St John’s Bay, Newfoundland, Canada: Detonation plus fifteen seconds…a nuclear mushroom cloud rises over the once-pristine landscape.
Earlier though - at detonation plus one-tenth of a second: ‘No!’ shouts Captain America , leader of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers.
Detonation plus three-tenths of a second: Captain America his android teammate the Vision, Cap’s Russian counterpart, the Red Guardian and his robotic teammate from the People’s Protectorate, Vostok, along with Prokvitch and Strokov of the Soviet terrorist faction known as the Peace Corpse are all inside the Waterwind submarine, which is suddenly ripped apart by the nuclear explosion.
Detonation plus one and three-tenths of a second: Diamond Lil, Box and Puck, members of Canada’s premiere super hero team, Alpha Flight, along with Perun and the Crimson Dynamo of the People’s Protectorate, Quasar of the Avengers, and the Atlantean warriors Orka and Tyrak are all horrified by what is occurring as the white-light surrounds them down on the dock where they had all been engaged in battle.
Detonation plus two and six-tenths of a second: the explosion begins to rapidly extend.
While on the far side of the Island, in Port au Port Bay, at detonation plus four seconds: ‘No!’ gasps Alpha Flight’s Shaman, as he and the sultry Sersi of the Avengers and Fantasma of the People’s Protectorate are busy helping the civilians of the area escape. At detonation plus four and one-tenth of a second, Shaman reaches into his Sarcee medicine pouch.
Detonation plus eight-tenths of a second, in the air, Alpha Flight’s champion leader Guardian (Heather McNeil Hudson), is holding the Atlantean warrior Meranino prisoner, and as the white light surrounds her, tears begin to stream down Heather’s face, ‘No! Mac!’ she screams, devastated at her upcoming death when her husband has just returned to her after he was believed dead for so long.
Detonation plus five seconds: the explosion engulfs the quaint yet sprawling town.
Detonation plus ten seconds: a blinding white light is all that can be seen.
Detonation plus fourteen seconds: ‘No. NO! What -?’ exclaims a puzzled Captain America as he and the others float around in a strange substance. ‘We’re alive - where - we were on the Waterwind - all of us are alive - but I felt the explosion!’ he exclaims, disorientated, while silently telling himself to get his bearings. ‘Suck it up, soldier!’ he adds, before calling out to the Red Guardian. In his native Russian, the Red Guardian asks what happened, and where they are, before realizing that in his disorientated state he is speaking Russian, he calls out to Cap that he can hear him, and tosses a tether-line from his belt clip, which Captain America grabs. ‘Good throw!’ he compliments his Soviet counterpart.
Captain America remarks that they appear to be in some gravity-free dimension, to which the Red Guardian asks how that can be. The Vision and Vostok float towards their respective team leaders, and the Vision points out that the remnants of the Waterwind, as well as the unconscious members of the Peace Corpse - with the exception of Prokvitch and Strokov - are floating here too. Vostok announces that they should also be aware that the field they are floating in is biologically active. Captain America asks Vostok if what he is saying is that these energy forms are alive, when suddenly, he realizes that he is being contacted telepathically.
‘Captain -?’ asks Fantasma as she concentrates hard back on the mainland, behind a protective force field that Sersi has created to protect them and the countless civilians with them. Sersi asks Fantasma if she has reached Captain America and if he is all right. Fingers pressed against her head, Fantasma asks Sersi to be quiet, as it is hard enough to main contact through the dimensional vortices. Fantasma calls out to Captain America again, who suddenly replies that he can hear her, very faintly. Sersi asks Fantasma to find out if there is any way that Cap and the others can get them out of here, to which Fantasma replies ‘Calm yourself, Eternal!’.
‘Don’t talk to me that way, you haggling witch!’ the uppity Sersi snaps back, asking Fantasma if she has any idea of the strain that maintaining this protective force field and lowering the temperature in here is taking on her. Fantasma replies that they are all being taxed to the limits of their abilities. ‘Your molecular restructuring powers will have to endure, as will my bio field manipulations. Anything less than that will result in our deaths. And I am not quite yet ready to die!’ Fantasma exclaims. ‘Nor am I’ Sersi agrees, before pointing out that if they do not act soon, then the option may escape them.
Fantasma informs Sersi that she is fairly certain how this has happened to them, and asks Sersi to link her mind to hers so that she can contact Shaman. The aged Alphan hovers elsewhere, and replies that he can hear Fantasma. Fantasma asks Shaman if her assertations are correct - ‘Are you the reason we have found ourselves in this interdimensional madness?‘. ‘I am the reason - we are all alive - if that is what you mean’ Shaman replies, when suddenly, Sersi interrupts the discussion, asking Twoyoungmen how this has come about. ‘What did you do?’ she exclaims.
