Montreal, a large naked man walks down an alley in a less-than-respectable part of town with the need to cover his nakedness. The fact that he does so by taking the life of another to get the clothes does not concern him. He kills the man with one touch of his mighty hand, and although he chose his victim because of their similar size, the fit is not exact, nor is the style one he is familiar with. It doesn’t matter for he has over several lifetimes seen styles come and go. In this sordid environment he fits right in, the streets teem with life and he lumbers through them. He looks at his hands and knows how easy it would be for him to erase every living thing with a single touch. He cannot until he settles his score with the only being ever to “kill” him. To partake of too many others might alert his enemy to his return. He laughs with anticipation of their next encounter and still laughing, Deadly Earnest vanishes into the night.
She stands on the statue of Jacques Cartier, the famous French explorer who first came to this land 450 years ago. The statue can only offer passive protection however, though on this night it is another living sentry that must safeguard Montreal from murder, the ebony and blood clad woman known as Nemesis. She stirs in the rain and looking upwards senses that “he” has killed again Nemesis extends her blade to the sky and calling to Mother Night she declares that her blade howls. She admits that she knows now why she was not allowed to rest, as the freedom from strife can never be hers while Earnest St. Ives lives. She declares that she has slain him once and can again send him to his grave. Leaping into the air, she shouts For such is the curse and calling of Nemesis!
Meanwhile, at the Montreal General Hospital, Canada’s premiere super hero team – Alpha Flight, prepare to leave after an encounter with Scramble the Mixed-up-Man, the brother of their ally, Madison Jeffries. Madison asks his younger brother, Lionel, if he is sure that he will not come with them. Lionel asks if he is being asked to join Alpha Flight and reminds everyone that as Scramble he used his transmutive powers to horribly alter his fellow man but he hopes that deranged part of his persona is gone forever. Alpha Flight’s resident celebrity, former Olympic skier, Jean-Paul Beaubier, now known as Northstar, asks Lionel if he will restart his career as a surgeon so that he can use his mutant powers to heal others as he healed himself.
Lionel Jeffries declares that he will try and if the department of national health will readmit him to practice. Eugene Judd, a.k.a. Puck informs Lionel that Alpha Flight will make a recommendation to that effect, which quickly prompts team leader Heather Hudson to tell Lionel that only if a psychiatric evaluation shows him to be completely cured. Lionel tells Heather that he can understand her caution, as she has experienced first-hand the dark side of his power, as she was transformed by him, and cannot back him without Alpha Flight becoming responsible should he become Scramble again.
Heather starts to bring up the idea of a probation period when suddenly Puck keels over in pain and her attention is turned to him. Lionel asks Judd if he was hurt while fighting one of his creatures, but that he cannot see any wounds. However, Lionel suggests there may be an internal injury and asks Judd if he can help him. Puck grits his teeth trying to bear the pain and tells Lionel that his pain is beyond Lionel’s, or the medical profession power to cure, and that all he can do is try to focus past the pain.
The scream of an ambulance siren diverts Alpha Flight’s attention from Judds’ pain, to one who has transcended the capacity to suffer from all human frailties. As the paramedics bring the body from the ambulance on a stretcher, Lionel rushes over and asks if the man is dead and what it was that killed him. The paramedic reveals that they do not know, all they got was a call about a corpse in an alleyway, and arrived to find him stretched out naked. The other paramedic reveals that there are no vital signs but that the body stays warm.
Lionel Jeffries wonders if it might be a coma and as a healer he places his hands on the victim. Lionel attempts to revive the man, but after a short time declares that there is something missing from him, something which not even his powers can put back – something akin to the mans soul! Lionel reveals that without it, although he is technically not dead, he has simply “stopped” like a light being suddenly switched off. Shock now falls on Northstar’s face a he remembers those same words – words used to describe the man who was like a father to him…only the murderer was slain in this very city.
