The Raymond family attends the funeral of Richard Dare. At KGB Headquarters, Matvei Rodor is imprisoned in a cell adjacent to Mikhail Arkadin. Stalnoivolk and Major Zastrow return to Moscow. Serafina gathers the Soyuz team and assigns their new code names. The Zuggernaut attacks Special Prosecutor Soliony at KGB Headquarters, leading to a melee with Firestorm.
The wake is over. The coffin is sealed. The eulogies have been spoken. The body of Richard Dare - - a.k.a. Aviator - - has been consigned to the Earth. All that’s left is the mourning - - a task for the living. Ron, Ed, and Felicity Raymond stand by the tombstone of Richard Dare. The leaves of autumn fall in the gentle wind.
“It’s real strange,” Ed says. “I didn’t know him - - my father - - very well, Never even met him until just before we got married. Felicity, remember? He was trying to kill me at the time. Blamed me for the death of my mother. Not a real good beginning. Never tried to get very close to one another. And now - - well…”
“What I can’t believe is the authorities just let the guy who killed him go!” Ron exclaims.
“The Russians claimed diplomatic immunity for Stalnoivolk and the police let him go before they knew about your Grandfather’s death, Ron,” explains Felicity. “Then they spirited him out of the country before anything else could be done. If Stalnoivolk ever comes back, maybe something can be done then, but in the meantime…”
“If he ever comes back, I’m going to kill the bastard,” Ron vows.
“You want to cool that kind of thinking, Ron,” Ed cautions. “I’m angry, too, but it doesn’t justify stooping to the killer’s level, and as Firestorm, you could. The thought of a being with Firestorm’s powers and Stalnoivolk’s ruthlessness scares the bejeezus out of me! Instead, let’s learn something positive from all this. I wasn’t close to my father and, I’ve got to admit, I sometimes think Martin Stein was closer to you than I was.”
“Jealous, Dad?” Ron asks.
“At times,” Ed answers. “I still am, sometimes. And it’s my own fault. I didn’t work as hard at it as he did. I thought it automatically came with the territory. What I’m trying to say is - - I’d like to work on it with you, okay?”
“Sounds good to me, Dad,” Ronnie replies. They turn and walk toward their car. “But I’m still planning on meeting Stalnoivolk again someday - - and then I’m going to even the score!” Ron thinks.
A cell in the cellar of KGB Headquarters… “I sometimes wonder if it might not have been better had I died as Pozhar than live as Firestorm,” thinks Mikhail Arkadin. He sits on the bed in his cell, staring at the wall. The shadows of the bars behind him line the wall. “The special prosecutor - - Soliony - - continues to press for my secret,” Arkadin thinks. “I have no idea where my wife and children are at this moment nor how they are doing. Save that they are also prisoners, suffering on my account. And my American ‘brother’, Ronald, his rage, his pain - - they reverberated through me like a bell when he discovered Stalnoivolk had accidentally killed his Grandfather. The guilt he feels over Martin Stein’s death alone nearly buries him! How much more, then, will this afflict him?”
Clang! The heavy metal door to the cell block swings open. “Ah, time for another go-round?” Mikhail thinks. He looks to see Soliony and a guard leading another man in. “No! It looks as if I am to be joined by a fellow prisoner!” Mikhail observes. “Warily, Mikhail. Be wary. He could be a spy - - a plant to gain your confidence and then betray it. Such an old KGB trick!”
The guard places the man in a cell near Mikhail. Clang! The cell door shuts loudly. Soliony and the guard turn to leave. Mikhail stands at his cell door. “The guards have gone, though,” Mikhail thinks as he watches them leave. “I have no doubt they have left electric ears behind. On the other hand, saying nothing would also seem suspicious, therefore…”
“Dozveedanya, Comrade. Welcome to Paradise. What brings you here?” Mikhail asks the new arrival.
“A Special Prosecutor I ran afoul of,” the man explains.
“Is his name Soliony, by any chance?” Mikhail asks.
“Ah, I see he is a friend of yours, as well. Are you also a black marketer, Comrade…X?” he answers.
“Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin. No, I seem to have provoked him in other ways,” Arkadin replies.
“Well, power can be abused so many different ways, wouldn’t you say, Comrade Arkadin?” the man asks.
“You seem strangely unconcerned about Soliony’s power, Comrade…X?” Mikhail asks.
“Matvei Rodor. I am not without power of my own, friend Arkadin. As Comrade Soliony will soon learn, to his considerable sorrow,” Rodor explains.
“I have mutated beyond my larval stage, Brother,” the Zuggernaut says in Rodor’s subconscious. “Soon…you will have the true Zuggernaut!”
