Firestorm flies to Kenya on the African plains, tracing the source of the were-hyena curse that has infected him, leaving him unable to transform back into Ronnie and the Professor. Firestorm meets the President of Kenya who provides him with the location of the village where Summer Day worked in the Peace Corps. Lorraine Reilly has been kidnapped by an unknown entity. Summer Day's diary reveals the story of how she became afflicted with the were-hyena curse. Firestorm is captured and taken to a small tribal village where the shaman may hold the key to cure him.
Kenya. The country of African plains. Its veldt is enormous, stretching over thousands of square miles. Animals of all shapes and sizes populate its lands. Firestorm, infected or cursed by Dr. Shi in Hyena form, arrives in the sky over Kenya, desperately searching for a cure for the mysterious affliction that is slowly taking over his body. Professor Martin Stein is not optimistic. “Ronald, what’s the use?” he asks. He wonders what hope they have of finding a cure in such an expanse, assuming that a cure even exists in the first place. Ronnie is open to other ideas from the Professor, but otherwise they don’t have any other choice but to search on. Firestorm flies low over the ground and three giraffes look on at the very unusual sight passing by.
Stein asks Ronnie to try their transformation just once more. Ronnie reminds him that they tried to transform into their separate personas back in New York and nothing changed. But, if it will make Stein happy, Ronnie will try again. Just one more shot, Ronnie says. He lands alongside a trickling creek. Two rabbits look on at the Nuclear Man. Ronnie concentrates, trying to force them to split apart. His knees buckle and his back arches. He and Stein yell out in agonizing frustration! The transformation did not occur! His energy spent from the attempt, Ronnie says “No joy. We’re stuck with each other. We can’t change back!” Firestorm falls over with a splash at the edge of the creek. Stein admits that he expected as much, but still held out hope in his heart that somehow it would work. Ronnie did as well.
Ronnie says they might as well face it: When Dr. Jivan Shi clawed Ronnie the night this ordeal began (see issue 10), it must have infected him with Shi’s weird hyena-lycanthropy just as he’d been infected by Summer Day when she was recuperating in Arizona. Shi became a were-hyena just like Summer – two Hyenas for the price of one. Ronnie thought both of them were trying to kill him. In the end, it was Summer that helped Firestorm overcome Jivan Shi. But that was only the beginning of their problems. Firestorm’s composite identity kept him from turning completely into a were-hyena like them, but the hyena-infection has paralyzed them in the form of Firestorm. The infection is causing side effects like fur on Firestorm’s face, claws on his fingers, and has turned his teeth into fangs. Unless they can find a cure, they may be forced to stay together forever! That is why Ronnie insisted they come to Africa. According to Summer’s diary, the Kenyan plains are where she became infected. Ronnie says it stands to reason that this is where to look for the cure.
As Firestorm flies over the lush green expanse, he is not yet aware that he has been spotted and is being pursued! Far behind him, a fighter jet is banking and turning to give chase. Its pilot radios to Nairobi Control to report that he has the intruder aircraft on his radar. The pilot does not have visual contact yet and prepares to intercept.
Ronnie decides that they first thing they have to do is find someone in authority. Looking around, Stein sees the fighter jet closing in and alerts Ronnie that they won’t have to worry about finding the authorities – they’ve already found them! Light sparkles from the wings of the jet as the pilot fires his machine guns. Ronnie looks back and lets out a startled “Yeoww!” A spray of bullets pierces the sky! Ronnie wishes that people would ask questions first and shoot later, and he lowers his atomic density so the bullets pass through him like spit through smoke. It is unnerving getting shot at. It makes him mad. The jet sweeps around and locks on target. The pilot fires two air-to-air missiles. They streak across the sky, but Firestorm dodges them. He flies directly towards the cockpit of the jet. Landing on the nose of the speeding plane, he peers in at the pilot as says loudly “Listen fella, I’ve got a bone to pick with you!” The pilot is shocked and yells “Yaaaa! Monsters!” He pulls the emergency handle and activates his ejection seat. “Ptoom!” The canopy flies off the plane and the pilot and his radio intercept officer are blasted free of the jet. Firestorm, still perched on the nose asks as they depart, “Was it something I said?”
