Dr. Louise Lincoln seeks treatment for recurring nightmares, an aftereffect of her encounter with Killer Frost. Firestorm investigates an explosion and fire at a Manhattan restaurant. Two armed men in fire-protective suits attack Firestorm at the restaurant. One drops a note demanding the release of Plastique from prison. Professor Stein has a battle of wits with an uncooperative newspaper vending box. Dr. Lincoln performs an experiment in ultra-cold freezing at her New Jersey lab which goes horribly wrong. Le Flambeau, a terrorist from Quebec, broadcasts on all radio and TV channels threatening to burn all of New York if Plastique is not released by midnight.
Your name is Dr. Louise Lincoln. Every night for the past twelve months, you’ve had the same dream. It’s slowly driving you mad. “No! It’s impossible! You’re dead!” Louise cries out, her mind filled with terrifying images of…Killer Frost! The horrific vision of the Ice Maiden reflects in her eyes. “You’ve got it all wrong, Louise,” Killer Frost answers, “I’m not dead…You are!” Killer Frost stands menacingly over Louise’s bed, surrounded in ice crystals as a beam of frost energy extends from her hand, wrapping tightly around Louise’s neck. “IIIIEEEEEE!” Louise screams in horror!
“And that’s when I wake up,” Louise says, the quiet image of her psychiatrist now reflecting in the lenses of her eyeglasses. “Doctor, am I going out of my mind?” she anxiously asks. Her doctor sits across from her, reviewing the notes he has been taking during their session. “You’re deeply troubled, Louise…Badly traumatized…But no, you are not losing your mind,” he answers reassuringly, “From what you tell me, I gather you and this woman, Crystal Frost, were friends at college.” Louise reaches for her purse and fishes out a cigarette. “Not friends, exactly,” she answers as she lights it and draws a puff, “More like allies. Crystal and I were pioneers, of a sort. Science is and always has been a private male preserve. Crystal fought prejudices against women in science…and I…I rode her coattails.” Her doctor pauses to think, then suggests, “You feel a debt to her, then. She was more than an ally…She was your mentor.”
The two stand and walk to the large upper-floor office window. Firestorm can be seen in the distance flying over the Manhattan skyline. “Yes,” Louise agrees, “and when I heard about what happened to her at that Antarctic research station…How a freak accident changed her…turned her into a monster…I felt so…guilty! It didn’t seem fair. Crystal had suffered so much. She was plain - - unattractive. She’d fought hard for her place in science…and to lose it all because of a stupid accident…” The doctor questions, “You wondered…Why her? Why not you?” Louise adjusts her glasses as she thinks that over. “That’s right,” she says softly. The doctor sits back in his chair, adding some notes to his notepad. “I understand she came to you, a few months ago…dying,” he says.
“Yes. The accident that changed her into Killer Frost had an unseen side effect,” Louise explains, “Under her ice-sheath, her body was deteriorating at a rapid rate. Her metabolism…she was aging in minutes. There was nothing I could do for her. I felt helpless…and terrified.” She sits on the couch next to the doctor, staring down at the floor as she recalls her feelings. “She attacked you, didn’t she?” the doctor prompts. “She was crazy…She blamed me for what was happening to her…She tried to kill me…” Louise replies. She envisions Killer Frost choking her as she struggles desperately for life. “…And maybe…I deserve to die,” Louise says as tears stream from her eyes. The doctor checks his watch, noting to Louise, “I’m afraid our hour is up.”
