Nightwing and Firestorm: Chilled Memories, Chapter 1: Homecoming

by Libbylawrence

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Devin Willis exulted in being a man. Oh, there was more to his feelings of elation than merely exhilaration over having the right combination of chromosomes. He enjoyed feeling strong, capable, and in control. A more enlightened mind would have realized that none of these traits were exclusively male; however, for all of his muscular confidence and virility, Devin was not gifted with much sensitivity or perception of things like other people’s feelings. He merely walked around the lush campus of Hudson University and remembered his glory days years before when he had been the big man on campus around the sleepy college town of New Carthage. He smiled as he slapped his stomach. Bet I could still fit into the old letter sweater, he thought with smug self-assurance or perhaps denial.

As moonlight played over the campus, Devin approached the old row of bleachers that overlooked the football practice field near the main stadium. Autumn leaves painted the campus in shades of red and yellow and the crisp snap of the leaves echoed as Devin strolled down memory lane toward one of his favorite old haunts. I remember the night Liz Allen and I went under those bleachers after the homecoming game, he thought, smirking.

The moonlight reflected off a silvery form as a chill wind brushed against Devin’s cheek. He thought he saw a woman standing in the shadows. She smiled and gestured to him as she disappeared beneath the bleachers. Devin grinned and hurried over after her lithe form. I’ve still got it! Even the chicks of this generation dig me, he mused. He shivered slightly. Huh. It’s kind of cold out.

He ducked under the bleacher and gasped as he saw the woman in the moonlight filtering through the rows above. “Halloween isn’t here yet. Why the costume, baby?” he said.

His words were swallowed up by a sudden rending sound. He fell and was suddenly crushed beneath the bleachers as the beautiful woman artfully slid away and laughed a musical laugh. The moonlight reflected off a silvery substance that now coated the broken bleachers and Devin’s shattered form.

***

The next day, Frank McDonald of the New Carthage Police Department shook his head as he gazed at the scene. The campus security team had found Devin and summoned the town’s authorities. Frank was just lucky enough to get the call. He was a stocky man with a wrinkled coat and world-weary eyes. He brooded as he looked over the campus.

“This place had settled down. I could have bet my pension on it. No costumed kooks of any kind have hit campus in so long. It figures the weirdness would return before my retirement comes close.” He sighed.

“It was the weight of the bleachers that killed him,” said the police doctor. “Funny thing is that they were in good shape. A wealthy alumnus gave the school money for a new sports field. The seats should not have broken, and yet some heavy weight snapped them in two.”

Frank nodded wearily. “Anything else?”

The doctor glanced back over his shoulder and said, “The seats were cold and wet, as if they had been coated with ice or something.”

Frank frowned. “It’s way too early for such a thing to be natural, if that kind of thing could ever be normal outside of Ripley’s! I guess it’s more than this tired old cop could hope for to think this big multi-generation alumni homecoming could go smoothly.”

***

“So you worked here years ago when you first began to teach? I bet the kids liked you once they got to know you,” said a handsome young man as he followed an older, slightly more reserved man across Hudson University’s campus.

Professor Martin Stein nodded as he adjusted his glasses and wiped away moisture. He smiled at Ronnie Raymond and replied, “I fear many of them had some unfortunate nicknames for me.”

Ronnie grinned. “Get out of here. What were they?”

Martin shrugged. “Oh, let’s let the matter rest, shall we? As you know, all my memories of Hudson aren’t pleasant.”

Ronnie put his arm around his friend’s shoulders and said, “Forget about the past. Why, if I let the past get to me, I’d wake up seeing Cliff Carmichael pants me in homeroom again and again!”

Martin smiled as the young man tried to raise his spirits. Ronnie was a good friend and a fine young man. He and Martin had a true friendship between them that existed above and beyond the common bond they shared, because together they formed the composite, fusion-based hero called Firestorm. He gestured at his patched jacket and replied, “Boss Tweed. They used that name because of the coat.”

Ronnie rolled his eyes. “Man, what losers! I could do much better than that.” He raised his hands in a supplicating manner as Martin glared at him. “Just joking! I’m happy you invited me to join you at Hudson’s homecoming. Their team’s great on defense. I’ll enjoy seeing the game,” said Ronnie.

***

Another young man had arrived at Hudson via motorcycle and was just in time to see the police depart. He was dark and handsome and noticed everything around him to the minutest detail.

That’s Frank McDonald. I guess I should have expected to see him, but it looks like he’s here for business, not pleasure. I suppose this gives me an excuse to delay what I came here to do. Bruce would say a crime takes precedence over confronting an old flame. Wish I didn’t feel as if I was groping for any reason to put off seeing Lori.

The young man crossed the campus with an easy agility and noticed the roped-off crime scene. He moved swiftly and made his way to the scene without attracting any notice. He bent over the broken boards. A careful touch to the broken seats revealed much to him.

