Firestorm arrives at Green Lantern Citadel, summoned by Green Lantern for a meeting with visitors from Oa. Firestorm remains confused since the explosion in Nevada with no memories of life prior to that event. Ronnie and Mikhail begin communicating with each other in Firestorm's subconscious. Firestorm flies to Professor Stein's office at Vandemeer University and is met by Chief Ferguson and a stunning revelation. In Siberia, the KGB's Major Zastrow travels to find Stalnoivolk, the Steel Wolf of World War II.
The issue shares scenes with "Millennium" #1. However characters Aquaman/Arthur Curry, Black Canary, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Geo-Force, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Hourman/Rick Tyler, Jade, John Stewart, Mr. Bones, Obsidian, Rocket Red #7, Skyman/ Sylvester Pemberton III and Wildcat/Yolanda Montez who appear in the relative scenes of Millennium do not appear here. The appearance of Salaak contradicts his role in Millennium.
They are all strangers to me. Firestorm looks around the room filled with super-heroes at Green Lantern Citadel. “Firestorm! Glad to see you again!” Blue Beetle calls out.
“They asked me to come. I came,” Firestorm replies.
“Uh…right,” Blue Beetle says, eyeing Firestorm cautiously.
Behind Firestorm, Batman and Black Lightning confer. “Aren’t we supposed to catch him or something?” whispers Black Lightning.
“The government changed its mind,” Batman whispers back. “But Firestorm has changed as well. Whatever happened to him out in the desert has altered him. He’s not the Firestorm we knew.”
“They seem not to be aware that I can hear them, yet they seem to know me. They speak of times before I existed,” Firestorm thinks. “My first awareness of my self came in the burst of heat and light in the desert. Before that, I could not have existed. Could I?”
“Yes! We died out on the desert and were reborn!” Ronnie Raymond answers. “This mind didn’t exist before then, but Firestorm did! Listen to me!” He thinks back to a conversation with his Dad and Felicity. “Got to calm down. Remember what Felicity said at dinner,” he recalls. “Try not to wrest back control, but focus on communication! Remember dinner…remember..!”
Ronnie’s mind focuses on the memories of sitting at the kitchen table in his Dad’s apartment. “ I’ve been doing some reading related to your…situation, Ron,” Felicity explains. “You have a sort of physical situation that’s analogous to someone suffering from multiple personalities. With them, stress causes the core personality to splinter. You seem to react to stress by forming a core personality - - the Firestorm persona. From what you’ve said, Ronnie, you’re trying to wrest control from the new persona. It might be better if you tried to communicate with it, or - - barring that - - with this Russian who seems to be making up the other half of it.”
“You know, this persona is very new,” Ed suggests. “It has very little information on which to make decisions, especially moral ones! If I could only talk with it a bit..!”
“…You could have a nice father-son chat, huh, Dad? Like we were supposed to have had?” Ronnie asks, closing his eyes tightly. A long, quiet moment passes. “Look, I know you mean well, but we can’t just set up a meeting like that,” Ronnie explains. “I can’t just call him up at will. I have no idea when it will happen next!”
Suddenly, Ronnie’s body shudders and his head arches back sharply. “AAARGH!” he cries out in discomfort. A strange green aura surrounds his body.
“Firestorm! We need you! Come at once to Green Lantern Citadel!” a voice speaks to him. Ronnie stands, enveloped in green radiance. A second later, Firestorm appears!
Shortly after, Green Lantern walks over to Firestorm inside the Green Lantern Citadel. “Firestorm! Thanks for coming!” he says with a smile. “After our recent encounter, I felt you would be needed with these other heroes. Had to beam the request to you. I didn’t know any other way of contacting you. Hope I didn’t mess things up for you or break up anything important.”
“…No…not important..,” Firestorm replies. “…Only confusing…”
“Be glad to help you sort it out after this is over. If we have a chance!” Green Lantern answers. “Excuse me a moment,” he adds, turning to go speak with others..
Earlier, in Ed and Felicity’s apartment, they look on in surprise at Firestorm. “Good Lord!” Ed blurts as Firestorm appears. Firestorm turns to walk out the door. “Wait!” Ed calls to him.
Firestorm stops. “Yes?” he asks.
“Do you know me? Know us?” Ed asks as he and Felicity walk closer.
“No,” Firestorm answers.
“We’re…We’re sort of your parents,” Ed explains.
Firestorm looks closely at Ed and Felicity. He then turns and walks toward the balcony door. “I must go. I have been summoned,” he tells them.
“Wait!” Ed calls to him. Firestorm stops and turns to face him. Ed walks closer. “Look, please come back soon,” Ed asks. “We have vital information about who you are! What you are!”
“I am Firestorm,” he replies. FZAAP! He lowers his atomic density and phases through the balcony door.
“Do you think he’ll be back, Ed?” Felicity asks.
“Hm? Oh, maybe,” Ed answers, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Honey, did Firestorm remind you of anyone - - his voice, his attitude?” He walks over and rests his hand on her shoulder.
