Firestorm shares the story of his origin with Firehawk.
New York City: A nice place to visit - - and sometimes even a nice place to live. Sometimes - - when the lazy clouds hover in the blue sky, and tall buildings sparkle - - looking almost clean in the luster of a warm sun - -then sometimes - - even the most savvy New Yorkers can forget the grit of madness on which the city thrives…and behave like ordinary folks!
“Ordinary folks?” Well…maybe the two fiery figures atop a Manhattan co-op might never be called ordinary even by New York standards - - but they, too, can be affected by the beauty of the day - - a day that makes them want to open up - - to share - - to trust…
Firestorm and Firehawk stand talking together on the rooftop. Firestorm begins, “So, Firehawk, you want me to tell you who I am. You want to know everything…The Secret Origin of Firestorm.” Firehawk leans against a chimney as Firestorm looks out over the city. “You bet your hot cross buns I do,” she replies, “I nursed you back to health after your little run-in with Killer Frost…now you owe me, just a little, after all - - you know all my secrets.” As she finishes her sentence, Lorraine thinks to herself that there is one secret he doesn’t know: she is falling hard for him and doesn’t even know his real name!
Firestorm explains that he just doesn’t know about the wisdom of telling all his secrets to her. He’s not sure he has the right to. “Ronald, you mustn’t tell her,” cautions Professor Martin Stein. Ronnie Raymond asks why not. He thinks that maybe Firehawk can help him in ways that Stein cannot. Perhaps, they can even help each other, Ronnie thinks.
Firehawk watches Firestorm wondering why it is taking so long for him to respond. She is unaware of the subconscious presence of Martin Stein within Firestorm. “After the way we saved each other from Henry Hewitt? Doesn’t he know he can trust me?” she puzzles in thought. The woman known as Lorraine Reilly to the world and Firehawk to Firestorm attempts to wait - - but patience is not her strong point.
“Okay, that’s it,” she says as reaches her limit, “If you think I’m going to beg for your trust - - hot-head - - you can nuclear burst yourself out of my sight!” Ronnie answers, “Not a chance of that, Lorraine…So, I guess it’s time to tell you part of my story - - even if a part of me disagrees…I hope you believe this…I’m not sure I would.”
It all started when Ronnie’s Dad was hired by a New York newspaper and they moved east from Oregon. Ronnie became the new transfer student at Bradley High in Upper Manhattan.
He worked trying to fit in and make new friends, but it is never easy when you’re the new kid.
He joined in a casual football game after school on the snow-covered field. His team is behind late in the game. Ronnie, playing wide receiver, runs out into a pass pattern. The quarterback, Doreen Day, calls out to him, “Hey, kid - - catch!” and throws a deep pass. As the ball is in the air, class clown Cliff Carmichael tells Doreen that there is no way the pass will be completed. “Shut up, Carmichael - - or you’ll eat pigskin for lunch!” Doreen snaps back. Crossing the end zone line, Ronnie turns and leaps - - and makes a spectacular catch to score the winning touchdown!
Ronnie felt lonely and desperate - - trying hard to impress the other kids - - to belong! He felt that gave him an edge. But also…there was a girl! Doreen, impressed by Ronnie’s catch, gushes to Cliff, “Isn’t that new boy wonderful?” Cliff, clearly quite unimpressed, dismisses Ronnie as nothing more than a dumb jock. “Know what I like about you, Cliff?” Doreen retorts, “You’re such a bad sport!”
Doreen walks over to Ronnie and introduces herself. “Hi, Ronnie! I’m Doreen Day!” she says happily, reaching for the football. “I know - - er - - I mean - - it’s easy to find out the name of the prettiest girl in school,” Ronnie stammers out. Cliff, nearby, snarls at Ronnie, “Yeah, learning names doesn’t take brains - - just a mouth!” Doreen explains that learned Ronnie’s name from the class seating chart. She compliments him on making the winning catch. Cliff is abrasive. He explains that he has checked out Ronnie as well. “I saw his transcript,” he tells Ronnie and Doreen, “It seems he flunked out of his last school ‘cause he couldn’t spell his name.” Ronnie, taking offense at the insult, looks at Cliff and says, “Why you creep…” Doreen chides Cliff, but he continues the verbal attacks on Ronnie. “I hope you’re better catching balls than you are with snappy comebacks, Raymond!” he taunts.