They were broken from above. A heavy weight shattered them. The slight impression and the moisture on the lawn makes it looks like ice broke them and melted. Very strange. I have it on good authority that Mister Freeze is far from here. I guess my homecoming may involve more than merely reliving my academic past, he thought.

His name was Dick Grayson, and he had once spent time around Hudson as a student and as the teen wonder called Robin. He had since graduated from the role of Robin but had not finished his studies at Hudson. Perhaps this trip would give him some closure.

***

September 19–

Dear Diary:

Today was a wonderful day! This semester may just be the start of a delightful new life for me. This wallflower is blossoming, and daddy’s little girl may just exit her bookworm cocoon as a social butterfly!

I decided to try to join a sorority this semester. I decided that, instead of rejecting such campus organizations as being nothing more than archaic cliques centered around inane stunts and husband-hunting rituals, I would attempt to interact with the girls of Gamma Cappa Delta as if we were peers. They may be my intellectual inferiors, but I could learn much from them about social and interpersonal relationships.

Melodi Reynolds and Sharon Denning are the two most popular girls at Hudson. If I help them with their physics papers, they may become my friends. If they like me, then maybe I can meet some of their male friends, too. Devin Willis is such a dreamboat. He has hazel eyes like a cinema star. Imagine if he and I became friends.

***

Meanwhile, Dick had decided to look into the life of the dead man. He assumed he might find a lead in the ex-jock’s past, since he had been killed on campus. Anyone who hated him from his post-college days could have murdered him at any time prior to his return to Hudson. Dick glanced across the campus and frowned as he saw a pretty girl enter the main quad. For a moment he had mistaken her for someone from his own past.

Got to focus. I’m letting my guilt over the way Lori and I parted terms shadow my actions. That’s clumsy and won’t help me as either Dick or Nightwing, he thought.

Dick quickly did a computer search and learned among other things that Devin Willis had been a football hero at Hudson years before. He had become a used car dealer after graduation and had been divorced for several years. He had returned to Hudson like so many other former graduates for the homecoming. This year’s gathering including reunions for several graduating classes from various eras.

Devin’s ex-wife Melodi was part of the homecoming court. I wonder if she is on campus now. They’ve opened some of the older dorms again for this weekend’s gathering, mused Dick Grayson.

He hurried across campus and reached the dorm, which housed the visiting female graduates. He slipped agilely into a tree and swung higher to scan the area from above. He was now dressed as Nightwing. He had adopted the costume and name when the young hero had given up his role as Robin to Jason Todd.

“Crime-Fighter Busted as Peeping Tom!” Hope to avoid that tabloid headline! he thought as he glimpsed a woman changing in one room. He frowned as his keen hearing detected a loud crash within one room. He flipped through the air and slipped inside an open window to see Melodi Reynolds — as she was once again called since divorcing Willis — screaming as she faced an odd woman.

She was stunningly beautiful and wore a revealing, old-fashioned gown with ornate lace patterns around the neckline and sleeves. She wore a similarly fancy crystalline tiara in her silvery hair, and she smiled with an inhuman yet arresting joy.

The room was freezing cold, and ice had formed across the floor. Nightwing noticed this and struggled to stay on his feet as he encountered the slippery surface. He noticed that Melodi had marks across her bare arms where her attacker had barely grazed her skin.

That woman’s touch causes frostbite! This psycho must be a female Mister Freeze! he thought as he moved to block her path.

“Foolish youth! You should not come between old acquaintances. It is simply not healthy for you,” she said. “My, you are a sturdy young man. How handsome you are. A shame that means you are even more deserving of my kiss!

She waved one dainty hand, and slivers of razor-sharp ice formed and hurled toward the hero. He shoved Melodi down as he twisted to dodge the spears. One sliced across his arm, and he fell even as he pushed the frightened Melodi to safety. If he had concerned himself only with his own safety, he could have dodged the rain of icy spears with ease; however, that was not the way he had been raised. “Get out! I’ll stop her!” he cried.

Killer Frost gripped his collar and pulled him closer. Her touch chilled him, and her breath was sweet yet numbing as her lips brushed against his cheek. He turned his head even as the cold robbed him of his famous dexterity. He fumbled for a capsule in his wristband and dropped it at her slippered feet.

The magnesium flare exploded and cast blinding light across the dorm room. Killer Frost pushed past him and fled down a slide of instantly generated ice as her eyes fought to recover from the illumination.

Fighting his way out of the chilling room, Nightwing on the injured Melodi Reynolds. She was in shock, and the college medical team labored over her prone form.

“Nightwing, you saved her,” said one medic. “I think she’ll be fine. That witch almost killed her, though.”

The hero nodded and rubbed his arms for warmth. “She’ll be back, though. I’d say she wants more than one quick reunion.”

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