‘Can we transport him back to the Carrier?’ a male asks as he and Director Maria Hill stand before a blond man in a similar uniform with red and yellow coloring, whose motionless body lies on the grass. A gun is at his side, blood splattered around the side of his head. ‘I’m worried about degradation’ Maria replies beneath an oddly orange sky, before telling her comrade that he should access it now if he can. ‘Okay…’ the male SHIELD agent replies as he attaches a device to the fallen officer’s head. Hill frowns, ‘Why did you do it, Agent Michaud? What did you see in there?’ she asks.
8 Hours Ago:
An Avengers Quinjet flies towards the SHIELD Helicarrier. A similar Helicarrier, with red and white coloring, and a Mapleleaf on it floats in the sky nearby. The Quinjet lands, and from it emerge several Avengers - Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, Bruce Banner, Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon, the female Smasher and Manifold. Maria Hill is on hand to greet the Avengers and apologizes to them for the urgency, explaining that it couldn’t avoided and that her hands are tied. Hill reminds Captain America that the Avengers were part of the containment team that dealt with the fallout of the Garden’s attack on Earth. ‘So you know that Kobe, Chhatarpur, Split and the Fallen Heights all were, and remain secured. Quarantined’. Hill continues, pointing out that the other sites in Perth and Regina were handled by those countries’ domestic agencies, and all previous intelligence had pointed to them being under control - handled.
‘That was until now’ Hill declares as she stands before a handsome blond man and a man with a thin moustache, both wearing similar uniforms to hers but in a red and yellow color. The Avengers have followed Hill into a communications room, and Captain America asks her what has happened. The man with the thin moustache clears his throat, ‘Ahem. Before we go any further, I want to stress that everything you are about to see remains classified by Department H’. He shakes a finger around as states that Department H is coordinating with SHIELD, but that everything they are about to see remains classified by Department H. ‘This is no way implies that we are yielding sovereignty and, in fact, reserve the right to abort this mission at any time’ he explains, adding that he wants to make sure they are al clear on that. ‘Are we clear on that?’ he asks.
‘Liaison Porter… it is Porter, isn’t it?’ Captain America asks. ‘Does it matter?’ the Falcon mutters quietly. ‘Liaison Porter… you called us’ Captain America reminds the haughty man. The handsome blond man confirms that they did, and thanks Captain America for coming, before instructing someone to show the Avengers the video.
On screen, an image of the event site, Regina, including the latitude and longitude coordinates, appears on screen, with the note “Department H mission logs: 044399-978, and the primary missions parameters being to secure the event site. The Department H Helicarrier appears over the event site, which has changed, and huge spindly structures surround it. Inside the Helicarrier, the tasking agents are getting themselves ready. Wendigo and Boxx remain silent, while Kingdom adjusts his weapons, and Validator checks her watch, before giving a thumbs up sign. The expected threat level is black, and they are given full authorization, lethal force is sanctioned.
The mission clock begins, as Validator and Kingdom fly out a hatch, while Boxx and Wendigo jump after them. Spherical cameras follow them around, recording their actions. They survey the immense transformations - buildings are decimated, while strange alien fauna grows. There are heat signatures and biometrics all over the place, but not recognizable life signs. The pre-event population of Regina was 203,975. Twnety-three minutes into the assignment, Validator looks up to the greenish sky and sees strange winged creatures flying around. The super structure surrounds the city, and there is motion everywhere. Bioluminescent organisms are abundant. At forty-three minutes into the assignment, the Boxx unit has determined the numerous pods where chrysalis chambers, and they believe they have discovered what happened to the civilian population of the city.
At one and a half hours into the mission, the Boxx unit is lost, caught up in the strange alien fauna, so the rest of the team presses on. Two hours and seventeen minutes into the mission, the Wendigo is infected after attempting secondary contact with the organisms. He is strung up by his limbs, while a huge hole grows in his chest. The mission is declared a failure, but Kingdom and Validator decide to make one more attempt to capture a specimen, before retreating. However, a few minutes later, the dome surrounding the city is closed, and the two heroes are trapped inside. Two hours later, duplicates of Kingdom, with black costumes instead of white, lie scattered about the event site, motionless. The true Kingdom, in the white and gold costume, releases green energy beams from his eyes, while Validator fights alongside him, blue streams of energy bursting forth from her hands. There has been an environmental change, something is happening in the center of the city - the organisms are becoming more hostile.
Kingdom and Validator are being hunted. A few minutes later, Kingdom reels backwards, struck down by the alien organisms. Validator fights on, firing more energy around. She then grabs one of the spherical cameras that have been recording the mission, ‘Listen to me! This place…you have to destroy it!’ she calls out urgently. Wide-eyed, she says clearly and loudly into the recording device ‘Whatever you do…do not come in here! Stay away! Stay out! This place is death!’ And then, she is engulfed in a red glow, as all communication with Omega Flight is lost, and the transmission ends.
