Department H, home and headquarters of Canada’s premiere super heroes, Alpha Flight, and on a rare free weekend for the group, it is a time of rest and recovery after their recent battles. Of course some people’s take on the concept is rather different from others.
Dodging several missiles in Department H’s training room, Alpha Flight’s leader Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian tells teammate Weapon Omega to lighten up, as these work outs are supposed to be fun. Heather smiles and asks Weapon Omega if he is all right, pointing out that he seems a little distracted. Kyle replies that he is a little tired, while thinking to himself that he has got to keep himself in control, for even in this simulated combat situation he can feel himself slipping.
Weapon Omega aborts the combat sequence by hitting a button on the wall, deciding that he cannot handle this right now for fear that he may revert into the killer he once was, Wild Child. Heather thinks she knows what is wrong with Kyle and tells him that it must have been his limited role in the Infinity War, and informs him that once you have been in the business for a while, you learn to just go with the flow.
‘Really’, declares Weapon Omega after removing his mask. Heather replies that she has faced a lot of more powerful foes, and yet she is still around to brag about it. Kyle asks her what her secret is, to which Heather replies ‘Experience. Lots and lots of experience’. Heather tells Kyle to believe her when she says that when she first started out in the super hero business, she made more than her fair share of mistakes. ‘Boy, I remember one time when I couldn’t do anything right…’
(Flashback, circa Alpha Flight (1st series) #40)
If Canada has a national religion, it’s hockey. And the Montreal Forum is the Vatican. In its time, the forum has seen records, riots and over sixteen Stanley Cups. But is has never seen anything like this….
The Montreal team are facing off against the Toronto team, and five members of Alpha Flight are attending the game as special guests. Suddenly, several armored beings crash through the roof and tell Alpha Flight to show themselves, or else they will start firing on the crowd. The leader of the intruders tells his team, the Reavers, that the others are expendable, but they need Vindicator alive.
Alpha Flight - Heather “Vindicator” Hudson, Aurora and Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier, Eugene Judd a.k.a. Puck and Roger Bochs also known as Box - leap out of their seats and into action. Heather thinks to herself that she knew the pre-game ceremony was too high profile, before giving her team their instructions. She orders Box to protect the crowd, while the others take on the flunkies, as she is going after the leader.
Smashing up the falling rooftop so it doesn’t injure any civilians, Bochs thinks to himself that these guys must be pretty high-tech to have slipped through their border security net, and wonders who is after Alpha Flight this time.
Northstar dodges his opponent, who finds it impossible that anything human can move as fast as he does. ‘I’m better than human!’ boasts Jean-Paul. ‘I’m French-Canadian!’ Northstar stamps his foot on the ice at a super-fast pace, unleashing some gasses from beneath it, which react with his opponents battle suit, causing him to fall to the ground.
Jean-Paul’s sister, Aurora, darts around her opponent before picking him up and exclaiming that in hockey, one man must play the man - not the puck. She tosses him towards the sidelines, explaining that this is accomplished by checking, body checking and of course cross checking. Aurora’s opponents ends up stuck in the wall around the icerink. Aurora smiles and jokes that the problem with cross checking is that someone always ends up in the penalty box.
Judd begins dodging blasts fired by his opponent, who tells him that he will no escape as easily as his comrades. Judd replies ‘Maybe so’ before pointing out that it is kind of stupid to fight a guy named “Puck” in the middle of a hockey rink. Using his durable body to bounce against the sides of the rink, Judd manages to leap up to his opponent, and knocks him to the ground. ‘Hat trick!’ he shouts, when suddenly, Alpha Flight and some of the hockey players find themselves knocked to the side, as Vindicator flies past them, following her opponent back through the top of the roof and out into open air.
Heather flies after her opponent, thinking that he can go as fast as he likes, for her battle suit can match his best speed any day of the week, even if she doesn’t know much about what else it can do. But Heather knows that there is no time to worry about that now, and punches up a target flight path. Her visor now depicts a linear flight path indicated with a possible rendezvous, but now the path is erratic - she thinks her opponent has no idea where he is going.
Heather’s sensors indicate that her target is known as the Mauler, an American gun for hire, so if he is making a run for the border, then she has to stop him on the Canadian side, for if she pursues him into the States, she will risk an international incident. Heather swiftly comes up behind the Mauler and tells him to freeze, informing him that he is under arrest, he needs to land and surrender himself to the Canadian authorities. ‘Yeah. Right.’ the Mauler replies, unleashing several blasts towards Heather, all which blow up near her and thrust her towards the snow-covered ground.
Heather regains her composure and heads back towards the flight plan, thinking she better check her battle suits power pack. She reminds herself that Mac died from a systems overload in his battle-damaged suit, so she cannot afford to take any chances. Heather discovers that her suit is stable, but that the Mauler’s pulse bolts took out her main weapons system. She hopes that the tracking systems are still on-line, and is relieved when she finds that they are.
Heather cannot see the Mauler in front of her, so checks where he is, and tracking his flight plan she is horrified to discover that he is following the highway that will take him through every major city in Central Canada. She locks her flight path to his, and accelerates so fast that she is able to speed up behind the Mauler and grab onto his ankles. ‘Gotcha!’ Heather exclaims, twisting the Mauler around to face her, she punches him in the face, ‘Payback time, creep!’ she exclaims, before telling him to talk - why did he come after Alpha Flight and who sent him is what she demands to know.
‘You want answers? Here’s your answer!’ The Mauler exclaims, firing at Heather, stunning her momentarily so that he can kick her down to the ground. He remarks that his employers wanted her alive, but that all of his orders are discretionary. As Heather once more plummets to the icy landscape below, The Mauler wishes her a nice death.