Eighteen stories below, and sixteen blocks south…Firestorm flies over the bustling city streets. “It’s been a weird week, Professor,” Ronnie says, “All that trouble with the 2000 Committee…My Dad losing his job at the Daily Express, then getting rehired as the City Editor…and that freaky run-in with the Phantom Stranger…Whew-boy! After all that, I need a vacation.” Stein also considers recent events they’ve experienced. “Would that life arranged itself so conveniently, Ronald,” he sagely replies, “Unfortunately, we both have responsibilities. I have my work at Concordance Research…and you have to prepare for final exams.” Ronnie grimaces at the mention of school. “Arrrgh! Don’t remind me!” he moans, adding, “And as if that isn’t bad enough, I’m hung up between two girls - - with one of them mad at me. I tell you, Professor Stein, it’s almost…”
THRAWOOOM! A massive explosion blasts out just a few blocks away! “What was that?” Ronnie exclaims, flying speedily to the source. “An explosion - - in that restaurant below! My Lord, Ronald, those people…” Stein worries. Ronnie quickly flies down to street level, yelling back, “On my way! First thing we’ve gotta do is kill that fire, and the best way to do that…is with a little water…” FZAM! Ronnie aims a restructuring burst at a nearby cargo truck, instantly transforming it into a fire engine. He directs the truck-mounted nozzle to spray water into the restaurant. “Ronald, I’m not so sure mere water will…” Stein tries to say. Ronnie interrupts him as they land next to panicked people trying to extinguish flames on their clothing. “Hang on a sec, Professor. I’m working,” he replies, aiming a restructuring burst at the street around the people. “But Ronald,” Stein continues, “I’m trying to tell you…” FZAM! RRRRRIP! “Put a sock in it, okay?” Ronnie snips, “I’ve got this covered…in more ways that one. Turning pavement into asbestos sheeting with a zap from my atomic restructuring power may be a cheap shot, but it does the trick - - right, Professor?” He wraps the people in the asbestos, quickly quenching the flames on their clothes
Stein is relieved to finally have Ronnie’s attention. “I wish I could say the same for your water pump, Ronald,” he explains, “As I tried to tell you - - that fire was caused by some kind of chemical, and far from damping the flames - - your makeshift fire engine has simply spread the disaster!” Ronnie turns to look at the front of the restaurant, seeing with shock that the fire is now an out-of-control inferno threatening to sweep through the entire block! “Oboy,” he gasps, looking at the onrushing wall of fire, “I always told you, Professor, I’m just a dumb high school jock. Emphasis on dumb.”
Ronnie launches from his feet and flies directly into the heart of the burning restaurant! “What - - Where are you going?” Stein asks anxiously. “’Out of the frying pan - - into the fire!” Ronnie yells as he speeds through the flaming interior, “Maybe I can do more good from the inside out!” Ronnie starts using nuclear bursts to control the blaze when something completely unexpected is perceived by Stein! Through the smoke just ahead, he sees two human silhouettes...somehow walking calmly in the midst of an unsurvivable fire! “Ronald…up ahead, in the heart of the fire…People!” he reports in disbelief. Ronnie flies closer to look. “Firemen, maybe?” he guesses, adding as he gets nearer to them, “No - - but there’s something awfully familiar about those outfits. I can’t quite - - hey! Is that a gun?”
Two men walk in the flames, clad in head-to-toe blue protective outfits that shield them from the fire. They wear masks and goggles and large flamethrower-like backpacks, each with a tube that connects from the backpack to a rifle in their hands. One sees Firestorm and aims, answering him, “Non…Pas tout á` fait.” He pulls the trigger and…TRA-BHWOOOOM! Firestorm is blown backward by the rifle’s blasting impact, hurtling out of the restaurant to land on the sidewalk out front! The two men walk unharmed from inside, pausing when they reach Firestorm. Ronnie struggles to shake off the effect of the stunning concussive impact as one man drops a metal tablet. It lands with a klank on the sidewalk next to Firestorm. Police, firefighters, and large crowds gather and the two men quickly disappear into the confusion.
Shortly after, Ronnie heads into the offices of the Daily Express after he and Professor Stein transform back to their separate bodies. Making his way to his Dad’s desk, he hands a Xerox copy to his Dad. Ed Raymond leans back in his chair at his desk, reading it. “Release the political prisoner Plastique, or New York will burn! - - Le Flambeau,” Ed reads. “Great. Just what this city needs…Its own private terrorist war,” Ed tells his son, asking, “Where did you get this Xerox, Ronnie?” Ronnie leans on his Dad’s desk. “Like father like son, Dad,” he answers, explaining, “Guess I’ve got newsprint in my blood. I’ve made friends with a police detective named Wilson. When he and his partner, Mackey, arrived on the scene, the metal sheet in that photo was lying next to Firestorm…Where one of the fire-bombers had dropped it. Obviously, it’s a blackmail threat. Since the woman mentioned there, Plastique, once tried to bomb the Daily Express, I figured you’d want to know somebody’s trying to get her out of jail.”
Ed puts his arm around Ronnie’s shoulder as they walk into the office foyer. “You’re right, I am interested - - but more than that, Ronnie, I’m proud. Maybe you do have newsprint in your blood,” Ed tells him, “Now that our paper’s new owner has made me City Editor of the Daily Express, I might be able to get you a part-time job here…if you want it.” Ronnie looks a bit apprehensive at the idea. “Uh-oh, I never thought about this. I wanted Dad to know about the terror threat, so I fudged the truth a little,” he thinks, “Sure, I’m friends with Mackey and Wilson - - but as Firestorm, not as Ronnie Raymond! Things could get real complicated if Dad sent me to Police Headquarters to see my ‘buddies’ - - who’ve never heard of me! Even worse…Suppose Professor Stein has to call me into the Firestorm fusion sometime when I’m working here? What a disaster that would be!”
