Russian scientists create Svarozhich, a meta-human clone formed using a tissue sample obtained from Firestorm. Svarozhich escapes. General Trofimov takes Nina, Sofia, and Irena Arkadin to his home. Mikhail learns where his wife and children have gone. Professor Stein still suffers from memory loss. Svarozhich arrives in Moscow and performs miraculous actions.
The Svarozhich Project - - in a cavern deep below the frozen Siberian tundra. “Slowly, Professor Nazdrudya,” Major Zastrow says. “Begin with the obvious and we’ll work our way toward the impossible.”
Nazdrudya sits on a chair, a blanket huddled around her shoulders, sipping a cup of hot tea. Injured soldiers lie nearby, being tended to by medics. A dead soldier lies on the floor next to Nazdrudya. The control room shows heavy damage from an accident of some kind.
“Yes, yes - - quite right, Comrade Zastrow,” Nazdrudya replies. “I must - - concentrate. Tell you what I know. Do you know what we do here?”
“Assume I do not,” Zastrow directs.
“Our mission here is to create a new meta-human for Russia using advanced cloning techniques,” Nazdrudya explains. “There was increasing pressure for results following the alien alliance’s attack on Moscow. However, the invasion also provided us with some real breakthroughs. We were able to isolate what has been called the meta gene - - that DNA element that seems common to all meta-humans. The American hero Firestorm was felled in Moscow by the gene bomb. Some of our agents were able to retrieve tissue samples of him while the Nuclear Man was being treated, from which we were able to extract the DNA. We grafted the DNA with our own clonal process and the results were startling!”
Nazdrudya remembers the vision of a fiery creature in her laboratory. “A containment vessel had also been created, designed for symbolic as well as functional purposes,” she continues. “The creature donned the containment suit, at our bidding. The being was codenamed Svarozhich - - after the ancient God of Fire.”
“So you were a success,” Zastrow replies. “Then what happened?”
“No, no! You don’t understand!” Nazdrudya says. She trembles fearfully. “Our ‘success’ was a disaster! What we created was not human but inhuman! We created a new life form that is extremely powerful and utterly alien to humanity! Can’t you understand?! For no reason that we could determine, the being forced its way out of the containment area! Listen to me, Comrade Zastrow! It is a soulless thing we have created! A sociopathic god! When it had finished slaughtering us, it burst through the bedrock that covers us and escaped into the Siberian night!”
Zastrow grabs Nazdrudya’s shirt and holds his face inches from hers. “Where, Olga Nazdrudya?” he asks angrily. “Where is it likely to have gone?”
“We don’t know! Can’t you understand?! Its motivations - - its thought processes - - are totally alien to us! We are as bugs to it! It was drawn, in part, from that being Firestorm! Maybe it looks for him - - to take the soul it does not possess!”
Vandemeer University, Pittsburgh. Professor Martin Stein looks around his office. “Nothing,” he says. “I’m sorry. I know you say this was once my office, but it holds no associations for me now.”
Dr. La Grieve, Dr. Rice, and Ron stand nearby. “It’s okay; we just wanted to see if it would trigger any memories,” Dr. La Grieve says.
“If there were memories there to be triggered,” Stein adds.
“I guess that’s that,” Ron says. “C’mon, Martin; we’ll head back toward the apartment.”
“Young man - - Ronald - - Ron!” Stein replies. “I don’t feel like going back to the apartment! I want to walk around the campus!”
“And what happens if you have another seizure, huh?!” Ron asks.
“You are my physical therapist, not my keeper!” Stein answers. “I agreed to come here because I wanted to start getting out in the world and I intend to do just that!”
Ron and the Professor head out. Dr. Rice and Dr. La Grieve also leave and head in another direction. “Well, Simon, that’s Martin Stein, who made launching the Institute for Meta-Human Studies possible,” Dr. Rice says. “The grant to study Martin attracted other grants and S.T.A.R.’s co-operation pulled it together faster than I would have dreamed possible.”
“He had a brain tumor, didn’t he?” Dr. La Grieve asks.
“Yes. Inoperable and it wasn’t responding to radiation…It was killing him,” Dr. Rice explains. “He disappeared and then, much later, turned up around the desert near Las Vegas, the tumor totally gone. But it had been there and left some damage. His memories of everything before he was found seem gone.”
