Killer Frost escapes from the wreckage of Dr. Louise Lincoln's lab in New Jersey. Plastique breaks out of prison in upstate New York, armed with a dangerous new weapon. Ed Raymond and Felicity Smoak enjoy a dinner date after work. Professor Stein is offered a job teaching physics at Vandemeer University in Pittsburgh. Killer Frost attacks at the Hudson Nuclear Facility where Firestorm was born. A strange beast reviews personnel files at Vandermeer University, including that of Professor Stein. Firestorm battles Killer Frost and Plastique.
“Intense cold kills in stages, Firestorm,” Killer Frost utters in a slow, measured cadence, “First, a sense of exhilaration, then, a growing numbness, finally, sleep…followed by death. When you meet my old friend Death, be sure to tell him…Killer Frost sent you.”
Firestorm struggles to hold off a massive ice wall that fell upon him. The intense cold emanating from Killer Frost is draining his strength. It takes all his might to keep from being crushed under the weight. “Fight back, Ronald!” Stein urges him feverishly, “I know the cold saps your strength - - your will - - but if you don’t struggle, she’ll win! She’ll win!” Ronnie bends further under the weight, getting closer to the floor, unable to push upwards. “Gimmie a break, Professor,” he gasps, “can’t even think straight! So cold…!” Stein’s tone becomes desperate. “Ronald. Listen to me,” he directs anxiously, “Killer Frost took us by surprise. This cold is more intense than any we’ve ever known. It’s affected your mind…as well as your nuclear power. If that ice shelf doesn’t crush us, we’ll freeze to death. You can’t use your atomic restructuring power…so only your strength can help us now. You must use your strength, Ronald, you must fight back!” Ronnie slips further, eyes tightly squinted as he expends every last ounce of effort. Slowly, the ice shelf settles to the ground, completely covering Firestorm. “Ronald…?” Stein calls fearfully, “RONALD!”
Outside the burnt-out remains of Exeter Labs… “Not good. Firestorm went in there almost five minutes ago,” Fire Chief Rogers says with a frown, “He knocked down the fire, but we haven’t seen him since. I’m worried.” The Exeter property manager looks on as Chief Rogers’ crews work on the smoldering hot spots. “Sir, do you think there’s a chance he’ll find Louise Lincoln and her lab team alive?” he asks the Chief. “Dr. Lincoln? Not a hope, mister,” the Chief replies, “You said she was inside, performing some kind of low-temperature experiment, when the lab blew up. She must’ve been killed instantly.” The manager gradually faces the deadly reality of the accident. “I suppose you’re…” he starts to say. Suddenly, from a break in the smoke and steam, a single female form can be seen slowly and unbelievably walking out of the rubble. “Oh, my Lord,” the manager gasps, asking, “Coming out of the smoke…is that Louise…?”
Killer Frost walks out to the stunned surprise of several firefighters, knocking them sprawling with an icy wave of her hand! “Louise Lincoln is dead. Lovely mindless creature who traded on beauty…She did not deserve to live. Now I live in her place. Warn the world…the Ice Maiden cometh.” Killer Frost says ominously. She waves an icy hand, and heavy shards of ice rain down on the defenseless fire crews! KTHAM! KRAAK! KRASH! Firefighters tumble to the ground under the weight of falling ice shards and their trucks are crushed by huge frozen ice chunks. Killer Frost lifts off into the sky, remorselessly flying off into the night.
Meanwhile: the Federal Penitentiary at Hudson, New York…Present home of the one-time terrorist known as… “Plastique, I’ve been in touch with your, ah, friends in Quebec,” her lawyer Lassiter explains, “Le Flambeau’s failure to free you by blackmailing New York left them quite upset.” Plastique stands near the conference room window overlooking the prison courtyard. “The plan would have worked…had it not been for the interference of Firestorm,” she replies, vowing, “I owe him a debt of pain.” Her lawyer tries to ignore the obvious threat. “Ahem…yes…well,” he continues, “As your lawyer, and your friend, I’d have to counsel you against undertaking a personal vendetta. As I say, I’ve been in touch with your friends up north…and they gave me this.”