“Ye-es, but I can’t put my finger on who,” she replies. “Not Ron.”
“He reminded me a little of Professor Stein,” Ed explains.
“You think - - ?” Felicity asks. “I wonder.”
“Is Martin Stein dead?” Ed asks.
In Green Lantern Citadel, Green Lantern calls the meeting of superheroes to attention. “I now introduce you to two people I honor greatly - - Herum Hando Hu, a Guardian of the universe - - and immortal of the planet Oa at the heart of the universe - - and Nadia Safir, a Zamaron - - an immortal from the planet of the same name!” Green Lantern announces.
“Greetings! This Green Lantern speaks highly of you!” Nadia tells the group.
“The small blue one is a stranger to most of these strangers. He speaks of a Millennium,” Firestorm thinks as he listens to Nadia.
Ronnie stands in a formless black void. “No go. I can’t get through to the Captain of the ship,” he thinks. “Might as well go inward and see if I can contact the other galley-slave.” Ronnie floats in the void with arms outstretched. “…Hello?” he calls out to the emptiness.
“Hello!” Mikhail answers.
“Where..?” Ronnie replies, looking back and forth.
“American! Why do you do this to me?” Mikhail asks anxiously. “To take me so suddenly from my home - - do you not understand the danger you put me in?”
“Hey, this isn’t my idea, buddy!” Ronnie answers. “Firestorm generates spontaneously. I’ve got no more control over it than you do!”
A solitary human body floats in the void. At its head, Ronnie’s face and Mikhail’s face form a tandem head, each opposite of the other. “I…see. I am sorry, American, to blame you,” Mikhail replies. “I have told my people I have no knowledge of what happened after the bomb exploded out in the desert. But our secret police…the KGB…they do not believe this. They are watching my apartment…me…very closely. My disappearance like this could endanger my wife, my children!”
“Cripes, I’ve been so wrapped up in my own troubles, I never thought what his might be!” Ronnie thinks. “What are their names…your family?” he asks.
“Nine, Irena, and Sofia,” Mikhail explains.
“What is your name?” Ronnie asks.
“I…I am Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin, and you are - - ?” Mikhail replies.
“Ron Raymond. Wish I could see what you looked like,” he answers.
“There is ambient energy…floating around here. Perhaps mentally we may shape it, yes?” Mikhail suggests.
Pink discs of energy coalesce and form into the faces of the two men. “Well, I’ll be..!” Ronnie exclaims. “Listen, Mikhail! I’ve been trying to open a channel to the overmind! Think we can manipulate enough energy to do it?”
“We can but try, my young friend!” Mikhail answers. “We can but try!” Discs of energy swirl and flow around them. “Ahhhhggg!” Mikhail groans. “No, it is too hard, having no hands to use, but only minds.”
“We’ll keep working at it, Mikhail. We’ll get better at it,” Ronnie encourages. “Don’t worry, Mikhail. You’re not in this alone.”
At Green Lantern Citadel, Firestorm watches as the assembly begins to disperse. “The blue stranger has finished speaking. The other strangers depart. I also should leave. But to go where?” he thinks.
Halo and Katma Tui walk nearby. “So where are you setting up home?” Halo asks.
“Anywhere I can be with John. As they say, home is where the heart is,” Katma Tui says with a smile.
“Perhaps what they say is true,” Firestorm thinks. “There is a longing. I will follow that longing.”
In the void, discs of magenta-colored energy continue to flow around the strange figure that bears the faces of two men. “Ronald! Did you feel it?” Mikhail asks. “During the core mind’s indecision, the bonds weakened! When the core is upset, we could break free!”
“But where are we headed now, Mikhail?” Ronnie asks. “Neither of us planted an image in Firestorm’s mind or heart! Where are we going?”
FZAAM! Firestorm phases through a campus building’s wall at Vandemeer University. “Here. This place. My heart leads me here. Why? It is all strange to me,” Firestorm thinks.
In the void, Ronnie looks around quickly. “Wha - - ? This is the Professor’s old office at Vandemeer! Why’d we come here?” he asks anxiously.
“Afternoon, hero!” a voice calls out. Firestorm turns quickly to look. “I knew you’d come to Stein’s office sooner or later,” Chief Ferguson explains.
“Ferguson! He knows!” Ronnie blurts.
“Fer…gu…son..,” Firestorm thinks.
“Firestorm, it’s time I revealed my secret to you,” Ferguson tells him. “Either you pull out of helping the Guardians create immortals, or I will use the power given to me by my masters to destroy you utterly.” He leans over Stein’s desk, staring at Firestorm. “Yes, I am a Manhunter - - assigned to you in secret - - and no man escapes the Manhunters!” he continues. “Think carefully, hero! For I’ll also destroy Ron Raymond’s family!”
“What…is that…to me?” Firestorm asks.
“No! You can’t let him..! You’ve got to..!” Ronnie cries out in the void.
“Ronald! Calm yourself! I will add my thoughts and concerns for my family to you for yours!” Mikhail explains. “This way we may affect the core mind!”
