Firestorm fights Stratos and Bazooka Joan atop the World Trade Center. Felicity Smoak is angered again by the methods Firestorm uses to fight them. The 2000 Committee dispatches a new assassin after Firestorm. Ed Raymond learns that the New York New Express is shutting down. Professor Stein and Belle Haney's quiet picnic at Central Park is interrupted when a volcano suddenly erupts near them. Firestorm battles Mindboggler at Central Park.
There are eight million stories in the naked city…and over a hundred of them make up the World Trade Center, New York’s tallest edifice complex. Here, on a clear day, you can see…New Jersey. But that doesn’t deter the tourists. However, they may be put off by…a sudden change in the weather.
A reddish burst of light appears on the rooftop of the South Tower. Strange currents of wind swirl in a slipstream towards and past the odd light. “It’s working! I’ve done it!” a voice calls out triumphantly from the rooftop, “The wind’s coursing about me! It’s my storm! Mine!”
On the rooftop stands a solitary figure, left arm raised in satisfaction as he surveys his handiwork. He is clad in flowing blue robes, an ‘S’ emblazoned on his silver belt. Blue hood and clear goggles cover his head, and his long blonde hair whips in the wind flow. “What an incredible feeling…to watch people stagger against a sudden headwind…and know that you’re making every step they take torturous!” he cries out, “But they can’t fight the air about them! Taking on Firestorm will be a breeze…for Stratos!”
Stratos leans over the Tower’s edge as the air currents flow around him. “I can harbor a hurricane…summon a sirocco…as easily as drawing a breath!” he savors, “With only a gesture…I can guide the gale…onto the observation deck! Run! Scurry for shelter! You’ll find none here…no shield against the howling wind…against the power of Stratos!” People on the observation deck are blown about by the gusts. Some cling to the tourist telescopes mounted to the deck. Others struggle and fall against the powerful wind stream. Stratos stands with arms raised, directing his mad symphony of the air.
Suddenly, behind him, Firestorm appears! “Hey, you with the windswept hair,” he calls down to Stratos, “I don’t think much of your power! All I see is some blowhard spouting a lot of hot air - - just another entrant in the Silly Name Club! That’s my opinion!” Firestorm floats along unimpressed behind Stratos, standing with arms folded across his chest. Stratos turns to face Firestorm and a small smile twists on his lips. “You ought to base your opinion - - on the facts! You’ve yet to witness…a tenth of what I can do!” Stratos raises his hand high, and a strong current of wind sweeps down and blasts into Firestorm! “Wullp! Almost…blew me away!” Ronnie thinks as he is pushed backward, “Gonna hafta be a little more careful with this clown!”
Ronnie turns out of the slipstream and flies back overhead. “If you wanna show off what you can do…join the Olympics! But don’t louse up my Monday morning flight, get me?” he calls down to Stratos. He aims a nuclear restructuring burst at the observation deck’s gift shop area. “Ronald, stop! That doesn’t belong to us,” Professor Stein warns. “Wanna see windpower? I’ll use my nuke powers on that souvenir stand…and turn it into - - my biggest faaaaaaannnnnn!” Ronnie transforms the stand into a giant circular fan, but his plan backfires! The fan blows strongly towards Stratos, who merely sidesteps and guides the air back out towards Firestorm! “Hotheaded idiot! I am master of all winds!” Stratos answers, “I can transform the tempest you’ve conjured up - - turning it against you!”
Firestorm extricates himself from the focused gale and flies back to confront his adversary. “Did you really think that would keep me away for - - Whoops!” he yells out in surprise. Looking down, he sees that four tourists have been caught in the wind stream, helplessly being carried along by its force! “Oh, you’ll be kept away, all right!” Stratos jeers, “You’ll be busy attending to these tourists…who’ll find themselves…on the brink of disaster! Over the edge with them!” The terrified tourists start to plummet down to certain doom!