Ronnie turns to shake hands with his Dad as they reach the elevators. “Uh…I’m sorry, Dad…But with finals coming up next month, I’d better stay home studying,” he answers. “Oh, of course. You’re right, son,” Ed reconsiders, “I wasn’t thinking.” Ronnie smiles back, answering, “Dad…Thanks anyway. It really meant a lot to me.” His Dad rubs his shoulder playfully as they part, adding, “And me, too, Ronnie. Maybe next summer.”
Outside, moments later… “Something really nice just happened to me, Professor,” he calls to Martin Stein, who is busily trying to get a copy of the Daily Express from the vending machine outside the main entrance. “Mh-hm. What was that, Ronald?” Stein asks. “My father just said he was proud of me. Imagine that, huh?” Ronnie says happily as he walks next to Stein, continuing, “All those months…Heck, years…When we weren’t even talking to each other…” Whak! Stein slaps the newspaper box. Ronnie goes on, “…And it all seems like history, a dream or something. We’ve gotten along great the last few months.” Whek! Stein’s hand slaps the metal newspaper box again but it stubbornly will not yield its bounty! Stein grows irritated and impatient with it. Spak! He kicks the base of it with his foot. “Oh, sure, we’ve had our fights,” Ronnie recalls, oblivious to Stein’s struggles, “and there’ve been times when Dad wasn’t around when I needed him…and times when I wasn’t around when he needed me…” Rattle-rattle-rattle! Stein grabs the top of the box and shakes it back and forth. Ronnie finally takes notice. He walks over and effortlessly grabs the machine’s handle. Clink! It pops right open to Stein’s utter surprise! “…But when you come down to it, we love each other…” Ronnie says, casually handing the slightly perturbed Stein his newspaper, “…and we know it, and that makes all the difference. Let’s get a burger.”
Meanwhile, at the Exeter, New Jersey, lab where Dr. Louise Lincoln heads a classified research facility… “You ask me, the lady’s way out in the deep end without water wings,” a lab technician gripes to his colleague, “and if she goes under, she’ll drag the rest of us down, too.” The object of his complaint surprises him when she unexpectedly enters the lab. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Harold,” Louise answers with a cold glare at him, adding, “Perhaps you’d rather work at another lab? I can arrange a permanent leave of absence for you, if you like.” Harold’s colleague blurts in surprise, “Dr. Lincoln!” Harold tries to defend himself, suggesting, “Gosh, no, Doctor…We weren’t talking about you…” Louise doesn’t really believe the excuse, but moves on to more important matters. “Of course, you weren’t, Harold. You value your job,” she replies, directing them, “Now, prepare the freeze unit for testing. We’re going to push the edge of the envelope.” She moves to make adjustments on a large, spherical container in the large lab chamber. “Y’know, used to be Dr. Lincoln was one of the few human beings here at Exeter,” Harold’s colleague whispers to him, “but in the last few months, that lady’s become a first-class witch.”
Far away from Exeter at that very moment, the woman known as Plastique sits at a conference table in an office at the State prison in upstate New York as lawyers discuss her situation. “There’s absolutely no way the U.S. Government is going to give in to terrorist demands for Plastique’s release,” New York District Attorney Shaw explains, “So this effort by her friend, ‘Le Flambeau’ is doomed to failure. You’re her lawyer, Lassiter. Explain it to her.” Lassiter replies, “Oh, my client understands the situation, Mr. Shaw. She understands that she is a political prisoner of a repressive, imperialistic government. She understands that she has been denied bail, that her trial has been subject to innumerable delays…and that even when she goes on trial, she will be denied a fair hearing for her political views.” Plastique glares at Shaw, taking a puff on her cigarette. “My client is resigned to mistreatment, Mr. Shaw,” Lassiter continues, “so none of your threats can intimidate her in the slightest.”
Shaw listens to his opposing counsel’s argument. “Threats? The only people making threats are this woman’s friends,” Shaw replies, “I want your client to communicate with her people, Lassiter. I want her to tell them it’s useless to blackmail the United States. We won’t give in.” Lassiter grows impatient. “You’re presuming my client can communicate with ‘Le Flambeau,’ Shaw. An outrageous accusation, and I demand…” Plastique interrupts their disagreement. “Both of you, shut up,” she carps as she walks to a window, adding, “Words are useless. For months now, all I have had are words. But now the time for words is over. Now we will have action. Understand this, Monsieur Shaw…What I may say or not say to ‘Le Flambeau’ does not matter in the least. If I am not released by the deadline he has given you, he will burn New York City. As the capitalists say - - Bank on it.”
