Multiplex and his team capture Blue Devil at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. They demand safe passage in exchange for Blue Devil, but will only negotiate with Firestorm. Multiplex ambushes Firestorm when he arrives at the Civic Center.
*** Note: This storyline begins in Fury of Firestorm #45 and continues in issue #46. It then moves to Blue Devil #23. This issue continues the storyline following events in Blue Devil #23 ***
Blue Devil left Los Angeles to put a little sanity into his life. On his way to Metropolis with Wayne Tarrant, he dropped by Pittsburgh to meet a friend. But that’s when he wandered smack into the middle of somebody else’s horror story…and now he’s wondering if he’ll get out of it alive!
Blue Devil stands outside the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, clutching his Trident of Lucifer, swarmed by dozens of miniature Multiplex duploids. “Yoww!” he yells as they clamor and scratch around his feet. Behind him, Mindboggler, Slipknot, and the Hyena look on at the odd battle. “This isn’t your week, Cassidy! Bad enough you spend two days on the road with singing Wayne Tarrant,” Blue Devil thinks, “Bad enough you get into a fight with Firestorm. Bad enough your old buddy Larry Bolatinsky turned out to be a crook named Bolt. Now we’re fighting a whole squad of heavies - - and the worst part is - - you don’t even know their names!”
Duploids climb all over Blue Devil. One clings to his left arm and another crawls over his right shoulder. Dozens grab at his legs and feet. Several duploids scurry up his chest and neck. One grabs onto one of Blue Devil’s horns, using it as a pivot point to thrust himself into Blue Devil’s left eye! “Owww! Cut it out!” Blue Devil yells, “You bit my ear!” He whips his Trident in front of him and…BLAMM! A blast wave from the Trident blows several duploids into the air! “Idiot! You can’t hurt me with an energy blast!” the duploids call out in their strange unified harmony, yelling, “I am Multiplex, the Multiple Menace! Your energy feeds my fission-based power? See?”
The duploids shimmer and glow, splitting into dozens more! “I love this part,” smiles Slipknot as he watches. “Heehee me too, Slipknot” cackles the Hyena, “It’s like lots of tiny soap bubbles blowing in the wind! Hahaha! The boss is just too cute.” Mindboggler scoffs, “Cute? Hyena, are you out of your mind?” The Hyena turns quickly to Mindboggler, answering enthusiastically and without hesitation, “Yes!” Mindboggler stares at Hyena for a moment. “I had to ask,” she thinks.
Smek! Smak! Swok! The duploids pound Blue Devil in a rain of small attacks. “Ow! Ouch! Oof! Ung! Ahhk!” grunts Blue Devil, bending under the repetitive assault. “Now, Slipknot, while I have this fool reeling,” Multiplex says in dozens of voices, “bind him with your specially treated rope.” Slipknot spins up a lasso quickly, throwing it out and around the overwhelmed Blue Devil. “Gotcha, Boss,” Slipknot says as he complies, “This stuff’s stronger than titanium steel…and sticks tighter than a bad rep! Whipped it up myself back when I worked for a chemical company down south. A few more loops…and you’ve got yourself a hog-tied Devil in Blue.” With rapid twists of his rope, Slipknot wraps it quickly around Blue Devil’s arms and legs. Slipknot yanks the rope tight, tightly binding Blue Devil on his back on the sidewalk.
“So what do we do with him? Throw a party and hang him like a piñata?” Mindboggler asks, annoyed at the delay. “Mindboggler, try to restrain your sarcasm,” Multiplex suggests as he reabsorbs the army of miniature duploids, “Remember why we’re here?” Multiplex points at the Civic Arena doors. “Inside that Civic Center is the world’s most advanced - - and expensive - - computer!” Multiplex explains, “The Super-Cray is worth more than $25,000,000! Think of the ransom we can demand once it’s ours!’ Mindboggler listens impatiently as she looks around, “Yeah, but first we’ve got to steal it,” she says, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they aren’t going to let us.”
Police officers and SWAT snipers have arrived and rapidly deployed outside the Arena. They carefully approach the super-villains with guns at ready. “This is the police. We have you surrounded. Throw down your weapons and come forward with your hands up,” an officer directs them via his bullhorn. “I - - I don’t understand…we had the element of surprise…” Multiplex says in dismay as he sees the massing police presence. “Where did they all come from?” Hyena snarls. “It’s like a small army!” Slipknot blurts. Mindboggler shakes her head. “Dummies. While you were busy watching our partner Bolt trick Firestorm into fighting Blue Devil - - the cops had all the time they needed to catch us cold,” she fumes, asking, “Maybe we can handle a dozen cops…maybe even two dozen…but a hundred? You’re the brains, Multi. Now what do we do?”
