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    This story dates back to around 1996-1998, roughly. Found it archived through Archive.org...

    Prologue by: awells

    Time: Some odd months after the suspension
    Walter Lankowski could see himself pacing soundlessly through the misted land. The fog curled around his feet and ankles as he moved towards the one thing that stood out as far as his eyes reached. He arrived at the tree in an unknown period of time.
    Now there was a sound; the even pounding that was his heart trying to escape from his dream body. He looked into the tree, as he knew he had to; there she was! The snow white form of a huge northern owl stared down into his eyes from among the branches. As their eyes met, there was an exchange of something deeper than most mortals can comprehend. These two shared a connection that binds their destinies together.
    In an instant the huge bird lifted off the branch, and launched herself toward the man she once knew. One sound escaped the mouth of the ghostly crater, more of a bestial “squawk” than anything else, but Walter understood, and the words echoed in his ears...
    “BEWARE”
    Jerking awake, brow covered in sweat, Walter Lankowski knew that this wasn't just a dream...”

    Chapter 1: “A Dream Continues”
    Written by: (Sue Wong)

    Across the continent, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen awoke at the same instant Langkowski had. In her dream, she had seen the ghostly snowy owl launch itself at Langkowski, hissing, “Beware!” But where Langkowski's dream ended, Elizabeth's continued.
    The snowy owl turned from Langkowski to address Elizabeth in a woman's voice. The breathy voice that had once belonged to the demi-goddess, Narya.
    “Talisman... I feel I must warn you. The Great Beasts are going to rise again, and soon. I wish that I could help you... my son and I... but we are trapped here beyond the pale.”
    “Yeah, like I don't know that,” Liz muttered sarcastically. Only
    she could talk like this to Snowbird, and get away with it. Her power was that great. “Well, what can _I_ do to help?”
    “Gather the rest of the Flight, especially Shaman. Take them to the Eye of the World....”
    “What, there again?” Liz remembered what happened the last time they had been there. They had gone into the realm of the gods to save Langkowski's soul, and only after she, Northstar, and Aurora had been nearly killed, had they succeeded. When they had left the large crater, Liz had secretly hoped she would never have to see it again.
    “Indeed, there.” The snowy owl's form melted, flowed upwards, and became that of an unearthly lovely pale-blonde woman. She looked down at Talisman sternly. “You are the only one who has the power to bring myself and my son back into the world to fight the Beasts. When the gods allowed our deaths, they never anticipated something like this occurring. You must help us to come back to Earth. To defeat the Beasts together with the Flight. And perhaps to stay....”
    “I'm...not sure....” Liz faltered. “Maybe we should let sleeping
    demi-gods lie....”
    “Considering the circumstances, you may have no choice. And there is a great debt you owe me.”
    “And that is....?”
    “My son's birth.”
    “Ouch.” Liz flinched at that. It had been her interference that had
    caused Snowbird's son's life-force to be robbed by a zombie. A twisted series of circumstances had led to the deaths of Snowbird, her human husband Doug Thompson, and their small son before the zombie Pestilence had been defeated. Liz had never stopped feeling guilty over this, particularly that Snowbird's second-generation demi-god son had never had the chance to prove his powers. And Liz sensed that the son's powers might be considerable.
    “You must not shirk your duty, Talisman. Contact your father as soon as you awake. And others who have had experience with magical powers or with me. Walter Langkowski. And Eugene Milton Judd.... I believe he is in the land called Tibet.... he is in contact with great mysticism....”
    “Well, every little bit helps.” Liz smiled. “Isn't there somebody else you want me to call?”
    But the dream images were already fading....

