A terrible accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant envelops Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin in flames...but somehow, incredibly...he survives! Ronnie brings Professor Stein home from the hospital. Stein determines a new priority for Firestorm, leading to events in Kansas and the Bahamas. Firestorm arrives the the nuclear disarmament talks between the United States and the Soviet Union in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he delivers a stunning announcement to the world.
Why is this man screaming? That was the easy question. Here’s the toughie - - why is this man still living? Most important question of all: Who is this man? He himself tries to remember, but the memories are as elusive to grasp as flame. Wife. He remembers a wife…and two little ones. What are their names? Gone like tongues of flame. New image. Fear and rage are connected with it. Why?
He remembers the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant and a terrible accident. “I worked here (who am I?). And something went wrong. Heat. Fire! Flee! Must flee!” he thinks in horrible pain as he is covered in flames.
A technician watching in horror calls to him, “No! Stay at post! Contain the fire! But you cannot contain the fire! This fire cannot be stopped! The pipes are bursting! All fills with gas!”
The man staggers helplessly as the flames devour his clothing. “Nina! My wife’s name is Nina and the children, my children, are Irena and Sofia and my name is Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin and I am burning!” he cries out as he is engulfed.
A rectangular metal casing forms around the still-burning man, and then…SHUKOOOMMM! “GRAHHHR!” Arkadin yells as he explodes out of the encasement. He stands with arms raised, hair aflame, his skin a ghostly white color, and his face reduced to a skull-like appearance.
WHAROOOMM! Another explosion rocks the Plant, blowing the roof off the building and reducing it to smoldering rubble. Arkadin leans against a section of collapsed wall. “WHERE…IS…MY WIFE?!?” he yells.
A man casually strolls through the debris. He wears a long trenchcoat. His bald head is covered by a dark Fedora. He puffs on his cigarette while his hands are tucked down into his coat pockets. Small, dark glasses with round lenses hide his eyes. He walks up to Arkadin.
“You remember them, finally. Good. Do you also finally remember who you are?” asks Major Zastrow of the KGB..
“I am…Mikhail Denisovitch Arkadin. Nuclear Technician at the Chernobyl Generating Plant,” Arkadin answers. “Where…is my wife?”
Zastrow man takes a puff from his cigarette. “She is safe. What do you remember of what happened?” he asks.
“We…were shutting down Reactor Number Four. There was a positive void coefficient,” Arkadin answers. “The reactor’s capacity suddenly increased. Graphite in the core caught fire. The zirconium in the fuel oxidized. Heat…hydrogen…we tried to contain it…It blew up..!” He looks up at the man. “Why am I not dead?” Arkadin asks.
Zastrow looks over Arkadin. “This the State also wishes to know, Comrade,” he answers. “In these many months since the disaster, we have been waiting for you to come to your senses so that we might begin to unravel this mystery. If you will come with me now, we will begin.” Arkadin slowly gets to his feet, and the two men walk away from the rubble of the Plant.
“Dr. Fiscus, you’re wanted in the Laundry, Dr. Fiscus,” the hospital P.A. system announces. Ronnie walks to the nursing station at the Howard, Fine, and Howard Clinic.
“…My own foot!” a patient blurts from his wheelchair.
“Excuse me, my name is Ron Raymond and I’m here to help Professor Martin Stein go home. Is he ready yet?” Ronnie asks.
A doctor turns and walks over to him. “Oh, you’re the one,” he answers Ronnie. “You know that he’s signing himself out of the Clinic against my advice?”
Ronnie nods. “He said there wasn’t anything else you could do for him here except try to delay the inevitable. Doctor…?” he replies.
“Sturn,” the doctor answers. “Do either of you have any idea…of how much care he’s going to require in the coming days?”
Dr. Sturn walks out from behind the nursing station counter to join Ronnie in the hallway. “It’s his decision, Doc,” Ronnie replies.
“I was hoping maybe you could get him to change it,” Sturn answers.