Shaman, with great strain upon him, replies that he performed a function done only once before - he inverted his mystic pouch - turned it inside out, unleashing a myriad of dimensional planes on to Earth’s own, then pulled everything back - unstructured - into his pouch, which hovers beside him, glowing. Shaman adds that the people, the land, and the deadly radioactive fallout are all inside the bag with them. Sersi continues to block the flames, while asking Shaman when he will be able to pull them back out. ‘We find ourselves in a particularly difficult dimensional plane to survive in!’ she exclaims, desperately.
In agony, Shaman replies that the only hope he has of successfully retrieving them all is if the various dimensional loci that they are trapped in are drawn together. He insists that it must be done quickly, as the integrity within his pouch has been severely compromised, and he cannot maintain it for much longer.
Sersi asks Captain America telepathically if he heard all of that, to which Cap replies ‘Unfortunately, yes!’. Suddenly, strange noises are heard from the energy creatures. The Vision becomes intangible and replies that it would seem the energy entities are taking umbrage with their presence, and adds that he can feel their passing even through his intangible form. Captain America remarks that must mean they pack a pretty powerful punch as he blocks on with his shield. Red Guardian does the same as he announces that the Peace Corpse are waking. Allanson and two of the others begin to float past, confused and wondering where they are.
Vostok remarks that if electro-magnetic principles operate under the same procedures in this dimension, then it should be a simple enough matter to polarize a piece of floating debris in order to attract the energy like a lightning rod. Captain America replies though that it will only work as a temporary measure and exclaims that they have to get out of here as soon as possible.
Still in telepathic contact with the femme fatales, Captain America asks Sersi and Fantasma if they heard his last comment - they don’t know how much longer they can hold out. Sersi remarks that the colloquial response would be “welcome to the club”, while Fantasma informs her team leader that he must be wary of those energy beings, explaining that through her mind link with him, she can tell that they energy creatures are very confused. Red Guardian replies that if Fantasma cannot help him and those with him, then what of the others. ‘Have you located them yet?’. Fantasma replies that she hasn’t, before turning to Sersi and apologizing for the pain this will cause her. ‘But I need to tap your telepathic powers in greater stead to contact the others!’ she explains as she touches a pained Sersi’s head.
Almost instantly, Fantasma announces that she thinks she has found them but that some of them are… ‘Drowning down there, Quasar!’ exclaims Crimson Dynamo as he and Quasar hover above some rather rocky waters below, containing the almost all of the others, in a very dark dimension. Wendell replies that he knows, and points out that as it is Dynamo’s armor is running low on power, and he needs to keep everything lit up with his quantum bands in case anyone goes under. Judd asks Perun, who is holding onto one of the Peace Corpse, where they are, to which the Russian God replies that he does not know. ;But I for one have had an immortal’s full of foul-tasting water!’ Perun remarks.
Diamond Lil calls out to her lover, Madison, and exclaims that they have been treading water for hours, to which Jeffries replies that he knows, and remarks that if he had his Box armor, it would be a piece of cake. ‘I knew when I had to ditch it in the bay that I’d end up needing it!’ he regrets. Orka and Tyrak, who are more equipped for this situation, float nearby. Suddenly, Fantasma projects a sensory image of herself above everyone and addresses Quasar, informing him that they are all trapped inside Shaman’s medicine pouch, cast across myriad dimensional planes.
Fantasma informs everyone that their only hope is to locate a dimensional nexus to use as a connecting portal between their positions. ‘Oh. No probs’ Lillian mutters sarcastically. ‘She speaks insanity!’ shouts Tyrak, asking why the Atlanteans should believe her. ‘We can survive here - we will wait until this nuclear squall clears and then we -’ he is interrupted mid-sentence by an angry Perun, who grabs the warrior and shouts ‘Look around, you scale-infested, oxygen-deprived, lobotomized minnow!’
Perun points out that the skies are black and the water purple, therefore they are most certainly not on Earth. Perun warns Tyrak that he will gladly fight him until Eternity’s end, but that if he ever wants to see his home and land again, not to mention his loved ones, then they will need to work together. ‘Do you understand, cretin?’ Perun asks. Resigned, Perun turns to Fantasma: ‘What must we do, woman?’ he mumbles. ‘Whatever it takes, people! We have a purpose now!’ exclaims a re-energized Quasar, before Fantasma explains that a connection must be established between dimensions. Jeffries remarks that if his Box armor is anywhere in this mess, then he can transmute the metal into a fine tethering line, which should be able to stretch over a few kilometers.
Sersi contacts Captain America’s group and asks if they heard Jeffries’ comment, to which Cap replies that they did, though he is unsure how they can go about it. The Vision suddenly motions to the Box armor which is floating within their dimensional realm. Cap replies that he doesn’t see it, so the Vision points it out. Josef turns to Vostok, who informs his commanding officer that the Box armor is approximately six kilometers away at eleven o’clock. ‘Retrieve it!’ Josef orders. Vostok and the Vision both soar towards Madison’s armor, while Vostok remarks that he should be able to interface with the armor systems in order to maneuver it, to which the Vision replies that he will distract the energy beings while Vostok goes about that task.
