First story :
Northstar streaks across the Montreal skies, with one goal on his mind. The time for tears is past, but that is not to say Jean-Paul Beaubier is all right. In fact, Jean-Paul has cried long and hard this day, as an important chapter of his life has just ended. Raymonde Belmonde, an old and dear friend had just been murdered, by means as yet inexplicable. Adding to this pain, Jean-Paul’s mentally unstable sister, and fellow Alphan, Aurora was kidnapped by the same man who murdered Raymonde, and Jean-Paul could only stand by, helpless and defeated. Yet the battle is not over, and Jean-Paul will be helpless no more. There might be a pair of eyes in all of Montreal that could see Jean-Paul as the mutant speeds across the city, but those eyes would have to be very keen, as vengeance helps to drive Jean-Paul’s flight across the darkening skies, and he is not inclined to slow his flight for sightseers. He thinks back to what happened this day.
(flashbacks to last issue, several hours ago)
The day is only half over, and already it has been one of emotional turmoil. Jean-Paul was reunited with his old friend Raymonde Belmonde after a long separation, adding to this, Northstar was also introduced to Raymonde’s grown daughter Danielle, shocked at this especially as Northstar had never been told of her before, however Belmonde’s paternal pride was very easily seen. The happy reunion was overshadowed by the troubles that Raymonde had been having, troubles caused by a mysterious man known as “Deadly Earnest” who is intent on taking over Raymonde’s café business. As Earnest killed Raymonde by touching him, the Beaubier twins would soon learn how he came by this nom du crime. During the attack, St. Ives’ henchmen grabbed Aurora, mistaking her for Raymonde’s daughter Danielle. Jean-Paul fearing Jeanne-Marie may meet the same fate as Raymonde, was unable to act and save her.
(a few hours ago)
A doctor emerges from a morgue to the waiting room, and tells Jean-Paul and Danielle Belmonde that he can cast no light on what happened to Raymonde. Jean-Paul asks the doctor if he performed an autopsy, to which the doctor tells the grief stricken mutant he has and that if he had to list the cause of death that he would almost be inclined to say he had killed Raymonde! The doctor continues, saying that even considering Raymonde’s age, and general health, there was nothing wrong with him post-mortem. Danielle begins to protest, telling the doctor that her father was dead when she got to him. Jean-Paul tries to calm the woman who is in theory like a sister, and asks the doctor to explain. The doctor tells Jean-Paul he wishes he could, but what happened to Raymonde was quite beyond his experience, and that it is as if Raymonde simply stopped, like a light being switched off. Danielle looks worried, and asks the doctor if what he is saying is that he cannot prove her father was murdered. Jean-Paul tells Danielle that it is exactly what the doctor is saying, but not to worry as Jean-Paul proclaims that it will not end here.
Jean-Paul managed to obtain the public address of Earnest St. Ives, and as he nears the large mansion, Northstar thinks to himself that St. Ives lives well off his ill-gotten gains, and that he should enjoy it while he can. Northstar flies through a window, smashing the glass as he enters.
Lucky for Jean-Paul there are no alarms and the mutant decides that judging by the state of the room, which is quite run down and shabby, this floor must not be used much. Jean-Paul thinks St. Ives must prefer smaller quarters. Jean-Paul exits the room through the over-sized door, and as he enters the hallway, notices the strange smell, something musty and old, like ancient death.
He descends the stairs and wonders how his sister would react if she were bought to this dirty place, especially as with her split-personality, times of stress causes her to regress, retreating into her dowdy school mistress personae. Jean-Paul prays that it has not happened this time, especially as Northstar may have need of Aurora if St. Ives is to get what is coming to him.
Jean-Paul hears a sound beyond a door, and is as he opens it is shocked as to what it reveals.
In the center of Montreal, as daylight begins to give way to the darkness of night, a mysterious costumed figure, a guest of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, whose rooftop she stands on, engages in activities not usually connected with the hotel. Holding out a sword, the mysterious woman says a prayer to Mother Night, asking her to sanctify her blade so that she may seek out evil in dark places. To grant her wisdom and strength necessary to her calling, to guide her hand and eye so that retribution may prevail. The woman leaps of the building, telling Earnest St. Ives to count the precious minutes of his life on his fingers, as his reign of death and terror is over…for so speaks Nemesis!