“Huh! Could I start on something a little easier first, Doc? Like remodeling Mt. Rushmore with my teeth?” Ronnie scoffs.
“Sorry,” Sturn answers. “I’ve gotten to like the Professor quite a bit in the weeks he’s been here. The man has got a lot of courage.”
“Listen, Doc…Can’t anything be done to save the Professor? Is it really that hopeless?” Ronnie asks.
Dr. Sturn guides him to a nearby x-ray screen. “Straight? Here look at this…” he answers. Dr. Sturn puts a right lateral image x-ray of Professor Stein up on the x-ray viewer. He points to an area just behind Professor Stein’s right temple. “This is the tumor. Too close to the brain stem to operate. It’s what we call a metastasis…started somewhere else - - probably the lungs - - and travelled by the lymph system,” he explains. “We’ve tried radiation therapy up to 8,000 rads, but we can’t even get its attention. Somewhere, he developed a kind of immunity to radiation. Don’t ask me where!”
Ronnie stares at the ominous x-ray. “I think I can guess! The accident that made us into Firestorm in the first place. Or maybe being Firestorm has given him a tolerance. Either way, it’s now killing him,” he thinks.
Dr. Sturn and Ronnie walk down the hall towards Professor Stein’s room. “The medication we’ve given him will help control some of the symptoms, but he’s till subject to seizures. Can’t do anything like drive a car,” Sturn explains.
“Got it. What else can I do for him?” Ronnie asks.
“Well, I’d say be a good friend, but you seem to have that pretty well pegged. Call if you need advice or help,” Sturn replies.
Dr. Sturn continues down the hall. Ronnie opens the door to Room 201. “Hiya, Professor. How ya feel?” he asks as he walks in.
Professor Stein sits on his bed, putting his belongings into his suitcase. He has lost quite a bit of hair from the top of his head due to the radiation treatments. “Dreadful, Ronald. As I did yesterday. As I will tomorrow,” Stein replies. “Oh, I didn’t tell you. Emily Rice, the Dean of my school at Vandemeer, stopped by. She had heard about…my illness. Wanted to assure me that I was being kept on at full salary for the…duration. And that I should not worry about my classes. They were being ‘covered.’ So now I’m a teacher without classes to teach.”
Ronnie sits down next to him. “Makes us about even. I’m now a student without classes to attend. Got a notice from the University. I’ve missed too many classes…” he replies.
“What?” Stein blurts.
“…And can’t muster a passing grade in any of them. I’ve flunked out, Professor!” Ronnie continues.
Stein wraps an arm around Ronnie’s shoulders. “Oh, Ronald, I am sorry!” he replies, asking, “What will your father say?”
Ronnie clasps his hands together and stares down at the floor. “Ohhh, not more than one or two million words, Professor. Listen, you said you finally figured out what it was you wanted to do before you died,” Ronnie answers, asking, “Why don’t you tell me about it while we blow this popsicle stand?”
The two men get up to leave. “All right, Ronald,” Stein agrees. Ronnie helps Professor Stein into a wheelchair and they head for the elevator. Ronnie pushes the Professor out into the lobby towards the exits. “A phrase has been running through my head, Ronald, while I’ve been lying in the hospital these past several weeks: “What was once unthinkable has now become commonplace,” Stein explains. “Can’t remember who said it. Perhaps my illness has tainted my perceptions, but I think it’s true. The world seems a profoundly bleaker place than when I was a boy.”
Ronnie guides the Professor to a waiting taxi. “Maybe the past is always greener than the present, Professor. Even mine,” Ronnie answers. “And my past is not that far past, you know what I mean?”