‘That was one month ago’ Agent Michaud reports as he turns back to the Avengers. ‘And you waited this long to call?’ the Falcon asks, surprised. ‘We spent the time trying every possible way we could to get in there, Falcon’ Michaud responds. Captain America suggests to him that he defines “every possible way”. Agent Michaud reports that they tried cutting through the barrier with every device known to man, then they moved on to more exotic solutions - short range translocators, met human field-casters, even magic. ‘We even tried a low-yield fission device’ he adds. Bruce Banner adjusts his glasses and declares ‘I’m sorry, Agent, but that can’t be true. If you would have used a bomb, it would have shown up on earlier warning systems across the planet’. He adds that Canada doesn’t have any nuclear weapons.
Standing back from the others, arms folded, Wolverine - a former operative of Department H himself - announces ‘No, Banner… they don’t. But Agent Michaud here has resources his government doesn’t know about. See, Robert’s first generation Department H Special Ops. Old school’ he explains. Robert Michaud turns to Wolverine, ‘Hello, Logan’ he remarks. Banner points out there would still have been a signature, or radiation, or any other - but Wolverine ignores him, and walks towards Michaud, ‘You dug a hole, didn’t you, Agent Michaud? Tried to blast your way into the dome from underneath’ Wolverine deduces. ‘Which would have just shown up as abnormal seismic activity… right. An anomaly. Okay… Canadians with nukes. Who would have ever imagined that?’ Banner mutters.
‘I did’ Agent Michaud replies, and reports that it didn’t work, that the dome wall extends all the way down, making a perfect sphere - and there wasn’t the slightest crack. ‘So that brings us to why you’re here…. We need…I need your help. I need to get into that dome. Can you do that?’ Michaud asks the Avengers. ‘Well… the man asked you a question, Eden…’ Captain America remarks to Manifold, who replies that he can get them in there. ‘There you have it, Agent Michaud. All we need now is clearance’ Cap announces. Agent Michaud tells the Avengers that they have got one condition - that he is going with them.
One hour later: ‘Hangar’s clear. You’re good to go, Cap’ Maria hill calls out from an observation booth. Cap, Wolverine, Banner, the Falcon, Smasher, Manifold and Michaud are inside the hangar, and a teleport signal surrounds them as Cap instructs Manifold to take them in. An instant later, the teleport signal appears in the even site zone in Regina. They start to make their way through the strange landscape, as Agent Michaud announces that this isn’t right. ‘Are you sure that we -’ he begins to ask, but Manifold tells him that this is where the plaza was on the map, that they are exactly where he needed to be. ‘This should be right outside the city. It -’ Michaud begins, but looking through some more trees, Smasher calls out to the others, ‘Look! Oh, wow’ she utters as the Avengers see the ruined city, merging with the alien landscape.
The Falcon tells Cap that he is going to get airborne, get some idea of which direction they should go, but Banner tells him that there is no need. ‘I think we should head that way’ he motions forward. ‘What makes you think that, Bruce?’ Cap asks. ‘Well, it’s the way he’s pointing’ Bruce replies, as a strange yellow-ish, short alien with a large head stands before them, pointing. The alien speaks in its native tongue. ‘What do you think?’ Cap asks the Falcon. ‘I want you to know that I’m gonna feel just awful flying away while the creepy yellow dudes lure you into their trap and eat you’ Sam replies. ‘Well, try and say nice things about me at my funeral’ Cap tells him, before ordering the team onwards. They follow the small alien at Cap’s order, while more aliens appear, and follow the Avengers and Agent Michaud, speaking in their native tongue and carrying spears.
More and more aliens appear, leading the Avengers towards a glowing light within some trees. They aliens continue to speak in their native tongue, before coming to standstill at a crater, where the light glows from. The aliens surround the crater and wave their spears about. Manifold announces that he thinks something is moving in there. ‘Yeah, look!’ Smasher calls out. ‘My God…’ Agent Michaud utters. The aliens bounce up and down, continuing to call out in their native tongue, and wave their spears about. ‘It’s VALIDATOR’ Agent Michaud exclaims as the heroine slowly rises from the light in the crater. Her eyes are hollow. Her face hidden. She raises a hand, and utters in the dialect of the Builder Machine Code: ‘Hello Father’. There is darkness, then Validator appears at Agent Michaud’s side, and utters something into his ear.
Darkness again, and again, and when there is light, Cap, Wolverine, Agent Michaud, Banner, Falcon, Smasher and Manifold find themselves surrounded by sand and rocks. ‘Did you see?’ Agent Michaud asks the Avengers as they look up to see the SHIELD and Department H Helicarriers above them, and a small jet descending to the ground. ‘Do you remember?’ Agent Michaud asks. ‘Yes’ Captain America tells him. ‘Are you going to tell anyone what you saw? Can anyone make you?’ Agent Michaud enquires. ‘I don’t have those kind of problems…how about you?’ Cap responds. Maria Hill emerges from the jet, while Michaud reveals to Cap that he has a series six recording implant - no audio, video only, but Department H is going to review it - then they are going to ask questions. ‘There they are, Director Hill!’ an agent calls out as they approach the Avengers and Michaud.
