This story is based in the 5 Earths Project continuity, and is built on what was written before by myself, Brad Cobb, and Martin Maenza. For those unfamiliar with the setting, it assumes that there were 5 earths left after the great Crisis on Infinite earths. Earth 4 is a combination of Charlton and MLJ/Red Circle characters.
Emil Forsa sat in a cell in a federal holding facility awaiting trial. He had been captured by some clowns called the WEB. It seemed to be a new group, even if none of them wore the real Web's colors.
A special damper had been fitted to his neck to help control his nuclear powers. At least he didn't feel like he would come apart at the least little thing.
Still he was in solitary for being too dangerous to be around the other inmates.
After all radiation poisoning was a very ugly way to die.
On the third day of his wait to see a judge, he was eating lunch in a cell. In thirty minutes, a trustee would come by to collect all the used plates in the block and take them back to be clean and reused. He had just taken a bite from his Jell‑O when his cell wall began to vibrate. Then it fell in loudly.
A small group of men pointed weapons at Forsa, gesturing for him to get to his feet and accompany them. He gulped down the rest of his dessert before stepping through the new door.
Emil was escorted down a service corridor to an emergency exit. One of the masked men tossed a gray coverall to him to pull on over his prison clothes. He slowly put it on.
He couldn't make a break for it and expect to succeed without his nuclear powers.
Once dressed, Emil picked up a box for a vacuum cleaner. He walked with the group through an exit from the hallway and through the main part of the jail. No one realized who he was as he stepped out into the free air unsuspected.
The leader of the men waved Emil into a van for cleaning and repair work for almost nothing. The men got into the van on either side of the ex‑prisoner.
The van rolled away from Washington and south across the Virginia border. Emil noted they were traveling generally south‑southwest from the jail. He wonder slightly why the extreme effort for a convict on his way to a cell for twenty to life.
Emil sat and thought in silence. It was a ride like this that had led to his becoming Major Force and the nuclear meltdown he was suffering.
At the time he had been a raw recruit for a guy named Drako. Emil had joined up to try a crack at the big time. He had been a penny ante success and wanted more of a criminal future that would set him up for the rest of his life.
He was set up all right.
Drako had went through the big timer welcoming spiel and told them as long as they were loyal to him he would make sure they would live in a certain amount of comfort and wealth.
Emil was actually there when they pulled the mask off of Captain Atom. He was one of the few who saw Atom in captivity.
He should have known then it was time for him to get out and get out fast while the getting was good.
Instead he was among the first to fall when Atom came back and arrested Drako for his law breaking.
Emil got ten years, but got a parole in three. Some of the others had did the same amount of time. Some did more because they had other crimes awaiting in various jurisdictions.
Emil was glad to serve his time and get out.
The second time he went to jail was after he had received his powers. He had opposed the combined forces of the Sentinels of Justice and got his head handed to him in the resulting debacle.
Emil concentrated on that as much as to relieve his boredom as anything else.
He had been living in New York in '72. His place was a five story apartment building that should have been in SLUM LORD DIGEST. He had gotten a job bagging groceries for the local super market, after he had made parole.
He was sitting in his ratty armchair, drinking a Bud, and watching the Mets stomp the Center City Civettes when the phone rang.
"Emil Forsa?," said his caller when he said hello to the phone.
"This is he," said Emil.
"I would like to talk about a business proposition with you," said the voice.
"Sure, go ahead," said Emil, scratching his head. He used to have thick brown hair then. He lost that when he became a nuclear man.
"I would like to talk to you in person," said the voice. "Could you come to Chloe's in about an hour. There's great deal of money in it for you if you accept the job."
"Chloe's?," said Emil. "Sure, I'll be right there."
Emil should have gone back to his baseball game. Instead he fixed himself up and walked across town to the bar. He had no fear that the guy wouldn't know him, if the call was for real.
Emil really had nothing better to do at the time. If he knew then what he knew now, he would have watched the Civettes get creamed.
