Ronnie's late-night study session is interrupted by loud music from another student's dorm room. A gunman storms into the Student Lounge, holding several students hostage, including Ronnie. A gas-mask clad student leads the President of Vandemeer to a campus rooftop in a scheme of revenge, leading to a confrontation with Firestorm.
College is a lot like life, only dehydrated. At Vandemeer University, life flashes by in a blurred rush of classes, dates, parties, pranks, cram nights and deadlines. Especially deadlines. After term paper, the two words most likely to make a freshman quake in his Reeboks are…Due Monday.
To which the most common reaction is… “I’m doomed,” a downcast Ronnie thinks. “Even being half a super-hero doesn’t save me from my own lousy writing.” Ronnie sits at his desk in his dorm room. His clock-radio reads 11:47 p.m. He hangs his head in his hands, looking down at his notebook. Several crumpled sheets of paper lie scattered on his desk, and remnants of the college staple diet of pizza and pop lay nearby.
Thump! Thump! Thump! Music from a nearby room vibrates the walls. “And I can’t even think with that bass pounding my brain. I’m never gonna finish this paper,” Ronnie thinks. “Cripes, it’s almost midnight. I’ll just drop in on my musical friend and persuade him to lose the Devo. Either that, or I’ll beat him to death with his stereo.”
Ronnie opens his door and walks to the room across the hall. Thump! “Hey! Let’s nuke the noise, guy!” Ronnie yells as he bangs on the door. Suddenly, the door opens and a student runs out. He bumps into Ronnie as he sprints down the hall.
“Oh, no! I’m gonna be late! They’ll start without me!” the student cries out as he passes Ronnie.
“Wha - - ?” Ronnie asks, calling to the student, “Hey, Guy, you got a problem?” Thump! Thump! The student disappears out the exit door while his music still pounds away. “Oh, great!” Ronnie thinks. “He bolted without turning it off, and the door’s locked.” Thump! Thump! Ronnie shakes his head. “I’m doomed,” he sighs.
Ronnie turns and runs for the exit. “I bet I can still catch that rabbit, though,” he thinks. “He can’t have gotten…far. Bingo!” He steps out into the courtyard and sees a large gathering of students. “Boy, sure is a busy night!” he thinks.
On the lawn, several students dressed in medieval garb jockey with each other in mock fights. “Hold, knave!” one tells his opponent.
Ssssss! Nearby, in the trees but away from the other students, a man in a purple gas mask lets vapors escape from a cylinder.
Another student walks along, busily writing notes in her notepad. WHAM! Ronnie inadvertently bumps into her and knocks her down. “Hey, watch it! What are you late for, football practice?” she blurts out as she lifts herself off the grass.
“Sorry. I’m chasing this guy…” Ronnie explains. “You see, he left his stereo…uh, never mind.”
Ronnie runs to another dorm building. “If I don’t find that guy, I’ll never get my paper done,” he thinks. “At least I don’t have much territory to cover…since there’s only one place still open this late.” Ronnie enters the building and sees students gathered in the Study Hall. “Aha! My buddy, along with a whole club of late-night info junkies.”
Several students stand around a desk looking at a computer monitor. One sits at the desk and punches on the keyboard, telling the others, “And here’s the newest one…”
Ronnie approaches the group. “Hey, guy, I want to talk to you about your music…” Ronnie looks at the computer monitor and gasps. The screen shows a picture of Firestorm and the banner “The Firestorm Secret.” A shudder runs through Ronnie. “Oh, no! How’d they find out?” he thinks worriedly.
The student seated at the keyboard clicks the mouse and the screen changes to announce, “You are Firestorm. In this scenario you have one hour to save Pittsburgh from nuclear annihilation. Press space to start.” The student hits the space bar, and the group watches intently as the simulation begins. “Huh! It’s only a game,” Ronnie thinks with a sigh of relief. “I’m getting paranoid.”
BANG! A gunshot rings out, startling the students. A girl runs into the Study Hall, warning, “You guys! There’s a guy outside with a gun! Really!”