A black sedan pulls away from the terminal of the Moscow International Airport. “Awake again at last are you? Good! Then you will be able to help explain to our superiors the mammoth failure you made of our mission,” complains Major Zastrow to Stalnoivolk. “We were lucky to get you out of the country…”
“Don’t be such an old woman, Zastrow,” Stalnoivolk replies. “The Americans would never have been able to hold me. Besides, our mission was not such a failure. We now know there is a definite link between the Raymond boy and the creature Firestorm.”
“Pompous jackass! We knew that before we left! That’s why we went!” Zastrow blurts. “We now know Firestorm changes places with the boy…or the boy becomes the superhuman! This I myself saw! And this was not known before! It mitigates what happened but does not excuse it! You rushed in, against orders, and provoked an incident that was not necessary! The world you knew has changed! The beings in it are more powerful than you remember! The Firestorm creature himself proved you are not as invincible as you once were!”
“Pah! He is a mongrel!” scoffs Stalnoivolk. “And when next we meet I will prove it by popping his head like a flaming pea.”
“Ilya. Check for wiretaps,” Serafina asks telepathically.
Inside the apartment, Ilya reaches his hand to the wall. “Making contact with the wiring,” Ilya explains. Electric light radiates in an aura around him and his hair stands on end. “There! Normal current use. No extraneous electric current. The room is clean.”
“Come in quickly, all of you!” Serafina tells her friends. “It’s all right - - my parents won’t be home until later. Take off your coats so I can see how the costumes look! Oh yes - - put on the masks as well!”
Serafina and her friends strip off their overcoats. Each stands in a black form-fitting suit with red boots and gloves, and a large red star on the chest. “Ohhh, excellent! You all look splendid!” Serafina exclaims as she looks them over. “Now remember! When we have the costumes on we are Soyuz and we must only use our code-names. Ilya and I got them all from our mythology and have matched them up with our powers! I’m Firebird. We didn’t want people to guess too much about my mental powers.”
“Mashenka, since your powers are connected with water, we’ve named you for the water nymph Rusalka,” Serafina explains. “Ivor, since you can manipulate cold we’ve named you for the ice-demon Morozko.”
“Since I deal with electricity, I thought I’d call myself Perun, after the thunder god,” Ilya explains.
“And you, Feodor, we have named for the demon in the whirlwind, Vikhor,” Serafina adds.
“I like it!” Feodor replies with a smile.
“Well, I think these names are stupid and these masks are stupid,” Mashenka scoffs as she peels off her mask.
“Mashenka, they’re important!” Ilya explains. “If we are recognized when we work as Soyuz it could be very dangerous!”
“The whole idea is dangerous and un-Russian and you act like it is a game!” Mashenka replies.
“But we promised Serafina we would help her save her uncle and his family,” Feodor tells her.
“We saved her aunt’s life. That balances the scales for saving Ilya!” Mashenka replies.
“Sister, friendship cannot be weighed in a balance - - it conforms to need,” Igor tells her. “Our friend, Serafina needs our help. See? She weeps!”
Mashenka walks to Serafina and hugs her tightly. “Oh, Serafina, I am sorry! You are my friend and I love you!” Mashenka tells her. “But I also love our country and it seems we betray her!”
“No, Mashenka!” Serafina explains. “I promise you - - Soyuz will never do anything to hurt Russia! But there are people - - some in high places - - who seek to use our country for their own ends! People who misuse their power and authority to harm innocent people! These people are not Russia! We fight for our country by fighting for its honor - - its soul!”
“I am with you, of course - - but if we are caught, we are not the only ones who will be punished!” Mashenka worries. “By putting on these masks, we endanger our families as well! And that scares me! My own power scares me, sometimes!”
“The powers we have been born with, my love, they are our birthright,” Ilya tells Mashenka. He kisses her gently on the cheek. “We did not ask for these powers but we have them and we alone will decide how they will be used,” Ilya explains. “Only thus we can assure they will not be abused. All right, my dove?”
“Ohhhh, Ilya..,” Mashenka answers.
“So how will we use them?! Let’s do something instead of all this talk?” Feodor asks.
“We will. I have a plan for helping my uncle,” Serafina replies. “Listen, closely…”
KGB Headquarters… “Comrade Soliony..,” Major Zastrow calls out.
Soliony, walking alone in the hallway, is startled as he looks up. “Comrade Zastrow. I had heard you returned from America,” Soliony replies.
“And I was amazed to hear of your arrest and interrogation of Mikhail Arkadin,” Zastrow explains. “And that you continue to hold him. My mission has proven conclusively that the Firestorm creature is connected with the American Ron Raymond. Arkadin obviously has nothing to do with the creature.”
“I read your report. I was not overly impressed,” Soliony says with irritation. “If you had read my report you would know the Firestorm creature has been seen here in Moscow.”