Just then, a doctor emerges from the hospital and approaches Alpha Flight, supposing they have some connection with the authorities he asks them to send out an alert, for a body has gone missing from the morgue. Northstar picks the doctor off the ground and asks if by chance the “runaway corpse” was in pieces before Scramble reassembled him with all those bodies, which he tore apart in his insane attempt to restore life to the deceased. The doctor, somewhat taken aback by Jean-Paul’s abruptness, informs the handsome mutant that it was the bloodless sectioned body of a criminal given over to their pathology unit for study. Jean-Paul asks the name of the criminal, and the doctor declares that his name was Earnest St. Ives. Northstar and his twin sister, Aurora, look at each other instantly and say in unison Deadly Earnest!
Elsewhere, in the frozen tundra, where blizzards can blanket the Northwest Territories without warning. The goddess known as Narya, a.k.a. the Alphan Snowbird soars through them, reveling in the isolation it affords her. There are times she feels more at home with the unfeeling elements than with the mortal occupants of the Earth. However, there are certain mortals whom Narya has befriended, and one of her friends is lost. Realizing she cannot see any sign of Shaman in the air due to the storm, Narya drops to the blanketed ground assuming the form who has keener senses that will not be confused by the swirling snow. However, even the arctic lynx fails to find any trace of Shaman’s scent.
However, the lynx has ears sensitive enough to detect even the desperate breathing of a snowshoe hare, and soon senses another sound – the sound of man trudging through the snow. Dressed up to keep warm and armed with a rifle he calls to Snowbird, asking where she is. Here Douglas Thompson, comes the reply from behind him, and Narya transforms from lynx to beautiful young woman. Somewhat frightened, Doug tells Snowbird that if she had not spoken he may have shot her.
Snowbird takes to flight, grabbing her lover as she soars, proclaiming that he may have tried to shoot her, but it would have been a strange way for him to show his love. Being towed through the air, Doug wonders what isn't strange about a relationship between a mortal man and an immortal woman. Doug asks Snowbird how long they are going to search for Twoyoungmen for and she replies that they will search for him until they find him and convince him to continue his pilgrimage in calmer weather. Suddenly, Snowbird cries out in pain, and drops Doug!
Doug calls to Narya asking her what is wrong as she composes herself and flies downward to catch him. Narya informs her lover that the pain, whatever it was, was transitory and she has recovered, as a relieved Douglas admits that she gave him quite a scare, for the both of them before adding that she seems rather wobbly in her flight. Doug suggests she call it quits and have Shaman or one of her Alpha Flight friends examine her. Snowbird pauses before telling Doug that she will follow his advice and she turns and flies shakily to the South.
Meanwhile, the former Alphan, Dr. Michael “Shaman” Twoyoungmen, the man Snowbird was searching for treks through the snow. He had to abandon his Land Rover, for driving visibility was zero. Shaman could not rely on the vehicle’s heater, as with the tail pipe burned he would have risked carbon monoxide poisoning. Shaman knew his only chance for survival was to get out and get to shelter such as a cave or - a cabin!
Opening the door to the cabin, Twoyoungmen thinks to himself that it seemed to appear almost as soon as the thought of shelter crossed his mind. Shaman realizes that he knows this cabin but that it should not be here, for it belongs thousands of miles to the South, near Banff, Alberta, where he spent ten long and lonely years trying to escape from his failures and himself. However it was in that time that he gained the power from the spirit of his Sarcee ancestor and became the mystic Shaman, and founding member of Alpha Flight. Shaman closes the door and remembers back to how he failed again, for he sent Elizabeth, his daughter into a peril which he had failed to protect her from, just as he had failed to save the life of her mother many years ago.
Twoyoungmen believes that in his weariness his imagination must have run riot, and tells himself that this cannot be the same cabin. Just then, light glows from a table where the skull of his grandfather sits and greets him. Shaman declares that the skull has no more business being here than the cabin itself and proclaims madness. The skull of his grandfather reminds Michael that that is what he said when he first took this means of communicating with him from beyond the grave, for in Michael’s stubbornness he had rejected the gifts of his ancestors.
