Svarozhich encounters Firestorm in Moscow and somehow separates Ron and Mikhail from the matrix. Mikhail leads Ron to a subway with Svarozhich in close pursuit. Serafina assembles the Soyuz team, battling with Svarozhich in the subway. Ron, Mikhail, and Soyuz manage to escape. Serafina's uncle Dmitri takes them to see his mentor, Gregori Rasputin, where Ron learns a revelation about Firestorm.
The Russians tried creating a new super-hero, using a clonal process and cells taken from Firestorm, under the code-name Svarozhich, named for their mythological god of fire. What they created was a soulless, near mindless, creature of immense power. Svarozhich came to Moscow where it was confronted by the Nuclear Man. Svarozhich seemed to absorb Firestorm’s powers and now - - for the first time - - Ron and Mikhail have met, face-to-face, in their own bodies under what can only be described as less than ideal conditions!
“Oboy!” Ron says, staring intently at Svarozhich hovering just overhead.
“Bozhe moi!” Mikhail exclaims.
Ron turns to Mikhail. “Mikhail, if we’re both in the same place, then something’s gone horribly wrong!” he tells his counterpart.
Mikhail listens, then answers in Russian. “I don’t understand your words, my friend! When we are part of Firestorm - - yes, I can hear your thoughts!” he replies. “I don’t know if you understand me but, for both of us to be here, it means something is wrong!”
“Oh great!” Ron blurts in exasperation. “You don’t speak English and I know beans about Russian! Now what do we do?” He turns back towards Svarozhich.
“Ronald!” Mikhail calls in Russian. “No! Do not go off! We must try to re-form Firestorm!” He grabs Ron’s wrist. “Firestorm! Firestorm! You and I! We must try again - - reclaim our power! Do you understand?!”
“I don’t get it - - Wait! You want us to try again? Try to form Flame Head?” Ron asks. He locks hands tightly with Mikhail. “Yeah! I mean, da! Go for it, buddy! Yeah!”
Svarozhich shudders as they concentrate. “What…is…happening…to me?!?” he asks.
“Pour it on! It’s working!” Ron exclaims.
Svarozhich closes in. “So - - you seek to steal back the Soul of Fire! I think not,” he tells them. FZZAM! WHAROOM! He fires a flame burst down that explodes on the sidewalk and blasts Ron and Mikhail away from each other!
“AAAAAGH!” Mikhail yells as he is blown back.
“YAAAH!” Ron yells.
“I can see that, so long as you two live, my own existence will be threatened. Which leaves me a single choice,” Svarozhich says, descending closer to where the two men lie on the ground.
“Come quickly! We must flee!” Mikhail says. He grabs Ron by the arm and his coat and starts to pull him away.
“Hey! What’s the big deal?” Ron asks in surprise. “Did Sweatovich say something? What did he say?”
Mikhail helps Ron to his feet and starts to run. SPAKOW! A fire burst explodes on the ground near them. “Yeep! I think I get it!” Ron yells. “Your lead, Mikhail!”
SPAKOW! FZAAM! Svarozhich pursues overhead, firing bursts into the ground near the fleeing men. SCHRAAK! SCHRAAK! FZAAM! Mikhail leads Ron towards a subway station just ahead. Bystanders dodge out of the way. FZAAM! SCHRAAK! Svarozhich maintains close pursuit. Mikhail sprints down the stairs into the subway terminal with Ron close behind.
Ron leaps over the turnstiles. “Hey! Just like New York!” he yells to Mikhail. “Almost!”
SPAKOW! Svarozhich flies down the stairs into the terminal. “AAAIIIEEE!” screams a terrified bystander. FZAAM!
“Uncle Mikhail!” Serafina communicates telepathically. She runs along the subway track near them. “Uncle Mikhail! This way! Here!”
Mikhail and Ron run along the edge of the tracks and see Serafina just ahead. “Serafina! How..?!” Mikhail blurts.
“Using my powers to track into your thoughts, of course!” Serafina replies mentally. “Now, quickly, this way! Into the tunnel!”
“If your friend has got an escape hatch, Mikhail, we better use it!” Ron says, looking back at Svarozhich closing in. “Because here comes trouble!” he warns.
Serafina leads them as they sprint along the tracks. As she runs, she sheds her overcoat. “Soyuz! We’re coming!” she communicates to her team. “Svarozhich is right behind us! Morozko, Vikhor, and Rusalka will go first! As we planned!”
“We’re ready, Firebird!” Vikhor answers.
SWOOOOSH! Svarozhich flies into the tunnel. Ron and Mikhail run past the Soyuz team. “They’re just kids!” Ron thinks.
