Aurora has the afternoon free from “baby-sitting” the construction of Alpha Flight’s new headquarters. As she takes a walk, she decides that she is just not getting comfortable with the city of Toronto. She tells herself that in too many ways Toronto has become more an American city than a Canadian one, but supposes that anyone from Quebec would say that. Spotting a large church, Aurora thinks that it does have very lovely churches and goes inside it. ‘Structures of sturdy construction and timelessness which make one feel safe…comfortable…non, not comfortable…but safe, oui’.
As Jeanne-Marie Beaubier walks towards the confessions booth, she decides that only here will she truly find the answers to the questions which plague her. Only here can she trust the advice she receives, untainted by preconceived prejudices. ‘Forgive me Father, for I have sinned’. ‘How. My child?’ the Priest replies. Aurora declares that she has sought to conform the ways of others to her own thorough the use of violence. ‘How’ asks the Priest, and so Aurora begins her story: ‘I am a mutant - a superhuman operative of Alpha Flight’.
Jeanne-Marie explains that she was one of the original members and has been known in public under the name of Aurora, but admits that it is a persona she has never been comfortable with, before explaining that she has never been truly comfortable in any guise. ‘I had been diagnosed as a spilt personality - Jeanne-Marie Beaubier was a timid child raised in a convent, Aurora was a brash, flirtatious woman of the night’.
Aurora explains that she didn’t know which one she wanted to be, and could not reconcile herself to being both. Aurora reveals that she asked her lover and fellow Alphan Doctor Walter Langkowski to alter her mutagenic structure, both in regards to the trouble brewing pertaining to the existence of mutants and a desire to distance herself from her twin brother, Northstar.
Aurora exclaims that the experiment was a success - though neither she nor Walter knew how successful, as her powers were changed, and she has never been the same again. The Priest asks Aurora what has happened to her, and she replies ‘What hasn’t happened to me!?’ Jeanne-Marie states that she sought to learn order of her past in order to become a whole person - but she was told everything she wanted to hear by a mythological Master of Lies…Loki…and she believed him.
‘I descended from the hopes of truth to the reality of the lie,’ Aurora declares as she reveals she rejoined the convent believing she had lost her powers. It was there that she sought to hide herself from a world which she had been so incapable of handling. Aurora claims that she was happy there, for a time, though even that, in many ways, was like an illusion, and like a illusions - it could not last for long. ‘I was needed again, in battle against a demon a thousand million years old’. Aurora adds that she was reunited with her brother, her powers were restored, though she now knows that they had never been truly lost.
The Priest asks Jeanne-Marie what it is that brings her here now, to which she replies ‘I seek direction’. Aurora explains that she understands now that when her cellular structure was changed years ago, her powers were sent into a slowly evolving state of transition, and reveals that recently, during the course of a mental probe by an
opponent, her evolved powers came to light. She exclaims that for the first time in her life she came to understand herself and what she could do with her remarkable abilities.
When the Priest asks what this would be, Aurora replies ‘I can provide people with inner peace - serenity of mind and spirit’. The Priest remarks that indeed it is quite a gift, and asks Aurora what the problem is. Jeanne-Marie states that her problem is she doesn’t want to use her abilities in the violent ways of her comrades. ‘Then don’t,’ replies the Priest. Aurora points out that he just told her that her powers were a gift, to which the Priest explains that he didn’t say for her not to use her abilities, only that she should use them in ways she wants to.
Aurora declares that that is the problem - if she doesn’t use them in the service of her country, her friends, then how does she use them? She points out that if she does use them in the service of Alpha Flight, inevitably she will be required to use them aggressively. The Priest informs Aurora that the answers are out there as well as in here…in the real world as well as the spiritual one. The Priest absolves Aurora of her sins and she leaves.
As she leaves the church, Aurora wonders what good that confession did her. She admits she feels unburdened in some way, but she still has no more an answer than when she first came in. Hugging herself, Aurora realizes she truly didn’t expect to have answers provided for her. That would be too easy. She must find the answers for herself, in the one place she has always sought to avoid - the real world.
Jeanne-Marie walks cautiously along the sidewalks, noticing that the homeless people around her are as impoverished in body as she is in mind. She also suspects that they are not well treated by the city or its people. She wonders what they can tell her - do they know any more or less of self-awareness than she does? The homeless people close in around her, ‘Got a quarter?’ ‘Got some change, lady?’ ‘Little angel - help a man who’s down and out?’ ‘My child won’t eat tonight’.
