(about an hour before the end of last issue)
At the North Pole, Susan Storm, also known as the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four, is working on the controls of the Fantasti-Car, as she flies behind Namor the Sub-Mariner. Actually she wonders why she accompanies Namor to the North Pole, when in fact she should be looking for her husband, and tending to the Silver Surfer. Namor answers that she followed him for the simple reason that he asked her to come along. She of all people should know he does not request the aid of humans, even her, unless the need is dire. Namor feels they are near the ice where he encountered trouble. Sue asks him how he can tell one block of ice from another, when the Fantasti-Car’s sensors pick up something beneath the ice. Sue cannot get a clear fix on what it is, and wishes her husband were here, as he may be able to alter the sensor to get a proper fix. Namor reminds Susan that Reed is not here, so she must do her best, as she always has. Taking in the compliment, Susan smiles and adjusts the controls: Now the display shows some sort of complex, as Namor sees it, a vast technological structure beneath the ice. The edges of the structure seem to blur as if there is no sharp definition between metal and ice.
Suddenly the duo picks up an energy reading on the sensors, but before they can further investigate, they are blasted by a laser beam, and the Fantasti-Car is engulfed in flames.
At exact the same time, only three and a bit miles away, a polar bear, whose intelligence is more than average, turns it’s head towards the sound of the explosion. Standing in front of giant metallic broken doors, it’s more human-than-animal senses scan the area, and it wonders if the explosion is in any way connected to the wreckage it found earlier – when it was not a bear. Suddenly, the bear changes shape, and is a bear no more. Snowbird has returned. She again feels a great evil emanating from the complex and wonders about the explosion having occurred at about the same spot where she found the wreck of Alpha Flight’s Omni-Jet. She think it only logical to assume that the two events are connected, though as she senses her fellow Alphans are nearby, she decides that she has not the time to investigate. Despite the ebbing evil around her threatening to smother her mystical senses, Snowbird takes flight and enters the huge complex.
Several levels below. Guardian kneels beside a somewhat shaken Jeanne-Marie, while Sasquatch looms over, questioning Mac about his conclusion that Aurora has retreated into her Jeanne-Marie persona. Sasquatch asks aren’t they the same persona? Mac says not exactly, but now is not the time to discuss it, but Walt tells him to make time, as he is not going anywhere until he knows what is going on here. He tells James that he has known Aurora since she was inducted into Alpha Flight, and never though she was any thing more than free-spirited, only now she has become the complete opposite. Mac gives in, and tells Walt that Jeanne-Marie is a classic paranoid, what people call a split personality. She thinks of her Aurora identity as someone else, someone she hates.
Walt makes a comment about how James could ever think she was the suitable kind of person for super-heroing. Mac tells him that when he first met Aurora, she was in her Aurora persona, and did not learn of Jeanne-Marie until it was too late. Jeanne-Marie stirs, and Mac helps her up, and making a big mistake he calls her Aurora. Aghast, and in with a very think French accent, Jeanne-Marie tells Mac to take his ‘paws’ off her, and she runs away, saying she must get away from Aurora. Mac calls out, apologizing, but to no avail. He mutters to Sasquatch about how much of a stupid mistake that was, especially after he had just explained her situation to Walt. He says he is going after her, but Walt stops him, telling Mac that he should look for Northstar, while he goes after Jeanne-Marie himself, as he has… known her better than Mac. Mac looks rather taken-aback, and Dr. Langkowski tells him to ask no questions and he will get no lies, before departing to look for Jeanne-Marie. Guardian goes the other way, with a troubled glance over his shoulder.
As Sasquatch runs, his form changes, from that of beast into man, thinking it may be able to reach Aurora through Jeanne-Marie, but easier in his human shape – assuming he can find her without his glasses. To give him more trouble, Walter is sure the corridors keep altering their size and direction, as if the whole place is alive. As he rounds a corner, Walt finds Jeanne-Marie, huddled in a groove. Wearing only his boxers he approaches her cautiously, asking if she remembers him, and that he would never hurt her. Jeanne-Marie tells Walt that it is not in her habit for associating with naked men, though Walt replies that there are beaches in this country where he would be over-dressed, and asks her to come with him so they can join the others. As he reaches out for her she tells him not to touch her, and she does not want to see the others, she only wants to know where she is, and why she is here. Walt puts his hand on Jeanne-Marie’s shoulder, and talks to her, his deep voice is calm and soothing, and his touch is gentle. He talks to her about the night they spent together in New York weeks ago, of two people sharing something, something more than friendship, almost love. Somehow Jeanne-Marie is not as disgusted at herself as she thought she would have been, and she remembers - but as Jeanne-Marie her glazed over look becomes fierce and she smacks Walt in the face crying “Animal”, and Walt thinks this isn’t going to be as easy as he thought…
Meanwhile, Northstar continues his search for his lost teammate, Marrina, the very reason he, Guardian, Sasquatch and his sister are at this strange and disturbing place. He has raced through at least five hundred miles of corridors, in which there had been no sign of his sister, either. Jean-Paul thinks he has already traveled down his current corridor, several times, and each time it has looked different. He concludes that he is very much lost. At that very moment, a voice startles the mutant speedster - it is Guardian, saying he thought Northstar would never get here! Jean-Paul is confused – did Mac follow him? That would have been impossible. Guardian tells his teammate that he was able to use the cybernetic circuitry in his battle suit to tap into the internal systems of this complex, and it ‘speaks’ back. He was able to locate all of his teammates this way. Northstar is glad, now they can get to his sister. James tells him that Jeanne-Marie is safe with Sasquatch, though not for much longer, as she, and the entire world population are at risk. Northstar asks for a proper explanation, and Mac tells him he has discovered the purpose of this complex, and unless they shut it down, it will bring about the extermination of all life on Earth!
