They come here. To my domain, to do battle. They come to save their friends and teammates who also came to my domain to do battle. And lost. They prance about with virile names like Human Torch and the Thing and Guardian and Windshear and Northstar and Witchfire. They turn themselves into little fighting clubs with name like Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight. ‘Ever get the feeling yer’ walking straight into a George Romero flick?’ asks Benjamin Grimm a.k.a. the Fantastic Four’s Thing.
They come to battle the likes of me. The Thing points out that the only way to figure out what is going on and where the rest of their teammates ended up is to go looking for them right? So brave, so bold - so valiant and virtuous! But I have looked inside their minds. Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch exclaims that the whole town looks empty. Alpha Flight’s leader, Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, remarks that this is too strange and tells everyone to stay on their toes.
I have looked inside their minds and seen the thrill of physical violence in all its splendor. Now I see their determination, their confusion and their growing fear and I lock on to it…because I am Headlock and this town ain’t big enuff fer’ the both of us, ah-mee-go. From the balcony of his chalet, Headlock gazes down upon the small town of Tuktoyatuk, Canadian land of my dreams he exclaims. I’ll protect you and your fair denizens from this spandex swarm intruding on our daily lives. Yukon bet on that! Hah! Hawr! Aha…wait, that was evil villain dialogue, I need to be more explanatory now:
The official rulebook specifically states I must painfully detail the course of events which have led to the current situation. It began three days ago, when Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman and Vindicator and Sasquatch and Shaman and Aurora came to investigate what had happened to this fair Hamlet. And they found out I happened. So naturally, their friends and loved ones have come charging to the obligatory rescue.
The heroes begin walking through more of the town, and candidate for a membership in Alpha Flight, Colin Ashworth Hume a.k.a. Windshear asks ‘So us super folks do this kind of thing often?’ ‘What, stumble into an eerily silent, isolated town in search of teammates who may very well be dead? Always.’ replies Heather sarcastically. I know the truth. They partake in this ritual banter to mask their concern. The Human Torch returns from his aerial search and Heather asks him what he came up with. Johnny replies that there are people ahead of them in what looks like the town square. The heroes approach a grouping of civilians, and the Thing remarks that from the way the people look, they may as well not be there at all. ‘This is like a Romero flick!’
Windshear exclaims that they are just staring, and Heather assumes it to be drug-induced or some kind of mind control. Ooooh, very good! Just say no to drugs, but yes to mind-raping. Shaman gave me that one. I like it. “Headlock, Mind-Raper”. Nice ring to it. I’m going to trademark it. ‘This is downright creepy!’ declares Windshear, until Hume’s fellow Alpha-wannabe, the enigmatic Witchfire, wearing her new costume, tells Windshear to be calm.
Witchfire turns to Guardian and informs her that she senses no supernatural forces in evidence, though she is picking up residual mystical resonances from Shaman, so she remarks that at least they are sure their teammates were here. And maybe they still are, Witchfire. The Thing declares that he is beginning to think that what happened to these humans also happened to Reed, Susan and the Alphans.
As they turn a corner, the Thing suddenly declares that he has found their teammates. He asks them why the didn’t come out to meet them when they landed, and James MacDonald Hudson a.k.a. Vindicator replies ‘Because, Ben Grimm, we would not have been able to do…this!’ before unleashing a powerful blast of electromagnetic energy on the Thing, knocking him backwards. ‘Look out back there - It’s getting clobbered time!’ he exclaims as he lands in the side of a building.
Heather orders everyone to regroup back towards the jet, and tells Windshear to set up a hard-air screen around them to keep the people protected. ‘Protected from what?’ asks Windshear. ‘From what’s coming’ Heather replies ominously. ‘Good move, kid, this could get a little nasty’ remarks the Thing to Heather as he makes his way out of a pile of rubble, when suddenly, Walter “Sasquatch” Langkowski arrives and begins pummeling him.