Just at that moment, back at St. Ives’ mansion. Northstar walks in upon his sister, sitting on St. Ives’ desk, with St. Ives in his chair. Northstar asks what is going on, and Aurora quickly finds the words, calling her brother “Jacques” she proclaims that he has found her. Northstar begins to question Aurora’s sudden statement, before he is knocked out from behind by one of St. Ives’ henchmen. St. Ives’ asks Aurora if she knows this man, and as she kneels beside her brother, concerned for his well being, she tells her captor that he is “Jacques” her cousin, and tells St. Ives that his thugs could have killed him! St. Ives’ apologizes to Aurora, and tells her that he pays his men quite a substantial stipend to protect his existence, and his henchmen are disinclined to investigate the family tree of potential attackers. As the henchmen lift “Jacques” from the floor, St. Ives comments on his physical resemblance to Aurora. Aurora quickly tells St. Ives that their mothers were identical twins, and asks where he is being taken. St. Ives tells Aurora not to worry herself, as her “cousin” will be put somewhere safe until he recovers. He reminds her that for now, they have other matters to discuss.
After the henchmen place Jean-Paul on a bed, and begin to leave they decide to leave him here until he recovers, as afterwards, St. Ives will want to know how he got past the guards, and why he is wearing such a funny suit. As Northstar is left alone, the outside world grows darker still. Eventually he begins to come around and touching his sore head wonders where his is. Without warning, a sword is thrust at Jean-Paul’s throat, and he is given a word of caution – that if he moves, he may loose more blood than he can afford to. Northstar turns to the direction of the words, where the woman known as Nemesis stands before him. Jean-Paul tells her that she has him at a clear disadvantage, and asks who she is, and how she got in. Nemesis tells Northstar that the questions are for her to ask, and she asks him who he is, and if he works for St. Ives.
Northstar tells her that he certainly does not and quickly and simply gives her his story. Nemesis withdraws her sword from Jean-Paul’s throat and tells him that Alpha Flight was, in part, her inspiration. She tells Northstar that she believes him, and that he can assist her in her mission for retribution. Assist? Northstar says he will come with her. Just as Northstar feared, the windows are barred, and the door locked. Nemesis tells him it is no matter, and as her sword slices the door handle from its position on the door, tells Jean-Paul that her sword is scarcely an atoms width thick, and it can slice through almost anything, by cleaving between the molecules. As they leave the room, Jean-Paul tells Nemesis he is impressed, and that he thought such things only existed in the province of Science Fiction. Nemesis asks him just like mutant super heroes and men who kill with a touch. “Touché Mam’selle” Northstar replies, and asks Nemesis to lead on.
Not far away, in the dinning room, Aurora and Deadly Earnest sit at opposite ends of a very long table. Oddly enough, the food only rests at Aurora’s end. The French-Canadian mutant has her captor wrapped around her finger, or so she thinks, and tells Earnest that he has done very well for himself, but reminds him that he has not told her the secret of his death touch. Earnest tells Aurora that he promised her he would when business was complete, and with business apparently out of the way, St. Ives begins to tell the young woman his story, though he asks Aurora to not look to disbelieving of it.
(flashback to World War I, France)
St. Ives tells Aurora that it is a strange tale that begins with a lone soldier, the sole survivor of a shattered company in France during the First World War. The soldier walks across what appears to be a mine, and broken and bleeding, he falls into a putrid mire, deep underground, no one can say what the noxious ooze he lay in might have been. The soldier did not lay there long before the dreaded mustard gas began seeping into the hole. No matter everything he had survived thus far, it would now seem like he would die, die like a dog in the wet, foul darkness. The soldier felt the terrible corruption fill his lungs, he felt it burn his flesh and sting his eyes. The soldier looked upon Death saw her smile her Death’s-head smile – and he rejected her. Death reached out to the soldier with one of her bony hands, but the soldier rejected her touch, spurned her embrace and cursed Death with every fiber of his sick being.