Nairobi, Kenya, is the symbol of the New Africa. It is a modern city, rising up from its ancient roots on the crest of the Athi Plains. Firestorm stands in the office of the Kenyan President. Two military guards dressed in camouflage fatigues look on, automatic weapons at ready. Firestorm tells the President he’s sorry the plane got broken and promises to fix it as soon as they provide him help with his problem. The President replies that the government of Kenya would never give in to blackmail. However, he says they have the fortunate circumstance of mutual interests that coincide. The President holds a diary in his hands, and asks if it is accurate and not a fraud. Firestorm says he didn’t get hairy because he forgot to shave today. As far as he knows, every word in that diary is true. The President dismisses the military guards, who are concerned that the “creature” may be dangerous. Saying he is a fair judge of character, the President replies that he has nothing to fear from Firestorm. The door closes behind the departing guards. The President says “Now, then…let’s talk.” A grin slowly takes shape on the face of the Nuclear Man.
Far away from Kenya, the scene shifts to a darkened room somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. A voice says “I’m not going to let this frighten me.” An attractive female face comes into view, young, twenty-something. She says it’s been a long time since this girl was afraid of the dark. A voice answers her, “Right. So tell me, Ms. Reilly…if you’re not afraid of the dark, why are you terrified?” A sharp “Klick” noise pops through the air and light instantly bathes the room. Lorraine Reilly sits, tied to a chair. She recoils at the sudden brightness, and asks the unseen voice to watch it with the light. Are they trying to blind her? She tells herself “Smart, Lorraine, really clever.” What else might they be doing by keeping her in the dark? And she asks the big question: who are “they?” The lights go off again, returning the room to darkness. She asks who are you, what do you want from me? She announces that if this is some gag to get to her Dad through her, it won’t work. Her Dad is Senator Reilly, and he can sic the FBI on them! There is no answer from the darkness. Softly, Lorraine says “I swear I’m not afraid of the dark…”
In midtown Manhattan is the tall high-rise that is home to Concordance Research. Inside, audio specialist Harry Carew tells project manager Quentin Quale that is was rotten for a man of Martin Stein’s caliber to have been treated like a third-rate bottle washer. Carew asks why he is working for an outfit like Concordance Research when they employ jerks like Quale as project managers. Arms crossed, Quale tells Carew to rave on. He says people like Stein and Carew think they are pure scientists, somehow above the more practical types of men like him. Scowling, Quale says it’s people like him who make things work for people like Carew and Stein. While the scientists labor away in their pure research with their heads in the clouds, Carew makes sure the bills get paid, the grant applications are filed, and the patent paperwork is completed. Angrily, Quale says that a drunk like Stein was dead weight, and it’s his job to toss the dead weight overboard to make room for the rest of the scientists. He barks that like it or not, that’s the way it is, and orders Carew to get back to work.
Carew steps into the hallway. A woman approaches. She says Quale is hot-tempered. Carew replies that that was the first time he had ever seen Quentin Quale blow up, that it made him seem almost human. He starts to address her, saying “Miss…” She interrupts, saying “Actually, it’s Mrs. Mrs. Martin Stein.” She asks him to call her Clarissa. Carew is shocked and stammers “Martin is married?” She reveals to him somewhat sadly that she and Martin have recently divorced. She figures that Stein is not there, and Carew shares the bad news that Quale did not renew his contract. He describes that as a polite way of saying Stein was fired. Clarissa gasps, holding her hand to her face. Martin tried so hard to get himself back on his feet. Crying, she says she is sorry to have bothered Carew and begins to walk away. He reaches out to her, saying he can’t let her walk out so upset. He offers to buy her a cup of coffee somewhere that they can talk. Asking her to call him Harry, they depart together.
Firestorm soars over the African plains. Ronnie says Stein can call him a cock-eyed pessimist, but he thinks the Kenyan President was just too eager to help them. Stein reminds him that it was Ronnie’s idea to get assistance from the authorities. Ronnie replies “There’s assistance and then there’s assistance, Professor Stein.” He elaborates, saying that when a politician gives you a hand, it’s usually because he thinks he can get something out of it. He wonders what their Nairobi friend thinks he’s going to get out of helping them. Stein suggests that the President was being altruistic after seeing the diary. For some reason, the way the President acted when he saw the diary of Summer Day is what is bothering Ronnie. The President has told them of a spot to investigate, but Ronnie lands on the plains first before heading there. He tells Stein that it is time they re-read Summer’s diary.
