Darkseid begins a dangerous game to amuse himself. A S.T.A.R. Labs janitor mistakenly unleashes the relentlessly vicious Parasite. Firehawk tangles with the Parasite. Doreen follows Ronnie when he abruptly leaves her after seeing news reports about Firehawk at S.T.A.R. Labs. Firestorm battles with the Parasite.
You know this place. In your darkest moments, in the twisted, petty, private moments when you did those things you thought no one saw, when you toyed with those dark fantasies and thought no one would ever know - - in those moments, your soul came here. Its name bubbles like a froth in the dank part of your mind - - Apokolips!
And you worshipped here, with all the other hunger dogs, howling the name of your master, your god: Darkseid. Darkseid! DARKSEID!
To him, all of existence is a horror of chaos on which order must be imposed. And that order must be answerable to one will alone - - his will.
One place holds the secret: One place forms the threat to his dreams and you are living on it. So Darkseid plays a game to bring this place into his dominion and he counts upon that dark side of your soul for his victory.
So sure is the dark god of his victory that he can indulge himself in a side game - - one to be played for its own amusement. To indulge himself with meddling with little lives.
A flash of light forms on a pedestal next to Darkseid. It coalesces and takes shape into several figurines standing on a chessboard. Darkseid looks over a group of five figurines that resemble Ronnie Raymond, Professor Martin Stein, Senator Walter Reilly, Lorraine Reilly, and Doreen Day. After several moments, he chooses another figurine from nearby and picks it up.
From his own continuum, separate from our space and time, Darkseid watched worlds live and watched worlds die in a great crisis. Watched time turn in upon itself to begin anew as many different timelines melded into one. Events changed. Some fell between the cracks of reality. Some people were never born while others never lived. In this brave new world, Ruby Jones never changed. He remained a loser.
Ruby Jones bends over his mop, swabbing the floor of a hallway at S.T.A.R. Labs. “I oughta thank Vinnie for getting’ me this stinkin’ job. Sure,” he thinks. “Big man! Does me a big favor! Gets me a job with a mop an’ no future!”
A security guard sees Jones and approaches him. “Heyy! Push off, Jones! Corridor’s off limits today! Dincha read the memo!” the guard barks at him.
“I was tole ta mop!” Jones answers.
“Two days ago they say mop!” the guard retorts. “With you, any time between now and next year is immediate!”
Two technicians in hazardous materials isolation suits move down the hallway with a 55-gallon drum on a dolly. “What’s the deal wit’ th’ drum?” Jones asks, puffing on his cigarette. “Ya know, on the street they say sometimes they pack payroll and stuff in them things ta keep away thieves! Is it right what they say?” he asks the guard.
The guard shakes his head. “Cheez, that’s a really stooped idea, even for you, Jones!” he scoffs. Jones stands under a ‘No Smoking’ sign. “Get outta here! And lose the butt, dope!” the guard orders, snatching the cigarette from Jones’ lips.
Jones walks off, grumpily looking back at the technicians wheeling the drum into a storage room. “Stoopid, huh? So why the guard if all it is is garbage?” he asks himself.
In the Main Lab, the Head of S.T.A.R. Labs, Dr. Janet Klyburn, shows off their newest acquisition for S.T.A.R.’s political lobbyist, former Senator Walter Reilly. The two stand at a large window, looking through to an isolation room. On the floor lies a large, red prolate spheroid-shaped container.
“That’s all that’s left of the creature Brimstone. The Government asked us to study it,” Dr. Klyburn explains to Reilly. “We know it’s alien in origin. What we’ve done so far is cleanse it of its excess radioactivity and now we’re ready to start prying into its secrets,” she continues.
“Quite a coup, Dr. Klyburn,” Reilly answers. “The prestige will make my job easier. Some of the environmentally sensitive Senators are going to want to know what we’ve done with that radioactive residue.”
In the hallway, the security guard stands watch at the storage room. Jones slowly approaches him from behind, holding a crowbar in his hand.
“It’s been sealed in a drum and is being safely stored here until we can find an acceptable way of disposing of it,” Dr. Klyburn tells Reilly.
“Here at the lab? Is that safe?” Reilly asks with concern.
WHAK! Jones whips the crowbar across the base of the guard’s skull. The guard collapses unconscious as Jones runs past him and into the storage room!
“I should think so,” Dr. Klyburn answers. “It’s only temporary and we have posted a guard on the door. Besides…Who would be stupid enough to open a drum clearly marked ‘Danger! Toxic Waste’?”