“His physical trainer - - the Raymond lad - - interests me,” Dr. La Grieve says. “He’s very protective of Stein. Almost comes across as guilt.”
“Well, they both came to Vandemeer at the same time - - one as a student, one as a teacher - - but there’s no special connection between them that I know of,” Dr. Rice explains. “By the way, I’m very pleased that you decided to become the Head of IMHS. I know it must have been a hard choice to leave the Suicide Squad and all.”
“Actually, Mrs. Waller made the decision easy,” Dr. La Grieve replies with a touch of irritation. “Only the parting was hard.”
They walk together into a monitoring room inside the Institute. “Ah! I was hoping you’d be here, Clement,” Dr. Rice calls as they arrive. A man walks over to meet them. “Simon La Grieve, I’d like you to meet Dr. Clement Morrison, meta-human biologist, who comes to us by way of the Hutchings Institute,” she says.
“Glad to be on board, La Grieve,” Dr. Morrison says. He and Dr. La Grieve shake hands.
“Yes. Well, good to have you,” Dr. La Grieve replies. “There’s an area of investigation that I’d like you to look into, now that you’re here.” He leads Dr. Morrison to a series of monitoring terminals. “I want the thrust of the work being done with Killer Frost changed,” Dr. La Grieve instructs. “I don’t believe that her problem is primarily psychological, as has often been suggested. The transference of the Killer Frost persona from the original Killer Frost to Dr. Lincoln suggests a virus rather than psychological trauma.”
“That’s hardly likely, is it?” Dr. Morrison asks. “If it were a virus, it would have to come from somewhere else to begin with.”
“We’ll address that when we know for sure it is a virus. Think you can handle this, Morrison?” Dr. La Grieve asks.
“Oh yes, Doctor. I can handle it,” Dr. Morrison replies.
Ron walks alone on campus. “’Really, Ronald. I’d like some time to myself, if you don’t mind!’” he thinks. “Okay, okay, Martin - - I get the hint! So what do I do now? Lorraine’s got classes..!” Just ahead, he sees a familiar face. “What! Is that..?” he thinks.
“Doreen! Hey! Doreen!” Ron yells. “Hey, Doreen! It’s me..! Ron!”
Doreen is startled by his voice. She looks over her shoulder at him and starts to run away. “Doreen!” Ron yells, He runs after her. “I don’t get it! Why is she running!”
Doreen bumps into a professor, knocking his papers and files out of his hands. She runs around the corner of a nearby building and cowers fearfully against the wall. “He knows!” she thinks. “He knows I told Chief Ferguson about his being Firestorm! And right after that - - Ferguson disappeared! He killed Ferguson - - I just know it! And now he’s come back to kill me - - unless I can do something to stop him! But what?!”
Just outside Arkangel, U.S.S.R. General Trofimov steps out of a dark sedan. He carries Sofia in his arms. Nina and Irena Arkadin join him and they walk towards a house. A woman rushes out of the house to greet them. “NINA!” the woman yells.
Nina rushes to her and the two hug happily. “Mama! Oh, Mama..!” Nina says tearfully.
“Shoo-shoo-shoo, my baby! You are home now, yes? All will be well,” answers Sofia Trofimov. She takes little Sofia from her husband. “Ahh! And this is little Sophy - - my poor little namesake!” she says. “Irena, do not be afraid. You do not remember me, but I am your Grandmama, your Babushka!” She turns back to Nina. “But - - where is Mikhail, your husband? Nina?” she asks.
“I sent him away, Mama,” Nina sobs.
In Moscow, Alexander, Sylvia, and Serafina Arkadin sit eating dinner. Suddenly, Mikhail bursts in through their door. “Alexander! They’ve taken her!” Mikhail blurts.
“Nina? Who has taken her?! The KGB?!” Alexander asks quickly.
Mikhail collapses on the couch, holding his hands to his forehead. “Her father and brother” he explains. “They’ve taken her and the children away with them! I just went back to the field hospital and they’ve gone!”
“I don’t understand why is this bad?” Serafina asks. “Surely Nina and the children will be more comfortable there than at the emergency hospital.”