The diary details how Summer left home because she felt she could not live up to her father’s expectations. He wanted her to become a cop, like him. Unfortunately, Summer flunked out of the police academy. She joined the Peace Corps and worked in the small villages of Kenya far from civilization. In the neat cursive handwriting of Summer Day, Ronnie reads on. She worked to escape her old life. It was a humbling experience. Her problems back home seemed so petty compared to the suffering she saw. She had been in Africa for six months treating an outbreak of smallpox. She was exhausted, worn to the bone from her work, and had not been sleeping well. Then…it happened.
Late one night, Summer was awakened by a chilling scream from outside the village. Sitting up in her tent, she lights a lantern and quickly gets dressed. It was the night of the full moon. When she went looking for the source of the cry, she found a man lying wounded in the high grass. He was lying face down with an arrow sticking out of his upper back! She bent over to try and help him, and was about to yell for help from the camp. She tried to tell him not to worry, that they have doctors who can help him, and that he will be alright. The man suddenly lurched up! He bit Summer with fangs gleaming in the night, and starts to laugh a chilling laugh! Summer thinks she must have screamed at that point, but she just doesn’t remember. Afterwards, she was told that the camp guide heard her cry out. He found her in the brush, and there was some kind of creature leaning over her. Half-man, half-hyena! The guide aims his rifle and shoots. The hyena howls as a bullet pierces its chest! The guide picks up the unconscious Summer and carries her back to their encampment. It was much later when Summer was on an a medical evacuation flight back to Nairobi that she first learned of the native legend about the were-hyenas of the African veldt.
Ronnie sets the book down, saying Summer’s story is pretty grim. It was after she got back to the United States that she turned into a were-hyena, almost killing Firestorm and at least a half-dozen cops. With the diary reviewed, Ronnie asks Stein why their pal the President made himself so helpful. As they take flight, Stein says he has no explanation, but that the President did give them the name and location of the village where Summer served in the Peace Corps. The President seemed somewhat insistent that Firestorm seek out the village shaman there as quickly as possible.
Firestorm is unaware, but he has again been spotted. And targeted! The image of the Nuclear Man is centered in the crosshairs of a weapon’s sight! Oblivious to the impending danger, Ronnie says that people in government always have a reason why they do things, and that is what is worrying him. A loud “Bzoom!” echoes out from the trees below them. Ronnie looks back and exclaims “Oboy! I think we just found the reason!” Stein looks and sees what made the sudden noise. It is a surface-to-air heat-seeking missile heading right at them! Turning about in the air to face the missile, Ronnie says their journey isn’t going to be the picnic they thought. It may be only a guess, but he thinks their old pal the President wasn’t quite straight with them. Wondering if Stein agrees, Ronnie focuses a nuclear burst at the speeding projectile. Its warhead detonates in a massive explosive “Ka-whoom!” and disintegrates into a hail of smoke, debris, and flame.
As the pieces of the missile fall back to Earth, Stein suggests that they locate their would-be ambushers and ask them a few questions. “No sooner said than done,” Ronnie replies as he uses atomic restructuring to turn the missile’s heat trail into a neon arrow in the sky. The trail leads to a mobile SAM vehicle hidden in the trees. Firestorm lands to find just one slight problem: Nobody’s home. The vehicle and the surrounding area have been deserted. Stein feels that they were set up as targets for some kind of anti-government guerilla force. Ronnie thinks that their pal in Nairobi figured they’d do his dirty work by cleaning out the guerillas, leaving them to solve their problems on their own. Ronnie says that is both neat and despicable, and is reminded of nasty high school politics
Firestorm kneels near the SAM vehicle using nuclear beams to try and pick up a trail from the attackers. Unseen behind him, a human form steps out of the brush. It wears some type of native outfit and holds a weapon in its hand. It creeps up on the unsuspecting Firestorm, who turns to look…too late! The native swings mightily, striking Firestorm across the back of his head! The Nuclear Man collapses from the blow, unconscious. Grabbing his arm, the native drags Firestorm away.