Emil reached Chloe's right on time. He wondered briefly what kind of job he was going to be offered.
He had wondered the same thing most of his trip to the bar, but had put it aside. Now here it was again.
He knew it couldn't be anything legal, because he was a felon, and most convicts didn't get a great job with a phone call, and a meeting in a low to middle grade bar.
Emil walked into the place and looked around. He ran his hand through his hair, wondering which of the patrons was the voice. He saw a man in the back at a booth. The man was waving at him so he walked back to the table.
"Emil Forsa," the man said to confirm what he already knew.
"You said you had a job opportunity on the phone," Emil said.
"Please take a seat," said the stranger. "My boss wants a crew of muscle to move something from a warehouse to a designated spot. Your name came up when I started looking for men.
"Mojo Rixon said you went in with him on the same rap."
"Rixon?," Emil said. "Not short, crooked teeth Rixon?"
The recruiter nodded.
"How's he doing?," Emil asked.
"Someone stabbed him in the eye with a fork in the yard."
"I didn't know. He always seemed a stand‑up guy when we were working together. Of course, no one knows who did it."
"A man named Carlson was identified as the killer."
Emil knew Carlson too. They had went in together with Rixon on the Drako‑Atom job. Emil served his three and got his parole. Carlson had gotten multiple sentences for more than that one job. And Rixon had been wanted in ten states.
It had always bothered Emil why those two had thrown in with a timer like Draco.
Now to find out one had stabbed the other in the eye was a major shock to his system.
"Mr. Forsa?," said the recruiter, interrupting Emil's reverie.
"Sorry about that," said Emil. "I was surprised by the news. I thought they were friends. They seemed used to working together when we got busted."
"Even friends have a falling out, Mr. Forsa," said the recruiter. "Would you like to sign on for the job?"
"Sure," said Emil. "When do I get started?"
"We'll call you to notify you about a pick‑up place and the time in a few days," said the recruiter.
"Go ahead and enjoy dinner on me, and I will see you then."
The man stood and walked away. He paused to talk to the head waiter. Emil guessed the exchange was about his dinner.
Still a free dinner at a classy place was nothing to gripe about. He ordered as much as he could eat and then took some home in a Styrofoam box.
The call came within two days. The terse voice gave Emil an address in Brooklyn. The call was done that fast.
Emil grabbed his jacket and headed out the door. He took the public transportation system because he didn't have any way to buy a car.
Hopefully this job would be risk free and give him the ability to buy a set of wheels in one fell swoop.
Otherwise he could envision a set of major problems if his identity was discovered.
Just associating with fellow ex‑cons could send him back to the block.
That was something to be avoided at all costs.
Of course, he did go back to prison.
Emil had been led to a van with ten other ex‑cons. He knew most of them from his own time in stir. He wondered what kind of job was being contemplated as he was bussed across town to a warehouse.
The men were told to line up and fill out a form and turn it in to a table of processors. The hard faced men asked several questions about Emil's general health before asking him to step into a room made of partitions where he had to undergo a physical exam.
After that, Emil was led to a dorm of made the same way as the examination room. He was told to wait until the results were reviewed and he was called for by one of the processors.
Emil lay down on one of the cots that had been set up.
What needed a medical exam and questionnaire?
Emil had an inkling then he should just try to get out and try something not quite so threatening.
Unfortunately, armed guards stood in front of the only entrances he could see. He had no illusion they wouldn't shoot him now that he was already deep into whatever the scheme was.
All he could hope for was to get through the next few hours alive.
Emil waited as patiently as possible. The other ten men were taken to a large cubicle in the back of the large room one by one. A screen did not block the flashes of light being produced by some large device that seemed to reach to the ceiling.
The screen also did not block the screams of pain that erupted with the artificial lightning.
Emil stood up. Panic batted at his self control as he wondered what he could do to insure his survival for the next few moments, minutes, hours.
