Russell Collins was the son of a sailor who died in a war. After his mother died, he was sent to live with his Uncle Ted and worked at his hardware store. Rusty's uncle considered him a whiner and shipped him off to the Navy when he turned sixteen. Docking at the San Diego Naval Yard after months at sea, Rusty's mutant pyrokinetic powers activated when kissing a prostitute named Emma in an alley. Causing her serious burns, Rusty fled but was captured by military police. While in custody his superior, Chief Jack Fisher, attempted to kill Rusty when his powers erupted again, freeing him. Afraid Rusty would report him, Fisher notified X-Factor, whom the world believed were mutant exterminators but were actually the original X-Men in disguise. After an initial battle, X-Factor took Rusty into their care.
Rusty began his training under the tutelage of X-Factor. He found it frustrating at first, but he gradually learned to control his power. He developed a crush on Marvel Girl. After an accident during a training session, Rusty left X-Factor and was captured by Frenzy, but Artie Maddicks mentally alerted X-Factor and he returned to the Complex.
While attempting to warn X-Factor of an attack from Freedom Force, Rusty encountered Skids, a runaway girl and member of the Morlocks. Before Freedom Force could take them in, a mob of humans attacked Freedom Force. Skids tried to get Collins to the safety of the underground home of the Morlocks, The Alley, but the Freedom Force caught up with them. X-Factor arrived and saved them, but not before Rusty was greatly injured by the Blob. Skids asked to stay with him as the Marauders were beginning to massacre the Morlocks community. Rusty and Skids developed a crush on each other, as they both believed that they could never get close to anyone due to their powers.
After an incident where Iceman's power's went out of control in Central Park, Rusty decided to use his powers to melt the mountain of ice. Rusty and the X-Factor kids worked together to clean up the mess left a message: "By Their Deeds You Shall Know Them - Mutants Were Here". Later, they were captured by The Right, to be used as weapons and learned that Cameron Hodge was the Commander, until X-Factor rescued them.
After X-Factor defeated Apocalypse, his Ship crash landed on their Complex. X-Factor went public and began living on Apocalypse's sentient Ship. Rusty and the X-Factor kids found themselves in the role of celebrities. After they were given Christmas gifts as donations from New Yorkers who saw them as orphans, they decided to give them to the children who lost their homes during X-Factor's battle. After finding that they were going to be sent to a boarding school, Freedom Force showed-up and ordered Rusty and X-Factor to register. Rusty declined, stating that he would not run anymore and turned himself into the Portsmouth Naval Prison.
While in prison, Rusty was rescued by the students of X-Factor to rescue Artie and Leech who had been kidnapped by demons. They chose to take the name X-Terminators after the group X-Factor pretended to be while they were still operating under the guise of mutant hunters. Battling the hordes of demons that began invading Earth, Rusty and the others met up with the New Mutants.
X-Factor returned and the New Mutants began to live on Ship as Professor X's mansion had been destroyed. The X-Terminators merged with them to become the new New Mutants. Due to his part stopping in the demonic invasion, Rusty was released into X-Factor's custody until his trial.
Freedom Force again came after Rusty. X-Factor was unavailable to help as they were in outer space, and the other New Mutants had been transported to Asgard. Freedom Force locked him up and charged Skids with helping Rusty for resisting arrest. While making their prison break, Rusty and Skids fought the Vulture in a plot involving Nitro. They were successful in stopping both foes, but because they fought them instead of fleeing the scene, they were captured by Freedom Force a second time. The Mutant Liberation Front came for them and broke them out with the false pretense of giving them their freedom, but instead they were then brainwashed by MLF's leader, Stryfe, unknown to a lot of their comrades who thought that they had switched sides.
Magneto eventually broke them free of their mind control and the two teenagers subsequently joined his Acolytes in gratitude. As a member, Rusty was on board Avalon when they spotted a floating ice cocoon in space. The Acolytes took it on board, and it turned out to be the Age of Apocalypse survivor, Holocaust. Holocaust drained the life of many Acolytes, including Rusty.
Years after his tragic demise, Rusty, along with many other deceased mutants, was resurrected by Selene and Eli Bard with the Transmode Virus, returning to death once Selene was stopped.