On Manhattan’s Upper West side is Bradley High School. A loud discussion is taking place in the office of Principal Wallace Hapgood. Ed Raymond, Ronnie’s father, stands pounding Hapgood’s desk with his fist. Ronnie has disappeared! Hapgood says there must be some reasonable explanation and urges Ed to calm down. Ed says he has gone through enough in his life losing his wife, he won’t lose his son! Hapgood says he’s overreacting, which Ed replies that it’s not Hapgood’s child they’re talking about, it is Ed’s!
Looking on, Ronnie’s friend Jackson observes Ed Raymond’s concern. He can’t believe it. Ed actually really cares about Ronnie. He wonders why Ed is always riding Ronnie and why he keeps jumping on him. Ed Raymond angrily points at Doreen Day. He yells “You! You’re Ronald’s girl – you’re the one whose sister is a freak!” Doreen defensively says she does not know where Ronnie is. Growing more upset and agitated, Ed yells that Doreen is lying! She recoils in fright. Coach Mason steps in and grabs Ed to restrain him. He warns Ed to back off; can’t he see Doreen is scared stiff? Lost in frustrated fury, Ed calls Mason a third-rate coach and slaps him hard on the face! Coach Mason falls from the impact against Principal Hapgood. Stopped in his tracks at the sight of what he has just done, Ed finally regains some composure. He says he has to get out of there and quickly departs.
In the office, Doreen, Jackson, Coach Mason, and Principal Hapgood all stand trying to understand what just happened. Jackson says Ed got so red he thought his head was going to explode! Hapgood openly wonders that times like this make him question whether he was cut out to be a principal. Coach Mason stares angrily at the departing Ed Raymond. Doreen asks Jackson if maybe Ed was right, that it is possible Ronnie’s disappearance is somehow connected to Summer. Doreen worries that she is somehow responsible, but that idea is quickly dismissed by Jackson saying “No way!” Coach Mason angrily tells Hapgood that someone should call the police. Hapgood agrees, but asks first to talk to Ed Raymond again since they are old friends.
Kenya. Hunger. An antelope drinks from a small pond, alone. Food. Fury. The antelope looks up, suddenly startled! A form suddenly emerges and pounces upon it. It is a bestial hyena form. It growls as it strikes. It is Firestorm! His familiar costume is in tatters. The antelope cannot escape. Feasting. Firestorm bites down hard on the doomed creature’s neck.
It’s only a dream, only a nightmare. Tell yourself that you don’t really delight in the taste of still-warm flesh and the sweetness of hot blood spilling down your cheek. Tell yourself you won’t remember this when you wake and try to believe it…but this is no dream! The hyena head of Firestorm rears back, laughing maniacally as blood and saliva drip from his fangs! The chilling laugh echoes across the Kenyan plains.
A voice is heard. The voice of Kanyatta says “He wakes. Soon we can begin.” Another voice answers Kanyatta. It is the voice of Jubal, saying that Kanyatta must be mistaken if he expects help with this medieval ritual. “This thing isn’t human. It should be killed,” Jubal tells Kanyatta.
The bestial, hyena form of Firestorm hangs limply. His arms are tied to two logs behind him that have been crossed like a giant X. He is in a small tribal village. Several tribesmen look on curiously at the otherworldly sight before them. Kanyatta stands in native attire, holding a shaman’s coup stick. Next to Kanyatta in a guerilla fighter’s outfit stands Jubal, holding a familiar book in his hand. Kanyatta tells him that he couldn’t be more wrong about wanting to kill Firestorm. Jubal has lived apart from his people for too long, Kanyatta tells him he has forgotten the truths behind their legends. He tells Jubal to look at Firestorm, not with his cynical guerilla’s eye but instead with the eye of his secret soul. Jubal asks his brother not to talk to him about souls. He examines the diary of Summer Day that Firestorm was carrying when he was dragged by Kanyatta into the village. Jubal pronounces the diary as breathless prose from some American imperialist, a Peace Corps volunteer. Stein calls out to Ronnie. Can Ronnie understand him? Stein sees that the were-hyena change is accelerating. He calls desperately again to Ronnie…but growls and snarls are the only reply.
