A para-military force has a familiar face behind it.
The Dreamqueen sits upon her throne and declares that she is the absolute ruler of the world. The fabric of its landscape is hers to sculpt at will. She has the power to create…and destroy. ‘In truth though…I am ruler of nothing’. For on Liveworld, there simply is nothing. But the Dreamqueen knows that beyond this empty place there lies another, teeming with life. Life with all its glorious imperfections, its wants and needs. Its hopes - and dreams!
Meanwhile, on that particular world the Dreamqueen is referring to, the premiere heroes of Canada - Alpha Flight - are ready to face off against their new enemies, the Hardliners. The Hardliner’s leader, a man named Reginald Tork smirks as he tells the heroes that he is so pleased they could make it to this little “reunion”. Tork informs them that their young friend, Feedback, awaits them, but that to find him, they must first negotiate the Hardliner’s somewhat lethal assault course. He jokes that it comes complete with assorted hazards, booby-traps and of course Hardliners, who are all itching for a little payback.
‘You want payback, Tork? I’ll give you payback!’ Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch a.k.a. Dr. Walter Langkowski tells him, warning him that if he has harmed one hair on Feedback’s head, then their last “dance” will seems like a picnic compared to what they will do now. Alpha Flight’s esteemed leader Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian shouts ‘That’s enough!’, ordering her team to ease back a notch, as they wont find Feedback going off half-cocked. The rest of the team stands ready for battle, while Heather ponders the dream she recently had - if that’s what it was - has got everyone on edge, for it was the future - and they saw themselves die, many of them at the hands of the Hardliners. And now, here they are, face to face with the Hardliners on their own territory.
Heather is about to comment on the Hardliner’s new armor, when suddenly Tork and the other Hardliner’s disappear, for they were really just holograms. Heather remarks that it makes sense, for if Tork wants his first bit of fun, he will be watching them all from a safe distance. Heather announces to her team that the fade-out must be their sign to begin, and when a door near them swings open, Heather instinctively reacts by firing - except that what she hits is a card-board cut out of a civilian mother holding her child.
As Heather suspected, Tork is watching all of this on large monitors from the safety of his base. Over the communications system, he points out to Heather that she just killed a civilian, before informing Alpha Flight that not all the targets are hazards, and in fact, one of them is their poor lost teammate. ‘React too fast…and he’s dead!’
Back in the “playground” Sasquatch begins tearing the place apart, much to Heather’s dismay. Walt shouts at Tork, declaring that if he thinks he is going to play his sick game then he is very much mistaken, adding that he will find Feedback even if he has to tear this place apart piece by piece. Suddenly, Sasquatch pulls at some electrical wires, and a massive power surge courses through his body, knocking him several feet backwards.
Heather and Michael Twoyoungmen, appropriately code-named Shaman, race over to Sasquatch, and Shaman checks his wounds. Shaman announces that Sasquatch has some second degree burns and some trauma, but he will live. Teeth gritted, Heather declares that Sasquatch is luckier than he deserves, before telling the rest of her team that they cannot afford to be sloppy, for too much depends on doing this right, working as a team. ‘Albert’s life…and perhaps the very future of Canada!’
Heather’s mind drifts for a moment, to the future they saw in their dreams. The future according to billionaire Joshua Lord, a perfect world peopled with a race of genetically-perfect super beings. There was no crime, no wars, no pollution. But this world was built on the bones of the thousands of baselines normal humans slaughtered to Lord’s shock troopers - the Hardliners! Alpha Flight tried to escape, to warn the rest of the world, but one by one…they died. For there was something with the Hardliners - something so terrible it was as if their minds refused to credit it. ‘But what could be more dreadful than what we’ve already seen?’ Heather wonders.
Northstar a.k.a. Jean-Paul Beaubier, Aurora, Wildheart, Shaman and Alpha Flight’s ally Wyre gather around Heather as she tells them that it is time to move out, and that she wants slow, careful progress - no itchy feet or fingers, reminding them that this place was built for the Hardliners. ‘We’re better!’ she declares, before flying off, while Jean-Paul helps Sasquatch to his feet. Up in the air, Heather reminds herself that the Hardliners are the means by which Joshua Lord takes control, but this wild card Tork is the key to discrediting them once and for she believes. ‘And perhaps, averting my nightmare’.
Nearby, a group of costumes beings are watching Alpha Flight as they make their way across the Hardliner’s complex. The group looks angry, and one of them in particular look hungry, for bloodlust fills his eyes and his mouth begins to water. Hungry for the fight - for the kill.