“Now! Strike, Soyuz!” Serafina yells. PLOOSH! Rusalka unleashes a jet of water from a neary by pipe. ZZZAAAK! Morozko freezes the water into a barrage of ice shards. WOOOOOO! Vikhor sweeps the ice shards into his winds and hurls them at Svarozhich!
WOOOOO! Svarozhich is blown back in the windstream. He aims his hands at Soyuz. FOOMP! He fires flaming energy into the ice shard barrage.
“It’s not stopping him, Firebird!” Vikhor cries out.
Ron and Mikhail climb up an access ladder as Soyuz continues to engage Svarozhich. “Perun, beware the water! You’ll ground yourself!” Firebird warns.
“Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing,” Perun replies. He reaches down and draws energy from the subway rails. ZZZZZAAAKK! “YAAAHHHHH!” he yells, firing an electrical burst at Svarozhich! SCHRAAAAAK! The burst hits! SCHRAAK! ZAAAK! KRAAAK! SPAAAAK! Svarozhich bends in recoil from the energy.
“Perun! Break off the attack! I scanned his mind!” Firebird directs. “We have to get out of the tunnel - - all of us - - NOW!”
“No! I can finish him!” Perun answers. His hair stands on end from the massive electrical discharge flowing from him into Svarozhich. The flaming being begins to fly toward Soyuz.
“No, you can’t! He’s going to wipe the tunnel with fire!” Firebird warns. “We have only seconds to get out!”
The Soyuz team dashes up the access ladder. Perun is the last to ascend. “Close the door! That may buy us an extra second!” Firebird tells him.
Klink! Perun closes and latches the access door to the tunnel below. “Vikhor! You have to start spinning - - lift us all out of the well! Can you do it!?!” Firebird asks telepathically.
“I…I will try, Ser…Firebird!” Vikhor replies. He begins to spin, rotating the air in the access shaft upwards. FWOOOOOOOO! The winds begin to carry them upwards!
Svarozhich flies back to the subway terminal and attacks. FWOOOM! FWOOOOM! He fires huge fireballs off to his left and right. FWOOOM! “YAAAAAAH!” screams a terrified man.
“AAAAAAAAAAIIIE!” yells another.
A fireball explodes against a subway train, blowing several people out of the windows. “NYET! NYET!” yells a flying person.
On the sidewalk above, people walk along, oblivious to the chaos happening just below. Piffff! Sudeenly, wind starts to push out of a manhole cover. WHOMP! The cover is blown into the air! Winds whip around and upwards from the shaft. WEEEEEOOOOOOO! Soyuz, Mikhail, and Ron appear rising up out of the shaft on a spinning tornado of air!
“Firebird! I can’t hold it anymore!” Vikhor cries out.
“It’s all right! Let go - - now! Firebird replies.
The team begins to fall from the air just as a blast of fire shoots up the shaft from below. FOOOOSH! “YAAAAAA!” Vikhor yells as he tumbles. SHWOMP! Mikhail and Ron land on the sidewalk as the others fall around them. BROAAAR! Fire blows like a blowtorch up the shaft.
“Is everyone all right? Everyone get out?” Firebird asks, looking around at the group.
“A little singed but safe, Firebird,” Morozko answers. “My little sister twisted her ankle when she landed.”
“Mashenka! Are you all right?!” Perun asks.
“No, Ilya! I hurt and I’m scared!” Mashenka answers. “I thought we were about to die down there!”
“Shhhh, shhhhh. We’re all right now, my love,” Perun reassures her.
“Feodor, please - - have you hurt yourself?” Firebird asks. She bends down to where Feodor lies on the sidewalk.
“I - - I think I strained something, Serafina!” Feodor answers. “I never tried to carry so much weight before!”
“You saved us all, Feodor!” Serafina explains. “Here, I’ll help you block the pain a little bit. Igor will help you get home.”
Igor steps next to Feodor and quickly lifts him to his feet. “Come, little Tsarovitch - - I’ll help you home,” Igor says.
“Stop calling me ‘Tsarovitch’!” Feodor gripes.
WHOOM! WHOOM! WHOOM! Along the street, fire blows up from several sewer grates. “What now? Another attack?” Mikhail asks Serafina.
“I don’t think so,” Serafina replies. “I can’t sense his mind near us. The creature may believe us slain - - for the moment. I think it’s best we use the opportunity to get under cover.” She turns to her team. “You’ve behaved valiantly, Soyuz, but we’ve done all we can today as a group. The immediate danger is over. We must still do something about the American but that is a risk best run without you. Go home, my friends! Take care of yourselves. I love you all so much!”
“So - - what do we do ‘about the American’?” Mikhail asks Serafina. “He has no papers, he has no clothes, he has no way of getting home…where do we put him?”
Ron looks around. “Russia. I’m in freakin’ Russia! Great great!” he thinks
“I think we’ll take him to Uncle Dmitri,” Serafina suggests to Mikhail.