Multiplex bends down to grab the rope binding Blue Devil. Slipknot grabs along Blue Devil’s other side. “Inside. They won’t dare attack as long as we’ve got a hostage,” Multiplex decides, “Then we can think. Make a new plan.” He and Slipknot start up the Arena entrance stairs carrying Blue Devil between them. “Brilliant,” sighs Mindboggler. “Heehee I say let’s charge ‘em. Ugly cops, haha. I’ll tear ‘em apart,” Hyena suggests, “Heehee hahahah-AKKK!” Mindboggler turns to Hyena and says, “Give me a break,” She reaches her red-gloved hand to snatch Hyena’s dangling tongue and pulls on it, dragging the squirming Hyena up the stairs behind her.
Meanwhile, high above the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (just in case you thought we’d forgotten whose book this is)… “Firestorm, please! You’ve got to take us down! I’m gonna be sick!” Wayne Tarrant yells. He and Bolt ride on a giant Hy-Flyer glider being towed swiftly through the sky by Firestorm. “This is the fastest way back to the Civic Center, Wayne. If you don’t like it, you can walk,” Ronnie calls back.
“Zapping Bolt took longer than I thought,” Ronnie says, “We’re probably too late to help your pal Cassidy mop up Multiplex and the rest of his crew, but if there’s even a chance I can get a few licks in before the fight’s over - - you better believe I’m gonna take it.” Stein worries about Ronnie’s state of mind, asking, “You’re quite angry, aren’t you, Ronald?” Ronnie answers, “You bet I am, Professor. My Dad and his fiancée were with me at that Computer Trade Show when Multiplex broke in. Dad almost got killed, and I had to punch out Felicity so I could change into Firestorm without her seeing.” Ronnie brings them into the area of the Civic Center, flying down towards the street entrance. “How am I gonna explain hitting her when she comes to?” Ronnie asks, adding, “I can’t tell her the truth. Dad would go nuts if he knew you and I are the Nuclear Man. The lady is already trying to sue me as Firestorm. Now she’ll hate me as Ronnie Raymond too!”
Wayne hangs on tightly to the diving glider. He can see Firestorm speaking just ahead. “A super-hero who talks to himself. That’s just wonderful,” Wayne thinks, “I wish I could hear what he’s saying. On the other hand…What if he’s babbling like a lunatic? I don’t want to know. Oh, God. I am so nauseated.” Ronnie lands along the street near the mass of police. He guides the glider to the ground behind him. “Gently…oh, please God, gently…Ooof!” Wayne grunts as he bumps to a stop.
“B-Squad, take up positions on the surrounding rooftops. I want three marksmen covering every exit out of the Center. Move!” barks the police captain. Ronnie walks up to him, asking, “Hey, Captain…What’s going on? Why all the cops and guns? Where’s Blue Devil?” The Captain turns to greet him. “Firestorm! Glad you’re here - - we can use your help,” he says. “That’s a switch!” Ronnie thinks with surprise, “Back in New York, most cops wanted me to back off.” Ronnie nods at the captain, asking, “You’ve got it. What’s the story?”
The Captain leans across the hood of a patrol car. “I gather you know this Multiplex character,” he explains, “He and that gang of his are holed up in the Civic Center…and they’re holding Blue Devil hostage. We have the place surrounded…We’re bringing in a negotiation team…but the truth is, we’re outclassed…The kind of power these people have…we’ve never faced anything like it before here in Pittsburgh.” He scans the area, taking note of the sharpshooters moving into their positions above. “And there’s something else you should know…something we’re hoping Multiplex doesn’t know,” the Captain continues, “The fair organizers are pretty sure there are two people inside…a man and a woman who were trapped during the panic when Multiplex and his crowd first hit the Center…”
Ronnie gasps. “Dad and Felicity! Oh, my God, they’re still in there!” he thinks anxiously. “Hey…you all right?” the Captain asks with concern. “Yeah, fine. I’m going in,” Ronnie announces. The Captain grabs Ronnie’s shoulder, pulling him back. “Hold it! You can’t rush in like that - - one against four! We have to make a plan…” the Captain tells him. Ronnie tries to pull away, saying, “Let go! I’ve got to…”
Suddenly, Multiplex appears at the door to the Center. “Hello, out there!” he yells down, “We’re ready to deal - - our hostage for safe passage, and the Super-Cray Computer - - but on one condition…we’ll only negotiate with Firestorm!”