    Chapter 2: “Gatherings.”
    Written by: Adam-X

    The airport was unusually busy. His eyes darted here and there,
    nervously seeking someone. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he was sure that it would explode soon...
    His name is Michael. More commonly known as Shaman. Tonight, he is meeting his daughter, Elizabeth... more commonly known as Talisman. Together they make up a portion of Canada's only - and disbanded team - Alpha Flight. Neither has done much since Alpha Flight was broken up... Shaman thought back only a few weeks. “Well, friend Logan,” he told himself. “What I wouldn't do to have your heightened senses here tonight...”
    “Father!” a familiar voice called. Michael turned around, and saw
    Elizabeth rushing towards him, breaking through the crowds. Her arms flung around her father... and Michael heaved a heavy sigh. He and his daughter had suffered much... endured more than any father and daughter ever should have... and at times, Elizabeth was quite well known for showing off her bitterness...
    Thankfully, tonight wasn't one of those times...
    ....Yet.
    “I've missed you,” she said, kissing him gently on the cheek. She felt her cheek, and her eye brows came together. “Wrinkles?”
    “Time passes by, we all get older,” Michael answered with a weak smile. “Not even my magic can keep me young forever. But,” he said, waving away her concern. “I know why you're here...”
    “You do?” she asked, pulling away, somewhat puzzled.
    “My dreams have been plagued by images... of death.”
    People were slowing down.... listening to them. “This isn't the place to talk,” Elizabeth added hastily.
    They left the airport... little words being exchanged. When they arrived at a small little cafe, the words came forth again. “So what do you see in your dreams?” Elizabeth asked, whispering gently.
    “The land... it shapes... and moves... like the waves of the sea... a hand... made of stone... rock... death... blocks out the sun... death... decay... sweep the land... pestilence... then, when all seems lost... a shining light... strong and furious breaks through the hand... letting sun shine... letting hope come forth... the savior... a Large White Owl... I ... I...”
    He faulted. Elizabeth did little to urge him on, and when he finally did not say a word, she smiled. “You think it's Snowbird, don't you...”
    He looked up, his eyes brimming with tears. “I have... hoped it was...” Something else was behind her father's eyes tonight. His tears.... tainted with something other than disturbed dreams....

    Chapter 3: “Devolution”
    Written by: lin128

    The air was cool and icy over the sleeping city of Winnipeg. A thin man with mahogany skin and tightly beaded hair walked casually to the steps of the country's finest maximum security prison unfettered by both the warning beeps of angry tracking systems and the unflappable cold. He paused on the frozen lawn, pulled out his gun, waving it in the air and then started shouting loudly. “Hey! Hey!” he screamed into the wind, “are you drunk? Hey!”
    “Excuse me sir,” the flashlight reflected off the strange man's mirrored sunglasses as the portly security guard announced his presence, “this area is property of the RCMP, and is a no-trespass zone. How did you get over the perimeter walls?”
    “By not going over,” the black man's voice was as cool as the night air. “You see my good fellow I'm here for the party.”
    “You are mistaken sir, this is the Marie D'Arcadia Maximum Security Prison, there are no ..”
    “Guests of honor! Oh you're quite right, but they'll not be here till oh five days. I'm here to prepare for their grand arrival.”
    “Sir you are ..”
    “Devolution!”
    “I beg your ..”
    “Forgiveness for not mentioning my name before. Devolution I am.”
    “You are ..”
    “Not human, yes that's right I'm not. As my name suggests I am
    unfortunately but a step behind mankind.” He grinned broadly, “though I am a step, a single step before the beasts!” He broke into laughter, laughter louder than anyone the guard had heard laugh before. Then the hysterical man began to jump and prance all over, emitting wild screaming laughter.
    The guard was shaken but did not fail to pursue the bouncing man. In his clumsiness he dropped his flashlight and the screaming man grabbed it. The guard drew his gun, waving it around in the air and then started shouting. “Hey! Hey!” he screamed into the wind, “are you drunk or something? Hey!”
    “Excuse me sir,” the flashlight reflected off the guard's silver
    sunglasses as the black man announced his presence. “This area is property of the RCMP, and this is a no-trespass zone. How did you get over the perimeter walls?”
    “By not going over,” the guard's voice was as cool as the night air. “You see my good fellow, I'm here for the party ..”
    A squad of eighteen burly riot-cops moved like a herd of bison towards the east lawn dispatched to investigate an undetermined threat that had set off a good number of alarms. What they found was security guard O'Malley jumping and prancing all over, emitting wild screaming laughter.
    “It was him,” said one of the younger cops, “the crazy fool tripped off all those alarms himself!”
    The captain of the squad advanced towards the hysterical guard, a flashlight beam illuminated his face.
    “Excuse me sir,” announced O'Malley, “this area is property of the RCMP, and this is a no-trespass zone ..”
    Leaning casually against a reinforced wall well inside the outdoor security parameters the black man watched as the riot squad escorted the mind-wrecked O'Malley back indoors. He casually waved good bye to the raving guard and felt a small twinge of pity for O'Malley now that his mind was a ruin.
    Oh well, progress can't be stopped, he thought to himself, de-evolution begins!

