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 Forsa’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 diulustel alloy to you, Forsa,” said the man. “Remain calm. This will take a few minutes to accomplish.”
The ex-con had no choice but to remain calm. He had taken enough juice to fry an elephant, and he 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 somehow he felt it. He barely had anything left, but he had enough to summon energy into a set of atomic rings. A costume of dark magenta and bronze metal appeared around him, complete with a gold 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. At the time he hadn’t cared about trying to explain it, but was just grateful to be alive when all the rest were dead.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I went to the trouble to energize you, Mr. Forsa,” said a newcomer, stepping into the room. He now wore a goatee and mustache, but Emil still knew the face. It was his first employer, renegade scientist Danton Koste — the Professor. “I need a weapon to deal with Captain Atom while I take care of some professional concerns.”
“What kinda weapon?” Emil asked, his strength returning slowly. He could barely move his fingers now.
“A nuclear-powered man, Mr. Forsa — or should I now call you Major Force?” said Koste with a self-satisfied smirk. “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’ll be takin’ most’a the risks?”
“Ten,” said Koste. “Risks won’t be yours to face alone.”
“I want more than just a measly ten percent, you weasel,” Emil said, now able to close his hand into a fist.
The Professor flashed an angry scarlet. “What do you think is fair, since it is my plan?” he finally managed to say in a calm voice. A squeezing of his fist betrayed his anger.
“I want forty percent of the take as soon as the job’s over,” Emil said. Strength wasn’t exactly pouring back into his system, but he did feel stronger as the minutes passed.
“Forty percent, Mr. Forsa?” asked Danton Koste. “Don’t you think that’s excessive?”
“Not if I haveta get involved with any action-hero, especially Captain Atom,” said Emil.
“It seems I have to accept your terms,” said Koste, unclenching his fist with an effort. He smiled calmly.
“How do I do the job?” Emil asked, surprised that the Professor had caved so easily. He almost laughed. Of course, he hadn’t known then about the side effect that went with the treatment he had been given by the technicians. Later on, he would learn about his decreased life span.
The job was deceptively simple. Major Force was to draw the attention of the Sentinels of Justice — that new team led by Captain Atom — and act as a diversion while Koste’s mercenaries led by Iron Arms cleaned out every bank, jeweler, and valuable display of merchandise they could get their hands on.
As he enjoyed his first real flight over the city, Emil Forsa began to wonder if forty percent was enough. 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. Major Force 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 of Justice dropped in on Iron Arms and Koste’s green-clad raiders and made short work of them while Captain Atom was fishing Emil out of the drink. They got most of them except the mastermind himself.
Emil Forsa had his parole revoked, and another ten to twenty years were 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 super-powered criminal?
It was when he received the routine prison physical that he found out about his condition. The prison doctors and some bigwigs from the USAF 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 to live with the threat of certain doom hanging over his head for more than a decade. The fact that he managed during that period to escape from time to time, only to be thrown back into jail again by Captain Atom and the Sentinels, didn’t make things any better for him.
Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, and with it the Villain War.
Major Force had been sprung from Brightwell by a robotic villain named Brainiac, who was from a parallel universe. Emil was able to charge 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 there, thinking it ironic as he waited for the bigwigs to sort themselves out.
He recognized some of the others from his own Earth but kept to himself. Doctor Spectro, Punch and Jewelee, and the Banshee were not known for their small egos. Additionally, he was already feeling like a fish out of water as it was. So he waited and watched, and when he and the others were sent down to take care of the Sentinels of Justice, 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. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War, Chapter 4: Earth-Four Got.]
That’s the way things had been until he found information on the isotopes he needed and began to raid the labs for them. That led to the fight with those LAW guys and his recapture last year.
In the present, the van pulled to a stop, pulling Emil Forsa out of his reverie. The men urged him out of the back. He frowned in recognition of the warehouse he had been brought to. It was the same place he had been given his powers by that nut job, Professor Danton Koste.
“What’s goin’ 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 Koste as he entered the room. He was once again clean-shaven, but the once-youthful scientist was looking old. The last seventeen years had not been kind to Koste.
“Don’t wanna hear it, Prof,” said Major Force. “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 Koste. “This way, please.”
The criminal scientist 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 the Professor.
“Naw, I ain’t goin’,” said Emil.
Two of the men grabbed Major Force 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 Koste, “let me explain its operation to you.”
“Do I got a choice?” asked Emil, pounding on the plastic wall of his cage.
“No,” said Koste. “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 Koste, smiling at the thought.
“O’ course,” replied Emil, slumping to the floor dejectedly.
“You have ten minutes remaining before we fire the gun,” said Koste. “I hope you have something to think about for those last few moments before you die.”
“If I live, Koste,” said Emil, “you won’t for long.”
“How very heroic,” said the Professor.
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’d never thought he would ever wish for Captain Atom to appear as he did now.
Major Force braced his hands against the walls of his prison. He reached deep inside and activated his powers. His dark magenta and bronze 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 Koste. “Go ahead and try. Everyone needs hope sometimes.”
Major Force 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 absolutely 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. He knew what he had to do then and hoped it didn’t hurt too much.
The nuclear man 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, then 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 Professor Koste. Emil smiled behind his helmet. It was about time he won one. More than about time, really. A man couldn’t be a loser all his life. “Still, I have enough of a charge to destroy something,” said Koste. “What would be the perfect target for the pittance I have?”
Major Force 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 but 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 and 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 the Professor 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. Major Force hovered in front of the beam, hoping the duralloy that kept him contained was all it was advertised to be. The scarlet ribbon struck the nuclear man full force. He jerked from the impact, trying to stay in the air while blocking 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 shot over the city and struck its target on the top floor. The city barely noticed. Thanks to Emil’s efforts, 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 brought him to a cell after putting a nullifier back around his neck.
He had waited for news, but Professor Danton Koste had vanished again. Only his machine had been left behind. It had been partially destroyed when Major Force had blocked the beam. Still, there was enough evidence to corroborate his story. He had pled guilty to the theft charge and had thrown himself on the mercy of the court. The judge left to make his decision in private.
Emil looked at the judge upon his return, and he 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 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 into account, along with your record, it is my decision that you will be remanded in the custody of the Captain 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.”
The judge struck his bench with the gavel and said, “Good luck, Mr. Forsa.”