The Phantom Stranger introduces himself and predicts that the spirit of a dead man will challenge Firestorm. Ronnie has a nightmare in which he is attacked by a man who calls Firestorm in to assist him. Ronnie's planned job interviews are missed when a freak storm develops over New York Harbor. Firestorm flies to rescue passengers on the Staten Island Ferry and meets the Phantom Stranger who gives him an ominous warning. A strange black rip appears in the storm clouds, and a ghostly menace emerges from the past appears to rip apart the very essence of Firestorm!
“Men call me ‘The Phantom Stranger.’ I have other names in other places…Know then - - there are boundaries that no mortal soul may break!” the mysterious man says, “Most sacred is that which separates life and death. But tonight, the hate-filled spirit of a dead man is straining to cross over…and face the Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man.”
Ronnie Raymond lays asleep in his bed, restlessly turning in his covers as his mind dreams. He stands alone on a strange rocky landscape. A shadow figure lurks behind him, unseen. “Where am I?” Ronnie asks, “I’ve got the weirdest feeling I’ve seen this place before - - like in the ‘Twilight Zone!’ This better be a dream or I’m in big trouble…”
Suddenly, the figure in the shadows lunges to attack! The man leaps at Ronnie from behind, landing a stunning elbow across the base of Ronnie’s skull! Ronnie tumbles to the ground under the weight of his attacker. “Dream, heck - - it’s more like a nightmare!” he exclaims. He twists and turns on the ground, wrestling and jostling to face his attacker. “Die! Die!” the man yells, squeezing at Ronnie’s throat with both of his hands. Ronnie flexes his leg into the man’s midsection, flinging him up and away. “What are you, a maniac?” Ronnie yells, “Get off me!”
The man slowly gets to his feet and points off in the distance. “If I can’t waste you, punk, I’ve got a pal who can do it for me!” he snarls. From over his shoulder, an angry Firestorm appears. “Die, Ronnie Raymond! Die! So I can live!” the man yells, beckoning Firestorm to attack! The Nuclear Man lunges forward at the terrified Ronnie. “Nooooo!” Ronnie yells, “Noooooo!”
Ronnie awakens from the nightmare startled and out of breath. “Man! That was the grand-daddy of nightmares!” he sighs in wakeful relief, “Scary…and weird, too!” Ronnie changes into a T-shirt and pants and drifts down the hallway to the kitchen. “Who knows, maybe I’m cracking up,” he thinks, “Sure, with all the problems in my life…Two girlfriends, Doreen and Firehawk…And now, looking for a job…No wonder I’m flaking out. I guess part of me sees Firestorm as a problem, too…a threat to my future!”
He reaches into the refrigerator for the milk. Pouring himself a glass, he tries to find a reason to explain the nightmare. “This is silly…What does Professor Stein call it? Supermarket psychology,” he tells himself, “It was probably just the frozen pizza I had last night before bed!” Ronnie’s father Ed walks in. “You okay, son? I thought I heard you cry out last night…” his Dad asks. Ronnie turns to him and answers, “Nothing spectacular, Dad…Just a nightmare. It was pretty off-the-wall, though - - I dreamed about that gangster, ‘Shoe’ Shine that killed Mom and almost killed you before he was gunned down by the FBI…” The mention of that name stirs concern in his Dad’s face. “’Shoe’ Shine?” he asks cautiously. “Just a nightmare…” Ronnie reassuringly answers.
Half an hour later, as Ronnie says goodbye to Ed Raymond, outside the ‘Daily Express’ office, the nightmare is already a fading memory… “Wish me luck on my interviews, Dad - - meet you here at six for dinner, okay?” Ronnie says with a wave. “Try WGBS, Ronald,” his Dad answers, “I should be there all afternoon. They have a political panel. Your father - - the expert!”
Ronnie turns and walks down the stairs to the subway. “Job interviews - - ung. I hate this a lot,” he thinks, “Might as well rehearse the old resume…Let’s see…Academic achievements…Uh - - maybe I should start with personal cleanliness…”
Meanwhile, above New York Harbor, an event begins which will make Ronnie late for his first interview of the day…an event as inexplicable as it is catastrophic. A strange black cloud forms over the Hudson River. Lightning and thunder roll out from it across the sky. Suddenly, storm clouds begin to circulate menacingly. They begin spinning more and more rapidly, forming a funnel that descends to the water as a tornado springs to life! The Hudson becomes restless, churning waves and wind as the tornado sweeps along. Passengers on a nearby ferry cling fearfully to the deck rails as their ship is tossed about.