And suddenly, he found himself all alone. Death was gone. So was the noxious gas and his wounds and pains. He had done what no mortal had ever done. He had fought Death. He had vanquished Death. Another soldier calls down from the top of the hole, asking the trapped man if he was all right. The arrived soldier helps the one who just fought Death up out of the hole, but the soldier quickly discovered there was a price to pay for his victory, as the other man pulls him up, he realizes that his very touch had become as lethal as Death’s own.
Aurora sits, mouth agape staring at St. Ives whom she believes thinks this tale to be true, as he tells the tale with enough conviction to make her think he does so. Aurora tells St. Ives that the First World War was a very long time ago, and smirking, St. Ives tells her that the very long years have only made him stronger. He begins to gloat and tells Aurora that he believes that he will never die. A voice from behinds him asks him if he would care to put that to the test? St. Ives turns around quickly, and stares at Northstar, the man he believes to be Aurora’s cousin “Jacques” and the mysterious woman dressed in black and red. He calls for the guards, and Nemesis tells him his guards are “indisposed”. She tells him that he must now face her alone. Thinking to himself Northstar decides Nemesis has an interesting way of describing the carnage she has left throughout this house.
Nemesis tells St. Ives that he has had a good, long run, one far longer than he deserved. The mysterious woman continues, telling Deadly Earnest the time has come for him to face the blade of retribution, as only his death will bring peace to her soul, and the soul of her father. “Father?” Northstar thinks. Aurora flies up from her chair, and is happy to see her brother, and the reinforcements he has found. She proclaims that there is no need for her to hide her true self from St. Ives no more. St. Ives is shocked to see the woman he believed to be Danielle Belmonde reveal her true nature. Nemesis applauds Aurora for distracting St. Ives, and Aurora asks her brother who the mysterious woman is.
Nemesis, with sword outstretched, lunges towards St. Ives, but her sword only slices through the table. St. Ives tells her she is quick, but he is quicker, and that he has had many long years to hone his skills and the privilege does not go to her. Deadly Earnest’s large left hand covers Nemesis’ masked face, and she feels her insides turn, as if a corkscrew of ice had suddenly pierced her. St. Ives tells her that she can now learn why he is called “Deadly Earnest”. Pulling her face away from his hand, Nemesis tells him that not this time and that he cannot steal the life from one who has none. It is now St. Ives turn to feel his stomach churn, for his grip of death has never failed before – and this failure carries with it a terrible price.
Northstar cries out “Danielle! No“ and moves into flight to get across the room, while Aurora seems surprised at Northstar thinking the cloaked woman to be Danielle Belmonde. But before the super fast Northstar can reach Nemesis, her blade, which glimmers ghost-like, and invisible when seen on edge, slices through St. Ives, cutting the large man into bits. In less than a second, it is all over. Northstar grabs Nemesis by the wrist holding her sword and calling her “Danielle” asks her what she has done. She tells him that she is not Danielle, but Nemesis! And that she has bought retribution! Northstar thinks that she has gone mad, what with the death of her father, and the trauma of committing a murder. He decides he must bring her to her senses, and he reaches for her black and red mask. The mask is not secured, and it comes off easily.
Jean-Paul suddenly feels the world turn inside out, yet again in the same day. For while she has the same striking red hair as Danielle, it is not a mullet, and much longer. This woman, is not Danielle, and her face is that of one who carries upon her shoulders the anguish of the world. And her terrible, lifeless eyes burn into Northstar’s very soul. Not one to miss an opportunity, Nemesis frees herself of Northstar’s grip, and uses the flat of her sword to send Northstar sprawling. Now, Nemesis turns to Aurora. She asks the Alphan if it is her intent to try and stay her from her Holy cause? Holding her hands up so not to aggravate Nemesis further, Aurora tells her that it has always been her habit to leave Holy causes to those better suited to them. Aurora tells Nemesis that the police may think other wise about her Holy cause and suggests to Nemesis that she depart before she summons them.