Meanwhile, speaking of banks…Wall Street, the financial heart of Manhattan…and the world. It would take a special sense of irony to choose Wall Street as the hideout of an anti-capitalist terror squad…but ‘Le Flambeau’ is a man of ironic tastes. He stands gazing out a large window overlooking Manhattan. The Goodwear Blimp lazily floats in the sky above. In the upper-floor hideout, operatives in blue outfits matching the restaurant fire-bombers mill about, busily making preparations for their next mission.
Le Flambeau addresses them in the French dialect of their native Quebec. “If my father knew we were using his office as our headquarters, I believe it would kill him,” he explains, “and I’m not so sure it wouldn’t serve the old fool right. He built his financial empire on the backs of the people robbing them of their heritage. It’s only fair he contribute to the people’s war, even if unaware.”
A technician calls out, “Everything’s ready, Flambeau.” He hands Flambeau a small device, instructing, “You have only to press this button, and the incendiary device will ignite, spreading flame over the entire midtown Manhattan area.” Flambeau nods, asking, “How long will it take to engulf the entire island?” The technician looks out over the skyline, making quick mental calculations. “By my estimate…considering the prevailing winds, the canyon-like effect of the high buildings…and the flammability of the torch compound…Manhattan Island should be fully ablaze three hours after the initial explosion.” Le Flambeau smiles, rubbing his hands together in anticipation, answering, “Wonderful.”
Nearby, another technician struggles with the large fireplace in the center of the room. She cannot seem to get the fire lit. “Damn,” she snarls at it in frustration, “These matches are useless. I can’t start a fire in this fireplace - - it just won’t take.” Flambeau steps over to assist. “Temper, Allumette, temper,” he says. He reaches for the control knob on the fireplace and gives it a twist. A slight hissing sound is then heard from inside. “Sometimes, if you want to start a truly brilliant blaze,” he explains, “you must first…turn on the gas.” He flicks a match and tosses it in. Ftooom! The gas ignites the fireplace logs, as the technician shakes her head at her oversight. Outside, the Goodwear Blimp has turned in the sky, continuing its aerial journey back over the city.
Concordance Research, the midtown Manhattan think tank where Martin Stein spends the hours from nine to five…and sometimes five to twelve… “Martin, I’ve been looking all over for you! Where have you been the last few days?” the pleasant voice of Belle Haney calls out to the busily working Professor. “Belle!” he blurts in slightly panicked surprise, asking hastily, “Good Lord, did we have a dinner engagement tonight?” Belle leans casually against his office door. “Not so’s you’d notice, Martin,” she answers, “We did have one last night…but you didn’t show.” Stein smacks his forehead at his forgetfulness. “Last night!” he blusters in frustration.
Belle walks in smiling at him. “Don’t feel bad. I know I should be angry and upset. But I’m a bit of an absent-minded professor myself,” she says reassuringly, “Concordance keeps us both working late, I suppose.” Stein bites his lip. “Not Concordance, I’m afraid - - at least, not last night,” he starts to explain, then thinking to himself, “Last night, Ronnie and I had a showdown with a ghost…something even an absent-minded professor like me isn’t likely to forget very soon!” She grabs him by the arm. “Enough about last night,” she tells him, leading him towards the door, “I’m starving and I know this wonderful little Thai place down on Third Avenue.” Stein tries to resist. “Belle - - I have work to do,” he replies, “Quentin Quayle has been after me for a project progress report for weeks!” She won’t let him escape, and she leads him out onto the street. “Quayle can wait. We can’t,” she counters, adding, “Besides, I’ve got some mail for you…” She hands him a large envelope. “Mail?” he asks curiously. Belle explains, “Maggie in the mail room passed this on to me when I told her I’d be seeing you.” Stein pauses to examine the envelope. “Stein, c/o Concordance. From - - Dean’s Office, Pennsylvania University, Pittsburgh, PA” it reads. Stein is speechless, wondering why it has arrived unexpectedly.
Exeter, New Jersey… “Countdown to unit activation, minus fifteen seconds…Temperature reading in freezer core?” Dr. Lincoln asks her assistants. “Core reading is zero Celsius. Activation minus ten seconds.” Harold answers, observing gauges on the control panel before them. “If this succeeds, we’ll have created a temperature below the theoretical absolute limit, and maintained it, under laboratory conditions - - something even Crystal Frost could never do!” Dr. Lincoln says as she studies the spherical freezer unit. “Yeah, and if it fails, we’ll all be eating popsicles for dinner!” Harold frets. The technician monitors the countdown, announcing, “Activation minus five seconds…four…three…” Sweat beads on his face and frost begins to spread down from the top of the sphere’s exterior. “Two…” he continues, “one…” Dr Lincoln orders, “Activate.” WHOOOOOM! The sphere suddenly explodes, unleashing a rain of ice shards and metallic fragments! Dr. Lincoln and her technicians are blown across the room in the maelstrom!