Back on Liveworld, the Dreamqueen grins wickedly as she sits upon her throne, thinking that of the many futures she has dreamed for the “other” place, one is of perfect order, a reality stripped of desires and greed, want and need. ‘Minds ripped of libido, and ego and ID’. However she knows that there would be nothing for her, no sustenance. She would have exchanged one empty place for another. She stirs the waters of her viewing pool, and an image of Joshua Lord appears as she admits that the author of this future is both strong and clever - a creature of many faces - she decides that to challenge him directly would be dangerous. She stirs the water once more, and Lord is replaced by Alpha Flight, and the Dreamqueen realizes she shouldn’t have to risk herself at all, when it is so easy to pit one foe against another.
At the battlefield, Heather alerts everyone to the ground which is suddenly coming alive and throwing itself up at them. She orders Alpha Flight into response pattern “blue”, and informing Sasquatch that he is allowed to hit these ones. ‘Good!’ replies Sasquatch as his fists slam into the earth, but breaking one of the mounds, some gas is released, and he begins to fall under its power. Jean-Paul comes to the aid of his friend, urging him to exhale, while he creates a funnel by spinning around extremely fast above Sasquatch, which causes the gas to be drawn away from him. Walt thanks Northstar, muttering that something is telling him it is just not his day.
Wildheart points out that the rocks are coming at them faster and faster, while Jean-Paul sarcastically remarks ‘You think so?’ before declaring that if this is supposed to be a test, then Tork is a bigger moron than he thought him to be. Up in the air, Aurora blasts the rocks with solid light, suggesting to Wyre, who is on the ground shooting the rocks with his massive weapon, that he watch his back. The cocky assassin tells Aurora to keep one doing what she is doing, as he is busy. He adds that if feels real good being able to cut loose like this, when suddenly one of the rocks Aurora destroyed releases some sort of green plasma, which latches itself to Wyre.
Wildheart dodges another rock with a surprise, exclaiming that there are traps within traps. Sasquatch mutters that they either have the choice of being pounded to death, or triggering some lethal toy then, before Shaman asks Walt to keep the boulders from him by trying to catch them, explaining that he needs a few seconds to locate from within his medicine pouch…some rocks of his own! Shaman brings his hand out of his Sarcee pouch and biffs some rocks into the air, his rocks seek out the real rocks, clashing and exploding in the air, leaving only the fake rocks with the hidden traps inside.
Heather is trying to pull the gunk from Wyre and tells everyone that they can evade the dummy rocks easily enough, while Wyre mumbles something from under the goo. Heather asks what it is he was trying to say, when suddenly the gunk splashes off his body, ripped off by the assassin’s wires which protrude from his muscular body. ‘I said stand clear!’ Wyre exclaims, now covered in the remnants of the gunk. ‘Okay, lets move on before anything else……here we go again!’ exclaims Heather as the next obstacle makes its way towards them.
Some miles away and several feet below ground, the diminutive Alphan known as Puck a.k.a. Eugene Milton Judd moves swiftly towards the core of the Hardliner’s base - or so he hopes. Holding a flashlight in his hands as he makes his way through the maze of tunnels, Judd thinks to himself that they seem endless, meaning he could end up miles from where he actually wants to be. Judd has been following the powerlines that hang in the tunnel, figuring that they have got to lead back to some sort of control complex. ‘With my luck, it’ll be the laundry room!’ he mutters.
Judd’s flashlight soon points to a junction box, and a gathering of pipes. Judd thinks that it might be the end of the road, while wishing he was up with the others busting heads, though he knows that logically, he was the perfect candidate for this little “detour”. He recalls that while Heather and the others were drawing the attention and the fire, he was finding himself a nice little drainage tunnel. Judd soon finds a ventilation tunnel, and though it is a tight squeeze even for him, he clambers into it, hoping that it wasn’t a wasted trip, for Heather and the others are depending on him. But as Judd climbs through the vent and into a brightly lit corridor, he realizes that it wasn’t a wasted trip after all.
The rest of Alpha Flight are finding themselves now battling some rather large giant lizards. Wildheart has a narrow escape from their acid spit, while Sasquatch uses his brute strength to toss the robots aside, declaring that he was hoping for more on this course than just a steady stream of things to hit. Suddenly as if his wish was granted, the ground gives way beneath his feet. ‘Better,’ he remarks as his body hit’s the ground several feet below everyone else.
As his tendrils deal to his opponents, Wyre points out that Tork must have turned the dial all the way up, because there are more of them than ever. As one of the robots comes at Wyre from behind, he slices his claws into him. ‘Faster too,’ Wyre admits. Aurora continues to blast solid light at her opponents, exclaiming that they are everywhere, when suddenly, one of them is on her. She screams, which is heard by her brother Northstar, who races towards her - only for the ground to turn into glue around his feet. It begins to pull him under. Aurora cries out, alerting the others to her brother’s plight, when Guardian swoops down and pulls him out of the gunk. As Heather flies Northstar to safety, she mutters ‘God! All this…and the main event’s still to come!’