“I read your report. I was not overly impressed,” echoes Zastrow. “It seems the creature Firestorm battled was intent on attacking you. Why was that, I wonder?”
“A man in my position makes many enemies. A man’s power should be judged by the enemies he makes,” Soliony replies.
“In that case, Comrade, you must be a very powerful man, indeed,” Soliony says sarcastically. He walks away and continues down the hall.
Soliony walks off in the opposite direction and returns to the cell block area. “Ah, Arkadin! Looking forward to our next meeting, yes?” Soliony asks as he steps next to Mikhail’s cell door. “Be patient. I have other business to tend to first.”
“With Rodor?” Mikhail thinks. He watches as Soliony and three guards enter Rodor’s cell.
“Well, Matvei Rodor - - the notorious black marketer! Caught at last! Soon, I will catch all the other principal black marketers!” Soliony announces.
“And have the field virtually to yourself,” Rodor answers, lying on his bed.
“Exactly so,” agrees Soliony.
“And what if the truth is revealed about you?” Rodor asks.
“No one would believe you. Besides, you will not live long enough to tell that to many,” Soliony explains.
“But what if you die first?” Rodor asks.
“I am ready, my brother,” the Zuggernaut says in Rodor’s subconscious. “The transmutation of my form is completed.”
“Thank you, Comrade,” Soliony answers. “You have given me a reason to have you killed - - threatening a Prosecut…or… What in the name of..?!”
FASHH! Rodor quickly transforms from human into the fearsome Zuggernaut! He stands up from the bed. “Who - - what are you?!” Soliony gasps as he and the guards look on fearfully.
“I am the Zuggernaut! I nearly killed you last time we met! This time you have no one to save you,” the Zuggernaut snarls.
“Guards! Kill that thing!” Soliony barks. He runs for the cell door. “While I escape! That thing is Rodor and it’s me he wants dead!” SNAP! KRAK! Behind him, the Zuggernaut quickly breaks the necks of the helpless guards. He reaches for the door, but it does not move. “Locked?!” he gasps. “Where’s the damned key?!”
“One of your guards has it. See if he’ll give it to you,” the Zuggernaut answers as he drops a lifeless guard to the floor. “Ask him quickly.” The Zuggernaut leaps at Soliony.
“Must duck!” Soliony thinks as he bends down. WHAMM! The Zuggernaut smashes into the wall above Soliony, breaking through the heavy concrete. CRASH! The Zuggernaut breaks through Mikhail’s cell wall!
“The Zuggernaut?!” Mikhail asks in surprise. He looks through the huge hole as the Zuggernaut turns back to Soliony.
“Ah, Comrade Arkadin! I had not intended to kill you, too,” the Zuggernaut explains as he squeezes his claws around Soliony’s neck. “But now you know Matvei Rodor is the Zuggernaut and that I cannot permit. Forgive me while I kill you.” The green gem on the Zuggernaut’s forehead glows brightly, and a beam of energy shoots out at Mikhail!
An atomic ring dances in Mikhail’s right eye. “UHNN!!” Ronnie suddenly groans as an atomic ring appears in his left eye. FZAAM! Ronnie disappears! SSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! A fireball streaks out of New York City, shooting east across the globe. FZAAM! Mikhail disappears, and instantly, Firestorm appears!
“Firestorm?!” exclaims the Zuggernaut.
“…Urk!...Fi…re…storm?!?” gasps Soliony.
ZAAAPT! The Zuggernaut’s energy beam strikes Firestorm’s chest. Firestorm ducks away. SCHRAAK! The energy beam blasts into the cell wall. The Zuggernaut drops Soliony and steps towards Firestorm. “Brother - - no! Finish what was begun! Finish Soliony!” Rodor exclaims.
“Brother, I cannot!” the Zuggernaut answers in the creature’s subconscious. “My nature is to destroy first the greatest danger to me - - and that is Firestorm!”
“At last! At last I know the truth! I have seen the transformation with my own eyes!” Soliony thinks in amazement. “Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin is Firestorm!”
“The advantage in these cells belongs to the Zuggernaut,” thinks Firestorm. He phases through the ceiling of the cell. “By reducing my mass to near zero, I can phase through the walls up to the street. And - - if I’m right about the Zuggernaut - - he’ll follow.”
KRUNCH! WHAM! The Zuggernaut punches his way through the building’s walls. Firestorm floats into the air above KGB Headquarters as the Zuggernaut blasts outside. “As expected,” Firestorm thinks. “Now, if I recall correctly, the Zuggernaut does not truly fly - - merely leaps. So I hover here enticingly…”
The Zuggernaut leaps up. “…And time this correctly..,” Firestorm thinks. “…He passes right through me…and the advantage becomes mine! Add momentum to increase the impact - - and hope his body shields mine.” Firestorm collides with the Zuggernaut and the two fall. SCRASH! They smash through the foyer roof as bystanders below scatter away in shock.
