Are you awake yet?
It is five AM in the Canadian Province of Ontario, and if you were awake, then you would notice that the Department H building never sleeps. Noiseless cranes lift Stark Enterprises equipment that has no official manifest into place. Men strangle each other in darkened offices over folders containing documents that must be destroyed by sunrise. An unsanctioned experiment tank is backed into a holding bay, its night of infrared tests conclude. A team of heroes, Canada’s heroes, Alpha Flight, rests uneasily within their private quarters. You miss a lot of important things when you sleep normal hours.
Maybe you should wake up.
Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep…Alert! Combat personnel to roof level sector 2.…The alarm sounds, ringing throughout the quarters of Alpha Flight.
Heather McNeil Hudson, sometimes known as Vindicator never even went to sleep last night. She sat up wondering if she could muster the courage to take the new battle suit off her fatigued body - but she never could, as images of her husband consumed in fire stopped her. ‘The alarm?’ Heather wonders.
James MacDonald Hudson went from a slumbering young man to super Guardian in a heartbeat, shouting ‘Coming!’ as he races from his room, he made the change as quickly as he went from a thirty-five year old scientist to a nineteen year old foot soldier. One transformation is easy to accept - but the other?
Eugene Milton Judd a.k.a. Puck is out of his quarters almost before the alarm sounds, it is not that he has some psychic sense for impending danger, but this has always been what his life is about - struggle. ‘What now, eh?’ he thinks to himself as he runs through the corridors of Department H, glad to be back in comfortable surroundings.
In a rather messy room, Jared Corbo sleeps through the alarm - he would sleep through Armageddon without noticing. He mumbles to himself in bed, so insulated that one could almost think the force field that shields his body as Radius is a cocoon that threatens to seal him off from the outside world completely.
In this alarming moment, Arlette Truffaut pauses to consider her appearance in her mirror. She knows that any conflict might mean her death as Murmur, and therefore wants to look her best. ‘Nice…’ she says to herself grinning.
Adrian Corbo however, is not ready to fight as Flex again, and so he waits in his bedroom, to ensure that he will not be the Alphan that reaches the problem first. He remembers how his lack of skill resulted in the loss of his teammate Madison Jeffries - Jeffries was counting on Flex, and he let him down. ‘Oh man, not again’ says Adrian rubbing his head.
As Alpha Flight begin to converge at one location, they are greeted by General Jeremy Clarke, head of Department H’s Super Hero Development and Deployment. Guardian asks the General what happened, to which Clarke replies that there is an intruder outside, and that whoever it is has managed to elude the cameras, therefore they have no visual ID. One should really wonder when this man rests, for he spends his days in uniform dealing with bureaucrats, and his evenings in a suit dealing with his own pursuits. Judd asks Clarke if he ever sleeps, to which Clarke sternly replies that the world is not set to his schedule, and that they have held the external alarms to lull the intruder into complacency, while Alpha’s job is to apprehend him.
Murmur announces her presence to her superiors, and Heather looks at her oddly, asking her why she is wearing makeup at five AM. Guardian tells Heather that now is not the time, as they have a job to do, and as they run down the hall, instructs them to the roof access ahead on the left. Stepping out of his room, Flex apologizes to Puck for being late, and Judd informs him that there is an intruder on the roof before asking him where his brother is. He decides that there is no time to wait for Radius, he urges Flex on.
As they rush past a side corridor, only Heather notices the sign on the door - Beta Flight Wing, Restricted Access - and she wonders to herself what that is all about.
Reaching the roof access, Guardian tells his team that there is no way of knowing what is out there, so the minute he blows the hatch, they need to move fast and decisively. Using the electromagnetic powers derived from his battle suit, Mac blows the hatch open, as he and Heather, followed by the others, climb out onto the roof. Upon seeing who the intruder is, Heather sarcastically remarks ‘Well, well, look who’s back again’ ‘The Master!’ exclaims Mac. Eshu, a.k.a. the self-proclaimed Master of the World turns to the heroes and tells them that he thought their presences had been stricken from this spinning globe which he lays claim to as its rightful master.