    Chapter 4: “Tibet.”
    Written by: sengmah

    If the village had a name, it was not important. Perched high on a Himalayan scarp, it was nothing more than a collection of shacks huddled on a narrow strip of flat ground, the mountain trail the only means into and out of the settlement. The villagers herded sturdy mountain goat for milk and fleece, and grew what stunted crops that could flourish in the rarefied air and rocky ground. Mostly, they spun wool and tanned leather from their goats, and traded these with the lowland settlements. Life was simple, easy, dignified.
    The train of saffron-robed priests descended the mountain trail from the monastery behind the village. They bore a body wrapped in a shroud of deeper saffron, secured to a makeshift bier. This was clearly a funeral, yet none of those accompanying the deceased showed signs of grief. Even the villagers who walked with the train remained impassive. In their understanding, this
    was not a passing, for the lama dies, but somewhere, perhaps in another village, perhaps soon in this one, a new child will be born and it will be the incarnation of the lama's soul.
    With the monks walked a foreigner, though none with him would consider him foreign to these parts. He wore the garb of a mountain peasant: woolen jacket, thick trousers and a cap to warm his head. At 3 feet 6 inches in height and built like a brick outhouse, he stood out in the procession, yet walked along with the train as if he was as much a part of it as the chanting monks. He too chanted, the words of the funereal litany spilling naturally from his lips.
    Finally, he stopped with the procession at the base of the mountain trail as the monks prepared the body for burial in the bit of loose ground outside the village. A hole had been dug by the village gravediggers and sanctified by the proper rituals. The body was lowered into the grave and the petals of mountain wildflowers thrown in to sweeten its journey into decay and assimilation with the earth. When it came his turn to scatter the petals, Eugene Judd moved to the edge of the grave. “Master Nanda,” he whispered, “I hope to see you again in this life, or perhaps the next time round,” and let the petals fall from his thick, nubby fingers.
    The procession withdrew, leaving the gravediggers to finish their work.
    Judd did not follow the monks back into the temple. There would be more prayer, more contemplation, but he did not feel like taking part in them. The Great Wheel of Life turns and all is reborn in one form of another. Yet, he could not avoid feeling a pang of sadness at Nanda's passing. The old lama had been teacher, mentor, friend, and Judd missed him. Perhaps he would be the one tasked to find the child who would be the lama reborn, or perhaps the responsibility would fall on another. They would find out in the night, when the soul beckoned its searchers through the realm of dreams.
    Chief McCauley was having a bad day, and it did not look like it was going to get any better. The burly riot-policeman had spent a frustrating two hours trying to interview Officer O'Malley, but it was a futile exercise. The man was clearly demented. McCauley suspected metahuman involvement. He had always harbored a deep suspicion of metahumans since the incident in Toronto with the junior branch of the then-official government superhuman team: Alpha Flight. Some purple-skinned girl had taken over his mind that night, just so that her team could gain access into the chemical plant where the son of the Jackal was holding some civilians hostage. And there had been the ape-man and the pink blob.* McCauley shook his head violently, ridding himself of those memories. Why dwell in the past?
    Now back at the scene of the crime, McCauley had hoped to find some trace of the metahuman who was responsible for all of this, but it was again an exercise in futility and frustration. If a metahuman was responsible, he covered his tracks faultlessly. The Chief was so consumed in his own thoughts that he did not notice the approach of a thin, sallow-complexioned man behind him until the man spoke with a badly accented French accent.
    “Excuzee me?”
    McCauley rounded on the man, surprised and angry that he had been surprised so easily. The man blinked. He looked Chinese or Korean, or Japanese, though McCauley couldn't care less. The man should not be here. He informed the man of this in no uncertain terms.
    “Oh I zee,” the man said. “I waz hoping to meet a friend here.”
    “Yeah, well, not here, buddy,” McCauley growled. “No one here but us cops.”
    “I zee,” the man nodded. “Well, I think thiz friend haz been here.”
    McCauley's hackles rose. This might be a lead. He shifted his bulk towards the man. “Oh yeah?”
    “Yez,” the man eyed McCauley intently, as if studying a specimen. “I think you might be able to help.”
    McCauley opened his mouth, a question already ready, but a strange lethargy gripped his mind. He felt a numbness spread over his brain, an all-too familiar sensation and he felt himself cursing the purple-hued girl for nor apparent reason. Dimly, he wondered if there would a splitting headache like the last time when all this wore off... if it wore off.
    The sallow man smiled at McCauley standing stock still where he had stopped. “Yez, you will do just fine. Now, follow me.”
    The big Chief lumbered after him like an obedient hound.
    That night, Judd tossed about his sleeping mat unable to sleep. The monastery was silent save for the rush of wind on the rooftops. Finally giving up any attempt at gaining slumber, he got up and lit a candle, and spent moments staring into its steady flame, trying to calm down. He could not understand why he should feel so restless and distracted.
    Abruptly, contact was made. He saw the young woman within the halo of the candle flame.
    “Elizabeth?” he spoke aloud.
    The woman nodded, then gestured with her hand. The flame flickered, rose and writhed into life.
    “I understand,” Judd said to the flame. “But I cannot. I have another duty, eh.”
    The flame dimmed, then sputtered back into life.
    “Hey now, no need to get angry,” Judd chuckled. “Let me explain...”
    The flame danced intoxicatingly.
    “You mean..? Why didn't you say so?” Judd rose and gathered his clothes. “I'll be there soon as I can.”
    Hurriedly, he threw on his garments and gathered his belongings. Within minutes, he had found one of the monks and explained his situation, his task. The old monk smiled knowingly and put a hand on Judd's shoulder.
    “It is good that you have been chosen, my friend,” the monk said. “Go with our blessing. Find and return our esteemed lama to us. Let the circle be complete once more.”

