The heroes reached a home in Newark, New Jersey, and Superman turned in mid-flight to address Red Tornado.
“The house below has lead shielding,” said the Man of Steel. “I can’t see through it, but I do hear activity. Emilia Storm is one of the names on Morrow’s phone record, and her home is below us. I figured we should check her out for several reasons. Her late brother Emilio was an old foe of mine. He used the name the Whirlicane, and his gear allowed him to generate powerful wind storms before he died. (*) His M.O. would explain the damage to Morrow’s home. She must be making use of his old gear. Perhaps the whole thing comes down to a falling-out among crooks.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “When Lightning Strikes, Thunder Kills,” Superman #303 (September, 1976).]
The Red Tornado nodded as they landed. “My own audio sensors detect the hum of machines,” he added. “She must have a lab of her own within the house behind the lead shielding your x-ray vision detected. I would advise caution. If she has the power to destroy a house with such malice and precision, then she may be capable of any number of violent acts.”
“Don’t worry,” said Superman. “I’d say we can handle her. As the Whirlicane, her brother could fly and generate powerful winds, but our powers could match or best those abilities.”
Before they could continue their conversation, the front door of the house opened to reveal a red-haired woman in a one-piece white body-suit with high boots of the same color. Her neckline formed a stylized W, as did the headdress she wore. “You’ve found me quicker than I expected!” she said. “You may as well come inside.”
Superman and Red Tornado entered the house. “Ms. Storme?” said Superman. “I can see that you’ve adopted your brother’s costume and gear for your own purposes. I would have hoped his death might have taught you the folly of his ways.”
“You have some nerve to speak of his death, since you were the man who murdered him,” said Emilia Storm. “You defied him and you dared to try to control him. His genius alone made him a man apart from the common herd. You should have revered him for his brilliant mind, but instead you feared him and you killed him!”
“That’s not true,” said Superman calmly. “I don’t kill. That in itself is well-known. Your brother was brilliant, but he turned that talent to crime. He tried to use his inventions to rob and to finance an extortion scheme. His death came about when one of his own creations turned upon him.”
Red Tornado said, “Superman, we are not alone!”
The heroes turned to see an agile figure dart forward to attack them. His entire body was gleaming gold, and his movements left a trail of sparks in his wake. He raised his arms, and bolts of lightning surged into the heroes even as Superman struggled forward to shield the Tornado.
“Reddy, get back!” he yelled. “That android is not called Lightning for nothing. He is capable of stunning even me with his level of electrical power!”
The Red Tornado whirled forward to help Superman, but the blazing bolts struck so swiftly that Superman had fallen before the robotic hero could aid him. Superman gritted his teeth and struggled upward again as repeated blasts of lightning struck him. Finally, even his efforts ended as he lurched forward to the ground.
“Superman’s respiration is steady, but weakened,” said the Red Tornado. “You have hurt my friend, and I will not allow that to go unpunished!” He created a powerful tornado that swept across the laboratory, but Emilia Storm — now calling herself the Whirlicane — merely countered his actions with a whirling wind storm of her own. Clearly, she was using her sibling’s weaponry in her white costume.
“What’s the matter, machine?” she cried. “Do you aspire to humanity? Do you dare to pretend that you have feelings of concern or desire? How utterly absurd!”
The Red Tornado ignored her cries as he drew closer to the amazingly agile gold man. Fascinating! Whirlicane has created an android capable of generating elements of a storm much like my own abilities, although different in nature, he mused. As fast as the silent gold being was, Red Tornado was more experienced in combat, and thus he managed to dodge a barrage of bolts long enough to slam into the other being with crushing impact.
The golden man slumped to the ground as the Whirlicane shrieked in anger. “You witless wind-up toy! If you imagine for one moment that you’ve beaten me, then you need to go back to the factory!”
The Red Tornado flew closer to her and said, “You are the one who is in need of alterations of mind and attitude. Your artificial winds are formidable enough to injury beings of flesh or structures of wood and metal, but I am made of sterner stuff!” He mentally calculated the speed and power of her storm winds and carefully matched and countered them with opposing movements of his own. He nodded in calm approval as his own power subdued her own, and she dropped to the floor beneath his whirling nimbus.
“Morrow built you well,” she said. “That is why I wanted him to help me with biotech work of my own, but he refused me, and thus he sealed his fate. I taught him not to dare to insult the memory of my brother! I made him pay, and in doing so I framed you for my actions! You stupid metal nightmare!”
“Superman stirs already,” said the Red Tornado. “Professor Morrow will recover as well. My established JLA status with the authorities rendered me secure from suspicion. Your hatred has done nothing but place you in serious jeopardy.”
She smiled coldly as vibrations shook the lab, and the room grew darker. A massive dark figure loomed over the heroes as the fallen Lightning transformed into a hulking brute known as Thunder. The black metal being laughed and brought two hands together directly in front of the heroes. Superman had just managed to rise to his feet when the thunderous blast caught them both, leaving them reeling. “When Lightning strikes, Thunder roars!” shouted the Whirlicane as her android drew closer to the duo.
“Thunder and Lightning is a composite being,” explained Superman. “Separate personas mask a single physical being. Thunder’s the powerhouse.” He flew forward and brought his own power to play as he punched away at the bigger being. The original Whirlicane used the same type of android, he thought. He lied about its nature and told it that it was a petty crook with mutant powers. When it uncovered his deception, it took its own life and killed Storm, too! Maybe I can use that to my advantage.