The two men take their seats in the taxi and it starts off down the street. “I have no particular fondness for my past, Ronald,” Stein replies. “I didn’t enjoy my youth when I had it and have no wish to return to it. But look at the magazines and newspapers of the day! However grim and glum the news was, and often it was very bad, still there was an under-riding hope, an eagerness, a belief that today we seem to lack. Back then we still had our tomorrows. “
The taxi pulls to a stop outside Professor Stein’s apartment building. The two men get out. “That has been taken from us,” Stein continues. “Tell me, Ronald, do you ever stop to consider the inevitability of nuclear war?”
Ronnie reaches back for Stein suitcase. “I try not to, Professor. It just gets me depressed,” he answers. Ronnie hands the cab fare through the window to the driver. “Keep the change,” he tells the cabbie.
“Wow. Fifty cents. Now I can retire,” the cabbie answers sarcastically.
Ronnie and the Professor make their way through the lobby and head upstairs on the elevator. “I think that’s true of most people, Ronald. Myself included,” Stein tells him. “Yet it is the central fact of our times. Indeed, most experts believe there will be a nuclear war of some kind before the end of this century.”
Ronnie unlocks the door and they go inside. Professor Stein peers out the window blind. “The probability is that we will make ourselves as a species extinct, along with virtually every other species on this planet, except, perhaps, the cockroach,” he tells Ronnie as he turns to sit in a chair. “What once was unthinkable has now become inevitable. I think this has seeped into every aspect of our lives, twisting them. Why build anything, start anything, believe in anything, when it seems doomed to be swept away in a rain of nuclear fire? We’ve lost our tomorrows, Ronald.”
“And you want to get them back,” Ronnie replies.
Stein nods. “Yes. I’d like to know that the world will go on living…even if I cannot. It…would comfort me…at the end,” Stein answers.
Ronnie extends his hand out to the Professor. “When do we start?” he asks. Stein grasps Ronnie’s hand and instantly, rings of atomic light form around their hands. Seconds later, Firestorm appears!
“Next question: How do we start, Professor? I haven’t the foggiest,” Ronnie asks. He lowers his atomic density and phases through the apartment wall, flying out into the sky.
“A delicate problem, Ronald. If even one device is left in the world, the possibility of nuclear blackmail would be horrifying,” Stein answers. “Given the sheer number of nuclear weapons, how do we find and neutralize them all before I die? My plan relies on the fact that the public, at large, does not truly know who we are, what we are truly capable of, what exactly we might or might not do. We need to go towards Kansas, Ronald.”
Ronnie turns and heads out to the west. “Kaaan-sas City! Kansas City, here we come!” he sings.
High above Kansas a short time later… “Okay, Toto, now what?” Ronnie asks.
“Now concentrate, Ronald. I’m going to try to attune your vision to read fissionable materials,” Stein replies. “Is it working?”
Ronnie looks down at the farmland spreading out below him. “I…think so, Professor. I’m seeing a lot of little red pinpricks,” he answers. “What are they? Acne?”
Ronnie starts to descend toward a grouping of eight of the odd red spots. “Nuclear missile silos,” Stein answers. “Pick one, note its location, and make ourselves immaterial. It is vital at this point that we get into those silos unseen.”
Ronnie gains speed in his descent. “A little tricky, Professor, since we’re not invisible when we’re immaterial, but I think we can handle it,” he replies.
FZAAP! Ronnie phases through the earth, heading towards the missile silo underground. “Good, Ronald! We’re about five miles distant. Focus on the red glow, and it should lead us straight to the silo,” Stein instructs.
FZAAAP! Ronnie arrives at the silo and phases inside. “Good Lord, would you look at that thing!” he whispers.
Ronnie hovers in the silo at the top of a gigantic missile. Far below, several technicians work at the base of the weapon. “Minuteman III ICBM, MIRV warhead, MARV nose cone,” the Professor explains. “It has ten warheads of about a megaton each, and each warhead can be independently maneuvered on the way to its target. What I want to do is transmute those warheads into some safe substance, but to do that, we shall have to rematerialize! Ronald, we mustn’t let those workers see us!”
Ronnie smiles and comes up with a plan. “I think we can take care of that, Professor!” he whispers.