He places a briefcase on the table and opens it. Inside can be seen Plastique’s purple uniform and several small boxes. He reaches for one box and pulls it out. “My uniform…but where are the explosives?” Plastique asks, dismayed as she walks to the table, “Without the bombs that attach to it, this costume is useless.” Lassiter opens the small box in his hand and pulls out a syringe. The syringe is filled with a strange aqua-colored liquid. “Your friends knew I’d be searched,” he tells her, “Plastic explosives can be spotted by a chemical ‘sniffer.’ They suggested we try something different…an experimental procedure developed by the doctor. ‘…Subdermal injection of a formula designed to release chemical energy via digital contact…’ Something they call Project Bomb-Burst.”
He shows her the syringe. “Mon dieu!” Plastique gasps, “It was only a rumor…theory…when I left Quebec months ago. So it is finally a fait accompli? And the side effects?” Lassiter looks directly at her, squinting his eyes a bit. “It could kill you,” he tells her. She takes a deep breath and steels her determination. “Better that than this living death in a capitalist prison, mon ami,” she says grittily, ordering him, “Do it.” She turns her back to him and pulls her shirt away from her shoulder. Lassiter squeezes the syringe plunger gently to purge the air from inside the needle tip. He pierces the muscular tissue of her shoulder with the syringe needle, and injects the mysterious liquid into her body.
“YYYYIIIIIII!” Plastique yells out in agony. KRASH! She falls to the floor, her body shaking in an uncontrollable seizure! Two guards blast into the conference room with shotguns at ready! “Lassiter! What are you two doing in…Holy!” a guard yells in surprise as the door flies open. Plastique kneels with her face down against the floor, eyes wide and unblinking, her body shaking fiercely, with hives spreading across her skin. “She’s having some kind of fit!” the other guard cries, “Better call the Prison clinic before…” Her voice trails off in horror. Plastique slowly turns to the guards. Her pupil-less eyes glow an evil bright-red gleam, and a small line of blood drips from the corner of her mouth. “No,” she hisses at them menacingly, “I do not think so.” Strange yellow energy flows from her hands. She slowly brings her hands together, touching the floor in front of her and…TRABOOOOM! A crushing explosive blast detonates from her hands! The concussive force blows the guards into the air, shredding their uniforms and ripping into their helpless bodies!
Several miles south, in Exeter, New Jersey… Firestorm is crushed between the floor and the ice wall, barely able to brace against its weight to keep breathing. Ronnie’s arms hang by his side, no longer trying to lift the wall off of him. “Ronald. I should have known you’d turn out to be a quitter,” Stein sighs, trying to anger him into action, “What else could I have expected from a dumb jock?” Ronnie’s head hangs down despondently. Then, he lifts his arms back to the ice shelf crushing down on his back. “…Dumb jock?” he says softly. “Your own words, Ronald,” Stein answers, “I should have believed you. I thought you were more than that…but of course, I was wrong. You’ve proved it now.” Ronnie tries to find strength in his frigid, weakened muscles. “Your friend Cliff Carmichael was right. You haven’t the brains to fight back,” Stein says, continuing his plan, taunting, “You’re nothing but…an ignorant…uneducated…hunk.” Ronnie grits his teeth angrily as he listens to the personal insults. Suddenly, he unleashes a reserve of furious energy! “NO!” he yells as he springs upward. KAROOOOOM! The ice shelf breaks apart from the sudden force of Ronnie struggling back to his feet.
“’Dumb jock. Ignorant hunk.’ You really know how to hurt a guy, Professor,” Ronnie says, nursing his bruised feelings as they take flight skyward out of the wreckage of Exeter Labs. “Forgive me, Ronald,” Stein says apologetically, “but you must admit, my strategy worked.” Ronnie flies over the scene, seeing the aftermath of Killer Frost’s ambush of the first responders. “Uh-huh,” Ronnie answers, asking, “But tell me true, Martin…you really didn’t mean that stuff…did you?” Stein reassures him quickly, answering, “You know better. Ronald…Turning to more immediate concerns…those firefighters must have had a run-in with Killer Frost. They need our help.”
FZAAAM! Ronnie uses a quick salvo of nuclear bursts and restructuring blasts to free the firefighters and their equipment. “’Killer Frost…’ But she isn’t Killer Frost, Professor,” Ronnie answers as he works, “Killer Frost was Dr. Crystal Frost, an old friend of yours from the days before we met. She got her ice-powers while working on the Mohole Project, down in Antarctica.” Ronnie circles to look for other first responders that may need his help. “For a long time, she seemed indestructible,” he continues, “But under her ice sheath, she was dying…Uh, like a piece of frozen meat decaying in a thaw. She needed warmth just to stay alive. She tried taking it from me...but I had too much warmth, too much fusion power, even for her hungry heart. She vanished…like an ice cube in a steam bath. Dead and gone.”