    Chapter 5: “Help!”
    Written by: ellefson

    After a good night’s sleep at Elizabeth's apartment, Shaman was ready to go.
    “Elizabeth, you must gather the rest of Alpha Flight, for if we are to go back into the Eye of the world, we shall need all the....”
    “I know what to do, Dad.”
    *thinking* Still such bitterness in her, after all time. But I must not concern myself with that right now, I've more pressing matters. “I will meet you back here in a day, I have some...old friends to find.”
    After a long ride Shaman had reached his destination, New York City. Instead of using a phone book, like most people in New York trying to look up an old friend would do, he simply follows the strong mystic beacon to down town, in a funny looking old building. “Hello?”
    “Hello, Michael. I have prepared for your coming.”
    “Of course, how would something get though the attention of Sorcerer Supreme. But time is of the essence. Come, we must gather other mystics. Next is the Scarlet Witch.” As Shaman reaches in his poach to teleport the two away, Strange stops him.
    “Have you not heard, my friend? Along with many of her fellow Avengers and the Fantastic Four, she perished at the hands of a beast named Onslaught. As for other Mystics, if not the combined power of the Talisman, the Sorcerer Supreme, and the mighty Shaman are not up to the task, what would be?”
    “You are right, let us go back to my daughter’s apartment,”
    .....as the two mystics leave, a man walk out of the shadows, and laughs.

    Chapter 6: “Welcome.”
    Written by: 91001534

    The man looked around, staring into the night sky, and with a thought flew into the air. Seconds later, he was several kilometers away from his starting location. He had told Heather that he was just going to get some air. For a normal couple, this might have meant going out for a walk, but for Vindicator and Guardian, it usually meant literally getting some air. His mind raced back to a time when he went by the name of Guardian, and he was the leader of Alpha Flight. That mantle had now fallen to his wife Heather. Alpha Flight was his dream. He worked long and hard to make it a reality. Even through the hardships he always believed in his dream. So did Heather. She even took his place when he supposedly died.
    “She's a better leader than I ever was. I have one third of her field experience”, Mac thought as a smile came to his lips. “I guess being dead will do that though.”
    He wasn't jealous, he loved his wife, and would stand by her no matter what hand life dealt them. They had been through so much. Mac's deaths and resurrections, the several disbanding of Alpha Flight. All the turmoil and angst they had gone through, and they were still together. Surprisingly though considering she almost remarried once.
    “I should probably get back”, and with a thought Mac turned around and was heading in the direction he had originally came from.
    A few minutes later Mac flew in through the window of their home. The lights were off, and it didn’t seem like Heather was home.
    “Hon? You home?”, Mac called. There was no answer.
    “Hmm, wonder where she went?” Mac walked over to the lamp and turned it on. He looked around for a note, and couldn’t find one. It wasn’t like Heather to leave without letting him know where she had gone.
    Mac sat down in his favorite chair and reached for the remote. Before he could turn on the television set, the phone rang.
    “Hello?”
    “Mac, it's Puck. We need to re-assemble Alpha Flight.”

