This is how they die! Caught in the searing clutches of a dream so real it transcends mere nightmare, entering instead the realm of terrifying premonition. Guardian; Northstar; Sasquatch; Aurora; Shaman; Wildheart… they have seen their future…and it’s canceled!
But here and now, in a little-traversed section of Northern Ontario, their fate has rushed to greet them. A monochrome reaper from Alpha Flight’s own history. A distorted fragment of past has come full circle. The first of Alpha Flight…and the last!
‘Is that…who I think it is?’ asks Alpha Flight’s ally Wyre, as he stands alongside Canada’s premiere super heroes. ‘MAC!’ Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian gasps. ‘Who?’ asks Albert “Feedback” Louis, a young man now associated with Alpha Flight. Still in shock, Heather exclaims that it is James MacDonald Hudson, her husband - her dead husband! Aurora calmly tells Heather that it cannot be Mac, that it is just some cruel trick, some foul jest…’On his part’ she declares, motioning to where the Master of the World stands, flanked by his cronies Omega Flight.
Heather declares that this is what the dream was trying to show them - the truth their minds refused to see. The original Guardian resurrected once more and now controlled - by the Master! Alpha Flight’s deadliest foe, the Master of the World exclaims ‘Controlled? Guardian, you do me an injustice!’ The Master claims that he merely opened James MacDonald Hudson’s eyes to the inevitability of man’s descent into chaos and self-styled destruction, showed him that in a world without discipline or restraint there is no longer a place for a Guardian - ‘Only an Antiguard!’
Heather exclaims that the Master is lying, for the man she knew and loved would not willingly countenance the measures proposed. Heather declares that the Master’s subjugation and alteration of mankind to fit his own twisted utopian ideals goes against everything Ma stood for, fought for and died for. The steel-like Mac approaches Heather and tells her that he is sorry, before leaning into kiss her. Heather thinks that he is so cold, ‘But you’re wrong!’ Mac exclaims, finishing off his sentence as he blasts Heather away from him.
Heather lands hard on the ground several feet away, which causes Wildheart to tell Mac that after all his effort climbing out of the grave, he is going right back in it, and rushes towards him. However the obese Omega Flight member Miss Mass steps to intervene, smacking Wildheart in the face, telling Kyle that to get to her new friend he has to first get through her, and as he can see, that’s easier said than done.
And so the battle begins. The Master orders Omega Flight to go, declaring that this is how it ends. ‘Alpha Flight - your time is past, finished. The future - belongs to Omega Flight!’ The Master tells Alpha Flight that he is truly sorry it comes to this, for he had even envisioned a place for them in his new world. However, the Hardliners, whom Alpha would seek to discredit through exposing one poorly conceived revenge plan, are integral to that future. ‘And so you see, you cannot be allowed to live’.
Northstar a.k.a. the handsome Jean-Paul Beaubier races into action, despite Doctor Michael “Shaman” Twoyoungmen asking him to wait. Jean-Paul replies that the waiting is over, that if this is truly his time to die, then he will not do so alone. Suddenly, Jean-Paul is struck down by the deadly Omega Flight member Tech-Noir. Aurora flies over to her brother’s attacker, when suddenly Strongarm extends his arm and grabs Aurora’s leg, telling her that Tech-Noir isn’t her dancing partner tonight, ‘But my card’s free!’ he laughs, slamming her to the ground.
The savage Sinew bites into Doctor Walter Langkowski’s Sasquatch form, while Shaman finds himself up against Bile. He recalls from the reports filed by Beta Flight after their previous encounter with Omega Flight, that Bile’s touch is fatal. Shaman calls to Feedback, and the young mutant replies ‘One bio-electric army coming right up!’ But as Albert unleashes his mutant power to aid Shaman, the macabre Omega Flight member Brain Drain creates some sort of backlash, causing Feedback to scream.
The Master declares that the Hardliners will gather his new people, thin the herd where necessary. ‘Imagine, a world without crime, without pollution, a place of peace and perfection. Surely and end worth any means…and sacrifice!’
As Strongarm prepares to do more damage to the wounded Aurora, Wyre comes to her rescue, thinking to himself that the others are sleepwalking through this battle, and he cannot be everywhere at once. Wyre realizes that the appearance of the Master and his “Antiguard” has rattled them badly, almost as if they have somehow lost the will to live. Wyre himself doesn’t buy all this premonition stuff, but he does know that unless Alpha Flight gets it together fast…they are going to be dead for sure!
