Firestorm leaves Belle Reve following the battle with Kobra during the The Janus Directive. Dr. La Grieve, seeking to study Firehawk at the Institute, contacts Lorraine Reilly. Vandermeer Steel's CEO, James Finch, hires a new protector for his company - Typhoon. Firestorm returns to Vandermeer Steel and is confronted by Typhoon.
Last issue, Firestorm flew off to help a friend of Dr. Simon La Grieve. He wound up embroiled in the Janus Directive, working with the Suicide Squad, Checkmate, Manhunter, Captain Atom, Peacemaker, Major Force, the Force of July, and others in a desperate battle against Kobra. Most of those people, in fact, are in that giant sphere he is carrying.
Firestorm hovers over the ground, a massive blue-black sphere poised on his shoulders. People mill about below him in a clearing among the trees. FZAAM! SCRHRAAK! The sphere begins to fade away.
“The sphere is dissolved,” Firestorm announces. “You may all go now.”
“Flamin’ wise guy! Got half a mind to pop him one!” Kobra snorts as he emerges.
“Get in, Kobra. Got a cell in Belle Reve with your name on it,” a guard replies as he guides prisoners into a waiting police van.
FASHHHH! A loud noise nearby startles the gathering. “That was the ark,” Captain Atom says, flying into view overhead. “The Janus Directive really is over now.”
“Not quite! Listen up, people!” orders Sarge Steel. “There’s been a top secret security clearance put on this whole affair. That means you don’t talk to your dog about it.”
“And what if I chose to do otherwise?” Firestorm asks.
“Then you’ve put yourself outside the law and we will take every step to shut you down. Got it?” Steel replies.
“Mr. Steel, I am a force of nature and not subject to your laws. You can not force me to submit to them,” Firestorm answers.
Captain Atom walks next to Firestorm. “If he can’t, others can,” Captain Atom warns, pointing a finger at Firestorm’s face.
“Anyone who thinks so is invited to try,” Firestorm counters. FOOSH! He leaps into the air and flies off.
Sarge Steel and Captain Atom stand together watching as Firestorm flies away. “I don’t think I like the sound of that,” Steel says.
“Neither do I,” Captain Atom replies. “Looks like Firestorm has been through some changes - - again. I think he has become a very dangerous individual.”
On the campus of Vandermeer University, Dr. Emily Rice sits in the office of Dr. Simon La Grieve, Director of the Institute for Meta-Human Studies. “But we’ve already sent the Parasite back to Belle Reve! His escape along the way wasn’t our fault!” she tells Dr. La Grieve. “Simon, I’m being pressured by all sorts of groups about the presence of meta-human criminals on campus. Parents are starting to take their kids out of Vandermeer. The City Council itself is considering a ban on us! We’re on the verge of having to close down the Institute for Meta-Human Studies.”
“Hrumph! I did warn you about this from the start, Dean Rice!” replies Dr. La Grieve. “I’ve never felt comfortable about having people with these powers close to a major urban center!”
“Water over the dam,” Dr. Rice answers. “At least we can say we’re making good faith gestures - - such as sending Parasite back. Killer Frost got loose, too, right? When do we send her back?”
“Frost is a different case. She didn’t escape; she was released. It was sabotage,” Dr. La Grieve explains.
“You are joking!” Dr. Rice gasps.
“Far from it!” Dr. La Grieve continues. “The evidence indicates that the bracelet designed to restrain Frost had been tampered with! I feel quite strongly about this. We’re making some real progress with Killer Frost - - Dr. Lincoln. We may be on the verge of a breakthrough regarding how she got her powers. If you intend to mandate her return, I intend to resign my post!”
“No one is looking for that, Dr. La Grieve,” Dr. Rice answers, standing up from her chair. “However, I’d like to suggest a new thrust to the IMHS. Vandermeer Steel, which founded the University and is still a major funder, is interested in the metahuman Hero, possibly for use in the corporate sector.”
“So let’s make Firehawk part of our studies here at the Institute, hmmm?” Dr. La Grieve suggests. Dr. Rice frowns. “Uhhhh…” mumbles Dr. La Grieve.
“Don’t get coy, Simon. You don’t do it well,” Dr. Rice counters. “Everyone knows that the Parasite temporarily stripped Firehawk of her powers during their battle and she reverted to her human form. She ran in here and you know who she is.” Dr. Rice reaches her hand to Dr. La Grieve’s shoulder. “Just call her, Simon. Ask her. Convince her - - for her own good and the survival of the Institute, hmm?”
“I’ll…I’ll talk to her,” Dr. La Grieve says softly, staring down at his desk.