Ronnie has reached the limits of his patience with Cliff. He angrily throws the football down at Cliff’s feet. “I don’t know who you are - - but one more crack and I’ll turn your glasses into contact lenses!” Ronnie barks at his adversary, curling his right hand into a fist. Cliff glibly replies, “Ah, yes - - the classic reaction of an intellectual primitive. As for who I am - - I’m Cliff Carmichael - - the class whiz kid! Catch that!” He whips the football back at Ronnie’s chest. Ronnie, surprised by the unexpected toss, drops the ball into the snow. “Whoops - - you missed!” Cliff snorts, “And you’ll be missing a lot more if you mess with me, Butterfingers!” Ronnie counters back, “For a whiz kid, Carmichael - - you’re a real jerk!” Cliff concludes their encounter with a parting shot, “Clever repartee, Raymond. Clever.” Firestorm tells Firehawk that if she has ever been insulted for no reason she would know how Ronnie felt after dealing with Cliff. Ronnie had a feeling things could only get worse.
Resuming his story, he tells Firehawk about his next conflict with Cliff. In history class later, the teacher, Mr. Taubman, is presenting questions to the students. “All right, class. When was Charles the First of England beheaded?” he asks. Ronnie thinks that’s an easy question and starts to raise his hand. Cliff, seated right behind Ronnie, raises his hand. Before Ronnie can answer, Cliff blurts out, “1649, Mr. Taubman! By an act of British Parliament!” Ronnie thinks Cliff jumped in on him on purpose. Mr. Taubman asks a follow-up question that Cliff also answers quickly. Cliff sneers at Ronnie. “I could’ve answered that, but whiz-wart won’t give me a chance - - unless I take it,” Ronnie thinks, fuming.
Mr. Taubman continues, “Right again, Clifford, now, who was Oliver Cromwell, and…” Before he can finish the question, Ronnie raises his hand and yells out, “I know, Mr. Taubman!” A classmate looks surprised at Ronnie, asking why he couldn’t even wait for the teacher to finish the question. Mr. Taubman steps next to Ronnie’s desk and berates him. “Young man, this is not a sports arena. There’s no need for shouting or rudeness,” he reprimands, “Perhaps you were a sports star at your last school, but what counts here is academic accomplishment.” Ronnie slumps in his chair, stinging from the rebuke. “Arrgggghhh!” he broods silently, “Doreen and the other kids must think I’m a total zero!” He explains to Firehawk that he never felt as alone as he did then.
At lunch later, things went from worse to much worse. Ronnie and Doreen carry their lunch trays away from the counter together. Ronnie explains to Doreen that he hardly knows Cliff, asking why Cliff is dumping on him. Doreen suggests that Cliff might just be jealous. “Of me? A guy who barely gets a B-?” Ronnie asks. Doreen wonders if it really matters, and Ronnie says no. “Liar!” he thinks to himself, “Cliff’s made me look like a dummy in front of Doreen and that burns me.” He explains to Firehawk that what he didn’t know then was that Cliff was an orphan and has his own problems. Cliff walks past Ronnie and can’t resist lobbing another insult. “Well, whatdya know! Raymond can chew and cut meat at the same time!” he torments. Ronnie, getting very upset, thinks that if Cliff won’t lighten up he will have to show him how!
Ronnie jumps up from his seat. He smacks his hand down hard on the table, yelling angrily, “Carmichael - - I warned you!” At that moment, he realizes that he has smacked his hand down…right into his lunch tray. His food splatters all over Doreen’s clothes. She cries out in surprise! “Man, have I blown it!” Ronnie thinks, “Spilling my lunch all over Doreen…” He apologizes quickly. “Doreen, I’m - - I’m sorry! Carmichael must be right - - I’m a moron,” he explains. Doreen whips around to face Cliff. “You may be a brain,” she says, “But you act like you’ve got the wits of a retarded oyster!” Cliff sneers right back at Doreen, “But I don’t look like a human lunch pail!” Ronnie has had it. He turns and walks away, angrily yelling, “Carmichael - - you die!”