Jones scans around the room and spots the drum the technicians brought in. Convinced it holds cash or other valuable items, he pries open the lid. Instantly, Jones is enveloped by a cloud of radioactive contamination! “AAAARRGH!” he cries out in agony.
Jones’ regrets, like his screams, come far too late. Darkseid has set the energy churning and it consumes Jones - - changing him. Making him into a pawn fit for a god.
Darkseid watches the figurine in his hand change from a likeness of Ruby Jones into a strange humanoid with green skin. He carefully places the figurine into position on the chessboard opposing the group of five others.
In the hallway, the guard slowly comes to after the stunning blow from Jones. He looks and sees that the door to the storage room is ajar. “…the hunger…the hunger!” a voice cries out from inside.
“..Who clipped…Jones!” the guard exclaims as he gets to his feet. “Okay, loser, if that’s how ya wanna play it!”
The guard walks into the darkened storage room and spots a strange green humanoid standing amidst the boxes and barrels. “What the - - ?” he blurts.
“Hunger! I hunger!” the humanoid says.
“Back off or I’ll feed you somethin’ ya don’t want!” the guard warns, aiming his pistol at the creature.
“Yes! You will feed me!” the creature yells. SHUUCK! Energy radiates around the creature and extendsin to the guard as it points out its hand. The energy wracks the guard violently and he falls to the floor.
The new being steals every bit of energy from the guard, including the electrical energy in his brain. With it comes every memory, every scrap of knowledge the man possessed. Including the knowledge of where to find more energy.
“Hunger!” the creature cries as it steps out into the hallway. Behind him, all that remains of the guard is a skeleton, lying on the floor in a crumpled uniform.
“Better hurry! Dad doesn’t like being kept waiting for lunch and he’s not going to be happy as it is about my dropping out of another college!” worries Lorraine Reilly. She walks along the sidewalk towards the entrance to S.T.A.R Labs. “He’s already threatened to print up some business cards for me with ‘Lorraine Reilly, Professional Student’ on them,” she thinks. “Maybe I can get him to stake me for one more try - - at Vandemeer. Ronnie Raymond is going there. And that boy and I have some ‘undecided’ business between us! Of course, maybe I should tell Dad there’s some other reason than my ‘robbing the cradle…’”
Suddenly, panicked people burst out of the S.T.A.R. Labs lobby doors! “Hey! What are you doing!” Lorraine cries out as people bump and jostle past her in terror.
“Outta the way! There’s a monster - - a parasite…up there, killing people!” a man yells to her as he flees.
“Dad!” Lorraine thinks in alarm. She sprints to the side of the building and down the alley. “Firehawk!” She concentrates and… FTOOSH! Instantly, Firehawk appears! She turns and flies out of the alleyway. “Anyone, anything that hurts him, I am going to reduce to a very small pile of ashes!” she thinks.
Upstairs, the parasitic creature stands in the hallway near the containment room that holds the remains of Brimstone. Skeletons litter the hallway next to him, victims of his relentless quest for energy. Dr. Klyburn and Senator Reilly cower against the window, fearfully watching the creature as it soaks up the last of its victim’s life energy.
“Stay still, Senator!” Dr. Klyburn cautions. “I don’t know why it hasn’t killed us yet like the others, but…”
The creatures flexes and arches its back. “Ah, the dreams…the memories…the power! I must have more!” it cries out. Suddenly, it turns its head sharply. “Wait! Someone is coming…from outside!” it exclaims. “I can smell it! More power than these mere morsels! And I hunger!”
The creature turns and starts to walk away. “Now, Mr. Reilly! While its attention is elsewhere. This way!” Dr. Klyburn orders, leading the way quickly down the hall away from the horrific creature.
Firehawk sweeps upwards along the edge of the building, quickly scanning inside the windows as she passes. “There!” she exclaims as she spots the creature walking in an office.
SSSHHRAK! Firehawk smashes through the window and into the room. “Turn, you parasite! What have you done with Walter Reilly?” she yells at the creature.
He turns to view the intruder. “Less than I will do with you!” he answers. He grabs a desk and whips it at Firehawk!
“Is that supposed to stop me?” Firehawk asks as she blasts the desk into bits with a heat burst.
The creature walks toward her. “No! Merely bring me close enough to feed!” he explains menacingly. “I am as you say…a parasite! And you are only food to me!”
Parasite raises his arms and energy swirls around him. It quickly extends and envelops Firehawk! SHUUCCCKK! Parasite absorbs massive amounts of energy from Firehawk. “NOOO!” she cries out. In seconds, Firehawk transforms into Lorraine Reilly, and she falls unconscious to the floor!
