At Sunderland Corporation in San Diego, the metahuman Metamorphosis Project is underway. Sunderland transforms the metahuman Air Wave into Maser and prepares him for the Captains of Industry. Firehawk undergoes testing and analysis at the Institute for Metahuman Studies. Firestorm meets with Gregori Rasputin and learns more of his Elemental nature. Firestorm returns to Vandermeer Steel and is confronted by Maser.
Firestorm’s battle with the being called Typhoon was decisive. So why is he angry?
“I am torn in two directions!” Firestorm thinks. He flies high into the atmosphere at the edge of space. “Below lies the planet I was created to defend! Look! I see it scarred and poisoned by the hand of man! I am almost consumed by my anger!”
The sun creeps over the horizon. Its rays radiate out as Firestorm gazes below. “I want to consume the world with my fire and let it blossom anew - - to let the planet reclaim itself from the depredations of those who walk upon it!” Firestorm thinks. “But then I remember those lives of which I have been a part and which have been a part of mine and I find I cannot strike! Anger. Sorrow. Love. Frustration. These are the compass points of my life and I am blown from one to the next and can find no peace. The memories of my previous lives are too fresh and green to let me cleanse this world as I might. If I cannot find peace on this planet, I will fling myself into space and seek it there!”
Firestorm streaks upwards into space, leaving abright trail of fire behind him. Then, he begins to fall back, quickly gaining speed. “YAAAAHHHRRRG!” he yells in agony. “Pain! Can’t focus…all going dark..!” He falls like a meteor through the atmosphere. WHAM! He comes down in a forest, landing with a massive explosion.
Outside San Diego, California…Two people stand in an ornate room. A capsule containing the body of a man stands on a pedestal. His face is visible through the capsule’s window. An American flag is draped behind the capsule.
“…afterwards, we had General Sunderland’s body placed in this cryogenic capsule and brought him with us when we moved to our new corporate H.Q.,” Miss Radcliffe explains. “I hope this doesn’t seem too ghoulish, Mr. Windsor, but it was specified in the General’s will.”
“Quite all right, Miss Radcliffe. No apology needed,” Mr. Windsor replies. “After all, I am the main beneficiary of my cousin’s will, aren’t I? And since he gave me all his money and his Sunderland holdings, I think I can indulge his last eccentricity. After all, we British tend to prize our eccentrics. And my cousin was nothing if not eccentric. But now to business, hm? This Metamorphosis Project thing - - how is it proceeding?”
“If you’ll come with me, sir, we’d like to show you,” Miss Radcliffe answers. She leads him away from the memorial display. They pass down a hall to a room busy with security guards and scientists.
“The primary thrust of the Metamorphosis Project has been exploring the potential use of the metahuman in commerce,” Miss Radcliffe explains. “Up until now, the metahuman’s place in society has largely been determined by its function - - both on an official and quasi-official basis in law enforcement.”
“Your pass, Mr. Windsor,” a security guard says as he hands over an access badge.
Three scientists gather around a desk reviewing information as Mr. Windsor and Ms. Radcliffe approach. “Let me tell you somethins about the first product of our researchers, Mr. Windsor,” one scientist says. “His full name is Harold Lawrence Jordan - - although he prefers to use his middle name these days. Something about not wanting to be confused with some uncle, I believe. Young Jordan has also been known by another name - - as the hero Air Wave. Inherited the title from his father, it seems.”
The scientist guides his guest to a large observation window. In the room below, several metahumans undergo testing and analysis by a cadre of scientists and technicians. “These are some of the other potential metahumans we’re currently developing,” the scientist continues. “None quite as promising as young Jordan, I’m afraid. Jordan came to use, asking us to help him to develop a power he already had. Claimed that his helmet allowed him to change molecular structure to allow him to ‘ride’ radio or television transmission beams. This, of course, was nonsense. Our researches discovered the true nature of his ability and have enabled us to train the young man so we may exploit his potential. If you’ll just step into the presentation theater, Mr. Windsor?”
The scientist leads Windsor into an adjoining room. Two men stand ahead on either side of a large television screen. “Mr. Windsor, may I present our Chief Research Scientist, Doctor Moon, and the head of our in-house P.R. Group, Rodney Hawkins,” Miss Radcliffe says.
“Well, gentlemen - - I’ve been sufficiently tantalized,” Mr Windsor says. “What is young Jordan’s power and where does it come from?”
“His power is inherent,” Dr. Moon explains. “The helmet was only a neural amplifier, allowing Jordan to effect and control change in body. Jordan possesses the ability to change his body into any frequency of electromagnetic radiation, which includes radio and televisin transmission but also x-rays, gamma rays, infra-red as well as the visible spectrum, plus radar, microwaves, and induction heating. Knowing this, it has simply become a matter of application and training Jordan how to use the power.”
