Svarozhich surveys the world and is not pleased. He plans to cleanse the world with fire. Rasputin reveals more startling revelations about the true nature of Firestorm to Ron and Mikhail. With the help of Serafina and Dmitri, Ron and Mikhail form Firestorm and confront Svarozhich. Ron and Mikhail are faced with a decision that may have life-altering potential.
FZAAM! The God of Fire materializes in the City of Lights. He claims the city as part of his demesne and examines it, all in the same moment. And what he sees does not please him.
FZAAP! So the Russian God of Fire comes to the Big Apple. FZAAM! What he sees here pleases him even less. He continues his journey. Svarozhich’s journey takes him elsewhere around the world. He sees the squalor, the overpopulation, the stripping of the land’s natural resources. Wells tap oil deposits like veins and bleed them dry. The sea roils, soiled and dying. Even atop the land’s highest peak, the air is polluted. There is no place you can stand on the planet and breathe truly clean air. And the God is angry.
At last, the God returns from where he began his journey. “Everywhere I look the humans crawl like maggots. And everything they touch is blight,” Svarozhich says. He hovers in the night sky over Moscow. “I know now why I was awakened. The world needs a cleansing,” he continues. “A cleansing by fire. A fire to clear away the clutter and undergrowth, to ripen the new seeds and give them room to grow. A fire to transform the world.” He looks up to the sky and stretches his arms out. Fire begins to swirl and flow away from him, quickly spreading far over the city.
The home of Rasputin. “Get out of here!” Mikhail scoffs at Rasputin.
“I tell you again - - everything you think you know about Firestorm is wrong!” Rasputin argues. “Dmitri, it is necessary that all minds are linked together again, for you all have parts to play if Firestorm is to live again. And for the sake of all who live, it is necessary Firestorm live again!”
Dmitri performs the mental link between the group and Rasputin begins to explain. “First, you must know, I am a dabbler in the mystic arts, a seeker of knowledge, a catspaw - - if you will - - for fate,” he tells them telepathically. “There are others like myself: Of my own certain knowledge there is an impertinent bumbler in England as well as a dilettante in Washington.”
Rasputin reaches a hand out to Ron’s shoulder. “Knowledge is what we most require now,” he continues in their thoughts. “Somewhere locked within you, is the truth that I suspect exists. You block it subconsciously now. It is necessary for you to relive it - - to relive all the events that happened the moment that Firestorm was born.”
“You will need another mind to guide yours,” Rasputin says.
“Maybe,” Ron answers. “But I don’t trust you or Dmitri inside my head.”
“If our American friend will permit me, I will do it,” offers Serafina telepathically.
“I guess..,” Ron answers.
Serafina turns and places her hands on each side of Ron’s head. “Then relax. Let my mind meld with yours,” she directs him. “Cast your thoughts back to the incident in the nuclear facility, to the explosion that created Firestorm.”
“Okay…I’m there,” Ron says, closing his eyes to concentrate.
“Time will slow and you will experience nanoseconds passing. We will experience everything with you.”
In Ron’s mind, he sees himself lying on the floor in the atomic pile room. Just to his side is the dynamite charge set by Eddie Earhart and his gang. In slow-motion, Ron relives the explosion.
“I…I’m being ripped apart! I can feel it!” he gasps. “The pain! Dear Lord, the pain! Someone…something…there!”
Two radiant hands reach out to Ron’s head in the midst of the explosion. VIHAAAAAAA! “There’s a change…I’m being brought back together..!” Ron says. ROOOOOOM! “No! Going too far! Merging!” he cries out. In his mind, he sees Firestorm standing and laughing.
“That’s him! The other one I sense in your Firestorm matrix!” Serafina says quickly. “The creature that caused you to merge! That was him!”
“I understand now why it has been so hard to uncover this one,” Rasputin says, holding his hand to his chin in thought. “More than one consciousness was involved. And, I suspect, its true target was the man Stein. Your mind took precedence because you were awake during the transformation. You are a child of your media, of the American idolatry of the meta-human. You made what you became into a superhero because that was the only way you could explain these ‘powers’ you were given. The addition of Mikhail Denisvoitch changed the matrix, allowed the creature to come closer to the surface, using the amnesiac mind of this Stein as the template for its own consciousness. Yes, it all fits!”
“Why did Jama enter this… ‘matrix’, as you call it?” Mikhail asks.
“The entity was trying still to assert itself,” Rasputin explains. “The sympathy between the African and the American, the physical contact, the presence of fire - - all were factors.”
“So what is this entity?” Ron asks.