Captain America defends himself from more of the energy creatures while calling out to Sersi, informing her that they have found the Box armor so they are going to proceed with the plan to access each other’s dimensions. Sersi, who is still holding the nuclear fires at bay, replies that she will telepathically draw his group towards her while Fantasma continues her search for the others. ‘And remember, that in this case, haste does not make waste!’ Sersi exclaims.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, those sentiments are matched by the civilians of Newfoundland and the heroes who had been helping them, as in another dimension, endless sand is all that can be seen as a blazing sun bears down upon Heather, Stingray (Dr. Walter Newell) of the Avengers, and the Atlantean warrior Meranino, followed by countless civilians. ‘Let’s keep moving, people!’ Canada’s finest calls out, while an exhausted Stingray asks Heather where she is taking them, remarking that they cannot keep going any further. Walter informs Guardian that he is barely able to focus, and Meranino is dehydrating, while the other people are all wearing down.
Guardian replies that they have to get out of these sandstorms, try and find a milder location, when suddenly, Fantasma’s astral image appears in front of Guardian. ‘Finally!’ Fantasma remarks, before informing Heather that they have been dispersed within Shaman’s medicine pouch. Fantasma instructs Heather to travel to this realm’s nexus, the meeting point between dimensional planes, where she and the others will try to join her. Heather asks where the nexus is located, to which Fantasma motions in the direction and remarks that speed is of the essence.
Stingray, holding onto the dehydrated Meranino, asks Guardian who she is talking to, as he doesn’t see anyone. ‘The Russian woman’ Heather replies, informing Stingray that Fantasma told her that they have a chance of finding the others and a way out of here, but that they have to go back the way they came. Heather takes to the air in a burst of electromagnetic energy, informing Stingray that she will fly ahead and he can lead the others back. ‘The fact that I’m operating with a major concussion doesn’t matter to you?’ Walter asks. ‘No. Just do it!’ the stern leader replies.
Somewhere/when else, Vostok is piloting the Box armor, transformed into a aircraft of sorts, with Captain America, Red Guardian, Allanson and the two other Peace Corpse terrorists inside it. Captain America asks Vostok if anything is registering on the ship’s sensors yet. The android replies that there has been no change since Captain America last posed the question - two hours, thirteen minutes and six seconds ago. Red Guardian notes to himself that they are exhausted - no food, no water - and even Vostok is becoming irritable.
The Vision flies alongside the vessel as Sersi telepathically contacts Captain America again, informing him that he is nearing the vortex. The Vision informs Sersi that they were concerned for her welfare, as Captain America asks his sultry teammate why she hadn’t contacted them sooner, as they have been traveling for almost two days. ‘But it’s barely been five minutes…never mind’ Sersi replies, before announcing that they have reached the dimensional loci. The Vision remarks that he can detect no discernable difference in their surrounding area, while Sersi informs the group that Fantasma is getting Shaman to open the nexus now.
Fantasma’s astral image appears before Shaman, informing him that they are prepared for the first contact. Pained, Shaman grabs his medicine pouch and holds it between his hands, exclaiming that he has to compress the energies within the pouch both physically and spiritually, to get the two dimensions to briefly touch.
Inside the pouch, the Vision announces that they have contact with Sersi’s contingent. ‘Good!’ Captain America exclaims, before pointing out that it looks as if there is some severe volcanic activity in that dimension. Cap asks how a tether line can reach Sersi unless she drops her protective shields. The Vision replies that she has no choice but to momentarily do so. The Vision then tells Vostok to proceed with the tether-launch. As the line approaches Sersi, she knows she that this is going to hurt, and creates a small hole in the force field so that the line can pass through. ‘Everyone - back away immediately!’ she orders, but some people are still burned by the flames and scream.
Sersi grabs the line and seals up the force field as she begins to pull the Box armor through the vortex - yet she isn’t strong enough alone, and asks the Vision to assist her. The Vision replies that for him to do so it would require him to solidify his form - which would subject him of the potentially terminal ravages of this environment. Sersi replies that she knows what she asks of him, pointing out that it is no less than they have all had to give. The Vision replies that he is well aware of that, and acts accordingly by solidifying his form and assist Sersi to pull the armor and everyone in it through Sersi’s force field.
One of the Peace Corpse exclaims that this is incredible, while Captain America congratulates everyone on excellent work as he exit’s the craft. He then asks Sersi and the Vision how they are holding up. Sersi replies that she is still on her feet, and thanks Captain America for his concern, while the Vision replies that he has suffered cosmetic epidermal damage, but is still fully functional. Vostok, hooked up to the Box armor, replies that he, on the other hand, will soon be unable to maintain the stability of this construct, as the heat is decapacitating. Fantasma urges her construct teammate to hold out for a moment longer, as their problems may soon solve themselves.