‘Still a windbag, eh?’ jokes Judd as Flex asks what it is they are to do. Judd whispers to the two rookies that Guardian and Heather will take the first strike while they get behind him, but he tells Murmur that they need backup and to go and get Sasquatch. Guardian overhears and snappily tells Puck that they are only his orders to give and not to forget it again. Mocking Mac for what he said to her earlier, Heather tells him the same thing: ‘Not now, we’ve got a job to do’. ‘Don’t be so immature,’ Guardian replies as he fires an electromagnetic blast at the Master, as Heather fires a geothermal blast, courtesy of her new battle suit.
The Master asks them if they would really issue forth such paltry forces against the Master, and declares that they obviously do not remember his power - power enough to cause Guardian’s suit to discharge an electromagnetic pulse, and loosen the magnetized couplings of the nearby cranes hold on its beam. Mac cries out from the pain his suit causes him as the beams begin to fall towards him. Heather tells him to hang on, as she super-heats the falling beams - but the Master calls Heather a fool, as she will unleash a rain of molten ash upon him.
‘You’re not so bright yourself, eh?’ Judd tells the Master as he springs himself against, and kicks the Master towards Flex, telling Adrian to ‘take him!’ the Master is flicked off Flex by the flat of his hand, for his power is to turns his limbs into shards of metal. Judd tells Flex he did a good job, but Adrian is not so convinced. Judd exclaims that it is not over, and as the Master points out, ‘Truer words were never spoken’ as a large explosion is set off, knocking the Alphans backwards, as the Master declares it will not be over until Alpha Flight’s corpses litter the gravelled ground beneath his feet.
The Master declares that Mankind is a tired phylum, whose combined efforts have yielded nothing but stagnation and mutation, and it will be who sends it into eternal rest. ‘Your poetry is so bad that I wish you would stop’ declares Murmur as she comes up behind the Master and places a hand on the Master, hoping her mind-control power will stop the Master. Judd asks Arlette what she thinks she is doing and reminds her that he sent her for backup, to which Arlette complains that it is the girl who is sent for backup, instead of being seen for what she is capable of doing. Arlette announces that she came to Alpha Flight to fight and win, and boasts that she has done both.
But the Master comes out from being under her thrall, telling her she has won only the right to be destroyed and picking her up he tosses her off the roof, declaring that the mind of the Master cannot be toyed with and that he was merely playing at her suggestion. Arlette screams, until Vindicator flies to catch her. As Murmur lands in Heather’s arms, she says ‘So you do care?’ but Heather replies that she cares if any of her teammates falls to their deaths.
Guardian informs the Master that under the authority of the Ministry of Defence, he is ordered to surrender or be subjected to the full range of his powers. Mac fires another EM blast at the Master, who tells him that his power is merely a self-defeating weapon against the Master, especially as he can deflect it back upon ‘you and yours!’ Judd and Flex are knocked over by the deflected EM blast, and the Master tells the struggling Alphans that only a power from on high can save them now. ‘Glad you noticed, nork!’ shouts Radius as he swings from a rope used as part of the construction and kicks the Master in the head. Jared declares that he is obviously the bad guy, so it is time for him to go down for the count and over the edge. ‘Radius scores again and the crowd goes wild!’ the cocky young man exclaims.
As everyone ruses to the side of the roof to watch the result of Jared kicking the Master off the side, Heather thanks him for showing up, but Murmur points out that although Jared did what they could not, the Master is now gone! Guardian thinks this is impossible, but Judd tells him it is only impossible when one is not looking in the right place. ‘He’s vanished without a trace, or my name ain’t Puck…well…Eugene’. Jared fishes for compliments by telling his teammates that they are all welcome, as Adrian informs them that he thinks he cut his head open, but his older brother tells him to stop being such a baby, as he saw what happened to him and doesn’t think it was a big deal. Adrian complains that it hurts, to which Radius tells him ‘life hurts’. Murmur smiles at her handsome teammate and tells him that it does not have to.
Judd tells Jared that he looked good back there, like he was born to do it. Jared cuts his senior off and jokes that some guys are good at math, while he is good at this. Judd continues what he was saying, and reminds Radius that this is a team effort. Jared points out that he just saved the whole team, and asking what the problem is he declares that he is going back to bed. Guardian tells everyone that they should all go back to bed, as they have a lot of work to do in Combat Central tomorrow, but tells them to stay alert, and informs them he is going to search below in case the Master is still around.