Things looked dim for him.
Finally the guards ushered Forsa into the cubicle. Several guys in lab coats helped strap him in some type of machine. He watched as they applied the juice to this projector descending from the central part of the thing.
Emil heard screaming before he realized it was his. He tried to clamp his jaw shut, but only bit his tongue instead. Blood was salty in his mouth as his eyes were trying to roll back in his head.
Emil sat up with a start. He could still feel the blood in his mouth after all these years. He looked around the truck. His guards looked at him, but didn't seem concerned at his sudden change of posture.
Why should they? Without his nuclear powers, he wasn't much of a threat. He wasn't going to do any Fightin' Five action by himself, surrounded by ten guys with automatics. He might give it a try if he lost the nullifier somehow.
He closed his eyes, thinking about his start in the super villain enterprise. The initial job put him back in stir for another ten years.
He still had scars from where the nuclear lightning had fried the wrist straps to his arms.
The scientists had donned protective gear to be able to get close to their victims. One ran the wand of a Geiger counter up and down Emil's body. It clicked madly from the exposure to the guinea pig's presence.
"Can you hear us, Forsa?," asked the lead scientist. "Forsa?"
He slapped Emil across the face. The weakened convict stirred slightly.
"We are going to apply the Duralloy to you, Forsa," said the man. "Remain calm. This will take a few minutes to accomplish."
Forsa had no choice but to remain calm. He had taken enough juice to fry an elephant, and could barely move a finger. He barely felt the liquid being sprayed on his radioactive body.
"Forsa, I need for you to concentrate," said the scientist. "I need you to summon some energy from somewhere. Can you hear me? I need you to generate an energy burst somehow."
Emil concentrated for a moment and he did feel it. He barely had anything left, but he had enough to summon energy into a set of atomic rings. A costume of metal appeared around him, complete with a metal helmet.
He found out later that the thing was a creation of his atomic energy interacting with the liquid metal that had been used to contain his radioactivity.
Then he hadn't cared, grateful to be alive when all the rest were dead.
"I suppose you are wondering why I went to the trouble to energize you, Mr. Forsa," said a newcomer stepping into the room. The goatee and mustache were gone, but Emil still knew the face. It was his first employer, Drako. "I need a weapon to deal with Captain Atom while I take care of some professional concerns."
"What kind of weapon?," Emil asked. His strength was returning slowly. He could barely move his fingers now.
"A nuclear powered man, Mr. Forsa," said Drako. "Your part in my plan will be explained to you as soon as you are able to do the task."
"A job?," said Emil. "What's my percentage, since I have most of the risks?"
"10," said Drako. "Risks will not be yours alone to face."
"I want more than just a measly ten percent, you weasel," Forsa said. He could close his hand into a fist now.
Drako flushed an angry scarlet.
"What do you think is fair since it is my plan?," he finally managed to say very calmly. A squeezing of his fist betrayed his anger at all.
"I want 40% of the take as soon as the job is over," Emil said. Strength wasn't exactly pouring back into his system, but he did feel stronger as the minutes passed.
"40%, Mr. Forsa?," said Drako. "Don't you think that is excessive?"
"Not if I have to get involved with any super hero, especially Captain Atom," said Emil.
"It seems I have to except your terms," said Drako, unclenching his fist with an effort. He smiled calmly.
"How do I do the job?," Emil asked. He hadn't expected Drako to cave so easily. He almost laughed.
Of course, then he hadn't known about the side effect that went with the treatment he had been given by the technicians. Later he would learn about his decreased life span.
The job was deceptively simple.
Emil was to draw the Sentinels attention and act as a diversion while Drako's mercenaries cleaned out every bank, jeweler, and valuable display of merchandise they could get their hands on.
Emil wondered if 40% was enough as he enjoyed his first real flight over the city.
He began robbing a bank, throwing his powers around to attract the right kind of attention. Soon he was blasting patrol cars as police scrambled for cover.