On cue, ‘Look - another portal opens!’ Red Guardian exclaims as the water and everyone who was trapped in that dimension pours through the nexus, dousing the flames, and releasing Sersi from her painful task. Sersi points out that this is the third dimensional plane, while Captain America remarks: ‘A world of energy, one of fire, yet another of water - what have we been thrown into?’. ‘The heart of madness, Captain’ replies Sersi, adding that the fact they have overcome it thus far speaks volumes for all of them, before suggesting they gather the others to safety.
While the civilians are all piled into the box-ship, Captain America notes that even Tyrak is helping, and realizes that all their differences, their angers they have recently had, have all been put aside for the sake of survival. The heroes stand on what part of the box-ship that they can, and Fantasma announces that Shaman has been unable to seal the dimensional planes, and explains that the stability of such inter-mingling between realms is tenuous at best. Captain America exclaims that means they have to work fast.
Madison exclaims that he cannot fly everyone there in Box mode, as there are too many people, however he suggests that he can stretch out a line which everyone can hang onto while they search for Heather and the others. ‘How do we survive in the void?’ Red Guardian asks. Cap asks Sersi if she can provide a protective sheath, similar to the field she recently erected, around each of them individually. ‘And still telepathically scan for Guardian’s nexus?’ Sersi asks, exhausted. ‘I believe I can, Captain’ the relentless hero replies. ‘Just be certain my funeral is a lavish one upon your return to Earth’.
Twenty tense minutes later, Jeffries sits in his armor, reconstructed into a floating chair, which Sersi clings to, while everyone else trails behind on an extensive string. ‘As hard as it is to believe it, we are doing it!’ Crimson Dynamo exclaims. Jeffries replies that it is a piece of cake, as the anchor in the bay is steady and he still has enough line left for about half a kilometer. Captain America calls out to everyone else, urging them to hang on, as they are getting close, before he calls out to Sersi.
While maintaining her force field around everyone, Sersi replies ‘Give them hope first, then ask me to provide it?’. Sersi tells Cap that it is a nice strategy, then informs him that they are close. Jeffries agrees, and looks through some binoculars that he constructed, announcing that there is some movement up ahead and that it is showing up on infra-red scans and E-M traces. ‘I see them!’ he soon exclaims. Minutes later, Heather, Stingray, Meranino and the other civilians are all clinging to the wire, and Heather tells the dehydrated Atlantean to hold on a little longer, as they have already come this far.
Sersi telepathically contacts Shaman, who is busy shaking the medicine pouch, and desperately exclaims that she cannot do this any longer. ‘Get us out now!’ she cries. Shaman replies that it is difficult, and hovering over the vast expanse of water, he squeezes some land out of his medicine pouch, and it arrives with a hiss. Shaman’s astral image appears inside his medicine pouch, announcing that he is prepared to bring people through, but that they must hurry. ‘Civilians first!’ Heather orders.
Almost instantly, a group of civilians emerge on the land, ‘We’re alive!’ one of them exclaims, before a blinding light kills them. ‘NO!’ screams Shaman. ‘No - the radiation!’ he exclaims as tears begin to stream down his face. Heather calls out to her long-time friend, asking him what happened. An anguished Shaman replies ‘By my ancestors - Heather - send no more people!’ ‘What? Talk to me, Michael!’ Heather exclaims. Shaman explains that they have all been irradiated, explaining that he can bring people through, but that means he will also bring the radiation from the explosion with them.
‘No!’ Captain America gasps. ‘Those poor people!’ Heather exclaims as she covers her face with her hands. ‘That means we can’t…’ Quasar begins. ‘All that effort - the pain -!’ Sersi sighs. Suddenly, Fantasma tells Sersi to sever the telepathic link immediately, but it’s too late, and Sersi screams in agony. Captain America calls out to his teammate, but before anything can be sorted, Strokov and Prokvitch appear before everyone, their mass increased and combined at each other’s backs, with a atom sign floating around their naked forms: ‘We are the Combine! We have come to help you return to your home!’ they exclaim.
Box points out that it is Prokvitch and Strokov, and asks what has happened to them, while Sersi has collapsed into herself, ‘Ummu…ummu…umma…’ she utters, while Cap replies that he doesn’t know what’s happened to the terrorists, but that whatever it is, their presence is hurting Sersi. Cap turns to the terrorists and asks them what they are doing to Sersi, not to mention why they want to help them return to Earth. Cap points out that if they do return them to Earth, not only will the radiation kill them, but it will also poison this planet. ‘Yes…we know!’ grins the Combine….