‘Well Northstar? You’ve heard the charges, how do you plead?,’ exclaims Alpha Flight team leader, Heather McNeil Hudson to former Alphan Jean-Paul Beaubier, the handsome mutant speedster. Jean-Paul stands hands on hips and declares that if this is a trial then he sees no one present that he acknowledges to have authority to pass judgment over him. Flanked by Northstar’s twin sister, Aurora, Dr. Walter Langkowski a.k.a. Sasquatch, though after losing his physical body has taken up residence in the Box armor, thereby going by the codename of Box, Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen a.k.a. Shaman, and Alpha Flight’s newest member and designer of the Box robot, the quadriplegic Roger Bochs, Heather tells him that this is not a trial, but a hearing into the serious charges his sister brought against him.
Heather calmly asks Jean-Paul to not let his trademarked cocky attitude interfere with getting to the truth, to which the Olympic skier asks whose truth it is they wish to find. He declares that Alpha Flight has more than its fair of secrets and asks Heather to tell him what she considers to be the truth or not. Roger Bochs tells Northstar that they are not getting anywhere this way, to which Northstar turns quickly to the wheelchair bound man and asks if he has to face accusations from outsiders. Shaman tells Jean-Paul to ‘Spare us the self-righteous indignation’, as Roger may be a new member of the team, but that he is far less an outsider than Northstar has chosen to be.
Bochs thanks Shaman as Heather reminds Jean-Paul that according to Aurora, who just sits beside Heather pouting, he has some serious black marks in his past, quite possibly crimes of a most reprehensible nature. She asks him if he wishes to say anything to deny Aurora’s charges and declares that this is not the time for his ego. Northstar points a finger at Heather and asks her who is guilty of flaunting their ego now, adding that he has done things which he is no longer proud of, but that he did them because he once believed in something he thought worth fighting for – even worth dying for.
Northstar asks if that is an egotistical act then to compare it of Heather presuming to take leadership of Alpha Flight by unilateral declaration. Heather tells Northstar that the comparison is hardly the point or fair, reminding him that she claimed leadership at the recommendation of Alpha Flight’s members – because she is the widow of their first leader. Opening the door, another Alphan, Eugene Milton Judd, a.k.a. Puck tells Heather that she may wish to re-phrase that last statement. Heather turns to Judd shocked and her diminutive friend informs her that he was monitoring the emergency frequency and that Talisman called in to tell him that Caliber escaped from jail and that right now he is in the middle of a big battle down town – with Guardian!
Downtown, police have surrounded the villain Caliber while the supposedly deceased Guardian, Alpha Flight’s original leader, battles the armored menace. Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, a.k.a. Talisman stands by a policeman and asks him how Caliber got free. The police officer tells Talisman that he was locked away with ‘his poor man’s Iron Man suit’ in a security holding cell on the other side of town. He declares that someone must have broken him out and given him back his armor too, but he has no idea who. The attractive young women tells the officer that how Caliber got loose is the least of her concern and that the more pressing question is ‘what the heck is Guardian doing here in one piece?’
The police officer seems a little confused and dodging a blast from Caliber, Elizabeth tells him to forget she said anything before reminding herself that she keeps forgetting Guardian's death was not revealed to the public. She was shocked to learn of it when she joined up with the team. Elizabeth remembers that Heather saw Mac blown to ashes right in front of her when his suit was malfunctioning in a battle with Omega Flight that occurred in New York. Heather was convinced that there was no way Mac could have survived the battle and that there was not even enough left of him to bury. Elizabeth declares that she had seen enough of Guardian on the TV news to be sure of one thing – that if the man she sees before her is not Guardian, then CBC was pointing its camera at the wrong man all those times!
Caliber informs Guardian that he hoped he was going to show up this time, as he designed the armor with him in mind, for last time Alpha Flight attacked him he was not prepared for Aurora’s new powers, but this time he is. He boasts that Alpha Flight will die this time, starting with Guardian. Dodging one of Caliber’s blasts, Guardian jokes that he will pass on that, as he has died once already and that it is not an experience he wishes to repeat anytime soon. Firing two powerful electromagnetic blasts at the armored villain, Guardian tells Caliber that it may be him who will get killed if he doesn’t give up now. Caliber is knocked back by the powerful blast as Elizabeth decides that things are getting spooky!
Talisman thought that perhaps Guardian had managed to survive by making ‘some typically impossible last minute escape’ which Heather did not see, but after the remark Guardian made about dying…. Elizabeth guesses that anyone in her “line of work” should not get too freaked out by the supernatural, and decides that speaking of her talents, it is probably time for her to lend a hand. Talisman glows green, summoning her powers, although she knows they only work best when there is magical energies others have conjured up, for she is a living talisman, a focus of magic, not a generator. However her father, Shaman, says that there are mystical energies abroad everywhere, and that all she needs to do is find a way to tap into them.