Ronnie explains to Firehawk that he just couldn’t take anymore and he left. He felt the only place left for him to go was outside away from everyone - - at least there, he’d feel cold for a reason. He walked alone on the school grounds, head down, thinking, and waiting for lunch period to be over. “After today - - how can I ever get people to like me?” he worries, “I never had a chance to make friends before - - with Dad always moving from job to job - - city to city - - but now he’s promised to settle down. I thought it would be different!” Ronnie later found out that Bradley High’s principal Dr. Wallace Hapgood was watching him as he walked. Hapgood stood at his office window, smoking his pipe. “Ed Raymond’s an old friend. But his son has me concerned,” Hapgood thinks, “Perhaps I’ll have a talk with him…He might just need…a friendly ear.”
Ronnie tells Firehawk that there is another side to the story, one that he hasn’t mentioned yet. At the just-completed experimental Hudson Nuclear Plant was another man equally important to Ronnie’s story. That man is the Nobel Prize-winning physicist - - Martin Stein - - the genius who designed the plant. Stein works away in the control room. “After all these months…and years…it’s finally done!” he says with a prideful sense of accomplishment, “Tomorrow the Governor arrives for the critical opening…but as far as I’m concerned, this plant could go on-line - - today! The world’s first fully automated fail-safe nuclear generating plant - - quite an achievement!”
Stein turns to look at a security system monitor. A large group of protestors can be seen on the screen. Stein feels they would not admit the plant was a great achievement, even if they could understand it. “I don’t blame them for their fears,” Stein tells the screen, “Many nuclear plants are unsafe. But not this one!” His design has included more backup computer controls that D.C. has bureaucrats! “How much more secure can - - eh?” he says, as three men suddenly walk into the control room.
“Black! What are you doing here?” Stein asks his unexpected guests. “Protecting my rights, Stein!” a man answers. Stein inquires what rights he could be referring to. The man continues, “Danton Black is no man’s fool! When I worked as your assistant, Stein - - you stole my plans for this plant!” Stein angrily replies that Black is a liar. “Prove that to a jury!” Black challenges. One of the men with Black approaches Stein. “Professor, I represent the Nuclear Regulations Council,” he says, “Until we’ve investigated Dr. Black’s charges - - we’re forced to enjoin the opening of this facility!” He hands Stein a court injunction, and Stein angrily claims “But he’s the thief! I fired him for stealing data chips - - and now he frames me!”
Black stands smugly smiling, arms crossed. “Life stinks, doesn’t it, Professor? See you in court!” he says, relishing the havoc he has brought. Stein replies, “I’d sooner see you in hell!”
Black and his cohorts depart, leaving Stein alone with his thoughts. “Damn! I know how the public reacts! If this plant fails to open for any reason - - people will believe its unsafe!” he worries, “Civic groups will pressure the government to keep the plant closed - - and all my work will have been for nothing!” Stein crumples up the court injunction paper. Gritting his teeth in frustration, he vows, “By God, no! Injunction or no - - I’m placing this plant on-line tonight! And no thief and liar is going to stop me!”
Firehawk listens, and recalls that she has heard of Hudson Nuclear before. “There was an accident up there!” she tells Firestorm, “My father’s Senate subcommittee commissioned a study on it.” Firestorm then explains what Firehawk could not have known. “It wasn’t an accident, Lorraine,” he shares, “but it changed my life!”