“Didn’t I read somewhere that gamma rays in insufficiently high dosages could turn common people into incredible rampaging monsters?” Windsor asks.
“If were so, we would have nation of such monsters. We use gamma rays every day in food sterilization, polymer manufacture and research. Where you get such silly idea?” Dr. Moon replies.
“Uh, perhaps we should meet the young man, hm?” Ms. Radcliffe suggests. She pulls out a wireless phone and speaks into it. “Hello, New York! Cue Maser!”
The large television screen lights up, displaying an image of a blonde-haired man in a red and white costume. Blue cape, gloves, and boots accompany the outfit which is adorned at the shoulder and midsection by red ‘M’ emblems.
“Mr. Windsor, I present Maser,” Dr. Moon announces, gesturing to the screen.
“He’s in New York? But I thought we were going to meet here!” Windsor replies.
“No problem, Mr. Windsor!” Maser says through the television. “Just stand away from the screen please!” In New York City, a streak of light shoots up into the sky from somewhere near the World Trade Center. It shoots through space to a communications satellite, then speeds across the United States, landing in a satellite dish on the roof of the Sunderland Corporation building.
KRASHHH! The television screen shatters in a blast of glass and plastic as a human figure emerges from inside it. Maser leaps into the room. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Chairman. I’m Maser!” he announces.
“Fascinating! But who came up with the name and the costume - - ?” Windsor exclaims.
“That’s Rod’s department, Mr. Windsor. Perhaps we should let him explain,” Ms. Radcliffe suggests.
“I want to assure you, Mr. Windsor, that we put our best thought behind this kid,” Hawkins begins. “Research gave us a run-down on his power and we were going to call him Captain Spectrum but it sounded too much like Doctor Spectro - - the guy Captain Atom’s always beating up - - and we didn’t want the public to get confused. So we hit upon Maser - - which is a sonic laser sort of thing and it’s sort of what he can do and it sounded very sexy and tested real high. One word, two syllables - - make a nice sound bite for the media.”
Hawkins and Dr. Moon stand next to Maser. “We went with a red, white, and blue color scheme because it says America and will automatically predispose the public to trust him,” Hawkins continues. “It’s a subconscious sort of thing. We went ‘round and ‘round the mask / helmet thing but decided he should be unmasked. It’s open. It’s an honesty thing. Besides, the kid is good looking and will appeal to the pubescent and young girl market. Making him a blonde doesn’t hurt, either.”
Dr. Moon reaches to Maser’s red headband. “Thanks to advances in microminiaturization, we were able to reduce all the circuitry in old helmet to just this headband,” Dr. Moon explains.
“I want you to know we debated hard and long about the cape thing but we felt it was a swashbuckler thing, a romantic thing, and - - at the same time he’s safe, sexually non-threatening,” Hawkins adds. “We really like the way Superman lets his cape get tattered. It says, ‘Hey, even though I’m supposed to be invulnerable, I really am vulnerable.’ It’s brilliant. So we made ours lightweight - - it tears easy and billows fantastically. It’s a dramatic thing. Merchandising is very big on our boy. With this suit and a few good breaks, we could do a lot in terms of subsidiary sales - - toys, games, Saturday morning live action and / or cartoon. It’s a Booster Gold sort of thing.”
“Yes, well, I’m sure,” Windsor comments. “But it helps marketing if the product itself is sound, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, is there the potential in our Lawrence Jordan that there is in a Michael Jordan, do you see? What I’m asking is - - what can he actually do besides turn himself into a broadcast beam and transmit himself, hm?”
“Micro-shards of ruby crystals are incorporated into gloves, can convert electromagnetic radiation in body into laser beams with fingertip precision,” Dr. Moon explains. “Maser, to demonstrate, please.”
Maser reaches a hand out and aims it at a large metal block. FSSSST! Four rays shoot from his fingers and sizzle through the block. “That was steel,” Dr. Moon notes. “Now, please, to notice wood panel as Maser applies severe induction heating.”
Maser aims his hand at a large cube of wood that stands next to the melted steel block. A beam of heat emanates from his hand and…FOOMP! The wood cube bursts into flame.
“Maser can, of course, turn his entire body into electromagnetic radiation and travel at the speed of light,” Dr. Moon continues. “However, sometimes it’s more convenient to use magnetic attraction and repulsion in areas that have a lot of metal - - such as cities - - to enable himself to fly.” Maser focuses magnetic energy and begins to float high overhead.
“Maser can see throughout all spectrums of light. Thus, night is as bright as day to him when he adjusts to infrared spectrum. He has true x-ray vision,” Dr. Moon adds. “He has learned to adapt to radar / sonar abilities and can follow a heat trail or - - in the case of heat-seeking missile - - generate false one most formidable.”