Ronnie aims a restructuring burst at a group of telescopes on the rooftop. “Ronald! Make sure you restore those observation telescopes to their original shape when you’re through!” Stein reminds. Ronnie transforms them, answering, “Chill out, Professor! I don’t think the City’ll mind if I turn ‘em into a - - waterbed!” He lifts the newly created waterbed over his head and flies down along the tower’s edge. “Steel yourselves for a splashdown, folks!” he calls out as he guides the waterbed underneath the falling tourists. They come to a cushioned safe landing on the waterbed, and Ronnie flies them back up to the observation deck. Stratos observes from a nearby corner of the roof’s edge. “You can’t summon a squall…that I can’t squelch!” Ronnie calls out to Stratos as he sets the waterbed and its occupants safely down, “Throw in the towel, tired one! When it comes to power plays, Firestorm is definitely…not playing!”
WHAKOOOOOM! A huge explosion detonates behind Firestorm! “Missed my hide by a hair!” Ronnie exclaims, looking around for the source of the sudden attack. Overhead, he sees a rocket sled flown by an eye-patch adorned female. Above her head is the large muzzle of a bazooka, still smoking from the burst it just fired at him. “Stratos was distracting me - - so that - - whatever it is - - could get a clear shot at me! But - - who…” Ronnie asks as he watches its flight. The rocket sled turns for another pass. “Damn! Now he’s seen me!” its rider frets, “I don’t care! I don’t like skulking behind! I’d rather he confronted me - - directly!”
Stratos sweeps towards Firestorm on a wind current as the jet cycle takes position in the air behind him. “Heads up, Hot Stuff! Here comes the heavy artillery! Bazooka Joan is about to give you - - a dance lesson!” Stratos taunts. Another round from Bazooka Joe launches out, landing with an explosion at Firestorm’s feet. He leaps up just in time to dodge it! “Hoookay. The little lady riding ‘Rosebud’ almost earned herself a cigar!” he says with relief, “But a blast of my nuke power will turn her flying smokestack - - into a nice tame household appliance!” A beam of energy sails from Firestorm and lands on the barrel of Bazooka Joan’s weapon. It sputters and shakes and suddenly…giant kernels of popcorn start to fall out of the muzzle! “Plastic popcorn!” Bazooka Joan groans, “Damn him!”
As she turns for another pass, Ronnie aims another restructuring burst at the rooftop. “Awww…Now what’s she gonna do? Try ‘n’ run me over?” he says, looking back at her approach, “While her popgun’s making with the 21-kernel salute, I’ll fix them - - by fixing the roof!” Stratos suddenly finds himself being pulled down uncontrollably, unable to fight the invisible forces now affecting his body. “Wh-what’s happening! C-can’t move! I-I’m f-falling!” Stratos cries, landing hard on the rooftop and unable to get up. The sky sled soars near, and Bazooka Joan is pulled off her seat by the invisible energy! “Some - - force - - pulling me off my Sky Sled! What the hell’s he done now?” she asks, coming down in a rough landing on the roof next to Stratos. “Don’t - - ughh - - know!” he stammers as the two struggle, unable to move, “Some kind of magnetism! I-I’m stuck!”
Several minutes later, Firestorm stands over the helpless, squirming figures of Stratos and Bazooka Joe. They are stuck to the roof as if covered in Super Glue. Two police officers approach Firestorm as calm returns to the scene. “That rocket sled of hers crashed onto the roof, too! How’d you do it, Firestorm?” an impressed patrolman asks. “Just turned the roof suddenly into a lodestone, Officer,” Ronnie explains, “It attracted her sled…and the metal in their outfits! I’ve turned the roof back - - so you can take ‘em away!”
An angry woman walks up and suddenly interrupts Firestorm and the officers. “Take him away, too, officers!” she snorts, “He confessed, didn’t he? I’ll press charges!” Ronnie turns to her in surprise, asking, “Who…?” The woman disgustedly storms up to him, jabbing a stiff finger into his chest. “Felicity Smoak. Don’t trouble yourself to remember. You nearly wiped me out once as it is! But now…I’m ruined for sure!” she complains, “My software company has offices here! When you turned the roof to lodestone, you not only magnetized my software…but wiped out my business’ computer records!” Ronnie tries to reason with her. “Me? But I saved…” he starts. She quickly interrupts him, poking him again with her finger as she scowls at him. “You better have a lot saved! It’s going to cost you every penny! I’m organizing a class action suit against you! Me - - and the other businesses in the building!” she threatens.