Heather crashes beneath the ice, only to moments later emerge from her watery grave. She tells herself she was stupid, before deciding that she is tired, wet and has had enough of this being beaten up garbage. She tries to find something on her battle suit that can be used as a weapon, and a lists of options appear on her visor, only more than half of her offensive powers have been disabled. However, flying after the Mauler, Heather believes that with even half of her systems down, she should still be able to handle this guy.
As the Mauler comes above a city, he wonders where he is, realizing that the fight threw him off course. The Mauler discovers that he is in Ottawa, ‘looks like a nice city’ he remarks, and that he is 209 miles from Detroit, so he shifts all his power to his flight systems. He has no time to sightsee though, and is ready to get back to the USA.
Suddenly, a flare blinds him, and sonics begin cutting through his brain so that he starts losing control. He screams, before flying in loops towards a building, where he crashes through the roof. Moments later, rubble all around him, he tries to get to his feet, muttering ‘What happened?’ Heather claims that she is an RCMP deputy and that they always get their man, before asking him if he is ready to call it a night. ‘No way!’ shouts the Mauler, before escaping back into the city by blasting through the wall. Heather follows, ‘You don’t get away from me that easily, creep!’
Meanwhile, at CFB Uplands, the major air force base protecting Canada’s Capitol, someone announces that he is picking up two bogies which are too small and fast for conventional aircraft, so he suspects them to be super powered operatives. Someone orders him to switch to the “H-Meta” tracking system, where they discover that one of the bogies is carrying an Alpha call sign.
Suddenly, Heather’s battle suit “talks” to her as one of the air force personnel asks her to identify herself. ‘What? I’m in pursuit of a rogue American S.P.O! I don’t have time for this!’ Heather replies. The angry air force personnel tells Heather that she has fifteen seconds to give him the proper call sign or else they will activate the Alpha overrides and disable her suit. Heather searches her files for the security code, and finds it, reading it back to the air force personnel.
The air force operative exclaims that the computer recognizes her as Vindicator and orders her to evacuate the vicinity immediately, as the Prime Minister is hosting an economic summit and they cannot put the Head of State at risk. Teeth gritted, Heather replies that she could have taken her opponent out by now if it wasn’t for his interference. ‘Clearing the vicinity with pleasure, you moron!’ she adds.
Heather’s tracking abilities inform her that the Mauler is getting closer and closer to the border, so it is time to seize the initiative - no pain, no gain - and she enters pursuit mode. Heather stops her battle suit in relation to motion of the Earth, with precalibration duration sequence, and suddenly, she arrives in Toronto. ‘Whoa, that was some trip’ she remarks just as she spies her target, right on schedule.
Vindicator speeds towards the Mauler hoping that she will reach him before his sensors pick her up, and she strikes him in the back, causing him to go off-balance. ‘I told you once before! You are under arrest!’ she announces, knocking him around in the air. The Mauler realizes that his suit is badly damaged and only has one chance for escape. Without hesitation, he gives his everything at blasting Vindicator, who soon discovers that the force of the blast, in conjunction with the speed they were traveling, has thrown them hundreds of miles to the East.
The Mauler skims across some water, headed towards a large bridge. Heather tells him to give it up, as his suit is going to short out any minute, so he hasn’t got a chance. ‘Try again, hero. Look ahead!’ he exclaims. Heather sees the Ambassador Bridge, and knows that if he reaches the middle, he will be in United States territory. Heather flies above the Mauler, ‘The fight is over!’ she exclaims as she forces him down onto the bridge.
Some of the bridge is damaged, concrete is thrown around, but Heather realizes that her electromagnetic pulse worked, and hopes that it hurt the Mauler as much as it hurt her. She walks over to him, asking him if that stunt surprised him, before smashing her fist into his face and telling him that his bosses picked on the wrong super hero. The Mauler’s mask comes off and Heather picks him up by the wires on his suit, telling him ‘One other thing…don’t ever set foot in my country again! Got it?’ with that, the Mauler falls to the ground, unconscious.
Heather sips some water as she concludes her story, revealing that a few minutes later the authorities arrived and she called Judd to see who won the hockey game. Weapon Omega tells Heather that it sounds as if she was a formidable opponent even back then. Heather replies that she got lucky, for if she hadn’t made as many dumb mistakes, or had known the suit better, then she could have finished the whole thing a lot easier.
Kyle asks Heather if she ever found out who sent the Mauler, to which Heather replies that with all the craziness Alpha Flight has been through, she hasn’t had time to look into it further. However, she is prepared to let it rest, for Alpha Flight has got more than enough enemies without her going out looking for new ones. ‘Let’s lick our wounds and prepare for the battles to come’.
Meanwhile, inside the steel and glass towers of Roxxon Oil in New York City. ‘Am I intruding, sir?’ asks a man as he enters another’s office. The bald man replies ‘Not at all’, and reveals he was just reviewing the Vindicator retrieval attempt. The older man replies that it was unfortunate that the Mauler was only able to give them sensor scans rather than acquiring Vindicator’s actual suit. The bald man agrees, but motions to the wall where images of other super beings with battle suits are displayed, and he remarks that combined with the other data they have acquired, the project will still go ahead.
The bald man remarks that it is wonderful how well Vindicator preformed, adding that she and Alpha Flight near watching, though her valiant efforts do not really matter, for the data they retrieved from her suit will be incorporated into future Mauler designs, adding that it is a pity they lost their fully trained operator. Opening a panel revealing more battle suits like that of the Mauler’s, the bald man remarks that it is lucky there is no shortage of qualified replacements….