Thirty-five minutes later, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan…in the small two-bedroom home Ronnie Raymond shares with his father…Ronnie dozes on the couch. School textbooks, pop cans, and half-eaten snacks line the couch cushions and floor, leftovers from a long study session. Ronnie is suddenly awakened. “Uh-oh,” he gasps, seeing familiar rings of atomic light fill his vision, “For gosh sake, Professor…” FZAM!
Firestorm appears in an instant flying over the Manhattan streets. The Goodwear Blimp flies its lazy circle around the city in the far distance behind him. “That was the best dream I’ve had in weeks,” Ronnie gripes, “Why’d you have to summon me? What time is it, anyway? I thought we swore off these late-night get-togethers for sanity’s sake! I’ve got a test tomorrow!” Stein immediately explains. “It’s almost midnight, Ronald…And I had good reason for fusing us into our Firestorm persona, I assure you!” he reveals, “’Le Flambeau’ just broke into all radio and TV broadcasts in the city…and I wanted you to see it while he’s still transmitting.” Ronnie brings them down in Times Square in front of the giant TV screens there. Crowds gather and mill about anxiously as the image of Le Flambeau speaks. “…and in ten minutes the deadline given your City’s government will pass, forcing us to take action. Make no mistake,” he says as fiery imagery is shown behind him, “If our demands are not met by midnight…Manhattan will burn!”
Ronnie stands glaring at the screen. “Whoa-boy. These guys are serious, after all! What do we do, Professor?” he asks. Stein considers the means needed for the terrorist group’s communication. “To interrupt all commercial broadcasts in the city, they must have a powerful transmitter…” he speculates. “So maybe we can backtrack their transmission with an antenna of our own, right?” Ronnie asks, then notices, “Wait a second, that won’t work…They’ve stopped transmitting!”
Ronnie leaps skyward past the nearby Blimp. “Then we’ll try another tack,” Stein instructs, “I’m placing an image in your thoughts, Ronald. Use your atomic restructuring powers to create the object I’m ‘describing.’” Ronnie flies to a mid-air pause next to a flagpole that projects from a nearby rooftop. FZAAAM! “Mind telling me what I’m making?” Ronnie asks as the flagpole starts to change shape. “Flambeau’s broadcasting antenna used so much power, it must still be ‘warm,’” Stein explains, “and this highly sensitive electronic ‘listening’ device just might be able to trace the residual energy left from Flambeau’s transmission.” Ronnie watches as the flagpole turns into a giant satellite dish-like monitor. “And then again, maybe not,” he says with doubt. “Have more faith in an old man’s ideas, Ronald,” Stein says as the device activates, “You see? It’s found something…”
Wall Street… “12:00 a.m. exactly. And since we have had no word confirming Plastique’s release, we must fulfill our threat,” Le Flambeau tells his terror squad. Then, an unexpected voice from behind him interrupts! “Maybe you should pass on that, Flambeau,” Firestorm announces, “Things are hot enough in this town…without you trying to up the temperature.” Ronnie’s hand reaches out from the large fireplace, startling Le Flambeau’s operatives! “See what I mean?” Ronnie asks, making fire swell and flow from out of the fireplace. “Run! The fire is alive!” Allumette yells in fear, “Quickly, Flambeau! You’ll be burned!”
Flambeau rests his hands on his hips, undaunted. “In an asbestos costume? I have nothing to fear from fire!” he yells back to her. Firestorm suddenly leaps out of the fireplace to confront him! “If not from the fire, pal,” Ronnie says as he lunges, “how about from Firestorm?” KRAK! Ronnie lands a nasty punch across Flambeau’s masked face and sends him flying! “Excellent, Ronald!” Stein observes, “Our fireplace ruse took them completely by surprise! Now we can…Oh, no…” His voice trails off as he watches Flambeau fly helplessly across the room from Ronnie’s blow. Flambeau’s heavy backpack laden with explosives lands against crates containing still more volatile materials. The tiniest sound of Flambeau’s detonation switch can be inadvertently heard clicking… “Oh, no,” Ronnie gasps in horror. Oh, yes.
FAZ-ZAAAAAMMM! Suddenly, a cataclysmic explosion rips through the building! Flames leap skyward, roiling out and enveloping the Goodwear Blimp above in the rising inferno! Dense, choking smoke fills the air as an out-of-control fire starts to spread!
To be continued!