Ronnie walks down onto the subway platform, still mentally rehearsing his job interview. “’Hi, Mr. Weston…’ No, no…’Good morning, sir. I’d really like to be a part of the Pizza Bunker family…’ That’s better,” he thinks. He walks past the newsstand. Its radio loudly blares music, until suddenly… “We interrupt this broadcast to report an emergency,” an anxious voice crackles over the radio speaker, “A freak storm has erupted over the Harbor - - endangering several hundred passengers aboard the Staten Island Ferry. The Coast Guard has been dispatched…” Ronnie looks at the radio in shock. He turns and runs away from the busy platform, searching for a secluded spot. “Damn! There’s one job interview down the tubes!” he worries as he sprints. He runs down an access stair to track level. A subway train is rushing towards him. “Hope you’re not doing anything too important, Professor…” Ronnie thinks. BEEEEEE! The subway sounds its horn as it races towards Ronnie…but he disappears!
Simultaneously, at Concordance Research - - Professor Martin Stein blinks as a familiar nuclear transformation tugs at his very identity… “Oh, for Heaven’s sake…” he mutters, turning away from his experiment. It is a transformation that fuses two beings into one, student and scientist becoming - - Firestorm, the Nuclear Man! Ronnie flies up through the street as the subway train roars past just below him. “Ronald, you know I’ll never be able to finish an experiment if you continue to interrupt me…” Stein sighs. Ronnie quickly explains the reason for their fusion. “Listen to the radio sometime, Professor!” he replies, “There’s an emergency out in the Harbor!”
Secluded and undetected behind the spire of a nearby building, the Phantom Stranger watches Firestorm. He leans a white-gloved hand against the spire, and his hat brim is pulled low, shielding his eyes. “The Unholy is winning!” he says softly, “The two are again one and the dead dreamer comes ever nearer! This must not be…”
Firestorm arrives at the Harbor as the tornado spins furiously toward the helpless ferry. “This is impossible, Ronald! Such an electrical phenomenon cannot occur simultaneously!” Stein gasps as he assesses the storm. “Tell it to those guys on the boat, Professor,” Ronnie replies, “Better yet, let’s…Whoa!” Suddenly, the Phantom Stranger appears directly in Firestorm’s path! Ronnie pulls to a quick mid-air stop to avoid a collision. “Halt! You must not proceed!” the Phantom Stranger orders, “There is great danger ahead for you! Life and death are the stakes in this game!”
Ronnie looks over the mysterious man, searching his memory. “Wait a minute!” he says, pointing at him, “I know you…Seen your file in the JLA computers…You’re the - - it’ll come to me in a - - the Phantom Stranger! Wow, this is great! You want to help?” The Phantom Stranger scowls back, answering, “If you know of me, youngster, then you know that the Phantom Stranger tells no untruths! More than just your existence is at stake here…The natural laws of Order and Chaos are threatened…You must not remain as Firestorm!” Ronnie is more concerned with the task at hand right now. “What are you talking about, Stranger?” he asks in surprise, “People are in danger right below us! They need my help and they need it now!” He turns to fly down to help the ferry. “Wait!” the Phantom Stranger yells to him.
“Perhaps you should have listened to the Stranger, Ronald,” Stein suggests, “He seemed greatly concerned for our safety…” Ronnie turns and banks past the funnel cloud, soaring quickly down to the water’s surface. “Come on, Professor! Don’t forget, we’re Firestorm! What can possibly hurt us?” he answers. Stein remains concerned. “I’m not so sure…I’ve felt rather uneasy since we arrived,” he says anxiously, “There seems to be something odd about all of this…I suggest you proceed with caution.” Ronnie aims a burst of restructuring energy at the ferry. Instantly, it is surrounded and protected by glass! “There you go, Professor…I always wanted to know how they put ships into bottles,” he says, admiring his handiwork. He turns toward the dock, pulling the ferry-in-a-bottle along behind him with a nuclear tow beam. “Now may not be the time to mention it, but I had a strange dream last night, Ronald,” Stein reveals.