Aurora declares that she doesn’t have enough money to give all of them, ‘I have nothing to offer you’. The homeless people all look at Aurora suspiciously, until she declares ‘That’s not true…I can give you hope’. ‘Hope you’re saying? What good does that do a starving man?’ asks one of the men. Another of the men tells Aurora that they aren’t buying what she is selling, someone else remarks that they get enough of it in the hostel.
Aurora lets loose a brilliant light as she declares ‘You cannot “get enough” of hope’ before telling the homeless that they see for themselves, no matter how embittered or downtrodden, there still remains hope inside each and everyone one of them. Aurora notices her power cutting right through the homeless, shining inside their darkened hearts. For a moment, even if it is just a moment, that is enough, and they feel renewed hope and faith.
‘Do you see?’ she asks them. ‘Yes’ they reply in muted whispers. Some start crying. ‘There is always hope. For all of us!’ Aurora declares before taking her leave. She thinks that she may not have given them very much, but at least she has given them something, and it makes her realize that perhaps she cannot be everything for everyone - but she can be something for someone. ‘No matter how small, how intimate the level. I begin to see the light’.
Meanwhile, at the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Colin Ashworth Hume a.k.a. Windshear remarks that he has never been here before, that he hates these places, he prefers to avoid the dead. ‘I mean, they’re the easiest people to avoid, aren’t they?’ Unless they are inside you, he decides, for then you are, as he puts it, “bulloxed”, as there is no avoiding what is inside you. ‘No, there’s not, Gramps’ he adds kneeling beside a grave marked Martin Freeman; 1903 - 1973; Friend and Father.
‘Friend and father?’ thinks Colin, realizing that he wouldn’t really know, as he never had the chance to find out, thanks to his mother and father. He tells himself that wasn’t fair what he said about his parents, as it wasn’t their fault. ‘Talking to myself…stupid…he mutters’, before thinking that it has been a very long time….
(Flashback, several years ago)
‘I don’t want you to go, Jaqueline!’ declares Martin Freeman, asking Jaqueline if that is such a bad thing. Jaqueline begins to reply to her father when he interrupts, asking her if her husband is really worth it. ‘Is he worth leaving Toronto and everyone who loves you?’ ‘He loves me, too, Dad!’ Jaqueline replies, asking her father why he keeps forgetting that. Martin explains to Jaqueline that he doesn’t want her to leave, to take Colin with her, as they are all he has. Jaqueline reminds her father that he didn’t want her to marry Frank either.
Young Colin kept playing, he doesn’t listen to any of it, he avoided it, keeps it all on the outside until it became part of the inside. Jaqueline declares that she is going to do what is right for herself and her family. She reminds her father that she married a man she loved, even though he hated him, and now she is willing to follow him where his work takes him. Martin informs Jaqueline that he doesn’t want to see her ruin her life and the life of his grandson’s any further.
‘Having a row then, are we?’ asks Frank, Jaqueline’s husband as he enters the room. Did Colin hate his voice, his arrogance even then? Or was his hatred of him something - like all good things - that grew over time? Frank greets his son, before asking Martin what he is about today. ‘Just the usual, Franklin. Don’t want to see you ruining my daughter’s life’.
‘Oh, and that would be by providing her a stable home and love and a future?’ replies Frank. ‘Don’t give me that!’ snaps Martin, pointing out that Frank is taking Jaqueline and Colin away from everything and everyone that they know. Frank tries to calm Martin down, explaining that he is a career diplomat and is being rotated back to the U.K. He adds that government service means frequent moving about and that the pay is better and Jaqueline and Colin will learn to love England.
‘Will they, Frank?’ asks Martin, before demanding to know how Franks friends and family will deal with an upper class white married to a middle class Canadian black? Jaqueline re-enters the conversation with ‘Same as they do here, Dad - with disapproval or indifference or care. We can’t worry about everyone else. We’ll be fine’.
Hume recalls that he believed his mother, after all, she was his mum. How could a five year old boy know how wrong his mother could be? He remembers that they got on a plane and left. That was that. He had no idea what it would mean, losing his grandfather before he really got to know him. But he wouldn’t know that either, for a very long time.
Colin is at football practice, when he is surprised by the arrival of his mother and father. Frank informs Colin that his grandfather died this morning and that he and Jaqueline are flying back to Canada tomorrow for the funeral arrangements. Colin rubs his neck and supposes that he could go, but points out he has an exam tomorrow and a match on Friday….
