The Statue of Liberty is caught in a fight between Firestorm and pirates on the run. Professor Stein and Ronnie study the nature and limits of their powers and abilities. Firestorm flies to the Sun to test Stein's theories. Stein's colleagues at Concordance Research surprise him with a 'Bon Voyage' party. Sunspots cause communications disruptions worldwide. Sparx, a creature that controls static electricity, terrorizes Miami, Florida. Firestorm flies to Florida to confront Sparx.
New York Bay, shortly before sunset on a warm day in early July. On any other day, the only sounds to be heard here are the crashing of the waves against the buoys, the sharp cries of the hungry gulls, and the deep-throated rumble of the ferryboat engines on the Manhattan-to-Staten Island ferry route. If any part of the bustling madhouse known as Greater New York can be said to be peaceful and idyllic, then this is it - - until this evening. This evening, the idyll is shattered by the raucous cough of gunfire and the snarl of high-powered speedboats through the waves.
KTAK! KTAK! TAKAKAKAKAKAKAKA! Automatic weapons pierce the air with their speeding and deadly projectiles. Two speedboats race across the water, jockeying furiously for position against each other. One is a New York Police Department powerboat dodging and weaving as it races behind the other boat. A large fireball hits, forming a geyser just off the Police boat’s port beam. Firestorm looks down at the unexpected battle taking place below him. “Our last week in New York, and do we get any peace, Professor? Not a chance,” Ronnie sighs. “I gather these are the criminals who attacked the Dayliner cruise ship up the Hudson,” Stein figures. “Not criminals, Professor - - pirates,” Ronnie answers, adding, “From what I hear on the news, the cops have been searching for these creeps for weeks. Now it looks like they’ve finally got them nailed - - uh-oh,” Ronnie cries out, “Correct that, Professor! The Police boat’s been hit!” THWAWHOOM! The Police boat seems to lift out of the water momentarily as a massive explosion rocks its bow! “Use your atomic restructuring powers, my boy - - quickly!” Stein urges as the Police boat rocks sharply on its port side.
“Y’see that? Blowed ‘em high to sweet kingdom come!” Patch growls to his mates on the speedboat’s back deck. “Hip-hip!” a bullet-bandoliered comrade cheers. “Let’s hear it for Patch, best man with a launcher this side of the Amazon,” cries another, patting Patch on the shoulder appreciatively. “Hooraa…” cheers a fourth, but his words stop abruptly. “Stifle it, mate!” he warns, “Better tell the Cap’n we’ve got trouble! Look!” He points into the air behind the burning Police boat. “Weigh anchor!” the Captain yells nervously, “Get us the bloody Hades out of here! That’s Firestorm!”
Two police officers leap from their burning and sinking boat into the water. FZZZAM! Ronnie transforms their boat into the safe haven of a life raft. The two officers scramble aboard, greatly relieved. Firestorm turns sharply and flies in pursuit of the pirates.
“No use, mates! He’s on our wake and we can’t outrun him!” the pirate Captain yells. “Patch! You and Peg wait till I bring us hard about, then hit ‘im with a broadside!” he orders his men. THWOOM! THWOOM! Patch and Peg fire their grenade launchers as the Captain turns sharply. Ronnie launches restructuring bursts at the speeding rocket grenades. One grenade transforms into a giant, inflated Donald Duck balloon! “Uh-oh, Professor! One hit, one miss!” Ronnie yells, “But hey, no problem! I’ll just lower our atomic density to zero - - and let the rocket pass through us!” Ronnie turns nearly transparent, and the rocket grenade sails right into and out of his body harmlessly! “Pretty neat, huh?” Ronnie asks with a smile.
“Oh, no…” Stein gasps as he watches the rocket’s path, “…the rocket passed through us, my boy…but it won’t pass so easily through Lady Liberty!” Ronnie turns quickly to look behind him. “Eh - - whoops,” Ronnie blurts. Scaffolding surrounds the Statue of Liberty in a geometric steel framework, a byproduct of the ongoing restoration project. The rocket hurtles towards Lady Liberty’s outstretched arm. Her raised hand is strangely empty. She awaits the installation of her new torch, an exact replica of Bartholdi’s original design that is being built for her. Ronnie speeds quickly behind the rocket. “Don’t worry, Professor - - I’ve got it covered,” Ronnie says reassuringly, “One nuclear blast to change that minor missile into a pack of poker chips and…”
FFFZZZZT! Energy sputters from Ronnie’s outstretched hand, quickly fizzling into nothing. “Fzzzt?” Ronnie thinks in shock as he helplessly watches the rocket continue. TWAWHOOM! The rocket grenade strikes the Statue’s arms, detonating in a huge, fiery explosion! On the pirate speedboat, the criminal crew cheers loudly as they make their escape. “We did it, mates! We skipped clean of the Nuclear Man!” cheers the Captain, “Wait’ll the news gets hold of this! Can you see the headlines?!”