The spirit of Shaman’s grandfather reveals that it is now doubts, of which he warned Michael long ago about, that have stripped him of his Sarcee medicine skills he had come to command. Shaman’s grandfather tells him that he has left the great home to help him overcome his doubts ad restore to him his powers.
The light flashes brighter and Twoyoungmen’s cloths disappear as Michael rejects his grandfathers offer, asking the spirit what his skill as a surgeon or his mystical might ever done but fail those he loved the most in their hour of direst need. The spirit tells Shaman that he has always blamed himself got circumstances beyond the power of any man or mystic to change. Kathryn Twoyoungmen was ill and dying and no power on Earth or beyond could have helped her. The skull states that as for Elizabeth, she had become the Binder of Spirits, the Talisman, and had passed her fathers ability to protect her.
Shaman turns away, remembering his daughter, and he proclaims that she saved herself. The form of Shaman’s grandfather emerges from the skull and informs his grandson that it is time he did the same for himself. Twoyoungmen reminds his grandfather that he has lost his power and that his medicine pouch is empty. It was never full, says the spirit, reminding his grandson that the wonders of the medicine pouch stemmed from his imagination and that it is not power he has lost, but faith.
The form of Shaman’s grandfather disappears and Shaman looks to the skull, telling it that with the power again comes the responsibility of seeing to the safety of others and he doesn’t know if he is ready to assume that burden. Shaman’s grandfather informs him that he can only guide him back to the way of the power, and that the choice of setting again onto that path must be his alone. For what seems like an eternity, Shaman struggles against his doubts, for it was easy to reject the power once he thought he had lost it. But when it is offered to him anew it is the hero in him that overcomes his hesitancy. Shaman cries Help me, grandfather – back to the way of the power! With that, the skull cries so be it’ and both Shaman and the skull of his grandfather disappear from the cabin.
Later, Heather, Judd, Jean-Paul, Aurora and Box have reached the alley where the corpse was found. Judd reminds Heather that she was badly shaken after being transformed by Scramble and suggests she should have stayed at the hospital, to which Heather declares that her place is with Alpha Flight, as its team leader and asks the others if they expected her to fill that position just as a figurehead when they elected her. Northstar boasts that it would spare them having to constantly protect her from danger to which Roger Bochs, from within the Box armor asks Jean-Paul if he pulled wings off flies as a kid.
Northstar ignores that comment, however his sister, Aurora comes to his defense declaring that given her brother’s past – twice orphaned, first by their real parents then his adoptive parents, who were killed in accidents, she can understand, if not excuse his insensitivity. Aurora suggests that Jean-Paul may speak the truth when he points out that Heather has no power capable of protecting her against whatever uncanny evil they may have to face tonight. Aurora asks her teammates if she or Jean-Paul ever told them about their encounter with Earnest St. Ives, and informs them that they came to Montreal to visit a friend of Jean-Paul’s. A friend whom Earnest slew before their very eyes with a touch of his hand and then took Aurora hostage.
Aurora declares that she played along as poor, meek Jeanne-Marie and listened to Earnest’s tale, of how he was the sole surviving soldier of a blasted battalion, lying alone on a First World War battle-field when Death came to claim him. Weak from his wounds, which had become infected from the mire in which he lay, exposed to noxious gasses drifting over the trenches, Earnest should have been eager to embrace Death – but despite his pain, he rejected her. Northstar takes over from his sister’s storytelling, adding that by vanquishing Death, Earnest was somehow reborn immortal, however with a price to his victory – his touch had become as lethal as Death’s own.