‘So I didn’t come to your funeral, Gramps’ Colin says to his Grandfather, admitting that he was too young and too stupid to realize what losing his Grandfather meant. ‘I’m sorry about that, too’. Colin starts to talk away from the graveyard, adding that he is sorry about hiding his head in the ground and avoiding the truth. He has done that for half of his life. ‘It’s time that came to an end’. He asks his Grandfather to wish him luck, as it is time he learned whether he can be the kind of man he would like to be.
Walking back through town, Windshear knows that the day is coming when Alpha Flight makes its decision regarding he and Diamond Lil, who have been probationary members of Alpha Flight until they could decide. He knows it is time to see if they think he has what it takes.
In the subway, Colin comes across a group of thugs trying to steal a jacket. He has heard about it going on, and it is called “swarming”. He wonders if he should interfere - the old him certainly wouldn’t have bothered. ‘That’s the answer’. He uses a subtle blast of hard-air to knocks the victim off his feet, causing the thugs to stop paying the attention to the jacket, and pay attention to him. ‘What the &!*% is this guy?’ asks one of the thugs.
The thugs close in on Hume with baseball bats and knives. One of them tells him it was a stupid move getting involved in something he shouldn’t have. ‘Maybe so, fellows…or maybe it was stupid of you to get involved with me!’ he remarks, trying something new with his mutant abilities, by allowing all of the air around him to solidify, virtually creating a hard air explosion.
It works like a charm, and with the thugs all unconscious, the underground comes just in time. As for Colin, he just well proved to himself that he has what it takes - knowing he got involved to help someone else out with nothing to gain from it than the doing itself.
Elsewhere, in Toronto, home of Alpha Flight’s new Department H headquarters. ‘I can hide forever in here and they’ll never find it. I could hide from their talking and laughing and living. Our -their - new headquarters (I’m not one of them yet) is big enough to disappear in. And all I wanna do now is disappear forever and ever’. exclaims Lillian Crawley, otherwise known as Diamond Lil.
In the gymnasium, Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, Alpha Flight’s long serving leader, tells the young Kara “Persuasion” Kilgrave that she has to push it. Kara isn’t convinced that this physical training is necessary and tells Heather that she knows she will not make her a full Alpha Flight member. Eugene “Puck” Judd points out that he wasn’t able to become a full member of Alpha Flight for a while either, to which Kara, who starts the weight-lifting again, asks if she has to pay her dues before she gets to be Persuasion for real.
Guardian points out that being a part of Beta Flight will teach her to use her powers while still living the life of a normal teenager. Kara asks Heather why she cannot let her decide what she wants to do. Judd points out that it is because she it still a little young yet. Heather adds that she would rather not run the risk of losing her in action as well. ‘Oh, come on!’ mutters Kara, reminding Heather that she can control minds, so what does she have to worry about? ‘Bullets, rockets, grenades, robots. Need I continue?’ offers Judd.
‘No, I get it’ Kara mutters again, pointing out that she has to work until she gets to the point that she is not relying on her powers anymore. ‘Exactly. And that’ll take time’ points out Judd. Heather tells Judd and Kara that they will call it quits now, informing them she is going to hit the showers. Kara pauses before asking Heather if she can stay here and have Puck teach her some more moves. ‘No, Kara, not at all’ replies Heather.
‘I hear someone’s footsteps coming, but all I can think of is hiding. Forever and ever and ever and ever. I try to stop crying. Stop crying!’ exclaims Lil as she kneels on the floor of the shower room. Heather enters, and upon seeing the sobbing Lil asks her what is wrong. ‘Nothing! Get outta here, Hudson!’ Lil snaps. Heather asks Lillian why she is in the shower with her clothes on, to which Lil claims that she was working out, going to have a shower and fell.
‘I’m an idiot! Lying on the floor, crying like a little girl! Suck it up! Be tough in front of her!’ Lil starts to get to her feet, repeating the claim that she slipped and everything is fine. Heather extends a hand, but Lil just looks at her, and whispers ‘Please…leave me alone…alone!’ With that, Lil leaps to her feet and punches the tiled wall behind her. Heather drops to the floor to avoid the rubble, and Lil screams ‘WHY?’ Heather asks Lil what is going on, and Lil reveals that she has a lump in her breast, that there is a discoloration under her nipple.
Lil explains that she thinks it is cancer, that she thinks she has cancer inside her. Heather is taken aback - the two women have never gotten along - and asks Lil if she has seen a doctor. Lil replies that she hasn’t, that she wanted it to go away. She falls to the floor again, explaining that she has been waiting for it to go away, but that it wont, it just keeps getting worse. Heather points out that these things don’t just “go away”, and informs Lil that there are doctors on staff here already who can find out what it is.