Ronnie turns to her. “Oh, no! Not now!” he thinks with alarm.
Suddenly, a gunman in tan camouflage bursts in! “Everybody get back! Now!’ he yells, waving his submachine gun. He grabs the girl at the door, tightly wrapping his arm around her shoulders and neck. “Just stay cool, and nobody’s gotta get hurt,” he warns. “I don’t like this any more than you do…But we’re all staying here until this school shows some action on my demands!”
The girl grabs at his arm. “Wanna bet?” she asks nervously. “Guys, I think you’d better listen to him, please?”
Ronnie watches anxiously. “What am I gonna do?” he asks himself worriedly. “I can’t change to Firestorm - - he’d see me and shoot her before I’d be ready!”
The girl wrestles against the gunman. “Mister, if you were smart, you’d get my boyfriend to help you,” she tells him. “He can tap into Admin’s computer system and deliver whatever you’d like. He’s the one right over…THERE!”
WHACK! She pounds a vicious uppercut into the gunman’s jaw! “Grab the creep, Kenny!” she yells as the attacker collapses, knocked out from her strike. Two students quickly grab him. “That’ll teach you to tackle a Phys. Ed. Major, Rambo!” the girl snarls at her attacker.
Students gather to look at the gunman. “Execution?” one asks. “Nope. Too messy. Incarceration,” another answers. “Agreed. Hold this guy, willya?” the first asks as he lets the gunman fall into Ronnie’s surprised arms.
Two police officers run into the Study Hall. “We heard gunshots! What’re you kids doing in here?” one asks.
“Glad to see you, Officers. He’s all yours,” Ronnie answers.
An officer picks up the submachine gun. “Gun’s loaded all right. Pretty nice model,” he observes. “Wonder what the range is?”
PAKTAPAK! FWOOM! Unbelievably, the Officer opens fire at the computer! “Yessir, pretty nice model. Pretty nice damage. Fellow could go on a pretty nice shooting spree with one of these…” he observes.
“He’s shooting at that computer terminal?” Ronnie thinks, looking on anxiously.
“We’ll need all your names. We’ll delay questioning until the morning. Get some sleep,” the officer directs them
“Free to go! Let’s move!” a student yells. The group starts to run for the exits.
“If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t believe it,” Ronnie thinks. “Heck, I don’t believe it anyway.” He walks down the hallway and out into the courtyard. “There must be a full moon out tonight,” he thinks. “Things’re so crazy. No, I guess I’m just tense.”
Just outside the entrance, the girl he bumped into continues to take notes. Next to her, a mime performs pantomime. “And, speaking of tense…It’s Little Miss Reporter and her pet clown! This place is getting too weird,” Ronnie thinks.
Two dark figures stand on the rooftop of a nearby building looking down at the students gathered in the courtyard. “Look at them down there - - this is great! This is gonna make you look so bad, old man!” gloats the gas-mask clad man. He stands at the roof’s edge, waving his arms in satisfaction. An older man stands near him, hands tied behind his back, watching nervously.
“I can’t wait to see you have to explain to the media why they all died!” the masked man exults. “See what expelling me did? It’s all gonna be on your head, LeBlount…All those screaming little mommies crying over their dead babies will blame you! ‘Why did you let his happen?’ they’re going to ask, and you’ll tell them how you expelled me. ‘Max was a bad boy,’ you’ll say. ‘He played with microbes and made us sad,’ you’ll whine. ‘And then, gasp, his microbe spray mixed with the fluorocarbons in their warm little lungs and killed them.’”
LeBlount stares wide-eyed at Max, sweat dripping down his face. “If they got out of the pollution in time, they’d live, but this is a big city, so there’s no chance of that!” Max continues.
“But why? I don’t even know you,” LeBlount asks.
“That’s ok. You signed the papers - - you’re guilty, so you die, too!” Max answers, jabbing his finger into LeBlount’s neck.
“No, don’t kill them…” LeBlount replies fearfully.