Northstar informs his teammates that he learned this information from Nemesis, who named herself after the Greek goddess of retribution and was inspired in part by Alpha Flight’s own exploits. Nemesis had an incredible blade scarcely an atom width thick, which was capable of slicing through anything by cleaving between the molecules. Her blade was also consecrated to one task – ending the endless existence of Earnest St. Ives. Nemesis was good, and she sliced up Earnest easily. Northstar continues his story, declaring that after Nemesis had sliced and diced Earnest, he decided to unmask Nemesis, however after pulling her mask off he learnt that she was not Danielle Belmonde as he suspected, but a haunted horror whose humanity had been crushed by ages of untold anguish.
Judd suggests that with Deadly Earnest afoot again, Nemesis probably wont be far behind. Alpha Flight’s Omnijet hovers above, where Madison Jeffries monitors the teams’ conversation via telecommunications built into Box, and informs the heroes that he has picked up something small and swift soaring over the city on the radar scope. The signal is rather weird he ads, but believes it to be the blade Northstar said belongs to Nemesis. The hunt is on eh?, says Judd, but Heather declares that this time Alpha Flight will be letting the hunter lead them to the hunted. Northstar tells Heather that they could travel faster if she joined Jeffries in the Omnijet, to which Heather snaps back Northstar if your legs moved as fast as your mouth we’d have found Deadly Earnest by now. Judd settles the argument by saying that Box can carry both Heather and himself, but that if they do not hurry, Alpha Flight may not be in on the kill.
Nemesis glides across rooftops in the pouring rain and realizes something is wrong. She declares that her blade should be burning with desire to drink Earnest’s immortality, but it glows only dimly. She asks Mother Night where their quarry is and wonders how he could have hidden himself from them, as if the Earth itself opened up and swallowed him whole. Nemesis suddenly realizes that Deadly Earnest is near, but buried alive – and she swoops down to the Metro!
Beneath the streets of downtown Montreal lies a high-tech environment comprising the Metro transportation system and a subterranean shopping complex known as the Underground City. It is down into these depths that Deadly Earnest has descended, and walks along a platform onto which people get on and off the trains. He does not move from his direction and walks right into a woman, knocking her to the ground. The woman’s boyfriend calls to Earnest and asks him why he just walks away after making her drop her parcels. What are you…a tourist?, he calls to him. The woman tells her boyfriend to let it go as there is no harm done and the other man is awfully large.
The boyfriend agrees and shouts that he probably figures his size will let him get away with all manner of rudeness, but he wants an apology out of him. Earnest turns to the man and tells him that the only thing his failure to heed his wise friends warning will get him – is death! And Earnest clamps a hand over the other mans face, the man falls to the ground as if his body just stopped. At that moment, Northstar, Aurora and the rest of Alpha Flight burst into the subway, realizing they are too late, for Earnest has killed again. Nemesis arrives at that moment and Earnest turns to see his enemies and proclaims that he has jinxed himself by letting his anger overcome his pledge of abstinence, adding that as his years multiply so do his enemies.
Facing Box and Heather, Deadly Earnest admits that some of his enemies are not known to him, but that does not matter, and asks who of them will be the next to sacrifice themselves to his death-touch. Box exclaims You can’t “kill” a robot, fat man! as Heather tells Bochs to wait, for they do not know enough about Earnest’s power. Earnest realizes that his “power” as Heather refers to it, is “Death’s gift” to him and declares that it simply is the ability to strip others of their lives that his own might be extended immeasurably. Placing a hand on Box, Earnest declares that life indeed pulses in his circuits and metal – therefore his touch can stop him as easily as it does.
Box proclaims that he didn’t think he could be killed, and as Deadly lifts the robotic Alphan up, telling him that he knows better now and tossing him at Nemesis as she leaps down from the roof and orders Alpha Flight away for they do not know what they are dealing with. Earnest tells Nemesis that she will need to forgive him for not wanting to experience her blade again, as it condemned him to lie for long months sectioned-yet-alive on a sterile morgue slab.