    Chapter 7: “Talisman Speaks, Aurora Gets a Shock.”
    Written by: magik

    Jean-Paul Beaubier was famous. He had done many things in his life, including competing in world-class ski events and being a member of Canada's premiere super-hero team, Alpha Flight. However, his skiing career had ended, and Alpha Flight had disbanded. Now Jean-Paul Beaubier was just another man. Another mutant.
    “Un autre,” he said, forgetting that he wasn't in Quebec, but in
    Ottawa, where Alpha Flight had been based before Department H had shut it down.
    “Pardon?” Asked the bartender, obviously part of the Canadian group which was not bilingual.
    Jean-Paul looked up, perhaps too quickly, and realized where he was. Unbelievable as it may seem, he had forgotten where he was, despite the noise of the disco music and dancing and flashing lights behind him. He had come here for a good time, and as usual, it wasn't working. “I am sorry... I meant I would like--”
    “Another drink,” interjected the man next to Jean-Paul.
    Jean-Paul smiled. “Yes, thank you Alex.” Alex was one of the few things in Jean-Paul's life that made him happy. He was about the same height as Jean-Paul, but had deep, dark black hair and very pale blue eyes. He also smiled more, and was far less melancholy than his counterpart.
    “Seriously, 'Star, you have to lighten up. We came here for a good time, remember? Now, let's dance!” Alex grabbed Northstar's hand and dragged the pointy-eared man onto the glowing, pulsing dance floor.
    “You are right, Alex. I have to stop being so stuck in the past.”
    Jean-Paul began, about to run his hands through his short, and almost white blond hair, but suddenly he stopped.
    “Northstar!” A voice in his head shouted. He had become unaccustomed to this sort of communication, and leaped away from his partner in surprise.
    “What?” Shouted Alex, over the blaring music. Jean-Paul didn't
    respond, he simply raised his hand symbolizing to Alex that everything was.... fine?
    “You have to come meet me!” Said the feminine voice in his head. “It's Elizabeth Twoyoungmen!” She added.
    “I know that! What do you want?” Northstar snapped out loud, annoyed that Talisman would intrude upon his personal life, but also secretly glad to hear a teammate's voice.
    “Alpha Flight is reforming there is danger...... I haven't been able to contact Jeanne Marie, do you know where she is?”
    “Jeanne Marie?! No, why can't you reach her?” Jean-Paul glanced at Alex, who had a worried look on his face. Northstar forced a smile.
    “I don't know! Look, Jean-Paul we need you now! Meet me right away. I'm waiting in your apartment.”
    Jean-Paul grabbed Alex's hand and pulled him to the edge of the dance floor. Come with me, I don't need to see you hurt, I'd rather you were where I could protect you though.”
    Befuddled, Alex followed the former hero through the exit out onto the street.
    * * * * *
    It was dark. Jeanne Marie hated the dark. It brought back memories of when she had been a child and the nuns had punished her for committing sins. She wept silently. Suddenly, several lights shuddered on around her. Where was she? It was times like this she wished Aurora would protect her...
    Suddenly a door slid open, with a metallic groan. Two men walked. Although they both wore blue and gray suits, they each had different traits. The first of the two stood at about six feet, three inches tall and had a wiry build, although he wore an eye mask, she could see that his eyes had a green color to them, and his hair was blonde.
    The other man looked miniature next to the first, but stood about 5'7”. Jeanne Marie couldn't distinguish any features of this man other than his height, build, and race, due to the fact that his costume covered all but the area on his face from below his eyes down. But he seemed familiar....
    “Hello, Aurora. Or should I say Jeanne Marie, who's driving today?” She shorter man mocked, walking towards her.
    That voice was familiar! Who-! Suddenly something snapped inside Jeanne Marie, and Aurora took control, to Jeanne Marie's relief. Jeanne Marie was too frightened to realize who this was, but Aurora was not. “Flashback!” She shouted, trying to get up, but discovering she was firmly constrained in some sort of device.
    “Aren't you happy to see I'm not dead?” He said, pulling his uniform off his face, revealing that he was in fact Jeremy Gardner, or as he preferred to be called, Flashback.

    Chapter 8: “Together Again.”
    Written by: awells

    It was a strange mixture of people that gathered in the Toronto Apartment of Elizabeth Twoyoungmen. It seemed unreal for her to see all these people assembled once more. Her father was deeply engrossed in conversation with an attractive couple over by the couch.
    Sitting on the floor, cross-legged was a man Liz knew very little about; except for the fact that someday she would learn much form him. Power crackled from the medallion around his neck, causing Steven Strange to open the barrier between planes of existence. Walter Langkowski was placed by the east window. Liz watched him pacing back and forth impatiently, while taking periodic glance out the window at the sidewalk below. “It's funny,” she said to herself “he's still nervous about seeing her, even after all they'd been through over the last few years.”
    Just then Liz was startled by a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to face a man she knew well, “Jean-Paul” she greeted him with a soft smile.
    “Yes Talisman, I have answered you summons. Now If you please, where is my sister?”
    “I...I couldn't contact her Jean-Paul, I'm sorry, I don't know where she is.”
    “What!” Cried Northstar as he glared at the small woman. “With as much power as you have you can not find Jeanne Marie, or Aurora?”
    “I'm sorry Northstar...It's as if...she, er they didn't exist, I have no
    explanation. I'm sorry.” Elizabeth lowered her head, and walked to the center of the room. She cleared here throat, and began to speak.
    “Ahem. I want to thank every one of you for responding so quickly to my summons. We're still missing a few people, but most of them should arrive soon. Puck is on his way, however he has a few loose ends to tie up first. Mr. Jeffries is due to arrive any time now with our means of transportation. And I'm sorry to say that Aurora...is missing.”