Ringgg! The telephone rings in Lorraine Reilly’s apartment. She walks to it and picks up the receiver. “Lorraine? Hello, this is Ed Raymond in New York. Have you heard from Ron?” Ed asks. “We caught this new Firestorm on the news and we called Martin Stein’s apartment and he hadn’t seen Ron…”
“I talked with the…the ‘new’ Firestorm. Ron and Mikhail are both still a part of him, but Firestorm claims they are now fused together permanently,” Lorraine explains. “He - - Firestorm - - claims he’s a Fire Elemental - - some sort of guardian spirit raised up by the Earth. It needs a human host.” She listens to Ed for a moment. “I know. I’m confused as well. If Ron is part of this matrix, he’s not in charge. I’m sorry to be the bearer…Yes, of course. If I hear anything else, you’ll be the first to know. Yes. I…I miss him, too. Yes. Thank you. Goodbye.”
Knock knock! “Who is it?” Lorraine asks, turning to open her door.
“Miss Reilly?” Dr. La Grieve says as the door opens. “Forgive me, but we need to talk.”
Vandermeer Steel. James Finch sits at his desk, talking on the phone. “I’d hoped for a little more vision from a man of your…Hello? Hello?” He tosses the phone over his shoulder. His assistant, Charthouse, scrambles to catch it. “Well, so much for Lex Luthor,” Finch continues. “Says he doesn’t need a superhero to symbolize his company - - he symbolizes his company. Egomaniacal…! Setting up the Captains of Industry may be harder than I thought, Charthouse. Sunderland Corp is the only one making positive noises.”
“Time for plan B, sir?” Charthouse asks.
“Time for plan B. Let’s head for the sub-basement,” Finch replies as he walks into the hallway. He and Charthouse take the elevator down and are greeted by security guards as the step into the corridor.
“Afternoon, Mr. Finch,” a guard says. He opens a heavily secured door and Finch walks inside the room. A solitary man sits inside,
“Well. You ready to go to work for us?” Finch asks the man.
“Depends on the work,” he answers.
“Don’t give me that. We sprung you - - helped you get your act together again. You owe us!” Finch replies, pointing at the man.
“Some things I can’t do; some things I won’t do. So it depends on what you want done,” the man says.
“Simple. If Firestorm comes back to trash the factory, you trash Firestorm,” Finch explains.
The man stands and clenches his fist. “That I can and will do. Okay, Mr. Finch - - Typhoon’s aboard,” he answers.
FOOOOSH! Firestorm flies along the Pittsburgh skyline near the rivers. He descends amidst a forest of smokestacks belching ugly black smoke into the air. SHWOOMP! He blasts through the roof of a Vandermeer Steel factory building and lands on the smelting room floor in a cascade of wood and shingles.
“Flee!” he commands to the stunned steel workers.
“You bet!” one replies as he and several co-workers run away.
“I gave you one warning! I don’t intend to give you another!” Firestorm yells.
“One was all we needed,” calls a voice from above to Firestorm. Finch stands on a catwalk overhead. “Gave us time to prepare,” Finch continues.
CRASH! A section of wall blows down and a swirling mass of wind blows into the room. WHUUUUUUU! Finch is swept into the blast of wind. “Typhoon, you idiot!” Finch yells. “No tornadoes in an enclosed space!”
Firestorm stands trying to brace himself against the power of the winds. “Can’t…focus!” he stammers. The tornadic winds sweep him off his feet, carrying him up through the gaping hole in the factory roof and out into the sky.
“This time, man - - this time I’m going to grind your bones to pulp!” Typhoon calls down from the top of the tornado. “No games this time!”
WUUUUUUUU! SHUUUUUUUU! Firestorm is blown upside-down and completely out of control. KRASH! He smashes into the side of the factory and bricks rain down from the impact.
“Damn you, Typhoon!” Finch yells. “I told you to get him out of the factory - - but not by destroying the factory!”
“HA HA HA HA!” laughs Typhoon. Firestorm falls onto a concrete gargoyle projecting out from the factory wall. “Die, Firestorm!” Typhoon yells. SCHRAAAK! SCHRAAAK! He casts twin lightning bolts down at Firestorm. KRAAK! They sizzle through the sky, and…BOOM! The lightning explodes into Firestorm.
Two office workers look down from a factory window as Firestorm clings to the wall just below them. “Oh, that poor man - - !” cries out Mr. Willingham.
“C’mon, Mr. Willingham! You know the first thing they told us about these super-battles - - get away from the windows!” his secretary warns.
“GRAAAAHHHHR!” Firestorm yells, scowling fiercely. “TYPHOOOON!” He leaps off the building and flies into the storm. “If it is war you want, it is war you will have!!!” he yells. SPAKOW! He fires a nuclear burst up the vortex at Typhoon.
“If this staggered you once, the second time should kill you!” Typhoon replies, firing another burst of lightning.
“It has to touch me first!” Firestorm answers as he instantly lowers his density and becomes intangible.
SCHRAAAK! The lightning sizzles through Firestorm. PA-KOW! BOOOOM! The lightning smashes into the factory building behind him, blasting bricks and mortar about.
“If you’ve reduced your mass to near zero, then you won’t be able to resist when I increase the force of the wind!” Typhoon yells. SHUUUUUUU! Firestorm is swept into the incredibly fast winds.