Inside…Blue Devil hangs upside-down on Slipknot’s rope, suspended from the catwalk. The Hyena plays with the helpless Blue Devil, pushing and spinning him like a cat toy. “Heehee Mindboggler’s right. He is like a piñata,” the Hyena giggles and asks, “Hey, Slipknot. One question…haha…These ropes stick so tight, how do you ever get them loose?” Slipknot pulls out a small vial from his costume, holding it out for Hyena to see. “Chemicals,” he explains, “When I brewed up the adhesive, I also made a solvent. It’s in this vial. A few drops can dissolve an entire rope without me touching it. Nice, eh?”
Felicity Smoak peers around from an exhibit. “Nice,” she thinks as she watches Slipknot. She slides back down quietly next to Ed. “I wish we’d had some of that solvent before we tore off your shirt,” she tells him. Ed fumbles and picks at the shredded remains of his shirt. “What solvent?” he asks. “Those creeps have a prisoner who looks pretty powerful,” she explains, “He may be able to help us…and I just found out how we can set him free…”
Outside…Multiplex stands on the upper stairs, looking down on Firestorm at street level below. “Ah, Firestorm. I hoped you’d be nearby. Did you find Bolt?” he asks. Ronnie nods, answering, “Uh-huh. You’ll be joining him soon.” Ronnie walks up the stairs, and Multiplex jovially puts his arm around him. “Oh no, I don’t think so. My partners and I have other plans,” Multiplex replies as they walk inside the Center. The door closes behind them
“Come in…Let me show you…It’s quite a surprise.” Multiplex grins. Suddenly, Multiplex fissions off two duploids! TWHAM! THWAM! They punch the stunned Firestorm! “Unnggh!” he groans from the strikes. “The police would never allow us to escape - - with only one hostage. But with two?” Multiplex and his duploids ask in unison. KRAK! KWAK! They land two more punches to Ronnie’s chest
. SHRRRAAK! The Hyena pounces, landing on Ronnie’s back! “Heehee I like the way you think, Multi!” the Hyena laughs, “But don’t forget, we’ve gotta have fun, too! Haha! Hey, Firestorm - - let’s play tag! You’re it!” The Hyena wraps her arms around Firestorm and the two fall to the floor. Ronnie looks up to see a familiar face staring down at him. “Mindboggler,” he groans, pinned under the Hyena’s weight.
“Hi, there. Remember how you talked me into betraying Breathtaker and my old friends on the 2000 Committee?” she asks. She glares at him with her bright blue eyes. “You convinced me I could live a normal life. You were wrong,” she explains, “I don’t fit in your world, Firestorm. I wonder how you’ll fit in mine…?” Instantly, Ronnie’s mind is flooded with overpowering images of demons and devils swarming over him on a rocky, fiery landscape. “Yaaahhhh!” Ronnie yells in terror.
“Remind me never to get on your bad side, Mindboggler,” Slipknot says apprehensively as he watches Firestorm writhe on the floor, “Just say the word and I’ll truss him up like Blue Devil. “Yaaaaaahhhhh!” Ronnie screams at the monsters in his mind. “You’ll have your chance, Slipknot,” Mindboggler answers, “after I’m finished. I always wondered how much pain a man’s mind could take before it snapped. This should be fun.”
Ronnie covers his eyes, trying to hide the hideous monsters from his sight. They poke and claw at him. One snake-like creature coils around Ronnie’s body. “Ronald, for the love of Heaven, fight back!” Stein pleads, “This nightmare isn’t real! Mindboggler is twisting your mind - - it’s all an illusion like the others she created when you fought Blue Devil!”
Ronnie pulls his hands down, looking strangely composed all of a sudden. “No…really?” he asks. “Eh? My boy, I thought you were terrified!” Stein says with shock. “Uh-huh. You and everyone else,” Ronnie reveals, “But did you honestly think I’d fall for Mindboggler’s brain-twister twice in one day? Never mind Multi’s dumb ambush!” Stein smiles. “Then why the charade?” he asks. “’Cause of something I spotted as we came in the door. Pardon me a second, okay? I’m gonna enjoy this.” Ronnie replies.
He turns toward a green monster with a strangely familiar spiky head. “Hey Mindboggler…Wanna see a trick?” Ronnie asks the green monster. It looks at him quizzically. “Abracadabra! Lights out!” Ronnie yells. He lunges toward the beast and…WHAMM!! He smashes a fist across its fang-tipped jowls. KRUMP! Mindboggler flies back from Ronnie, landing hard and unconscious on the floor.