“Link minds again so you may understand,” Rasputin directs. Serafina makes the telepathic connection. “The entity has walked the Earth before in different guises,” Rasputin continues. “All nations have legends…myths…about him. The Greeks called him Prometheus, the giver of the gift of fire. The Norse knew a different aspect of the entity and called him Surtur, who would cleanse the world by flame after the twilight of the gods.”
“I am a student of comparative religions, though a believer in none of them,” Rasputin continues. “The entity that formed Firestorm has been known in many religions, sometimes as lifegiver, sometimes as destroyer, much like fire itself - - a servant when controlled, a force of destruction when it is not. The Earth raises spirits of itself to defend and protect in times of need - - these spirits fuse with mortals to for avatars. Such entities are called Elementals.”
Rasputin pictures Firestorm, Red Tornado, and Swamp Thing in his mind and the others see it through the telepathic link. “I had identified the Elementals of Earth and Air,” Rasputin explains. “I knew Fire had emerged but was not certain where. Now I do; the Fire Elemental is the being you know as Firestorm.”
“Holy moley!” Ron blurts.
“If what you say is true, then how was the Svarozhich creature able to steal this Fire Elemental from us?!” Mikahil asks in disbelief.
“Svarozhich is a clone infused with Firestorm’s cells, taken during the metagene bomb aftermath,” Rasputin answers. “The creature is physically compatible with the entity’s needs but lacks your human scruples. The entity is freer to act in the Svarozhich persona. That is what it seeks. The human side of the Fire Elemental is absolutely necessary - - it’s the difference between Prometheus and Surtur. Fire - - controlled - - is a friend and servant to man. Unchecked, it can be his destroyer. We must find this Svarozhich and you two must reclaim Firestorm. To this end, both your powers, Serafina, and yours, Dmitri, will be needed. Come!”
Rasputin leads them to the door and they put on their coats. “I will tell you this now, Ronald Raymond and Mikhail Denisovitch,” he explains. “All our hopes lie in you. And your only hope, ultimately, lies in surrender. Complete and utter surrender. Now…we go to find the false God of Fire.”
He’s not hard to find. The group walks outside and sees fire raging across the city. “Bozhe moi!” Mikhail gasps at the sight. “I think he’s somewhere around here, guys.”
Out of the sky, four armored figures fly into the area and approach Svarozhich. “Look! Rocket Reds!” Serafina cries out.
The Rocket Reds form to attack. Svarozhich aims his hands at them. FZAAM! Svarozhich launches a fire burst! BUHROOOM! It explodes, blasting the Rocket Reds away. “AAIIEEE!” one yells as he falls from the sky.
“So much for the charge of the heavy brigade,” Ron observes.
“Dmitri, Serafina…use your psi powers to shield our presence from Svarozhich,” Rasputing directs.
“He already knows. He doesn’t care,” Serafina answers.
FOOMP! Svarozhich flies down near them. WHOOMP! Fire flows down from him and begins to burn the area around the group.
“Dmitri, Serafina - - link our thoughts!” Rasputin urges. The link is formed.
“I have determined to cleanse the world by flame, to clear away the deadwood humanity has created and let new life rise,” Svarozhich announces, hovering above them. “I was content to let you perish with your world, but since you have come to me to be sacrificed I will not refuse your gift. Come and be consumed.”
“Arkadin! Raymond! Concentrate now on forming Firestorm!” Rasputin orders. Ron and Mikhail join hands and try to fuse.
“Ha ha ha ha ha!” laughs Svarozhich. “You would steal back what once was yours?! Insipid and futile! Your wills combined are no longer enough!”
“Now! Serafina, Dmitri - - bend your wills with Mikhail and the American!” Rasputin instructs. “Concentrate on bringing the Elemental back to them!”
Svarozhich feels the effect. “No!” he yells. “I will not allow this!” FZAAM! He launches another burst of fire.
“The wall of flames! It closes in!” Dmitri yells.
“Don’t break, Uncle Dmitri!” Serafina pleads. “Concentrate on what we must do!”
“Your uncle has failed us, girl!” Rasputin snarls, smacking across Dmitri’s head. “It is now all up to you!”
“No! We’ll be burned alive! Uhnng!” groans Dmitri as he staggers and falls from the blow.
“Then I shall have to suffice,” Serafina says, concentrating as hard as she can to focus on Ron and Mikhail.
“I - - will - - not - - yield!!!” yells Svarozhich.
FOOMP! Light radiates and envelops Ron and Mikhail. “Uncle Mikhail!!!” Serafina cries out.
FZAAM! Firestorm appears. He leaps into the air. “Go to safety. I will deal with my doppelganger,” he directs the others.
