Tierra del Maiz…several soldiers stand around clapping, as their comrade melts before them while singing “I want to live in America. Everything’s free in America! I want to be in America. I want to…I want…I want to live!” ‘Don’t we all,’ mutters Diablo as he lounges on his throne made of other melted humans, adding his newest acquisition to it. Diablo sighs, ‘This is entertainment?’ he mutters, before exclaiming that he cannot believe that in the twenty-four hours since he became supreme ruler for life of Tierra del Maiz, he has used his mastery over alchemy to torture and murder all twenty-seven members of the previous regime - you’d think that after two thousand years he would have learned to pace himself better.
After mumbling that it is probably too early in the day to start terrorizing the peasants, an elderly soldier approaches Diablo ‘Lord high sacred master of all unworthy men such as myself’ he says, to which Diablo gives him permission to speak. The old man declares that he has word from the front - to which Diablo exclaims that he wants to guess what this news is, and asks if the pathetic handful of freedom fighters are being smoked out of the jungle by his fire elemental?
The old man replies yes, and tries to say something else, to which Diablo asks if the people are begging to accept his uncontested dictatorship in exchange for their water supply. The old man again replies yes, but he still has something else to say. Diablo asks if representatives of all the world powers have secretly arrived to discuss private trade discussions. The old man replies yes, and this time gets to say what his real information was - that the defense perimeter has been breached - there are an unknown number of intruders in the jungles outside the castle.
Diablo’s grin quickly turns to a frown, ‘Wrong answer’ he mutters before flicking a small capsule at the old man, and upon contact blows him up. Diablo narrows his eyes, ‘Intruders? I suppose I can put off the peasants until after lunch’.
‘Heather McNeil Hudson - you are getting too old for this!’ the leader of Canada’s premiere super heroes, Alpha Flight, tells herself as she flies across the Tierra del Maiz jungle, dodging missiles as she goes. However, the woman codenamed Guardian is no wearing her usual red and white costume, but a plain black spandex suit, something more appropriate for what this mission may involve. Heather mutters that every other woman she graduated from high school with has two kids minimum - but how does she spend her weekends? Overthrowing hostile Central American dictatorships.
Several men below spy Heather above them and one of them orders the bazooka to be fired. But it only takes the slightest thought from Heather to employ her electromagnetic suit to momentarily negate Earth’s gravitational pull, and an instant and several miles away, she is arcing through the air to ambush her attackers from behind. As she does, Heather supposes that it could be worse, for instead of battling it out with super villains and alien warlords, she could be battling the Ottawa PTA, though it is not likely that they have this much fire power.
Guardian tells herself that she has done enough griping and suggests she gets back to work - but a look of surprise spreads across her face when she sees her attackers are no longer conscious. Heather realizes that someone has gotten to Diablo’s soldiers before she did and wonders how it is possible as they were only out of her sight for ten seconds. She knows it couldn’t have been Wolverine because he is with the X-Men at the moment, and as the men are still alive, it means she has a mysterious benefactor watching her back. ‘So why do I find that less than comforting?’
Meanwhile, at Department H - Alpha Flight’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada, Eugene Milton Judd a.k.a. the diminutive Puck declares ‘No. No. No. No. No. No.’, to which his teammate Colin Ashworth Hume a.k.a. Windshear tells him he is being unreasonable - not to mention immature. Department H’s new liaison, Gunther, agrees with Windshear and reminds Judd that he accepted the role of Chief Administrator after the sudden “departure” of Vindicator. Hume tells Judd that he knew it meant he would occasionally be stuck in the office instead of out in the field, to which Judd mutters that he isn’t a fan of jockeying paperwork while the others are off on some hush-hush covert mission.
Judd declares that his first official task as Chief Administrator ‘Is to abdicate the position to you, Windshear’, pointing out that he is a former Roxxon Employee, so he was practically raised on corporate structure. Colin tells Judd that he cannot be serious, to which Judd starts to cartwheel out of the office, ‘At least as serious as I am about anything else in life, eh?’ Windshear tells Gunther to stop him, but Gunther replies ‘Not likely. Maybe now we can get a little work done around here!’ Windshear just calls after Judd.
Back in the jungles of Tierra del Maiz, the handsome Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier is not a happy camper. That is, no more so than usual. He spits out the water he was drinking from a lake after discovering that it has been turned into a pool of vinegar. Jean-Paul looks around at the refugees and judging by their condition realizes that Diablo is much crueller when they last confronted him. Jean-Paul remembers his specific orders - to use his super speed to reconnoiter the area and avoid contact with anyone.
Approaching the refugees, Jean-Paul wonders if the Canadian government didn’t realize the conditions which plague these people, and covert operation or not, he supposes the bearcats would understand if he took a moment to assist those in need. However, Northstar is suddenly knocked aside by the criminal known as Whirlwind, informing Jean-Paul that he is trespassing, Whirlwind tells him that his employers are paying a ton of money to protect Diablo’s interests, which is why he was hired - the man who single handedly battled the Avengers.
