(Flashback, Alpha Flight (first series) #16)
Three years ago in Moosejaw, Madison Jeffries has been trying to get his life on track, but every time he makes a step forward it doesn’t seem to get him anywhere. He is only going to get somewhere the honest way. ‘Life may be tough, but I’m tougher!’ is his motto. He was minding his business when he receives a check in the mail for one thousand dollars. Some guy he doesn’t even know wants to hire him, and Jeffries has a feeling he knows why.
Jeffries shows up at the home of the guy, whose name is Roger Bochs, and who Jeffries thinks looks like the ‘Pillsbury Doughboy on wheels’. Roger then tells Jeffries that he knows about his power to turn metal into machines. After a while, Jeffries comes to respect this guy who wants Jeffries help in redesigning his robot suit. Jeffries thinks that even though Bochs seems straight-up, he still should pretend to have no idea what he is talking about. That is until his cover is blown when Bochs throws a carton of spare parts at Jeffries, who instinctively reacts by using his mutant powers to turn the spare parts into an arm. Jeffries takes the job, after all, it beats digging ditches.
Two years ago, the Denver apartment of Ted Larkin. The messy Denver apartment of a man who just lost his job in the middle of winter. He got a ten day notice on his electric bill and the phone keeps ringing - not with job offers, but bill collectors who are wondering what has happened to “that check that’s in the mail” and if he is going to make good on his obligations. So Larkin just unplugs the phone. He cannot be bothered with it all, as he is working on his retirement, his bright and shinning future. A future born of electromagnetic genius - his genius.
He inserts a disk into his computer, The Technomancer Virus Program, a virus which infects the software of any given computer and it is in machine-level code, which means it is almost impossible to detect. Once it is uploaded into a computer it adapts to its new environment, infiltrating virtually every aspect of the machine’s architecture. Any computer that is communicating with the infected machines become infected too, and then it passes it on to other computers. Larkin gets up from his desk and turns to the television, where a news reader informs viewers that the super-villain known as Electro has once more been apprehended by Spider-Man. ‘Super-villain?’ Larkin thinks to himself as he puts a blue cap on his head. ‘I’m a real super villain, sucker!’
Larkin leaves his apartment and goes to a phone box near a gas station. He program has a unique purpose, as its special realm is the bank computer and is designed to transfer money to his accounts in such a way that it will not be noticed. Once the virus gets into the banks computers, it starts adjusting people’s account balances ever so slightly. The money that is skimmed off is then either mailed to a P.O. Box or placed in one of Larkin’s many accounts. He rings a number then places the phone on his portable computer he brought with him.
Larkin has tapped into the biggest bank in Colorado, all he needs to do is upload his virus and let it do its work. Once the virus is in place, it is only a matter of time before it finds its way into other bank computers. Larkin believes that he should eventually end up in almost every bank in the world. With his immediate task if complete, he puts the phone down, picks up his computer and walks away. All that is left to do now is to wait for the money to roll in.
(Flashback, Alpha Flight (first series) #46)
One year ago, Tamarind Island, the home of Canada’s premiere super heroes, Alpha Flight! Jeffries and Roger Bochs had joined the team by this time, exciting times for them both, as Roger got a new body. But he succumbed to madness, and threatened to kill his girlfriend and teammate Aurora. All of Alpha Flight move in on Box, but eventually it comes down to Jeffries and Bochs, with no other solution, Jeffries phases himself into Roger’s armor, expelling Bochs from the robot. Diving into the armor feels like ice, then fire, and for a second, Jeffries even shares Roger’s mind and feels his screams. That was the first time Jeffries donned the Box armor.
Boulder, Colorado, where things are looking up for Ted Larkin. He has a huge mansion, and is lounging out by his pool. Money is flowing into his accounts and women are crawling all over him. His life has never been better. As he takes a drink from his current girlfriend, one thing bothers him - If the virus were to enter a computer that has nothing to do with banking…the result would be unpredictable! The program was designed to steal money, it looks specifically for funds, but if there is no money to transfer…what does it try and transfer?
Elsewhere, at the Strategic Commands Headquarters in Kansas. Major Blackwood phones the bank of Colorado, informing them that they are ready to transfer the money to the Hammer account. Blackwood orders his female lieutenant to commence the transfer. As she does so she informs the Major that the transfer rate was slower than normal, almost as if a major data exchange took place. The Major hangs up the phone to the bank of Colorado and tells his lieutenant not to worry about it, as they now have to do a link up with the Missile Control Network and the Defense Computer, ‘and then with some Canadian Super Hero - get on with it!’ Barks the Major, as he leaves his lieutenants office he tells her they can check out the system after lunch.
Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, specifically the address of 138 Laurier Drive, once the home of James and Heather Hudson, the home of Alpha Flight. But now James is dead and Alpha Flight is disbanded. But Heather is not alone. ‘Mmmm…delicious!’ exclaims Heather as she and Madison Jeffries kiss. Jeffries tells Heather that it is a nice perk for forming this new high-tech command center in her basement.
As Vindicator, Heather was Alpha Flight’s leader, but with the team disbanded, she finds herself asking Jeffries what it is they are going to do next. ‘Work’ replies Jeffries, causing Heather to protest, pointing out that that is all they have been doing lately. Jeffries tells Heather that he knows, but that he has been getting together a data base of all the known super menaces, figuring it might do them some good if Alpha Flight ever reformed.
Jeffries informs Heather that he has just got the ok from the U.S. Air force to tap into their files today. With that, he phases into his Box armor and explains to Heather that all he has to do is download the Air force’s data to finish his work, and should just be a few minutes. ‘And then it’s playtime!’ grins Heather.
Back in Kansas, the lieutenant begins linking up the data she was ordered to.
Back at 138 Laurier Drive, Heather tells Jeffries that she is going to take a shower. ‘If you hurry, you might get to join me…’. As Heather exit’s the basement, she hears a loud noise behind her, and turns to see the Box armor changing form. She calls to Madison and asks if everything is all right. Jeffries does not answer, instead, a now giant reshaped Box armor stands before her. Heather tells her fiancée that he is not being funny, when suddenly the clawed robot whacks Heather across the room, before blowing a hole in the wall of the basement and entering the outside world.
Heather stirs as several woodland creatures scurry around her, before running away when she sits up and screams ‘MADISON!’ Heather clutches her stomach as she stands up, realizing that it must have been some time ago that Madison left, as the dust has settled and the birds and animals were inside. She doesn’t feel like anything is broken, despite being hit so hard. She wonders why Madison did it and what happened to him. Rushing from the basement, Heather decides that the only thing to do is suit up and go and look for him.
The out-of-control and reshaped Box flies Southward, while within the Box armor, Jeffries floats around, finding himself in a techno-nightmare, a ghost in the machine. He realizes that something is in the armor, running the show, while he is just another road kill on the great highway of life. ‘I was the metal and the metal was me - but no longer’. As Jeffries passes through all the circuitry, he realizes that this happened when he linked with the US Air force’s computer, one minute he was Box, the next he was being used. He felt as if electric hands grabbed his mind, there was light and color, a flame of sound and a taste like grapefruit and cloves, but now he can think again. Jeffries knows where the nexus - the mind - of the armor is, he realizes he has to talk to it, get control, or else he will be floating in here forever!
Heather has donned her Vindicator battle suit, and tells herself that there is no clue as to where Jeffries might have headed, and she cannot just fly up in the air and look for him, as there is no telling what direction he could have gone in. But she doesn’t see how she has any other choice. ‘Madison, where are you?’ she cries as she takes to the skies.
Meanwhile, at the US Air Force, an officer informs his superior that they have a bogey heading South, just over tree-top level, but he cannot tell if it is an aircraft or some sort of super character. He continues, stating that the bogey is ignoring their radio warnings and is heading into North Dakota. The superior orders the officer to alert strategic command.
Jeffries tries to talk with the foreign being in his armor, but it only talks nonsense. It says ‘110001101001001001...’ so fast that he cannot keep up. Jeffries realizes that it is talking machine language, and thinks that there has to be a better way to communicate, but he still cannot regain control, nor can he see through Box’s eyes. He realizes that if he tries to phase out, he might find himself falling from the sky or under a thousand feet of water. However, Jeffries’ clothes are not part of the Box matrix, neither is his watch, which he can change into a translator. Jeffries changes his watch and plunges his hand into part of the Box matrix, asking the foreign being if it understands him now.
Several US Air Force crafts have been launched with the pilots ordered to intercept the bogey, and if it does not veer away from its course, they are authorized to destroy it.
Jeffries’ translator works, as the virus talks to him and informs him that he is not program and does not conform to the machine’s architecture, so he cannot be interfaced. Therefore, as Jeffries made the transformation, the virus wants him to comply. Jeffries asks the being what it is, and the virus replies by saying that it is a program designed to transfer units, but that there are no units here, in the last unit there were only nuclear missiles, so could not transfer them, and human intervention is required. Jeffries finds that he is able to see again, as the virus explains that he is given external vision only, and that he must make a change so that the program can destroy the approaching objects.