He returns his story narrative back to events that involved him. He was at home, cooking dinner, awaiting his father’s return from work at the newspaper. The ringing of the telephone breaks into the noises of the spatula and frying pan. Ronnie answers the phone, figuring it has to be his Dad. Reaching for the receiver, he wishes that just once his Dad would be like a normal father. With his Mom dead, he has no one else to turn to. He picks up the receiver, saying, “Hi, Dad! Oh - - lots of work at the paper. Can’t make it home for dinner…No, Dad. I don’t mind…honest…”
Ronnie hangs up the phone, takes his dinner, and sits down by the TV. The evening news is broadcasting coverage of protestors demonstrating at the Hudson Nuclear Facility. The protestors have been picketing all week, and the news cuts to an interview taped earlier with the leader of the group, Edward Earhart, Jr. “All intelligent people must join the battle against nuclear proliferation,” his voice crackles across the TV, “It’s a cause demanding action from all serious men and women.” Earhart’s call to action resonates with Ronnie. He reaches for the phone. “That’s it!” he tells himself, “I know how I can prove to Doreen that I’m not a dumb jock!” Dialing Doreen, Ronnie explains to her that he is going to join Earhart’s group. “Ronnie, is that wise?” she asks. He explains that he just wants her to be proud of him. “Me? What about you? Ronnie, your self-esteem is more important than - - Ronnie?” she asks as the line goes dead on the other end, “He hung up! But - - he won’t do anything rash! Ronnie’s a smart kid. He’ll be okay - - I hope!”
Ronnie excitedly puts on his jacket and heads out. He hurries uptown and soon found himself in front of a condemned tenement that not even squatters thought worth saving. He knocks on the door and a man answers. Ronnie asks hesitantly if this is the Coalition Headquarters. “It sure ain’t the Waldorf, kid! Whatsamatter? Ain’t it fancy enough for ya?” the man replies. Ronnie explains that he expected something a bit different. The man answers, “Don’t we all. My name’s Eddie Earhart, kid - - you might say I’m the head man.” Ronnie introduces himself, explaining that he has come to volunteer. Eddie invites him in, telling him to grab a chair.
Another protestor walks up to Eddie. “Hey - - what’s the idea?” he whispers, “We’ve got a big job tonight - - who needs a punk tagging along?” Earhart lets him in on his plan for Ronnie. “You dummy! This kid’s got not ties to us, right?” Earhart whispers back, “He’s new - - which makes him the perfect patsy!” Earhart’s henchman catches on, praising Earhart for being smart as the cops could never connect them to the bombing via Ronnie.
“So, off I went in a battered gray van - - heading north on the Henry Hudson Parkway,” he tells Firehawk, “toward, well - - I guess you’d say my destiny.” In the van, Ronnie tells Earhart that he sounds different in person than he did on TV. “Politics, kid,” Earhart says as he drives along, “You wanna make an impact on the masses, you gotta sound special - - comprende?” After a bumpy hour-long ride into Westchester County, they arrived at their destination. Ronnie steps out of the van and looks around. He recognizes his surroundings as the same nuclear plant the TV news showed earlier. “Isn’t this the experimental plant you picketed this afternoon?” he asks Earhart. Several of Earhart’s protestors are busy cutting a hole in the plant security fence. One calls out to Ronnie, “You’re real bright, kid!” Earhart explains, “Only tonight, we’re gonna do more than just wave placards!”
Earhart steps through the opening in the fence. Ronnie starts to follow. “Uh, but, listen - - isn’t breaking in like this against the law?” he asks, worried. “Yeah. So?” Earhart counters back. Ronnie asks for an explanation of what they are doing there. “Whatdya think, kid? We’re going to make an example of this atomic joint,” Earhart sternly tells him, “by blowing it sky-high!” Ronnie backs up warily, warning, “No! People might get killed! I won’t let you…” Earhart steps next to Ronnie and interrupts. “Kid - - what makes you think you can stop us?” he grunts, and suddenly punches Ronnie across the chin, knocking him unconscious!
Inside the plant, Professor Stein has watched the assault play out on the plant’s security monitors in the control room. “Hell - - and double hell!” he thinks as he watches Ronnie collapse from the blow, “With the plant officially shut down, there’re no security guards! I’ve been watching the monitors myself, while bringing the atomic pile up to full power. And I think I’ve seen quite enough!”