    At that there was an almost inaudible gasp that the whole room heard come from Walter Lankowski. Then without warning he collapsed like an oversized rag-doll to the floor. Everyone but Dr. Strange ran to his aid. Moments before losing conciseness, a few silent words escaped his lips that none could have heard, save the walls.
    “They found me.......”
    * * * * *
    In another place, far away from the hero's gathering there was an unearthly laughter. The dust of the earth began pulling together, and slowly took shape. After an immeasurable amount of time a figure stood in place. Larger than any human, covered in a thick mat of orange fur, the being began to move. Then the laughter began, all seven voices in one. It\they spoke aloud.
    “Now to release the other bodies from this curse. THEN THE FUN BEGINS! HA HA HA HA HA!”

    Chapter 9: “Snowbird.”
    Written by: Wngtom

    Narya knelt before her mother in supplication. She was growing
    desperate to make Nelvanna understand.
    “Mother, please. I beg you. The first of the Great Beasts rises even now, and he will bring the others with him. My friends --the mortal human team, Alpha Flight-- are assembling to fight them. Eugene Milton Judd brings mystical knowledge. The Talisman, the Shaman, and the Sorcerer Supreme will be their most powerful allies in this--”
    “Then, there is no need for you to go, Daughter.” The elderly goddess spoke severely. “They should have enough strength to defeat the Beasts without you.”
    “Mother, you do not understand. For all their mystical strength, _they will not have power enough! That is why I must return, I and your grandson.... We will bring with us the knowledge of the gods and the extra power needed to defeat the Great Beasts. That was why I was put on earth, do you remember?” Narya was aware that there were other issues at stake here, other villains to fight, such as the villain Devolution she had seen attack the RCMP property in Winnipeg. From her otherworldly standpoint, she was able to see such things. But why confuse the issue by mentioning other
    enemies? For now the Great Beasts ought to be enough to convince her mother. Narya kept her own counsel. She could help Alpha Flight take care of Devolution. If she were allowed to come back....
    “Indeed, I could not forget the reason you were placed on earth.” The ancient goddess actually allowed herself to smile.
    “If the Great Beasts are to rise again, then, we must be allowed to return! How much good can we do if we are allowed to remain here? The Beasts will fight endlessly and destroy the earth....”

    “Say no more, Daughter. You have convinced me. But have you forgotten something? Your mortal forms are dead....”
    Narya smiled. “While on earth, I was aware of the scientific knowledge of Walter Langkowski and Michael Twoyoungmen. There may be a way to resurrect our mortal bodies....”
    * * * * *
    Tamarind Island, the next day. It had taken the newly assembled team most of the day to fly there. Now a few of them knelt around the gravesites.
    “Okay, dig.” Mac Hudson ordered Northstar and Walter Langkowski. “We should be able to get enough cell samples from the bodies.... And don't be tempted to hit each other with the shovels....”
    Not far away, the rest of the team waited. Most of them did not care to watch.
    “This is...gross,” Elizabeth confided to Heather. “I mean, ever since Walt collapsed in my apartment last night, croaked out, 'They found me', and then, came out with _this_ plan....well....” Her voice trailed off. “ I mean, I once dug up a skull at an archaeological site --Zebediah Chase, remember him?-- but this is somehow.... disgusting....”
    “Your father is in favor of it,” Heather reminded her. “Walt will
    handle the scientific process, and your father will take care of the
    mystical end. And if this works, won't it be great to have Snowbird back with us again? And her husband and son?”
    “Alpha Flight the Next Generation!” Walter Langkowski called out. Even under trying conditions he could be jovial. He even believed, with knowledge beyond this world that they would find Aurora again. Safe and sound? Langkowski was always optimistic.
    By nightfall, Walter and Michael had gleaned the cell samples they wanted from the bodies of Douglas and Baby Thompson, and Walter believed that he could separate Snowbird's DNA from that of his own body's.
    “Then, we will bring the DNA samples to the Eye of the World. By
    combining science and sorcery, we will bring Narya, Douglas, and their son back to us,” Michael explained.
    “Sort of like how you delivered Narya yourself, eh, Doc?” Judd
    grinned. “Yeah, I know, she used to spook the hell of me, but that's all water over the dam.”
    They were in the AF skycraft, flying toward their destination, when Talisman leaned forward and gripped the seat in front of her. “Dad, you'd better tell Judd and Mac to hurry. I just heard Narya's voice in my mind. She says one of the Beasts is up already....and he's summoning the others....”


