Canada - more specifically, St. John’s in Newfoundland. There lies a deceptively bland façade - a large brown warehouse enclosed in a high fence with barbed wire all around it, and Private Property: No Trespassing sign on the fence. But within lies a very deadly purpose. Welcome to…Department K!
Inside, General Jeremy Clarke stands in front of a large computer screen with an image of Jean-Paul Beaubier a.k.a. Northstar, a founding and long-serving member of Alpha Flight - Canada’s former premiere super hero team. Clarke declares that Northstar is a mutant speedster with hyper-fast reflexes and a limited degree of resistance to injury, but with no enhanced physical strength beyond the sheer speed and frequency with which he can hit.
Clarke exclaims that Northstar is arrogant, pig-headed, highly contemptuous of authority, ‘And he’s - well, you’ve all read the file’ Clarke remarks, not wanting to say out loud that Northstar is also gay. Clarke declares that he is not interested in the niceties of due process, for he simply wants Northstar removed from the public eye. Clarke points out that Northstar will resist strenuously - that’s a given - ‘But I’m sure it’s nothing…Weapon P.R.I.M.E. can’t handle!’
Standing in the center of the facility are the five members that comprise the current line up of Weapon P.R.I.M.E - Tigerstryke, Double Trouble, Yeti and Killspree. Tigerstryke assures General Clarke that they will not fail him, and adds that if Northstar resists, they will take him down - hard. The beastly Yeti growls and exclaims ’Just tell us where he is!’
Northstar is currently in Ibiza - a small island off the South-East coast of Spain, the old town, where after midnight, every night - it’s party time! Jean-Paul makes his way through the crowds, when suddenly someone comes up and grabs him, telling him to wait up, exclaiming that it has been a while week. ‘But hey, seven, eight clubs a night, we’re beat, out on our feet, don’t you, ya know, get tired?’ Addressing the man as Clive, Jean-Paul removes Clive’s hands from him and tells him to go or stay, as it really is of precious little concern to him, for with or without “excess baggage” he fully intends to see the night through. ‘”Tired” is for other people!’
Suddenly, Jean-Paul is blinded by the bright lights of cameras flashing, and a reporter remarks that they have followed him around for days, and all they get is one little temper tantrum. ‘Please, something newsworthy…something shocking!’ Jean-Paul immediately speeds off, rushing past a man selling some flowers, he grabs the flowers and puts some money in the mans hand. Then past a woman putting on some lipstick, and again he takes the lipstick and leaves her some money - all in the blink of an eye, before arriving back by the reporter, Klaus, and covering his face in lipstick and shoving the flowers into his belt. Klaus’ fellow reporters and their camera crews all begin to hassle Klaus for this, laughing at him.
As Northstar begins to take his leave, another reporter holding a video camera shouts at him, asking if he has a comment for him about the Quebec City bus station bomb. What did you say?’ snaps Jean-Paul as he races over to the man and grabbing him by his collar, shoves him up against a wall. ‘I suggest, maggot, you reconsider you line of questioning!’Northstar says angrily, before remarking that what he did with Klaus was a bit of fun, Jean-Paul then warns the reporter that he does not want to make an enemy out of him. Jean-Paul then strides off, while Klaus runs over to the reporter and asks him if he is okay. He replies that he is, while thinking to himself that Northstar is going to regret that, for there are a lot of people who do not like this snotty, self-absorbed lifestyle that he Northstar has adopted. ‘Folks who’d like to see you take a fall. Well, Ritchie Ward is gonna give them their wish!’ he thinks to himself.
Soon, at a villa on the rugged North Coast. Jean-Paul takes his jacket off and thinks that he couldn’t wait to get away and be rid of those leeches. He wonders why, with his life finally on his own, to do with what he will, no one laying down rules or restrictions, is he so completely and utterly miserable? He tells himself that it is not as if he misses Alpha Flight, for he was glad to see the end of that particular set-up - it was too comfortable, too cozy and was suffocating him. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he doesn’t know what it is - for although a new chapter of his life has begun, a blank page on which he can write what he wants, he should be welcoming it with open arms - but he is not. Suddenly, someone sitting in the shadows exclaims ‘I think, Jean-Paul deep down…you already know the problem!’
A brief moment or two later, a blue car streaks towards the villa. In a tree high above the road, Tigerstryke radios to his teammates, informing them that the subject is mobile, but they need to let him get well beyond the residences in this area, then they can move in and secure. Suddenly though, Yeti leaps out in front of the car - ‘”Move in and secure” What a stuffed shirt!’ he exclaims, mocking Tigerstryke, and causing the car to swerve. The driver is shocked at seeing Yeti and wonders what it is. Yeti calls out to Double Trouble, and the twin sisters fly towards the car and unleash their energies on it, causing it to fly off the road and down a small gully.