The rest of the missing heroes make their presence known too. ‘You are not wanted in the town of Tuktoyatuk’ declares Reed Richards a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic. Jeanne-Marie “Aurora” Beaubier, Michael “Shaman” Twoyoungmen and Susan Richards a.k.a. the Invisible Woman bring up the rear as Vindicator announces that their actions, thoughts and words are directed by He-Whom-Above-All-Else-We-Obey. He states that in unison they act to ward off their evil threat, for when ‘Ne’er-do-wells threaten this fair hamlet there you shall find…’ ‘The Headbangers!’ exclaims Sasquatch.
‘You’ve got to be kidding me’ declares Heather as she flies near her husband, who says ‘Quite possibly so, darling, Heather - but now the joke is on you’ and with that he unleashes another burst of energy that sends Heather careening into a nearby building. The Human Torch flies towards her, asking her if she is all right. Stuck in an awkward position, Heather mutters that she is beginning to feel a little like Alice in Wonderland. ‘Take them down, people, fast and hard’.
‘Ever as you wish, fearless leader’ remarks the handsome Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier as he flies towards the stretched out Mr. Fantastic and punches him in the face. As Northstar smashes away at Reed, Heather reminds him to keep in mind that they are friends who are no in control of their actions. Heather notices Mac fly up behind her and she turns to face him, propelling herself into him she warns him that he will not catch her by surprise again. Heather informs Vindicator that she has changed her suits frequency wavelength so he cannot override her cybernetic signals like he did a few weeks ago.
Back on the ground, Sasquatch growls as he continues to smash up the Thing. ‘Hey, that’s good Langkowski, now try a two-syllable grunt! Jokes the Thing.I watch the fighting through all of their minds, revelling in the accelerated beatings of their hearts, the pounding of their fists. Sasquatch growls again as he whacks the Thing yet again.
Windshear flies over to the Invisible Woman, and addressing her as “Mrs. Richards” he asks her if she wouldn’t rather discuss this over tea or a larger. Susan replies by slamming an invisible field into Windshear, who realizes that she is incredibly powerful and wonders how much longer he can keep her fields back with a hard-air wedge. The delicious battle extends to such dizzying proportions!
Nearby, The Human Torch approaches the mind controlled Aurora, who suggests to Johnny that he would prefer to relax, and unleashes a calming light on him. The Human Torch exclaims that the light is so soft, and Aurora tells him to bathe in it, to allow the tranquil, soothing warmth to flow through him.
As dozens of small but powerful invisible bubbles hit Windshear, one followed by the other, he is held back, and asks why nobody told him the Invisible Woman’s force field could do this. Aurora tells the Human Torch to feel his mind relax, and Johnny floats about in suspension. Windshear mutters that the Torch has it real tough up there, ‘I need some bloody help here!’ As Susan slams Windshear too-and-fro, she tells him that he is pathetic, and states ‘I didn’t know that Alpha had opened its ranks up to amateurs’.
The Human Torch declares that it is so peaceful in his heart, so still, that he can see Alicia sculpting. He is relaxed, sinking into a warm bed with his wife. He decides he can “flame off” and relax a little more, just fall, sharing the warmth - but as he begins plummeting to the ground, he realizes that he is falling and mutters that his head feels like it is on Novacaine. Johnny “flames on” and grabs Aurora, asking her why she doesn’t turn some of her little white light back on herself.
As her cowl is pulled off, she shoves Johnny away from her, exclaiming that she cannot look inwards as she is too afraid of what she may see! But suddenly her white light begins flooding within her, she realizes that when she held the Human Torch, the light was turned against her - and she can’t stop it. Aurora exclaims that she sees so much pain, so much confusion, for so very, very long, before boasting ‘No more…do you hear me, Headlock? All of you? I will not be manipulated, used or abused ever again!’
Aurora flies around furiously, declaring that she is free. She calls to Headlock, asking him if he can hear her, she boasts that she is free from his malicious control, and warning him that she will similarly free the others, before coming after him. Uh-oh. I didn’t expect this. What do I do now? Aurora flies towards the Invisible Woman and tells her not to fight, but to give herself the chance to be cleansed. Aurora bathes Susan in the healing light as Jeanne-Marie announces that she can feel the tendrils of Headlock’s mind-grip dissipating.
