Paris, France. Specifically, Montmatre - “the Artists’ Quarter”, a slice of old Paris, its cafes and cobbled streets as much a part of the city’s renown as the famed Eiffel Tower. Home to performers, thinkers, dreamers…and some years previously one Jean-Paul Beaubier, more famously known as the mutant speedster Northstar, openly gay and former member of Canada’s premiere super hero team, the now defunct Alpha Flight. That is why, on this glorious Spring day, that the life of one other, more current resident, has been shattered. Out in the streets, two mimes pass an ice cream truck, and head towards an apartment up above one of the cafes.
Inside that apartment, Northstar stands in a ransacked room and shouts ‘Mariel!’ Before asking his mysterious foe ‘Why are you doing this? What do you want? This is my past…and you’re tearing it apart!’ Jean-Paul remembers this apartment as it was - the clutter and confusion, the way Mariel seemed to know exactly where every little thing was. Gone now, shattered - like the memory itself. The handsome speedster wonders if he was able to move faster, perhaps he might have been here in time, but no, he allowed his bruised pride to draw him into battle with the Canadian government’s current super powered lackeys - Weapon P.R.I.M.E.
Jean-Paul goes over to a photograph on the wall of himself and Mariel, thinking that he was so incensed about Weapon P.R.I.M.E’s readiness to believe his guilt, that he ignored the warning he had been given. Jean-Paul straightens the photo, realizing a copy of it was the one marked with a crude gun sight and delivered to him by a terrified Max Belmonde - another persecuted for the simple crime of being his friend. Jean-Paul is distraught that whoever is doing this has taken Mariel from him, with so much left unsaid and so much angry silence between them. ‘Did they drag me thousands of miles to Paris to torment me?’ Northstar wonders.
He recalls that it has only been a few hours since he awoke this morning on Ibiza to find that he stands accused of murdering a journalist named Ward, a journalist who had been dogging Northstar, taunting him with “soon-to-be-published facts about his past. Northstar remembers threatening Ward, so in the eyes of Weapon P.R.I.M.E. who already had orders to remove Northstar from the public eye - that was enough to convict him. Jean-Paul knows that somewhere in all of this there is a pattern, a motive, so to find Mariel, he must first find out who - ‘Eh? That noise. It sounds like -’
Jean-Paul doesn’t get time to say what it sounds like, as a helicopter hovers outside the apartment, and a large metal fist is sprung into the building, knocking Northstar to the ground. Jean-Paul gets up and looks at the chopper, seeing a face on the front of it that he recognizes from Alpha Flight’s files - Arcade. ‘Right on the money, Northstar. But I’m afraid I beat you to the punch! Get it? No! Well you will, trust me, you will!’ Arcade shouts, while down below, a host of civilians have gathered to look at all the commotion.
Northstar sees the people and realizes that if Arcade starts indiscriminately battering this apartment building, then the debris will surely crush the people below. Northstar sees Arcade’s chopper coming in again for another strike, so decides to make himself a static, visible target, and move only at the very last moment. Jean-Paul does as he planned, when the two mimes enter the room, so he trips one of them up, meaning the mime gets punched instead. With the first mime smacked against the wall, Jean-Paul sees that the mime is actually a robot of sorts. Northstar thinks to himself that Arcade’s mind really is as twisted as he believed it was, when the second mime comes into attack him.
The robot smashes Northstar back across the room so hard that Jean-Paul feels like his jaw has been broken. He thinks that whatever degree of invulnerability he possesses, it is clearly less than he needs to survive this - and he moves swiftly out of the way as the robot mime lunges to kick him, resulting in the mime getting its leg stuck in the oven screen. Jean-Paul has some time to gather himself, but he knows that it is no good in here, as the room is too small, too restricting for him to function at his best. Suddenly, Northstar smells gas, and realizes that the robot’s foot must have ruptured the supply pipe. Time for a sharp exit, Jean-Paul races to the hole in the side of the building, then flies out just in time for the explosion behind him.
Northstar suddenly remembers the crowd of people below, but upon looking down, sees that they are all gone, dispersed thanks to the police. However, Jean-Paul assumes that the police’s presence has also removed Arcade from the scene, so he wonders what he is to do next. Landing on a rooftop, a small Eiffel Tower statue floats down beside him attached to a small parachute with a large “A” on it. Jean-Paul thinks to himself that he should have known that whatever twisted game Arcade is playing that it is far from over.
