From all directions they come, riding a razor wind - but Shaman, last of the Sarcee medicine men is resolute, he will not give in to Ranaq’s demon horde. But Shaman’s daughter, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen a.k.a. the phenomenal Talisman is searching for him. ‘Father! FATHER!’ she screams. ‘You can’t hide from me, not even here, in the Dream Lands!’
Elizabeth discovers her father, Michael Twoyoungmen, sitting at the foot of a large tree on Paradise Omega and tells him that they are going to talk, whether he likes it or not. She admits that he may have fooled the Goddess, but points out that she knows him too well, and that it is evident from his actions - or lack thereof - that his faith in the Goddess’s crusade is not all it should be.
The old man, sporting a new “costume” looks up at his stroppy daughter. ‘Faith?’ he asks, muttering that he lost it a long time ago, and asks if it is his fault that the Goddess mistook his greater sense of awareness for personal belief? Shaman declares that he has no doubt at all that powers exist beyond mankind’s limited perception, but as to their wisdom, he is not convinced of that.
Elizabeth leans forward and puts her hands on her father’s head, asking him what it is he does - he does what is always does when something is expected of him - ‘You run away!’ she yells, before reminding him that he ran away when her mother died, leaving her to live with the McNeil’s while he wallowed in his own selfish grief. Elizabeth points out that Shaman ran away once more when he revealed to her that she was the Chosen One of their people - the Talisman, thus unloading his responsibility onto her, regardless of the cost.
Shaman gets to his feet as Elizabeth reveals to him that she knows he broke off his search for the members of Beta Flight after he became separated at the Dimensional Nexus. ‘You abounded them!’ she exclaims. Shaman turns his back from his daughter and declares ‘No!’ before explaining that he was mystically protected from Pathway’s reflexive dimension jump, so he could only follow them a heartbeat later, but by then they were gone. He claims that he searched for weeks until he was summoned back to earth by the elders to confront the Magus. ‘I had no choice’.
‘No choice?’ asks an infuriated Talisman, exclaiming that he had a choice, but like always chose the path of least resistance. With that, Elizabeth slaps her father across the face. Shaman narrows his eyes, and a tree branch suddenly extends itself downwards and wraps itself around Elizabeth, tossing her several meters away. ‘Oh no, what have I done?’ Shaman exclaims as he rushes over to Elizabeth, asking her if she is hurt.
Talisman takes to the air, hovering his above her father, telling him if that is the way he wants it, then that is the way they will do it. ‘Elizabeth, don’t -’ Shaman begins, but Talisman cuts him off, asking him if he is worried, before telling him he should be, reminding him that unlike his few conjuring tricks, her magic comes from the very essence of the natural world. ‘To me…everything is a weapon!’
Talisman’s magic begins to swirl around Shaman as he pleads with her to not make him do this. But Elizabeth tells him that he isn’t going to get out of it so easy, as this has been a long time in coming. ‘You’re going to make a stand…whether you like it or not!’ she declares. Suddenly, some force surrounds the surprised Shaman, and traps him, as Talisman describes, like a fly in amber.
Talisman stands with her arms folded in front of her trapped father, declaring that she was right, that he is going to make a stand for as long as she says - Talisman cries out in pain and falls to the ground suddenly after being struck from behind - by Shaman. Twoyoungmen remarks that his daughter relies too much on magic, forgetting that as mortals, they can also resort to physical strength, and trickery.
Standing over his daughter’s unconscious body, he admits nevertheless that she is right, he has been lax in his duties and obligations, so he will go to the Goddess and offer his services in one particular matter - but it is not her he will be fighting with his heart and soul. ‘It is for you’ he tells Elizabeth, swearing that whatever the cost, he will not fail.
Meanwhile, night gives way to the morning in suburban Canada, as a semi-familiar figure flies across the skies. Sometimes he is known as Madison Jeffries, but now far removed from the sucking pit of unpaid bills, backaches and whining neighbors…he is Box! The armor is him. He is the armor - nothing else matters. Living metal thrums to a brass drum heartbeat, tidal waves of energy flood a body wide network of sensitized circuitry. Cables of hydraulic muscle bunch and flex, the power to crush buildings is held tantalizingly in check.
Box descends onto the front lawn of his home. In the armor, he is safe. Nothing can harm him - except of course his wife, Lillian Crawley-Jeffries a.k.a. Diamond Lil, who punches him so hard as he enters the house that he crashes back through the door and onto the front lawn. ‘You promised me! You swore!’ Lil exclaims, dressed only in her dressing gown as she walks out onto the lawn reminding Jeffries that he said he would stop wearing that thing. The brunette vixen grits her teeth and narrows her eyes, exclaiming that her husband is like a junkie, sneaking off in the middle of the night for his fix.
Marching over to Madison, Lil exclaims that she has had enough. Jeffries phases out of his re-designed armor, apologizing, but Lil grabs his throat and using her enhanced strength she lifts him into the air, exclaiming that she has really tried to understand this compulsion of his, but the bottom line is that it is more important to him than their marriage and - suddenly, Lil drops Jeffries, for an astral projection of Shaman appears before them. Shaman declares that the future of this and many other realities is in dire peril, for the forces of evil conspire to disrupt this cosmic glory. ‘And so Shaman calls Diamond Lil and Box to stand forth and do battle!’
Later, the suburbs of Toronto give way to the timeless wilds of Northern Ontario. Box, Diamond Lil and two of Alpha Flight’s current associates, the assassin know as Wyre and the vigilante Nemesis approach Shaman, who welcomes them to the Gateway to that which is beyond. Wearing her original green and gold diamond costume, Lil mutters that she is impressed as the next Joe with his grand entrance and fancy sales pitch, but would he mind telling them exactly why they are freezing their butts off in the forest at midnight, not to mention what exactly is this “menace” to life as they know it.