The New York Daily Express front page screams ‘Firestorm Blows It!’ in gigantic type. A huge picture accompanies the headline, showing the Statue of Liberty’s right arm blown to a jagged stump of copper. Ronnie clutches a copy and sighs. “Say, Dad, do you think that’s fair?” he asks. Ed Raymond leans against his desk in his Daily Express office. “I mean, Firestorm did fix things once he got his nuclear powers back under control. Even the Statue Restoration Team says Lady Liberty is as good as new,” Ronnie continues. His Dad scans the copy. “That’s not the point, Ronnie,” his Dad explains, “We cover all that on page three…but for page one, a good newspaper editor wants a grabber. And you’ve got to admit, this is a grabber.”
“Knock-knock,” Felicity Smoak calls out as she taps on Ed’s office door. “Felicity, you look gorgeous…as usual,” Ed smiles as he takes her in his arms, “Did you see the headline on the Late Final?” Felicity smiles and nods. “I think it’s wonderful!” she gushes. Ronnie scowls at her. “Keep it up,” Felicity suggests, “Every bit of anti-Firestorm publicity is great for my case against him.” Ed eyes her, advising nobly, “You know I won’t take side, Felicity. Journalistic ethics.” She leans in and kisses him. Ronnie shields his eyes. “Just be fair, that’s all I ask. Lover,” Felicity coos in Ed’s ear.
“Terrific,” Ronnie sighs, “Life wasn’t complicated enough before, with my Dad’s new fiancée suing Firestorm for malpractice. Now I’ve got my father taking sides against me! He doesn’t mean to…he is trying to be fair…but what would he say if he found out his son is half the Nuclear Man?” Ronnie rests a hand on the large office window looking over the lines of reporter’s desks. A reflection of Firestorm looks back at him in his mind’s eye. “I really don’t need this,” Ronnie thinks. “Catch you later, Dad. I told Professor Stein I’d help him pack over at Concordance Research,” Ronnie says with a wave. “Fine, Ronnie,” his Dad answers, waving back with a smile. “You’ve got a nice boy, Ed,” Felicity says, “Smart…hard-working…responsible. Why can’t kids want to be like Ronnie Raymond…instead of that nuclear menace, Firestorm?”
Interlude: Miami, Florida…A scruffy couple sits in a run-down and dingy hotel room in a seedy section of town. “Wake up, Frido. We gonna go out tonight or what?” a short-cropped blonde-haired young woman asks. “Leave me alone, Lacy,” Frido groans, “…can’t you see I’m hurtin’?” He sits up on the ragged bed, clutching his head in his hands. “You need to get well, Frido,” Lacy tells him, “That’s why I say we gotta go out tonight. I know this man, he’s got the stuff that’ll take the burn outta your brain.” She runs her fingers through his long hair. “C’mon, Frido, come out with me,” she asks. He suddenly shoves her away! “Leave me alone!” he snarls, “You don’t understand nuthin’! I’m hurtin’ bad…like I got a wire lightin’ inside my head!” Lacy gets to her feet and reaches for the door. “Bring it down, Frido. Just ease it down - - you’re gonna be fine. Just don’t hurt me, okay?” she asks nervously. “Pain’s so bad…like the other times. Oh, mama…Why don’t the pain go away?” Frido asks, doubling over and clawing into the air. Frido Kelp is a man in trouble. How much trouble…he can’t even begin to imagine. End of Interlude.
Concordance Research Building, midtown Manhattan… “Ronnie, look at this,” Stein says as he scans over a long computer printout, “It could be the breakthrough we’ve been looking for!” Ronnie stacks books into a moving box. “Breakthrough? What breakthrough?” he asks, “I get the feeling I missed something somewhere, Professor.” Stein reminds him, “Remember what happened to us in New York Bay this evening, Ronald?” Ronnie nods quickly. “How could I forget? We couldn’t use our restructuring power while we were in our lowered density state,” he answers, “Same thing happened before.”
Stein shows him the printout bearing line after line of seemingly cryptic digits. “Exactly, and this printout is a clue to the reason why,” he explains. “All I see are a lot of numbers, Professor,” Ronnie says as he looks over the paper. “What you’re looking at is a computer analysis of the solar sunspot cycle,” Stein continues, pointing to one area, “Pay particular attention to this section here.” Ronnie still looks a little confused. “Look, I know I’ve picked up some of your smarts, Professor - - that’s one of the side-effects of our fusion as Firestorm - - but this stuff is still beyond me,” he sighs.
“What do sunspots have to do with our nuclear powers?” Ronnie asks. Stein smiles, raising his arms symbolically. “Everything, my boy!” he exclaims. He steps to the large chalkboard and begins scribbling a diagram. “Think. We know that the nuclear accident that altered our atomic structures gave us the ability to fuse into the composite being called Firestorm,” he explains, “We also know that in our Firestorm persona, we can manipulate the atomic structure of other atoms through the agency of our ‘nuclear bursts.’” He draws some more figures and symbols. “To put it simply, and thus somewhat inaccurately, we can bump nuclear charges up and down the atomic scale,” he continues, “adding or subtracting neutrons, protons, and electrons. Changing the atomic number, for example, of mercury - - 80, to that of lead - - 82.”
