Firestorm departs Green Lantern Citadel after the events of Millennium. Ronnie and Mikhail return to their homes. Mikhail is apprehended and questioned by the KGB. Ronnie's grandfather, Richard Dare, learns that the Russian assassin Stalnoivolk is due to arrive in New York. In Russia, Matvei Rodor is surprised when a meteorite lands on his property. The Zuggernaut attacks at KGB Headquarters.
The Millennium has been achieved. The work is done. The emergency is over. I have learned something of who and what I am, of how I came to be, of what it means to be a hero. The urgency within me grows great. Their need grows paramount. I surrender our being to them.
Firestorm stands in focused concentration outside the Green Lantern Citadel. Batman, Wonder Woman, Mister Miracle, Green Lantern, Flash, and Captain Atom look on from nearby. An aura of pink energy shimmers around Firestorm as he stretches his arms out to his sides. His eyes are closed tightly as he begins to separate into two separate beams of energy.
FZAAM! The split is complete; two bolts of energy streak up and away the Green Lantern Citadel. They fly in tandem through the atmosphere until they come near an asteroid. Then, they turn and head away from each other at incredible speed. One bolt shoots across the United States, descending into New York City. It reaches a tall apartment building, and…
FZAAM! “Ron! Thank heavens!” cries out Felicity Raymond. She rushes over and hugs Ronnie tightly as Ed Raymond looks on. They sit on the couch in the living room. Ronnie rests his head on his hand, looking tired.
“It’s been weeks since you disappeared! What happened to you?” Ed asks.
“That green beam that hit me was from the Green Lantern Corps!” Ronnie explains. “They were calling in every hero they could find to help create a new race of immortals and launch the Millennium. This group of twisted androids calls the Manhunters tried everything they could to stymie the project and bring everyone under their thumb. Heck, Chief Ferguson of the Pittsburgh Police turned out to be one of them in disguise and tried to turn Firestorm to their side!”
Ronnie thinks back to the confrontation at the catwalks on the Manhunters planet. “I took your advice, Felicity, and made contact with the Russian guy who makes up the other half of Flame-Brain - - guy’s name is Mikhail Arkadin, by the way - - and we almost broke free,” Ronnie continues. “But Ferguson zapped us with something and we were bound tight together by our energy! Fortunately, Captain Atom managed to convince Fire-Top which side he, and we, were really supposed to be on. Then we joined some of the heaviest hitters on Earth and got zapped halfway across the Galaxy to trash the Manhunters’ home-planet! The core mind destroyed Ferguson and made contact with us, releasing us after we first promised to stay together until after the crisis was passed!”
Felicity walks over to the balcony door. “But that’s great, Ron! Why are you so down?” she asks.
“Mikhail,” Ronnie replies. “Missing these past few weeks has been a pain for me. But for Mikhail they could be fatal!”
The other beam of light streaks across the Pacific Ocean, descending into the Soviet Union. It approaches Arkadin’s apartment and…FZAAM!
Mikhail appears in his living room as the energy aura dissipates. “Nina! Irena! Sofia!” he calls out. “No answer! And why is the apartment so dark…so deserted..?” He sits in an easy chair and reaches for the phone. “Need to know…must call someone..!” he thinks anxiously. He dials a number and someone picks up the other line. “Hello! Anatoli Casmirov? It’s Arkadin!” he says quickly.
“Mikhail? Where have you been?” asks Casmirov. “The KGB was here looking for you!” Casmirov listens to Mikhail for a moment. “No, I don’t know if the KGB took your wife and your children. I don’t want to know!” Casmirov tells him. “Look, I cannot talk right now! Good-bye!” Clik! He hangs up the phone. “Right now, you are a dangerous man to know, Mikhail Denisovitch!” he thinks.
“Dear God in Heaven, what have I done to my family?” Mikhail thinks fearfully. He leans back in the chair, staring up at the ceiling. “I can hardly go to the police and ask them!” he worries. He gets up and reaches for a long coat. “Alexander might know! He has contacts who could find out! I’ll see my brother!” he thinks as he pulls his coat on and heads out.
“Give me Zastrow. Tell him the Prodigal has returned,” a KGB surveillance technician reports from a location near Arkadin’s apartment.
Shortly after, Mikhail meets with his brother. “Of course they’re gone! You disappear for several weeks when you’re already under surveillance - - what did you expect?” Alexander asks Mikhail.
