A million years away…that’s how close the nearest human being is…one day, a hundred millennia from now, this volcanic wilderness will be called Australia, and this man will be called Willie Walkaway…he will be a police officer in the outback town of Kagoona Crossing, and, on one impossible midnight, he will clothe himself as his ancestors did…to fight alongside the American super heroes Force Works to protect his hometown from a living, waking nightmare. And, in the middle of that struggle, in the blink of an eye, time will snap out of joint…and he will find himself alone here now…a million years away. He stands on a ledge as lightning crackles in the sky above, and volcanic ash billows from the raging volcanoes.
Over the howling assault of the wind, Willie Walkaway hears a voice in his head. ‘Who are you? How can I hear you?’ he calls out. The voice is so loud, it shakes his inner ear, his sinuses, his soft palate. Blood streams from his nose. It repeats one word, over and over…. ‘Orphan? What…does it mean?’ Willie calls out, before the voice resonates once more: ‘You have dream-sight…you can understand me…I am Orphan…’. Again time jumps the rails, space slides sideways, and Willie Walkaway becomes a witness to events that occurred before human history began, floating alongside a spaceship that plummets to the earth below.
The Orphan’s voice resonates once more, announcing that he came to this place long ago, from beyond the Dreamland. ‘I was orphaned…and fell from the sky…I fell because my mother-ship died above your world…in the flames of my arrival, the living beings inside me also perished’. Still in the past, Willie hovers over the crash-site, where his ancestors have gathered. ‘For ages I slept’ the Orphan reveals, explaining that Willie’s ancestors felt his presence and came and watched over him, keeping him safe. ‘In a heartbeat, that was twenty of your generations, they came to venerate me as a sacred place. A place of dreams’ the Orphan reveals.
The Orphan continues, explaining that this was because he was built to be controlled by the power of the mind. So, instinctively, he tapped into their mental rhythms and made their dreams into reality. ‘So that’s how you’re messing with me head’ Willie declares, before shouting ‘ENOUGH!’ as he hovers in a chasm, and asks here his friends and Force Works are. ‘We were being attacked…by you or by someone using your power!’ Willie declares. Orphan replies that he doesn’t understand, and asks Willie why he is alarmed, as it was only one of his kind dreaming. ‘A man called Shane. He is dreaming through me. That is how it has always been’ the Orphan explains. Willie replies that Shane is a crazy man. ‘You must realize that! He must be stopped!’
‘Let me go! Let me -’ Willie calls out, before he finds himself back in reality, as time shunts back into place, throwing him down by the wreck of the Works Wagon. He sees Alf lying sprawled by the wreckage and he asks where the others are. But Alf is silent, his face horror-stricken. ‘Looks like another poor galah died of fright’. Willie looks upwards and calls out to the Orphan, asking him where his friends are ‘Have you killed them, too?’ he demands.
A split second ago, Tony “Iron Man” Stark was with his teammates in the Works Wagon as the nightmare apparition attached. ‘What in blazes?’ Iron Man calls out as he finds himself alone. ‘Wanda? Agent? Iron Man to Works personnel! Report your position!’ Iron Man calls out through the communication system. Disorientated, he checks his armor’s time / location monitor and finds he is exactly when and where he was a split second ago. Tony is surprised when he sees some kind of techno-organic growth sprouting from the landscape and spreading like wildfire. Suddenly, the growth wraps around Tony and invades his armor, burrowing into the on-board systems. ‘I’m trapped!’ he tells himself. The growth inside the armor. Tony has no choice, he has to evacuate the armor before it’s too late - ‘NOOOO!’ he cries out as the techno-organic growth overwhelms him.
Meantime, Spider-Woman remembers being throw across the tilting cabin of the wagon, and then…finds herself crouched on a very large spider web. ‘Hello? Where - where is everyone?’ Julia Carpenter calls out. Her surroundings make no sense to her. She feels a clammy, stale breeze against her face, and hears the crack of thick, fleshy cables, and then a voice at the heart of the web - ‘Mom! Mommy! Help me, Mom! I’m scared!’ Rachel calls out to her mother. ‘Oh my God! Rachel!’ Julia gasps. She moves swiftly across the giant spider-web towards her daughter - but not fast enough, as the alien Scatter erupt from the flesh of the web…Julia’s greatest fear. The bugs overwhelm her, and Julia screams - and screams!
