"The Long Way Home"
by Andrew Wickliffe
My name is Ronnie Raymond. Ronald Raymond. Well, originally, it was Ronald Rockwell. But, that's another story. Over the years, I've been called some other names. Two other names, actually. You probably know me best as Ronray, I'm an underwear model some of the time. The rest of the time I'm a little better known, but not really for me (not that Ronray is me). That's when I'm called Firestorm. As in, the Nuclear Man. I have a flashy outfit, fire for hair, and some kick-butt powers. Unfortunately, my life as the Nuclear Man trashed the life that I wanted for Ronnie Raymond. Believe me, Ronray ain't it.
Being an ex-member of the Justice League doesn't hold the weight it used to, the sentiment now being, "Why didn't they ask you back?" If they had asked, to be honest, I would have said no. I may only be an underwear model part-time, but that doesn't make me a superhero full time. Not even since I've become the only one in the old Firestorm-car. I'd better explain that.
When I first became Firestorm, the Nuclear Man, I was in high school. And I didn't exactly become him alone; there was another person in there with me. Professor Martin Stein. I was with a group of anti-nuclear terrorists who blew us both up in the Professor's new automated Hudson Nuclear Power Plant. I was there trying to impress a girl I had met that day, Doreen. Somehow Prof and I fused together into the first Nuclear Man. I was in charge, in the driver's seat, while the Professor was like the back-seat driver. Firestorm changed a lot more over the years, but basically, he's just me now.
Ever since I got on the wagon, I've been living back in Manhattan, with my parents. My dad thinks it's a little weird, but he prefers it to me alone. I've been alone a lot over the years, since the Professor left, since Doreen left, and I started drinking. My mom, step-mom actually, couldn't be happier. I screwed up a lot in the time after I wasn't Firestorm, and I'm not too sure that I'm all straighten out yet.
I'm not wet behind the years anymore, but I get treated like a second class superhero. All muscle, no brains. That Superboy kid gets more respect than me. And Robin? Forget about that. He's like a national treasure. I'm just a screw-up. But that's fine, because being a full time superhero isn't what I need to be right now. I have a lot of time to think about what I need, and what I need is Doreen.
Doreen Day was my girlfriend in high school and some of college. Our relationship got a little screwed up because of my (Firestorm's) relationship with Firehawk. Then, Lorraine Reilly (Firehawk) and I got a little too friendly. One day, it was over with Doreen, and I was with Lorraine.
After I stopped being Firestorm, when the Professor took charge and went out into space, I was with Lorraine. It was alright for a while, but she was a few years older, and I was just a college drop-out who used to be a superhero. We tried living together, but one morning, she was just gone. And it was her apartment! After that, I stumbled around, got a modeling job. And on the fast track I went. I caught cancer. The Professor turned me back into Firestorm and cured my cancer. And I got a severe problem with alcohol.
But, like I said, I'm not the same as I used to be. I'm Firestorm all by myself, and it's a little scary. I might not be able to turn people into lunchboxes, but I can turn water into wine, and coal into gold. Believe me, I've thought about maybe going private every time I'm turned away for somebody like the Flash. I knew the old Flash, I was around before the new one, but does anybody want Firestorm anymore? No.
And neither do I. Firestorm wrecked my life. The empty shell that is left feels like it could crumble at any second even now. It was fun in the beginning, playing a superhero, but you can only save the world so many times before you realize that it wasn't you who did it. It was somebody the press liked, and didn't always refer to as "The young " I didn't have a Batman or a Green Arrow or a Flash, and guess what, I didn't need one. The Teen Titans was like a kids club, and I wasn't in the kids club, I was NYC's resident superhero. I was in a little over my head sometimes, but I did the job. But the job is what ruined my life. I wouldn't change it, I did too much good, but I have regrets aplenty. I lost friends left and right, and my life became a parody of a teenager's reality. Every time I played a basketball game, I had to realize that somebody could die because Firestorm wasn't there. It really sucked.
I'm sitting in a Greyhound, writing all this for some reason or another. I don't really know why. Maybe I can sell a book. I doubt it. Who remembers Firestorm? Only the people he helped, and that doesn't count in the world of Superman.
Not to get me wrong, I love the big guy. He sponsored me in the Justice League, but these days, I don't get a phone call. When I heard they were rehashing the JLA, I figured, "I'm in." I've got to be in. Surprise, surprise.
Like I was saying, the Greyhound: I'm headed toward Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Doreen's in grad school. I should have called, I guess, but I figure the surprise could be a pleasant one for her. The last time I saw her was before the Manhunters started their lunge for global domination. Before I got a chance to see her, I wasn't in charge of Firestorm anymore. Instead, it was the amnesic mind of the Professor, with a Russian metahuman named Mikhail Arkadin thrown into the mix. Then, when life seemed to be getting a little more regular, guess what? Firestorm was meant to be the Earth's Fire Elemental. And who screwed it all up? Yours truly.
So, you could say, I'm a little nervous. Not because I'm not a hip superhero anymore, but because Firestorm has screwed everything up before, why not again? Doreen could be married, she could be anything. She probably isn't liking me too much, I haven't heard from her. It makes me feel a little funny, like I should be waiting for her to come after me, or something. But, I figure, if I can take a beating from Brimstone and come through, this can only be a few million times more difficult.
All characters are DC Comics
This story is © 1998 by Andrew Wickliffe.