Earhart and his men near the control room entrance. Two of them carry Ronnie’s limp body along with them. Stein opens the control room door and confronts the trespassers in the hallway. “You, there!” he points at them, “Release that boy and get out - - before I call the police!” Earhart is undeterred from his goal and steps up to Stein. “You should’a called the cops first, pops,” he warns, “Too bad - - for you!” CHUNK! He pounds a left cross into Professor Stein’s jaw. “Unngh!” Stein groans, collapsing unconscious from the attack. “Leave ‘em together,” Earhart directs his men, “over there by the atomic pile. When this gizmo goes off - - there won’t be enough of them left to make one man! Let’s hurry! We’ve got another gig in Jersey at the Brooks Nuclear Plant!” Earhart’s group plants their explosives and leaves. Ronnie awakens, still stunned from the punch. “Unhhh…my head,” he thinks, trying to shake out the cobwebs in his mind.
Moments later - - with a squeal of aging axles, the battered van sped off - - passing another vehicle heading in the opposite direction - - a car driven by Professor Stein’s former assistant, Dr. Danton Black. He parks just outside the hole cut in the fence by Earhart’s group. Black is surprised by the hole but walks in through the make-shift entrance. “Now this is a perfect opportunity to sneak a look at Stein’s computer designs,” he schemes, “then I can copy his plans to support my claim that - - eh? First , a hole in the fence! Now a broken door lock! Two signs that someone’s broken in!” Black proceeds cautiously, worried that one of his enemies has beaten him to Stein’s plans.
Simultaneously, just a dozen feet away, Ronnie has regained his composure. He sees the bomb left behind by Earhart. Tic-Tic-Tic. The timer slowly counts down, and it nears zero. “Dynamite - - with a timer set to explode!” he thinks as he runs to the explosives, “I can’t leave this old guy lying here! Gotta grab the bomb before it…”
Ronnie explains to Firehawk that at another time and in another place, under different circumstances, both of them would have been killed in less than three seconds. “But I guess fate had other plans,” he tells her, “a few minutes earlier the experimental pile had been activated for the first time - - and in a way not even Professor Stein can explain, it now bloomed to full fury - - catalyzed by the thundering dynamite detonation…A million ergs of radiation poured through us - - like sunlight through a pair of windows - - very special radiation, unlike anything previously unleashed by man…and we weren’t alone.” Although they would not know it until much later, Danton Black lay in a nearby hallway also being exposed to a full dose of the strange radiation.
Meanwhile, inside the main reactor room, Ronnie found himself whirling in a maelstrom. In the white-hot nuclear light, he stands above Stein’s unconscious form that lies on the floor next to him. “I feel - - like I’m melting! No, not melting - - merging! Like stereo images coming into focus!” he cries out. Over the next few moments, an incredible transformation takes place and where two separate men had just been, a single being now stands with hair of fire! “But I’m still alive! I’m changing - - Yet that isn’t possible! An explosion of that magnitude - - coupled with exposure to such colossal radiation…” Ronnie says, stopping to think about what he just spoke. “Huh? Did I say that - - rattle off that scientific jargon? My mind feels like it’s crawling with information! Things I never knew before - - couldn’t even guess before!”
The nuclear, fire-haired being looks around. “Suddenly, I almost seem to know what’s happening inside me,” Ronnie says, continuing to absorb the incredible event into his mind, “That wall - - I can look at it, and it’s as though I can ‘read’ its atomic structure - - just by glancing! Yes - - yes - - I can! I can see how the wall is composed of various nuclear combinations! And if I can see that - - I can change it!” By simply touching the atoms of the escaping gas and air, he can mend the shattered wall by rearranging the air’s atomic structure with all the ease of Aladdin rubbing his magic lamp! “Fan-tas-tic!” he exclaims. “Everywhere I look, objects seem so different! It’s like a fog breaking on a sunny day!”
“Whoops! Oboy - - talk about seeing things clearly! Where’re my pants?” Ronnie asks, full of surprise. Figuring he has lost them in the explosion, he realizes that same explosion has made him into something new: a Nuclear Man! “Hey, if I can fix walls, I sure should be able to sew up a new pair of jeans!” Ronnie figures, “And since I’ve got the powers of some crazy kind of super-hero, I might as well have the duds to match!” In an instant, his body is clothed by a brilliant red and yellow costume, an atom’s nucleus and swirling electrons emblazoned on his chest. Standing strong and tall in the atomic energy, he asks himself, “What is it you call the aftermath of an atomic explosion? A firestorm! That’s it! That’s what I’ll call myself - - Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!”