Firestorm grows irritated with Ms. Smoak’s accusations. “In the words of another super-hero…’I’ve had all I can stand…and I can’t stands no more!’” he answers, stepping back to fire off a two-handed restructuring beam into her. “This oughta cool you down a little!” he tells her. Suddenly, Felicity Smoak’s clothes disappear, replaced by a swath of strategically placed bubbles! She scrambles to cover herself with her arms! “My clothes! They’re…soap suds!” she gasps in shock. “Serves you right for wearing polyester!” Ronnie teases, amused that the tables have turned. She quickly runs for the exit stairs, yelling back, “Witnesses! You’re all witnesses!” Ronnie smiles and indulges in a little sarcasm.”Yeah, and I’ll bet they like what they see!” he gloats as she flees. “Shut up! You’ll pay for this! I’ll sue!” she warns as she disappears hastily into the stairway.
Ronnie leaps skyward, flying past the tall, spire-like antenna above the North Tower. “Temper never gains anyone anything, Ronald!” Stein lectures, “In fact, now it’s going to cost us dearly!” Ronnie looks irritated as they fly along. “Professor, we may share this Firestorm persona, but we don’t share the same ideas!” he answers, “Blaming me for that attack is like blaming penguins for the Ice Age! I didn’t do anything to provoke it!”
That depends on one’s point of view, for…elsewhere…A shadowy figure points at a large display screen. Another mysterious figure stands next to him. Cloaked in a hooded magenta robe with pinpoint gleams of light emanating from the eyes, his appearance is reminiscent of a Jawa. The display screen shows an image of Firestorm flying away from the failed attack at the World Trade Center. “They botched the job horribly! How could you send them out there after Firestorm like that? They were no match for him!” the shadowy figure argues, “On the other hand, I…” The hooded figure interrupts. “Incognito, if you learn nothing else from me, learn patience,” he answers calmly, continuing, “Their purpose was merely to test the Nuclear Man’s mettle. To see how he operates, what his weak points are. Outline his strengths.”
Incognito thinks for a moment, then replies, “You could do that as easily with a computer. Run projections…simulate battles…” The hooded figure turns to face him. “Hardly enough,” he answers decisively, “That is what The Monitor did. Before that wastrel Slipknot was sent after Firestorm by the 2000 Committee! The agent The Monitor recommended failed…and as a result, the 2000 Committee has commissioned us to finish Firestorm instead!” Incognito replies, “So! They’re our new…underwriters! Dispatch me after Firestorm! I can go anywhere…disguise myself as anyone…even his best friend! He’ll never suspect me…until it’s too late!” The cloaked figure turns back to the viewscreen, staring icily at Firestorm’s image. “Perhaps…Perhaps you will get your chance to prove yourself,” he tells Incognito, “in the eyes of…The Breathtaker! But first…I’ve another agent…in mind!”
Later, as Ronnie Raymond reports to school… “’Class action suit.’ Who is she kidding?” he thinks as he walks along the hall to class, “Justa lotta legal mumbo jumbo to try ‘n’ intimidate me. My luck, I’ll end up in court!” He walks along, not paying attention, lost in thought. “I’ll have to get a lawyer. You don’t see Batman at some ‘Legal Clinic’ in the back of a Sears stor….ooolp!” Ronnie walks right into a classmate, bumping her shoulder and knocking her textbooks all over! “Oooooh! Now look what you’ve done!” she groans. She kneels to pick her books up and Ronnie bends down to help her. “I didn’t do much, really! They’re barely dented!” he explains defensively, handing her a book, “Hey! Camus, Malraux…Dostoevsky…I couldn’t dent this if I tried! Depressing stuff, don’t you think?” She picks up her other books hastily. “’Depressed?’ What would you know about it? You’ve never had a bad day in your life!” she answers, still irritated with him, “You throw some stupid basketball around and the whole world loves you for it! What’s more, you all think you own the world! Just don’t care who you knock over! It’s one thing to be ignorant! But to be proud of being ignorant! It burns…me…up!” She gets to her feet, glowering at Ronnie. Two of her friends gather. “C’mon, Taliesin. One more ‘late’ and we’re all sunk,” her friend reminds her. The three ladies leave in a huff as Ronnie gets to his feet. “’Tally-ess-in?’” he asks himself, “What kind of a name is that for a human being?”