Ronnie nods as the details sink in. “I get it. Transmutation. Nuclear reactors do the same thing…” he says. Stein nods, adding, “…but on a much less dramatic scale. In our Firestorm form, Ronald, you and I perform as a highly efficient fusion reactor.” He draws a chalk diagram of radiation flowing off a man. “The amount of energy passing through us is enormous, ranging in the megawatts. The question is, and always has been…” Ronnie answers, “…where does all that energy come from? Wow, it’s like driving a car, isn’t it? Until you look under the hood, it all seems so simple. All that stuff we do. I just concentrate and it happens. I never really wondered why - - or how.”
Stein resumes looking over the printout as Ronnie rubs his forehead. “Wondering why and how is my job as a physicist, Ronald,” Stein explains, “For months, I’ve had a suspicion as to the nature of the mechanism at work…and these printouts confirm it. The Sun, Ronald. The largest fusion reactor in the Solar System…ultimate source of all energy on Earth…and the direct source of the energy we use to perform our nuclear stunts as Firestorm.” Stein sketches a chalk facsimile of the Sun as he speaks. “You mean, we’re like some kinda solar battery?” Ronnie asks with surprise, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Stein shakes his head, answering, “About science, I never kid, Ronald. I think…”
Kreeeaak! Stein’s office door very slowly swings open… “Surprise!” call out a half dozen happy voices in unison. Stein and Ronnie whirl around to see the Professor’s Concordance colleagues walking in. “Martin, you broken-down wreck!” teases Harry Carew, “Didn’t think we’d let you escape without a going-away party, did you?” Belle Haney carries a large cake, ‘Bon Voyage Martin’ in large frosting letters on the top. “It’s all Harry’s idea, Martin,” Belle tells him. “But the rest of us agreed you deserve it,” chimes in Quentin Quayle, “Congratulations, Stein.”
Stein is taken aback by the friendly support from his colleagues. “Well…for goodness’ sake, I’m completely…speechless!” he says happily. “Harry baked the cake, Martin. So don’t blame me,” Belle tells him. “Harry…Belle…Quentin…I’m touched,” Stein says as he looks over the cake, “’Bon Voyage, Martin.’ Should I blow out the candles?” Belle nods, answering, “That’s the usual idea.”
Swooosh! Martin puffs out the candles. He cuts several pieces and passes them around. “Uh…say, Mr. Carew,” Ronnie asks between cautious bites. “Call me Harry, kid. After all this time, we should be friends, right?” Carew replies. Ronnie asks with his mouthful, “Right, uh, Harry…What kind of cake it this?” He points at the cake a bit warily. “Whole wheat with honey and carob yogurt icing,” Carew explains, patting Ronnie on the shoulder, “Healthy food in a healthy body, kid. That’s my motto.” Ronnie looks sheepishly at the cake. “Grk,” he mumbles as he forces himself to swallow.
“I’m rather surprised to see you here, Mr. Quayle. Aren’t you glad to see me go?” Stein asks, “You once cancelled my contract, I recall.” Stein looks down slightly, gazing at Qualye from over the top of his glasses. “A long time ago, Stein,” Quayle replies, “I’ll admit I didn’t warm to you at first. When your contract came up for renewal, I was happy to see it lapse. Then Concordance was bought out…and our new owners wanted you back.” Quayle takes a gulp of his drink. “I didn’t approve…but I went along. Strange thing happened. I got used to you,” Quayle continues, “We’ll never be friends, Stein, but the truth is, I’ll miss you. To old times.” He reaches his glass out and Stein clinks it with his. “Old times,” Stein nods.
“Bravo,” Belle calls out, “Any fond sentiments left for me, Martin?” Stein looks a bit puzzled. “Belle…I…” he stutters. She reaches for his hand and pulls him toward the door. “Let’s talk alone somewhere,” she says.
Stein and Belle disappear under the Exit sign while the others continue to talk. “Fitness, kid. That’s the key to a long life,” Harry explains to Ronnie, “Would you believe I’m 45? Take a look at this stomach. Solid as a rock.” Ronnie looks bored by Carew’s bragging. “Good food, exercise, six hours of sleep a night, no booze, no smokes, no women,” Carew goes on, catching himself, “ - - I mean, uh - - all in moderation, kid - - ah…”
Interlude: Miami, Florida… People mill about the sidewalk in a less-than-friendly part of town. A man holds a boombox on his shoulder and a weather report comes across the radio. “…meteorologists at *skzzztz* -al Weather Institute confirm *skzzztz* levels of sunspot activity since *skzzzztz* *skkzzt* ” the announcer’s voice crackles through static.