“Nina’s family is very conservative. Military. And they don’t care for Mikhail,” Sylvia explains.
“My support of Sakharov not only cost us my job at University,” Mikhail tells them. “Nina’s father cut off all relations with us. Until now, he’s never even seen his grandchildren. Threatened to shoot me on sight next time we met. If Nina has gone back to them, I don’t know how I will even see her, let alone win her back! My marriage is dead.”
Sylvia reaches out to comfort him. “Come, come, Mikhail,” she says. “This is all very dramatic but not - - I think - - true. Nina is hurt and heartsore but she still loves you. My instinct tells me this. Eat a little, sleep a little, and who knows? Tomorrow all may look very different, eh?”
Come tomorrow, everything will be different in Mother Russia. Tonight is the night Svarozhich comes to Moscow.
The fiery being hovers in the air. Just below, fire rages in the upper floors of a five-story building. Fire crews work to extinguish the blaze. People hang out of the windows near the fire, desperately awaiting rescue. “Where is the fire brigade?!” a man yells in the street.
“Let me go! My aged mother is trapped up there!” another yells as he tries to run past the firefighters.
“Anton?!” a voice cries out.
“Yasha! Help me!” a man yells from a window, coughing on the heavy smoke.
Svarozhich descends closer to the building. Bystanders look up at him in amazed disbelief. “Wait! What is - - ?” someone asks.
“It looks like an angel!” a voice answers.
“Another of those invaders!” someone panics.
“Probably something terrible - -!” another concurs.
Svarozhich hovers near the roof of the burning building. He extends his arms wide. FWOOSH! ROAAR! Suddenly, the flames in the building sweep toward Svarozhich! FAAAAASHHH! Incredibly, he completely absorbs the fire out of the building! Svarozhich lands in the street near the assembled crowds.
A woman cautiously approaches him. “Please…Comrade…Lord! What is your name?” she asks, reaching a hand out to him.
“Sah…vahr…oh…zhich,” he replies.
“Master…Lord Svarozhich…please!” a man calls out. He walks towards the fiery being carrying a woman in his arms. “Please, my Lord!” he continues. “My mother…she inhaled too much smoke before you came…Please…bring her back to me…Bring her back to life…if you can…Please?”
Svarozhich looks down at the lifeless elderly woman. He holds his hand over her head. FZAAP! Fiery energy flows around her. Incredibly, her eyes open and she begins gasping for breath!
The man gently rests her on the sidewalk and looks up at Svarozhich. “She lives!” he cries out. “Praise God! Praise the saints! Praise Svarozhich! Thank you, My Lord! Thank you!”
“SVAROZHICH! SVAROZHICH!” the crowd begins to chant in amazement. The flaming being lifts off and flies up into the sky.
“Mama, you’ve come back to me!” the man exclaims.
The next day… “Thank you for coming so quickly, Serafina,” Feodor whispers as he opens his family’s apartment door to let her in.
“It’s nothing. Are you related to the Borotins?” Serafina asks quietly. The woman resurrected by Svarozhich, sits inside the apartment with her family.
“Distantly,” Feodor whispers back. “When the fire last night burned out their building, they had no other place to go. Father told Yasha they could come here for the time being. But there is something very wrong with the old woman, Serafina. Look!”
The woman awake but appears catatonic and unresponsive. Her son Yasha kneels in front of her and holds her hands in his. “Mama? Please, Mama? It’s Yasha,” he says to her. He turns to Feodor’s father. “Piotr, why is she like this?” Yasha asks. “Since the Golden One - - Svarozhich - - brought her back to life last night, she has been like this! What is wrong with her?”
“Can you scan her mind, Serafina? Can you tell what is wrong?” Feodor asks softly.
Serafina holds her hands to her forehead and concentrates. “Yes! This is incredible!” she says. “Contact the other members of Soyuz, Feodor Piotrovich!” she tells him telepathically. “I may need them soon! I must find this Svarozhich!”
The University, a short time later… Mikhail gathers his papers in the lecture hall as students depart following class. “Well, that certainly was dreadful!” Mikhail thinks. “I could barely keep my mind on my own lecture! I can’t teach, I can’t keep hold of my family..!”