Fire springs from the car, as the members of Weapon P.R.I.M.E gather around, and Tigerstryke congratulates his team on a job well done, while telling Killspree to stand down. The vicious Killspree exclaims that a bio-generated plasma bolt right in the face will work well for him, before remarking that it is a shame about the wheels of the car, then pulling the door of the driver’s side. ‘Jean-Paul Beaubier, in the name of the government of Canada I -’ begins Tigerstryke, until he sees that it isn’t Northstar. ‘We took out the wrong guy!’
A few miles back up the road, Ritchie Ward carries his video camera with him, and thinks to himself that Jean-Paul is going to talk to him whether he likes it or not - ‘After, that is, I take a little poke around’. Suddenly, there is a noise, and Ritchie is attacked. Punched in the face, kicked in the stomach, then a large rock thrown down on him, ‘Urh-hh - Don’t!’ he pleads. CHUD. The rock lands hard.
Shortly, a computer-phone in Jean-Paul’s room rings. Stirring in his sleep, Jean-Paul mumbles that this had better be good, but upon turning the computer on, he is greeted by Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, who tells him that they have to talk. Sitting up, Jean-Paul replies that they don’t, ‘Not if it remotely concerns the late unlamented Department H’. Northstar tells Heather that he thought he made it perfectly clear that he wants nothing to do with an Alpha Flight consigned to backroom oblivion.
Heather informs Jean-Paul that this is as unofficial as it comes, for General Clarke would blow a major artery if he knew she was as much as thinking about Northstar, however, she tells Northstar that there is no way she can just sit back and let this all drop on him from a great height. Heather reveals to Jean-Paul that General Clarke has his own “Flight” these days, an outfit called Weapon P.R.I.M.E., and tells Northstar that it isn’t about red faces in high places anymore, for she intercepted this morning’s priority call, and a body was found. ‘They think you killed him!’
Moments later, there is a mighty boom as Tigerstryke blasts his way into Jean-Paul’s villa, followed by the rest of Weapon P.R.I.M.E., Tigerstryke picks up Jean-Paul sheets and exclaims that he doesn’t believe this, that it looks like Northstar only recently left here. He tells his teammates that this is fast becoming a bad joke, and they are being made to look like jerks. Killspree slashes at the computer with his blades, while Tigerstryke angrily orders his team to find Northstar - now!
Five miles due East and some hundred or so feet up in the air, Northstar soars through the air, thinking that he might be able to make some sense of this mess now. Jean-Paul decides that it wasn’t bad enough Ritchie Ward had to start dragging old Separatiste skeletons out of the closet in the national press, but he had to go and get himself killed also - and right on Jean-Paul’s doorstep no less. He wonders how people can think he did it, and thinks that it is bad enough Weapon P.R.I.M.E. believe he is some sort of aberration of nature that needs “removing” from society, without thinking he is a murderer to boot. Northstar wishes that he hadn’t been quite so abrupt with Raul earlier, but his solicitous words did touch a raw nerve.
(Flashback, earlier that morning when Jean-Paul got home)
Raul understands that Jean-Paul is afraid, and tells him that it is okay, for a certain vulnerability can be a strength, not a weakness. However, he tells Jean-Paul that he must stop running, and covering himself in comfortable situations. ‘Things have changed, and for the sake of your own sanity…you have to change with them!’
Jean-Paul wonders if he really told Raul to stuff his bargain basement psychology. ‘Of course I did - is it not my true talent…to always hurt those closest to me?’ Dropping to the ground, Jean-Paul reminds himself that Raul is an old friend, a good friend, and perhaps it is not to late to make amends, when suddenly, someone comes up behind him, smiling, he greets Jean-Paul, telling him it has been a long a long time. Jean-Paul smiles and rushes over to the man, addressing him as Max, he remarks that he hasn’t seen him since his uncle’s funeral, and asks him how he is.
Max replies that he is frightened, and tells Northstar that he wishes this reunion could be under better circumstances, but the truth is he sought him out because of the other night. Max reveals that he has be warned, ‘Warned that any part of your past is hazardous to my future’. Handing Jean-Paul a photograph, Max explains that his attacker left this, and supposes that it has some significance to him. Jean-Paul looks at the photo and sees himself, some years ago, with his friend Mariel, though someone has drawn a target around Mariel’s face. Jean-Paul screws the photo up and exclaims that first Max, the only surviving relative of Raymonde Belmonde, and now Mariel. ‘I believe someone is challenging me…by threatening my past!’