Ronnie walks back to his dorm. “Hey, the music guy’s gone, and I never got to tell him!” he thinks. “I hope he went back to the dorms.” Ronnie breaks into a run. “I’ll hop this fence and catch him before he locks himself back in his room,” he thinks. “I’ll get that stupid paper done yet! Nothing else could possibly hap - - YEOWWWWW!”
As Ronnie jumps over the wall, a bright yellow net bursts up around him! “What is this?” Ronnie gasps. “A high-gloss latex spiderweb?”
Two students rush over to Ronnie. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing in there?” one calls to him. “’Scuse us, but you are interfering in our project,” the other says.
“Project?” Ronnie blurts, trying to stand under the net.
“We’re from Bas Art 101. You landed in our conceptual art final,” one explains. They help Ronnie out of the net. “Wrecked the web, too. Now we’ve got to start over,” the other observes. One helps Ronnie get to his feet. “Uh, the paint on the web’s water-based,” he explains. “We’ll have to restring it, but first, we’ll get you hosed off.”
Ronnie looks at him with surprise. “You’re crazy,” he replies. “Everybody on this campus is crazy. This whole night has been crazy.”
The three walk over to a garden hose coiled on the dorm building’s wall. A student turns on the faucet. The other student has his foot on the hose. “Hmmmm…Water pressure seems to be a little low,” he says. “Hang on a second and it’ll…”
Ronnie snatches the hose. “Gimme that!’ he tells them abruptly. The student lifts his foot and…SPLOOSH! Ronnie gets blasted in the face by a stream of water!
“Uh…sorry,” one says sheepishly. “Very,” the other adds.
“Just keep away,” Ronnie says as water runs down his face. “Go fix your stupid fence…and I’ll go find myself a dryer.”
Ronnie turns and startles the reporter girl standing behind him. “Eek!” she blurts. She turns quickly and walks off.
“Weird!” Ronnie thinks. Squish! Squish! Ronnie’s drenched tennis shoes ooze as he walks back to his dorm. “Maybe I can get an extension on the deadline,” he thinks. “’You see, I was in the middle of writing it when Godzilla attacked…’ Nah.”
“BANZAI! Eat hot paint, infidels!” yells a student that suddenly runs past Ronnie.
“Hey! That’s the guy from next door, with a gun! What the heck’s he doing?” Ronnie asks himself in surprise. “The Professor’s probably sleeping, but the strange stuff just got too dangerous to ignore. We’re gonna move in and stomp this guy before somebody gets hurt. Like me.”
Max looks down from the rooftop at the students acting strangely in the courtyard below. LeBlount stands behind him. “The first thing the gas affects is the mind, but that should be obvious by now,” Max explains as he observes. “Just watch them.”
“Young man, you’re sick!” LeBlount exclaims.
Max turns to face him. “No, you’re sick, and so are they. Was it worth it? Was ruining my future worth the price, old man?” Max asks. “C’mon, let’s join the party and ask them if they like the price!”
LeBlount looks down at the students with deep concern. “You can still be helped,” he replies. “Let me warn them, please.”
“Go!” Ronnie thinks and…Two bodies fade, one here, one asleep elsewhere, and the composite entity called Firestorm is created, a fusion of atomic fires and human minds equaling more than the sum of its parts…
“Ronald? Care to fill me in?” Stein asks, waking out of sleep.
Ronnie launches them skyward. “Sure, we’ve gotta tag my next-door neighbor before he starts playing shoot-em-up,” Ronnie explains.
“You woke me up to break up a game?” Stein asks with a sigh.
“Does this look like a game to you, Prof? These guys are definitely out of control!” Ronnie answers.
Down below, students gather, aiming and firing weapons at each other. Poof! Splat! Poof! Splat! “Aaaargh! Death! Death!” one cries out, falling to the grass. “Gotcha!” his attacker yells out.
“And they’re shooting…paint?” Ronnie asks in surprise as he looks closer. Splat! Splat! Suddenly, paintballs splatter against his chest! “Are you crazy?” Ronnie yells down to them. “Don’t you realize someone might think those were real?”
