The mighty building known as Department H - though you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. Inside, the demoness Witchfire is no longer the mysterious girl Canada’s premiere super hero team Alpha Flight could count amongst the ranks of Beta Flight. With Beta Flight’s Whitman “Manikin” Knapp, powerless and chained to a wall, Witchfire torments Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, telling her that she should have stayed in New York, for it is only death that awaits her here.
Witchfire has trapped Heather, Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier and Wildheart in some sort of energy bubbles, grinning as she goes about harming them. Manikin pleads with Witchfire to leave them alone, pointing out that she is killing them. Whit urges Witchfire to fight it, whatever it is that has gotten control of her, adding that whoever she says she is, he knows she is different. Whit suggests that she may have been like this once before, but no longer. He tells her that the real Witchfire is someone he would have trusted his life with.
A clamp suddenly closes over Whit’s mouth so he can no longer speak, to which Witchfire simply remarks that if he has nothing to say, then he will say nothing. Witchfire’s eyes flare up as she declares that her father has spoken - that the Goddess and her dream of universal order must die so that Earth may be claimed once more by her father’s masters - the Dark Ones. Witchfire warns everyone that even now, the Dark Ones push at the skin of their dimension, waiting, and asks what better way there is to herald their arrival, than with a blood sacrifice?
Whit thinks to himself that he doesn’t understand half of what Witchfire is going on about, but he does realize that he is not reaching her, and knows he has to do something. Witchfire turns from Whit, telling him to watch and let his last embers of hope for her die with his teammates. Whit wonders what he can do, for his otherselves perished when the Mind Well collapsed, the sacrificed themselves to save him, meaning he can no longer summon them. Suddenly, Whit’s body begins to transform, twisting into a new form - ‘What’s happening to me?’ he wonders.
Elsewhere, far being mortal realms…someone is watching Witchfire and her actions through a looking glass, or in this case, a flaming bowl of fire. It is her father. He mutters to himself that his daughter is everything he could have wished for and more. He had anticipated trouble by revealing her true heritage before she was truly ready, but from the way she has dealt with her so-called teammates, his fears appear groundless.
He knows that the deaths of Alpha Flight will bind her to him in body and soul, and as for this tiresome Goddess, the seeds of doubt that Witchfire has planted in the minds of two of the “converted” - Sasquatch and Talisman - on Paradise Omega, will soon bear fruit. He exclaims that Witchfire will have an opening, so she needs to strike at the Goddess, while he will be able to tear down this pretense of servitude…and take his rightful place as the supreme being in the Multiverse!
On Paradise Omega, his name is Walter Langkowski, and he is a scientist. He thinks that he must be cold and analytical - he cannot allow himself to believe or to trust in the vagaries of myth. He must tear religion from his soul like the pages from - ‘No!’ his mother cries. Walt recalls a time his mother asked him if he had forgotten what she taught him, and remarks that there is room in the soul for more than one ideal. As a youth, he protested, but his mother comments on how that was always the way for Walt - all or nothing - no room for compromise. ‘Scientist or no scientist, faith endures! All you have to do is have the strength to look within…and find it!’
Back in Department H, Manikin, now resembling his past self the super strong Apeman, breaks free from his chains, and growls surprising Witchfire. Witchfire begins to declare that this isn’t possible, but the aspect of Knapp’s persona dubbed Manikin doesn’t have the intellect to reply in any form other than a massive punch to the face - striking with a killing force - and action which is instantly regretted, as Witchfire cries out in pain.
Manikin returns to his true form, and kneels beside the unmoving Witchfire - despite Heather’s warning to keep away. Whit exclaims that he thinks it is okay, before remarking that his powers aren’t gone, just changed, for he can still summon his past and future aspects, but now he becomes them! Examining Witchfire, Whit exclaims that he thinks the blow has snapped her back, because she is changing back to her normal appearance.
Suddenly, ‘DEAD!’ screams Witchfire as she reverts to her demonic appearance and looks up at Manikin, telling him that this time she will fry his brain along with any other “friends” he may have lurking in there. Freed from the constraints Witchfire had trapped her and the other Alphans in, Heather rushes to Whit’s aid, ‘No!’ she shouts as she blasts Witchfire across the room, while thinking to herself that she hates this teammate versus teammate again - its like Alpha’s pet curse. Heather calls out to Northstar, who knows what she wants him to do and runs past Witchfire, keeping her off balance for longer.