Nearby, Arcade is in his ice cream truck, still watching Northstar and jokes that Jean-Paul is confused, wondering if the cheap souvenir tower conjured up memories of Mariel. ‘Or is it me? Does he wonder why the world’s most outrageous assassin has him firmly in his sights?’ Arcade decides that either way, it doesn’t matter, for now the game proper has begun, and it is time to really start putting the speedster through his paces!
Meanwhile, half a world away, at Department H in Canada. Heather McNeil Hudson stands in a darkened room, so many memories here, chapters in the life and times of Canada’s premiere super hero team, Alpha Flight. Frozen now, on hiatus - but for Canada’s greatest super hero ever the woman now known as Guardian and previously Vindicator, they are not forgotten. There was a time when Heather was one of the most powerful and influential women in Canada. Now though, she wonders if she has done enough.
With Alpha Flight suspended, her official status is shaky at best. Heather knows she went out on a limb monitoring General Clarke’s communications to and from Weapon P.R.I.M.E. and alerting Northstar to their content. Heather thinks that although Jean-Paul did his best to keep an icy distance between them, she knows him well enough to be certain he is no murderer. So when it comes down to it, she cannot just sit back and let him be hunted down. Heather looks at a photograph of the original Alpha Flight - her estranged husband the original Guardian, now Vindicator, Northstar and his twin sister Aurora, the goddess Snowbird tragically deceased, brilliant scientist Sasquatch and the aging Shaman.
Heather thinks to herself that in many ways, she and Northstar are very alike - both at one time or another having substituted Alpha Flight for family. And now? Cast out on his own, one doesn’t need to be a psychologist to figure that more than ever, Northstar may need a friend.
Back in Paris, Northstar approaches the Eiffel Tower, thinking to himself that it is as if his private past is an open book into which Arcade can dip into at will - his eyes crawling over another page of Jean-Paul’s life as his hand prepares to tear it out!
(Flashback, Paris, several years ago)
In his native French, though with a slight Canadian accent, Jean-Paul tells Mariel that he has much to thank her for, for she has introduced him to a freedom, an openness of expression he never imagined possible before. ‘Here with you, I feel…alive!’ Mariel exclaims that to Jean-Paul, everything is new and vibrant, before thanking him for also opening her eyes to a new world, one seen through Jean-Paul’s very special perspective. Jean-Paul remarks that even with Belmonde he felt constrained, somehow limited, but here, with Mariel, he can do anything - even fly!
With that, Jean-Paul takes to the sky, despite Mariel screaming ‘NO! Get down here!’ Jean-Paul lowers himself to a hover above her as Mariel tells him he is like a child still - but a child with the powers of a god! Mariel angrily tells Jean-Paul to listen to her, warning him that he must be careful, that he must understand there are those who fear difference and will persecute him because of it. ‘This is no Never-Never Land! Sooner or later you will have to grow up!’ Jean-Paul looks at Mariel, then hurtfully tells her that she is just like all the rest. ‘As petty and small-minded as the establishment you claim to detest!’ Mariel calls out to Jean-Paul as he starts to walk off, but Jean-Paul just shouts back ‘Goodbye, Mariel!’ As Jean-Paul leaves, he hears Yves, the friend who meant so much to him, say ‘Leave him, he’ll be back’.
But he never was. Northstar circles the Eiffel Tower as he thinks that it is ironic, for he believed he was being so mature and independent, when truthfully, hw was just proving Mariel right. Suddenly, something hits Jean-Paul in the stomach, causing him to loose balance mid flight. Northstar sees that it is Arcade, sitting on a small tank who fired the object at him, ‘Excuse the abrupt intrusion, but you seemed lost in thought!’ Arcade grins wickedly, before telling Northstar that it is now time to come back down to Earth.
Jean-Paul swoops swiftly towards Arcade, telling the madman that there is a good chance he will regret that invitation, before picking Arcade up off his tank and demanding to know where Mariel is. Arcade replies ‘Oh, please! I’d thought…hoped even that my reputation had preceded me!’ Arcade then informs Northstar that there is a game, ‘It’s 1943. Wartime. Paris is occupied by the German army…’ Arcade begins, grinning his awful grin as he tells Northstar that to frustrate the enemy, the French resistance planted bombs at key points around the city - five in all. Arcade explains that each of them airs a letter, and all that needs to be done is for them to be shuffled around.
Arcade reveals the location of the first bomb, at Pere Lachaise, and tells Jean-Paul to think “doors”, before warning him to hurry, as time is running out for Mariel - and the nest plot at the cemetery might just belong to her! Jean-Paul swiftly punches Arcade in the face - only for Arcade’s head to come off, revealing it wasn’t really Arcade, but one of his robots. The head falls to the ground yet keeps on laughing. ‘Yes, laugh now, madman - you will not have much jaw left unwired when I have finished with you!’ Jean-Paul exclaims before racing off towards the cemetery.