Ronnie starts to hit the paint pistols with transforming bursts. “Like I did,” he thinks. Quickly, the paint guns are reformed into Frisbees. “Here, play with there and you won’t hurt yourselves,” Ronnie calls down.
“Hey!” a student blurts out as his weapon reshapes itself.
Ronnie comes down to land among the group of paintballers. “Sorry. We were just trying to spice up Grace’s paper,” one explains. “Beef up the background…” another adds. “Be weird!” explains another.
“Who’s Grace? What’s Grace?” Ronnie asks.
The reporter girl walks over to Ronnie. “I’m afraid I am, sir,” she tells him. “And I think I’ve just figured out what happened.”
The students gather around Grace, joined by the ‘gunman’ and ‘police officers’ from the Study Hall. “Grace’s been too intense lately, and we wanted to help her out a bit,” a student tells Firestorm. “You know, help her out with her paper,” the ‘gunman’ adds.
The students break into acrobatics on the grass. “Tah dah!” one yells. “Ook ook!” another cries out.
“WHAT PAPER?” Ronnie asks in exasperation.
“Grace, sir, is a Class-A true-blue numero uno behavioral psychology major doing a term paper on campus nightlife,” a student answers. “So we got all our friends to contribute some interesting events to her snooping.”
Grace looks around, surveying her classmates. “Look, I appreciate the thought. But I was scared to death!” she tells them. “There was one strange guy who kept following me, no matter where I went, there he was, and it was creepy.”
Ronnie answers, “Well, you can pack up the games and quit now.”
Suddenly, LeBlount is pushed into the midst of the group. “Unhhhh,” he moans, falling to the grass.
“Another one? How many recruits do you have?” Ronnie asks in surprise.
“Looks like lotsa fun, kids - - too bad the party’ll be dead soon!” Max announces menacingly.
“They’re not ours,” one of Grace’s friends says as they warily eye Max.
“Right about that, Mister! I’m here representing death!” Max announces. “And the old man here’s gonna explain how he’s poisoned you all!”
Ronnie steps towards LeBlount. “Is this a joke?” he asks.
Stein recognizes the man lying in the grass. “No, Ronald! That’s President LeBlount!” he quickly observes.
LeBlount looks up at Firestorm. “Mr. Fuller says he…infected us all with some sort of poison…in retribution for his…expulsion!” LeBlount explains fearfully.
“Yes. Everybody outside tonight has been exposed to my specially tailored virus, so bye-bye, dead birds” Max tells them, clenching his fists with satisfaction.
“This isn’t funny anymore, Firestorm!” Grace tells him, “How’d they get you and the University President in on the joke?” she asks.
“They didn’t,” Ronnie tells her.
She gasps in shock. “Then he’s not kidding about the poison?” a student cries out. The students quickly scramble away in fear. “Get away! He’s got poison!” one yells. “Don’t have to ask twice!” another answers. “Mom!” one yells out.
“Look at them run!” gloats Max.
“Will somebody please explain what’s going on here?” Ronnie asks.
“I think we’re in trouble,” Grace answers.
Ronnie aims an atomic burst at Max’s gas mask. Instantly, it melts away. “You!” Ronnie yells at him. “If there’s something bad in the air, you’re breathing it, too!” Max looks out in shock as he is suddenly exposed to the contaminated air.
“Ronnie! I recognize that boy! He’s Maxwell Fuller, who was expelled from the Biology Department for using other students in his experiments,” Professor Stein explains. “He may actually have done what he claims. We’d better act on the assumption that he’s not lying for now.”
Ronnie grits his teeth in frustration. “Yeah, but what do I do then?” he asks. “We can’t affect a virus!”
Students begin to collapse to the grass. “Oh, no! He did poison us!” a girl cries.
Ronnie grabs a fistful of Max’s shirt. “Max, snap out of it!” he orders. “What does it take to cure them out of this guk?”
Max falls to his knees as Ronnie holds him up. “Nononono! I’m gonna die too!” he groans.
“I can’t breathe!” a student nearby gasps.
“What’s the antidote?” Ronnie asks Max.