Heather tells Mac that she will recon with him, as they need to talk. As the two iconic super heroes fly downwards, Guardian tells Vindicator to make the search thorough, as he doesn’t believe the Master could have just vanished. Heather, not too interested in the recon, mumbles ‘sure’ before asking her de-aged estranged husband what it is that he remembers about the two of them, and asks him if he even knows her anymore, since his age regression. Guardian replies that he does know her, as he was briefed on everything. He tells Heather that he is cool with it, if she is.
‘“Cool” with it?’ Heather asks Mac, asking if they briefed him on the fact that he is her husband, that they had a life together - Mac points out that he hasn’t had a life with her though. Heather tells Guardian that he has responsibilities to her, but Mac cuts her off, reminding her that he is nineteen now, and that most of the worlds super heroes have up and vanished, and he is leading Canada’s only super team when most guys his age are playing college hockey. Mac tells Heather that like General Clarke says, it is a huge responsibility, adding that his whole life is really weird at the moment, and that he is doing the best he can.
Mac asks Heather if she is going to help him look for the Master, but Heather is obviously upset, and declares that she just got him back, before informing him that she cannot pretend they never were, and running away as she tells him this was a mistake. Guardian calls after her, telling her that he isn’t saying he doesn’t think she is cute and all, but an Epsilon approaches Guardian and tells Mac he was sent to help him look for the Master. Guardian replies he could definitely use a hand.
Watching all of this on view screens from some hidden room, two men discuss what just occurred between Guardian and Heather. One of them declares that it was easier than he thought, and the other replies that Heather will never leave now.
Orloo, Ontario, where Coordinator Proctor, Chief Administrator of Department H’s Super Hero Youth Acceleration Program, has come after being summoned. There are some who would consider what he does immoral, but at this historic building, an innocent-looking orphanage which proves that looks can be extremely deceiving, morality is the farthest thing from his mind. Proctor greets the woman in charge of Hull House, Miss De Le Salle, and tells her he came as soon as he got her call. The fat woman tells Proctor that he will be glad he did, as she has a ripe one - one of the Legacies.
Proctor is surprised and tells De Le Salle that none of the Legacies were scheduled, but the woman replies that the change of life is not on any schedule, and motions over to the yard. Some children of the orphanage are playing Frisbee, but it is thrown too far. One of the kids calls to a girl sitting solemnly beneath a tree, and asks her to help them out, but the Frisbee passes straight through her body.
Proctor declares that this is incredible, and De Le Salle exclaims that it is like she is not even here. Proctor tells the Headmistress that this time next week she will not be, as she needs to be prepared for harvesting. A loud rumble sounds, startling Proctor who asks De Le Salle what it is. De Le Salle informs him that it is just a tremor and that it is nothing to worry about as they have been having them for weeks. But neither notice the earth beginning to crack nearby.
Later. Puck is a man who subscribes to the philosophy that it is what one does during the day that determines the quality of sleep one has that night - and so he makes and early start at better days. In the gymnasium, Judd swings around on gymnastic rings that hang from the ceiling. Heather enters the gym and asks him if he couldn’t get back to sleep either. Judd exclaims that the only day he wakes up late is after a hard night on the town, before asking Heather if she has been having trouble getting sleep.
Heather steps onto a treadmill as she informs her long time teammate that she has had a lot on her mind, Mac mostly, but there is plenty to think about. Heather tells Judd that something is wrong with Mac - more than just his visit to the Fountain of Youth too. Heather cannot quite put her finger on it, and proclaims that being back in this building makes everything worse. Judd reminds Heather that she has her spin of bad luck with the men in Alpha, firstly being put through the wringer with Mac, then with Jeffries…Judd’s voice trails off at the mention of Madison Jeffries, and Heather too looks perplexed. ‘Jeffries? Is it just me?’
Judd tells her it is not, as there is something about Jeffries. Heather exclaims that it is like something is on the tip of her tongue but she cannot find the voice. ‘Was he here?’ Judd reveals that he has same feeling, but supposes that if it was important, then they would remember.