“A…dream?” Ronnie asks hesitantly. He docks the ferry safely and removes the glass bottle with an atomic burst. The crowd of relieved passengers bursts into cheers and applause. “Yes! I dreamed Firestorm was trying to kill me!” Stein continues, “I woke up with a most ominous feeling…As if someone was trying to warn us…”
Nearby, the strange black storm cloud glimmers with a bizarre energy. A humanoid seems to form and swirl from the very cloud itself. Lightning dances around the edges of the clouds. “At last! I’ve been sprung!” the humanoid cries out as it is unleashed into the sky.
Ronnie turns and focuses nuclear bursts at the funnel cloud. “Boy, that’s really weird, Professor!” he replies, “I had a dream, too! I wonder if the Stranger had anything to do with that?
The humanoid walks along the air away from the strange black cloud. Slowly, it becomes recognizable as a man. He wears a business suit and tie, and a mean, angry expression registers on his face. But he does not continue to develop into a tangible, corporeal form. He is an outline, transparent, and ghostly…’Shoe’ Shine! “After all these months, I’m back - - just as he promised!” he grins with anticipation, “Soon I’ll live again!” Shine walks silently in the air, stealthily approaching Firestorm unseen from behind. Stein continues to worry, saying, “I think we should have listened to the Stranger when…ARRGGGGHH!”
Suddenly, ‘Shoe’ Shine somehow reaches into Firestorm’s back. Incredibly, he rips the spirit form of Martin Stein right out of Firestorm! Shine flies backward, dragging the shocked and incorporeal Stein away into the air. “Professor! Where are you? Professor Stein!” Ronnie calls out in surprise, unaware of what has just happened to his subconscious partner. Invisible to Ronnie, Stein and Shine wrestle desperately in the air behind him. “Soon, I’ll live again…In your body, Professor Stein! Ain’t that a kick!” Shine growls, trying to choke Stein with his bare hands. “No! I won’t allow it!” Stein yells, fighting back with all his might. Ronnie looks around in bewilderment. “Professor Stein!” he yells, but there is no reply.
‘Shoe’ Shine suddenly enlarges to gigantic size before Martin Stein’s amazed eyes. “I’ve had more experience at this spook stuff than you, Prof!” he snarls, “I did enough time like this to learn! You’re mine now!” He reaches his huge hand out in the air, wrapping his monstrous stubby fingers around Professor Stein. “I’ll fight you, monster!” Stein yells, helplessly trying to escape, “You won’t…urgh!” Shine turns abruptly, carrying Stein and running away from Firestorm in the air. “You ain’t going to do nothing, Egghead!” he snaps at Stein, “You’re weak, like all the others! You deserve to be crushed!” He races to the blackness of the storm cloud. He flings Professor Stein into its infinite depths of darkness! “So long, Prof! Enjoy your time in Hell!” he yells as the flailing Martin Stein flies into the void and disappears! “I won - - just like he said! ‘A soul for a soul!’ I’m free!” the ghostly Shine exults. He flies from the void towards the still-confused Firestorm.
All of this, all that has happened, has taken less of our time than the blink of an eye… The ghostly ‘Shoe’ Shine then leaps right out of the air, fusing himself directly into Firestorm! “Professor! Professor - - you all right?” Ronnie asks, feeling a second presence return to his subconscious. “Yeah…I’m right here, kid…Just went away for a second…” Shine answers. “Are you okay, Professor?” Ronnie questions, sensing something amiss, “You don’t sound like yourself…And what do you mean, ‘away?’” Shine scrambles to explain. “Uh…I guess I got kind of zapped by that storm…But I’ll be fine kid…er, Ronald,” he sputters, “I’ll be just fine!” Ronnie sets course back to the city. “’Zapped?’” he asks curiously.
Seconds later, not far from WGBS-TV, the bizarre nuclear fusion that forms Firestorm is reversed once again…In a burst of atomic light, the two return to their separate personas in a darkened alleyway. Professor Stein looks somewhat disheveled. “Uh…You sure you’re okay. Professor,” Ronnie asks with concern, “You want me to call you a cab to get home?” Stein jovially reaches his hand to Ronnie’s cheek. “Nah! I’m fine, really!” he explains, “In fact, I’ve never felt so fine in my whole life! Buzz off, kid. Don’t worry, I’ve got some business to take care of.” Stein walks off as Ronnie watches him somewhat bewildered. “’Buzz off?’” Ronnie wonderingly repeats.