“I got lots of potential, Mr. Windsor,” Maser says as he floats back down to the floor. “The area I’m most interested in are the potential medical applications. I’d need lots of medical training first, but I feel I could be invaluable there! There’s also other industrial and pure research potentials that we could explore so I sorta hope that Sunderland will consider those as well!”
“Yes, yes. But you do have combat training, am I right?” Windsor asks.
“Well…some. Green Arrow and Green Lantern and Black Canary all started to train me but that sort of fell off and I was looking to learn more and I sorta wound up here but I was hoping..!” Maser answers.
“Yes, yes, of course. But we helped you, so you’ll help us, hm?” Windsor replies.
Hawkins and Radcliffe step a few feet away as Maser talks with Windsor. “How tight is our contract with him, Ms. Radcliffe?” Hawkins asks.
“We have outs, if we need them; he doesn’t,” Radcliffe explains. “Sunderland has copyright and trademark on both the costume and the name. If he just up and leaves, we can sue him for the cost of his training - - about two million dollars to date.”
“Excellent!” Hawkins says with a smile. “I plan on loaning Maser out to this Captains of Industry group that I memoed you about. We won’t announce him as part of Sunderland just yet. First, we see if he can hack it. If not, we can cut our losses. By the way, don’t encourage him on this Peace Corps stuff. Sunderland has its own agenda for our fair-haired boy.”
Insititute for Metahuman Studies, Vandermeer University. Firehawk stands in a testing room. FZAAM! She fires a heat burst at a large metal machine. SCHRAAK! The burst strikes and the machine melts and collapses.
“Uhhh…Thank you, Firehawk. You can stop now, you’re melting our equipment,” Dr. Morrison calls to her from behind protective glass in an adjoining observation room. Dr. La Grieve, Dr. Caius, and Dr. Pangloss look on in amazement. A heavy door opens and Firehawk walks back into the observation and monitoring room.
“You can revert to your human persona now, if you would,” Dr. Morrison directs. “We’re done testing your metahuman one - - for the moment.”
FASHHH! Firehawk transforms, but she emerges with a dark blue mask concealing her face. “Whaaaat?!” gasp Dr. Caius and Dr. Pangloss as they look at her.
“I agreed to submit to your testing, gentlemen,” Lorraine explains. “I never said I would tell you who I am.”
“But this is outrageous! If I cannot delve into her background, she is useless to my experiments!” Dr. Pangloss blurts.
“Pah! Your experiments are useless in themselves, Pangloss!” Caius counters. “But that of my experiments!”
“I’m sorry, Doctors Pangloss and Caius, but if you can’t get Firehawk to confide her secret to you..!” Dr. La Grieve says.
“You know it! Everyone knows you know it! You tell it!” Dr. Caius snorts.
“No. Absolutely, irrevocably no,” Dr. La Grieve replies. “And it is not a subject for debate, gentlemen!”
“Outrageous!” Dr. Caius fumes.
“Intolerable!” Dr. Pangloss adds as he and Dr. Caius stomp out of the room.
“Yes, you are, but I try not to hold it against you,” Dr. La Grieve calls after them.
“Am I done for the day?” Lorraine asks.
“For the day, but I’d like you back here at eight o’clock tonight,” Dr. Morrison replies.
“Why?” Lorraine asks.
“So I can take you to dinner,” Dr. Morrison says with a sly smile.
FASHHH! Lorraine transforms into Firehawk and whips her wing out at Dr. Morrison, causing him to jump in surprise. “Sorry,” she says. “I’m planning on having a headache.” She turns and walks off, phasing through a wall as she exits the room.
“After you’ve dusted yourself and your ego off, Morrison, I want you to hold down the fort awhile,” Dr. La Grieve says. “Dean Rice has summoned me into her presence.”
“Problems?” Dr. Morrison asks.
“Nothing important,” Dr. La Grieve replies as he walks towards the door. “The City Council is just considering a resolution that would bar all metahumans in general and the I.M.H.S. in particular from the Pittsburgh city limits. That’s all.”
Elsewhere…Firestorm lies on his back in the center of a giant, smoldering crater. A solitary man sits at the edge of the crater. Firestorm’s eyes open. He slowly sits up and looks at the man.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Firestorm,” the man calls down.
“…Who?” Firestorm asks softly.
“Hello. I am not certain you remember me,” the man replies. “I am Gregori Eilovitch Rasputin.”
“I remember you,” Firestorm says. “How long have I lain here?”
“A week, perhaps. Maybe more,” Rasputin answers. He stands near a small tent and campfire.
“What are we doing here?” Firestorm asks.
“As I told your…human selves…my business interests require me to be on both sides of the Iron Curtain,” Rasputin explains.
“That’s not what I meant,” Firestorm replies.
