Joshua Lord wakes with a fright - he had the dream again. The dream of streets crammed with bodies. Rivers of unwashed flesh, pooling in the strangled air. He rubs his eyes before he puts his glasses on. He sees the chaos, disorder and anarchy. But opening the door to his balcony, he reminds himself that it is just a dream after all. It is gone now, carried off on winds untainted by toxins, dispelled by gentle sunlight. Stepping onto his balcony, he sees that all is as it should be…in a perfect world.
Joshua Lord looks down upon New Montreal, the thriving city lives and breaths below him, a shining testament to all he has achieved. There is no conflict, no crime, no poverty and no pollution. He has torn the infant Canada kicking and screaming from its own mess and crafted an adult. ‘Utopia! Your beauty is mine to behold!’ he declares from his balcony.
In the old world, Lord was a man of wealth and power. The wealth was incidental, a means to an end. The power…was his birthright! He addresses the fancily-dressed people walking the streets below, exclaiming that they are free from the old and the flawed, he has given they who are the enhanced and the gifted a race of genetically superior beings.
Lord watches as a woman on the streets below uses her powers cruelly against a working man, knocking him backwards. Lord exclaims that he has taken the very best humanity had to offer, tampered where necessary, altered where desired, and cut away the excess! His hand becomes a fist as he remarks that soon, when the final rough edges are smoothed out, it will be the rest of the world’s turn!
Nearby, on the streets below, Jean-Paul Beaubier walks emotionless through the city. A strangely dressed woman wishes him a happy day, to which the hero known as Northstar seems quite surprised by, then quickly wishes her a happy day back. Suddenly, Jean-Paul and one of the working men bump into each other. ‘Clod! Watch where you’re going!’ Jean-Paul tells him, shoving him aside, before continuing to walk by. He doesn’t look back, indifferent it seems to the causal act of violence. But as so often in the life of Jean-Paul Beaubier, nothing is what it seems!
Rounding a corner, he thinks to himself that this masquerade is appalling, he hates it. However he knows they have no other option, for no one skulks, no one shuffles or bundles themselves in clothing. Therefore, in this topsy-turvy world, the only way to hide, is in plain sight. Jean-Paul is glad that in this respect at least, Lord’s vanity works to his teams advantage. For unwilling to admit there are still dissidents at large, the likenesses of Jean-Paul and his friends have not been circulated. He is glad also that the Hardliner patrols tend to steer clear of the city for fear of shattering the idyll.
Approaching a door, Jean-Paul looks around himself and sees that he is unobserved. He presses a button on the door, and inside, his image appears on a computer. Heather McNeil Hudson presses a button on a computer, and lets her teammate inside. Making his way through the room, Jean-Paul asks Heather how she is. The woman codenamed Guardian replies that she is as well as can be expected, and tells Northstar that it is good to see him.
Northstar informs Heather that he got her message, and asks what the verdict is. Solemnly, Heather tells Northstar that it is time to face facts, no matter how painful they may be - Canada is lost. ‘There are just too many of them and not enough of us’. Heather believes that there only chance is escape - to warn the rest of the world, so they must go tonight.
In his luxurious home, Joshua Lord is playing chess, and places his opponents piece in check. Two Hardliners are standing beside Lord, and asking him if they should step up or discontinue the search. A mysterious man stands in the shadows as Lord tells the Hardliners that with each progressive move, the black’s options become more limited, that its maneuvering power is anticipated and curtailed, until finally it has no place left to go. He knocks his opponents king piece over. ‘Sir?’ asks the Hardliners confused. Lord sighs, and orders the Hardliner patrols to be intensified - especially along the border.
Soon, Heather changes into her Guardian costume, and thinks back on recent events, right back to where their current predicament began - the moment Robert Hagon’s Super Powers Act became the law. It was then that they were beaten. Then came the Hardliners, a private army owned by billionaire Joshua Lord - Heather thinks that it was almost as if they were waiting for just such an opportunity. Which of course they had.