A technician walks into the room carrying several boxes. “Hey! One of you bozos wanna give me a hand?” she asks. FZAAP! Ronnie restructures the floor in front of her, creating a banana peel just in front of the woman’s foot.
FWIP! “YOWP!” she yells as she slips on the banana peel and falls to the floor. The boxes cascade out of her arms around her as she tumbles.
“Oh, bravo, Vasquez! Bravo, bravo!” a co-worker taunts. “And here I was wonderin’ if you was man enough for this job?”
Vasquez gets to her feet and grabs a wrench. “Man, I hope you enjoyed your teeth while you had them!” she snarls back.
PAM! BLUD! “Ow! Vasquez! Stop it!” her target yells as she pummels him.
“Ooooh! And another blow is struck for sexual equality! And another! And…” Ronnie whispers with a sly grin.
“I get the idea, Ronald!” Stein interjects. “Now, please, change the fissionable material!”
Ronnie comes down to perch on the tip of the missile and rematerializes. “Any preferences, Professor?” he asks.
“Whatever you want, Ronald! Then let’s be gone!” Stein answers. FZAAP! Ronnie focuses a transforming beam into the warheads, quickly reforming the dangerous material into harmless compounds. “Lemon curry?” Stein asks with surprise.
Ronnie guides them up and out, quickly gaining altitude. “C’mon, Professor! I thought you said you watch PBS!” Ronnie answers.
“I do, but…Oh, never mind!” Stein replies. “Our next stop is the Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas.”
Ronnie banks in the sky and speeds off to the southeast. “Okay, mon! We go down to de islands, hey?” he answers.
A short time later (but not short enough for Professor Stein)… “Ha ha ha! Dere be de islands, Mon!” Ronnie calls out as they descend towards the Caribbean.
“Ronald, I’m not certain whether this headache has come from my tumor or your wretched Bermuda accent, but I want you to stop it!” Stein chides him.
“Sorry,” Ronnie answers.
“Now, concentrate as before, on the sea. We’re going fishing. Specifically, for a Russian nuclear submarine!” Stein explains.
Ronnie scans around the ocean. “I think we’ve got a nibble,” he announces as he sees a red target up ahead.
“Go,” Stein directs him. Ronnie plunges into the water. “You’ve gone immaterial, Ronald. Good!” Stein observes. “While in this state, we should need worry about neither oxygen nor pressure I wouldn’t try to talk, however. Go towards the glow.”
Out of the darkness of the water ahead, a submarine takes shape. “That’s what we’re looking for, Ronald. One of the fleet of Russian submarines patrolling off our country,” Stein instructs. “Note the markings, my boy, and then pick a forward missile tube and take us in there.”
“AAARGH!” Ronnie suddenly cries out! “Can’t control my limbs! Phasing in! I’m drowning!” he thinks in panic. Ronnie’s body quickly becomes material. “Professor! What’s happening? Why aren’t you answering me?!?” Ronnie thinks fearfully. Bubbles stream out of his mouth and into the water. “Maybe he can’t! That doctor warned about possible seizures! The Professor must be having one now and it’s affecting us both as Firestorm! Feel…like we’re going to fission…any second! At this pressure…we’ll both die! Gotta get…to safety…quick! Only one place close enough! The Russian sub!”
Ronnie fires two nuclear burst into the ocean’s floor, propelling himself backwards towards the sub. He reaches behind him and beams energy aimed at the sub’s hull. FZAAP! He phases inside it head-first! Just as he enters, he is unable to hold Firestorm’s fusion any longer! WHUMP! BUMP! Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein materialize separately and fall down onto the sub’s interior deck.
“Professor, are you okay?!?” Ronnie asks, reaching a hand to Stein.
“Ron…Ronald..? Wha’…Wha’…happened?” Stein mumbles as he returns to consciousness.