“The one I have doesn’t work, but the stuff’ll break down by morning. We’ll be the only ones to die!” Max nervously answers. “You’re not going to fry me, are you?”
Ronnie shakes Max with both fists. “Talk!” he barks.
“The compound needs a human host and fluorocarbons to feed on,” Max explains. “It has a very short life…the spray wasn’t powerful enough to reach inside the dorms…only people near me were affected. I didn’t expect so many people to be out tonight…Just a few token deaths.”
Ronnie lifts him so their faces are inches apart. “So you’re telling me there’s no way to stop it?” he asks.
“Well, if you could magically transport them all to a flouro-free environment with lots of sunlight, maybe. But that’s impossible!” Max answers anxiously.
Ronnie thinks for a moment. “Maybe not! Stay put!” he answer and jumps into the air overhead. “One heavy-duty transport vehicle coming up, thanks to a little nuclear restructuring!” Ronnie calls down. Using his powers, he creates a giant ‘Rosebud’ labeled sled! “Okay, everybody aboard while I do a last minute search for strays,” Ronnie directs the students.
Ronnie quickly flies over campus. “If Max was right, everybody who’s inside is safe. Just the same, we’d better make sure they don’t leave anytime soon,” Ronnie explains as he works. “By converting the outer layers of stone and pain into protective domes, we keep ‘em in and beautify the campus all at the same time. Pretty spiffy, huh?” Clear domes quickly appear, sealing the campus buildings.
“Ronald, you’re a regular wonder, but we’ve got a job to finish,” Stein replies.
“Right,” Ronnie answers.
Ronnie flies back to the courtyard, where dozens of students stand on the Rosebud sled. “Everybody ready?” Ronnie asks. Hovering overhead, he focuses a tow beam onto the sled and guides it into the air. “Just a few minutes on the Firestorm Express…and you’ll be the first to see the sunrise from your very own crystal-clear mountaintop!” he explains.
Ronnie guides the sled down to a landing in a snowy mountain pass. “Just settle back until dawn…Max says you’ll be cleaned out and safe by then,” Ronnie tells the group.
“Yeah, but it’s cold! Can’t you build a fire?” a shivering girl asks.
“Well, not exactly,” Ronnie answers. “But I can move a few molecules around…and whip up the coziest comforter this side of your Grandma’s!” Aiming at the snow, Ronnie quickly transforms a huge green and orange blanket.
“Thanks. I think,” a student says.
“You’re all very welcome,” Ronnie answers as the students wrap themselves for warmth.
“Hey, Firestorm! That guy, the one who was following me, he’s not here!” Grace calls to him.
Ronnie thinks for a second. “Yipes! She means me!” he thinks. “Don’t worry, I’ll find him,” he tells Grace.
“Whatta we do, Prof?” Ronnie thinks.
“Simple. Get out of sight. Break apart. Put in an appearance. Then leave to become Firestorm again,” Stein suggests. “It couldn’t hurt - - you may have been affected.”
Ronnie thinks about deadlines. “But my paper - - I’ve got to get back to finish it!” he answers.
“Ronnie…it’s the only way. Too many of the students saw you…unless you’d rather tell them our secret?” Stein replies.
“Sheesh. Okay already,” Ronnie answers. He guides them away around the hills to an isolated area. Seconds later, Ronnie and Martin Stein emerge from a burst of atomic light. “It’s cold out here,” Ronnie shivers.
“You think you’re cold? You’re not the one who was sleeping!” Stein answers in his pajamas. The two men walk back to the group of students.
“Ahoy, the ship! Anybody warm!” Ronnie yells out as they approach.
“What do you think?” a student answers. Ronnie eyes him and sees it is his Devo-thumping neighbor from across the dorm hall.
“You! Buddy, I’ve been trying to catch up with you all night!” Ronnie tells him.
“M-Me?” the student answers nervously.
“Him? I thought you were tailing me?” Grace exclaims.
“No. Bozo-Brains here took off and left his stereo pounding my walls down, and I’ve got a paper due Monday!” Ronnie explains.
Off in the distance, light glows on the horizon as the Sun rises slowly. “Correction: Today,” Professor Stein observes.