Watching the two classic Alphans is the men from earlier who were watching Guardian and Heather. One of them asks the other how this happened, and the other suggests that they recondition Heather and Judd tonight after they fall asleep.
Where is it that Murmur goes this morning? Once again, somewhere she shouldn’t be, watching someone who is really somewhere he shouldn’t be - but to what end? Arlette enters the Department H Hydroponics Lab, labelled “No Admittance”, the scantly clad young woman approaches the equally scantily clad Jared Corbo, asking him if he minds that she comes in. Jared points out that it is a restricted sector, to which Murmur points out that he is already in it. ‘So are you, so why ask?’ Jared says to her.
Arlette asks Jared if he would like to go exercise with her, but Jared informs her that he needs to keep waxing his snowboard, as he intends on taking off first snow they get. Murmur asks Jared what should happen if she touches him to make him do what she wants, but as he picks up his board and begins to walk out of the lad, Jared tells Murmur that she could try, but that she could never touch him.
Murmur follows her handsome teammate, and they pass room signposted “Helios Project”, again with restricted access. Murmur asks Jared if he is saying that he does not want her to touch him, but Jared declares that he wants her to touch him - he wants anyone to touch him, except that with his force field, it cannot be done.
Jared and Murmur are too far gone past the Helios Project to hear the screams coming from behind its locked doors. On the other side of the doors, ‘Stop it!’ cries Shiro Yoshida better known as the Japanese mutant “Sunfire” who is being prodded at by various equipment, as he displays his power. Doctor Horatio Huxley, tells Shiro to power down before the one-time X-Man asks him what it is that he was doing to him. Huxley informs him that he was attempting to run a chromatospectrograph but that his mutant power solar rays reacted with the element mist he introduced. He suggests to Sunfire that he calms himself and informs him he will be out of the containment chamber in a moment.
Sunfire declares that he came to Alpha Flight for help, not to be shut in a laboratory and tortured, to which Huxley tells him he is sorry that he feels that way - but Huxley is the sort of man who you would trust to baby-sit your children, expecting the children to be sound asleep upon your return - only to find them gone without a trace, and Huxley with them. Huxley narrows his eyes as he tells Sunfire that they are helping him, and that coming here at Wolverine’s suggestion was the best thing that he could have done at this point. Huxley mumbles that Logan himself could benefit from a visit, but his attention returns to Sunfire, when Shiro declares that he is leaving.
Huxley tells Shiro that that is not possible, and declares that in light of today’s readings from the tests they are going to have to quarantine him. Sunfire is not known for his sense of humour and asks if this is some kind of joke, but Huxley tells him that his findings are not laughing matter, and reveals to Sunfire that he is dying of radiation poisoning generated by his own powers, shocking Sunfire.
If one was a member of Alpha Flight, then they would have to spend a good portion of their waking hours in Combat Centrale, a state-of-the-art battle facility where one would train for eventualities not of their own doing. Such as Alpha Flight are now. Heather congratulates Judd on a good diversion move, to which Judd jokes that he has a million of them, before asking where Sasquatch is. Guardian informs him that Sasquatch was tranquillized earlier in the morning as he tried to eat his feeder.
‘”What if I decide to touch you and make you do what I want?”’ Jared mockingly asks Murmur as he pins her between his legs, causing Murmur to gasp out in pain. Guardian witnessed this and tells Jared that his force wasn’t necessary, before ordering a recess. ‘Not a moment too soon’ Heather whispers to Judd, and seeing something is wrong with her, Judd asks her what is up. Heather reveals that she keeps having hazy thoughts about some villains called “The Zodiac”. She tells Judd that they are not memories, but more like déjà vu that never happened in the first place. Now that Heather mentions it, Judd announces he has been having the same sort of feelings.
Suddenly, the intruder alarm sounds, and Guardian declares that he thinks they know who it is. He starts to order a team-based room-by-room search, but General Clarke enters the room and overrules him, pointing out that a team-based search would take too much time. He orders everyone to be outfitted with transmitters and an individual recon to be started, as the Master needs to be found quickly. Guardian asks the General if he is second-guessing him now too, but the General replies that it is the only way, and orders Alpha to find the Master, report in and then try to drive him into the Central Rotunda. He adds that the civilians will be cleared and the team can all rendezvous. Clarke informs Alpha of whereabouts they will be searching.