Parasite stands, triumphantly extending Firehawk’s wings that now stretch out from his back! “I have become you! Who you are, what you are, how you came to be - - all this is mine!” Parasite exults. “Most importantly, I know where to get even more power! In Pittsburgh!”
In Pittsburgh… “Ohhh, I hate this! I hate this a lot!” worries Doreen Day. She nervously nibbles at her fingernail as she tries to sneak to her dorm building. “All this nonsense about superheroes has everyone acting crazy!” she thinks. “The campus is still closed down because of what happened at the Library! I don’t understand any of it! Why does everything have to be so complicated anyway? Like today, Ronnie and I were all snuggled up and he was being so sweet!”
She moves along the dorm building’s edge as she remembers. “I really do love you, Doreen,” Ronnie tells her. They sit on the couch and Doreen is curled up on his lap. “I must drive you really crazy sometimes. I don’t know why you put up with me…” he adds.
“Well, silly, there are some compensations,” she answers. “Why don’t we get into some of them?”
The TV next to the couch is tuned to the news. “A warrant was put out today for Jack Sawyer, self-proclaimed Acolyte of G. Gordon Godfrey,” the announcer explains. “Sawyer, free on bond put up by Godfrey’s lawyers, is thought to have gone to Godfrey’s forces now converging on Washington, D.C.!”
Ronnie’s attention is drawn to the news. “Wait…” he tells Doreen.
“Godfrey’s superhero / supermenace controversy seemed to receive more credibility today when the super-powered heroine known as Firehawk gutted part of S.T.A.R. Labs in New York today,” the announcer continues. “However, as these videotapes show, another creature has somehow stolen or mimicked Firehawk’s powers and general appearance! Federal security forces cordoned off the building and declared it off limits to all but qualified personnel until the status of certain dangerous experiments can be…”
Clik! Doreen reaches for the remote control and switches off the TV. “Honestly, Ronnie! Sports aren’t on for another five whole minutes,” she tells him. “Can’t we turn this off until then?!”
Ronnie snatches the remote. “Give me that!” he says quickly.
“Ronnie!” blurts Doreen in surprise.
Klik! Ronnie turns the TV back on. “I’ve gotta listen to that report!” he explains. “I know…some friends of Professor Stein’s who work at S.T.A.R.!”
Doreen slides off his lap onto the couch next to him. She crosses her arms and frowns. “Fine. Watch it,” she says icily.
“…and when last seen, the creature was flying at near Mach speed towards us here in Pittsburgh,” the TV announcer continues.
Klik! Ronnie turns off the TV and gets up. “Uh…Doreen, I gotta go. I forgot Dad’s supposed to call me,” Ronnie tells her. “He was going to talk to me about…stuff. I’ll check in with you later, okay?”
He turns to leave. Doreen angrily gets up from the couch. “It’s not just your lying I hate, Ronnie! It’s that I’m supposed to act like I believe you!” she answers. Ronnie
“I…Look, I’ll make it up to you later, Doreen! I promise!” Ronnie answers.
“What makes you think there’s going to be a later?!” Doreen barks at him. She picks up a small pillow and…SCHMUFF! She flings the pillow against back of his head.
“I’m sorry, Doreen. I…I gotta go…” Ronnie answers as he heads into the hallway.
“THEN GO!!!” Doreen yells.
Doreen’s thoughts return to the present. She stands at the edge of the dorm building watching Ronnie walk away. “But I couldn’t just leave it like that!” she thinks. “I’ve got to know why! Why is Ronnie doing this! What’s he really doing?”
She carefully follows Ronnie at a distance. “But this is so creepy…following him around campus. Sneaking around, spying on him,” she thinks. “Why did I start it, Ronnie? Why do you have to be such a jerk sometimes? Why do I have to be in love with you? Why do things have to be so complicated?”
She watches as Ronnie joins another person near a tree in the courtyard. “Who’s that he’s meeting with? Professor Stein?” she thinks as she watches them talking. “Ronnie seems to be asking him something! Almost pleading! I’ve got to try and get closer and hear!” she thinks, cautiously inching forward a few more steps and hiding herself against a tree.
“Of course I intend to abide by our agreement, Professor!” Ronnie says with a frown. “It’s just that…Well, Lorraine may be in trouble and I’m concerned!”
Stein eyes him carefully. “I know your interest in her, Ronald! I’ve felt it and it is neither all that altruistic nor all that decent!”