Meanwhile, in a realm dimensions apart from our own known as Liveworld. Angry storms reflect the current frame of mind of its absolute ruler - the Dreamqueen! ‘Curse them!’ she exclaims. ‘Curse their feeble minds for missing the entirety of the dreams I wove in their sleep!’ The Dreamqueen exclaims that she showed them the Master and the Antiguard, but they had not the eyes to see. The Dreamqueen declares that if Alpha Flight fails now and the world beyond becomes sterile, lacking the barest imagination, she will be doomed to remain here forever - trapped in a world without substance.
‘Ruler of everything…and nothing!’ However, the Dreamqueen thinks that one thread of hope remains, for the enemy has not been thorough and has left her a mind neither awake nor dead that she can reach, and thus she stirs her viewing pool, where an image of the unconscious Puck shimmers in the water.
Back on Earth, Eugene Milton Judd a.k.a. the diminutive Puck lies unconscious on the floor of the Hardliner’s base. “Heather” a voice whispers in his mind. “Heather” it insists, like an insect buzzing at the edges of his consciousness. Heather’s life is in danger. And Judd sees that she is - a damsel in distress needing to be rescued from the evil knight Antiguard. Judd rides towards them on his horse knowing that he can save his beloved from the enemy’s clutches. ‘All you have to do…is wake up!’ the Dreamqueen whispers…and Judd begins to stir.
Outside, blood streams from Heather’s nose as Antiguard stands over her. She remembers the dream - where the Master, in the guise of Joshua Lord, now ruled Canada. Baseline normal humans have been either wiped out or altered - replaced by the Master’s tailor-made paranormals. The last recourse for Alpha Flight - Heather, Northstar, Diamond Lil, Talisman, Wildheart and Feedback - was to escape. To warn the rest of the world - but one by one…they died. Heather thinks to herself that she found the future…but as Antiguard reaches down to her, she realizes the future has found them.
Sasquatch begins to falter under Sinew, who is faster than he is - and Walt is growing tired. He thinks of the man at the heart of the beast - the scientist. He thinks of missed opportunities, the paths of exploration now closed to him forever. Wildheart is trapped under Miss Mass’ foot, while she pulls at his arms, telling him to hold still, its just his spine she wants to break, so she doesn’t know why he is making all this fuss. Kyle wonders if perhaps Miss Mass is right - maybe it is his time, so what is the point of struggling. ‘Maybe it’s just time to let go…’.
‘Never!’ shouts Northstar as he gets to his feet and speeds towards Tech-Noir, dodging her missiles, he tells her that if she thinks he will passively sit and await his fate then she is very much mistaken. The sultry Tech-Noir replies that it doesn’t matter to her, because she knows he is tired and slowing down. ‘Either way, you die!’ she exclaims, blasting him once more with her powers. Aurora flies up above Strongarm, thinking that she will not give in until she has nothing left to fight with - for life, is the most precious gift of all. ‘I will not relinquish it easily’, but as Aurora fires bolts of solid light at Strongarm, he mocks her by remarking that it tickled.
Brain Drain attacks Wyre by creating some sort of illusion, filling his head with cotton wool. Brain Drain then punches Wyre over, telling him that he can’t fight if he can’t think straight. Antiguard holds his hands on Heather’s face, calling to her, he asks her why she continues to struggle, remarking that there is an inevitability here, a natural progression. Teeth gritted, Antiguard declares that Alpha Flight was a dream, an elusive effort to ease humankind gently into the next phase of its evolution. ‘But now the dream is dead. A faded memory of reckless youth’.
Heather looks around and sees her friends and teammates at the mercy of Omega Flight. She thinks to herself that the dream is in shreds, torn apart by the dreamer himself. The flag they waved so boldly, so proudly, is now a bloody torn remnant. The old Alpha Flight is gone, consumed in its own funeral pyre. ‘But from the ashes, rises a new dream. My dream! A dream of protecting Canada from the future the Master proposes…however necessary he makes it sound…and whoever he uses to get it!’
With those bold words, Heather unleashes a powerful blast of electromagnetic energy, knocking Antiguard back towards the Master, who cries out ‘NO!’ Swiftly, Heather gets to her feet, knowing that she cannot stop to think, not even for a second, for she is hurt, and the battle suit’s power levels are dangerously low. However, the others are depending on her - what they need now, more than anything - is a leader!