“Relax, Professor. We’re okay. The tumor gave you a seizure is all. We’re okay,” Ronnie comforts him. He looks up to see the barrels of several pistols and rifles aimed at them. Crewmen quickly confront their quite unexpected intruders. A few minutes later, Professor Stein sits at a desk opposite the sub’s Captain and First Officer. Ronnie stands behind him as two armed guards observe from the room’s entrance.
“Calm yourself, pliz, zur! Am assurink you most certainly the Sowiet Union is not kidnapping you or your friend!” the Captain explains in heavy Russian accent.
“Am only vanting know how you get on dis ship!” the First Officer adds.
“Oh yeah, sure!” Ronnie explains. “One moment we’re sitting in the Professor’s apartment, discussing his new top secret reactor project and then - - Zammo! We get hit by this beam of light and wind up prisoners on a boat headed straight for Moscow. Don’t play games with me! I’ve seen James Bond! I’ve seen ‘Amerika’! I know what’s going on!”
The Captain looks over Professor Stein’s wallet. He speaks to the guards in Russian. “Lock them up and keep them under guard until we decide what to do with them,” he directs his men.
“You better be careful, Comrade! Any second now, Superman is gonna find out where we are and suck us out of this tin can of yours with his Super-Breath!” Ronnie warns.
The guards lead Ronnie and the Professor out of the room. “He can do this, you think…this Superman?” the First Officer asks.
“These American! Who knows?” sighs the Captain.
“Do you know anything about a so-called teleportation beam?” asks the First Officer.
“Ehhh, when last I was in Moscow, I heard reports…” the Captain replies.
The guards guide Ronnie and Professor Stein to a small room and lock them inside. A guard stands outside the door, rifle in hand. “Ronald, what was all that about?” Stein asks.
“Figured the best defense was a good offense, Professor. Needed to buy you some time and give them…some reason why they won’t find us here later,” Ronnie answers.
“He’s going to suck us out?!?” Stein asks with disbelief.
“Gotta go with the flow sometimes, Professor. Let’s get flowing,” Ronnie answers.
A burst of atomic light fills the room. Seconds later, Firestorm appears in the water outside the submarine. “To the missile first, my boy, and then get back to land. At the moment, I feel fine, but let’s take no undue chances,” Stein directs him.
FZAAP! Ronnie phases into the missile chamber and takes a seat on the missile’s nosecone and readies twin restructuring beams. FZAAP! FZAAP!
“Caviar was a nice touch, Ronald. I salute you!” Stein exclaims. “Now we have to make sure we announce our deeds, before they are discovered, in a manner that will assure that the greatest number of people hear it!”
FZAAP! Ronnie phases back out into the ocean. “Iceland, Ronald! And don’t spare the horses!” Stein directs him.
“This is Gwyneth Tate, WHIZ-TV News in Reykjavik, Iceland. High-ranking officials of both the Soviet Union and the United States, including Vice-President George Bush, have been meeting here for the last three days, seeking the nuclear arms agreement that eluded both sides last year,” the reporter speaks into her microphone. The TV image holds on her as she continues her report. “However, reports from reliable sources in both camps have not been encouraging,” she explains, “and it is suspected that this joint press conference has been called to announce the suspension of these talks.”
Reporters take their seats in the press room. A few minutes later, Vice-President Bush appears and walks to the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, for the past three days, we and the Soviet Government have been looking for an answer to the foremost question of our times: The reduction of nuclear arms,” he explains. “It is my sad duty to announce that we have not found it.”
Suddenly, Firestorm phases through the ceiling! “Then I’ll give it to you,” Ronnie announces as he floats down next to the podium.
“You’re…uh…you’re…” Bush says as he looks over the unusual arrival.
“I’m Firestorm, Mr. Vice-President. Sorry to barge in on your press conference like this, but I have an announcement of some importance relating to what you’re talking about,” Ronnie explains. “May I take the podium?”