Jean-Paul mutters that Arcade is playing games with his head, before recalling the comment about “doors”, and realizes that is must be the music group, or rather their one-time singer, Jim Morrison. Northstar finds Morrison’s tombstone, picks up the bomb with the letter “M” on it and a photograph of what he presumes to be his next destination, the Arc de Triomphe. Suddenly, the small bomb explodes in Northstar’s hand, though Jean-Paul is not harmed. ‘Keep this up Arcade - and you won’t have enough bones for me to break!’ Northstar swears.
The mutant speedster makes his way quickly across France, finding the letter “E” at the Arc de Triomphe, then “T” and “R”. Jean-Paul assumes that Arcade is spelling out “Metro”, and supposes that Mariel is somewhere in the subway tunnels beneath him. He decides that the final letter becomes irrelevant, before realizing that it would not be beyond Arcade’s twisted gamesmanship to make the final bomb a real one, hoping that he would just ignore it. Knowing this now, Northstar decides he cannot ignore the final bomb, and flies towards Notre Dame, where the fifth bomb is located. Jean-Paul hesitates before entering, and wonders what is wrong with him. He realizes that he is anxious for the safety of Mariel, then grabs the bomb and tosses it high into the air, where it explodes.
That! Is! It!’ Jean Paul exclaims, racing towards an entrance down into the subway, then speeding along various areas of the subway, he declares that he will find Mariel even if he has to search every inch of the track. Suddenly, Northstar sees Mariel strung up from the ceiling of the tunnel before him. Battered and bruised, a sobbing Mariel mumbles to Jean-Paul from under the tape over her mouth, but nevertheless, she gets his attention anyway, and Jean-Paul looks over his shoulder, only to be smacked to the ground by another mime. Jean-Paul notes that this one is more deadlier than its predecessors, and knows that he has to get up and stop it - or else Mariel will die!
The train looms closer as Jean-Paul and the mime fight, Northstar thinks to himself that Arcade has chosen his battle site to perfection: a confined, constricted space that therefore works against Northstar. Jean-Paul suspects that his range has been coolly assessed and countered, unless he can come up with something new, it is all over - for everyone! ‘Think, Jean-Paul…think!’ Realizing that he has one chance left, Northstar flips backwards, reminding himself that in his circus days he taught himself to rely less on his mutant gifts, practising instead agility and timing.
The mime tries to follow Northstar as Jean-Paul tells Mariel to go limp, he lets his momentum take both he and Mariel as he grabs her up to the tunnel roof, and hopes that if the Gods are smiling on him today, he will find a foothold. The mime gets caught in the searing lights of the train as Jean-Paul and Mariel are pressed firmly against the tunnel roof. As the train smashes into the robot mime and screeches past them, Jean-Paul assures Mariel that it is all over.
Soon, Mariel and Jean-Paul are outside, and they hug. Jean-Paul admits to Mariel that he has been a fool, ‘If anything had happened to you…’ he begins, before asking what he would say to Yves, after all they have experienced together, all this time, ‘When I thought I was punishing the two of you, I was punishing myself!’ Northstar reminds Mariel that he had convinced himself in early life to keep moving, to never look back, to never allow past ties to slow him down - but now suddenly it is all so important to him. ‘As vital as the air I breathe’.
Mariel tells Jean-Paul that their pasts are their storehouses of experience and emotion, that they make us what we are today - ‘And what we will be in the future!’ Mariel points out that to ignore the past is to preclude the possibility of growth, when suddenly she is startled, as a small animatronic clown moves up beside them, ‘Roll up, roll up for the greatest show on Earth!’ the clown says. Mariel asks Jean-Paul what it means, to which Northstar explains that is the next fragment of his past - the circus.
Meanwhile, in Zuyevo, Russia, Arcade is sitting inside his ice cream truck which is parked outside a circus tent. Speaking to someone via his communications devices, he remarks that their concern is noted, but that anything less would have surely roused Northstar’s suspicion. ‘Yes, I do know who’s footing the bill!’ Arcade stammers, before telling his associate to trust him, as he has been doing this for years. Arcade reveals that Northstar is already en route to Russia, adding that he thinks he has arranged a truly captive audience - to witness Northstar’s ultimate downfall! And inside the tent, the audience waits, while a group of deadly circus performers strut their stuff, waiting for their target to arrive - Northstar!