“Ronald…please tell me…What did you see?” Stein asks. “Two people sneaking up on a guy named Slipknot,” Ronnie answers, “Figured they could use a diversion, so I gave them one.” Multiplex watches Mindboggler fall. “Slipknot?” he asks. He quickly looks around and finds Slipknot tightly bound with his own rope! “Wh-What?” he asks in shock.
Blue Devil calls down from above him. “You’ve gotta hand it to the guy, Multiplex. He’s quite a chemist,” Blue Devil tells him, waving a small vial in his hand. “Those ropes stuck real tight until we splashed ‘em with this stuff,” Blue Devil continues, “Wish I had something like it to loosen up this blue union-suit. Maybe he can whip something up for me in jail. And maybe you can keep him company a year or two. Whaddaya say, ‘ey?”
Blue Devil aims his Trident of Lucifer at the base of the giant desktop computer he stands on. SWOOOSH! Instantly, the computer ejects a giant floppy disc, firing it right at Multiplex! “You horned fool, you haven’t won yet!” Multiplex yells. He fissions into two, and the giant disc flashes between them. “Not as long as I can escape…and return to the battle another day!” He and the duploid break to sprint in opposite directions.
“Huh? Aw, no…” Firestorm groans as he watches Multiplex flee. “Hey - - which one…?” Blue Devil asks. Ronnie starts after one of them. “Either duploid could be the real Multiplex, BD! We’ve got to catch them both!” Ronnie yells back, directing, “You take the one that went west - - I’ll follow the duploid who went east!”
Ronnie leaps in pursuit, but suddenly, a furry hand tightly snaps around his leg! “Haven’t you forgotten something, Carrot-Top? Hee hee!” giggles the Hyena, snarling, “Me? Haha ha!” She yanks back hard, pulling Firestorm to her! “Hyena! YEOOWW!” Ronnie yells in surprise. The Hyena bares her fangs at him. “Hyena, yes! I’m not as smart as Multiplex…Oh, no, heehee,” she cackles, “But I remember things…Oh, yes, ha haha…! I remember you sent me to a madhouse…heeheehee…and that wasn’t nice! No, that wasn’t nice at all! Hahaha!” RRRRIIPPP! Hyena rakes a claw across Ronnie’s chest and he falls back with his costume in tatters.
Ed Raymond and Felicity Smoak crouch behind a computer display. Ed coils Slipknot’s rope in his hands. “Ed, we have to help him,” Felicity says as they watch Hyena and Firestorm battle. “That Hyena creature is tearing Firestorm apart!” she blurts. “I’ve still got some of the adhesive rope we took off Blue Devil,” Ed answers, “Maybe…if I could get in the right position…”
Simultaneously…Blue Devil leaps from exhibit to exhibit in pursuit of Multiplex. “Closing in on number one…but how do I stop this guy, without letting him split up again?” he asks as he jumps, “Can’t use my pitchfork directly - - that’s what got me in trouble last time!” Blue Devil sees a large Plexiglas display case just ahead. “I know…” he smiles, “if I can’t zap him…I’ll catch him like a rabbit in a box!” He leaps and thrusts his feet into the side of the case. It tips and falls. KTASSSH! It lands right over Multiplex, trapping him! But…The duploid merely smiles at him, quickly disappearing in a bubbling burst of green energy. “Like that, huh? Guess you were the duploid,” Blue Devil says, “Okay, that narrows it down. The other one’s got to be Multiplex!”
Simultaneously too… “Get her off, Ronald! She’s a killer!” Stein warns nervously. The Hyena claws and scratches at Ronnie, pushing him tightly against an exhibition display. “How? Can’t hit her with a nuclear burst - - feedback would hit me too!” Ronnie yells back. “Heeheehaha!” snarls the Hyena as she whips him with her claws. “And she’s - - tearing into me - - so fierce - - I can’t pull back - - can’t get any distance!” Ronnie stammers between strikes, “Professor - - she’s killing me!” Shreds of Firestorm’s costume fall from the Hyena’s claws. She leans her fangs close to his face. “That’s right! That’s right! Killing you, heehee!” she laughs maniacally, “Never lock me up again! No, never again! Hahaha!”