(Show with Flashback images, prior to the back-up story in Alpha Flight (1st series) #10)
Jean-Paul remembers - a man alone on the streets of Montreal. A man who saw more than just a petty thief - but also saw the depth of the boy’s loneliness and confusion. A shell-shocked survivor of a childhood plagued with tragedy and fear. Raymonde Belmonde, a man who spoke of a freedom of choice, of gifts from a generous God - instead of Hellfire and damnation. Jean-Paul’s eyes were opened, and he grew to understand his difference, his place in the scheme of things - to accept who and what he was. Jean-Paul found control and direction. Raymonde Belmonde, who without ever asking for anything in return - made it his business to make sure Jean-Paul Beaubier was steered right.
Jean-Paul reveals to Max that he owes his uncle so much, and with his death, the debt passed on to his family. He tells Max to go to Toronto, to Department H and seek out Heather Hudson, to tell her that Northstar sent him, and she will arrange protection for him. Max shakes Jean-Paul’s hand and asks what he is going to do. Northstar explains that someone is leading him toward Paris, and it seems he has no choice but to follow.
Suddenly, the ground around Northstar explodes, and Jean-Paul is knocked backwards, as Tigerstryke orders him to stay where he is. With the rest of Weapon P.R.I.M.E. by his side, Tigerstryke tells Northstar that he must come with them, and they can do it the easy way, or the hard way. ‘Your choice!’ ‘THE HARD WAY!’ Jean-Paul shouts angrily as he speeds towards a surprised Tigerstryke, knocking him off balance with a powerful punch. Yeti grabs Jean-Paul by his ankle, and throws him to the ground, telling him that it wasn’t very nice. Raising his fists into the air, then bringing them down hard, Yeti jokes ‘Then again…neither is this!’ But a surprised Yeti only smashes the ground, and proceeds to scratch his head. Northstar smiles and tells Yeti that he reminds him of his former teammate Sasquatch. ‘Only slower - and dumber!’
‘This fast enough for you, pretty boy?’ asks Killspree as he lunges at Northstar, slicing him with his blades. Jean-Paul stumbles, and scolds himself for not being ready. Jean-Paul trips Killspree up, while recalling that from what little Heather was able to hack from Department K’s files on this ground, she was able to put together quite a useful profile on of their fighting strategy. Jean-Paul grabs Killspree by his headpiece and swings him around and around, while thinking that as Yeti was attacking him head on, Killspree was getting in position for his attack. Northstar assumes that Double Trouble are up next, and understands that they are twins with symbiotic plasma charging powers, so he imagines that if anything comes between them when the women are ready to strike, the result would be quite explosive. And as Jean-Paul tosses Killspree towards Double Trouble, all three find themselves fried.
Tigerstryke returns, declaring that General Clarke said he wanted Northstar brought in, but he never said in what condition! With that, Tigerstryke blasts Jean-Paul in the back, and Jean-Paul falls to the ground. Tigerstryke runs over to him, ‘We’ve got him now!’ he boasts, but Northstar thinks that Tigerstryke shouldn’t be too sure of himself there, for although his battle suit is close to Heather’s in design, it is most certainly not an equal. Jean-Paul thinks he knows what to do, when he suddenly looks at the photo of Mariel crumpled in his hands and wonders what he is doing - in his need to vent the frustration, he has forgotten his friend who is in danger for the sole reason that he once cared for her.
Northstar flies straight up, causing Tigerstryke and Yeti to run and bump into each other. Jean-Paul tells them that while he would love to stay and fight, he cannot, and strakes off into the sky. Tigerstryke rubs his head, and exclaims ‘Wherever you go, Northstar - Weapon P.R.I.M.E. will find you!’
Northstar thinks that his mysterious adversary has miscalculated whatever uncertainty and confusion he felt before he has been swept away. Instead of demoralizing him the way forward seems suddenly clear. ‘Again I have direction…and purpose!’
Meanwhile, in Paris, France, an ice cream truck sits in an alleyway, and inside, someone is watching Northstar on hidden cameras. ‘Ah, Northstar. If there’s one thing I like…it’s a complacent victim!’ His name is Arcade. His business is murder. The red-headed long-time enemy of the X-Men smiles, and declares that the game is on, and this time, the whole globe is his game board. ‘Truly…a Murderworld!’