“Dmitri?” Mikhail gasps. “Have you gone out of your mind?!”
“Your friend has neither clothes nor papers! He can’t live with you because you live with us and Mama and Papa might get suspicious, don’t you think, if you showed up with an American at the door?” Serafina asks.
“Your excellent idea is that we should reveal our secret to my brother Dmitri, who is one of the more irresponsible people I’ve ever met!” Mikhail argues.
“Uncle Dmitri isn’t that bad,” Serafina counters. “Besides, I can rearrange his memories as I did with my parents so he remembers nothing of our visit.”
“Forgive me! I was wrong!” Mikhail blurts. “You are far more irresponsible than Dmitri! Serafina, you cannot keep rearranging people’s memories that way!”
“Ahem,” Ron interjects. “I get the sense, somehow, that I’m the topic of your conversation. Is there any way you can let me in on it?”
Serafina holds her hands to her head and concentrates. “Forgive us. We were speaking of you and excluding you,” she says to Ron telepathically. “Concentrate your thoughts toward me and I will act as a clearing house for you and my uncle.”
“Uncle! Ah! Then you’re the famous Serafina,” Ron replies mentally. “Well, I need to get out of sight. Maybe I should head for the American Embassy.”
“Provided you convince them that you are an American, how do you explain your being here?” Mikhail asks in thought. “And, assuming you did get back home, how would you explain your absence? Also, what do we do about Svarozhich? He has our - - Firestorm’s - - power without any sense of morality.”
“What do we do first?” Ron asks.
“My uncle and I were discussing that, Comrade,” Serafina explains. “We had some disagreement but I think he agrees my plan is necessary.”
“I concede to necessity,” Mikhail replies.
“Then we will stop by our apartment so we can pick up a few necessities and then we’ll go see my other uncle,” Serafina directs.
Shortly after, Mikhail, Ron, and Serafina sit in Dmitri’s apartment. “A very pretty story you have told me,” Dmitri tells them. “I am surprised that you have chosen to divulge your secret to me, Mikhail - - I did not think you trusted me. I am touched by your confidence, brother.”
“Oh, we’re not worried, uncle,” Serafina tells him. “We know that, after you’ve helped us, you will forget all about it.”
“You’re sure of that, are you?” Dmitri asks.
“Quite sure!” Serafina says. Dmitri waves a hand and suddenly, Serafina doubles over in great pain! “AAAAAIIIEEEEE!” she cries out, holding her hands to her head.
“The natural arrogance of the young - - they think everything begins with them,” Dmitri says calmly. “Have you never considered where your wonderful mind powers come from, Serafina? Or did you think they started with you? Your father has it, although he refuses to believe it. Your uncle has it, though he is not aware of it. But most of all, of my father’s sons, I have it!”
Dmitri holds his hand outstretched towards Serafina. “You would meddle with my mind - - let’s see how you like your secrets laid bare! Let’s begin with this Soyuz!” he warns.
“Dmitri, stop it!!!” Mikhail yells, rushing towards Dmitri. Dmitri focuses mental energy at Mikhail, driving him back. “Uhhnnn!” Mikhail groans.
“Don’t become righteous with me, Mikhail!” Dmitri tells him. “You stood ready to let her rape my mind!”
KRASHH! Suddenly, a vase flies past Dmitri’s face and smashes against the wall. “Read my mind, turkey,” Ron snarls angrily at Dmitri. He grabs another vase in his hand and poises it to throw it. “Get a good glimpse of what’s going to happen if you don’t leave them alone - - now.”
Dmitri stares at Ron for a moment. “Forgive me,” Dmitri says. “I meant only to show Serafina that her powers - - our powers - - should not be used gratuitously. You are family. I will help you, of course! And your secrets will be safe - - not because you compel me, but because - - you are family. I know of someone who may be able to help with your stolen persona as well! Come! I take you to him now!”
Serafina huddles against Mikhail. Tears stream down her cheeks. “Uncle Mikhail, I am so sorry!” she whispers. “I didn’t know..! Oh, I’ve bungled everything!”
“Shhh, Serafinushka,” Mikhail whispers back. “It will be all right, I think. Please link me with Ron - - I want to understand why Dmitri backed off.”
Mikhail walks next to Ron as Serafina connects them. “Why did Dmitri back off from you, Ron?” Mikhail asks.
“I’m a trained athlete, Mikhail, even if I’m not the best in the world,” Ron explains. “Bluntly, I react with my body - - not my mind. And I let him see just how physical my reaction would have been.”
“And Dmitri was always something of a physical coward. Well done, my friend,” Mikhail replies.
“Es nada, bro!” Ron answers. “Now we’d better head out; our host is getting impatient.”