“Alexander, please tell me! Do you think the KGB has them?” Mikhail answers.
“Probably. Dammit, Mikhail, I don’t need this!” Alexander explains. “I have my own life to consider! Your niece Serafina alone is enough to drive me to distraction! She may survive her teen years but I’m not sure I shall! I work for the government! I’ve worked very hard to get where I am and you make it very precarious! Brother, where have you been?”
Mikhail thinks of Firestorm. “Forgive me, brother. But I dare not tell you the truth!” he thinks. “I have these blackouts...,” he tells Alexander. “A side-effect of my being Pozhar…I don’t know what happens…”
“Dmitri and his black-market adventuring aren’t enough…I have now another brother with crucial memory lapses…! Gaaahh!” Alexander groans. “Go home, Mikhail. I’ll learn what I can. We are family, after all. When all is said and done, I won’t desert you.”
“I knew you wouldn’t, Alexander! Thank you!” Mikhail says as he turns to leave.
“Uncle Mikhail!” a young lady calls to him.
“Serafina!” Mikhail answers.
She opens her bedroom door and steps into the hallway. “I could not help but overhear you and father,” she explains. “I have some friends who will help. I promise we will find Nina and my cousins and reunite you! You have my word on this!”
“I am not quite sure what you or your friends can do, Serafinushka…but I will take any help I can get at the present time!” Mikhail tells her.
“Thank you,” nods Serafina. She stands at the window and watches as Mikhail walks outside. “You think I am over-dramatic, as Papa does. But you will see! First, I must contact the other Red Stars!” she thinks.
Mikhail walks along the sidewalk. A black sedan is parked nearby. Suddenly, two men spring out of the sedan. “Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin! You will come with us!” the driver calls out as both men aim guns at Mikhail.
“No! Wait...!” Mikhail blurts.
“KGB!” Serafina thinks as she watches from the window.
CLOP! The driver pistol whips Mikhail, knocking him unconscious. “In the car! Let’s go!” he barks. He and the other agent quickly load Mikhail’s limp body into the back seat and drive off quickly into the night.
New York, New York: “We will do this as we always do it, Rafferty. You will tell me what you have leaned and I will pay you fair market price for it,” explains Richard Dare. He and Rafferty walk along the docks as seagulls float in the air nearby.
“I dunno, Aviator!” Rafferty answers. “How I know you won’t…ehhh…like, gyp me on it?”
“Because I never gyp you on it,” Dare replies. “You on the other hand, would cheat your mother on her deathbed!”
“That’s a lie!” Rafferty exclaims. “She died without signing the papers!”
“The information, Rafferty. I’m starting to get bored,” Dare replies.
“Okay, here’s the straight skinny,” Rafferty explains, puffing on his cigarette. “An ol’ buddy o’ yours is arriving at Kennedy Airport today - - name o’ Josef Gort.”
“Stalnoivolk?!” Dare blurts. “I thought the Russians were keeping their dog penned up in Siberia.”
“My source says he’s been cut loose to handle foreign business. That’s what he’s, like, come to New Yawk for. Supposed to kill some kid named Ron Raymond.”
Dare gasps. “Ron?! My own grandson?!” he thinks.
Russia: The private dascha of black marketer Matvei Rodor. “There is no justice. No, no honor,” Rodor thinks. He stands in the dark outside his secluded house looking over a nearby lake. “I paid the requisite bribes, I do well, and now one of the very men I bribed - - prosecutor Soliony - - has become my rival!” he thinks as he lights another cigarette. “He has greater influence than I can buy and he’s using it to force me out of business! Business?? He’s forcing me out of Russia! I hate the idea of leaving the field all to him but perhaps I’d best get out of the country while I still…eh? What’s that?”
SZZKKK! A streak of light shoots down! FWOOOSH! It lands with a steaming splash into the lake. A few moments pass, and then…WOOOSH! A meteorite bursts up from the water and…. Plop! It lands on the lakeshore.
Rodor rushes over. “A meteor of some sort!” he thinks. “Perhaps a fortune has dropped into my lap.” He reaches for the meteorite. Suddenly, tentacles spring out of it. “GYAAAH!” he yells.
The tentacles quickly grip Rodor tightly. “Be not alarmed,” a voice tells Rodor. “I need you for mobility. In return I will give you power…power to achieve your dreams. Yes?”
“I…Yes!!!” Rodor grunts as a tentacle wraps around his neck.