Nearby, the Hardliners move in, and in the console room, Tork decides that it is time for him to go and join in - to show the world that Reginald Tork is not a failure. Tork wishes that his father could have seen this. ‘I learned your lesson well’ he remarks, and remembers what would happen every time he fell down - his father would drum the same old lesson into him: “The world hates a loser”. But when Reginald did lose, such as a football game, his father would abuse him. Fists balled up, Tork exclaims that this time he is going to win.
‘Sorry, Reggie - you flunk again!’ exclaims Judd, who heard Tork’s little speech, enters the room, and kicks Tork to the ground. Judd cartwheels around Tork and exclaims ‘A small-time bad guy with a repressed childhood complex! How I yearn for the times we faced the likes of - YOU!’ he remarks in shock as another figure enters the room, and with the wave of his hand, blasts Judd across the room. The red-caped man then stands over the motionless body of Judd.
Back on the battlefield, Alpha Flight and Wyre are being protected from the shots of the Hardliners inside a mystical barrier, created by Shaman. But Twoyoungmen informs Heather that he cannot keeps it up much longer, for whatever reserves of arcane energy he has access to via his medicine pouch is sorely depleted. Heather doesn’t agree. She tells Shaman that everyone is tired, so they are just thinking tired thoughts. Heather explains that Tork has got them all watching their backs, on the defensive, afraid of accidentally harming Feedback .
‘He’s made us forget that sometimes the best defense…is offense!’ Shaman is surprised by this comment, when Heather orders Twoyoungmen to drop the shield. ‘I don’t know about the rest of you,’ she says, ‘but I’m ready to kick some tail!’ Alpha Flight leap into action, with Heather declaring that it is time to show them why Alpha Flight has been around for as long as they have, and why, despite whatever the dream was trying to tell them, Alpha Flight will still be around long after the Hardliners are but a fading memory!
All of the Alphans and Wyre begin battling the Hardliners, with Jean-Paul telling Heather that he knows in the past the two of them have not seen eye-to-eye with each other on many issues, ‘But this time…you are absolutely right!’ Wyre and Wildheart team up on the same Hardliner, ‘Do you hear us? We are alive, alive!’ Wildheart exclaims. Shaman conjures some images to frighten his opponent while declaring that the spirit that kept this team together in the past through all manner of change and adversity is alive too.
‘You know what, buddy?’ asks Sasquatch as he creeps up behind a startled Hardliner. ‘That sound is the sound of the team I once loved coming back - right in your face!’ Sasquatch slams the palms of his hands against the Hardliner’s face. Walt tells his teammates as they gather around him that he loves holographic scenery, pointing out that it isn’t easy to sneak up on someone when you’re ten feet tall and an ounce shy of two thousand pounds.
Suddenly, Heather hears a rustle, and warns Sasquatch to look out behind him. Instinctively, Heather raises her arm and battle suit technology is about to do as she commands in one cohesive response - when Wildheart pulls her down. Heather’s action would have been one that nearly cost her soul - for she sees who is coming up behind Sasquatch - it’s Feedback. Heather smiles and looks back at Wildheart, telling him that she could learn to love that nose of his. Alpha Flight free Feedback from the contraption he is stuck in, and there is laughter, reunion, a relief so tangible you can almost taste it in the air. It is, alas, but the eye of the storm….
One of the Hardliners begins to move, and crawls towards his gun, trying to reach it while no one is watching. When suddenly, someone very heavy stands on his hand. He screams, alerting Alpha Flight - who all turn around and are “greeted” by…Omega Flight! The grotesquely obese Miss Mass declares that she doesn’t believe they have been formally introduced yet, as it was Alpha Flight’s brat brigade that they dealt with last time. ‘We’re Omega Flight!’ she points out, flanked by her teammates - Tech-Noir, Sinew, Brain Drain, Bile and Strongarm.
‘Omega Flight? But that means…’ Heather begins, when from the ground nearby, two figures rise. An eerily familiar voice declares that cogs turn, tumblers click into place 0 like the facets of some incredibly ancient time piece. ‘The human mind inches painfully towards enlightenment. At last the games and facades are stripped away, the frail curtain of comfortable fiction torn rudely aside. And in that revealing light, you see! That I am both Lord and MASTER!’
Alpha Flight’s most deadly enemy, the Master of the World, stands before them, motioning to the grey and white clad being beside him, declaring that his is most certainly changed, but he needs no introduction. And yes, indeed he has changed, but standing before Heather and the others is none other than…’MAC!’ Heather gasps, wide-eyed….
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