The fun ended with the arrival of Captain Atom on the scene.
Emil blasted at the nuclear hero with abandon. Every miss caused damage to the nearby surroundings as Emil tried to lead his mark away from the other jobs underway.
The two squared off over the Atlantic as Captain Atom and Major Force called on all of the power at their command to blast each other out of the sky.
Emil learned then that he didn't have the endurance to go toe to toe with the hero.
The backlash from the multiple explosions dropped him into the drink and jail.
The rest of the Sentinels dropped in on Drako's raiders and made short work of them while Atom was fishing Emil out of the drink. They got most of them except the mastermind himself.
Emil had his parole revoked and another ten to twenty added on for robbery. Additional charges were tried, but the D.A. couldn't link him to the smash and grab by the others. So he got off lucky.
Emil was looking at serving his full sentence. Who in their right mind would parole a superpowered criminal?
His physical was when he found out about his condition. The prison doctors and some guys from the Military came in to study him. They told him that he could die at any time. They broke it down in a lot of jargon and graphs.
Emil only had a few years to live at most. At any time, his powers could go berserk and cause him to explode. The only hope they offered was that radioactive isotopes could strengthen his control over the artificial mutation.
Emil had lived with that until the Villain War.
Emil had been sprung from Brightwell by a robot named Brainiac. He had charged up for the first time in a long time, activating his armor amidst the villainous population.
He had a stray thought of what would happen if he exploded right then, and right there, and thought it ironic as he waited for the bigwigs to sort themselves out.
He recognized some of the others from his earth, but kept to himself. The Ghost, Punch and Jewelee, and Doctor Spectro were not known for the smallness of their egos. Additionally he was feeling like a fish out of water as it was.
So he waited and watched and when they were sent down to take care of The Sentinels and The Crusaders, he veered from the attack and fled. His freedom and personal survival were more important than a glory grab led by a stupid machine and a bald loon.
That's the way things were until he found information on the isotopes he needed and began to raid the labs for them. That had led to the fight with those WEB guys, and his recapture.
The van pulled to a stop. The men urged Emil out of the back. He frowned in recognition of the warehouse he had been brought to. It was the place where he had been given his powers by that nutjob, Drako.
"What's going on?," Emil asked, a little concerned. Becoming a guinea pig for a mad scientist was not at the top of his list of enjoyable activities.
"Allow me to explain, Mr. Forsa," said the familiar voice of Drako as he entered the room.
"Don't want to hear it," said Emil. "Take me back to my cell."
The men urged him forward at the point of their weapons.
"You don't get a choice in this, I'm afraid, Mr. Forsa," said Drako. "This way, please."
The mastermind led the way behind a partition. Another huge machine had been set up in the warehouse. Instead of pointing at a victim that needed to be suspended in the air, the barrel pointed out of a skylight in the roof.
Below the main apparatus was a transparent cylinder big enough for a man.
"Inside, Mr. Forsa," said Drako.
"No," said Emil.
Two of the men grabbed Emil under the arms. Two grabbed his legs. They carried his struggling body over to the chamber and threw him in. One applied a solvent to the power neutralizer around his neck. It fell away as the men closed the door and locked Emil in.
"Now while the machine is warming up, Mr. Forsa," said Drako. "Let me explain its operation to you."
"Do I have a choice?," said Emil, pounding on the plastic wall of his cage.
"No," said Drako. "And I don't have to give you forty percent of my ransom either.
"Put simply, this device will absorb every bit of nuclear power you possess, channel it up to the firing mechanism, and fire it. A beam of energy will cut through downtown Manhattan, destroying everything in its path.
"Then I will issue a ransom demand saying I can do that anywhere.
"Of course the process will kill you," said Drako, smiling at the thought.
"Of course," said Emil, slumping to the floor dejectedly.
"You have ten minutes remaining before we fire the gun," said Drako. "I hope you have something to think about for those last few moments before you die."