Nearby, Frido leans on the door of a convertible parked along the sidewalk. “Jake, please, I’m hurtin’,” Frido begs, “Jus’a taste, that’s all I need to get me well…” Frido reaches and grabs at Jake’s shirt. Jake pushes him back, growing irritated. “Dream on. You’re already in the hole for two bills. Get your hands off me,” he growls. “Man, please!” Frido whines. Jake’s partner Wade whips out a handgun, aiming it at Frido. “Ears stuffed?” Wade snarls, asking threateningly, “Maybe we should open up your head a little so you can hear better.”
VRROOOM! The car speeds off. “N-no…please,” Frido calls out. “Loser,” yells back Jake. Frido reels in discomfort, nearly falling over. The man carrying the boombox switches it off. He and his friend look on at the struggling Frido. “Oh, God, it hurts…hurts so bad…” Frido groans. He flails a hand out and it brushes against a light pole. Skzzzzt! A small purple flash bursts from the pole around Frido’s hand, then…
SSZZZKKKTT! Frido is enveloped in a wave of sparking purple energy that flows from the light pole! “…the pain…” he moans as his body is wracked by the bizarre phenomenon. “Holee spit!” yells the onlooker, dropping his boombox to the sidewalk. Frido stumbles and shuffles down the sidewalk, clutching at his head. “…hurts so bad…” he gasps. “You see that?” the other onlooker asks in shock. “Yeah, right…but who’d believe it, man?” his friend asks. “Holee spit,” the onlooker gasps. His boombox crackles to life again, blaring, “ *skkzzt* affecting all *sskkzzt* -ernational communications and *zzzsskkkstt * ”
Concordance Research, New York…Martin Stein and Belle Haney kiss passionately under the moonlight on a balcony overlooking the city. “Belle, I…I don’t know what to say,” Stein blushes as they separate. “It was my idea, Martin. For old times,” Belle explains. “All these years we’ve known each other - - why didn’t it ever work for us, Belle?” Stein asks with a touch of melancholy. “Who knows? Why did my marriage fail? Why did you marry Clarissa? Why did she leave you? Who knows anything about anything?” Belle asks, softly rubbing her hand on his cheek.
She steps away, turning to look out over the city. “When I was a girl, I believed in romance. I wanted to find my ‘one true love’ and ‘live happily ever after,’” she continues, “You know how long it took me to find out life doesn’t work that way?” She turns back to Stein. “My children were five and four and my marriage was a dead issue before it finally sank home that I wasn’t living a fairy tale,” she says sadly. “Belle…” Stein interjects softly. “No, shush. This is my speech,” she says, touching a hushing finger to his lips, “We both know it’s too late for us,” Belle says, “I should have gone after you when we were friends at school. If we’d known then what we know now…but that’s the tragedy, isn’t it? We never do.”
She opens the balcony door and slowly walk backs inside to the Concordance offices. “Ronnie,” Stein thinks, pausing a moment at the door. “Uh-oh,” Ronnie thinks, quickly reaching for the office door. “Bye, Harry. Thanks for the advice,” Ronnie waves, hastily heading for the hallway. “Sure thing, kid,” Carew answers, “You can never get too healthy.” Ronnie snaps the door closed and concentrates quickly, thinking, “Here I come, Professor…”
Two minds concentrate, and once again atoms strip down and reassemble themselves almost instantaneously across time and space. Where there were two beings, there is one.
Firestorm, the Nuclear Man.
“Ronnie…if you don’t mind, I’d like to get out of here,” Professor Stein says as they fuse together. “Anything you say, Professor. I think I know how you feel,” Ronnie answers, asking, “Where to?” FZZZAAAM! He leaps into the air from the Concordance Building rooftop. “Space, Ronald. This is as good a time as any to test my theory,” Stein suggests. “You mean that we get energy from the Sun? How do we check that, Professor?” Ronnie asks, “And what about vacuum? Maybe I don’t need air to breathe, but I need it to talk.”
“Do you, Ronald?” Stein asks as they soar into the upper atmosphere, adding, “We’ve managed to communicate quite well a number of times without you needing to speak to me aloud. Underwater, for example. You use spoken words simply as a method to concentrate your thoughts. If you need help, try sub-vocalizing.” They break out of Earth’s atmosphere into space. Ronnie pauses, floating along for a moment near a communications satellite. He focuses his mind and thoughts, concentrating as the Professor instructed. “Terrific,” he thinks in his mind without speaking, “Well? can you hear me?”
Stein is pleased and nods. “Loud and clear, my boy. Now, to answer your first question…How I plan to check my theory…You recall the computer printout I showed you? Using a Concordance terminal with access to the National Weather Institute’s database, I ran a search program to develop a backtrace of sunspot activity over the past dozen months. I checked to see if there was a correlation between peak periods of surface solar disturbances and our recent…Eh?”