Heather recalls how Alpha Flight tried to beat the Hardliners to the punch, by brining in unregistered paranormals their own way, with restraints. But in the end, they were just doing Joshua Lord’s work for him. Alpha Flight had suspected the motivation to be financial, but it was one man gathering around him, the very cream of a nation’s paranormals…and discarding the rest!
Then Robert Hagon got elected Prime Minister…and everything broke loose. First there was the psi-web, an invisible wall of psychic energy designed to alter the perception of those entering or leaving Canada. To the rest of the world, it was just business as usual. But the real business in Canada was slaughter - the wholesale massacre of baseline normal humans, or the forced gene-engineering, changing “deserving” homo sapiens into homo superior.
Naturally, Alpha Flight’s charter was revoked - permanently, beginning with the deaths of Aurora and Sasquatch. Finally, there was no need for charades and deceptions, Robert Hagon was killed - for Joshua Lord ruled Canada.
‘I am Guardian. More than a name, it was a duty I inherited from me late husband, Mac, the original Guardian. A duty to safeguard the country we both hold dear. I failed. I will not fail the rest of the world’.
Night has fallen, and beyond the city limits and climate control. Six well-cloaked figures stand in the freezing snow, one of them is Guardian and she motions to the pink webbing spread across the area, asking the others if they see it, for it is the psi-web as it appears only to the minds eye. Heather tells the others that they all know the score - unless they punch a hole in Lord’s wall, escape becomes irrelevant, for they would reach the States with no awareness of all that has happened here.
Heather adds that this is as far as they can go under Talisman’s mystical cloaking, for the psi-webs will discover them visible or invisible. She remarks that their only chance now is surprise…and speed. With that, Alpha Flight: Guardian, Northstar, Diamond Lil, Talisman, Wildheart and Feedback leap into action. Northstar speeds towards the psi-webs. ‘Go Alpha Flight - go!’ shouts Heather as she takes to the skies. These six are all that remains of a dream…that became a nightmare.
Northstar races up close to one of the monitors where the psi-spiders cast their webs from. The psi-spiders scream loud enough to fry ones brain - but Northstar sets a detonator, and racing from the console, there is a large explosion - the first part of the mission is successful. Jean-Paul remarks that Heather wasn’t joking, for the bomb had a fuse almost as short as his.
Nearby, Wildheart is glad to be out at last, for hiding in that room was suffocating. After all, he thinks, he was not built to be caged. He thinks that this better end here tonight, than ever have to live that way again. Suddenly, the Hardliners leap up out of the snow. Wildheart leaps into action, roaring, and though his response is as instantaneous as it is blood curling, for Wildheart it ends here, tonight - as the Hardliners blast a hole right through his stomach.
Hovering nearby, Heather hears the commotion, and after seeing Kyle struck down, she fires an electromagnetic blast at the Hardliner that killed him. Lillian Crawley-Jeffries a.k.a. Diamond Lil blasts the Hardliners with a big gun of her own, urging one of her teammates to go, pointing out that it only needs one of them to make it through, adding that she owes these creeps big time for what they did to Madison - her husband, Box!
Dressed in a standard red and white Alpha Flight uniform, Lil is about to say something else, when she notices something behind her. Yet as she turns, there is nothing there. But looking to the sky, she sees the outline of a man - the “nothing” that kills. And this time, he kills her, as she falls to the ground with a scream.
Guardian had been blasting away at more Hardliners and exclaims that she doesn’t believe it, for Lil is practically invulnerable, she wonders what could have done it to her. Northstar speeds over to Lillian, declaring that her death will not go unanswered. Guardian tells Northstar that Lil was right, that they only need one of them to get through - and it has to be him. ‘Now go!’ she orders.