“I know it. You want to know how and why I am here,” Rasputin says. “I have some precognitive powers, especially where you seem concerned. Since we parted in Moscow, I have followed your…’career.’ You have blazed rashly - - without thinking. You act and react on impulse. Your fire is barely controlled. Do you ever consider the consequences of your acts?”
“I’m saving the planet,” Firestorm explains. He flies up and lands on the crater’s edge next to Rasputin.
“I see. And that’s why you tried to flee it, yes?” Rasputin asks. “It showed how little you know of what you are. You have no idea, do you, just how close you came to destroying yourself? You are formed of two natures - - and one of them is human and mortal and can be destroyed! As you nearly were here! And Elementals need a human form to walk the Earth!”
“The two natures war within me! The human side undermines what the Elemental side perceives what must be done!” Firestorm replies.
“What - - the destruction of an American steel factory?” Rasputin scoffs. “This is petty.”
“The humans rape the Earth and then they posion it! Vanermeer Steel is only one polluter but I will make an example of it! Perhaps then the next one I warn will heed that warning!” Firestorm explains. He lifts off and begins to fly away.
“And if they do not?!” Rasputin calls up to him.
“I will destroy them - - and the next one and the next one after that - - until my warnings are heeded!” Firestorm answers. “I will save this planet - - if I have to destroy all humanity to do it!”
Firestorm races across the Pacific, a trail of fire sweeping out behind him. He descends over Pennsylvania and quickly approaches Pittsburgh. He hovers above the massive Vandermeer Steel complex. SPAKOW! SPAKOW! He fires large atomic bursts from both hands that explode into the smokestacks and factory buildings.
“You were warned! Now suffer the consequences!” Firestorm yells.
James Finch looks out his office window, shocked at Firestorm’s sudden attack. He picks up the phone and quickly dials a number to the Sunderland Corporation. “Hello, Windsor?! He’s back!!!” Finch blurts into the phone. “For Heaven’s sake - - if you’re ever going to lend me this Maser, do it now!”
A streak of light shoots out of the satellite dish at Sunderland Corporation. It races up into space, bounces through a communication satellite, and hurtles down into Pittsburgh.
“Firestorm!” Maser yells as he appears on the rooftop of a Vandermeer Steel building. “My name is Maser! I call upon you to give up your vendetta on Vandermeer Steel or suffer the consequences!”
Firestorm turns and glares down at Maser. “You’ve thrown your lot with those committed to fouling the planet,” he warns. “Suffer your own consequences.” He aims a hand at Maser. FZAAMP! Two atomic bursts speed down.
SPAKOW! SPAKOW! They explode around Maser. He ducks and tries to shield his face. Maser aims his hand at Firestorm. “Force will be met with force,” he replies. FSSSSST! Four beams of energy shoot from his fingertips.
FZZZKT! The beams hit Firestorm’s chest and flash right through his back! “I…bleed..!” Firestorm says, looking down at the smoldering holes in his chest. He clenches a fist near the wound and they instantly close. “And I heal myself. Rasputin was wrong! I am not merely mortal! I am a force of nature and I will not be denied!”
Twin beams of red energy burst from Firestorm’s eyes. Maser teleports away, barely dodging the beams that explode into the factory building next to him. “You’re full of wind,” Maser says as he reappears behind Firestorm. “And I’m not going to let you burn down this complex! You won’t hit me so you can’t defeat me! Give it up!”
FZAAM! Firestorm fires an atomic burst that Maser dodges. He stands and gazes at Maser. Fire dances around his wrists. “Perhaps you’re right,” Firestorm says. “But you’ve hit me with your best shot and you can’t stop me, either. I don’t care if I beat you. I came to burn Vandermeer to the ground - - as I warned them I would. And that is something you can’t prevent.”
“Yeah, I can. But it will cost us both!” Maser replies. “You see, I’ve ‘read’ you! I can see your energy pattern - - I know what frequency it’s working on - - and I can disrupt it! The thing is - - I don’t know how to control it! I might wind up killing us both! Don’t make me do this!”
“Words. And words won’t stop me. I don’t believe you, Maser,” Firestorm says. He flies up and prepares to strike.
“Then Heaven help us both!” Maser cries out as he lunges towards Firestorm. They collide!
“YAAAAAAH!” Maser yells. WHAROOOOM! A massive explosion lights up the sky!
The factory building lies in ruins. Girders lie twisted on the ground. Spot fires burn in several locations. Maser lies face down amidst the rubble. Several men rush into the debris field.
“Over here!” a man yells as he sights Maser. He rushes over and kneels next to Maser. “The kid’s still alive, but he’s hurt bad! Someone call an ambulance!”
Finch walks over, surveying Maser and the destruction with a scowl. “There’s no sign of that flaming freak!” he thinks. “Did the blast destroy him? Because if it didn’t, we’re defenseless…unless I play one final card!”