“Come, come; let’s go!” Dmitri calls to them.
The dacha of General Trofimov, just outside Arkangel… “They are asleep, the little ones,” Sofia Trofimov says. “It’s so good to see them at last - - and to see you, Nina.” She walks into the kitchen where Nina sits at the table.
“It…It is good to be home again, Mama,” Nina replies.
Sofia sits at the table and pours a cup of coffee. “So…you have left that husband of yours, Nina?” she asks.
“Y-Yes,” Nina answers.
“Your father never cared much for Mikhail, Nina,” Sofia says.
“Father said he would kill Mikhail if he ever saw him again,” Nina explains.
“Of course, Mikhail’s support of Sakharov was seen as traitorous in many circles,” Sofia answers. “You never called after the birth of the littlest one. I had to hear about my second granddaughter from your father’s contacts.”
“You never called after father threw me out,” Nina says.
“Nina, be reasonable!” Sofia argues. “Your father had issued one of his ‘edicts’! How could I call you?”
“He gave me one as well, Mama,” Nina replies. “He said I was never to see him again so long as I lived ‘with that traitor Arkadin’. I just assumed he spoke for you as well. He usually does.”
“And we assumed your husband was speaking for you when he spoke up in defense of Sakharov!” Sofia explains. “Ach, it’s always the way - - men and their politics! They speak, they make their ideological stands, and it is the woman who is expected to keep quiet, support him, and bear the brunt of what happens to their families!”
Nina stands up. “Mikhail did speak for me, Mama,” she answers. “We discussed the matter in detail before he spoke out and we both agreed. If you and Papa think Mikhail is a traitor to our country, then you must also think so of me.” She turns and heads out of the kitchen. “I’m sorry, but I’m very tired and I’m going to bed now. Good night, mother.”
In Moscow… “Here. He lives here,” Dmitri says. He opens an outer door and leads the group into an apartment building.
“Who lives here, Dmitri?” Mikhail asks.
“My mentor - - the man who has guided my successes, who taught me how to use my mind,” Dmitri replies. He leads them up the stairs. “A remarkable man, a fabulous man, I assure you. Up these stairs, please. Mikhail, you will make sure the door locks behind you, hm?”
Dmitri guides them to an upper floor apartment door. “He foretold you would come,” Dmitri says. He opens the door and leans his head inside. “Gregori? It’s Dmitri! I’ve brought the ‘guests’.”
“Enter, please,” answers a voice from inside.
Dmitri leads them into the apartment where a man waits to greet them. “My friends, let me introduce you to - - Gregori Eilovotich Rasputin!”
“Rasputin, is it?” Mikhail asks. “Descended from the mad monk of legend?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps I am the mad monk of legend,” Gregori replies. He reaches out his hand and shakes hands with Mikhail. He then shakes hands with Ron. “And you are the American in this equation,” Gregori continues.
“You speak English?!” Ron asks in surprise.
“I must,” Gregori explains. “I spend a great deal of time in the West and English is the international language these days. Although I have begun studying Japanese. Do not be surprised that I know so much about you. I have my own informants within the KGB.”
Gregori reaches out and tousles Serafina’s hair. “Thanks to this beautiful child they have forgotten what they knew about you,” he explains. “I retained my knowledge. Please…everyone sit. Dmitri will link minds so that all understand what is being said.”
The group takes seats in Gregori’s living room as he lights a cigarette. “It is you, Ronald Raymond, that I have been most interested in meeting,” Gregori explains. “Please - - it is necessary know the exact details of how you first became this Firestorm.”
“Well…I guess…okay,” Ron begins. “It started a few years ago…when I was in high school. I was trying to impress my girl with being something other than a big, dumb jock - - so I did something stupid. I joined a radical bunch of environmental protestors. They decided to make a statement by shutting down an experimental nuclear reactor facility. The plant’s creator - - Professor Martin Stein - - was there that night, however, and tried to keep us from interfering. They knocked him out and, when I protested, they knocked me out as well. Later I found out that they were setting me up to be the fall guy all along. When I came to, I was tied securely to the still unconscious Professor Stein, with a bomb ticking away nearby, ready to destroy the facility! It did. But instead of killing us, the explosion caused us to merge into a single being! And that’s how Firestorm came into being.”
“Ha ha ha ha!” Gregori laughs. “Forgive me, my young friend, but the story is so patently ridiculous! Unless there is more to be told, such an incident would have - - must have - - killed you!”
“Except that I am alive!” Ron replies.
“Exactly! Which means there was more going on than you knew!” Gregori answers. “I believe I can tell you what it was - - what it is - - and explain what has happened to you and how you may get your powers back! But first - - you will have to face the fact that everything you thought you knew about this creature Firestorm is wrong!”
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