Heather fires a blast of energy at Strongarm, knocking him into Bile, thus freeing Aurora and Shaman. Heather creates a sonic vibration, which gives Miss Mass a nasty headache, and enough time for Wildheart to free himself from her clutches. Northstar flies up to Tech-Noir, who is surprised by his sudden reappearance, and he punches her right in the face as she remarks that they were beaten and defeated.
‘There’s something you should know about Alpha Flight, Tech-Noir. We get notoriously closed-minded around words like “beaten” and “defeated”!’ Guardian exclaims, before turning to Feedback and asking him to show Omega Flight why they named his bio-electric simulacrums “Shock Troopers”. Feedback does as requested, and his mutant power to create bio-electric duplicates of himself begins to take effect on the remaining members of Omega Flight.
Guardian flies over to Sasquatch and helps him to his feet, but Walt points out that there is still the factor of Mac. As Alpha Flight gather around their brilliant leader, Heather McNeil Hudson declares that she knows, but that she has grieved too many times already, and it is time to stop looking back, to bury the past once and for all. ‘For the sake of the here and now, Alpha Flight, and for the future still to come…take them out!’
Strongarm gets to his feet from where he was tangled with Bile, declaring ‘Get that festering flesh away from me’ adding that he always knew Bile was more trouble than he was worth. But as he runs for safety, Strongarm crashes into Sasquatch. ‘Going somewhere little man?’ Walt asks as he forces Strongarm to the ground, his mighty strength taking control of Strongarm’s arm. Walt tells Strongarm that he will have to forgive his natural scientific curiosity, remarking that his arm is quite fascinating. ‘Mind if I take a closer look?’ Walt asks as he wretches the bionic arm from Strongarm’s body. Strongarm cries out in pain, and Walt just smiles. ‘Hmmm…it is artificial after all’ he remarks sarcastically.
Bile remarks ‘Poor Strongarm’ before adding that he never really liked him anyway, when suddenly, Wyre’s tendrils snare him. Heather congratulates Wyre, while asking if he is sure that his wires won’t carry any of Bile’s diseases back to him. Wyre replies that he is certain, and explains that although they are bonded to his nervous system, the wires are purely artificial. ‘May have to get them cleaned though!’ he jokes.
Miss Mass pushes aside Feedbacks’ bioelectric energy, telling him that if this is his only trick, then his spindly carcass is all hers. Albert is shocked, exclaiming that he cannot stop her, when Shaman races to his rescue, telling Feedback to stand clear - ‘And let Shaman work his magic!’ Miss Mass looks up and sees that Shaman has created a rainstorm. She is not impressed and about to say something else, when she realizes what Shaman’s plan is. ‘Don’t!’ she screams, but it’s too late, as one of the bioelectric forms enters the water, and then electrocutes her when he puts his hand into her body, knocking her backwards as she screams. Wildheart lashes out at Sinew, when suddenly Tech-Noir manages to strike at Guardian - only for Aurora to speed up behind her and dowse her in solid light.
The Master of the World realizes that Omega Flight is losing, that from the depths of some well, sunk too deep it seems even for his finely attuned senses, Alpha Flight has drawn the strength and will to live. ‘For the first time ever, the future is in doubt’. He wonders if he should sit idly by as his destiny crumbles to dust? As a hundred thousand intricately woven strands are unraveled. The Master wonders if the noble intentions of the alien race known as the Qwrlln who first began the elevation of James MacDonald Hudson be spurned.
Should the effort of snatching Hudson from interdimensional oblivion and the hours spent expanding his mind and consciousness to levels comparable to the Master’s own be wasted? ‘Should I deny myself the simple pleasure after such a very long time, of communicating with someone as an equal? No. NO!’ he shouts, before gesturing and causing the air to burn.
Both Alpha Flight and Omega Flight are caught up in the Master’s fire, except for Sasquatch, who sees his friends being killed. Walt picks Sinew up, ‘I think your Master’s calling you!’ he jokes, throwing Sinew towards the Master. ‘No, Master - I cant -’ begins Sinew, but as he comes crashing into the Master, the Master raises a hand, blocking Sinew before he crashes into him.
Sasquatch begins running towards the Master, telling him that if there is something he cannot stand, it is a super villain who dumps on his teammates when the going gets tough. As Walt is about to lunge at the Master, he finds him gone. Then the Master appears from out of no where, attacking Walt and calling him slow, sloppy and stupid.
