but it is swarmed over by little animals. Squirrels, dinosaurs, reindeer, cats, hippos, elephants, zebras, and beasts of every imaginable kind envelop the Nuclear Man. “Gotta get up…get help,” Ronnie utters softly as Silver Deer’s venom courses through him and, overwhelmed in the bizarre swarm, he gasps, “Professor…I can’t let us be smothered…by teddy bears….it’s so stupid…stupid…”

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