Elsewhere, Century freezes. His teammates have just vanished. They were under attack. A dark power was ripping open the Works Wagon’s hull. And then…calmly, his analytical alien mind comforts the enigma. Perhaps it is he who has moved. But Parallax, his staff, tells him there has been no change of location. ‘This is Century. I request a response. Is there anyone else present?’ the alien calls out via communicator. Suddenly, ‘Yes’ a voice replies. Century spins around and sees a colorless black-and-white version of himself. ‘What? It is not possible!’ he gasps. ‘Away from me, phantom!’ Century shouts as he attempts to swipe his doppelganger with Parallax. However, countless more black-and-white doubles appear. ‘Get away or…NO!’ Century gasps, ‘NOOO!’ he calls out as the doubles overwhelm him, completely engulfing him. .
Elsewhere, ‘Well, Scarlet Witch? We’re waiting…’ Iron Man calls out to Wanda Maximoff who exclaims ‘What on Earth? Where did it go? Did I black out, or -?’ she asks, confused. ‘What are you talking about, woman? You’re losing it, aren’t you? I knew it was a mistake putting you in charge!’ Iron Man declares. ‘Your dumb calls are gonna get us wasted, Witch!’ USAgent shouts. ‘Yeah! Rachel’s going to be an orphan thanks to you!’ Spider-Woman remarks. Wanda begins to cry, and asks ‘Why are you doing this? WHY?’, to which Century raises Parallax over the Scarlet Witch’s head and suggests it would be best / preferable / safest for them all if she was dead.
Meantime, Johnny Walker a.k.a. the USAgent wonders how he came to be so alone. Because when you are alone, there are scary things that come for you. He is a young boy. He shovers and curls up tight as he sits on his bed. His clothes are too big. He must’ve been playing the dress-up game. Now it’s way past bedtime. And there’s something in the closet…. Johnny’s Pa always told him there was nothing to be scared of, no bogey man out there in the dark. But the closet door swings open. Pa was lying. ‘No! No! No! NO!’ Johnny screams as the hideous monster looms over him.
But, Johnny turns his hand into a fist - and throws the best punch of his life. There is a massive WH-KRIIISH noise as little Johnny Walker is replaced by his handsome and heroic present self - as USAgent shatters the illusion plaguing him. Reality slams back into place, and Johnny stands up, while his teammates are still trapped in their nightmares. ‘Streuth! Where did you all come from?’ Willie Walkaway exclaims as he stumbles across Force Works. ‘Easy now, Lady Spider’ Willie tells Julia as he helps her up, while Century struggles to sit up, confused. ‘Gone! It’s gone!’ Iron Man declares, while USAgent asks Wanda if she is okay. ‘I was locked in one mess of a bad dream there for a second’ USAgent announces. Julia remarks that she was too, while the Scarlet Witch asks USAgent how he managed to break out of it.
‘I slugged it’ Walker smiles, explaining that he knew it could not be real, so he hit it with a knuckle burger. ‘Hey, what did you expect from me…brain surgery?’ USAgent asks. Willie informs Force Works (calling them “mates”), that he had a dream of his own, and wised up to a thing or two. He announces that they are dealing with an alien presence here, who calls itself the Orphan and responds to human thought. Willie informs Force Works that the Orphan came here thousands of years ago and that it can manifest their greatest dreams, or their greatest nightmares, although it does not know the difference between right and wrong.
‘What’s worse, right now that maniac Shane is in control of it!’ Willie motions upwards and suggests they get to the Orphan before Shane starts mind-mauling them again. The Scarlet Witch climbs up the side of a cliff, leading the way. Spider-Woman climbs up on a web, while Willie and Century follow, and USAgent brings up the rear. Iron Man flies overhead, and informs Wanda that he will go on ahead and scout the cliff top area, but the Scarlet Witch tells him to hold it, and informs him that they stay as a group, against something this volatile, they cannot afford to weaken by splitting up. ‘If Hell breaks loose again, I want to know where everybody is! I don’t want to have to worry about you off grand-standing on your own’ Wanda declares. Annoyed, Iron Man replies that he doesn’t “grandstand”.