Wildheart leaps at the Master, jokingly telling him not to be so hard on himself, while in truth, the Master took out Sasquatch without so much as breaking a sweat, and Kyle realizes that his sarcastic remark may just be the last straw. However, the Master barely gives him any attention, simply swatting him aside as he turns to Shaman. The Master tells Shaman that he has never been entirely comfortable around magic, ‘I’d ask you to bear that in mind in the future…if you had one!’ he exclaims, blasting Twoyoungmen with his powers.
The Master turns his attention back to Wildheart, declaring that he is about to show him the difference between those who have perfectly visible force fields and those who don’t. He places his hands on Wildheart’s head, and Heather sees that Kyle is in trouble. She tells him to hang on, but before she can go to help him Antiguard gets to his feet.
Heather wonders what she should do now - she doesn’t want to fight him, she wants to try and reach him, to bring him back. But she realizes he is so different, so changed. She wonders if there is anything left to salvage of James MacDonald Hudson, anything to reach. Heather and Mad stand and face each other, and Mac prepares to blast her. Heather tells him that the Master has a way of making his “future” seem so right, so acceptable, but tells him that it is not their way and never was.
Heather also powers up, checking what energy she has left as she remarks that the Master may want a world without crime, and sickness, which are noble goals, but not at the cost of millions of lives. Heather reminds Mac that he created Alpha Flight because he wanted to help mutants and paranormals, train them to cope, to fit int. ‘You wanted to co-exist - not conquer!’
Meanwhile, as the Master is about to do some more damage to Wildheart, when suddenly several machine guns rise from the ground and begin firing at him - one of them strikes him and knocks him over. Getting back to his feet, the Master finds all the guns pointing at him and realizes that someone has activated the concealed weapons pits in the assault course. He wonders who, as he killed Tork and no one else was alive in the control room - over the communications system, Judd tells the Master that he is a lot more durable than most people realize, and with a lifetime’s tolerance for pain. Wiping away some blood from his face, Judd hopes that he has enough to keep him alive long enough to do this at least.
The Master begins blasting away at the weapons, telling Judd that if he thinks this will delay the inevitability of their deaths for more than a fleeting moment, they are very much mistaken. The Master declares that he was old when this world was still young, a god risen from amongst the apes and while the apes have learned new tricks, to one who intellect spans the collective knowledge of a thousand races, they are still tricks.
Suddenly, the Master of the World finds himself encased in a block of solid air, then he is slammed against a solid tree. Looking up, the Master is shocked as he sees Windshear and Beta Flight running towards him as they arrive courtesy of Laura “Pathway” Dean’s teleportation abilities. Contacted by Puck for assistance, Colin Ashworth Hume a.k.a. Windshear exclaims that Judd wasn’t kidding, ‘It’s serious bad-guy time around here’ he remarks, before reminding Beta Flight that they trounced the Master once before, so they can do it again.
The memory burns in the Master’s mind - defeat at the hands of these children, they very nearly cost him the world he would save. Elizabeth Twoyoungmen a.k.a. the phenomenal Talisman uses her vast magical abilities against the Master and urges her teammate Witchfire to keep conjuring, as he is weakening. Soon enough, his force field is down, so Talisman urges Goblyn and Whitman “Manikin” Knapp, in the guise of his Apeman persona to attack the Master physically.
Nearby, Heather asks Mac what it is going to be, while she overrides the safety lock-outs on her battle suit, pulling every last bit of power into one electromagnetic burst. Heather tells Mac that it is easy to say “I failed” and break up the jigsaw, start again with a new picture. She declares that she is taking a more difficult approach of finding out why the pieces don’t fit together - looking for reasons, sifting the data.
Heather tells Antiguard that it involves a degree of self-examination, a dash of culpability, but after all, she believes in seeing something through to the bitter end. She tells Mac that it was almost there, they almost had it, the whole picture, the dream. ‘Doesn’t it deserve one last chance?’
The Master blasts Goblyn and Manikin off him, telling them that they had their chance, but it is now gone, he surrounds himself in a new force field, telling them that they should have struck to kill in his strange moment of hesitation and doubt, for it is a moment that will never come again.