“I’m doomed,” Ronnie sighs. “What a trip just to see the sunrise, huh?” a student asks.
“At least we’re here to see it,” Ronnie’s neighbor replies.
“’Scuse me a minute. I’ve got to go…y’know,” Ronnie says to Stein, thumbing back over to where they transformed.
Soon - - “It’s an hour after sunrise - - we’re past the safety mark. Where’s Firestorm?” a student asks.
“Firestorm, heck - - where’s Ronnie?” another asks.
Professor Stein tells the group, “I’ll go look for him. He must be nearby.”
Another student jumps to his feet, joining Stein. “I’ll go too,” he says as they walk off.
“Good luck!” a student yells out from the giant comforter.
“I’ve got to lose my follower so I can call Ronnie. But how?” Stein thinks, eyeing his unwelcome companion. Stein hears a rumble above them. “Looks like the problem’s been taken care of,” he thinks with surprise as a snowdrift falls down on top of them.
Ronnie quickly initiates the fusion transformation. “Sorry about the snow, Prof, but it seemed like the easiest way to separate you too,” Ronnie explains.
“Good thinking, Ronald,” Stein replies, “Now let’s dig our beefy friend out before he freezes.”
Ronnie reaches into the piled snow, rapidly locating and extracting the stunned student. “No sooner said than done!” Ronnie thinks in reply. He lifts the student into the sky. “Sorry it took me so long to find you. You must have blacked out!” Ronnie tells his ‘passenger’.
The student looks back at him, answering, “Wow. Good timing, guy!”
Stein shakes his head. “Ronnie, what are you saying?” he asks.
“Just giving us an alibi, Prof,” Ronnie answers, “We’ll need to explain how we ‘disappeared.’”
Ronnie comes down to land next to the group of students. “Sorry about the wait, but I had to pay back a favor,” he explains to them, “Took back the kid complaining about his paper, and the guy in the pajamas.”
The students walk up to him, wrapped tightly in the comforter. “Just take us back, please,” Ronnie’s neighbor asks.
“Ready to fly? O.k., presto-chango!” Ronnie calls out as he aims a restructuring beam. Instantly, the Rosebud sled transforms into a giant inflatable Superman! The students curiously climb aboard and Ronnie guides them into the sky. “Introducing the Man of Steel Airlines…the only way to fly!” Ronnie calls back.
A few minutes later, Ronnie guides the Superman balloon down to a safe landing in the courtyard outside the dorm buildings. “Last stop, Campus Center,” he announces.
A student slides off Superman and approaches him. “Firestorm? I’m Dave Kearns, and I’m very pleased to meet you,” he greets Firestorm with a smile. “I’m a great fan of yours. In fact, I even designed a computer game in your honor. If you ever need a hacker, just call.”
He and Firestorm shake hands, and then Ronnie leaps skyward. He makes a quick circle around campus to remove the protective domes from the buildings. “Pop! There goes the bubble, and now we have the prettiest buildings in town,” Ronnie says.
Down below, two police officers lead Max away in handcuffs. “So long, Max!” Ronnie calls to him. “Next time, you may not be so lucky! Keep your nose clean, son!”
Ronnie flies into a darkened area next to the dorm buildings. In a flash of atomic light, Firestorm fissions off Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein. “Son! Now I’m talking like you! Great going, Professor!” Ronnie sighs.
“Thanks. Now, I’m going back to try to get some sleep. Please try to avoid any more disasters…” Stein answers. “Sure thing!” Ronnie replies.
Ronnie breaks into a run and heads for the dorm entrance. “With luck, I’ll be able to get my paper finished in time to deliver it, then race back here to crash!” he thinks. “Then I’ll wake up, call Doreen, and pick up where we left off last…Oh, no!”
Thump! Thump! Thump! The sound of loud music and wall-shaking bass echoes through the hallway as he gets to his room. “No, please! Tell me it isn’t still on!” Ronnie sighs in exasperation. “It’s not! It’s not! It’s not…I’m doomed!”
♪ The End ♫