Meanwhile, in a realm father than the stars and yet closer to us than a heartbeat, the real Martin Stein spins and swirls in a strange whirlpool of bright orange-red energy. “For the love of Heaven…Someone…Help me…” he calls to the emptiness. A white-gloved hand appears and reaches out to him. “’For the love of Heaven…’ Take my hand, Professor,” the Phantom Stranger tells him. “You?” Stein exclaims in shock.
Later, in another part of town…The impostor Martin Stein stands outside the gate of a large mansion. “It’s been around a year since I…er…took off. It’s time I put my mob back together,” he thinks, gazing at the suit-wearing guard inside. “Hey, you!” Go tell Donna Omicidio ‘Shoe’ Shine wants to talk to her!” he yells to a guard. The suspicious guard looks him over, taking a puff of his cigarette. “Shine’s dead, loser,” he replies dismissively. Shine leans his face to the gate bars. “Guess again, creep,” he barks back, “Do I look dead?” The guard walks near to take a closer look. “Nah…But you don’t look like ‘Shoe’ Shine, either. Beat it,” he answers. Shine shoves a pointed finger out at him, arguing, “You dumb goon! I tell ya I’m Shine! I can prove it! I…” Three more suited thugs gather in a show of force in reaction to the commotion at the gate. “Listen, Bud!” the gate guard snorts, grabbing Shine by the lapel of Stein’s lab coat, “You ever show your slimy face around here again, I’ll wipe my boots on it! Now beat it!”
Shine stomps away, giving up for now. “I’ll get you for that, Scuzball. I swear I will!” he vows, shaking his fist in anger. He walks on, pleased at his newfound place in the corporeal world. “Ah, what the hell? Why get myself all upset,” he reconsiders with a sly smile, “It’s only a matter of time…After all, I’m Shine. I beat the odds. I made my deal with the Man himself and I’m alive again…I can do anything. I think I’ll pay go and a visit to Charlene…”
Soon afterwards…Shine walks under a large canopy to an apartment building and proceeds in to the lobby. He finds his way to a familiar apartment and rings the doorbell. “Charlene! Hey, doll, it’s me!” he calls out loudly. The door swings open, and he is greeted by a buxom blonde wearing a lacey negligee. She does not recognize him as he enters. “Hey, mister! You can’t barge in like that!” she tells him in surprise, calling to her companion, “Frank!” The mention of that name registers with Shine, and he slowly repeats it. A shirtless man walks from the bathroom, glaring at him. “Buddy, what you need is a lesson in manners…” he tells Shine. “…Frank?” Shine asks incredulously.
And, as the reconstituted ‘Shoe’ Shine gets a lesson in deportment, elsewhere at the moment… “Great, I still have time to make it to my three o’clock job interview,” Ronnie thinks, arriving outside the WGBS-TV building. He heads in to the lobby. “Now let’s see…Fifteenth floor…” he thinks, glancing at a note. He steps alone into the empty elevator and presses the ‘15’ button. The elevator starts upwards. Then, a voice from behind startles him! “Ronald Raymond!” it says. Ronnie turns sharply to see…the Phantom Stranger! “Whoa-boy,” he says with a gasp, “There goes another job appointment down the drain…”
From over the Phantom Stranger’s shoulder, a ghostly image appears…Professor Martin Stein! “Professor Stein!” Ronnie exclaims, “What - - ? I just left you an hour ago!” He glances nervously back and forth between the Phantom Stranger and the ghostly Stein. “It wasn’t me…Or rather, it was my body, but not my soul,” Stein explains, “The entity which now occupies my body is that of the man who tried to kill your father…Crime boss ‘Shoe’ Shine!”