‘I do my job. Under these circumstances, I think -’ Tony calls out, but an even more annoyed Scarlet Witch firmly tells Iron Man that it is not open for discussion. ‘We keep together! Agreed?’ she orders. ‘Fine’ Iron Man mutters as he continues to hover overhead, while Wanda and the others reach the top of the cliff. ‘Okay, people! We’re almost there!’ Wanda calls out, before everyone looks on in shock. ‘I thought I’d seen it all!’ Iron Man gasps. ‘Oh my…’ Wanda utters. ‘That’s Orphan all right’ Willie announces.
It lies in the crater, like a bullet in a shot hole. It lies where it fell a million years ago. The landscape has molded itself around it in the intervening ages, like a nest. It hums with quiet, awesome power. It is Orphan. ‘Wanda?’ Tony asks. ‘I’m thinking, Iron Man!’ Wanda retorts as everyone stares at the massive, sprawling Orphan. Wanda then informs everyone to get down there, and to stay alert. The heroes make their way down the cliff face towards the crater. ‘Curious…’ Century begins. ‘What is it?’ Spider-Woman asks him. Century announces that local energy readings are rising at an exponential rate. ‘See how Parallax vibrates / twitches / resonates?’ as he holds his staff overhead.
Suddenly, ‘No! Again! I can hear it again!’ Willie cries out. Spider-Woman turns to him, and informs him that his nose is bleeding. ‘Don’t mind me, darling - I know what this means’ Willie replies, before declaring that Shane is coming out for round two. Suddenly, the manifestations of demons and a large skeleton appear over Force Works. ‘Okay, team! You know the drill! Everything you’ve got and then some!’ Wanda orders Force Works, who attack the creatures, and the skeleton. The skeleton punches Century, knocking the alien backwards, while Willie announces that they have got to get inside and disconnect Shane’s rapport with the Orphan. ‘I hear that! Follow me in! I’m immune to this creep’s tricks!’ USAgent calls out as he punches one of the creatures with his photon shield.
Wanda calls out to John, telling him that he doesn’t know that, and orders Julia to back USAgent up. ’Whatever you’re planning, Wanda - do it soon!’ Iron Man exclaims as the skeleton grabs him. ‘Wait up, Agent!’ Julia calls out. ‘Shields ignite!’ Walker shouts as he leaps down into the sprawling Orphan, while calling back that he is not waiting for anyone. ‘So hurry up, Spi, cuz I’m almost there!’ Walker announces. ‘You got it!’ Julia tells him as she dodges the jagged teeth of one of the demon manifestations. USAgent and Spider-Woman both land near a man, slumped against the wall of Orphan, and Spider-Woman suggests that he mist be Shane, and that it looks like he is in a coma. ‘Yeah’ Walker agrees as he puts his hands on Shane, despite Spider-Woman telling him to be careful.
‘Of course I will’ Walker declares, before he cries out in pain. Julia immediately throws up a psi-web to pull USAgent free from Shane, but she receives a backlash when the psi-web conducts the dream energy, and the feedback strikes her. She screams, while a voice resonates around them: ‘What - is - this?’ the voice asks.
Back at the scene of the battle, Willie tells the rest of Force Works that he is sorry to break the news, but he thinks they are losing. ‘Never say die, Willie Walkaway - not while -’ Wanda begins, when suddenly, ‘Good Lord!’ Wanda gasps, as the manifestations dissipate. ‘They’re vanishing!’ Willie exclaims, surprised. USAgent and Spider-Woman return to the others, and Wanda asks Walker what happened. Carrying Shane’s body, Walker announces that it is over, as Orphan killed Shane. Julia explains that while she was stunned, she thinks her psi-web linked her unconscious mind with Orphan’s dream-state, and Orphan learned from Agent and her, their minds showed it a different set of values, and made it realize through Shane it might be doing wrong.