Minutes later, Aurora is now costumed and with her brother as they soar the night sky. Northstar tells his sister that he wishes they had waited for the police to arrive. Aurora tells her brother that no one in the house was going anywhere, that they will all be there for the police to collect them, and remaining would have only jeopardized their secret identities. It is all well and good not wearing masks, as long as no one gets up and close with them. As she arches towards the illuminated city below, she tells her brother that they have another matter to discuss. Northstar does not know what Aurora is talking about.
Within seconds, the twins have changed into civilian clothes, and are standing in the doorway of the restaurant belonging to the late Raymonde Belmonde. About to make a phone call, Danielle seems shocked to see them, and asks Jeanne-Marie how she escaped. Aurora tells the other woman that she did not have to escape, especially not as he thought she was Danielle! And Earnest would not harm his partner.
Northstar and Danielle look equally shocked. In her usual dry tone, Aurora tells her brother that his surprise is predictable, but asks Danielle to spare then the performance. Aurora says how she thought it very odd that Danielle returned to her fathers’ life at the time when St. Ives started to pressure Raymonde Belmonde to sell his restaurant. Aurora goes on that by simply going along with St. Ives’ mistaken assumption to her identity, she soon discovered Danielle’s deal with St. Ives. Making a run for the door, Danielle tells the twins that they may have found her out, but they will not take her to the cops, especially as Earnest will hide her and help her to get away. Aurora sticks her leg out in front of Danielle, tripping the fleeing woman up. Aurora tells Danielle that St. Ives is dead, and if this country had a “nice civilized death penalty”, that she would join him. But as it is, Aurora continues, Danielle will be put away until her hair turns a more natural color – like gray!
About one hour later, at the local police station, Aurora has just finished telling the police inspector the entire story, though of course leaving out the fact she and her brother are also known as Aurora and Northstar. The police inspector thinks the story is incredible, especially as Raymonde was so thrilled when Danielle came into his life – only for her to betray him like that! Another officer leads a silent Danielle away.
Later still, flying through the skies again, Northstar asks Aurora if St. Ives had ever met Danielle face to face. Aurora tells her brother that they had never met, as all of their plotting had been done from public phones or by using go betweens. Aurora tells Northstar that she is still confused over how he could have thought Nemesis was Danielle, even though he knew St. Ives thought she was Danielle – and he hadn’t harmed her. Northstar tells his sister that given the strange tastes of her current “Aurora” personae, he had assumed she…romanced herself to safety.
Aurora stops in mid flight, and screams ‘WHAT?!?’ at her brother. Aghast, she asks Jean-Paul if he actually thought she…with St. Ives? Also stopped in mid flight, Northstar says ‘Why not’, especially after her fling with Sasquatch, and Jean-Paul says he believes his sister capable of anything.
Outraged, Aurora tells Jean-Paul that he of all people should dare not pass judgment of her love life. She begins to swear at Jean-Paul, but having a touch of class, Aurora turns the other way, and as she speeds away from him tells Jean-Paul not to follow her, as their partnership has ended. She tells Northstar that if she ever sees him again, it will be too soon. Northstar cries out after her, and looking sad, pleads with her not to leave him, as he will be all alone…but his words go unheeded.
Second story :
(several years ago)
A dirty red vehicle drives down a rugged back-woods trail in the Baniff National Park, Canada. As the vehicle approaches a desolate cabin, one of the car occupants spots the cabin.
Stepping out of the car, Heather McNeil Hudson calls out for her old neighbor, Doctor Michael Twoyoungmen. As she is joined by her husband, James MacDonald Hudson, Twoyoungmen approaches them. He wonders who is calling for him, and is almost in disbelief when he recognizes Heather, albeit barely, as it has been many years since he last saw her when she was only a teenager. The two look equally pleased to see each other, and Heather tells Michael that she is glad they found him, and also that it is not “Heather McNeil” anymore, introducing the doctor to her husband, James Hudson. Twoyoungmen asks her to call him Michael, not “Doctor” and tells James it is a pleasure to meet him. Mac tells Michael it is an honor to meet him, and that he could hardly believe it when Heather casually mentioned that she knew him.