The Phantom Stranger reveals more details. “I sent a dream to warn you! Shine’s hatred and bitterness prevented him from passing beyond,” the Stranger explains, “You, Ronald, became the focus of his anger! Your unique nature as Firestorm gave him a way back into your world…Worse…to do this he made a bargain with the Unholy! A bargain not unheard of promising a soul for a soul! He traded Professor Stein’s soul for his own and used your nuclear abilities to gain corporeal existence. Still, bargains with the Unholy are never what they seem…As we speak, Shine is finding that the price of renewed life is higher than he imagined. Observe…”
The Phantom Stranger holds open his long flowing trenchcoat away from his body with his right arm, extending it like a small movie screen. An image of ‘Shoe’ Shine becomes visible upon it. He walks alone past a television store’s display window. A newscast attracts his attention and he stops to watch. “…Mr. Raymond, what’s your reading of the public opinion polls? Should Senator Reilly resign because of his involvement with Hewitt Industries?” the political talk show host asks her guest. Ed Raymond replies, “Well, Bethany, first we have to consider the Senator’s record.” Shine glares furiously at the familiar face on the TV screen. “Evil men always look to others to blame for their sins,” the Phantom Stranger explains, “Shine is no exception to this. Ronald, he has not forgotten, nor forgiven, your father, the man he knows as…”
“Rockwell!” Shine yells angrily at the television, “It’s all your fault! You took everything from me! My freedom! My mob! My dame! My life! Well, now I’ll take something from you! I’ll kill you!” Ronnie watches Shine’s fury in shock. “Shine is crazy - - he’ll try to kill my father!” he says hastily, “We’ve got to warn the police - - they’ll arrest Shine and…” The ghostly voice of Martin Stein interjects, “Not Shine, Ronald…They’ll arrest me!” Reality now dawns on Ronnie. “Oh no…What’ll we do?” he asks, “Stranger! I already lost my father once! I can’t go through that again! Please help me!”
The Phantom Stranger calmly replies, “There is a way, Ronald Raymond. You must force Shine to once again become a spirit. You are the only one with the power…You must become Firestorm!” Ronnie takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “I’ll try…” he says softly, concentrating deeply. But… “The kid - - he’s yankin’ at me!” ‘Shoe’ Shine blurts, feeling Ronnie’s summons to fuse back into the Nuclear Man. Beads of sweat drip from Ronnie’s forehead. “Can’t…do it…He’s fighting me!” he stammers in frustration. “He is a strong-willed man, but you must succeed,” the Phantom Stranger warns, “Your father’s life may depend on it!” On a street corner, Shine continues to resist the transformation. “You’re not taking me, kid,” he groans, “I - - won’t - - let - - you!” Ronnie drops his head into his hands. He focuses all his concentration. “I’ll do it! I have to!” he yells. Atomic rings start to envelop him. Miles away, Shine arches back with arms raised as two bullets of nuclear energy speed down upon him. “Nooooooooo!” he yells as they slam into his body.
FZAAAAAAM! Firestorm appears in the air above the street! “You think you’ve won, eh, kid?” Shine hisses in Ronnie’s subconscious, “But nobody beats Shine! Nobody!” Ronnie’s face is oddly angry and unsettled. “Stranger! Professor Stein! Help me - - he’s trying to take over!” Ronnie cries out. “Who’s gonna help you, punk? It’s just you and me!” Shine maliciously answers, “You’re not dealing with that wimp of a professor, you’re dealing with Shine! You’re dead meat, kid!” Ronnie flies in a racing circle around a towering office building. “No! I’m stronger!” he yells, “The only way you’ll get control of Firestorm is over my dead body!” Their two subconscious images confront each other, fighting for control. “Right you are, punk!” Shine snarls, “That’s just what I have in mind! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Somehow…some way…’Shoe’ Shine wrestles himself into conscious control! “I did it! I’m Firestorm!” he yells in triumph as he flies, “Now they’ll pay - - starting with that stool-pidgeon Rockwell. And then I’ll take out the others! Shine is gonna own this town!
From a rooftop nearby, the Phantom Stranger and Professor Stein stare out over the city, watching Firestorm disappear into the night sky. “Ronald! What has happened to Ronald?” a worried Stein asks. “The youth has lost…The Dead One is now in control!” the Phantom Stranger replies, “Your friend still lives, Professor. But he is deeply buried inside the brute. I have no other choice but to now take matters into my own hands.” The Phantom Stranger raises his arms before him, and bolts of lightning dance out from his fingertips! “What are you doing?” Stein asks, aghast. “I am taking the fight to another place,” the Stranger replies calmly, “One that you would call - - the ante-chamber of souls…”
The Phantom Stranger stands in a strange void filled with bizarre geometric shapes. To his right stands Martin Stein’s ghostly figure. Firestorm suddenly appears flying in from his left. “No! I’ve been cheated again!” Shine growls furiously as he looks around and sees the Phantom Stranger, “You! You did this! Let me go or I’ll snuff you out!” But the Phantom Stranger coolly extends his hand towards Shine. “Heed me, Shine!” the Stranger beckons, “You cannot prevail here! This is the domain of the Phantom Stranger! A place of spirits…not the physical plane…You must not buy a new life at the expense of another’s soul. Your path now lies beyond…Leave this mortal world behind and come with the Phantom Stranger!”