“Open your mouth,” orders the voice. Rodor does. A tentacle worms its way between his teeth. Suddenly, Rodor’s body shakes. Purplish-red energy swarms around his form as his shape begins to transform. Within seconds, Rodor is no more, replaced by a fearsome creature!
“I am the Zuggernaut!” the creature thinks. “Your body shall be my body and your dreams will become my dreams. And your enemies are my enemies. Where shall we go, brother?”
“Moscow! Moscow! Moscow!” Rodor answers.
“So be it,” Zuggernaut answers. He floats in the air and flies off.
Moscow: “Zastrow might be satisfied with these answers but Zastrow is away,” explains prosecutor Soliony. He stands in a white suit, smoking a cigarette. Mikhail sits nearby, next to the two KGB agents that abducted him. “I ask you again, Mikhail Denisovitch - - where have you been these past weeks” Soliony asks.
“I do not remember…” Mikhail replies.
KRAK! An KGB agent punches Mikhail across the back of the head. “UHN!” grunts Mikhail. “It is the result…of Pozhar experiments…I have these blackouts…read your own damn files!”
“I have read them. I do not believe them,” Soliony answers. “There are many ways of tearing the truth from you, Mikhail Denisovitch. Ponder this while you sit in your cell.”
The agents lead Mikhail out of the room. They guide him to the detention area and lock him alone in his cell. “Dear God, what do I do?” Mikhail thinks as he sits in the dark. “I cannot tell them about Firestorm. They will never believe I do not control him! And what if they learn of Ron Raymond…What might then not do to him? Yet what is to happen to my family? And not only Nina and the children but Alexander and his family! Will they all be dragged down because I am under suspicion? I cannot bear it!!!”
Soliony walks outside toward his car. “I intend to personally see to it this Arkadin cracks!” he tells another KGB agent. “It will be done before Zastrow returns home.”
“Shall we bring the wife around tomorrow, Comrade Soliony?” the agent asks.
“Do that. When I’m rested, we’ll begin again,” Soliony replies.
Suddenly, the Zuggernaut smashes down on top of the car! “SOLIONY!” he yells. “Which way shall I kill you?”
“It is not right they should make my family suffer! But I cannot protect them! I cannot..!!!” Mikhail thinks.
New York: “Not quite the job you saw for yourself, is it, Ron, ol’ kid?” Ronnie thinks. He stands washing a huge stack of dishes in a diner’s kitchen. “There are worse ones. Gets me out of the house, at least. Gotta do something or go bughouse! I don’t think I could get into another school with my grades the way they are. Given that I could become Firestorm at any time, I don’t think I could stay in college if I could get in.”
Ronnie daydreams. “Funny. Never really stopped to think how Firestorm would affect my life. Always thought I’d become a pro, marry Doreen, have a kid or two. Do a little Firestorming on the side. Not possible now. What if I got excited and turned into Flame-Top during a game? It might work if I played basketball. Nuke-Brain’s about the right height for basketball, at least.”
“RAYMOND!!!” yells the diner owner, Mr. Divito.
“Uhh…something wrong, Mr. Divito?” Ronnie asks, startled back out of his thoughts.
“I hires ya ta work, Raymond! Not daydream! Work! It’s a four-frikkin’-letter word! You know four-frikkin’-letter words, don’cha, Raymond?! Swear ta God, gimme a P.R. over a college boy any day o’ th’ week! Them suckers give ya value fer yer $3.75 per! Gimme some value, college-boy, or it’s out on the frikkin’ street! All the plates in the next half hour clean or you’re history! Read me?”
“Like a text-book, Mr. Divito,” Ronnie replies as he gathers up dirty dishes from a table. “Oh no!” FZZAM! Atomic rings swirl around Ronnie and he disappears! CRASH! The dishes fall and smash on the floor.
“RAYMOND!” Mr. Divito yells. “Where th’ hell did that punk go now?”
I have no idea where I am. A tremendous anger burns within me and I don’t know why. A name rages in my heart. FWOOOSH! Firestorm phases through the prison cell and flies out into Moscow.
WHAM! “SOLIONY!!!!” Firestorm yells as he lands in the street near the Zuggernaut.
“Firestorm!!!” Soliony yells in surprise.
“So…your enemy has a friend who would defend him, brother,” the Zuggernaut thinks. “He must be taught his folly.” His eyes gleam and the gem in his forehead shimmers brightly. SCHRAAK! WHAM! Suddenly, twin beams of red energy shoot from his eyes and smash Firestorm into a building’s brick wall! “Persistent and endurable is our foe, brother,” the Zuggernaut thinks. “We must kill him.”