(several minutes earlier)
Outside the sprawling complex. Namor, carrying the Invisible Woman land safely on the ice. They managed to escape the destruction of the Fantasti-Car as the Invisible Woman threw up a forcefield around the two of them. Like Snowbird did earlier on, Namor senses the evil that surrounds this place, and even the Invisible Woman feels something missing in the ice. As an aerial approach did them no good, Namor decides another angle needs to be taken, and rips up an enormous chunk of ice, revealing the deadly cold waters below. Though time is of the essence, for Namor could not withstand too much time in these waters as they are poisoned. Sue worries, but surrounds herself in a forcefield bubble, and Namor propels her through the icy waters. It takes several long minutes in the dark waters, and Namor grows week, however it seems they have arrived at their destination, and neither of them can believe it when they see it. A gigantic sprawling complex, more like a city, which is connected to the ice above, yet is all one living organism.
Soon, the fantastic duo emerges inside the complex, and discovers that it has been feeding on the waters, draining the vital elements out of them. Sue agrees, and adds that everything about this place suggests it is growing. The two begin to walk through one of the corridors, invisible, much to Namor’s unamusement, as he tells the Invisible Woman it is very unnerving to be rendered invisible, however Sue tells him it is their only way to get through the complex without being detected.
(forty minutes later)
The Prince of Atlantis and the Invisible Woman stand invisible on a ledge in the Masters central room, where Marrina is being tortured. The Master, unaware he is being watched tells Marrina to stop resisting the probes. Marrina continues her pleas, and asks why if this ship tortured him forty thousand years ago, why does he inflict the same pain upon another? The Master reminds Marrina that he told her how he became master of this ship – her ship, and asks her why she continues to pretend not to know its purpose. He tells her he will prove to her that he already knows what Marrina is trying to keep from him…and the Master tells a different side of the story…
(various flashbacks, mostly 40.000 years ago)
In the immeasurable outer reaches of space, deep within in the endless sea of time…there lay a dying planet. It’s every acre inhabited, it’s moons inhabited, and all resources spent the same for the neighboring planets it colonized. This planet was the core home of a race whose very existence was that of conquering other worlds. When the planet was no longer inhabitable, endless amounts of ships departed, headed for the next conquest. As a thousand worlds were conquered, they each would take a thousand more. A hundred such generations and entire galaxies could be sucked dry. The ships were programmed to seek worlds in the early stages of development. They landed in a region most deadly to the native fauna, and upon landing the ship actually grew, feeding off the soil and water. Within a hundred years, it was no longer a ship, but a massive colonization complex, intertwined to the planets fibers.
Then a strange hypnotizing signal is sent out, calling one of each and every life form on the planet forward. The one that survives the long journey and hardships of the land is deemed the representative life form of that planet. The creature is captured by the ‘ship’ and butchered, every molecule, fiber and strand of DNA tested. After everything is analyzed, the information is fed into the colony spores, millions of egg pairs, which once the genetic code of the dominant life are written upon, are no longer blank slates. Once conditioned, the sturdy egg-pairs are fired on ballistic paths, and scattered across the entire globe. Not all of the eggs will survive though, nor will all find their brood mate, but there are millions of them. On as many different worlds, these beings have adapted to countless life forms, assuming domination of the planet.
This too, would have happened on Earth, but there was a flaw in the colony ship, and after ten thousand years in space, one of the drive units exploded. It did not land on Earth, but crashed, here in the North Pole. Damaged as it was, the ship fired off it’s precious cargo, the eggs, before they were fully ready, before the genetic programming had been laid in. Therefore, the egg that was forced open by Gladys Smallwood was still primed for conditioning, and the instant that the unidentifiable creature made contact with the human female, it adapted itself to her. However previous to that, the egg had drifted across the ocean floor for forty thousand years, and to survive those centuries the egg became water resistant, and the monster within was amphibious. That monster is Marrina.
The Master continues his story, of all the millions of eggs that were sent forth from this ship, it seems as if Marrina’s was the only to survive, damaged as it was. Marrina’s programming was not damaged however, she is still a brood female, with the sole purpose of colonizing this world!