Stein stops his explanation as he glances at Ronnie. They are flying in low orbit around the Earth, but Ronnie is covering his eyes with his hands. “Ronald…why are you hiding your eyes?” Stein asks. “I can’t look, Professor,” Ronnie explains sheepishly, “We’re too high up.” Stein scoffs. “Ridiculous. When we were a member of the JLA, you had no trouble visiting their old Headquarters,” he replies, “That was aboard a satellite orbiting 22,300 miles high, I recall. Here, we’re barely 200 miles up.” Ronnie continues to fly with his eyes covered, reaching out almost blindly in front of him. “Straight up, Professor. On the League satellite, we had gravity…it didn’t seem real!” Ronnie gulps, “I’m gonna be sick…” Stein looks at a nearby satellite. “Behind you, Ronald. Reach behind you,” he directs.
“Whoa, doggie! What’s this, Professor?” Ronnie blurts as he touches the satellite and uncovers his eyes. “A LandSat mapping satellite, I believe,” Stein explains, “It should provide you with a sufficient base for equilibrium while I continue to outline my theory.” Ronnie pushes on the satellite, tipping it. He climbs onto it like a bicycle, holding on tightly with both hands. “Hey…Maybe it will at that,” Ronnie sighs with relief, “Go ahead, Professor.”
Ronnie propels his makeshift space cycle forward. “To continue. Clearly our powers are too great for our body to contain all the necessary energy resources,” Stein theorizes, “Thus, we require an outside source of energy…” Bright rays of light start to poke over the curvature of the Earth up ahead. “The Sun. Got it. We’re a human solar battery,” Ronnie guesses, “So the power to do what we do…atomic restructuring blasts, density switching, nuclear blasts…all of it comes from the Sun.”
Stein nods. “Precisely, which brings us to our current problem,” he continues, “Our nuclear powers focus solar energy. But recently we’ve had difficulty focusing our powers to do two tasks simultaneously…such as restructuring and density-switching. The computer printout suggests why. In the last twelve months, sunspot activity has been on the rise.” Ronnie guides them away from the Earth, setting course to approach the Sun. “Don’t tell me,” Ronnie speculates, “The times we couldn’t use all our powers at once - - are the same times sunspots peaked on the Sun’s surface.”
They pick up speed quickly, leaving a trail through space dotted with bursts of atomic rings. “Sunspots cause disruptions in radio communications…in electrical equipment…even in human behavior…Why not in our ability to use our nuclear powers,” Stein asks. Busy in thought, Stein looks up with a start. “Eh? Ronald, my boy…How did we get here?” he asks with surprise. “Once we started talking, I stopped being scared,” Ronnie answers, asking, “This is where you wanted to go, right?”
Stein surveys the massive Sun just ahead. “Good Lord…the solar corona!” he exclaims, “Yes…this is perfect! Magnificent! The sunspot cycle I was telling you about is at a 200-year high, Ronald…It’s never been so intense before, never will be again in our lifetime! The things we can learn here…about fusion…about ourselves!” Ronnie nods. “Sounds good to me, Professor. Think we should get started?” he asks. “Of course, of course,” Stein says with eager anticipation, “Yes. Well. First of all…” Fade out in the solar corona, half a million miles from the Sun’s surface…
Interlude: Miami, the palacial beachfront home of Carlo, the Man. Three men converse on a balcony overlooking the ocean. “Sixty bills, Carlo. That’s all it’ll cost you,” Jake says. “We clean up on this deal. No problem,” Wade offers. “So you say,” Carlo answers carefully, “But I deal in percentages, and in this deal you’re offering me, I don’t see my percentage. You want me to back you making a purchase…and all you offer me is 30% banker’s fee. A man with my connections, I estimate my money should be worth a 70% return, at least.” Jake fumes and his partner pulls him back. “You lousy…” Jake blurts. “Relax, man. He’s right,” Wade tells him, “70% sounds fair to us, Carlo. When can you…”
SKZZZTZ! Suddenly, the whole area goes dark. “Hey! What’s with the lights?” Jake asks in surprise. SSSZZZZKKT! Purple sparks and arcs race across between telephone poles. “Whole place is short-circuiting!” Carlo yells. “Figure it’s a blackout?” Jake asks. “No way! It’s the power lines - - they’re blowin’ up!” Wade cries out. SKKZZZAAKK! The purple energy arrives just above them. “Look out!” Carlo yells.
The purple energy flows down the telephone pole to the ground in front of the men. It quickly materializes and becomes recognizable as a strange, humanoid form. Incredibly, it starts walking toward them. “Hurts so bad, gimme sumthin’ for the pain!” it growls. “Who the…” Carlo starts to ask. “Help me. They wouldn’t, but you gotta,” the unreal creature pleads. Its body radiates purple crackling energy. Its skin is a strange hue of light blue, and electrical energy arcs like a mask around his eyes. He reaches down and yanks Carlo up, holding him dangling above the ground. “Help me,” it hisses at Carlo’s terrified face. “YAAAIIIII!” Carlo shrieks in agony. SKKZZZZT! Energy sizzles between the two. Carlo’s body shakes violently and he suddenly goes silent. The creature drops his limp body to the ground.