Then, suddenly, the air quivered as though in a heat wave. And, as the newly melded Firestorm, Ronnie felt a strange splitting sensation. “There’s someone else inside me - - in my mind! Wh-who…? Then - - that merging I felt after the explosion - - was real?” Ronnie asks within his mind. An unfamiliar voice answers in his thoughts. “The name is Stein, Ronald. Martin Stein. You’re apparently communicating with my subconscious! You might say I’m your other half.”
“I’m you - - and you’re me!” Stein tells him, “And it seems we’re both the super-being you named Firestorm!” Ronnie wonders, “But - - if we’re both inside - - then who’s in charge?” Stein’s analytical mind has already figured that out. “You are, Ronald,” he explains, “because I was unconscious during the accident - - my personality is in a passive mode! Our decisions will have to be made by you alone!” Ronnie tries to understand and comprehend what all this means, saying, “This is w-e-i-r-d.” Stein continues explaining his subconscious role: that he can advise, provide information, and contribute half of their strength. Another unusual sensation comes over Ronnie. He asks Stein what is happening. “Our personas are rejoining, Ronald,” Stein answers, “For if I remember properly, we have a mission to perform.” Ronnie remembers quickly: Eddie Earhart! While coming around just before the explosion, Ronnie heard Earhart mention a Jersey atomic plant. Stein says with a shock that they have to get there fast. Leaping to the sky for the first time, Ronnie tells him, “Not to worry, Professor! With our new powers - - that’ll be a cinch!”
Ronnie explains to Firehawk how he then flew away with his atomic structure altered to be less than the density of air. He unknowingly left behind another danger in the form of Dr. Danton Black - - Professor Stein’s sworn enemy! Black acquired his own unique powers from the same nuclear blast, and became known as Multiplex - - the Multiple Man! While Ronnie and Stein gained the power to fuse together, Danton Black acquired the power to fission apart into duplicate beings. “Multiplex - - he’s the guy who kidnapped me for Henry Hewitt,” Firehawk recalls, “then blackmailed my father into changing his Senate vote to support the ‘Hewitt Corporation Bill.’ Hewitt - - and Multiplex - - turned me into Firehawk!”
Ronnie concurs, explaining that Black sought out Hewitt to finance his revenge on Stein. “Black offered a trade-off of unlimited power and profit for Hewitt in exchange for my destruction! They tried to duplicate the explosion that created me and exposed you to it,” he tells Firehawk, “Then they sent you to kill me, only…” She interrupts and finishes his sentence. “Only they didn’t count on the feelings Lorraine Reilly had for Firestorm!” she says.
Ronnie agrees and resumes the story. He caught up with Eddie Earhart at the Jersey nuclear plant and caught them off-guard. “Gangway, losers!” he yells, punching them into submission as he arrives. Earhart and his thugs are knocked over by Firestorm’s assault, dropping their stacks of dynamite as they fall. “You bozos have caused enough trouble for one night,” Firestorm tells them, “So get ready to pack it in!” Earhart orders his crony Wolf-Man to stomp Firestorm. Wolf-Man stands and swings a pipe at Firestorm - - -and watches as his hand and pipe pass right through the Nuclear Man! “Sure thing, Eddie,” Wolf-Man stammers, “Only, how d’ya stomp a guy who isn’t there?” Firestorm floats in front of Wolf-Man, impervious to a mere swinging pipe. “Neat trick, huh?” he giggles at Wolf-Man. Professor Stein, the voice of wisdom, suggests that Ronald stop showing off. “Lighten up Professor! This is fun!” Ronnie replies happily, “Wait’ll you see the rest of my act!” Earhart gets to his feet, loudly yelling, “I want that creep – dead!”
Ronnie aims his hands at the ground around Earhart and his gang. “And for my finale - - here’s a little something I picked up pitching baseballs!” he calls out, “A nuclear burst with a spin on it!” FZAM! Twin beams of energy flow from his hands. Instantly, a huge hole appears below Earhart and his men, swallowing them inside. “Hey! Where’s the floor?” one yells in shock. “Somebody throw me a rope!” cries Earhart. “Whoa, Momma!” another blurts as he falls face-first into the crater.