Eyes of pure white and wearing several face markings, Shaman reveals that it is known as Carcass, and its malevolent presence has invaded the sacred Lands of the Dead, and defiled his peoples resting place. Shaman explains that Carcass has begun the process known as “the Unmaking”, the final dissolution of reality into the chaos from which it sprung. Shaman explains that unless it is stopped, it will spread like a virus though the spirit worlds and into this reality - nothing will be spared.
He declares that he calls upon them to stand with him against this enemy, before telling them to understand what is required of them is an act of faith. He tells them they must put themselves utterly in his hands, for they journey where no living mortal has ever gone. Shaman asks Wyre if he is in, to which the mercenary smiles and exclaims that it sounds like a kick. When asked if she will participate, Nemesis replies in cryptic form as usual, ‘I am Fate’s angel. My path is already set’. Box tells Shaman that he can count him in, while Diamond Lil spouts some obscenities, before agreeing to join them.
Shaman declares that it is done, while thinking to himself that he betrays every ideal he once held dear. He asks for forgiveness for deceiving his braves as brutally as the Goddess deceived her “converted”. Shaman tells everyone to prepare themselves, then speaking in a strange language, something begins to happen, there is a loud “THUM” sound, it gets louder and louder, until suddenly there is a blinding light…
…and everyone soon finds themselves in a strange land. ‘The other side!’ exclaims Shaman. Everyone looks around and stands ready for battle. Lil exclaims that she thinks she might throw up - if she knew which way was up. Twoyoungmen informs everyone that Carcass is a disciple of Khaos, so the lands have been re-created in his own twisted image. He urges everyone to stand with him and draw from him, together they will endure. Shaman warns everyone to be ready, for Carcass is absolute master of this place and will know that they are here.
As if on cue, creatures begin to appear from beneath the ground. Lil asks what they are, to which Shaman reveals they are dead souls - Carcass’s playthings, his army. He unleashes some power on the minion of Carcass that attacks him. He tells his associates that they must forget these creatures were once proud warriors, noble men and women strong enough, willful enough to carry their “selves” to the afterlife. ‘They are simply the new enemy…and they must be destroyed!’
One of the creatures grabs Lil, who calls to Box for help as she is dragged away. Jeffries transmutates Box’s arm into a weapon, which fires at the creature, blowing it backwards and freeing Lil from its grasp. ‘It’s party time!’ Box shouts, before asking his wife if she is all right. Getting into battle and punching a few of the creatures, the sultry Lil tells her husband that she is fine now.
Lil watches her husband fight the creatures and thinks to herself that one day she will lose him to that armor, someday he just wont come out of it. One of the creatures lunges for Lil’s stomach, his claws outstretched. Lil just points out that if she was anyone else, the creature would have gutted them, but she is Diamond Lil, tough as her namesake and very hard to kill!
Box watches Lil get into the swing of things before turning to Nemesis and asking her how she is doing. Nemesis slices and dices her way through Carcass’s army, telling Box that her sword does what it must and that he should save his concern for Wyre, for he fights, but his heart is not in this battle. Nemesis claims that she is doing her best to watch both their backs, but that she fears she cannot do so for much longer.
As Wyre blasts away at his opponents, he wonders how many of those he has killed have been sent here, as he has killed so many. He thinks that it is almost like they have returned to take their revenge. His wires begin to extend from his muscular body, thinking that it is irrational and unprofessional, but his conscience is burdened enough, without killing twice as many people.
Shaman keeps his attackers at bay with his magical powers thinking that their foes are legion and yet they are still winning - as his allies, his “braves” draw strength from him, so to does he from they. But he realizes it does not alter the fact that he deceived them all - deceived them so that he may put his own house in order.
Meanwhile, in a citadel nearby, Carcass sits on his thrown, admitting that he has misjudged Shaman, for he has chosen warriors well, warriors who are unfettered by mortal restraint, and trusting in him completely. Carcass realizes that in time, Shaman may even threaten the unmaking, for he is the pivot, the fire from which they draw strength - but Carcass knows how to break him….
Back on the battle field, Shaman gets a most unsuspected visitor. ‘Hello Michael…it’s been quite a while!’ exclaims the woman standing in front of him. Shaman sees before him his wife…the long dead Kathryn Twoyoungmen. ‘I can’t fight you!’ he exclaims, to which Kathryn replies ‘I know!’ and waves her hand at Shaman, sending energies coursing through his body and causing him pain.
Shaman remembers his own words: ‘You must forget that these were once proud warriors, noble men and women strong enough, wilful enough to carry their selves into the afterlife’. He does nothing. His medicine pouch suddenly begins to dissolve before his very eyes - the source of his magic is gone. Shaman lies on the ground, broken once more, but knowing he has to do something, for the others are depending on him.
The others however are already in over their heads - Diamond Lil screams as a demon actually manages to cut her. Wyre’s wires begin to turn on him, while Jeffries is pulled from the Box armor by demons, not needing to phase from it. And Nemesis is given a taste of her own blade as one of the demons slices her with it.
Wyre calls to Shaman, ‘You got us here, get us out…now!’ Shaman replies that he can’t, and wonders to himself why he never told them, perhaps because if he trusted them with the truth, then he may have doomed them all. Shaman looks at his associates and informs them that he was speaking literally when he said they would journey to where no living mortal has ever gone.
‘To journey to the lands of the dead…you have to be dead!’ and back on Earth, lying at the foot of a Sarcee totem pole are the bodies of Shaman, Diamond Lil, Box, Nemesis and Wyre….