Scared, Lil asks why she has to find out what it is - what if it is cancer? ‘Then what do I do?’ ‘Whatever it takes to stop it’ Heather replies, adding that they will help her get through this. Lil mumbles that it is easy for Heather to say, and punching another wall, she asks Heather if she has any idea what it feels like? ‘I’m Diamond Lil! Nothing can hurt me! No bullets or knives or grenades! Nothing! Nothing! NOTHING!’ she screams as she busts up the wall some more.
‘Why can’t I fight this?’ she asks. ‘You can, Lil’ Heather tells her. But Lil protests that she cannot hit it, can’t scare it, as it is inside of her, it is eating away inside of her. Heather offers a comforting smile and extends her hand again, telling her that she can fight this, to not let it win, to start fighting back - now. ‘I’m so scared…oh, God, I’m so scared…’ Lil admits as Heather hugs her.
Later, in the Medical Division of the new Department H. Heather does all the talking, and the Doctors are just starting to set up shop in the new HQ. While Heather talks to them and tell them what is going on, Lil waits. Alone - but not alone. That is the way it is going to be from now on. Heather informs Lil that the doctors can do a mammogram now, to which Lil replies that she doesn’t want to do this. Heather replies that she knows, but leads Lil to the doctors.
‘From here on in, that’s the way its gonna be. Alone on the inside with something killing me. Alone on the outside with people who are gonna try to do things and say the right things and never will. Alone, but not alone’.
Several Days later. Heather is assembled in a meeting room with Diamond Lil, Windshear, Aurora, Puck, Persuasion, James “Vindicator” Hudson, Walter “Sasquatch” Langkowski, Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier, Michael “Shaman” Twoyoungmen, Madison “Box” Jeffries, Elizabeth “Talisman” Twoyoungmen and Witchfire a.k.a. Ananym.
Heather stands at the head of the table, informing everyone that she told their government liaison, Kerry Patrick, that they would have a definitive roster-line up before their headquarters officially opened, so here they all are to make things official. Heather smiles after she reveals that after numerous discussions between the government, the military, Mac and herself, they have come to some concrete decisions. Heather asks anyone if they have anything they would like to say before she makes her announcements.
Aurora declares that she does, and exclaims that after much consideration and soul-searching, she has decided to resign from active status as a member of Alpha Flight. ‘Jeanne-Marie, why?’ asks her shocked brother. Aurora informs Jean-Paul that the violent role of adventurer is not for her, and there must be a better way to contribute to this world. Aurora explains that she would like to be assigned to the new Gamma Flight where she can work in the psychiatric counseling unit for the incarcerated prisoners.
Aurora declares that after Alpha Flight has performed its duty, she would like to perform hers - to rehabilitate wayward souls. Heather smiles and admits that she is surprised, before informing Aurora that they she thinks they can accommodate her, adding that she will still be a part of Department H, just contributing in a different way.
Diamond Lil suddenly speaks up, announcing that she has something to tell everyone. She reveals that Guardian already knows but she thinks the rest should too. Jeffries asks Lil what is wrong, and Lil reveals that she had a mammogram done a couple of days ago, as there is something wrong with her left breast. She explains that the doctors wont know it is a malignant or benign tumor until they can do a biopsy - but they cannot do a biopsy until they figure a way they can cut through her super tough skin. Lil summarizes by declaring that she may have cancer and it may keep her out of Alpha Flight, but that until she knows for sure she is going to go all-out for this team.
Heather smiles, declaring that this should lead them smoothly into the official status designations. She explains that Alpha means mission operative, Gamma is support staff and Beta is training, adding that people may be placed in more than one category, for example, while recuperating from her injuries, Talisman will be placed in Beta Flight, while serving in the archaeological and supernatural science sections of Gamma.
Heather runs through the members, informing them what designations they receive. Vindicator is placed in Alpha Flight while serving in the engineering sciences of Gamma. Sasquatch is also in Alpha Flight and serves in the biotech research and development sector of Gamma. Northstar and Puck are both placed in Alpha Flight, as are Diamond Lil and Windshear, much to their joy. Box is placed in Alpha Flight and the mechanical services section of Gamma. ‘I know, I know, Beta…’ mutters Persuasion before Heather has to even inform her of her designation, while Witchfire is also placed in Beta Flight, while serving in the supernatural science section of Gamma. Shaman, like Aurora, is removed from active duty when he is made the instructor to Beta Flight, while also serving as the medical and supernatural sciences administrative coordinator.
‘That’s the way it is people…now let’s start getting the job done!’ declares Guardian.