Northstar exclaims that he has long believed the Avengers reputation to be somewhat padded, ‘You are apparently proof of that, Mon Ami’. ‘Who you calling “Amy”?’ asks Whirlwind, charging his arm up to punch Northstar, only to discover that the mutant speedster is gone. ‘That’s impossible!’ Whirlwind declares, until Jean-Paul taps him on the shoulder, ‘Nothing is impossible if you have a good heart’ he exclaims.
Several miles away, two Alphans find themselves in grave danger. Madison “Box” Jeffries lies broken on the ground, his Box armor which had been transformed into a jet lies in flames. Jeffries calls to Lil - Lillian Crawley a.k.a. Diamond Lil holds Madison, assuring him that she is here, she suggests he tries not to move. Jeffries asks what happened, as the last thing he can remember if flying as Box…. Lil tells Madison to shush, and informs him that they had just dropped Guardian, Northstar and Sasquatch at their designated areas, and they were on their way to extinguish the flames from Diablo’s “Scorched Earth” policy, when the communication scramblers Diablo had erected played havoc with the Boxship - so they crashed. Hard.
Lil reveals that the Box armor and the fire-fighting equipment was trashed, and that she has activated the distress beacon, so Department H should be sending help soon. Blood pouring from his nose, Jeffries explains to Lil that Department H isn’t going to know anything while Diablo’s Scramblers are up, and knowing he cannot be moved, he tells Lil to go and save herself. ‘I’m not going anywhere without you, Mr. Jeffries!’ Lil declares, while thinking to herself that if it means frying together some two thousand miles from home…well, she can think of less romantic ways to die.
Meanwhile, ‘Hey, kids! Here’s a fun game you can play at home,’ Sasquatch mutters at his assignment - having to destroy Diablo’s comm-scram towers while he is in full-body fur 2000 pounds, then see how long it takes for Sasquatch to evaporate while traipsing through the hottest country in the world. ‘Humidity not included’. Sasquatch pants as he rests against a large tree momentarily, before transforming into his human form - that of the handsome scientist Doctor Walter Langkowski. Naked, he pulls from his backpack a black spandex costume like his teammates all wear and decides that these must be the coordinates where Department H stashed the explosives.
Walt knows that if Alpha Flight had been spotted and downed over American airspace, finding explosives on board Box would have only complicated what would have been an international incident. Walt reaches behind a tree and finds the pack of explosives, right where it is supposed to be. Walt begins to run through the jungle towards the comm-scram towers, so the rest of the world will know exactly what Diablo is doing here. For all they know is that he has taken over this small, depressed country….
…and not a single world power seems remotely concerned. Adds Heather as she flies high above the jungle, remarking that this is enough to disturb the Canadian government. For that reason, Heather is storming the commandeered castle which is dead ahead - for the brain trust at Department H figures they have 28 minutes to overthrow Diablo, liberate the people, destroy the comm-scram and get out before the rest of the world knows they are even here.
Heather declares that she is curious though - where did the original 2000 year old man get his hands on communications technology so advanced that it jams satellite transmissions? ‘If you ask me politely, I might tell you!’ declares Diablo from behind Guardian as the symbol of a nation is grabbed by some animated vines. ‘Brrr…how scary’ Heather remarks sarcastically, boasting that it should only take two seconds to get free, before realizing she may have been somewhat presumptuous as she discovers that the vines appear to be made of solid steel.
Diablo informs Heather that they are actually made from titanium, which is something he expects that she would expect from he, the master alchemist. Diablo remembers Heather as leader of Alpha Flight and remarks that it must be safe to assume the Canadian government has declared war on his defenseless little country. Held in place by the titanium bonds, Heather tells Diablo to save his political propaganda for CNN, and claims that she is here on a fact-finding mission.
‘And you’re only wearing your stealth-suit because your regular costume is in the wash?’ Diablo asks. Heather replies that they are unofficially curious as to why the United Nations voted not to oppose his occupation of Tierra del Maiz, and that, personally, she wants to know how he went from a self-loathing world-class whiner to the ruler of his own country. Diablo snidely remarks that he finds that chapter of his life to be slightly embarrassing, but as to his new motivation, he has simply been “inspired”.
Diablo adds that he is inspired the same way to alchemically alter the vines into…hydrochloric acid! Heather is in pain as the acid burn into her, when suddenly, someone declares ‘That is quite enough, my friend!’ and a black-clad figure leaps at Diablo, knocking him to the ground. The mysterious newcomer declares that he cannot have Diablo killing off his team leader before she and he have been properly introduced, before thanking Diablo for providing him the opportunity to make such a dramatic entrance.
Heather relaxes as the vines return to their natural state, and as she breaks free, Diablo asks her ‘Is he with you?’ ‘So it would seem’ replies Heather. Diablo asks the newcomer if he has any powers that need to be disclosed before they do battle. ‘Do you fly? Read minds? Become intangible?’ ‘None of the above. Prepare to be bruised severely’ is the reply. Diablo boasts that he is always prepared, and Alpha Flight’s newest member finds himself thrown backwards as Diablo lifts his cloak up. ‘Take my explosive cloak, for example’ Diablo explains.