“Oh man, you see that? See what he did?” Jakes asks fearfully. He and Wade run for their lives as the creature turns its gaze towards them. “Burned Carlo like a piece’a toast! Get outta here, man!” Wade cries. They race to their car and leap in. Wade hits the gas and they speed away as the creature walks out of the estate’s gate behind them. “Who was that? What was that?” Jake asks, nervously looking back. “Didn’t you hear his voice?” Wade asks, adding, “Know it anywhere! Don’t know how…don’t wanna know how…but that was Frido, man! Frido!” End of Interlude.
Fade in on New York Harbor, nine hours later, at dawn… “Mmm…Wow, gotta tell you, Professor, if I’m a solar battery, I fell like somebody left my lights on all night,” Ronnie sighs, “I’m beat.” He flies along the waterfront and brings them down in the area of Stein’s apartment building. “We’ve done excellent work, Ronald. At last we know the limits of our powers,” Stein smiles, asking, “How does breakfast sound?” Ronnie lowers his atomic density and passes the building’s wall into the Professor’s apartment. Ronnie concentrates and in an instant of transformation, he and Professor Stein step out of Firestorm. “Bacon and eggs, with hash browns and hot coffee?” Ronnie asks. “Deal. You make the coffee,” Stein agrees, “One thing about living in Pittsburgh…no elevated subway outside my window,” he says with a glance at the loudly rumbling passing train, “That’s something I won’t miss.”
Ronnie gets the coffee maker going. “Did we really learn something out by the Sun, Professor?” he asks. Stein cracks a few eggs into his frying pan and they begin to sizzle on the stove. “We did indeed, my boy,” Stein nods, “Sunspot activity seems to have permanently altered certain of our nuclear abilities. As Firestorm, we can no longer use our nuclear bursts or atomic restructuring powers while in a lowered atomic density. Additionally, there is now a clear outside limit to the effective range of our bursts…approximately ten meters.”
Stein scoops the bacon and eggs onto plates. He and Ronnie sit at the kitchen table. “Anything beyond ten meters cannot be affected by our atomic restructuring powers. What’s more, there’s a mass limit to what we can alter…about ten tons,” Stein continues. Ronnie flicks the switch on the TV, and the evening news broadcast fills the black-and-white screen. “All of that because of sunspots?” Ronnie asks. Stein nods. “Apparently so. I’ll have to study the phenomena in detail, naturally,” he answers, “Remember, this solar cycle is particularly intense - - hm?”
The newscast attracts their attention. “…particularly intense, affecting telecommunications nationwi- *sskkkzzt* In Miami this morning *skzzt* are reports of a huma- *skkzzt* sparks,” the announcer explains as bursts of static affect the TV reception. “ *skzzt* destroyed several miles of power lines in do- *skzz* -own Miami be- *skkzzzzzzzzzz* ” the announcer continues as the static makes his voice unintelligible. “What did he say? Human sparks in Miami?” Ronnie asks as he adjusts the tuning dial, asking, “You believe in intuition, Professor?” Stein nods. “Every good scientist thrives on intuition, Ronald,” he replies, adding, “My intuition tells me something deadly is loose in Miami…What does yours tell you?”
Miami, Florida: traffic is at a dead stop on the packed expressway bridge just outside the downtown area. A bizarre figure stands menacingly in the midst of the stopped cars. Purple energy surrounds him in a radiant aura. Several cars rest upended and piled on top of each other next to him. A news helicopter flies into position, coming to a hover over the miles-long logjam.
“There’s your traffic jam, Bill. Everything’s bottlenecked on the bridge,” the helicopter pilot observes. “Get us lower. Let’s see what’s causing it,” asks Bill, the reporter. “Why bother?” the pilot asks, “With all this static, you can’t broadcast. Might as well head home.” Bill shakes his head. “Uh-uh. Broadcast or no broadcast, we’re on salary. Take us down, Mabel,” he directs. Mabel sighs and works the control sticks to descend. She looks down at the line of cars, answering, “Lower you want, lower you - - Look out!”
Sparks leap from ground to helicopter…strike engine, strike fuel lines, strike fuel tanks. In the instant before shock renders her unconscious, Mabel feels the tanks ignite behind her. The explosion that follows is the last sound she ever hears. THAWOOOM! The helicopter erupts in a massive fireball!