Aurora declares that two “hunters” are down in as many minutes as Heather orders them to hit Earnest but to watch for his hands. Annoyed, Northstar asks Heather if she always feels compelled to utter such self-evident commands, but Judd tells him that it pays to heed good advice. The twins rush Earnest from behind as Earnest agrees with Judd when he swings his hands back and stops the twins by catching them in mid-flight. Heather is astonished at this, and Earnest informs her that he has surprising speed before declaring that one learns many strategies of survival when they have lived as long as he has. As he lumbers towards Heather he declares that one such strategy is to take a hostage in order to forestall all attacks by an enemy one truly fears.
Heather tries to run away, but Earnest tells her that she will not be able to, and grabbing her after ripping his sleeve down to cover his hand to prevent him from killing Heather with his touch, he adds declares he will not take her life unless Nemesis insists on taking his. Nemesis has wiggled free and says to Heather Woman, you are apparently leader of Alpha Flight, you must have some power then, use it to save yourself. Nemesis will not strike Earnest and Heather calls back that she is only human and useless. Earnest tells her that she is hardly the latter, and still holding onto Heather, they jump onto the train tracks.
Judd calls to Heather, promising to find a way to free her, but Heather asks him why he should bother, as all she has done is lead Alpha Flight to death and disaster. She declares that Deadly Earnest can have her, for it is all she deserves. Nemesis informs Judd that he must save Heather and tosses him her blade. Judd asks why she is giving him the blade instead of going after Earnest herself. Nemesis kneels next to the fallen Alphans and other people Earnest used his death touch on and informs Judd that they are not dead for she can keep them in the semi-living state for a short time. However, they can only be fully restored if her blade recaptures their spirits from Earnest.
Judd drops onto the train tracks and realizes that Nemesis’ comment “recaptures their spirits” means he has to kill Earnest for the sword to drain Earnest of the life forces he has stolen. However, Judd once promised Guardian that his days of killing were over when he paroled into Beta Flight. Yet it is now Guardian’ widow who is in Earnest’s clutches, and Judd wonders if there is anyone he wouldn't kill to save Heather.
Puck suddenly stops in his tracks, overcome with the pain that cripples him, he realizes that it is his pain responding to the blade he carries and crying out to possess it. He knows it would be so easy to let it – but cannot, for he has fought to contain the pain inside him for years. Judd sees Heather being pushed along by Earnest further down the tracks and suppressing his pain he darts along the tracks telling himself he has one shot at separating Heather from Earnest before he can uncover his hands and steal her life and this one chance means using Nemesis’ blade and killing.
Well I'm the dwarf for the job, thinks Judd as he leaps towards Earnest and strikes him in the back causing him to drop Heather. Puck cries out inside himself, for he has broken his promise even if Heather could hear it she doesn’t for the drop causes her head to strike the Metro tracks. Earnest turns to Judd and after being cut by him wishes his hands didn’t kill upon contact because he would like the pleasure of crushing Judd before he dies. Judd tells Deadly Earnest to surrender, announcing that he knows Nemesis blade can kill him and that he is not afraid to use it.
Deadly Earnest tells Judd that the blade is the only thing he fears, for it is the only weapon on Earth capable of ending his existence. Lunging for it, Earnest declares that once he possesses it he will fear nothing. Judd leaps out of the way, surprised that for someone so massive Earnest has such superior speed. Judd realizes that he actually fears Earnest because as Death’s dispatcher, he can kill him – and let him loose the source of pain inside him, letting him be free at last. But if that were to happen, an evil greater than Earnest would be unleashed to walk the Earth again and Judd cannot let that happen – so he slices off one of Earnest St. Ives’ arms.
Earnest howls out as the sword writhes in Judds’ hands, for it has drunk deep the life forces stolen from others by Earnest and it wants more. Judd remembers that long ago he held another black blade just like it, and it too lived off stolen life. Judd thinks it is no wonder Northstar described Nemesis’ face as “anguished” for what the sword must have done to her soul as the price for wielding it over the course of a lifetime. Judd wonders what it will do to his soul if he uses it to slay Earnest. Judd will not and wants to reject the blade, but wonders if he can without dooming Alpha Flight.