"If I live, Drako," said Emil. "You won't for long."
"How very heroic," said Drako.
Emil wasn't a hero. He was a crook with a gimmick. He was also determined to survive anything. It was time to prove that fact.
He never thought he would be wishing for Captain Atom to appear.
Emil braced his hands against the walls of his prison. He reached deep inside and activated his powers. His bronze and cadmium armor appeared with some effort. He began sending what little energy he had into his hands, causing them to glow as he tried to cut through the plastic.
"The wall will withstand a higher temperature than you can possibly bring to bear, Mr. Forsa," said Drako. "Go ahead and try. Everyone needs some hope sometimes."
Emil stopped when he felt he had enough energy to throw fireballs. He began to fire blast after blast into the chamber at various points. The energy shredded in bright ribbons as the device absorbed it.
Emil paused in his exertions. He shook his head in defeat. His best efforts had done nothing. An aura sprang to life around him as the weapon reached the pre‑firing stage.
Emil could see his energy being pulled up to a collector at the top of the cell. Emil knew what he had to do then. He hoped it didn't hurt too much.
Emil activated his flight and blasted into the collection device like a rocket. He hoped to wreck it without doing any injury to himself. He slammed into the machinery and fell back to the floor. He rammed it again and again. Finally the repeated impacts broke the mechanism.
Emil laughed in relief. He had stopped the gun. Now all he had to do was get out of the bottle he was in.
"So you have managed to put a crimp in my plans after all," said Drako.
Emil smiled behind his helmet. It was time he won one. More than time really. A man can't be a loser all his life.
"Still I have enough of a charge to destroy something," said Drako. "What would be the perfect target for the pittance I have."
Emil looked at the door to his prison. He wondered if he had enough left to try to break out. He charged into the door at full speed. He was rebuffed at first. He tried to reach his top speed as he slammed into the door again and again. Finally the lock snapped, ripped from the jamb by the repeated impacts.
Emil stumbled out and hit the floor. He slid along the concrete for a moment.
He felt a dangerous tingle running along his nervous system. He wondered if this was when he was going to explode in a cloud of radioactive particles. He hoped he didn't nuke the city when he went.
"Kill him," ordered Drako, as he pulled the switch on the firing mechanism.
Emil leaped into the air as the cannon charged up. He crashed through the skylight to get some room in the open air. He hoped he wasn't making a big mistake.
The cannon fired its beam at the city. Emil hovered in front of the beam. He hoped the Duralloy that kept him contained was all it was advertised. The scarlet ribbon struck the villain full force. He jerked from the impact, trying to stay in the air, trying to block the beam. Then the main strength hit and he was thrown away toward the Atlantic. He hit in a cloud of boiling water.
The beam arced over the city. It struck its target on the top floor. The city barely noticed. The building stood unharmed except for some cracked masonry and one broken window.
Emil Forsa stood at the defendant's table in court a month later. He had been fished out of the water by a boat from the harbor patrol. They had taken his statement and taken him to a cell after putting a nullifier back around his neck. He had waited for news, but Drako had vanished again.
Only his machine had been left behind. It had been partially destroyed when Emil had blocked the beam. Still there was enough evidence to collaborate his story.
He had pled guilty to the theft charge, and thrown himself on the mercy of the court.
The judge left to make his decision in private.
He looked at the judge, and knew he was not going to get off easy. The man was scowling hard.
"Mr. Forsa," said the judge. "Typically I impose the maximum sentence on a defendant in the hopes that he will rehabilitate himself and become a useful member of society. I don't see that will help you in any way. You have proven to be a habitual offender, but you have also saved a city, and may die at any time. Taking this in account, along with your record, it is my decision that you will be reprimanded in the custody of the Atom Project until such time as they can find a cure for your condition and you are healthy enough to serve your sentence, which will be imposed by this court at such time.
"Good luck, Mr. Forsa."