Elsewhere, Ed Raymond, Ronnie’s father, keeps busy. He sits working away at his cubicle, editing a story on his desktop computer. “Again! You’d think by now we’d all agree on how to spell ‘Quaddafi!” he thinks as he toils away, “If those guys don’t learn to check the style guide…” A co-worker passes by and calls to him. “Ed…Looks like we’re having kind of an impromptu staff meeting,” he says, “I’m not sure I like the looks of it, either!”
The staff congregates at the managing editor’s office. He makes an unexpected and distressing announcement to his shell-shocked staff. “What do you mean - - we’re all fired!?” a reporter gasps, “C’mon! You can’t dismiss us like that! There must be an explanation!” Another reporter leans over the editor’s desk, pleading with him, “There’s something you’re not telling us!” The managing editor hangs his head despondently, a hand braced on his desk to steady himself. “All I know is what I’ve been told,” he says with dismay, “It’s over, ladies and gentlemen. The paper’s folding. I’ve had a lot of good years here…and all of you people have meant a lot to me…But hey…we all know the fun has to end sometime, right?” The faces of the staff reflect their anxious worry. Ed Raymond dejectedly looks down at his shoes. “Now what’s going to happen to me?” he thinks, “What’s going to happen to Ronnie?”
Not far…in Central Park… “Sometimes I think that’s the most carefree thing in the world…don’t you, Martin?” Belle Haney asks. The two colleagues sit in the trees, enjoying the Park’s peaceful scenery and watching a couple pass by in a rowboat. “I mean, just rowing in the lake like that, watching the sun glint off the water,” she continues, “Rowing with nowhere particular to go…who can be unhappy doing that on a day like this?” Stein looks out at the boat, and then returns their conversation to less pleasant matters. “Duty calls, Belle,” he tells her, “This is the first day all week we’ve been able to tear ourselves away from Concordance Research long enough for our lunch hour…Let alone a day off!” She sits with her arms folded across her knees, looking a bit down. “In a way…I’m kinda glad to be so busy,” she answers, “It takes my mind…off my problems!” Stein reaches a hand to her shoulder to comfort her. “I’m sure your problems…whatever they are…wouldn’t loom so large…if you shared them,” he reassures her, “I want you to know…you’ve got my support…and if you want and need something more…I…” They gaze closely into each other’s eyes. “Do you really mean that, Martin?” Belle asks, “If you only understood how much…how much I’ve wanted to hear someone say…”
Suddenly, the very ground below them erupts in tremors. RUMMMMBBBBLLE! “Good…God!” Stein exclaims, eyes wide at the unbelievable transformation of the park grounds happening just feet away from them. RRRRUMMMMBLE! The earth separates and the cone of a volcano slowly appears and grows up out of the ground, stretching skyward to tower over them! “Martin! What is that thing?” Belle fearfully asks. “I don’t know…But I’d swear it was…a volcano!” he answers. “But that’s - - that’s…” she stutters at the sight. Stein gets to his feet and reaches for her hand. “Crazy, I know! But what’s crazier,” he asks as they start to flee, “a volcano erupting in the middle of Central Park - - or the two of us standing around to watch it happen?” Belle looks back as they run for their lives! “Wh-Where will we go?” she asks. Stein leads her away as fast as they can go. “Concordance. Home. Anywhere!” he answers, “Away from here!”