Earnest leaps at Judd declaring he still has one hand left, but Judd maneuvers himself so that he flips Earnest over and crashing into a wall, but in the process the sword is knocked from Judds’ hand. Both Judd and Earnest rush for the sword, Judd telling Earnest that he knows he will not stop coming for him until he has forced him to kill and do the swords biding. Puck had prayed that there was some other way, for his souls’ sake and for a way to resurrect Alpha Flight and to keep Heather safe – Judd remembers Heather and his eyes go wide as he sees her sprawled across the train tracks and a train speeding down towards her.
Judd picks up the sword and shouts that there is no longer any time to weigh the alternatives, and with that Judd uses the sword to slice off Earnest’s head. The head falls to the ground, near the severed arm and screams at Judd while the diminutive Alphan leaps to Heather’s side and pulls her off the track. However, much to Judds’ dismay the body of Earnest still lumbers around, still flowing with the death touch it comes towards Judd and Heather. Holding Heather in his arm, Eugene Milton Judd races towards Deadly Earnest and cuts off the remaining hand. However, both ands crawl towards Judd and Earnest still speaks, laughing, Earnest boasts that even though he is limb-less, he will still seek the pleasure of ending Judds own accursed life.
The hands continue their crawl towards Puck who leaps with the still unconscious Heather off the train track – just as the speeding train plows into Deadly Earnests’ body. Heather regains consciousness and looks at Judd who informs her that it is not over, for the blade still glows meaning whatever is left of Earnest still lives. Judd tells Heather that it would be best if she did not look …
Soon, Heather and Puck walk back to Nemesis who stands on the platform and seeing them alive realizes Earnest must be dead. Judd replies that her sword did its job – with the help of the Montreal Metro. Handing the sword to Nemesis Puck asks her to use it to restore the lives of his friends as she promised. Northstar, Aurora, Box and the civilian who was hurt are lined up as Nemesis declares that she sustained them by imparting them to the life energies of others who have succumbed to Earnest’s death touch. The residual energies of the victims passed into Nemesis the first time she slew Earnest, and deprived of life for too long, those victims died before she could save them, however Alpha Flight are more fortunate.
Nemesis reveals that the life energies of the fallen Alphans resided in Earnest and when he was slain her sword reclaimed their “souls” – which she now returns to the rightful owners. Alpha Flight is revived and Nemesis declares that her blade is drained. Calling to Mother Night she announces that her misery is over and her time on Earth done. Heather asks Nemesis what she means by that, and as the mysterious woman removes her mask she announces that by slaying Earnest St. Ives she has ended the life of a man born nearly one century ago.
Northstar and Aurora avert their eyes from Nemesis’ face while the others look at it shocked. Nemesis declares that Earnest was once a good man who was drafted away from his wife and child to fight an indecent war in the forests of France during 1919. So fierce was St. Ives’ will to live and return to his family he was able to reject Death when she came for him. However if Death was not to have him, then she ensured that he would deliver others to her, and he did so helplessly and hopelessly, including his young wife when she ran to embrace him.
In horror, Earnest St. Ives fled from his daughter’s accusatory screams, however as St. Ives’ life stretched on his self-loathing faded and he came to love and serve Death, becoming powerful and feared – by everyone. Nemesis continues her story, revealing that there was one person who was not afraid of Earnest St. Ives – the little girl who was so determined to avenger her mother and free her father from Death’s curse. She turned to science and sorcery to create a blade capable of draining the life from Deadly Earnest. Nemesis begins to keel over and wither as she reveals that she was that little girl, Earnest St. Ives’ daughter, and now after too long, a lifetime of defying Death herself, her mission is done.
Alpha Flight can do nothing but watch as the dust settles and Nemesis’ blade screams and stands upright, before going as silent as the grave.