Serafina rushes into the lecture hall. “Uncle!” she calls out.
Mikhail turns to look. “Serafina! What is it? What’s the matter?!” he asks in surprise.
“I must speak with you privately…now!” Serafina replies.
Mikhail closes the door to the lecture hall. “Here. Mine was the last lecture of the day,” he answers. “No one else is likely to enter. Now - - what is this all about?”
“Forgive me, Uncle, but it is not you I need! Is your alter-ego - - Firestorm!” Serafina tells him telepathically.
“I told you, Serafina! The last time Ron and I tried to become Firestorm, the fusion wouldn’t stabilize!” Mikhail explains. “He was traumatized by the deaths we caused when the gene bomb went off! And I’m not sure I want him back! My life is enough of a shambles as it is!”
“Forgive me, Uncle, but we do not have time for this!” Serafina communicates. “I need the Nuclear Man and I will have him!” She focuses her mental energy at Mikhail.
“Serafina, what are you…No!” Mikhail cries out. He begins to transform into Firestorm. “NO!”
“Yes! Listen to me, Firestorm!” Serafina communicates. “I will not let you split apart! You will listen!”
“My powers ran amok…out of control…I killed people, transmuting them! I FELT THEIR DEATHS!” Firestorm tells her, struggling to let go of the fusion.
“As did I!” Serafina explains. “My powers also ran out of control! I thought I’d go mad! All the thoughts - - including those you killed as they died - - poured into me! I blanked out everyone’s memory of Soyuz before I collapsed! I have had to live with the memory of all those thoughts ever since! What happened was beyond our ability to control and certainly not done by our choice! We must live with it! If you cannot, others may also die! Would you doom the living to mourn the dead?”
“What do you want me to do?” Firestorm asks anxiously.
“There is a creature called Svarozhich…appeared last night…put out fire…seemingly raised an old woman from the dead. The woman’s body lives…but it is a husk! It lacks a mind…a soul!” Serafina continues. “I sought out this Svarozhich and found him floating over the city, acclaimed like a god. I entered his mind…or tried to. There is nothing there. Like the old woman, he is empty - - soulless. His actions are aimless; he does everything by instinct. At any moment he could kill and destroy as easily as heal and save. He is you - - with all your power - - but without your conscience or your soul. Will you deal with him - - or must I?”
“If he must be dealt with, then I will deal with him,” Firestorm answers. “And then you and I will talk about the abuse of power.” He lowers his density and begins to fly up through the ceiling of the lecture hall.
“I fear for you, Firestorm,” Serafina says telepathically. “You are not at your best and your enemy is strong. I think Soyuz should stand ready!”
Firestorm flies out into the Moscow sky. “Ron, I apologize!” Mikhail says in Firestorm’s subconscious. “Serafina triggered the transformation without my being able to warn you first!”
“It’s okay,” Ron replies. “It was 3 am in my part of the world and I was about to sleep. I agree with Flamehead, though. Your niece needs some things explained to her.”
Firestorm sees the fiery being in the sky. “Later. That must be Svarozhich up ahead. Any suggestions?” he asks.
“I think, perhaps, opening a dialogue would be best,” Mikhail suggests. “Let us not fight until we know we must.”
Svarozhich turns to see Firestorm approaching. “We may not have the option, guys,” Ron warns. “I don’t like that look we’re getting.”
Suddenly, Svarozhich lunges at Firestorm! “AAAAHHHGG! NO!” Firestorm yells. He turns intangible and Svarozhich passes right through his body. “I have had enough of violence. I will not fight you,” Firestorm tells his counterpart. “If you cannot or will not speak, I will take my leave of you.”
Svarozhich turns in the air and faces Firestorm. He stretches his arms out. Fiery energy ripples around Firestorm. “No! What – are – you – doing – to – me?!” he cries out.
FZAAAM! Incredibly, Svarozhich absorbs Firestorm into his body! Ron and Mikhail appear standing on the street below Svarozhich. “Ahhhh! Now I understand!” Svarozhich says, floating in the air. “I have the soul of fire and I understand! I know who and what I am!”
“And I think I am in deep trouble!” Ron says in shock as Mikhail runs up next to him.