Suddenly, a loop of rope slips down over one of the Hyena’s arms. “Hahahaa - - AAKK?” the Hyena blurts as the rope yanks her arm away from Firestorm. Ed Raymond pulls as hard as he can on the rope, lifting the Hyena up away from Firestorm. Ed and Felicity stand on top of a large computer display. Felicity holds Ed so he does not fall over the edge. “Firestorm! Quick - - we can’t hold her long - - she’s too strong!” Ed yells down. “Grnnnn arrrhhh grnnnahh grrnngghh” growls the Hyena, flailing as she tries to bite through the rope.
“Hey Hyena, if that rope is too sticky for you…Chew on this!” Ronnie yells. He lunges towards her and…KWHAMM! He rocks her snout with a massive right-handed punch. The Hyena falls unconscious to the floor. “Um. I think I just sprained my wrist,” Ronnie says, standing over the Hyena and shaking his right hand. “Firestorm, are you all right?” Felicity calls to him, “My God, the way she ripped into you…” She and Ed climb down from the large display computer.
“Miss Smoak…did I miss something here? Aren’t you the lady who’s suing me for ‘Super-Hero Malpractice?’” Ronnie asks her. She frowns a little, asking, “Was I supposed to feel happy when I saw the Hyena slash into you? You’re lucky she didn’t cut you…” Ronnie looks at his hands and the slashed and tattered condition of his costume. “Luckier than you know. Last time we fought, I got bit. Almost turned into a were-hyena myself,” Ronnie replies, adding, “And you can imagine what that did for my popularity.”
Blue Devil leaps over the top of a computer display and calls down, “Yo, Hothead! Multi’s cornered! You want a piece?” Ronnie looks up with a relieved smile. “You bet, Cassidy…on my way!” he answers. FZAAMM! He launches upwards with a small nuclear burst that causes Ed and Felicity to shield their eyes. “Hey, watch it!” Felicity yells. She watches him fly off with Blue Devil. “He could have blinded us! That jerk!” she grumps. “C’mon, Felicity. Things are just about tied up in here…and Ronnie’s probably outside worried about us,” Ed tells her, “Let’s leave the rest to Firestorm and Blue Devil…If anyone can handle Multiplex, they can…”
Multiplex cowers against a wall as Blue Devil and Firestorm aim right for him. TAWHOOM! In a deafening blast of concrete, Blue Devil and Firestorm land on Multiplex and smash him right through the wall to the street! Multiplex lies on his back on the ground. Firestorm and Blue Devil kneel on either side of him. “Ready, BD?” Ronnie asks, curling a fist. “Ready, FS!” Blue Devil answers, raising his fist.
K-KRAK! Multiplex is pummeled by a simultaneous punch from Firestorm and Blue Devil! “Yowwww!” the two super-heroes yell as their hands strike Multiplex. Instantly, Multiplex vanishes in a burst of green bubbles of energy. “Ow-ow-ow-ow!” Ronnie cries. “Ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch!” Blue Devil moans. They both dance gingerly, holding their very sore punching hands.
“Wh-What happened? Where did he go? How could he just - - vanish?” Wayne Tarrant asks. “He vanished because he wasn’t Multiplex,” Ronnie explains, “That was a duploid.” The police Captain steps over to speak with Firestorm and Blue Devil as Ed and Felicity emerge from the hole in the Arena wall. “The real Multiplex must’ve split off one more time after his last fission, Captain,” Ronnie tells him, “and left this duploid as a diversion while he escaped. I’m sorry. Cassidy and I almost had him.”
Several police parade Mindboggler, Slipknot, and the Hyena out of the arena to a waiting paddy wagon. “At least we caught three out of four,” Blue Devil says. “Whatever. I want to thank both you boys for your help,” the Captain tells them, “My people will take it from here.” Wayne asks, “Dan, can we leave now? We’ve gotta be in Metropolis by noon tomorrow…I’ve got a lunch appointment with my agent to sign for the show I’m doing…and we better hit the road soon, or we’ll never have time to…”
Blue Devil quickly leans close to Firestorm. “If I have to listen to one more road song from that guy, I’ll go berserk,” Blue Devil whispers. Ronnie smiles. “No problem. I owe you one,” Ronnie answers. He flicks a finger and…FZZAM! Wayne’s shirt suddenly reforms into a muzzle over his mouth. “Gnnnppft…” he mumbles in surprise. “Thanks. Any time you drop by Metro, look me up,” Blue Devil laughs. The two friends shake hands. “Same here, next time you pass through Pittsburgh.” The two suddenly cringe - - they shook hands with their sore hands! “Ouch-ouch-ouch,” Blue Devil cringes. Ronnie whimpers, “Ow-ow-ow!”
As good a time as any to say - - The End!