CRRRREAK! The Zuggernaut bends back slightly. WOMP! WOMP! Two bolts of yellow energy shoot from his chest! SWOOOOSH! They speed towards Firestorm and…BOOM! The wall erupts in a cascade of bricks and debris!
“What is not touched is not harmed,” Firestorm thinks. The dust settles to reveal an intangible Firestorm standing amidst the rubble.
“Interesting. The creature can reduce its density to near nothing. What other powers has it, we wonder?” the Zuggernaut thinks as he observes Firestorm.
“You would shield my enemy. You are my enemy,” Firestorm tells the Zuggernaut. FOOOOSH! He fires a nuclear burst at the Zuggernaut.
“Eh? Brother, the creature thinks us allied with Soliony! We have erred! We should be allies, not foes!” the Zuggernaut thinks quickly. KA-BLAM! Firestorm’s nuclear burst explodes against the car next to the Zuggernaut. “Battle has been joined. There can be no turning back. We mourn what might have been. We fight on to victory. Prepare for death,” the Zuggernaut thinks.
The Zuggernaut stands between Firestorm and Soliony. “My car! My beautiful foreign car! I waited for you seven years! I drove you twice! These madmen have killed you!” Soliony thinks as he watches his car burn.
The Zuggernaut leaps into the air. WHOMP! He smashes into Firestorm! WHAM! Firestorm smashes a fist across the Zuggernaut’s jaw! SKIKKT! The Zuggernaut rakes his hand across Firestorm’s abdomen, ripping into him! “I’ve…been…cut!!!” Firestorm thinks worriedly.
Soliony rushes back inside the building. “Quickly! One of those two creatures out there must be Arkadin!” he warns the agents inside. “We must get to his cell! If he is not there, we shall have proof this is so!”
“You have hurt me, whoever you are…” Firestorm tells the Zuggernaut. “It is time I hurt you back.” WHOMP! He blasts the Zuggernaut with a nuclear burst. “Perhaps a cage is necessary. A cage of diamond!” FZAAP! Firestorm fires a transforming beam from his eyes and seals the Zuggernaut in a giant diamond crystal.
KKRKKKKKOOOOM! The Zuggernaut bursts out of the diamond! “If you presume to damage the Zuggernaut, you must try harder!”
“I intend to,” Firestorm answers. He jumps and flies right at the Zuggernaut. He reaches his hands onto the Zuggernaut’s chest. SSSSSS! Firestorm starts to absorb energy from the Zuggernaut.
WHOMP! The Zuggernaut smashes a fist into Firestorm, driving him back. “AAAAGH! Would you…feed on me?!! Brother, we must flee…hide…mend! This Firestorm creature may destroy us and that cannot be permitted!”
“I…agree...,” Rodor answers as the Zuggernaut runs away quickly from the battle.
“I seek refuge, brother, in your form! Take me in!” the Zuggernaut directs. The Zuggernaut dives into a ravine.
“I will,” Rodor answers. Energy swirls around the Zuggernaut and it quickly transforms into Rodor’s human shape. “Ahhhhgggg! The pain!” cries Rodor. Two hand-shaped burn marks are visible on his chest. “Firestorm! I will pay you back - - pain for pain!” Rodor says angrily through clenched teeth.
“Now shall…we see…” Soliony tells the agents as they walk down the hall toward Mikhail’s cell.
“Ah, Comrade Soliony!” Mikhail calls to him from inside his cell. “Have you come to release me?”
“Pah!” Soliony scoffs. He and the agents turn and leave.
“Safe…for the moment. But I bleed..!” Mikhail reaches to his right side where blood soaks through his shirt.
FZAAM! Ronnie reappears in the kitchen of the diner. “There you are, Ronnie! What the frikkin’ hell y’think yer…” Divito snarls at him.
“Take your job and stuff it, Divito,” Ronnie answers. He takes off his apron and whips it at Divito. He turns and heads for the door. “Slow. Walk slow. Get home. Try not to bleed to death…” Ronnie reaches his hand to his right side where blood also soaks through his shirt.
Kennedy Airport, New York. “You performed credibly in Nicaragua, Stalnoivolk,” Major Zastrow tells Grot as they walk in the terminal. “Now for the real business at hand. The American youth named Ron Raymond.”