Inside his own deeply troubled mind, Michael Pointer a.k.a. the new Guardian looks into the eyes of a red-haired woman, while numerous others surround them. ’They’ll be coming now…but don’t worry…I’ll be back…’ Pointer exclaims as he begins to fade away, and everyone reaches out to him.
‘Power him down! Now! Reduce levels by 80%!’ a female voice calls out. It’s Dr. Benning, who enters Michael Pointer’s quarters, flanked by well-armored CSIS soldiers and scientists. ’…I know where to find you now…’ Michael mumbles, talking to those inside his mind as he returns to reality. Dr Benning puts a hand on Pointer’s shoulder and asks him if he is all right. Pointer looks at Benning sideways and tells her that he trusted her. ’You can still tru -’ Benning begins to reply, only for Pointer to interrupt her, exclaiming ’Susan Catrini!’.
Pointer exclaims that Susan Catrini is in there now - with them - inside the Collective. ‘I understand that’s what happens to them if they die during transfer’ Pointer remarks. He tells Benning that Susan is - was - a telepath, and that it was through her that he contacted Benning. ‘And I met others…they’re all inside me!’ he exclaims, asking Benning how she could do this to him. ‘Yes, well, it was essential to the success of the Weapon Omega Program’ Benning replies coldly.
‘That’s what I am then…a weapon?’ Pointer asks. ‘”Weapon Omega” is just a codename designated for an objective, Michael…you’re the Guardian!’ Benning replies assuredly. Pointer asks if Benning has been using these people to feed him, to which the Doctor replies that they are criminals. ‘Don’t pity them. Many are murderers…or worse!’ Benning explains. Benning tells Pointer that if it provides him any comfort, they are continuing to make progress refining the process. ‘The mortality rate has drastically declined’ she adds, revealing that many of the donors have in fact volunteered to remain. ‘Most of those apprehended by Omega Flight - given the choice of extradition into Stark’s hands or participation in the CSIS chose to stay.
‘WHAT?’ Pointer exclaims, shocked. Referring to the large recreational facility within CSIS headquarters designated to the “donors”, Benning assures Pointer that they are treated quote well, and compensated quite well. ‘My God! You - you’re paying them to be…to be food for me!’ Pointer gasps. ‘Well, we certainly don’t phrase it so crudely’ Benning replies. Benning tells Pointer that it is explained to the donors that their energies are partially siphoned to provide energy for the Guardian suit. ‘And they accept this? What about those who don’t?’ Pointer asks, referring to Raptor and Susan Catrini. ‘Yes…well…in some cases difficult choices had to be made. Maintaining sufficient power levels requires a significant number of donors’ Benning replies.
With the CSIS agents now aiming their weapons at Pointer, Michael asks ‘But why? I have the power of the Collective inside of me! I - I don’t need these others!’ he exclaims. But Benning tells him that he does, as it was discovered early on that the powers of the Collective were fading - therefore it needed to be fed just like any other living organism. Benning tells Pointer that the tricky part was “processing the food”, as apparently Pointer can only absorb energy from other mutants. ‘And there just aren’t as many running around these days as in days past’ Benning adds.
Benning explains that they had to be creative, and that mixing Mutant Growth Hormone with some of the donors already altered cell structures produced some rather fantastic results. Benning leans in towards Pointer as she tells him that the energies he was able to assimilate proved quite powerful, but very erratic. ‘We needed you in that suit, Michael. We needed you to need it. The Guardian suit was designed to help you control those powers. To help us control you’ Benning reveals, before explaining that they began manipulating the amounts of power in Pointer’s system. ‘It became evident early on that elevating the levels had an intoxicating effect on you’ Benning adds, revealing that reducing the levels, well, she suspects that Pointer is experiencing some rather unpleasant withdrawal symptoms right now.
Pointer begins to sweat, it pours down his face, ‘Ugh…my God! And so, what? You - you turn me into some sort of…of energy addict?’ Pointer asks. Benning tells Pointer that he left them with little choice, and remarks that he was a very reluctant subject. Referring to the deaths of four of Canada’s premier super heroes - Heather McNeil Hudson…James Hudson…Michael Twoyoungmen…Eugene Milton Judd… - at the hands of Pointer, Benning remarks that the trauma of his origin left him shattered mentally. ‘You certainly weren’t ready to accept the mantle of Canada’s new Guardian’ Benning adds.
‘Wait a minute! You said the powers were fading? We could have just let them fade away?’ Pointer exclaims. Benning corrects herself, explaining that the power was decreasing - ‘levelling off would be the most accurate description’, she adds. ‘But that’s even better! I could have controlled it then!’ Michael exclaims, confused. ‘You destroyed Alpha Flight, Michael. Becoming Guardian was your penance…Guardian is not only Canada’s premier super hero, but also a symbol!’ Benning exclaims, adding that she was not about to tell the people signing her checks that they were spending billions of dollars to fund a b-level symbol.