On the bridge, Frido…or the creature that he has become…watches the flaming wreckage fall. He stands atop a pile of wrecked vehicles. Drivers and passengers lay motionless inside their cars nearby. Purple energy crackles around him. “Hurts like fire in my belly…gotta get well!” he moans, “Lacy…she’ll have what I need…Lacy…lovely Lacy…”
Wind whips through a palm tree outside a run-down hotel building. “I heard what I heard, Lacy,” Jakes says accusingly, “I saw what I saw. That waste-head boyfriend of yours…He’s some kinda freak. He burned Carlo, next he’ll try to burn me…’Specially when he finds out about us.” Lacy kneels nervously next to the bed. Curtains blow gently around her from an open window behind her. “Jake, Frido’s a little weird, sure - - but he wouldn’t never do what you said! You gotta be wrong!” she exclaims. Jake reaches for a large brown duffle bag on the bed. Lacy stands up next to him, eyeing the bag. “You don’t listen, do you?” Jake fumes as he snatches the bag, “Wade’s got the car downstairs. I’m outta here.” Lacy reaches her hand toward him. “Jake, honey! Before you go - - a little taste to - - OHH!” Lacy blurts as Jake angrily shoves her down. Jake storms out the door, loudly slamming it behind him. Lacy looks up from the floor. “Jake?” she calls, “Why’s everybody always got to leave?”
Miles up, miles north…Ronnie soars south along the coastline of Florida, scanning the odd sights below. “Pretty grim down there, Professor,” Ronnie says, “The whole coast’s been hit with a power overload. Fires…brownouts…a real mess. Further south we get, the worse it looks.” Stein suggests a destination in mind to begin their investigation. “Apparently the anomaly locus is Miami Beach, Ronald.” Ronnie scoffs a little at the scientific jargon. “Uh, yeah. What you said,” he replies, “Miami Beach looks like the center of things, too. We better - - Hey!”
Ronnie sees a strange figure below standing amidst a veritable junkyard of wrecked and burning cars. He banks around an office building to approach from behind. “What the TV news said about a human spark plug - - that’s got to be him!” Ronnie figures. “Make a cautious approach, Ronald,” Stein warns, “The way he’s disrupting electrical fields, he might be…” SKKZZZTTZZ! Ronnie gets near to Frido and purple electrical energy arcs suddenly, blasting into him. SKKZZZT! KASH! Ronnie is knocked off course, smashing into a light pole! The impact stuns him, and he falls crumpled to the street.
Jake runs out of the hotel building. The bulb of a street light explodes overhead. He sprints and jumps in the car with Wade. “Gun it,” he orders, out of breath. “Don’t have to tell me twice,” Wade quickly concurs. Vvvrroooom! They speed away from the building. Frido suddenly appears in their path! “Aw, no - - there he is, man!” Wade frets. “Run him down!” Jake bellows. The car bears down on Frido and…SKZZZTT! KROOM! The car crumples like tinfoil and rolls over, dumping Wade and Jake onto the street. Frido walks slowly toward them. Wade lies prone on the street. Jake struggles to get up. “…Wade…He’s comin’, man…” Jake says, fearfully watching Frido, “…Wade…we gotta do something…”
Jake reaches into the brown duffel bag and pulls out a baggie. He holds it up in his hand for Frido to see. “Frido…Look, Frido…It’s what you want, right?” he asks nervously, “All for you, Frido…Just lemme alone, okay? Okay?” Frido reaches out to him with both hands. “Okay, Jake…Anything you say,” Frido snarls. He wraps his hands around Frido’s wrists and…SSKZZZZKK!
Down the street, a figure stirs…rising painfully on feet that feel like warm rubber… “Promise you won’t say it, Professor. No I-told-you-so’s,” Ronnie moans. He wraps an arm around the light pole for support as he rubs his temple. “I promise, Ronald. Are you all right?” Stein asks with concern. Ronnie gets to his feet. “Hey, I don’t feel like dancing - - but other than that, I’m okay,” he replies, adding, “And maybe I’ve got an idea or two. This spark-character is carrying a load of static electricity, right?” Ronnie looks up and down at the light pole. “So it would seem,” Stein agrees.
“Hope I’m strong enough to do this, Professor,” Ronnie says as he floats up and grabs onto the top of the light pole. Kkkraak! He pulls it back and forth, loosening it from the concrete sidewalk. “What are you planning, Ronald?” Stein asks. “The guy’s full of static…and the thing you do with static electricity is ground it, right again?” Ronnie asks. “You’re going to use this lamppost…” Stein asks. Krrip! Ronnie snaps it out of the sidewalk and flies off, carrying the light pole in both arms. “As a grounding pole, Professor,” he explains, “Yah-hah!”
Lacy walks into the hotel lobby. “What Jake said about Frido…It can’t be true, I mean, can it?” she thinks, “Why is my life falling apart?” A panicked man runs past her wearing a ‘Prince Tour ‘85’ jersey. Lacy looks around and sees that people are running in fear all around the lobby. “An’ where’re all these people go - - ing?” she asks confusedly. She looks out the lobby window in horror, yelling, “Oh, my God…Frido!”