Holding the bloody body of his friend, Jean-Paul turns to the sky - and he sees it. But something naggingly familiar his mind cannot - will not - let him see. Regardless, Jean-Paul wants to stand and fight. However he does not. He races past the psi-webs - a heartbeat is measured in miles - and a second later he finds himself in the state of New York. ‘C’est impossible!’ he exclaims as that strangely familiar “non-entity” stands before him - and strikes him down.
Heather hears Jean-Paul scream through the communications device, while on the ground below her, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen a.k.a. the phenomenal Talisman and Albert Louis a.k.a. Feedback, both wearing the red and white costume are doing battle with the Hardliners. Talisman is creating raw lightening, and sending it straight into Feedback, enabling him to convert it into bio-electric energy which he can unleash on the Hardliners.
Feedback remarks that it is a far cry from his first run in with the Hardliners, and is about to tell Talisman the story, when he turns - and sees a mighty beast come up behind her - and lunge its powerful clawed fist into her back. Elizabeth falls to the ground, while Feedback is struck in the back of the head by one of the Hardliners, for he was distracted from the task at hand. The Hardliners stand over the bodies of the two young heroes - more blood to stain the snow red.
Guardian blasts the Hardliners from the safety of the air wondering what has happened, for they spent years of successfully thwarting Lord and his Hardliners, but here they fall apart in minutes. She knows it is down to her. She turns away from the Hardliners and thinks that this “thing” has got her so she can barely think straight. She decides that it has an unreal quality about it, like a bad dream seen in morning light - yet it has shape, and form - it exists.
‘So why can’t I fight it? She wonders, when suddenly, she is struck down by the mysterious assailant that she was just thinking about, the same one that murdered Northstar and Diamond Lil. Heather falls into the snow, her visor falls off during the process. Gathering herself, she discovers that her assailant took out her battle suit’s main cybernetic relay points - nothing functions anymore! She realizes her enemy knew exactly where to strike - when the mystery man leans over her. It’s finished. Over. The hopes, the trials, the dream. ‘Mac’ she thinks…and then there is no more….
‘UUUUU!’ exclaims Heather, sitting up in a chair. Disorientated, she realizes she just had a dream. She leans back in her chair, where a newsreader on the television is relaying a message from Hagon, who believes that today heralds a new beginning for Canada - an era of peaceful co-existence between… Heather turns the television off, muttering that she should be so lucky, for she felt herself die. ‘I felt so empty, so lost!’
A figure hidden in the shadows holds out a glass of water, telling Heather that from the sounds of it, they had something of a shared experience. He puts a hand on Heather’s shoulder, telling her that he felt bullets tearing through him, then he woke up, convinced he was choking on his own blood. Heather drinks the water, remarking that if it wasn’t a dream, then what? Before asking if the others experienced it too. She declares that it was the future they saw - and they all died. Suddenly the priority alert alarm goes off, and a hand closes on her heart.
Soon, at Department H. Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Wildheart and Wyre gather around Heather as a recorded message plays on the view screen before them - its Reginald Tork, the leader of the Hardliners, flanked by his men - who have Albert Louis a.k.a. Feedback in their possession. Tork tells Alpha Flight that if they wish to see Albert alive then they will have to meet at a place and time of his choosing. ‘And this time, Alpha Flight…the outcome will be very different!’
Heather asks Sasquatch a.k.a. Walter Langkowski who the man is. Walt replies that it is the Hardliner’s leader, Reginald Tork whom they trounced in Toronto not long ago. Walt explains that Tork was freed by the courts last week and all significant charges against he and his men have been dropped, and the damages tab picked up by a mysterious benefactor.
Heather declares that it must be Joshua Lord, before telling her team that they know they must free Feedback, before pointing out that something, or someone, has given them a warning - a glimpse of what may be in stall for them - for all of Canada. She remarks that the Hardliners are all a big part of it, so if they can use this to discredit them in the public eye, ‘Then perhaps it is a future we can derail!’ she says with determination.