It’s time I think for me to consolidate me position here. Shaman - how are we doing? Witchfire comes up behind Shaman, asking him if he is distracted, she realizes that Aurora’s actions have subtly affected his perceptions. The young sorceress supposes that it is the time now for her to help Shaman, and with a small wand in her hand, she asks Twoyoungmen to work with her, to allow the soft touch of Agamotto’s light to soothe and comfort him. Shaman starts to come too, before he and Headlock both let out a mighty scream and both fall to the ground.
The light - the scorching embrace of self-examination - self-realization - it burns through Michael Twoyoungmen like a soldering iron through a baby’s eyes. And through me too! I don’t like it! It hurts! I don’t want to feel pain! Michael It hurt so much when your daughter hurt herself - the pain - how could you accept such agony - such despair? How could you deal with the sense of failure - the loss? Ughh - no - more coming sweeping through his mind now - oh Elizabeth, my/his wife - she died - he/I couldn’t save her - he was a doctor! Why couldn’t I/he help save her? Too much - too much - I let go of Shaman - leave him to his pain, his loss, his angers, and realize how much stronger a man he is than I - to live with such anguish, such agony - every day.
Witchfire stands near Shaman in case he needs her. Twoyoungmen declares that he is free, and calling Witchfire by her real name, Ananym, he exclaims that it hurts so much. Witchfire puts a hand on Shaman’s shoulder and apologizes for it, claiming she didn’t know what else to do. Twoyoungmen replies that it is all right, and asks her to hold him for a moment, and tell him he can continue to cope with his failures. ‘The fact that you have dealt with them is a testament to your strength, not your weakness’ replies Witchfire.
Yes, gloat over it! Revel in it! You’re better than I am! So what? I wasn’t strong enough - is that what you think? I’ll show you strength! I’ll show you what rage and anger can do! I’ll tweak around inside Langkowski’s mind. As Headlock does, Sasquatch continues to smash away at the Thing. It is a symphony of violence! I am Mozart and the pounding of flesh is my concerto! I feel Sasquatch’s physical surge, like riding the crest of a wave - his fist hitting rocky flesh, the sting, the rawness of it all. I hold these feelings in my heart. I cherish them. After my stinging humiliation in Shaman’s mind, the sheer glorification of gratuitous mayhem makes me finally feel as if I am one of them.
Sasquatch suddenly stops his growling and stares at the Thing. ‘What’s the matter Langkowski? Be a man - finish it off!’ Sasquatch has one hand on the Thing and one pulled back ready to strike. He is confused as to the Thing’s appearance, and Ben Grimm takes his mask off, asking him why he is surprised that he is in an exo-skeleton and asks if he is surprised that there is a man inside the monster.
‘What about you, Langkowski? Is there a man left inside the monster you’ve become?’ Sasquatch stares at Grimm, before shouting loudly and falling to the ground in his human form. ‘Was kinda hoping you’d say that’ mumbles the Thing, who also on the ground declares that if no one minds he is going to lie here and count his broken bones. Walter tells the Thing that he is so sorry for what he did.
I’m back in the saddle again! That was simply delightful! So what if I lost my control of the furry beast? It was so beautifully visceral! How about the angry little gnat and that intellectual rubber-band? Jean-Paul is struggling against Mr. Fantastic, and the handsome Alphan informs Reed that he will only play this cat and mouse game for so long before he begins to fight back. ‘No response? Very well then’ Jean-Paul exclaims, before pointing out that since Reed’s mind and actions are controlled by Headlock, he will see how much physical abuse Headlock is willing to let go?