Elizabeth thinks that this is probably good a time as any to try, and as energies swirl around her she realizes that it is working, now all she has to do is find out what to do with the energies! She gets the attention of Caliber by telling him she has a present for him. The green magicks glow and Caliber reminds her that her ‘dumb light shows’ didn’t do anything against him last time. He is about to tell her that they will not do anything to him this time, when a green bubble engulfs him and once he is totally inside it, it pops and spreads into hundreds of small bubbles, until the disappear like his armor, leaving the man beneath the armor lying on the ground.
Elizabeth puts a hand to her mouth to stifle her laugh as she declares she didn’t even know what she had conjured up to happen, but that it did the job fine! “Caliber” exclaims that it is not possible, but Elizabeth smiles and tells him that ‘apparently it is’. Guardian drops from the sky and congratulates Talisman, declaring that while she may be the “new kid on the block” she handled Caliber like a professional and that he is very impressed. Talisman thanks Guardian before becoming somewhat uncertain and apologizing for the personal question she is about to ask – ‘but aren’t you dead?’
Guardian replies ‘yes and no’ informing her that the reports of his death were slightly exaggerated. ‘And I thought that kind of thing only happened in comic books’ exclaims Walter from within the Box armor as he, Heather, the rest of Alpha Flight and Northstar show up on the scene. Guardian smiles and Heather walks over to him, declaring that the faces change, but it is still them. She asks him if it is really him, to which Guardian replies that as hard as it must be to accept, it is he. Heather tells Guardian to forgive her if it is him, but that she is not sure she can believe…her voice trails off as Guardian tells her that it took him a long time to believe himself, but it is true – and he knows a way to prove it - and he embraces Heather, and they kiss passionately.
Chapter Two: Up from Lazarus’ Box
Later, Twoyoungmen and Elizabeth stand in the room while Guardian sits on the couch beside Heather, who after passing out is just coming around. Guardian tells her not to move too fast as Heather says ‘Forgive me for the cliché, but what happened?’ Shaman informs her that she fainted, which was quite normal considering the circumstances. Guardian reminds Heather that she always said he was a good kisser, and now that his mask is off, Heather sees her husband’s face, realizing that it is indeed him, she asks how he survived and why he ran away when she saw him on the street. Mac smiles and says ‘Well I guess that’s my clue for a cliché…it’s a long story!’ He adds that most of it he doesn’t believe himself.
(Flashbacks, from Alpha Flight #12 and the events occurring following that issue)
Mac begins the story at the most logical place – with Heather opening the door and walking in on him in New York as he was trying to deactivate the power pack from his battle suit. He reveals that the suit, and himself, had been seriously damaged during the battle with Omega Flight, and at that point, the power pack was nine seconds away from detonation. Mac knew the blast would take out the whole room, including Heather! So he gambled on a theoretical function of the suit – the possibility that the massive power surge of the blast might be used to rupture the space-time continuum.
This idea flashed through Mac’s head in about point seven seconds, so he hit the proper sequence and when the power pack blew, it ripped open the fabric of the universe itself, and also carbonized the air immediately around him. Unfortunately, Mac had no control whatsoever over where the rift would take him, and he figured that he was as good as dead at that point, so his main concern was saving Heather.
Much to his surprise, Guardian did not wind up instantly dead, though he had no idea at all where he had wound up. Walking across unearthly terrain all he could tell through the shock of transition, coupled with a probable concussion and massive internal hemorrhaging from the battle, he was extremely cold and he could not breathe whatever it was that was passing as air. When Guardian turned around and looked at the sky however, he realized where he was – on Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter’s moons!
That particular revelation however did not do James MacDonald Hudson much good, and within seconds he was unconscious, perhaps even dead, sprawled out on the frozen-water crust of the moon. Mac cannot even say if he died then as he did not have any of the traditional post-mortem experiences – no heavenly light, no glimpses of previously departed friends or relatives – just darkness without time or feeling.
However, Mac did something that really surprised himself – he opened his eyes – and immediately wished he hadn’t, for before him were strange aliens. They called themselves the Quwrlln, a name almost unpronounceable, it took Mac months to get his mouth around it in manner that satisfied them. They were a race native to Ganymede and they had evolved in pockets of warmer ice water and slush. They had a remarkable civilization spread through the honey combed crust of the moon. The Quwrlln had saved his life, nursed his wounds and literally repaired him. He stayed with them, existing in their environment in a suit capable of sustaining his life within the water society.