Ronnie lands to help Chief Rogers and the Exeter property manager out of the rubble. “I agree, Ronald,” Stein answers, “The original Killer Frost is finished forever. And I think we have a pretty good idea who’s taken her place…” The manager gets to his feet with help. “Louise…Louise Lincoln…” he stutters exhaustedly, “must be out of her mind…Tried to kill us!” Firestorm stands next to him and asks, “Which way did she go?” The manager points off into the distance, answering, “North…towards the Hudson River. What will you do?” Ronnie turns and takes flight. “Follow her,” he answers, glancing back.
But - - shortly afterwards, Ronnie is criss-crossing back and forth in a fruitless search for Killer Frost. “Might as well admit it, we’ve searched up and down this section of the Hudson for an hour now…” Ronnie sighs. “…And we’re no closer to finding Killer Frost than when we started,” Stein continues, “I’m afraid we’re helpless until she makes a move, Ronald. We might as well head home.” Ronnie turns them back towards Manhattan. Unseen far below, Killer Frost stands behind a tall tree, silently watching them pass above.
Concordance Research, midtown Manhattan, fifteen minutes later…Ronnie brings them in for a landing on the building’s rooftop. In a flash of atomic transformation, Firestorm separates into Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein. “Actually, Ronald, in a selfish way, I’m glad we didn’t find Killer Frost,” Stein reveals. “Huh?” Ronnie asks in surprise. “Naturally, I want to stop her before she causes further damage,” Stein explains, adjusting his glasses, “But I also need time to talk with you - - outside our Firestorm persona.” Ronnie asks curiously, “Talk about what, Professor?” Taking a more serious tone, Stein answers, “My career, Ronald…and our future as Firestorm…”
The Daily Express offices, downtown…Ed Raymond sips his coffee as he looks over the Evening Final Edition. Its large headline trumpets “Terrorist Flees Fed Pen.” A large picture of Plastique escaping the prison accompanies the headline, with a caption reading “Human Bomb Blows Hole in Prison Wall, Escapes.” Felicity Smoak walks into his office and sits casually on his desk. “Still free for dinner, Ed?” she asks. Ed sets the newspaper down. “Felicity,” he greets her with a smile, “Let me leave word for my boy, Ronnie, in case he calls - - then we’ll see what kind of dinner a City Editor’s salary buys nowadays.” He reaches for his suit jacket and pulls it over his shoulders. “My treat, Ed,” Felicity replies diplomatically, “After all, I asked you.” Ed reaches for her arm as they walk to the elevator lobby. “In that case…How do you like ‘Four Seasons?’” Ed asks.
And…some time later, Ed and Felicity sit in the upscale restaurant as their waiter serves their after-dinner cocktails. “…after my parents died, I finished law school and took up clerking for a Wall Street securities firm,” Felicity explains. “Exciting work,” Ed nods as he listens. “I was bored out of my tree. And lonely,” Felicity hints, continuing, “There I was, all fired up to save the world…surrounded by a crowd of three-piece suiters. I had to leave, set up my own business. That’s when I realized, much as I love law…I cannot stand lawyers.” Ed smiles. “Present company excepted,” he tells her coyly, “Neither can I.”
Felicity takes a sip of her drink and sets the glass down, resting her hands on the table. “Enough about Felicity Smoak. How about Ed Raymond? What’s your story?” she asks him. “Not much to tell. I’ve always been a newspaper man…but I haven’t always been Ed Raymond. My name used to be Rockwell,” he explains, “Fifteen years back, I testified against a mobster named Shine. His people killed my wife in revenge. My boy and I entered a government witness protection program…Our names were changed, we left New York. Ronnie didn’t know the truth then. He was too young.” Ed takes her hand as he continues his story. “A few years ago, we came back. Shine found out, tried to have me killed…and died in a gun battle with the police. So all’s well that ends well. Just another episode of ‘Father Knows Best.’”