    Chapter 10: “Resurrections.”
    Written by: Adam-X

    “This is not right.”
    “It's hard to argue if it is or isn't,” Heather said softly. “But right now, we, nor the rest of the planet Earth have much choice in the matter.”
    “So we throw our own morals to the side?”
    “Yes, Northstar, when it means, saving the world.”
    He was silent. His face dark and brooding. But this is how Northstar always was. He turned back, as they laid a partially naked body of a woman and a child down on a medical table. This isn't right, he told himself. His thoughts could not even begin to understand... “I will have no part of this,” Northstar finally added. “I can not be a part of this. I will leave now, to find my sister.”
    “This may be the only way to find your sister, Jean-Paul,” Puck added, stepping up next to the former Olympic-skier. “I don't much like the idea either, but Talisman says it's a go, eh?”
    “Do you trust everything you hear, Judd?” Northstar cut in bitter.
    “No,” Puck replied. “But I rely on instinct, allot. And it's screaming that this is wrong, but it's the only choice we have, considering the situations before us, eh?”
    Northstar was once again silent. The debate had managed to go in full circle. It always ended the same. This was their only choice. “Well,” Northstar sneered. “If this indeed our only choice, then let us get on with it... but I cannot be here to bare witness to this madness.”
    Northstar stormed out the front door. Something he was so good at. His speed. Running. Running away. He was always so good at that. Running from himself faster than his feet could carry him, afraid of what he might see, should he ever catch up with himself...
    The room was electric. Sparks and flares shot off in every direction, piercing their bodies, sending shivers through their spine. Two bodies, that of an older female, and a younger child, lay deathly still on a medical table, as an Indian drifted just above them, chanting in an ancient language. From the levitating Indians, surges of energies coursed down into a younger woman, who also appeared to be Indian. The energy crackled around her... her face contorting with a mixture of emotions. Fear. Laughter. Enlightenment. Pain. All these emotions stirred within her, and weighed heavy in the room. “Father,” she muttered, barely able to even speak. “I can't take much more of this...”
    Her name is Talisman. She acts as a “magnet” for mystical energy. She takes it within her body, stores it and unleashes it a hundred fold. Right now, all she's doing is storing... and she's storing allot... The one levitating, is her father. More commonly known as Shaman. He is the one controlling the portal that crackles in the room; opening it up, and directing the mystical energies into his daughter, Elizabeth - more commonly known as Talisman.
    To those who witness the sight... it was both eerie... fascinating... and fantastic. Mystical energy crackled in the room, like static electricity. Wind, coming from somewhere, yet nowhere, whipped around them, but did not tamper with anything. It was, to all - even the experienced in such things - an awesome sight to behold.
    “A little more, daughter,” Shaman muttered. “A little more...”
    She began to scream. So much for pleasure and laughter. Now it was all pain and suffering. She could feel nails raking through her flesh. Demons, it felt like, angry at her - screaming at her - trying to break her spirits. She could hear voices in her head, defying her. But she was Talisman. She would not be denied. Not now.
    Not ever.
    There was an explosion of magnificent magnitude... everyone saw one white flash... then blackness...
    Only two would remain conscious to bear witness to the event. A ghostly white spirit, stepping through the portal that Shaman held open... carrying something in its arms... the spirit seemed lost... it looked around the room for a moment... then to those gathered... the two conscious... the many unconscious... then with an unholy scream... it found itself yanked into the female body lying on the medical table... and the eerie, mystical silence was broken...
    ... by a child's crying.
    It was a sight that Shaman and Talisman would not soon forget. They watched as the spirit of Snowbird, child in hand, had entered the realm of mortals... her deep eyes searching for something... then, suddenly being pulled into the female body, as the child's spirit was pulled into the baby's flesh.
    Talisman could feel tears burn in her eyes... and as she looked to her father, he saw he did nothing to hide his tears as well.
    They had succeeded.
    Snowbird and her child were alive... but at a price.
    * * * * * * * * * * *
    “My husband?” were her first words.
    “I'm sorry,” Shaman replied, bowing his head. “Being mortal, we were unable to pull him through... the Goddess blood within you and your child was the only factor strong enough to allow us to even allow the both of you to come through... there was nothing more we could do...”
    Snowbird held her child close to her bosom. “I... understand.”
    “We saw you... searching...” Shaman said, his head still bowed. “We knew that is who you were looking for... believe me when I say there was nothing we could do. Nothing at all... not I... not Walter... none of us.”
    He felt her touch on her shoulder. It felt strange. Cold, yet familiar. His eyes met hers, and he saw that she held no blame for him; or any of them. That they had indeed tried the best they could.
    He would later explain, that by using cells attained from their “deceased” bodies, they were able to spawn a clone, and by using Walter's creation of Accelerated Growth, they were able to duplicate the approximate ages of their deaths, and create vessels for their spirits to enter...
    * * * * *
    “Why do zee torture me, so?” she asked, weeping.
    “Because my dear Aurora,” the man in the shadows sneered. “I need your brother and the rest of your Alpha Flight friends to help me.”
    “We would never help you!” she said, her French accent thick.
    “I know, and this is why I must torture you! I know you and your little Olympic brother have some kind of link! You're twins! I have heard of such things!” the man laughed.
    “We are no longer togezzer,” Aurora explained. “My beloved Walter separated us from one another long ago!”
    “You can't separate a twin's connection! Why you might as well say something as ridiculous as you can resurrect a dead person!” Flashback laughed.
    “Why do you seek Alpha Flight's help? Surly you heard they are no longer a team?” Aurora persisted.
    “Because... an old ... friend has... recently resurfaced... his name is Devolution... and he and I have some scores to settle... and if your 'beloved' Walter is as smart as you say he is, he may just be able to save me!”
    “Walter would never help you! None of us would! You're our enemy!” Aurora spat.
    “That's where you come into play, dear little psycho,” he laughed, emphasizing the last word. “I know Northstar will come for you... I know he will. You see, if you remember correctly, I apparently ... 'died.'“
    “Yes,” Aurora muttered. “I remember.”
    “Well, you know us good villains don't stay dead for long.”
    “Too bad, no?” she whispered.
    “Well, you see... a ... counter part of myself existed in the future... for you know, I pull various parts of myself from various futures... well, even various futures must meet on one time line... and on that timeline, I met Devolution... He and I were... partners at one time... and I ratted on him... so he came for me when the police captured me... You see,” he said, almost psychotically. “My other self is in this time line, under the name Samuel Kohr. And that part of me, is in jail, in this timeline... well, our buddy in question, Devolution, came for me... and ... used his powers on me... since this is the main time line, my future selves became... shall we say - unstable?”
    “It shows,” she sneered under her breath.
    “Funny you should talk dear one,” Flashback cut in. “Anyway, he's here ... now. And I know he's coming after my main time line self... and I traveled back from the future to stop him this time... with the help of Alpha Flight...”
    “You have already lost.”
    “How do you figure?”
    “Because there is no Alpha Flight. Aren't you listening to me?”
    “That's where you're wrong. There is an Alpha Flight. They're gathering even now as we speak, dear one... And they will do as I say... or you will die...”