Mac is startled when a fourth person calls over to Michael. A slightly in-human, yet strikingly beautiful young woman walks over to the group, and asks Michael who the others are, as she has not seen them before. Calls the long-blond-haired woman Narya, Michael tells her that Heather is an old family friend, and that the man is her husband, James Hudson. Sticking out his hand, James tells Narya he is pleased to meet her, though seems lost for words when he says “Miss…Narya, was it…er…?“ The blond woman smiles and tells James Narya is the name Michael gave her, but asks James why she gets the feeling he will call her something else…
Later that night, in the back of the vehicle, Heather and Mac lay awake, and Heather tells her husband that this was one of the strangest evenings she has ever had. She wonders what the real story on Narya is, as some of what Michael said doesn’t fit. Mac tells his wife that he never realized she had such a suspicious nature, and asks her what seems odd about Michael raising Narya after her mother died, he did deliver her after all. Heather says that, firstly Michael used a euphemism by saying, “her mother was no longer with us”, and Heather tells James that Michael is not known for his euphemisms. Secondly, Heather adds, Narya looks about twenty, which would mean she was born when Michael lived next door to Heather and her family. Mac starts to agree with Heather, saying that surely she would have heard about the birth of such an unusual baby. Sitting up, Heather agrees, and tells Mac that Narya’s eyes are very “spooky”, and that she was quite surprised Narya isn’t blind. Heather wonders why Narya only served the meal, and didn’t eat it with them. Trying to get his wife’s attention on to something else James tells her that there is probably a perfectly good explanation for it all, and that she can ask Twoyoungmen all her questions in the morning. Mac leans into his wife...
A few hours later however, Heather gets dressed, being careful not to wake Mac who is asleep. She cannot get the strangeness to do with Narya out of her mind, and decides to do some snooping. Standing by a tree near the cabin, Heather sees someone coming out of the cabin. It is Narya – and she is naked! Heather wonders even more as to what is going on. She suppresses a shudder and begins to follow the strange young woman through the woods. Heather figures out that Narya has not noticed she is being followed yet, but has a suspicion that it is because she is down wind from Narya. Suddenly, the mysterious girl reaches an open ground, and right before Heather’s eyes, her lithe form leaps into the sky, flowing like smoke on the wind. Her muscles and bones change, and as an arctic owl flies where Narya once stood, Heather McNeil Hudson feels very very strange. For several moments, the transformed Narya circles the small clearing, until she swoops down on what appears to be a vole or mouse…and goes in for the kill. What happens next however, sends Heather, hand over mouth, racing back through the tangled woods, back towards the camper vehicle, and praying that she will find herself asleep in the arms of her husband.
The next morning, inside Twoyoungmen’s barren cabin, the doctor stands before Heather and Mac, and tells the couple that there would be no purpose in trying to hide the truth from them, especially as they would learn for themselves sooner or later anyway. Mac, leaning against a table, asks Michael if he is saying what Heather saw is real! And that Narya is some kind of…Michael tells Mac the term is “Metamorph”, a shape-changer, and last night Narya chose to become the arctic owl, even though she is capable of transforming into all creatures of the North.
Heather tells Michael that it is incredible, and asks him how he found her.
Once Michael relays his meeting with Nelvanna to the husband and wife, James almost in disbelief asks Michael if Narya is some kind of goddess, and he some sort of magician. Michael tells Mac that in the white mans words he is correct, but he feels that the world is not ready to learn of Narya’s secret, and asks Mac if he can be discreet about it. Grinning, Mac tells the doctor that he will be more than that, and tells Michael he works for a government office called “Department H”, and that he has a proposition for him, one he hopes the doctor will find to his liking….
And with that, Narya’s precognition is fulfilled, as indeed she, and Twoyoungmen, will become known by other names – Snowbird and Shaman, respectively.