Guardian stayed with the Quwrlln a total of ten Earth months where he recuperated and overcame the trauma of his “death”. The Quwrlln had an extraordinary philosophy of life and understood exactly what Mac was going through even though they shared no common experience or heritage. Mac had always flattered himself on the fact that he had no lurking xenophobia to trip over, even if it was an alien race he happened to encounter. However he had never expected the kind of warm and almost loving relationship that developed between himself and the Quwrlln. This relationship went so far to say that there were tears – or the equivalent of them – on both sides when Mac announced his desire to return to Earth.
It was then that the fates decided to hand Guardian one more ‘metaphysical shot in the head’. The Quwrlln used their transoptic scanners to get a look at his Earth as a prelude to figuring out how to send him back there. It was then that they discovered Mac had shifted not only in space, but in time as well, for on Earth the Great Egyptian civilization had barely begun. Finding himself ten thousand years in the past was a considerable shock for Mac and it suddenly seemed as if all the effort exhausted on his behalf had been in vain. He began to think that even if the Quwrlln could send him back to Earth, what would be the point?
It was then however, that the Quwrlln’s chief scientist came up with a possible solution. So Mac “died” again, this time be going into suspended animation with the Quwrlln promising to spend as much of the next ten thousand Earth years as they needed to seeking the means to get him back home.
When Mac awoke, one hundred centuries later, things had changed considerably. For at some point during his long slumber, the Quwrlln had become involved in a major conflict, a “World War” and the Quwrlln culture that survived had no resemblance to the one that he left – they had essentially bombed themselves back into the stone age. Mac was in despair, and while it turned out his friends the Quwrlln had destroyed themselves, they had not failed him. The Quwrlln had left Mac a spaceship, and with nothing to keep him there any longer he fired it up and left Ganymede without looking back. For the memories he had of that place and some happy times there had been covered in dust for longer than Western civilizations had existed.
Twenty-eight months later, most of which he spent in deep sleep, Mac arrived on Earth, just off the Western Canadian coast of British Columbia. What happened next, he was totally unprepared for, the minute the spaceship hit the water it began to dissolve around him and thirty seconds later the space suit did the same thing. Mac had images of having gone through so much, only to finally drown in the Pacific Ocean. He appreciates irony as much as the next person, but it would have just been too much. But Guardian didn’t drown and made it to shore.
Naked, Mac made his way quickly though some forest until he found a boarded up summer cabin. He broke in and found some old clothes and later hitched to the nearest city – which happened to be Vancouver – which is when he saw Heather.
Mac has his arms folded across his knees and is not looking at Heather when he reveals he could not bring himself to face her, realizing how long it had been since his “death”, realizing both the changes in his life and hers. He thought at that moment that it might be better if Heather went on thinking he were dead and leading her life without him. Shocked, Heather hugs Mac and tells him that she has no life without him. She informs him that she has been soldiering along with her heart held with ‘bailing wire and spit’, but that he was her first and only real love, and when he died, everything inside of her died as well.
Mac stands up and tells Heather that he too loves her with all his heart and never wants her to doubt that, but that something vital has changed within him. He admits that he hoped she would have worked it out for herself as he told her the story, but guesses she didn’t. Mac reminds Heather that the Quwrlln saved him and put him back together, and ripping his costume off he reveals that the Quwrlln had never seen a human before and had no way of knowing what was him – and what was his armor – so they improvised. Heather stares in shock at her husband – now part cyborg, his electromagnetic super suit melded throughout his body.
Elsewhere, Walter Langkowski, now residing in the Box armor smashes at some boulders, joking as he does it. The robots owner, Roger Bochs asks Walter to be careful as there have been no opportunities to give the new Box armor a proper testing and by testing this way he could seriously damage the armor. Walter tells Bochs that he thought ‘this tin woodsman of yours’ was supposed to be nearly indestructible. He asks that if the armor is going to be his “home sweet home” now that his real body has been destroyed, shouldn’t he be able to have some fun in it? Aurora puts a hand on Box’s chest and asks what kind of fun he can have stuck in a machine.
Taken aback, Walter exclaims to his girlfriend that it is still him inside the armor and asks her if she doesn’t love him for his mind too. Aurora ponders for a moment before taking to the air and exclaiming that it is something she will have to think about. Shocked, Walter calls after her, but she doesn’t even look back.
Obviously upset, Walter exclaims that he is trying to adjust to the trauma that would put ten normal men ‘in the rubber room’ and Aurora goes and hits him with a ‘little emotional haymaker’. Roger tells Walter that it is not too surprising, as from what he has seen of Aurora, it seems her needs would require more than any of his Box armors could provide. Walter puts his hands on his hips and sternly asks Roger what that last comment is supposed to mean, and covering his mouth to hide his smile, Roger says that it is not supposed to be offensive. But that Aurora’s a very physical person and therefore needs a man with a human form – and he tells Walt that he thinks he knows where he can get one!