‘Set a perimeter?’ a Department H officer asks. ‘Better safe than sorry’ Gill tells him. ‘Full containment, lieutenant’ the Department H officer says to another. ‘Yes, Sir’ comes the reply. ‘Robert…’ Logan calls out to Agent Michaud. ‘Yeah?’ Michaud replies. ‘What did she say?’ Logan asks. ‘Don’t worry about it’ Michaud tells him, before grabbing a gun from the holster on his thigh, and raising it to his head - then firing. Michaud’s body falls to the ground, slumped up against a rock. The Avengers rush towards him, strange symbols can be seen in the sand, Michaud’s body at the center of them.
The SHIELD and Department H Helicarriers hover alongside each other. Maria Hill and Liaison Porter sit opposite each other. ‘As agreed upon What you’ve just seen concludes all recorded mission data - from the beginning of the operation until Agent Michaud took his life’ Porter tells Hill. ‘Exactly forty-nine minutes. That’s what we found on his chip’ Porter adds, asking Hill what she got from debriefing the Avengers. ‘Nothing. They all said they couldn’t remember much of what happened’ Hill replies, adding that they jumped into what should have been a city, found a forest, and then it was gone - that’s it. Porter asks Hill if she believes them, to which Hill replies that she doesn’t, that she thinks they were holding something back. ‘But they’ve left, and I’m not much for chasing air’ she points out. ‘You find this acceptable, Director Hill?’ Porter enquires. ‘Which part? The leaving or the not telling?’ Hill asks.
‘Them leaving’ Porter remarks. ‘Well… Hulk’ Hill admits. ‘And the holding back of information?’ Porter asks. Maria points out that the Avengers don’t completely trust SHIELD, and they make a habit of giving them a good reason not to. ‘We lie to them, so they withhold from us. It’s baked into the relationship’ she tells Porter, adding that since he is the manifestation’ of good old fashioned honesty, he should tell her what he is not telling her. ‘Excuse me?’ Porter declares. ‘You were fishing. Now give, Agent Porter’ Maria replies. Porter pauses, before calling out ‘Load the additional footage’. He explains to Maria that one of their techs had the bright idea of looking up all series six records on file for Agent Michaud, including the data check performed before the mission began, and they compared that data set with what they pulled from his corpse - it should have yielded an increase of around forty-nine minutes.
‘We found more’ Porter admits. ‘How much more?’ Hill asks. ‘Three hundred and twenty-seven hours’ Porter reveals. ‘where was it? The extra footage? The extra time?’ Hill demands. ‘Everywhere. Some of it was thirty years ago. Some of it decades into the future’ Porter explains, adding that the effects appear to be variable, specific to each of them. Images appear on the monitor - Validator, surrounded by the energy, and the symbols. ‘What’s happening?’ Smasher asked as her body switched from a man, to her own, then to a horse-like alien. ‘Evolving…adapting’ Banner calls out as his form switches also, into a Hulk, then another, different Hulk. The Falcon squawks - literally, as one of his arms grows in length, and feathers sprout from it. Wolverine and Manifold look at themselves as their bodies don’t change, only their costumes. Similarly, Captain America’s - three times.
‘What we’re interested in is coming up now’ Porter informs Hill, as Michaud appears on the monitor. ‘Please! Stop!’ Michaud calls out, raising his gun. His body then dissolves into a skeleton. He is whole again, and moves closer to Validator who hovers before him. Porter tells Hill that series six chips gather data from both eyes, so they are able to map the environment and pull back and around from the Agent to et a better look at what is happening. ‘There! See? She pulls him close, drawing him in… and then…nothing. Nothing happened’ Porter tells Hill, as they look at the footage of Validator and Michaud. Maria tells Porter not to be ridiculous, and points out that it is obvious - she was telling him something.
Meantime, in the Quinjet, Manifold tells his teammates that he thinks they should talk about it. ‘That okay?’ he asks. ‘No. Not really’ Logan replies. ‘Seriously, I have questions. A ton of them’ Manifold declares. ‘Like, what just happened?’ Smasher asks. ‘Right. And why did we lie to the SHIELD guys? Are we not on the same team anymore?’ Manifold enquires. ‘And, the big one: why did that agent shoot himself?’ Smasher asks. ‘Yeah. That’ Manifold agrees. Logan turns back to the new heroes and tells them that Michaud did what he thought he had to do. ‘He did what someone does when keeping a secret is worth more than their life’. Smasher admits that she doesn’t understand, and asks why he would do that. ‘Because, whatever Validator became… it used to be his daughter’ Logan reveals. He adds that whatever her secret was, Robert Michaud decided that it was worth his life to protect it.
And, earlier, as Michaud was brought towards his daughter, ‘Father…something amazing has happened here - it’s happened to me. We’ve made something. And I’m supposed to protect it. It’s bigger than any of us imagined, father…’ Validator revealed to her father, before Agent Robert Michaud goes went wide-eyed, as Validator whispered ‘The system is now online…’.