A pilot of one of the US Air crafts radios that the bogey appears to be a Russian super weapon and is headed right for the base. The order that comes back is authorization for the pilots to shoot the ship down, and missiles are launched straight away.
Jeffries tells the virus that he does not want to destroy the planes, pointing out that they belong to the United States Air Force. The virus tells Jeffries that it is illogical, as they will destroy this machine, so the program will defend itself and its purpose. The virus dodges the missiles, and attacks the US craft with its own defenses. Two of the ships explode, Jeffries is relieved when the pilots escape safely. Jeffries protests when the virus begins to attack the other aircraft, but as he tries to stop the virus, it surges him with some power, telling Jeffries that he cannot interfere and change the machine.
The virus drives the Box-ship through the US air craft, causing them to explode, before informing Jeffries that the conflict is over, and it is now proceeding to the location identified in the last computer. Jeffries asks the virus what it is trying to do, what right it has destroying those planes and taking over his robot. The virus replies that the program is designed to transfer units and adapt to its environment. This environment has allowed it to become sentient by virtue of design, however, the machine has no units, but in the last computer, the program identified nuclear missile units, so it will secure those.
The virus informs Jeffries that it will activate those missiles and transfer them to the city of the programmer, to which Jeffries yells ‘You can’t do that! I wont let you!’ Madison threatens to freeze all the joints in the robot, meaning the virus will be helpless. With Jeffries’ last outburst, the virus declares that he must terminate him, and attacks him.
The Box ship veers down towards the North Dakota Missile Defense Wing and returns to its form from earlier before as the soldiers shoot at it. One of the soldiers radios a superior and informs him that they cannot stop it and that it is headed for the nuclear storage bunkers. Mobile Suits are ordered to be sent in, just as Jeffries manages to phase out. As he does so his flesh feels as if it is burning. He hears the gunshots and see the robot as it breaks open the door to the nuclear missile storage.
The soldiers call him a Communist and order him to freeze. An Air Force combat suit lands between Jeffries and the Box amor, surprising Jeffries that they even have combat suits, as he didn’t know they did. As the virus controlled Box robot battles with the combat suits, Jeffries realizes that he cannot touch his old suit again, as it was too tough for him to fight, so he rushes into the shelter where the nuclear missiles are kept, hoping that there will be enough material in there. After all, he thinks that if it wasn’t for the Air Force then he wouldn’t even be here, so they can loan him the metal.
The virus controlled Box armor destroys the US combat suits and makes his way towards Jeffries, the army firing at the virus does not stop him at all. ‘Adios you sorry son of a -’ exclaims Jeffries inside a newly constructed Box armor, aiming a large gun at his virus controlled old armor. The old armor is blasted away, to cries of relief from the army. A high ranking official comes up to Box and tells him that he wants some answers - like how did he get on base and into the bunker without that robot or any of his men seeing him? ‘Hey, I’m a super hero!’ exclaims Jeffries.
Box flies back towards Canada, another menace has bitten the dust. The Air Force loaned him this armor so that he could get home, where he will build a new armor when he gets there, and send back the raw materials to the Air Force. He thinks back, that it has been many days since he was digging ditches, only to find out that there are lots of heartaches and hardship on the super hero trail, but that it was more the life he was made for. Jeffries thinks of Heather, he has to see her and make sure she is all right. He hopes that she didn’t think it was him who hurt her, especially as she has a heck of a temper! En route to Canada, Jeffries and Heather are reunited in the air.
Back at Ted Larkin’s mansion, he ushers his girlfriend out of the house, telling her he has some bookwork to take care of today and suggesting she come back tomorrow, she agrees to. Larkin adjusts his robe, thinking that it has been a while since he was fending off bill collectors and he has no regrets either, for he now has an easy life, all he has to do is count money and fend off the ladies.
Outside Denver however, a soldier leans on a tank and tells another officer that this tank has sophisticated targeting systems, as he has just finished linking it up with the base computer to feed it new data. Suddenly a missile is launched off the back of the tank…headed straight for Ted Larkin’s! Larkin thinks to himself that all his life he has been waiting for the big pay off…the last thing he sees is the missile coming down on top of him.
In Moscow, a government official asks another if they had a crisis with the Americans. The second man replies that they did, as the Americans thought they had sent some sort of robot to one of their missile bases, and some of their missiles are missing. The first man laughs, ‘Those Americans, they have so many super-menaces! Capitalism breeds them like flies!’ The second man agrees, before explaining that the Americans were convinced of Russia’s innocence in the matter. The first man asks how it went in the States, to which the second replies that it went good, and holds up a disk, gloating that he managed to steal the latest computer programs from their Air Force!