Iron Man supposes that Orphan was shocked by that realization, and it reacted in an extreme way, killing what it perceived as the evil party. Iron Man remarks that Shane was a killer, but that he didn’t deserve summary execution this way. ‘Orphan’s like a child…eager, curious, innocent. When it realized what it was allowing Shane to do, it acted impetuously’ Willie suggests. ‘The kid’s got a lot to learn’ USAgent remarks.
Sunrise, Force Works and Willie have gathered at the base of the crater, and Willie announces that he will stay, as Orphan needs a new Dreamguard to watch over it. Willie adds that he will try to teach the Orphan a thing or two about the world it is in. Wanda shakes Willie’s hand and wishes him luck, while giving him a Force Works collar stud communicator so he can stay in touch with them. Wanda points out that Orphan is a wonder, but that it could be a potential threat to them al. Force Works walk away from Willie, who smiles and looks at the communicator. ‘Hey! Does this mean I’m a member of - ?? NAH’ he exclaims, before calling to Force Works, telling them to “dream good”.
‘Friends…I wish that today’s gathering was not necessary…’ Iron Man says to the huddled assemblage of heroes - including USAgent, the Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman, and another dozen or so who have worked with Wonder Man over the years, such as the Beast, Captain America and Hercules.
Nearby in the cemetery, standing under a barren tree, Force Works’ PR manager, Amanda Chaney, is with the alien hero called Century, and asks him if he is sure he doesn’t want to sit with the others. Century replies that it would seem inappropriate. Amanda asks Century if he feels awkward about participating in a human custom, to which Century explains that he did not know the man they are mourning. ‘I’m sure that doesn’t matter’ Amanda tells him. ‘Perhaps…but I am sure it does matter that I’m responsible for his death’ Century points out.
‘How can you say that?’ Amanda asks. ‘With all conviction’ Century replies, reminding Amanda that he led the Scatter to Earth, and they destroyed the Kree starship, causing Wonder Man to die. Century informs Amanda that the other members of Force Works have never confronted him with this, but that he senses that in their hearts they know it is true. He points out that this service today brings it all back to them, and wonders whether they will want anything to do with him when it is over. ‘Can I be frank with you?’ Amanda asks Century. ‘You wish to assume a new name?’ Century asks, misunderstanding. ‘I mean blunt / honest / direct’ Amanda explains, using Century’s common device of stating three words.
Iron Man can be seen standing several feet away from them as he performs the eulogy, while Amanda tells Century that she is no analyst, her job at Stark Industries is public relations, and perhaps this is not for her to say: ’But will you snap out of it?’ she asks Century. Amanda informs Century that she has read Iron Man’s mission report, and reminds him that he has told her himself, that the Scarlet Witch’s hex power brought him here, that he had no choice in the matter. ’You didn’t lead the Scatter here deliberately’ Amanda tells Century, adding that he is an unknown quantity to everyone, but that his track record on the team has been exemplary. Amanda declares that Century has been integral to the success of every mission so far, that he has saved lives, at the risk of his own. ‘Without you, War Machine would’ve died in China, and it was you who suggested the ultimate means to defeat the Mandarin…need I go on?’ Amanda exclaims.
Amanda takes Century’s hand and tells him that he is punishing himself for something he didn’t do, and suggests that the best way he can expunge those false feelings, is to fill the gap Wonder Man left and do his memory proud. ‘I…thank you’ Century replies. ‘Any time’ Amanda tells him.
Later, on the Desert Highway, Route 1010, homeward bound. The occupants of the limousine are silent, each lost in their own private sorrow conjured unbidden by the funeral mood. At the wheel of the limo is Happy Hogan, who feels the weight of grief in the seats behind him, and dearly wishes he could think of something to say. They all think of Wonder Man - and more.
For the Scarlet Witch, she thinks of her children, deceptive enchantments that she nonetheless loved with all her heart. For Spider-Woman, her broken marriage and the subsequent death of her estranged husband, Larry. Iron Man mourns the sudden disappearance of Veronica Benning, his girlfriend. While USAgent, well, none of them know the personal grief locked in his heart…and that perhaps is the saddest thing of all.