What is this bitter little man going to do? No! No! screams Headlock. ‘Nooo!’ screams Mr. Fantastic as Northstar stretches his body by pulling one part along with him as he flies in the other direction. How far is he going to stretch him/me? Surely he wouldn’t rip his/my body in half - would he? ‘How much further, Headlock?’ Jean-Paul asks, pointing out that even he must surely understand that Mister Fantastic has limitations. I know! I know! It hurts so much! So different than before - Shaman’s pain was so emotional, this so physical! I…I…let go.
Northstar announces that Mr. Fantastic has gone completely limp, ‘Or should I say “limper”’, before pointing out that he is unconscious. Turning to Heather, Jean-Paul asks her if she requires assistance. ‘No, thanks’ Guardian replies as she continues to engage in combat with Vindicator. Mac retaliates and suggests to Heather that she should not have let her pride get in the way of reason. Darting around her he points out that he has successfully countered every maneuvre she has made, every parry, every aggressive attack. ’So I’ve noticed’ Heather mutters. ’What’s your point?’
The Hudsons continue to let electromagnetic energies flow as Vindicator wonders if Headlock’s usurping of his biological mind has allowed him the freedom to act in a mode superior to Heather’s. ‘And what mode would that be, Mac?’ Heather asks, before realizing that it is a mechanical mode, as Mac’s body is functioning with computer precision, which means the mechanical proportions of his mind are subconsciously overriding his normal neural functions.
And in that instant, she knows. It’s the last thing she wants to do, but the only way to defeat him. Overload the sucker. Let the mechanical parts of her hubby’s mind completely usurp the biological…and the only way to do that is….
‘Hit him with everything I’ve got!’ exclaims Heather, knowing she has to force the computer part of Vindicator’s mind to take over. Shaman, Witchfire, Windshear and the Human Torch join in, all using their innate powers to attack Vindicator.
He screams. I scream. We all scream for ice cream! I can feel him slipping away from my control…just as they have all been wrenched away. The precise, logical, orderly mind takes over. He puts up an electromagnetic shield, than places himself at rest with the Earth’s rotation for one microsecond…shunting himself away from the barrage and away from my control.
‘You may desist! This unit has by-passed its external encephalographic constraints and is now operating in a controlled capacity’ states Vindicator. ‘Wonderful…’ mutters Heather ‘…Didn’t my plan work out just great?’ She’s let the mechanical genie out of the bottle. What if she can’t put it back in? What if dear hubby begins to enjoy being more than a man?
Vindicator states ‘This unit has accurately analyzed the frequency in which the encephalographic imposition has been operating. This unit can now effectively scramble the signals and prevent the impositions from occurring again’. Sasquatch translates for everyone: ‘In other words - lets go punt Headlock up and down this mountainside!’
Sitting inside the chalet: They’re coming to get me! I just know it! I have to get out of here - bid goodbye to my kooky, kinky, kwirky house on the hill. Out and about! Out and about! I won’t need any of this, no, no, no! He remarks, tossing various items around, before turning to a helmet. This I’ll need. Etruscan helmet, very important. Oooh and this too - bull-headed staff of Mitra. So much to carry! Where’re my super-villain henchmen when I need them? Put it in a bag. Grab-bag. Santa Claus Bag. Gifts and goodies inside for all the little boys and girls who’ve been bad. I’m ready to go now. Bye, ol’ house. I’ll miss you!
I’m outta here! Headlock declares as he carry’s his sack of goodies and opens the door to make his leave. But as he opens the door: ‘Hey, Headlock. Ain’tcha gonna invite us in fer tea?’ Several of the heroes enter the house and follow Headlock as he declares Suuuuurrre…let me go and get it…the terrace. I’ll escape out the - uh-oh. Guardian and several others fly up to the balcony and block Headlock’s escape from that direction.
Vindicator informs Headlock that his neural frequencies have been disrupted and that the townspeople have been released, adding that there is nothing he can do to affect any of them. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, honest. You’re all so big and strong and virile - look at me. All my life I’ve been frail and sickly! I only wanted to know what violence felt like! I only wanted to share in your ways! You know - might makes right and all that. Sasquatch places a hand on Headlock’s head and asks him if he wants to feel flesh pound flesh, before lifting him up and telling he will show him what a broken bone feels like, asking him which one he wants to start with.