But suddenly, Antiguard…Mac comes up behind the Master and blasts him, ‘Don’t underestimate hesitation and doubt…they’re there within us always!’ Mac proclaims. The Master screams and falls to his knees under the force of Mac’s attack. Mac stands over the Master, telling him that he is sorry, but that he cannot go through with this, not his way.
The Master exclaims that this cannot be, and tells Mac that they understood each other, ‘After an eternity of isolation on an artificial plateau of evolution, at last I had someone who understood! My dreams, my needs!’ Mac replies that he understood and even empathized, but blasting the Master he explains that some things cannot be built, they have to grow, naturally. Mac points at the Master who lies on the ground, declaring that the Antiguard was an illusion, painted over an existing canvas thanks to the Qwrlln, a part of him had changed, he had become more logical, more open to suggestion. ‘But the man I was still existed, still dreamed!’
Mac declares that it is unpredictability which the Master fears, but it is also the most difficult thing to squash, for if you stamp it down, it rises somewhere else. If you crush it, it only grows stronger. Mac admits that he believed in the Master’s vision, but it was cold and sterile, and after watching Alpha Flight struggle, he remembered a time he too struggled and fought for a seemingly lost cause. ‘Ultimately, it was not that we succeeded or failed. It was that we tried’. Mac tells the Master he is sorry, but that he must be true to himself. ‘Humankind must be free to choose its own destiny, even if it does turn out to be the wrong one’.
Heather and Mac simultaneously begin to blast the Master of the World with their electromagnetic abilities. ‘So much. So much wrong, so much flawed, and I…I bequeath it all to you, Hudson. It’s all yours!’ the Master of the World exclaims, before suddenly, vanishing in the surge of electromagnetic power. Alpha Flight, Beta Flight and Wyre all gather around as Heather exclaims that they killed the Master, and picks up his helmet from a crater. Mac replies that they could never have killed him, for he was the Master to the end - Master of his own fate, and he just gave up.
Mac declares that the Master was so long alone, “above” his fellow man, he was tired. ‘I was his last hope, his last dream - he had nothing left to live for’. Heather and Mac embrace as Mac declares ‘In the end, that’s what reached me - penetrating through both machine implants and the Master’s rhetoric. Without love, without dreams, I was just like him. Just like the Master…a hollow man!’
On Liveworld, the Dreamqueen has watched Alpha Flight’s plight, sitting at her throne she exclaims that her future is assured, the world beyond is once more a place of ambition, of wants, desires…and dreams. The Dreamqueen stirs the waters of her viewing pool once more, to see the world she will one day inherit: A world without Alpha Flight!
Sometime soon after. Mac, Alpha Flight, Beta Flight, including Kara “Persuasion” Kilgrave, former Alphans Madison “Box” Jeffries and Lillian Crawley-Jeffries a.k.a. Diamond Lil, as well as Alpha Flight’s allies Wyre, Nemesis and Feedback are all gathered in a meeting room at Department H. ‘General Clarke, you’re kidding!’ exclaims Heather. The stern General Clarke reminds Guardian that he never kids, before stating once more that they are suspending Alpha Flight until further notice. He declares that Alpha Flight as a group has no official status, and they are on ice until the heat has gone out of the whole super-powers issue.
Clarke informs the mighty heroes that the Prime Minister has ordered a complete security clampdown on the Joshua Lord affair, the Hardliner technology has all been impounded and stored. He reminds everyone that they are all, of course, still bound by the Official Secrets Act. ‘Until further notice you are stepped down to an advisory role. Your duty is to train and instruct. Any questions?’ Clarke exclaims.
Everyone looks back at him, some in shock, some hurt, some furious. Like Jean-Paul, who slams his fist onto the table. ‘I have one!’ he exclaims. Heather turns to him, urging him to keep quiet, but Jean-Paul replies that he will not be silent, and asks General Clarke who he thinks he is to tell him what he can or cannot do. He asks if this is how they are repaid for risking their lives again and again in the service of their country? ‘If you expect me to sit here cooling my heels while you decide our destiny…you’re very much mistaken!’ With that, Jean-Paul storms over to the door, then turning, he begins pulling at his costume, exclaiming that it comes off, and there is a man beneath the costume that neither words nor government can control. ‘A man called Northstar!’ With that, he is gone.
Heather begins to cry, and finds comfort in the arms of her husband, who has returned to his original appearance. Mac exclaims that in a way, Northstar is right. For Alpha Flight have fought long and hard for the right to choose their own destinies. ‘The future…is theirs to decide!’.