Shine aims his hands at the Stranger and unleashes a nuclear burst! “Forget it, Stranger!” he yells, “I’ll force you to take me back to Earth!” The Stranger slowly raises his white-gloved hand, easily deflecting Shine’s attack. “You do not have the power to compel me, Shine!” Turning back to face the Stranger, Shine uses a restructuring burst to encase him in a cube of glass! “That’s where you’re wrong, pal,” he calls down, “I’ve got Firestorm’s power! I can do anything!”
CRA-AAAACKK…KA-WHOOOOM! The glass cube splinters, and then explodes, blasting the void with thousands of fragments! “In this world, mere physical power is not enough, Shine!” the Phantom Stranger calmly says as he strolls out of the debris, “But if you must be humbled before you are ready to make the journey onward, so be it!” He joins his hands together and casts them out. His hands grow to giant proportion! “AAARRGGH!” Shine yells as he is grabbed in the tight grip of the Phantom Stranger! Shine breaks free, flying wildly. “You must surrender this body that is not your own!” the Phantom Stranger commands. “Make me, mister…Make me!” Shine yells in defiance, “Maybe I lost my mob on Earth…But here I can make myself a new gang! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Shine aims restructuring bursts at floating debris in the void and forms them into dozens of faceless humanoids that march forth towards the Stranger! “No matter what you say, as long as you’ve got a physical form, Stranger, I can get you!” Shine yells, “Me and my ‘boys’ can hit you…Everybody hurts, everybody can die!” The Phantom Stranger stands in opposition, unmoved by Shine’s threats. “Do not be quick to judge all by your standards, Dead One!” he answers.
Martin Stein watches the unreal battle taking place before him. “Have to do something, help him somehow! But in this weird shadow world nothing seems to conform to the laws of Earthly physics,” he thinks, “The Stranger is stalling. He must be hoping that the battle will engage Shine’s concentration and give Ronald the chance to fight back…” Suddenly, a strategy takes shape in his mind! “Wait a minute!” Stein exclaims, “I’m still half of Firestorm! What if I try to summon the power to me…?” Stein stands and focuses his mind in concentration, and waves of energy flow from him to Firestorm. Shine is caught by surprise at the feeling, blurting, “Hey, what…?” The Stranger sees the opening. “Ronald Raymond! Now is the time for you to help your friend!” he commands. “Go for it, Professor!” Ronnie yells in his subconscious. Shine trembles fiercely in resistance. “No! I ain’t gonna let you cheat me again! No! No! No! Nooooo!” Stein continues to concentrate, willing himself to transform into the Firestorm matrix. “Abandon the battle, Shine!” the Phantom Stranger commands, “Earth no longer wants you! It rejects you!”
Shine is pulled back into the beyond. “Yaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” he yells in agony as his spirit is ripped from Firestorm and dispatched back into the void of the departed! In Firestorm’s mind, Ronnie and Professor Stein see the lifeless body of ‘Shoe’ Shine lying prone before them. Ronnie senses Stein’s presence. “Like they say, Professor…It’s great to be back!” he says with relief. “Yes, Ronald, it is…” Stein replies, a sense of calm returning in his mind.
“Farewell, my friends!” the Phantom Stranger calls to them. He levitates upwards, carrying the body of ‘Shoe’ Shine. “You have my gratitude for the help you gave to restore the natural order.” Ronnie looks up at the Stranger as he departs. “Hey, Stranger! Wait up!” he yells, “How do we get out of here? How do we get home?”
“We are home, Ronald…” Stein says, as the void melts away to reveal them standing overlooking the Manhattan skyline, “And in a way, I wonder if we ever truly left…”