‘What? That’s - you’re insane! I’ll do it now. Just stop wearing the suit and let the powers level off!’ Pointer shouts. But Benning frowns as she tells Pointer that is no longer a possibility. ‘The shock of complete withdrawal will kill you now’ she states. ‘I don’t care!’ Pointer shouts. Benning extends a hand to him, ‘Don’t you?’ She asks. ‘Well then, do it - you’re already halfway there. Hand me the suit and we’ll walk out of here. We’ll honor your noble sacrifice’ she tells him. Pointer begins clutching at the top of his costume, sweat continues to pour down his face, and he gives up.
‘I didn’t think so’ Benning remarks, standing with her hands on her hips. ‘You’re a doctor…how can you do this?’ Pointer asks. Waving her hands around, Benning replies that the popular answer would probably be “for the greater food of God and country”, but she suspects he would like a more precise answer. Benning smiles as she tells Pointer that his condition presented an opportunity that most doctors can only dream of. ‘I don’t think Stark even realized what exactly you were capable of. ‘If he had, he surely would not have release you to us’ Benning remarks.
‘So that’s what I was to you? A weapon and an opportunity…something to further your career?’ Pointer asks, declaring that he is no doctor, but that he thinks he would have to diagnose Benning’s behavior as sociopathic. ‘Call me what you will, Michael. Sadly, sometimes compassion only serves to cloud the scientific process’ Benning replies. ‘The - the others will help me! When they find out what you’ve been doing, they’ll -’ Pointer rambles, but Benning interrupts, declaring that they will do nothing. ‘They can’t help you now!’ she snaps, informing Pointer that Sasquatch and Arachne are currently our on assignment, rounding up more potential donors. ‘God bless the Americans and their Registration Act’.
Benning informs Pointer that he lacks the ability to contact his teammates now, ‘You have been completely shut off from utilizing your powers’ she tells him, adding that USAgent can no longer help anyone thanks to Pointer’s attack on him. ‘That man was simply too stupid for his own good’ Benning remarks harshly. Pointer begins to lose it, I’m…I’ll…’ he shouts, sweating harder than before. ‘You’ll do nothing but cooperate now, Michael’ Benning declares, reminding him that they have already determined the alternative. ‘And dying isn’t an option for you anymore, is it? No, you’re only thinking about how much you want that feeling back right now…the power. To feel them alive inside of you again!’
‘Yes, “inside of you”. The last time I saw you, you said “It’s time to go inside now”. You didn’t mean into my office, did you?’ Benning remarks. ‘You know the answer, Benning. They’re in me. I’ve been hearing them for…for months!’ Pointer exclaims, suggesting that Benning’s messing with the power shook a few things loose. Benning asks Pointer, whose skin seems to be shucking inwards, if he did get inside the Collective. ‘Is that how you isolated specific traits from the, ah…’ her voice trails off, and Pointer finishes her sentence: ‘Victims?’ he asks. ‘Subjects’ Benning corrects Pointer. Pointer declares that all he needed was a moment to concentrate - to go deep inside and find them. ‘There’s thousands of them in there…combined, they come out as…as some kind of mishmash of energy. But they’re each their own individual little bit of…something’ Pointer remarks, thinking of Susan Catrini and the others inside his mind.
Benning declares that their hypothesis was correct. ‘Even factoring in that many of the powers will be duplicates, there should still be hundreds of specific, unique powers to choose from’ Benning adds. ‘And now the means by which to utilize them’ Benning remarks, before telling the scientists to take him to the lab and prepare donors for transfer. But, a withered Pointer suddenly collapses on the floor. Benning takes his hand and tells him that the time for discussion is over, and that he needs to realize she is the only one who can help him now. ‘You trusted me once before, remember. It was me you reached out to…I’m asking you to trust me once again’ Benning tells him.
His face withered, and sweat continuing to pour down, Pointer manages a half-smile, and tells Benning that she really is a piece of work. ‘What makes you think that you were the only one I reached out to?’ he asks, when, suddenly, the door is kicked in, knocking over a scientist and a security guard. Standing in the doorway is Johnny Walker a.k.a. USAgent, bandages on his arms, and wrapped around one of his eyes, he looks furiously into the room. Walker is flanked by Julia Carpenter’s daughter, Rachel, and Agent Brown who looks at Benning and remarks ‘I’m sorry, Dr Benning, but I don’t believe I got the memo on all this…’.