“Like I said before, Professor, it’s your call. I’ll play it whatever way you want. But trouble seems to be on its way here - - shouldn’t we at least check it out? Wouldn’t that be the smart thing to do?” Ronnie asks.
Stein sighs. “Oh, very well!” he decides hesitantly, “But there’s too much chance to be observed out here, Ronald. Come with me.” He and Ronnie turn and start to run off.
“Now what are they doing?” Doreen asks in confusion as she watches them depart. “This is why Ronnie dumped me? To go find Professor Stein?” she asks herself. “I knew they were friends…sorta.” She follows their path. It leads around a corner of the dorm building. “Actually, I never have understood their relationship! They’re not the same age or background. What can they have in common?” she wonders.
She approaches the corner. “Ohhh, I hate this! I hate what I’m thinking and I hate what I’m doing but I can’t help myself! I’ve got to know!” she thinks as rounds the corner. She looks around and sees no one. “Where’d they go?!” she thinks in astonishment. “Ronnie?!” Behind Doreen, a flaming streak of light passes off into the sky.
Firestorm turns and gains altitude above Vandemeer. “Funny, I thought I heard Doreen calling me, just for a second. And we seem to have a nasty little throbbing headache,” Ronnie says. “Can’t quite pinpoint it…feels like it’s at the back of the skull. Were you feeling all right when we fused?”
Stein looks concerned. “Of course I was. Why shouldn’t I be?” he asks.
“Well, this headache had to come from someplace! Wish it would go someplace, too,” Ronnie answers. “Well, never mind. Got any idea on how to find this bozo, Professor?”
Ronnie turns them eastward, facing the general direction of New York City. “I’d suggest getting some altitude and looking the general area between here and New York,” Stein replies. “If the reports of the creature’s speed and general direction hold true, we may find him not too far away.”
Seconds later, Ronnie spots the creature rapidly approaching. “Bingo, Professor!” he says as the creature speeds along below them. Ronnie turns on an intercept course.
“Good Lord, Ronald! That creature is barely 100 feet off the ground,” Stein observes anxiously. “Do you have any idea, given Firehawk’s powers, of what that must do to whatever is beneath him?”
They burn. SSSHHH! Concrete. Houses. Trees. Cars. People. SSSSSHHH! SSSSHHH! The creature speeds on, trailing a fiery wake of destruction in a long path behind him. VMOMP! A house explodes as the creature passes over. SSSHHH!
Ronnie soars out in front of the creature and then banks to face him. “Hang on, Professor! We’re going to stop that thing right now!” he shouts.
“Ronald, no! Not head on!” Stein cautions quickly.
The two beings rapidly close on each other. SCHRAK! Parasite sweeps his wing violently into Firestorm! “AHHH!” Ronnie yells as the powerful impact knocks him back!
“Just what I like. A meal that serves itself!” Parasite yells.
Ronnie flies backward, stunned by the blow and…WHUMP! He lands hard in the grass on his back.
“Brilliant, Ronald! That was never the best way to attack Firehawk herself!” Stein scoffs. “It must stand to reason that it would be even more ineffective against someone with her powers and a greater mass!” he explains.
Ronnie starts to get back up, pivoting on his knees and elbows. “…Why…don’t you get off my back, Professor, and tell me how to handle this bozo? Or would you rather drive?” he asks.
SSSHHHH! Parasite approaches, emanating a fiery energy trail. “Would that I could, Ronald!” Stein answers. “As it is, we were supposed to be equal partners, so I should’ve been allowed my say! My advice now is not to try to fight this creature in the open. Use that shut-down steel mill instead!”
Ronnie gets to his feet and takes off. “Okay, okay, we’re going!” he grunts in reply.
FZZAP! Ronnie lowers his density and phases through the plant’s exterior wall. “He’s following us in, Professor!” he observes. Parasite pursues closely. SCHRAK! He smashes through a large window to enter the building.
“As I expected, Ronald! Now reduce your density to intangibility!” Stein directs.
“I know how to do it, Professor!” Ronnie answers. Instantly, the Nuclear Man becomes transparent!
“What?!” Parasite blurts as he flashes through Firestorm. WHAM! Parasite smashed into machinery and falls to the floor. He quickly gets up and turns back. Firestorm returns to visible form and lands near him.
“Cute…’Ronnie’. I suppose that little trick was the Professor’s idea,” Parasite announces.
“You know?” Ronnie asks in surprise.
Parasite glares at him angrily. “I sucked away Firehawk’s memories…Everything she knew!”
Parasite turns and extends an arm to a nearby furnace and begins flowing energy into it. SSSSHHHRAK! “…At the same time when I sucked away her powers!” he explains as the furnace begins to glow.