Before he hits the tree, Guardian catches her newest associate, telling him to relax. The newcomer asks if this would be an inappropriate time to introduce himself, before doing so anyway: ‘I’m Department H field operative Weapon Omega’. ‘Welcome to Alpha Flight, Weapon Omega,’ Heather replies. ‘Children, please!’ exclaims Diablo before he causes the earth around Heather and Weapon Omega to explode.
Weapon Omega asks if there is no end to Diablo’s resources, to which Heather points out that he is still flesh and blood, which means she can render him unconscious with an electromagnetic blast. Diablo grins and tells himself that he cannot stand it, that this is going to be great! As Guardian prepares to use her electromagnetic abilities, Diablo alters the electrical charge in the air around them, essentially causing Heather to fry them both.
Without even a scream, Heather and Weapon Omega are unconscious, and encasing his captives in a plastic bubble, rendering them weightless, he decides that there will be plenty of time for screaming back at the castle. Suddenly, there is a loud applause, and a screen parts, revealing the eight representatives, all who were watching Diablo’s little display of power. Diablo takes a bow, telling his “fans” that they are too kind, while thinking that they represent the eight most powerful countries in the world, all tripping over themselves in an attempt to placate him, all because they foolishly believe he possess something that they want.
Diablo announces that refreshments will be served in the courtyard, while one of the representatives, asks one of his fellows why it is they are even dealing with Diablo, as he is clearly a raving lunatic. ‘I can sum it up in one word: Vibranium’ the woman replies. Diablo appears in place of the first man and tells the woman that she has got that right, before announcing that it is time to go over the rules for talking in the ranks.
Meanwhile, Northstar and Whirlwind are still continuing their battle, with Jean-Paul counting the amount of punches he is making, and currently up to three thousand and eight. Whirlwind tells the speedster that he is a regular comedian, before lunging at him with some spinning razors at his fists, telling Northstar that it is time they see how hard he laughs with his lungs dangling from the trees. Jean-Paul smiles and asks Whirlwind if he will still be concerned with his anatomy when he is standing on the unemployment line.
Whirlwind asks Northstar what he is talking about, to which Northstar motions to all the trees that Whirlwind had cut over in his pursuit and suggests that once his employers realize he has used his whirling blades to inadvertently create the dam, he doubts they will provide the most complimentary of references. ‘I got your reference right here!’ declares Whirlwind, before he crashes into a boulder.
Northstar stumbles into the water, telling himself that he was having so much fun at Whirlwind’s expense that he forgot their super speeds rival each other. Northstar knows that the vinegar water will sting his open wounds, unless…his theory was right - alchemy is a transitory science, so as he suspected, once the lake was separated from Diablo’s potions by the dam Whirlwind created, the water reverted to its original state.
Northstar attempts his best Spanish to inform the locals that the water had returned to normal, much to the local’s appreciation. Northstar is pleased that the locals seem to understand, and is confused when a woman approaches him, holding her baby out towards him. Northstar takes the baby and pours some water over the child, apologizing to the child on behalf of an unjust world. Jean-Paul hands the child back to the teary-eyed mother, before racing off towards Diablo. ‘What passes for your heart…is mine!’ he declares, while also grateful that his beloved sister Jeanne-Marie is not here to witness such pain and suffering.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, inside the Maximum Security Ward at Department H. Two Department H foot soldiers slide a meal through the slot of a cell door. One of them mocks the prisoner inside, but his colleague tells him to show some respect, for while he may be psychotic, Headlok is still a human being. ‘Just barely’ the first soldier replies, pointing out that he hasn’t moved at all since his defeat at the hands of Alpha Flight and the Fantastic Four. The second man remarks that they should be thankful that if his psionic damper shorts out it won’t be on their shift.
Inside Headlok’s cell, the powerful madman moves and talks to someone else - someone cowering in the corner of the cell. Headlok asks if he is really as bad as they say and exclaims that he needs a better publicist. Headlok claims that he plays nice with the other prisoners and shares his food, suggesting to his “companion” that they should eat aplenty, as they will need their strength - ‘Trust me’. But the missing-in-action heroine Jeanne-Marie Beaubier a.k.a. Aurora just sinks deeper into the corner.
Back in Tierra del Maiz, Walter cuts the cables to the last of the comm-scrams, while complaining that he would have preferred to knock them over as Sasquatch, but that they had to tumble down at once, and he couldn’t risk alerting Diablo’s troops until the job was done. Setting the timer to the explosives, Walt programs all five towers to blow at the same time, when beneath the dust he discovers Manufactured by Roxxon printed onto the tower. Walt wonders why their old friends at Roxxon would be involved here, when suddenly he is struck in the back by a large shield, and someone announces that there are some things in life that you are not meant to understand.
The brash USAgent stands over Walter, introducing himself, before announcing that Walt is in violation of a United Nations directive of non-involvement regarding their affairs of Tierra del Maiz. John Walker suggests to Walt that he come along quietly, as he doesn’t want to hurt him. Much. Walt smirks and replies that he doesn’t do anything quietly, ‘On three then?’ he asks, before counting down, ready to transform into Sasquatch.