Getting back on his feet, one of Earhart’s thugs points a pistol at Firestorm. Stein quickly warns Ronnie of danger behind him. “Thanks, Professor - - you’re almost like having eyes in the back of my head!” he observes. Steadying his grip and aiming at Firestorm’s head, the thug sneers “Let’s see you duck a bullet, Buster! Fancy suit or not - - you’re a dead…cucumber?” In a flash of nuclear restructuring, the thug’s pistol is transformed into a harmless vegetable! He stares at it, dumbfounded! “Chew on that, Micro-Mind,” Firestorm suggests.
The wail of sirens approaching announces the impending arrival of several police cars. “Sirens! We must’ve set off the alarms - - now the Fuzz are almost here!” Earhart tells himself, trying to slip away unnoticed while Firestorm is busy with his thugs. Earhart’s plan has gone wrong. He wanted to make a splash, be important. “But I blew it, just like I always blow everything!” he thinks, “Damn! My whole crummy life has been a bust! Flunkin’ college, losing all my jobs - - well, not this time! This time, if I’m going down - - I won’t go down alone!” Earhart kneels over the dynamite stacks and activates the fuse. Firestorm turns a corner and sees him. “Earhart, are you nuts?” Firestorm yells, “You’re setting off the dynamite! I have to move - - try something far-out - - and if it doesn’t work - - we’re all gonna end up part of the woodwork!”
The dynamite explodes in an incredible cacophony of expanding gases, heat, and light! Firestorm stands silhouetted in the flash wave, arms extended above him, fists clenched in steely determination! An instant of thunder…a second of flame…and then, incredibly…survival! ”It’s working!” Firestorm exclaims. As quickly as it appeared, the explosive energy has disappeared! Kneeling in utter disbelief, Earhart looks at Firestorm and asks, “Wh-What’d you do? Wh-Why aren’t we dead?”
“We didn’t die because I absorbed the blast into my own bod,” Firestorm tells him, “And brother, do I need an Alka-Seltzer! But first…” Earhart cowers in fear, begging, “Why’re you lookin’ at me that way? The cops are here now - - you wouldn’t…” Firestorm cannot restrain himself. “Oh, wouldn’t I?” he replies, and pummels Earhart with a powerful left hook to the jaw! Recalling the story to Firehawk, he can’t help but smile at the memory in spite of himself.
Firehawk says that punching out Eddie Earhart was a rather juvenile act. Ronnie explains that it made him feel great. “Look - - nobody’s perfect, Lorraine,” he continues, “Not me - - not you - - not anyone. Take me as I am, okay?” he asks. Firehawk can’t help but wonder about whom she is being asked to take. “Who are you?” she asks, “A boy called Ronnie Raymond - - or a man called Martin Stein?” Ronnie explains that he is both. “By controlling the decisive part of me - - Ronnie has had to mature into manhood!” he tells her, “And, by acting as my advisor and general kibitzer, Professor Stein’s rediscovered the world outside his laboratory! But since it’s ‘Ronnie’ who dominates my personality - - it’s Ronnie’s friends I feel most strongly for! Doreen, Jackson, and even Cliff - - they’re all important to me, and - - as Firestorm - - I don’t want to hurt any of them!”
Firehawk looks a little down over that last revelation. “Especially Doreen, right?” she asks, “And what am I supposed to do? Wait for the kid in you to grow up and choose?” Ronnie agrees that he has a problem. He wants to protect Doreen, but he doesn’t want to lose Lorraine. Stein suggests letting her go. He takes to the air above the rooftop. “Lorraine, I can’t tell you what to do! But from all I’ve seen - - I’d say there’s some ‘kid’ in all of us - - even you!” he calls down to her, “And look at it this way: If you split the difference between Professor Stein’s age and Ronnie’s - - I’m older than you are. Besides, we fly great together. Give me a chance…give us a chance.”