Heather declares that they have to stop thinking that it is their Witchfire, for it is not - perhaps it never was. Heather decides that they need to finish the job now, while she is off-balance. But Whit pleads with Heather, exclaiming that he knows Witchfire is still in there, he knows it, but she is just frightened and lost - they cannot just abandon her!
Back on Paradise Omega, Walter calls out to Elizabeth “Talisman” Twoyoungmen, who is having one of the same moments that he was. He tells her that she has to snap out of it, that their minds have been invaded and poisoned with doubt. He urges her to search deep within her soul as he did, to see beyond whatever veil has been cast on her true feelings, reminding her that the Goddess opened their eyes, he tells her not to let evil close them.
But Talisman is in deep thought, thinking of her father, the man who let her mother die when he swore he would save her. Shaman told Elizabeth that her mother had gone to a better place, but in truth, she was just dead - there was no better place. But, Elizabeth realizes, there is - especially since she has seen it. Not with her eyes, but with her heart. Elizabeth feels that she died with her mother - but faith helped her to live again…helped her to love again. Elizabeth opens her eyes and smiles - when suddenly, in a blinding flash of pink light, the Goddess appears before the long-serving Alphans.
‘Fools!’ shouts Witchfire back in Department H, power surges from her as she tells Manikin and the Alphans that they should have slain her when they had the chance, adding that they can rest assured she will not make the same mistake again. Northstar and Wildheart cry out as Witchfire’s attack reaches them, but Heather protects herself and Whit by extending her battle suits force field outward, though she knows it will not last for long, not against this kind of punishment. Heather orders Manikin to get himself clear, but Whit transforms into his future self, Highbrow and surprises Heather as he touches her, and they both disappear.
‘NO!’ screams Witchfire, flames burning around her, she commands Guardian and Manikin to come back. ‘Your souls are mine to tear apart!’ she shouts, before boasting that she will eat Northstar and Wildheart’s whole, telling Heather and Whit that every waking or sleeping second they live, they will know they abandoned their teammates.
Suddenly, a hand clamps around Witchfire’s mouth. ‘There. I told you I was hard to kill’. Wyre snarls as he holds Witchfire tight in his grasp. Witchfire tries to say something, but cannot get it out, with Wyre’s large hand covering her mouth. ‘Pardon? Oh, I see, but if I take my hand away, you’ll be able to make your dark magic’ he mocks, before pulling her close and exclaiming that he cannot gave that.
Wyre then lifts Witchfire up into the air and she screams, as his wires begin to enter her body. He knows they hurt her far too much to concentrate, let alone conjure a spell. Wyre assures Witchfire that she shouldn’t worry, promising to make it quick. Heather and Manikin suddenly teleport back into the room and Heather tells Wyre not to do it this way, to give Manikin his shot.
Wyre asks Heather if she is mad, pointing out that she has seen what Witchfire can do, adding that she will kill them without a thought, ‘No, we do it my way!’ he declares. ‘Not while you’re under my roof!’ Heather exclaims, pointing out that it may be changed, but warning Wyre that if he cannot abide by their rules, then he has no place here with Alpha Flight. Wyre narrows his eyes. Then slams Witchfire onto the ground.
Manikin calls to her, but angrily, Witchfire tells him to save his breath, reminding him that she is demon kind, and the human he knew was a pretense, a cruel sham. Manikin comes face to face with Witchfire and tells her that he knows she has changed, for whatever humanity she exhibited was earned and fought for. He adds that whoever her father is, whatever he intended, it hasn’t worked. Manikin tries to get to Witchfire by pointing out that her father showed her a glimpse of the human condition, and she embraced it.
Whit looks deep into Witchfire’s eyes as he encourages her to think of all the good she has done, all the lives she has saved. He tells her that there is so much love in her, so much potential for good, that she must have faith in what she truly is. Witchfire begins to moan and Whit tells her to let it out, let out all the hatred and darkness…let it out. Witchfire’s body arches backwards and she howls as evil is expelled from her body.
There is a blinding light as Whit tells Witchfire that to believe you are controlled by your origins is to deny the most basic human capacity for growth and change. He tells her that she is human, even if she was not once, she is now, asking her if she doesn’t see that in the end, the illusion was the demon. The room returns to normal, and Heather, Jean-Paul, Wyre and Wildheart surround the human looking Witchfire and Manikin. Whit kneels down beside Witchfire who is sobbing on her hands and knees.