Kanyatta asks if Jubal remembers the legends of the horrors that once stalked this village and these plains. Jubal remembers the legends as stories meant to frighten wayward children and gestures at Firestorm, saying he is not a legendary monster but is instead the diseased product of the white man’s science sent to terrify the superstitious. Jubal feels that the captive nuclear were-creature is just a distraction from the true work of gaining freedom for their tribe. He wants to destroy Firestorm!
Kanyatta replies that Firestorm does not suffer from a disease, he suffers from the curse of the were-hyena! Jubal is incredulous that his brother would believe that since they both studied at the same university. Kanyatta says they have chosen different paths. He chose the path of inward knowledge, whereas Jubal chose the path of outward violence. Kanyatta offers healing, whereas Jubal wants to drag their people into bloody civil war. Natives step close with spears at ready, moving between Kanyatta and Jubal. In this village, Kanyatta says he is the law. The were-creature needs help that Kanyatta can provide, and Jubal will not be allowed to harm the creature while he remains in Kanyatta’s protection. Jubal steps aside, saying his brother can have it his way.
Kanyatta begins an ancient ritual, raising his shaman’s coup stick. He addresses Firestorm, telling him that Firestorm and his brother Jubal are very much alike, both cursed by a blood lust. Kanyatta wishes he could remove the curse from his brother as he now removes the curse in Firestorm! His head snaps back with gnashing teeth and an angry roar. Stein yells to Ronnie not to fight against what they came here for! Even though the ritual goes against all his scientific training, Stein fears this is their last and only chance! What happens next is beyond the understanding of Professor Martin Stein. Human voices chant. Ancient drums pound in a dynamic rhythm. An earthy scent is in the air as strange herbs flare and sparkle in the bonfire, the evocation of forgotten magic.
Jubal looks on and speaks to a guerilla clad in camouflage next to him. Jubal pronounces that his brother and his villagers have lost their usefulness to the revolution. He fears that others might follow Kanyatta’s path of peace, and that would be fatal to the guerilla force’s objectives. Kanyatta chants on, flames rising from the bonfire framing the hyena form of Firestorm in radiant light. Jubal looks at his brother, recalling that there are many paths to knowledge. Kanyatta chose his path, and Jubal now follows his!
Firestorm is surrounded in misty smoke. Stein asks “Ronald…do you feel it? It’s impossible, but it’s working!” Ronnie softly replies “Pro…Professor?” Kanyatta chants in mystic language. Suddenly, gunfire rings out! Automatic weapons fire at close range! Jubal stands before a squad of guerrillas that have materialized from the night to attack the village! The tribemen’s primitive spears are no match for the hail of bullets from automatic weapons. They are quickly mowed down. Kanyatta, his chest riddled with bullets, falls away to the ground.
The form of Firestorm appears! No longer the were-hyena, the curse is broken! He quickly breaks free of his restraints, shocked at the senseless slaughter he has just witnessed. He kneels over the now-lifeless Kanyatta, wondering how the cure will reach Summer Day and Jivan Shi. Stein tells Ronnie that they are human again, Kanyatta broke the curse! Ronnie is enraged at the senseless murder of the villagers. He fires nuclear bursts at Jubal and the guerillas, yelling “Damn you all!”
Nairobi. The modern city. Firestorm stands in the office of the Kenyan President. Firestorm is not happy, saying he came a long way for help and understanding, and ended up getting it from Kanyatta who owed him nothing. No thanks to the President, he says, suggesting that the lives of the villages might have been saved if the President had warned about the guerillas. Firestorm says that the President used him to catch the guerillas, but in his eyes now, the President is no better than they were. “So I think I’ll catch you, too,” Firestorm says and, with the point of a finger emanating a small restructuring burst, he makes the handcuffs locked around the wrists of the President! Telling the President that he and the handcuffs deserve each other, he questions “Me, I was cursed. What’s your excuse?” As they leap skyward, Professor Stein starts to question but Ronnie cuts him off, asking to save the conversation till they get home, saying “I’m kind of tired. And I want to think…”