“Thunder, you don’t have to obey her just because she made you!” he said as he staggered backward from a blow from the creature. “You can think for yourself!”
“Thunder knows better!” said Whirlicane. “Unlike poor Emilio, I never allowed my weapon to think itself more than a useful invention! You won’t find longings for humanity in that cold, metal chest!””
“Nor should you wish to do so,” said the Red Tornado. “Thunder, you have no reason to kill us. You have no motive for hurting others. You may resist such programming and live in your own right. I was also created to serve an evil scientist, but I have made a life for myself since then.”
Thunder hesitated and then grappled with Superman, even as the Red Tornado tried a desperate ploy. “Superman, contain him for a moment, and I will try a new tactic that may render senseless combat unnecessary!” he said.
Superman nodded and tried to restrain the hulking Thunder. He could do so, but even he could not keep him immobile for long. The Red Tornado flew directly toward the much bigger android and opened his own chest to reveal a delicate and complex array of wires and circuits. He moved around to the back of the struggling android and connected a wire from his body into the creature’s own network of circuits and wires.
Red Tornado downloaded countless images and memories from his own computer mind to Thunder’s mind. The other android experienced memories in which Red Tornado found friendship, love, family, a sense of purpose, and a role in society in his own right. All the while, he carefully avoided transferring any data that would compromise his allies in the JLA or his country.
Thunder suddenly lowered his arms and said, “You are like me. You are a machine in human form, but you live as an equal with humans. They trust you. They respect you. They… love you?” He paused for a moment and then added, “I have been created for the purpose of an evil woman’s revenge. I would find the acceptance you have found. I served her, since she told me I had no choice. She insisted that all I could be was a tool. You have shown me data that disproves her claims.”
Superman smiled and said, “Red Tornado, here, is living proof that the mechanical and the organic can exist as friends. Now as for you, Whirlicane, I’d say your plans are over.”
The angry woman in white said, “Oh, my plans are far from over. You may have won over my robotic pawn, but you have not seen the extent of my power!” She gestured to a control board and said, “While you had your gear-to-gear talk with Thunder, I activated my brother’s greatest creation. The Storm Bomb will destroy all of Newark, and that destruction will serve as a testament to his genius!”
“Great Krypton!” said Superman. “While the original Whirlicane wanted to hold the threat of using the Storm Bomb over Metropolis for profit, Emilia’s only after revenge!”
Superman froze the frantic woman against a wall with a concentrated blast of super-cold breath, then flew off into the air and frowned as he saw the effects of the atmosphere-altering device. Storm clouds were gathering over the city at an alarming and unnatural rate. Lightning began to flash with explosive force. “That thing is like a bomb in terms of its destructive potential. I can’t let the fact that Lightning’s own energies hurt me stop me from trying to stop a menace whose power is far greater than his own!”
He flew around the clouds at super-speed and tried to create a whirlwind that would entrap or contain the deadly energies before they could damage the community below. Superman increased his speed as he saw Red Tornado and Lightning join him. The Thunder android had reverted to its smaller, faster golden form and was riding through the sky on bolts of lightning.
Red Tornado said, “Superman, I have often stopped natural storms by matching their velocity with counter-vibrations of my own. I fear this storm’s magnitude may be beyond my capabilities, but I will do my best!” He thought of Traya and Kathy and how countless people like them lived in the city beneath the Storm Bomb’s raging energy. He could not fail them. He began to spin in the opposite direction, and he and Superman soon generated a tightly formed whirlwind that managed to contain the storm clouds and halt their progress.
Superman noticed the manner in which the contained energies were only growing more powerful. “The whole thing could still explode like some type of normal bomb if we can’t remove it. I’d hoped to carry it into airless space where it would fall apart, but even with Reddy’s help, we’re not doing more than holding it in one place.”
Red Tornado had made the same conclusion, but he had an idea of his own. “Perhaps if I unleash all my own power as what remains within me of that being who was once the Tornado Champion, I might halt this nightmare creation, but to do so might be to surrender my very self-awareness!” He started to channel his internal energies, but before he could do so, Lightning shot past him and hurled himself into the heart of the storm.
Then Superman and Red Tornado were flung backward as the surging clouds flashed with a brilliant light and then vanished as if drawn into some type of unseen suction device. They fought to regain their positions as the clouds parted, and a gentle rain fell over the city.
“Superman, I fear Lightning sacrificed himself to destroy the Storm Bomb!” said Red Tornado. “My words and images truly made him find his own humanity, but at what cost?”
Staring into the sky, Superman said, “Don’t be so quick to assume the worst, Reddy. I see a humanoid form gathering itself together in the north!” He gestured to where the air had grown heavy and a shape had begun to form.
Lightning appeared before them and raced across the sky to join them. “I have managed to stop the Storm Bomb,” he said. “And I wish to make amends for my past service to Emilia Storm.” He placed a hand on Red Tornado’s arm and said, “Please, will you aid me to become as fully human as you are?”
Red Tornado smiled and said, “Yes, I will. I will gladly help you. I can always use another friend!”
“You can rely on me to help as well, but I know you couldn’t ask for a better friend than Red Tornado, here,” said Superman.
Lightning’s golden features remained expressionless, but it was clear that the android was smiling in his own way as well.