Witchfire realizes that she came so close to killing them all and apologizes. Whit tells her that it is over and it will never be as bad again. Wyre admits that it seems he was wrong, but Heather points out that he did give Manikin a chance, trusted him enough, though his instincts simply told him to kill her. Heather remarks that if she was given to wax philosophical, then she would say Witchfire wasn’t the only one who faced down a dark nature.
Suddenly, ‘IT IS NOT ENOUGH!’ shouts Eugene “Puck” Judd, as he Talisman, Sasquatch and Colin “Windshear” Hume appear in the room. The members of the Goddess’s army stand ready as Puck proclaims that she has committed heinous crimes against the Goddess and defiled the most holy of all places - so she must die. Manikin tries to speak up, telling the quartet that they don’t understand, but Windshear blows him over with a blast of solid air.
Sasquatch lunges for Witchfire, declaring that she is unholy and unfit to live, but Heather blasts him with an electromagnetic pulse, exclaiming that no one has the right to decide that, but they man or god. She asks of justice and due process, and asks if they even knew she was being controlled - do they even care. She declares that if they want Witchfire, then they must get to her, through them. ‘Not this time’ exclaims Judd, before he and the others disappear. Solemnly, Heather tells the others that she has a nasty taste in her mouth which says they will be back, and that the Goddess could be a far greater menace than what they have faced here today.
Later, Manikin is entering the aftermath into his diary, noting that Guardian, Northstar and Wildheart returned to Avengers Mansion, and that he prays they are successful in the coming battle against the Goddess and her army. He adds that Department H has returned to normal, well as normal as it can be after all that has happened. However on the plus side, Persuasion, Pathway, Goblyn and Albert Louis are all going to be okay. But it is Witchfire he is worried about - her memory is gone again, closed off. But they know this for sure - the creature in her mind spoke true, he was her father…and they have not heard the last of him!
Elsewhere, far beyond mortal realms…Belasco grins, and lets out a mighty laugh.
Windshear along with two more of the Goddess’s followers are battling a horde of aliens. Windshear uses his mutant ability to create solid air to punch through the alien’s armor - then flesh and tissue begin to liquify. Like his fellow converts Hercules and Archangel, Windshear feels nothing, simply doing the Goddess’s bidding, taking her dream of universal peace to the masses. Of course, if the masses do not listen, then they die. A member of Canada’s premiere super hero team, Alpha Flight, Windshear doesn’t wonder if what he does is right or moral - for this is holy work.
But there is still the horror, for even dressed in religious fervor, violence and death carry the same sickening stench. With the aliens lying in heap, Windshear, Hercules and Archangel stand over them, and taking off his mask and helmet, Windshear looks at them, apologizing to his grandfather, for failing him again.
A memory begins to surface like the dying bubble from a warriors throat…of a time long ago, when Colin Hume was four, returning home he witnessed a bloody street fight - he was both sickened and fascinated. He wondered to himself ‘What if I held that knife? That chain? How does it feel to fight? To hurt?’ Colin’s grandfather makes him swear in the name of God never to raise a fist in anger or hate - to resist the dark part that lies in all people.
Colin kept that promise for ten years - until local toughs making reticence for cowardice challenge him. Fourteen year old Colin is frightened and…something else. A thing happens - he swings his back, only filled with clothes, which whacks one of the men with the force of bricks. To deal with the second man, Colin picked up a pipe, only filled with air, yet it is too have for many to hold. However Colin wields it well…judging by the look in his eyes, almost too well.
Sickened at what he had done, afraid of his own strange power to affect the air, to make it solid or heavy - or even poisonous, Colin hid, first from the knowledge that he is a mutant, then behind the armor. Joining Roxxon Oil as the super powered operative, Colin is dubbed Windshear and wears a suit, which he was told will channel his power, so he needs to control it. But they are wrong.
His mind snapping back to the present, Colin shouts ‘This is WRONG!’ He asks what sort of God demands bloody sacrifice in its name? ‘No possible ends can justify these means!’ He exclaims that all his life he has been fighting this part of himself, a part he hates and fears. ‘All my life and with one grand gesture you set it free, you give it an excuse’. Colin calls to the Goddess, informing her that he will fight her if necessary, and that he would rather die then become that which he most despises. ‘Your conditioning is strong, but the promise I made those years past is stronger!’