Bush looks back and forth at his staffers quickly. “Uhhh, well, I…uhhh…Hmmmm,” he mumbles, and then gestures Firestorm to approach.
“Thank you,” Ronnie replies.
Bush walks away from the podium, quickly huddling with his staff. “Well, doggone it! I was promised my own press conference!” he grumps into a staffer’s ear. “How am I supposed to get the nomination if I can’t show how statesmanlike I am? I mean, darn!”
Ronnie steps up to the podium. “As we discussed it, Ronald, please. Word for word,” Stein tells him.
Ronnie looks out over the assembled group and begins. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have watched - - as you have - - the great nations try to find a solution to the problem of nuclear weapons in the world,” he announces. “The solution is simple: Get rid of the nuclear weapons, but no one seems to know how. I do. And I’ve begun. In a missile silo outside of Kansas City, there is a Minuteman III with a MIRV warhead. I have changed the fissionable material in those warheads to an inert substance. I have done the same with the forward missile tube of a Soviet submarine on patrol off Cuba. I’ve don’t this to show I can do this.”
Far away, in the Oval Office, President Reagan sits watching the press conference. Nearby, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds a phone to his ear. “Lemon curry?!?” he cries out in disbelief.
“I now present an ultimatum to the nuclear-powered countries of the world. Disarm your nuclear weapons. And next time, I won’t transmute the warheads. I’ll detonate them. If I don’t have an answer in 24 hours, I’ll demonstrate that ability. I realize that my actions today will trouble many…”
In Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, Amanda Waller picks up the phone in her office. “Waller here…Yes, Mr. President, I have it on the screen…Yes, I think we can devise something here at Belle Reve to hold him,” she explains.
“…that what I have done and intend to do will be perceived as a threat,” Ronnie continues.
“We’ll have the Squad on standby if you need us…yes, we can add most of those people…Who?!?” Waller asks.
“Nuclear weapons are the real threat, not the Nuclear Man,” Ronnie continues.
“Sir, I must strongly advise against using that prisoner! I can’t promise you we can leash what we unleash!” Waller tells the President anxiously. She listens for a moment. “’Effective against Firestorm’? Sure was against most other living things, too!” she cautions.
“We’re all running out of time,” Ronnie explains.
“If that’s your command, I’ll set it up. I’d like it in writing, sir,” Waller sighs. “Well, I hope the backup won’t be needed, also, sir…Goodbye, Mr. President.” She hangs up the phone.
“All I’m doing is giving the governments an excuse to do what they say they want to do,” Ronnie continues. “I’ll expect an appropriate response by twelve noon E.S.T. tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll prepare my own.”
In another distant location, a phone rings in a military command center. “General Eiling…no, Mr. President; I’ve rather been expecting your call,” Eiling answers. He listens for a moment. “No problem, sir. We’ll handle it,” he replies.
Ronnie looks out at the reporters and TV cameras staring intently back at him. “I believe, however, that our leaders will seize this chance to do away with the nuclear suicide that faces us all. Thank you and good afternoon,” he concludes.
Ronnie lowers his atomic density and phases up through the ceiling, taking flight back towards the United States. “Whattaya think, Professor? Will they buy it?” Ronnie asks.
“I believe so, Ronald,” Stein answers. “The general public really knows very little about us. And, as the events with G. Gordon Godfrey pointed out, there may be an underlying current of fear of us that exists that we can exploit.”
Ronnie nods. “Still, it’s one heck of a bluff. What if they call it?” he asks.
“Ronald, I have to believe the world leaders are rational men. They won’t risk the consequences, especially when it’s in their own best self-interests to acquiesce,” Stein replies. “Oh, there will be some protests, no doubt. Denunciations of us to placate the masses. But the leaders themselves will be thankful to be rid of this burden they bear. You’ll see I’m right.”
Ronnie guides them above the hills of Iceland. “Well, maybe, Professor,” he answers. “But I did learn something from my history classes. Mainly that history is made by national leaders doing stupid things.”