They share a laugh and then head out of the Four Seasons, arm in arm to the blustery street. Winter approaches, and a cool wind swirls down the block with light snow flurries falling. “And I thought I had problems, losing my computer software company, thanks to Firestorm’s stupidity,” she tells Ed as they walk along. “I don’t have problems, Felicity. Not anymore,” he answers, “Just memories. Some bad. Some good. Life goes on…and we make new memories. Some good. Some better.” They hug. Felicity reaches for his face with a soft smile. They hug tightly and kiss amidst the gently falling snow.
Across town, at Concordance Research… “Professor, I don’t believe this. You’re serious?” Ronnie asks in shocked disbelief, “You’re going to take this job at Vandemeer University - - in Pittsburgh - - even though it means the finish of us working together as Firestorm?” Stein leans over his desk and tries to reason with Ronnie. “Calm down, Ronnie, I’ve tried to explain…” Stein tells him. “Calm down? How am I supposed to calm down?” Ronnie dejectedly asks, “You know what Firestorm means to me! Firestorm is great, he’s fantastic - - but Ronnie Raymond’s nothing, a nobody, a…” Stein interrupts, asking, “…Dumb jock?” Ronnie glares at him and barks back, “No!” Stein smiles, suggesting, “But that’s what you think of yourself, Ronald…isn’t it? As long as I’ve known you, that’s how you’ve described yourself to me…’A dumb jock.’ How it must hurt to see yourself that way.” Ronnie turns away, and Professor Stein reaches a comforting hand to his shoulder.
“The truth’s supposed to hurt,” Ronnie sighs. Stein is supportive. “Lies hurt even more…Especially the lies we tell ourselves. Ronnie listen to me,” Stein reassures, “You may indeed be a jock…but you’re not dumb. Who controls our Firestorm persona? You do. I can advise, but you make the decisions.” Ronnie turns back to face him. “Sometimes pretty stupid decisions, too,” he says, still feeling crestfallen. “Granted…But do you honestly believe I or anyone could do better?” Stein counters, adding, “Ronald, we’ve been Firestorm for many months now, and not only have we survived…on several occasions, we’ve triumphed. If you’re going to get the blame for wrong decisions - - shouldn’t you also take credit for the right ones? Be fair to yourself, my boy.” Ronnie sits resting his chin on his hand, mulling over the Professor’s advice. “Maybe, maybe. But the thing is, Professor…,” Ronnie answers, “Dumb or not, if you leave…I’ll miss you. God, I’ll miss you.”
Suddenly, Harry Carew bursts into Stein’s office! “Martin! You got a TV? Turn it on - - something’s happening out at the old plant of yours - - Hudson Nuclear!” Carew says excitedly. Ronnie and Stein turn to look at him in surprise. “Harry…what…?” Stein confusedly asks. Carew walks over to Stein’s TV and clicks the power switch. The screen crackles to life. Images of police cars surrounding the shuttered facility are seen as a reporter gives a live update on the situation. “Troopers of the State Police arrived minutes ago, before this reporter - - but as yet, have no clue as to the intentions of the woman called Killer Frost,” the newscaster says, “After icing an elderly night watchman, she barricaded herself inside the main building, where she remains, incommunicado. This is Ronald Hedly on the scene, live for…” Carew turns quickly to Stein. “You built that plant, Martin. Any idea why that Frost woman is - - Martin? Yo, Martin?” Carew asks, surprised to find himself suddenly alone in Stein’s lab. Bewildered, he asks, “Now, where the heck did they get off to?”
Stein and Ronnie sprint down the hallway to the exit stairs. FZAAAAM! Encircled by a radiant atomic ring, they quickly transform into Firestorm! Ronnie lowers his molecular density and they fly through the Concordance building’s wall, taking flight towards Hudson Nuclear. “If her powers are similar to her predecessor’s, Killer Frost needs warmth and energy to maintain her super-cold condition,” Stein suggests. “But, what makes her think she can get energy out of a shut-down nuclear plant?” Ronnie asks, turning out over the Hudson River.