Some yards away…Ronnie walks home after school, still brooding about his recent luck. “What is it about me that just seems to anger the distaff of half the human race?” he ponders, “Between that computer lady and that girl at school…Everywhere I go…all I hear are...People screaming!” Panicked voices of people running towards him ring out. “One side! One side!” a scared man yells as he passes Ronnie, “Outa the way! The volcano’s gonna blow!” Ronnie looks at him in disbelief. “Right, right. They filming the remake of ‘One Million, B.C.?’” he asks. “Yok it up,” another man answers as he runs by, “Try laughing when your mouth’s fulla molten lava!”
Suddenly… “Professor Stein!” Ronnie calls out as he sees his friend running with Belle. “Quiet. I don’t want Belle to see you!” Stein answers as he turns to Ronnie, “Let her run on ahead…that’ll give us the time to merge - - and become Firestorm!” In an instant of nuclear radiance, the Nuclear Man appears flying into Central Park. Belle turns and finds herself abruptly alone. “Martin? Martin? Don’t leave me here!” she cries out in fear.
Ronnie flies towards the cone of the volcano as reddish-orange molten lava bubbles and percolates at its summit. “I hear Belle calling me!” Stein exclaims, “She’s not leaving! She’s still looking for me! As soon as we take care of this, I’ll have to get back to her!” Ronnie formulates a plan quickly, answering, “No sweat, Professor! I’ll have you both back in your love nest in no time!” He flies down the base of the volcano and prepares an atomic restructuring burst. “I’ll keep that baby from blowing its top!” he announces as he lets the burst fly, “First, I’ll restructure the atoms in these park benches - - to make a giant cork!” Stein watches, warning, “No, Ronald, stop!”
Ronnie lands on the top of the giant cork and surfs it skyward above the volcano. “Reee-lax,” he tries to reassure Stein, “I know how you feel about my changing City property - - but I think the Mayor will look the other way this time, okay?” Stein tries to get Ronnie’s attention, hastily saying, “Stop it, Ronald! You don’t know what you’re doing!” Finally, a few memories from earth science class shake free in Ronnie’s mind. “Waait a sec. I get the picture!” he realizes, “A volcano’s like a release valve on a pressure cooker. If I block off the release…it’ll make the gases below do something more drastic to escape!” He quickly leaps into the air away from the giant cork, which falls with a crash at the bash of the volcano. “Who says I haven’t learned anything from having my consciousness glued to a science teacher?” he reconsiders, “No problem. I’ll just let the volcano erupt…and turn its lava and ashes into - - Frisbees!” The air is suddenly filled with a kaleidoscope palette of sailing and spinning flying discs.
A solitary figure stands near, watching Firestorm. She wears a punk rock outfit, her tattered t-shirt bearing a large ‘MB’ logo. Her hair stands in a whitish-silver Mohawk. “The Breathtaker was right! I am powerful enough to affect Firestorm!” she thinks as she observes him undetected. “Then…There’s no limit to what I can do! I can make anyone see and hear things that aren’t there! I did it to the Park’s passersby…and even to the Nuclear Man! I truly am…The Mindboggler!” she smiles with satisfaction. “Madness…It’s all in the mind!” she thinks, leaning against a tree, “Who’s really crazy? Me? Or a super-hero who sees volcanoes that can’t exist?”
Ronnie aims and fires a series of restructuring bursts. “There! That oughta dissipate the volcano for good!” he concludes. A shocked man on the lake below him cries out as his rowboat rocks from the nearby blast, “What are you talking about? What are you doing? Get away! Get away!” Stein calls out, “Ronald! Hold everything! Just stop - - please!” Ronnie is not listening, and continues to fire restructuring beams. “Why? Got another little fun science fact for me? Take it easy!” he answers, “I’ve got the situation well in hand for a change! After this, I’ll be a hero again - - and Felicity’s lawsuit will go up in smoke!”