SKRAAAASH! Frido smashes through the window in a rain of shattered glass. Lacy dives to get away but Frido is upon her almost instantly. “Lemme alone…Oh God, Frido, please don’t hurt me!” Lacy yells in terror. She falls to the floor and Frido stands over her. “Lacy, I’m sorry ‘bout before. You gotta help me, Lace,” he says pleadingly, “I’m hurtin’, but I got the stuff, Lacy…I got…”
Firestorm suddenly appears! “What you’ve got is trouble in a family-sized package!” Ronnie yells out, flying into the lobby with the light pole. “Huh?” Frido says as he whirls around. SKZZZKKSS! Ronnie thrust the light pole like a spear into Frido! He lifts him up into the air on the end of the pole while he pivots it. “You’ve got him off the ground, Ronald,” Stein directs, “Now ground him so the static charge can dissipate.” Ronnie slams the base of the light pole into the floor. “Done,” he announces.
Lacy walks cautiously next to Firestorm. They look up at Frido dangling from the top of the light pole, his body surrounded in rippling purple energy. “What’d you do to him?” Lacy asks anxiously. “Guy’s harmless now, lady,” Ronnie answers, “A few more seconds, all that static he’s sparking off will just drain away.
Lacy points up, asking, “Y-Yeah…then howcum he’s getting’ brighter?” SSSSKKZZZZ! “Brighter?” Ronnie asks, “Uh-oh…” Ronnie quickly transforms a floor section into a shield to protect Lacy! SKKKZZZAAK! Frido unleashes a torrent of static energy that smashes into Ronnie! He falls back behind the shield, stunned by the blast. Lacy reaches to help him. “Mister…Mister, get up,” she calls to him, “Is he dead, Mister? Is Frido gone?” Frido answers, “Don’cha worry, Lace…I’m jus’ fine…”
Ronnie rubs his head as he comes to. “…Ouch. Guess my bright idea wasn’t so bright, after all,” he groans, looking over at the smoldering light pole. “Despite appearances, Sparx must use a different source of energy than static,” Professor Stein answers. “Did you say ‘Sparx?’” Ronnie asks. Stein nods. “As good a name as any, you agree?” he asks. Ronnie starts to get up, still a bit off-kilter from the static discharge. “Yeah, sure…but where did he go - - him and that girl?” Ronnie asks. A female voice can be heard shrieking outside. Ronnie looks out the smashed lobby window, answering himself, “Ask a stupid question…the beach!”
People flee down the sandy beach away from Sparx and Lacy. “Why’s you scream, Lacy?” Sparx yells at her, “I need you…need your help. You gotta get your works…fix me up..! It hurts real bad, Lace..!” She cowers frightfully in the sand. “Get away from me!” she screams. Sparx reaches to her. “You don’t understand…My brain’s burnin’ up…worse than it’s ever been!” he pleads, “Jus’ help me, Lacy. Help me get well…ARRRGGH!”
A nuclear blast detonates next to Sparx, and he falls face-first into the sand. “You caught him by surprise, Ronald, but what good will that do?” Stein asks as they approach. “It’ll get him away from that girl, Professor,” Ronnie explains, adding, “Until we figure how to fight this guy, that’s good enough for - - AAAHHH!”
Sparx thrusts his hand up, wrapping his fingers tightly around Firestorm’s right ankle. SKKZZ! Static energy surges out of his hand. He leaps up and wraps both arms around Firestorm! “Everybody’s always tryin’ to hurt me,” Sparx growls as he wrestles the Nuclear Man, “All week my head’s been blazin’…All week I’m hurtin’…But nobody helps! Nobody helps!” Ronnie struggles to free himself, but Sparx keeps him tightly restrained as they stumble over the sand. “All week…that correlates with the rise in sunspot activity…Sparx gets his power from sunspots.” Stein explains. “Great…That’s a real page-one headline,” Ronnie says as he fights. “Now here’s something…for page three!”
FZZZAAM! Ronnie aims both hands down and unleashes twin nuclear bursts into the sand! They detonate and blow him back, carrying Sparx along with him! They soar through the air out over the water and land into the waves. KKKKKKZZAK! “YAAAAHHH!” Sparx yells in agony as water and electricity meet. KKHHHSSSSHH! Clouds of steam billow up from the ocean as Lacy looks on in shock. She cautiously gets to her feet, looking out at the water and plumes of steam. “F-Frido…” she calls softly.
Ronnie emerges from the water, pulling Frido along with him to the beach. Frido has transformed back to his human form. Smoky purple steam vapors ripple away from his body as Ronnie lays him gently on the sand. “We better call an ambulance,” Stein suggests, asking, “How did you know water would short-circuit him, Ronald?” Lacy runs over and takes Frido in her arms. “I didn’t, Professor. The guy was burning me up,” Ronnie answers, “I wanted to douse the fire. Guess I got lucky. His luck just ran out.” Ronnie rubs his temples, still affected by the static blast. He looks on as Lacy cradles Frido’s head in her lap, rubbing his head with her hands. Stein watches them carefully. He sees as Frido’s fist unclasps, and a small drug baggie falls out of it to the sand. “Call it intuition, my boy,” Stein says sadly, “I have a feeling his luck ran out a long time ago.”