Firestorm shudders momentarily. “He staggers!” Ferguson thinks as he watches. “He seems so alien now! Just how much was he changed out in the desert?” He reaches out his hands. “Firestorm, what is the oldest thing you remember?” he asks.
“Bright light. Searing heat. Fire and pain. Fear,” Firestorm answers. “I…stopped the pain, the light, the fire…Men attacked me.”
“Nothing before that?” Ferguson asks.
“I did not exist before that,” Firestorm replies.
“Ah, but you did,” Ferguson explains. “We created you! The Manhunters! The evil ones, the Guardians, tried to destroy you but failed. They took only your memory and that we can give you back! Wouldn’t you like that? To know who you are - - and why?”
“…Yes..,” Firestorm answers pleadingly.
“It’s a lie, you flame-haired bozo! Don’t listen to him!” Ronnie warns from the subconscious void.
“American…Ronald! The bond that unites us weakens!” Mikhail tells him. The single figure with two faces begins to split into two separate persons. “Focus on breaking free and we may extricate ourselves and Firestorm...Return to protect our families!” Mikhail continues.
“AHHHHHH!” Ronnie cries out as he concentrates intensely.
“Lies! All around me are lies!” Firestorm snarls at Ferguson. “Who am I? Who have I been?”
“I can help! Look into my eyes and know the truth!” Ferguson suggests.
“Don’t do it, Flamebrain!” Ronnie warns from the void. “Whatever his reason, it can’t be good! Don’t look!”
Ferguson stands next to Firestorm. He reaches his hands to both sides of Firestorm’s face. “Gently now…Don’t fight me..!” Ferguson tells him. ZAAAP! Twin beams of blue light shoot from Ferguson’s eyes into Firestorm’s eyes!
“Pull, Ronald! We are almost free!” Mikhail directs. The two men stand almost completely separated in the subconscious void.
Suddenly…ZAAAP! A beam of bright blue light shoots into the void and strikes them! They start to spin, faster and faster, merging back into one body!
“NO!” Ronnie yells out. In seconds, the men fuse together again.
“There now. Feel better?” Ferguson asks.
“…Yes..,” Firestorm replies.
“No more qualms or fears?” Ferguson asks.
“No,” answers Firestorm.
“Good,” Ferguson says with a sly smile. “I’m going to take you to our secret base down in Louisiana. We’ll complete your re-indoctrination and you can take your role as our champion. Just like you always used to be. Let’s go!” Firestorm picks Ferguson up. FZAAM! Moments later, they fly out above the Vandemeer campus, quickly disappearing into the southern night sky.
Siberia. A jeep rumbles along a two-track path in the frozen, barren hills. “I am still interested in meeting this Stalnoivolk. The Steel Wolf is still much whispered about at headquarters,” the driver says.
“That is because you have not yet met Stalin’s dog,” Major Zastrow replies.
“How dangerous can he be?” the driver asks. “He was created during World War II, was he not? He must be ancient by now.”
“The experiments which gave him his powers also keep him vital,” Zastrow explains. “Although well past eighty, he will not seem much older than forty. I suspect that may also seem ancient to you. He was created during the war to be a symbol of Soviet resistance. How much that war might have been shortened and history since then been altered had we many such creatures. But Stalin had the formula destroyed and those who created it killed, blaming their deaths on foreign agents. He felt they would be a threat to his rule after the war. So he made certain there would only be one such being: A former peasant fanatically loyal to Stalin above all.”
The jeep drives down a gentle hill. Just ahead, a grouping of trees stands in the snowy landscape. “I met Stalnoivolk after the war, when he participated in Stalin’s purges - - especially in the Ukraine! He was discredited after Stalin’s death, along with his master, and exiled here to Siberia,” Zastrow continues. “He had already created the distaste for super-powered individuals that caused Russia not to develop more until relatively recently. He is a hard-liner of Stalin’s mold and has regarded all of our leaders since Stalin to be ineffective bumblers.”
The jeep rounds a bend. Nearby, a solitary man stands shirtless, chopping wood. “Now there are members of the Supreme Soviet that have decided it is time to re-activate Stalnoivolk for use exclusively outside the U.S.S.R,” Zastrow adds. “For beings such as Firestorm. And we get to be his handlers.”
CHOK! The lone man swings his axe into a tree. CRASHHH! It cracks and falls to the snow. “You sound as if you fear this Stalnoivolk!” the driver suggests.
“That is because I am not a fool!” Zastrow replies.
The jeep comes to a stop near a cabin. “Is that - - ?” asks the driver, looking out at the shirtless man nearby.
“Yes,” Zastrow answers.
“But he wears..! Doesn’t he feel the cold?” the driver asks in surprise.
“It would have to be much colder for far longer for him to notice,” Zastrow explains. The two men get out of the jeep and walk towards the man.
“Ivan Illyich Gort! The State calls upon you!” Zastrow calls out to him.
Gort turns to face them. “So. The dogs return, asking help of the wolf,” he answers. “But, then, I always knew someday they would.”