Mindboggler stands behind a tree as people continue to scatter. The colorful rain of Frisbees continues to fall…or are they really Frisbees at all? “I knew someday one of these super-heroes would go berserk!” a panicked man says as he runs from Firestorm, “This one’s got some paranoid blather about volcanoes…and creating a rainstorm of razor blades!” Mindboggler silently observes the chaotic confusion, a look of concentration dancing in her focused blue eyes. “It’s going even better than The Breathtaker hoped!” she thinks, “I can control him…so that he thinks he’s creating one thing with his powers…when he’s actually doing something completely different!”
Down below Firestorm, Belle Haney sits near a tree with a young baseball player. They look back at Firestorm, trying not to draw his attention. “There goes that maniac again!” Belle points, wondering, “Wherever Martin is…I can only hope…he’ll be all right!”
Ronnie flies back and forth, aiming a series of restructuring bursts down towards the lake. In his mind, he still sees the threatening volcano cone before him. “I don’t understand it! I should’ve had this sucker wiped out a dozen times already!” Ronnie worries. Stein tries to reason with him, cautioning, “Ronald! You can’t handle this! Slow down! It’s not what you think at all!” Ronnie flies along the volcano’s base, answering, “Cut me some slack, wouldja, Professor? How’m I gonna get any better at the super-hero game if you don’t let me strike out on my own once in a while? Besides…Forcing a volcano to explode comes as naturally to a kid my age as…well, squeezing a pimple!” Ronnie turns back for another pass by the volcano. “Thar she blows!” he exclaims as it erupts again, “No matter what erupts…I’ll turn it all to harmless little paper planes…”
The Mindboggler concentrates, sending her invisible mental energy into Ronnie’s mind. He babbles about the paper airplane colors. “…All pink….and blue…and yellow!” he says as his thoughts are hijacked by The Mindboggler’s silent and clandestine intrusion. She stands behind him, watching as he flies over the lake and churning the water into splashing waves with his nuclear blasts. “I’ve taken him to a point…beyond madness!” she exults, “The truly crazy are intractable…far from the reach of reason…but Firestorm now suffers from a psychosis of another sort! His lunacy is completely programmable…with every seizure…every symptom…engineered by me!” She reaches into her pocket, pulling out a small communications device. “Or to be more exact,” she thinks, “by my new employer! But how long he remains my employer…is another story!” She activates the device and speaks into the view screen. “Breathtaker? It’s done! I’ve established control!”
The hooded form of the Breathtaker sits, his gleaming pinpoint eyes staring at his monitor screen. The shadowy figure of Incognito next to him looks on. “Ahh, she’s a progidy, my little baby, isn’t she?” Breathtaker asks with pride, “A little difficult…a little volatile…but her work is always excellent!” Incognito reaches a hand out in question, observing, “’Difficult,’ you say? Her rather pyrotechnical way of dealing with our target could cost us the assignment! This demands a more subtle approach! It calls for…” Breathtaker interrupts him. “Incognito, your suggestion is appreciated, if I suspect, somewhat self-motivated,” he interjects, “I enjoy dissension in the ranks, mind you. I’ll not be surrounded by yes-men. But remember…I am still in charge.” Breathtaker sits back in his chair, hands held in an apex held close to his chest.
“You won’t be surrounded by yes-men…” Incognito retorts, walking away angrily, “You won’t be surrounded at all! I’m leaving!” Breathtaker reaches a hand out to him as the shadowy Incognito steps to a doorway. “No! Don’t go out there!” Breathtaker implores, “I won’t have you interfering with The Mindboggler! Firestorm is her target!” Incognito steps through the door, answering, “Interfere? I never interfere!” as the door slides shut swiftly behind him. Incognito walks on, fists raised in defiant plotting. “I am as silent as a shadow…as subtle as a whisper…I can be anyone…anywhere…anytime…His father…his friend…and his biggest fear!” Incognito deviously schemes, “I am Incognito…And I will not be denied my chance to prove myself! I will not be denied…my chance at Firestorm!”
If you’re not here next issue…terrible things will happen to your comic book collection!