The furnace was made for melting iron ore - - to withstand thousands of degrees of heat. It was never meant to withstand this.
FROOM! Fire explodes out of the furnace! “Quickly, Ronald, you must…!” Stein blurts.
FZZAAP! “I’m on it, Professor, one hotsy dandy shield coming up,” Ronnie answers as he transforms a protective barrier. “With luck, our new-found looney-tune will have aced himself with that little trick!” he adds.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you, Ronnie?” Parasite calls out. “Lorraine thinks you’re cute, you know, but deep down, she thinks you look for easy ways out. She called me a parasite, you know. Parasites are not easy to kill. You’re just making me hungry, Ronnie.”
Ronnie peers around the shield. “Okay, Professor. Floor’s open to suggestions,” he asks.
Stein carefully watches Parasite. “Look at him, Ronald. His ‘Firehawk Flame’ is noticeably smaller!” Stein observes. “Everything suggests that he gets his power by leeching power from others which he then consumes as food. As with any being, physical exertion causes him to use that energy at a faster rate! Force this parasite to overextend himself without replenishing the energy, and his body should start to consume itself. There is the danger, of course, that we could push his body too far and it would kill him rather than merely incapacitate him.”
“My main worry right now is him killing us, but I’ve got an idea,” Ronnie answers. FZAAM! He focuses and fires twin beams of energy!
“Ronald, haven’t you understood what I said?” Stein warns. “He’ll simply absorb that energy and turn is back on us!”
FZAAM! Ronnie continues firing, aiming at the platform above the creature that is loaded with heavy sections of pipes and equipment. “I heard, Professor! And I got the picture, okay?!” he replies.
CRRRASHH! The platform collapses! “Oh, I see. You weren’t aiming at the Parasite but the load of scrap metal above him,” Stein answers.
“Give me credit for a few smarts, Professor. Even if I haven’t used them much lately,” Ronnie replies.
The creature raises his hands. FZAAK! He unleashes a fire burst to blast away the falling debris! “You get no credit from me, Ronnie, if you think this is supposed to stop me!” he calls out. “You’re just whetting my appetite! Stoking my hunger!”
Ronnie looks up at the large cauldron conveyor system overhead. “Ah, you don’t want to bother with me, pally! I’m junk food! No good for you!” Ronnie answers. “Here, let me make you a hamburger! You know how to make a hamburger, right?”
FZAAM! Ronnie aims transforming bursts at the two cauldron supports, instantly transforming them into two giant hands!
KERRRANK! The hands spring down, tightly grabbing the creature! “First you press the chopped beef. Before you know it - - bingobango-bongo! - - You’re a hamburger!” The hands turn and squeeze the creature as it squirms in their grasp.
“Not until you’ve supplied some heat and cooked it, Ronnie!” Parasite yells. BA-BLAM! He flexes mightily, blasting the animated hands into fragments of jagged metal. He reaches for a metal cauldron, raising it over his head. “Here’s a little something for you to chew on!”
FING! He whips the cauldron at Firestorm! “Thanks, but I just ate a little while ago…and that looks like more than I can chew!” Ronnie answers. Instantly, he lowers his density to become intangible and flies through the massive cauldron. KA-RASH! The cauldron crashes into machinery behind him!
“Ronald, look out!” Stein warns quickly. “The ladle was only a diversion to let him get within striking range!” The creature leaps up as Ronnie passes above him, locking a hand tightly on Ronnie’s ankle. He pulls hard and thrusts himself upwards to wrap his arms powerfully around Ronnie’s neck and shoulders!
“NOW!” Parasite yells.
“NO!” Ronnie cries out.
SHUUUCKK! In seconds, Parasite soaks huge amounts of energy out of Firestorm. Unable to maintain their fusion, Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein separate and tumble down to the steel mill floor.
“Tasty, gentlemen, very tasty,” Parasite says with satisfaction. He lands and begins to walk toward Ronnie and Stein. “Absorbing your power has taught me something of myself,” he tells them. “All those fascinating theories you have about me, Professor. Most enlightening.”
Flaming hair now extends out above Parasite’s head as he grabs Ronnie and Professor Stein. He lifts them up from the floor, holding them suspended in front of him at shoulder height.
“Taking your power has reduced you to your normal selves. Taking that energy from you would reduce you to clay!” Parasite exults triumphantly. “What better way of guaranteeing that I am never again threatened by the spectre of Firestorm than by killing you both?! Haha! HAHAHA!”