Svarozhich fires a burst at Firestorm. “When I have killed you, the power will come back to me!” Svarozhich says.
“You must touch what you would destroy,” Firestorm answers as he dodges the attack.
FZAAK! Svarozhich fires again, this time hitting Firestorm! “AAAGH!” Firestorm yells as he is struck in the chest. He starts to fall.
“I can touch you,” Svarozhich says. “Your density was near zero but was not at zero! I know your tricks! I was you! I struck at your very molecular bonding! Next time, I will dissolve them - - and you shall truly cease to be!”
“You stole the power from me last time because I was unprepared! Not this time!” Firestorm answers. FASHHH! He fires a nuclear burst at Svarozhich.
“The power calls to me!” Svarozhich says, descending toward Firestorm. “It yearns to burn free - - unrestrained by your petty humanity! I am the rightful Lord of Fire!”
Firestorm grapples with Svarozhich. “Prove it,” Firestorm replies. FZAAP! FZAAM! WHOOOOOOO! Winds sweep around the two combatants, forming a tornado of fire as they clash. KRAKADOOM!
“Child, link me with the minds of your uncle and the American in Firestorm!” Rasputin requests. “Now - - before the city is destroyed and our chance is lost!”
“A-Alright,” Serafina answers as she watched the fiery battle.
“You who are Firestorm, listen to me!” Rasputin says telepathically. “This is Rasputin! You cannot win! You and your doppler are too evenly matched! Your only hope is surrender! But not to Svarozhich! You must surrender to the Fire Elemental - - to Firestorm! You have always held something back of yourselves, never surrendering your identities, your sense of self! The meld has never been complete and now - - to defeat Svarozhich - - it must be! Even if it means you never return to your own lives, you must surrender to Firestorm! Otherwise, Svarozhich must inevitably win the struggle! Are you willing?”
“To say yes is to bid farewell to my family - - never to hold my children again; to abandon all hope that Nina and I can be reconciled,” Mikhail answers. “To say no is to condemn them and all that lives to death. What choice is there but to say - - I agree. I consent.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking. To give up and sense of freedom, any feeling of independence - - it’s like giving up life itself!” Ron answers. “Yet, am I willing to let everything else die, just so that I can live? It’s so tempting but - - not even I am so selfish. Yes, I’ll surrender…”
Firestorm and Svarozhich stand close together with their hands interlocked. “And you! Svarozhich - - will you enter our meld as well?” Firestorm asks him. “Our struggle is useless. We are the same being after all.”
“…Yes..,” Svarozhich answers.
SHOOOMP! WHOOOOOOOOSH! Bright light coalesces around Firestorm and Svarozhich. Serafina and Rasputin shield their eyes from the incredible brightness. A single figure descends from the point of fusion, coming down to land in front of Serafina and Rasputin.
“Are…Are you Firestorm?” Rasputin asks.
“Yes. As I was always meant to be,” Firestorm replies.
“Uncle?” Serafina asks.
Firestorm reaches out his hand and touches her shoulder. “Yes. And no. I am not him, though he is a part of me,” he explains. “I am one of this planet’s defenders - - a planet much abused and misused in recent times. But I also know what it is to be human - - of the hopes and dreams mankind possesses. I can be mankind’s friend but I can also be mankind’s scourge. The final decision on which I shall be rests, I suspect, with humanity.” He turns and flies up into the night.
“Child, why do you weep? Firestorm lives and the world - - for now - - is safe,” Rasputin asks.
“I scanned the creature for some trace of my uncle and I found nothing - - nothing!” Serafina answers through her tears.
At the Trofimov’s dacha in Arkangel, Nina awakens. “What is that bright light in the children’s room?” she thinks. She walks to their room and opens the door. Inside, she sees the newly transformed Firestorm standing next to the children. He holds his hands over them and energy flows in a bright radiance to them. “Saints in Heaven! Who are you?!” Nina gasps. “What are you doing to my children?!”
“I am Firestorm,” he explains. “I know the agonies your children have suffered. The littlest one still had glass embedded in her face. I’ve transmuted it to gas; it has escaped and now I’m healing the tissue. She is healed - - save for the memories. I have done this for the memory of your husband.”
He turns towards Nina. “Memory?! Is he - - is Mikhail - - ?!” Nina asks in disbelief.
“Just remember. Your husband always loved you,” Firestorm answers. He lowers his molecular density, phases through the bedroom wall, and flies up into the night sky.
“I know. I believe that,” Nina says, watching through the window as Firestorm climbs. “Just as I fervently believe that - - someday - - Mikhail will return to me.”