Puck crawls through the air ducts, annoyed, he thinks that this is just because of his size and wonders why it is that all people see are others outsides. But he thinks it is an easy detail that only he could do, just skulk around in the vents until someone else finds the Master, because there isn’t anyway he is going to come across him. But Judd spoke too soon, as he exits one air duct, the Master is standing in a room and declares that he has been awaiting him. Puck uses the transmitter that all the Alphans were given for the mission and declares that he has found the Master.
Covering the ground floor rear is Murmur, who reports back that she has walked all the way back to the greenhouse, but that there is no sign of the Master - however, as if one cue, the Master appears before Arlette and exclaims that he has been awaiting her. Startled, Murmur calls to command and informs them that the Master is covered in steel this time.
In the kitchen and cafeteria complex, Flex walks through it hoping that the Master is not in here, and wishing that they did this as a team. He thinks that at least he got the place where the Master would never be - ‘what’s he gonna do, steal some eggs?’ But suddenly, the Master stands before Adrian, who immediately screams and calls to command for help.
Guardian is searching the storage warehouse as he wonders why the building’s monitors could not be used to pinpoint the Master - who then appears before him, declaring he has been waiting for him. Guardian informs command that he has found the Master, and as he gives his location he mentions that the Masters has changed himself.
In the lab sectors, the Master creeps up behind Vindicator, and calling her “Guardian“, informs her that he has been awaiting her. Heather snaps back that she is called “Vindicator” these days and asks him to forgive her for not calling him “Master”. Heather calls to command, confirming the Master’s location at the Beta Flight lab, but adding that he is wearing some kind of organic armor.
Radius searches the sub-basement, annoyed that he has to do so, but cheers up when he comes across the Master, who addresses him as ‘petulant one’ and informs him he has been awaiting him. Jared tells the Master that he has been actively seeking him, but that no re-match will change his record, even in the “ghost suit” he is wearing. The Master tells Jared that not even his teammates can help him, to which Jared boasts that he is not calling his teammates, because he will take him down alone, like he did before.
Back with Puck, the Master tells the diminutive Alphan that he is prepared for him and his acrobatics, and fires net-bombs at him. Judd tells the Master that he wants to know what a ‘big-time world-conquering’ villain like him is doing in Department H, and why he is trying to fight him hand to hand. ‘Must have fallen on hard times’ Judd jokes as the Master declares that his agenda is his own. Puck informs the Master that his agenda is to get him through the corridor, either walking or by dragging him.
Murmur jumps towards her Master as he informs her he is prepared for her, as no portion of his skin is left exposed. Murmur asks him if he thinks she has no other skills, and as she copies the tactic Radius used on her, she boasts that she learned much in her training today, and that she can accomplish General Clarke’s objective any way she can.
Flex runs away from his Master, who boasts that he is ready for the frightened Alphan, as his armor is covered with - his words become drowned out by Flex’s plea for help from command. He asks them why it is they don’t answer him as he informs them he is drawing the Master to the meeting point, but that they had better be there to help him, as the Master is ‘all corroded and gross looking!’
As Guardian fires an electromagnetic blast at his Master, he is informed that the Master’s suit can nullify the very forces that he manipulates. Guardian declares that he is more than just the product of his suit, he is the master of it, not the other way around.
Vindicator’s Master informs her that her powers will have no effect on him in his current form. Heather jokes that once she figures out her powers they can have a full test of his theory, but until then he will have to understand why she doesn’t take his word for it. As droplets of lava are emitted from Heather’s new battle suit she tells herself that she hates the stupid banter, but knows it is necessary to draw the Master to the rendezvous point without him noticing.
In the sub-basement, the Master informs Radius that his intangible form makes his force field useless. Jared tells the Master that it also makes him pretty worthless as he draws him to the rendezvous point.
Vindicator, Guardian, Puck, Radius, Murmur and Flex are Alpha Flight, a group of individuals who have accomplished the test laid out before them. As Guardian declares he has drawn “him” to the meeting point, Judd tells him to try “them”. As Alpha Flight find themselves battling many Masters, Judd realizes their secrets, telling everyone that each of the Masters is geared for them individually. He tells everyone to switch dance partners and that it will all be over. Everyone does as Puck suggests, and they easily take down an opponent not meant for them.