Marrina cries out in pain, confused and scared, she knows nothing of what the Master of the World says, she is human not alien! The Master tells his story is true, otherwise she would not have responded to the ship’ summoning call and nearly killed someone trying to get here.
The Master says that for him to fully assume the rightful position of Master of the World it has come time for the Marrina to die.
At that instant the Sub-Mariner and Invisible Woman make their presence known to the Master as they leap down in front of him, telling him he will not succeed in his plans. The Master knows who they are, and calling them by name he tells them he is surprised to have come into contact with them so soon. Mechanical grabbers reach out for the fantastic duo, Sue comments about how they just grew out of the wall, and Namor reminds her that this is some sort of living organism. The Invisible Woman tells him to stop wasting his breath on explanations, he is starting to sound like her husband, and Susan’s forcefield seems to be confusing the tentacles however. But they must stop the Master himself. While they are busy fighting, the Master descends further into the depths of the ship, thinking to himself how he must give the heroes the illusion that they control their own destiny, when in fact it is beyond their control. The Master bids farewell to Marrina, saying that what occurs now, occurs for the good of all mankind… and the shackles that bind Marrina begin to move further away, tearing her from limb to limb.
At that moment, out of a nearby circulation duct, hundreds of mosquitoes emerge…. And as they swarm across the chamber, closer to Marrina, they begin to take shape…that of the all-powerful Snowbird! Marrina cries out in surprise, and as Snowbird smashes the shackles with her bare hands, she tells Marrina Sasquatch is not the only one with strength. The Invisible Woman is surprised to see the goddess, and asks her if the rest of Alpha Flight is involved. Snowbird tells Susan and Namor they have taken her by just as much surprise and that her teammates are here, before helping them stop the mechanical grabbers.
Deep below and nearly ten miles away, the Master is carried along a tunnel by his chair attached to a rail system. He seems to know where the other Alphans are as he knows Guardian and Northstar are being guided via Guardian’s cybernetic circuitry intertwined with the ships, and they are headed for the prime power complex, suddenly a blast erupts beside the Master, and all he says is “Now. It begins!”
At that moment, at another part of the complex, Guardian and Northstar are flying away from the explosion, and Northstar tells Mac he thinks they broke too much of the place. The team leader disagrees, they had to do maximum damage to ensure they were knocking out all vital systems, and it is working as Guardian is still linked to the complex cybernetically and can tell that whole areas are blacking out. As they round a corner they come across Sasquatch who is holding a very distraught Jeanne-Marie in his hand, and guesses that James and Jean-Paul are responsible for the present disturbance. Mac tells his friend they are, and Northstar tells Sasquatch to let his sister go, only to discover that she has become Jeanne-Marie again!
Entering the next room, Guardian is very surprised to see Snowbird here as well as Namor and the Invisible Woman. The two groups exchange stories, and Susan tells Guardian they better find the Master. Guardian guesses that the Master is the other life form he has been scanning, and he is some ways off, however they don’t have time to look for him, as all the damage they caused has caught up to them...
Outside, the calm ice covering the North Pole for miles suddenly ripples, and starts to slowly break, before exploding in a blazing mess, as ice shards scatter, and melt before sinking into the ocean below. At that moment a bubble emerges from the water – it is Alpha Flight! They and Namor managed to survive inside the Invisible Woman’s forcefield bubble. Namor tells Sue to open it and the bubble transforms into an invisible raft. Namor dives into the waters, as there is a chance the Master may have survived and they must find him. Marrina joins him, but twenty minutes later the water bound duo returns, announcing there is no trace of him, or no sign of the complex, even wreckage, it is as if it just dissolved.
Snowbird tells her companions their task is done and takes flight. Guardian yells out behind her to keep in touch and the Invisible Woman thinks Snowbird is very cold. Marrina stands beside Guardian, and suggests that she – and Namor leave too. Guardian is confused, and asks Namor to elaborate. The Sub-Mariner tells Guardian there are many questions still surrounding Marrina, and his people are better suited to solve them. He has invited Marrina to stay in Atlantis, and she has agreed. Guardian wishes Marrina good luck, she will be missed.
Everyone departs, Namor and Marrina go via New York to return the Invisible Woman home, while the silent twins head for La Belle Province, Northstar carrying Jeanne-Marie. Guardian carries Sasquatch who comments that they can cross the Master off their list of open cases. But Guardian tells him not to write the Master off so quickly…and head for Newfoundland, where Mac has one last unnerving task.
Hudson and Dr. Langkowski arrive and call out to Dan Smallwood, who sits on the rugged coastline He sees the men and tells Hudson it is good to see him again, and asks if Marrina is with him. Smallwood seems quite excited, after all he was Marrina’s brother of sorts. However Hudson recognized from early on that Dan’s love for Marrina was more than fraternal, and what he has to do now is hard. Mac tells the younger man quickly, and tries to make it as painless as possible. But Dan’s anguished face speaks volumes. Alpha Flight may have saved the world today, but for one man, the world is ending.