Inside the factory offices, a man calls for help. “Operator?” he cries into his phone. “Operator, get me the police! We’re all in terrible danger! There’s these two superhumans battling outside our windows and…”
SHRAAAAK! Typhoon flashes past the man’s window casting lightning bolts at Firestorm. KRASHHH! The man’s office window shatters! WUUUUU! Typhoon’s winds howl into the room. “AIIIEEE!” the man shrieks in horror.
At Pittsburgh Police Headquarters, officers and S.W.A.T. team members assemble to respond to the steel factory. “C’mon, you jokers! Get the lead out!” a police supervisor barks at his men. “We got two rampaging metahumans in downtown Pittsburgh! Break out the riot gear!”
“Break out the miracles!” thinks an officer as he monitors his walkie-talkie.
The Chief of Police listens over his phone, scowling angrily. “I don’t care what the Governor is doing!” he blurts. “Get hold of him and tell him we need the National Guard now!!!”
SHWOOOMP! SCHRAAAK! BA-BOOOOM! Firestorm and Typhoon trade attacks with each other in the sky over Pittsburgh. Spot fires break out on buildings damaged by Typhoon’s storm winds.
In Lorraine’s apartment, Dr. La Grieve makes an offer. “I will do everything I can to protect your secret, Miss Reilly, but you must let us study you as Firehawk!”
“’Everything you can’ is not exactly an absolute guarantee, is it, Dr. La Grieve?” Lorraine asks. “And I thought the deal you struck with Firestorm had already bought your silence. I know, I know - - you haven’t much choice in the matter. And neither it seems, have I.”
FASHHH! A loud noise rushes past the building. “What - - ? Not another metagene bomb?!” blurts Dr. La Grieve. He looks out the window. “Oh my!” he gasps. “Miss Reilly, I think you’d better take a look at this!”
Lorraine looks out at the sky. KRAKA-KA-THOOOOM! Explosions and lighting thunder across the sky as Firestorm and Typhoon battle. “In the heart of the city?!? Have they both gone mad?!?” Lorraine says, breaking into a run. “Excuse me, Doctor. FIREHAWK!”
SWOOSH! Firehawk phases through the apartment wall and flies up towards the fight. “People will get killed out there!” she says as she gains speed.
Dr. La Grieve watches her fly away. “And off she goes, without hesitation or thought of herself of her own problems, rushing to protect the lives of others,” he says. “Yes, that will probably do for the textbook definition of heroism!”
SHWOMP! SPAKOOOW! Firestorm blasts nuclear bursts at Typhoon. Firehawk speeds into the space between them. “Stop it!!! Can’t you fools see what you’re doing to the city?!?” she yells out.
“Don’t you know better than to get in the way of two men fighting?!?” Typhoon replies angrily. WHUMP! He punches Firehawk in the stomach and she doubles over in the air.
“No, Typhoon! Your fight is with me!” Firestorm calls out. “And your fight is over!” FZAAP! Firestorm creates a tight yellow-orange sphere around Typhoon, encasing him completely. He speeds towards the sphere with a fist outstretched and…KRAK! He smashes into the sphere! It shatters and Typhoon is blown back through the air, stunned by the incredible strike. He falls and falls until….KRASHHHH! He blasts through the roof of a Vandermeer Steel building in a cloud of fire and smoke. He falls to the factory floor and lies motionless.
“Now, Mister Finch!” Firestorm yells. “Now I will destroy not just your factory but your entire complex!!!” He begins to descend toward the steel mill property.
“NO!!!” Firehawk yells, flying in front of Firestorm. “I won’t stand for it! You and he have done enough damage for one day! With no thought as to the innocent lives you’ve hurt or destroyed!!! How many died today? Typhoon may have started the fight but you provoked it by coming back to raze this factory because it offends you! Well, Buster - - the only way you’re doing any more destruction is by going through me!”
“Do you think I can’t?!?” Firestorm answers, scowling at her.
“Prove it or move it,” Firehawk replies.
“You win, mortal. This time,” Firestorm concedes. “I don’t wish to destroy you. Next time, I will.” WHOOOOOOSH! Firestorm flies upwards, quickly disappearing into the night.
“I believe you,” Firehawk thinks sadly. “Every time I see you, there seems to be less and less of Ron in you. If we have to confront each other again, I know you won’t back down. And then what will I do?!”
“Firehawk!” a voice yells up to her. “James Hancock Finch. CEO, Vandermeer Steel. Just wanted to thank you for keeping that flame-headed freak from burning us down. Pittsburgh can use a few meta-humans like you!”
Firehawk glares at him angrily. “Finch, someone brought Typhoon out of hiding, gave him that costume, and set him on Firestorm!” she yells back. “Whoever did is as responsible for what happened as Typhoon and Firestorm. I hope you have lots of liability insurance!” SPAKOW! She bolts off into the sky.
“Charthouse, dig up everything you can on Firehawk,” Finch directs. “Get me her real name, where she lives, what her folks do. The works. I think Vandermeer Steel has just found a new defender.”