Guardian orders Walter to put Headlock down, ‘He’s pathetic, what are we going to get out of him?’ Jean-Paul informs Heather that it is not so much what they would get, but what Headlock would get. Sasquatch tosses Headlock to the ground, ‘sure…a broken arm or two, fractured rib or ten’. No! Please - no! I can’t flight you! ‘Why don’t you give it a try though?’ suggests Walter. Northstar jibes Headlock too: ‘Of course you can…you will try’.
I…I… mutters Headlock before he starts whacking Sasquatch, his arms flailing about pathetically. The ever-reasonable Susan asks Walter to stop, but the more forceful Heather orders him to. Headlock falls to the ground, I can’t fight - I’m not a big warrior - strong soldier…I’m not a man - okay? Is that what you wanted to hear?
‘No it wasn’t!’ declares Reed Richards. Vindicator points out that they must find a way to sublimate Headlock’s mental powers until he can be permanently incarcerated. Incarcerated? But I gave up! Go away! Go away! Reed announces that he has equipment available which could be calibrated to Headlock’s specific brainwaves.
They’ve put some clunky equipment on my head and I cant think right anymore. Or is it that I cant think wrong anymore? I do know I have learned something. They are better because they are bigger and they hit harder and they like it that way. I’ve learned that’s why they win.
In the town square, the citizens have come to thank Alpha Flight and the Fantastic Four. Vindicator informs the mayor that his town has been freed of Headlock’s control and Department H will send a psychiatric unit to verify that they are experiencing no lasting effects. They mayor thanks everyone. As they approach the Omnijet, Sasquatch asks if they are all going to be able to fit in. Mr. Fantastic, whose Fantasticar was recently destroyed, that it is only until they return to Ottawa and can retrieve their Pogo Plane.
Aurora and Windshear wait outside of the Omnijet, and Vindicator asks them if they are not coming, pointing out that contrary to Walter‘s doubt, there is sufficient room. Colin replies that he is going to fly back on his own as he has a few things to think about. Aurora adds that she has the same plan.
The Omnijet takes off with the two mutants in tow. Windshear asks Aurora what is on her mind, and Aurora points out that her powers seem to have evolved to a state which by their very nature forces her to question her future participation in Alpha Flight. When Aurora asks Windshear what is troubling him, Hume replies that after fighting someone as experienced as the Invisible Woman, he is wondering if he is good enough to do this for a living. Aurora points out that they both have much to think about.
That night in Toronto. ‘Well, I’m glad that’s over with!’ exclaims Lillian Crawley a.k.a. Diamond Lil. Madison “Box” Jeffries points out that baby sitting the new headquarters as it is being built is not a barrel of fun, and Eugene Milton Judd a.k.a. Puck reminds everyone that it must be done. As the trio walk through a bar, Diamond Lil replies that she knows, and asks how she is supposed to prove herself if she doesn’t get the chance to strut her stuff. ‘Ah, who wants to hear me whining, right?’
The trio are about to go their separate ways, before Diamond Lil confirms that they will meet in the lobby in an hour for dinner at Lichee Gardens. ‘Right’ Jeffries replies, before Lil asks him if he is sure that he doesn’t want to join her for a quick shower. ‘No, I’m not sure - but cut me some slack anyway!’ Madison exclaims.
‘Fine, Mr. Jeffries. I’ll cut you some slack for now…’ Lil thinks to herself as she gets changed. In the shower, she decides that as soon as Heather and Mac figure out what is what between the two of them, she will be there to pick Jeffries up. Lil realizes that she doesn’t feel that great, watching a bunch of construction workers using power tools used to be her idea of a good time, but now…nothing interesting happened at all - except for the lump in her breast that she admits she has been ignoring for the last year has gotten bigger. ‘Oh, god…please don’t do this to me now…’.