Hands on hips, Heather declares that she thinks they have been had. Guardian asks why the Master would go to this much trouble, especially as they do not even know what he was after. Standing beside General Clarke is Chief Engineer Doctor Ko Bin Su, who informs Alpha that they are not robots, but semi-organic Synthoids’ who were custom designed for each of them, to train them into using skills other than those inherent to oneself, while encouraging emotional commitment to an existent adversary.
The Chief Engineer informs Alpha that the Masters will be a continuing training tool for them, as they are able to track their strategies, adapt to them and change, adding that if the semi-organic Synthoids were more advanced, they could replace Alpha Flight with them. Ko Bin Su is the kind of man you would respect on the surface, having fled the political instabilities that plagued his Korean family, he made a new life on his own which one might even call admirable - but one would have to look past his indiscretions, of which there are many.
Clarke congratulates Alpha and tells them that they did very well. Heather angrily informs Clarke not to wake her up for anymore surprise drills, reminding him that she has been with Alpha for years and does not need this kind of stress. The General tells Heather that as she has a new suit with new capabilities she needs what they tell her she needs. Heather turns and walks out of the room, telling Clarke that she is not his slave and he is not her master. ‘Learn that,’ she adds.
Guardian races after Heather and when she angrily asks him what he wants, he tells her he was wondering if she wanted to go out for a while, to talk some more. Heather replies that she would like that very much. Clarke informs the others that her has an important meeting to attend so they are all dismissed, but tells them to realize that the new powers who run Department H do not look favorably on insubordination, so he would not recommend learning from Heather’s example.
Level 66 of Department H, he wears a serpent ring, and the only name he responds to is “Director X”. He sits at the head of the table and sternly declares he is tired of waiting for stragglers so it is time to begin. General Clarke enters the meeting room and apologizes for being late, revealing that he is having trouble with Heather again. Doctor Huxley exclaims that there has been nothing but trouble with Alpha and asks ‘are we sure if this was a good idea’. Director X tells Huxley that “we” is not the proper pronoun for him to use, before pointing out that Myra from the Prometheus division is not present, but moves onto the reports.
Lieutenant Oculus reports that the Monitor Division noted two near-violations of regression in Vindicator and Puck, before revealing that Vindicator and Guardian have headed into the city and are being monitored at Scaratino’s Pizza, while the rest of Alpha is internal and accounted for. Finally, he adds that Dr. Mobius will have Manbot operational and ready to return to the team by morning.
General Clarke informs the Director that Development and Deployment has launched a two-fold filed of study with the six core Alpha recruits. ‘Only six?’ asks the Director, somewhat surprised. Clarke replies that Jeffries was abducted and that they are having trouble with Doctor Langkowski, so they have decided to tranquillize him and focus their energies on the more controllable subjects.
Coordinator Proctor reveals that Youth Acceleration has a new harvest, a girl this time who has manifested intangibility, though the parameters and applications are uncertain until they can test, but she is certainly another Legacy.
Huxley reports that there is not new progress with the Beta’s, but Sunfire was told of his condition as they had discussed, and is taking the news better than expected.
‘Very good” the Director tells his men before stating that he wants Manbot returned to the ranks for the next test battery, and that as for Heather, he suggests that if she is going to be trouble, they should consider regressing her as they did to Mac.
Epilogue One: Sub-basement D, where Sasquatch is chained to a wall. Judd stands before his close friend and asks him what it is that happened to him, for he doesn’t look the same, doesn’t act the same…he wonders if Walt was taking risks and pushed himself too far. He tells Sasquatch that whatever it is, he wants him to know that they are not sitting on their hands, that he is going to help him find himself. ‘Then you and me are gonna go out and hoist a few!’
Epilogue Two: Department H’s abandoned Cosmic Collector site, in Orloo, Ontario. Another loud rumble - all days end as they start here - with the quiet of the night, and the promise of coming sleep. But tonight, someone’s hand reaches up through the ground…not an ordinary night.