“Don’t forget, Ronald,” Stein reminds him, “When Hudson Nuclear was sealed off, after the accident that made us Firestorm, parts of the plant were highly radioactive. The core itself may still be intact.” Ronnie thinks, then asks, “Meaning what?” Stein explains, “Hudson Nuclear remains a potentially potent source of energy - - particularly for the new Killer Frost. Her presence there is an unthinkable threat to the Tri-State area. If the plant were damaged, the radioactive particles leaked into the surrounding environment…” Ronnie frowns at the thought, answering, “Oh, great, cheer me up some more. At least things can’t get much worse…”
Interlude: Vandemeer University in Pittsburgh, not far from the juncture of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Founded by a grant from oil baron Artemus Vandermeer at the turn of the century, Vandemeer is well known for its record of academic excellence in science and the arts. It is a quiet, dignified center of higher education. But tonight, a mysterious creature stalks the campus silently in the night. Bestial in its humanoid appearance, it slowly works its way through the shadows into an office inside the University. It stands before a line of file cabinets, looking for one section in particular. Opening a file drawer, its paw flips past several files until one catches its eye. The label on the file reads ‘Prof. Martin Stein.’ The creature studies the file for a moment. “Stein! So you’re next! You won’t last long…I’ll see to that,” it says softly.
The sound of approaching footsteps startles the creature, and it leaps up on top of a file cabinet near the office door. Keys clink in the lock and the door slowly opens. Suddenly, light blinds the creature and it hisses loudly in protest. “Hey, who’s in there?” calls the anxious voice of the night watchman as he aims his flashlight at the creature. It is hideous and beastly! Fangs bared and claws at ready, its fur shining in the flashlight beam, it resembles a giant and angry weasel! It lunges at the startled watchman! “Yaaaahhh!” the watchman yells in terror as he falls under the attack. End of Interlude.
The central reactor core at Hudson Nuclear. Killer Frost stands, slowly absorbing energy from the core. “So warm. It makes my skin…tingle,” she says softly, “I need the warmth…I need the power.” She feels herself growing stronger with every second. “I must have the power…” she says. Breathing in deeply the sensation of revitalizing energy, she raises her arms high above her, yelling, “Give me the power!” Suddenly, Firestorm phases into the central core! “No!” he yells at her.
FZAAAM! He creates a metal wall to obstruct Killer Frost. “That lead shield formed by your atomic restructuring powers should block Frost from the energy she needs,” Stein observes, “But I have a feeling our problems with her are just beginning!” Ronnie hovers above the shield as Killer Frost shakes her fist at him in frustration. “Tell me about it, Professor,” Ronnie answers. She launches a barrage of dagger-like ice shards at him. “…Fool!” she hisses as the shards pass harmlessly through him! “Keep our atomic density at zero, Ronald, as long as we remain immaterial, she can’t hurt us!” Stein directs, “It’s a lesson we should have learned long ago!”
Ronnie flies at floor level, looking almost transparent due to his lack of mass and density, to a position adjacent to Killer Frost and the lead shielding wall. She continues to angrily fire ice shards at him, but they simply fly through him and smash into the lead wall. “Now, Ronald…While we have her off guard…change this reactor into a freezing unit,” Stein suggests, “Frost’s powers diminish as the temperature around her lowers.” Ronnie aims his hands at the wall to reform it. Energy beams streak from his fingertips, but they have no effect. “Uh…Got a problem, Professor,” Ronnie blurts, “I’m trying to zap that wall - - really - - but nothing’s happening!” Stein assesses the problem quickly. “It must be because of our lowered atomic density! Apparently we haven’t enough energy to use our restructuring power - - while maintaining an immaterial state!” he explains, then wonders, “But why? It’s never been a difficulty before!”
Unseen by Ronnie during his melee with Killer Frost, another threat has slowly and stealthily made her way into the reactor core. She crouches hidden next to reactor machinery, watching from behind Firestorm as he squares off with the Ice Maiden. “Save the questions for later,” Ronnie whispers back to Stein, “If I’ve gotta turn solid to use my powers, I’ll turn solid. What can happen in half a second?” He had to ask?
Ronnie waves a hand and an atomic ring dances around his palm. His density quickly returns to normal levels. From behind him, Plastique sees his vulnerability and her chance for a sudden and devastating ambush! She slams her palm against the floor, setting off her explosive touch! TRAAA-BAAA-DOOOOOOOM! An explosive blast of flame and concussive power sweeps across the floor from Plastique’s hand like a focused wave of destruction. Killer Frost watches in shocked surprise as the explosive wave crashes mightily into Firestorm, overpowering him and carrying him along as it spreads. Firestorm slams into the core wall from the force of the blast, and he falls stunned and overcome to the floor.
As the smoke starts to clear, Plastique steps out towards the stunned Ice Maiden. “Killer Frost, I presume?” she asks, adding, “My name is Plastique…and I have for you a proposition…”