Firehawk looks up at him flying playfully, invitingly. “Are you sure you aren’t Irish?” she asks, “Like Granddad Reilly used to say, you could talk blood out of a stone.” She smiles and thinks for a few moments. Ronnie is younger than her…but so what? She tells herself age isn’t everything. Spreading her wings, Firehawk takes flight. She thinks that Ronnie has qualities that are hard to find in anyone, even without his super-powers! “Sooo - - hmmm! Doreen Day - - watch out!” she decides, heading off in pursuit, “I’m making my move on this man! May the best woman win!” Soaring along the skyline, she calls out, “Hey Ron - - No - - Stormy - - wait up!”
Down in the street below are three of Ronnie’s closest friends. Jackson, Doreen, Cliff, and Cliff’s date stroll along the sidewalk. “Of all the times Ronnie’s stood us up - - this is the worst!” grumbles Jackson, “I’ve been waiting months for this movie.” Doreen tells Jackson to zipper it. “If we’re late, we’re late. Ronnie’s sure to have a reason for not showing,” she says. Cliff, ever the snark, comments sarcastically, “Yeah, Doreen, maybe he left his brain in his other pants.” His date just shakes her head, wondering why she puts up with him. “Simple, I’m always around, sweetheart! Plus, I’m cute,” Cliff answers.
Doreen grows frustrated, warning that she’ll just go home if there’s any more cracks from Jackson and Cliff about Ronnie. Jackson apologizes, admitting that Ronnie is his friend. Cliff agrees, offering that sometimes Ronnie is just too easy of a target. “Apologies accepted!” Doreen tells them, “Just remember - - Ronnie’s my man. When you knock him, you knock me!” Jackson wonders what’s going on with Ronnie lately. “We used to be close, him and me,” he tells Doreen. She answers that Ronnie has been acting strangely with her also. “But don’t tell him I said so, okay?” she requests, “I want to talk to him myself, in my own way, and try to…” Cliff interrupts her. Something in the sky above them has caught his attention. “Hey, look!” he calls to Doreen and Jackson, “Isn’t that Firestorm up there? What’s he doing - - loop the loops? Someone with him…? Wow!”
Here and there, heads turn, eyes look up, people smile, the day’s efforts forgotten for the moment as crowds walk along the sidewalk, entranced by the spectacle playing out above them. Firestorm and Firehawk soar, dive, twist, bank, roll, and glide happily in the air together amongst the twilight stars, like two ballroom dancers on a dance floor all their own. “That girl with Firestorm - - she’s beautiful!” a bespectacled middle-aged man observes. “Beautiful? She’s dynamite!” another man says. “They’re lighting up the sky!” a woman exclaims. Jackson looks at them, saying, “Now, that man up there must be in love!” Doreen, looking on as well, wonders how he can tell. “Easy,” Jackson tells her, “look at all those fireworks! What else could it be but love?”
Bright red rings of glowing energy fly out behind Firestorm as he soars. Firehawk pursues closely, flying through the heart of each ring. Doreen feels strange at the sight of the two nuclear lovebirds. “That’s funny,” she thinks, “I suddenly feel cold all over! But - - why?” Cliff is thrilled at the impromptu atomic air show, pointing and calling, “Look at them go! Fan-tas-tic!”
Up above the crowds, Firestorm and Firehawk flash past the tall skyscrapers. “Fan-tas-tic! Admit it! Isn’t this great?” he calls back. “I’m sold, Stormy!” Firehawk yells, flaming wings stretched wide in the evening air. Professor Stein urges caution on the wild flight, warning “Ronald! Slow down! You’re making us dizzy!” Love struck, Ronnie confesses to Stein that he is already dizzy. “I was afraid you’d say that,” Stein admits, hanging on for the ride.
“Lorraine - - did you ever have one of those moments when everything looked beautiful?” Ronnie calls back. “I’m having one right now - - but I’m no fool, and I can see there’s gonna be stormy weather ahead! Does that scare you?” she asks. Firehawk and Firestorm fly happily into the twilight, a trail of glowing fire flowing off her wings. “With you by my side?” he asks her, “Be serious, lady. Be serious!”