WHUMP! They land hard on the floor of a subway terminal. “Hadn’t anticipated the underground station being here as well. The advantage is his again!” Firestorm thinks. The Zuggernaut reaches out and grabs two heavy electrical cables. “And he seems intent on making the most of it!” Firestorm observes.
SZZZKKKZZZTTT! Firestorm’s body is racked by electric current as the Zuggernaut thrusts the cables into his body! “YAHHHHHHHH!” Firestorm cries out. “Must….transmute cable…to rubber!” he groans. “Stop…flow of…electricity!” He struggles to reach a hand out. FZAAM! He transmutes the cables and pulls them away.
“A fine opponent - - an ingenious warrior!” the Zuggernaut thinks. “His death will do me honor!”
“Let us do it quickly, brother!” Rodor replies. “Soliony knows our secret and is a threat to my safety and, thus, to you!”
BROOOOAAAAAAARRRRRR! A subway train approaches fast! “That train bearing down on us!” Firestorm thinks as he fights with the Zuggernaut. “I’m not sure it would hurt the Zuggernaut if it struck him, but the collision would be sure to hurt the passengers! And he’s so taken up with trying to kill me, he’s paying no attention! I have to do something! I cannot endanger innocents!”
Firestorm tightly grabs the Zuggernaut’s wrists. FWOOOOOSH! He shoots upward, just barely evading the oncoming train! BROARRRR! Clak! Clak! Clak! Clak! Clak! The train speeds away below them. Firestorm flies them up through the hole they created in their fall.
“Your concern for the lives of others is most commendable, Firestorm!” the Zuggernaut tells him. “But the first life you should be concerned with is your own!” The gem on his forehead glows brightly. ZAAPT! An energy beam shoots from it and smashes into Firestorm’s face!
“No, Gort established the Raymond boy is the one connected with Firestorm…No, absolutely!” Major Zastrow explains into the phone.
“Fools of bureaucrats! They should all be liquidated,” Stalnoivolk scoffs. He sits reviewing a file as Zastrow converses. Suddenly, Stalnoivolk leaps up. “Stalin’s grave!” he blurts as he rushes to the window.
“Eh?” Zastrow asks as he hangs up the phone.
Outside, in the sky, Firestorm and the Zuggernaut battle with each other. “He’s here. In Moscow,” Stalnoivolk says, quickly opening the window.
“Who’s here? What are you doing?” Zastrow asks.
“Firestorm, you fool!” Stalnoivolk answers. “He’s traced me here and brought another such as himself and they are attacking the Kremlin!”
Zastrow walks over and looks at the melee above. “It looks more to me like they are battling each other,” he observes. “Wait! What are you intending to do?”
Stalnoivolk steps out onto the window ledge. “Make good my vow,” he answers as he leaps into the air.
Firestorm stands on the Kremlin wall. The Zuggernaut lies at his feet. “That blast…partially blinded me!” he thinks.
“Forgive my haste, Firestorm, but there is another I must also kill and this has delayed me,” Rodor tells him.
“Looking for me, Firestorm?!” Stalnoivolk yells. WHAM! He crashes down onto Firestorm! KRASH! They smash onto the street below! “I did not mean to kill the old man,” Stalnoivolk says as he pins Firestorm down. “I will rectify that error and kill you.”
“You…murderous…bastard!!!” Ron thinks angrily. “Rage…burning! He killed Aviator!”
Firestorm leaps up! POW! He strikes a vicious punch into Stalnoivolk’s face. “You killed my grandfather!” Firestorm yells as Stalnoivolk flies back. “I will…kill you!” Firestorm cries out. KRAK! He smashes both fists into Stalnoivolk’s jaw.
The two land in the street. The Zuggernaut watches from the Kremlin wall. “Heh. Have I hurt you, Firestorm?” Stalnoivolk asks, getting to his feet. “You fight much better now. You fight like a Russian. You fight as if your life depended on it. It does. We play no games now, boy, as you do in America. This is a matter of life and death. And you will lose.”
“Fight with your fists. Not with your mouth,” Firestorm answers.
On the wall above, the Zuggernaut reaches a hand up to the sky. “The explosive process has begun, brother! We must release it or die!” the Zuggernaut thinks.
“A simple choice,” Rodor replies.
FOOSH! A fireball shoots out of the Zuggernaut’s jaws! WEEEEEEEEEE! “Wait! That sound..?!” gasps Stalnoivolk.
The huge fireball streaks right at them. “Death,” Firestorm says.