    Chapter 11: “The Children Of Darkness.”
    Written by: lin128

    The Chief was not a man accustomed to quiet moments. His ex-wife had been fond of meditation and tried several times to interest him in the practice. He found it a waste of his valuable life.
    Now that he was not quite sure what his life *was, he had to take quite a few of them. Just five minutes of silent peace to try and sort out his misplaced life.
    He was born the son of Tundra. Centuries, no, eons ago was the date of his birth. He lived those eons blissfully in endless days of glorious battles. Almost since the beginning of time to the day where he and his kind were imprisoned. Locked in a silent realm forever. The Beasts tried endlessly to send him back to Earth, to make way for their glorious rebirth. But he had gotten lost in the void-like dimension between all things. He had wandered for centuries in the hallways of Unreality and the realms of
    madness until at last he arrived on a beach in Victoria, his mind a blank slate, his past forgotten.
    He did not know how the government knew what he represented. They kidnapped him, brainwashed him, made him into .. *this. How they must have
    laughed, he hissed to himself, to have the son of the beasts as their happy puppet. He had been just that, all his known life.
    Then Retribution showed up.
    The power of the other man had made everything clear, had wiped away the ash and soot of implanted memories. Retribution, he learned, was the third offspring that the Beasts were able to send through. He was the first, the second, Devolution, was lost somewhere.
    The door to his private office creaked open and announced the arrival of Retribution. The beast spoke, not bothering anymore to use his phony French accent.
    “Good afternoon, Chief.”
    “Good afternoon,” annoyed that his head was not quite in order yet the chief tried a last time to shake of the effects of his meditation. Retribution pressed a button on the desktop computer revealing a mosaic of classified files. “Fantastique,” the third offspring chuckled, “this will be perfect for use against Alpha Flight.”
    “Ironic is it not?” the general grinned, “the very organization that used me is now being used in return.”
    “To assist you in the very operation we sought to prevent,” said a voice neither recognize. Both men wheeled to see a soldier in the doorway with his gun drawn. “You are both under arrest.”
    “Who are you?” the general barked, “what are doing here?”
    “I am sergeant Michael Cobb,” the soldier barked back, “and I am ..” he paused, and then tilted his eyes upward, “dancing, on butterfly wings. Me and Marie Bob, Marie Bob's a wonderful dancer, oh yes, and we'll have tea and cabbages and ..”
    Sergeant Cobb was now smiling giddyishly and rocking back and forth tossing his revolver into the air and trying to catch it. He babbled on about Marie Bob and dancing and tea and cabbages, showing no sign of stopping or even catching a breath.
    “You're very funny Devolution,” sighed Retribution.
    The second brother entered with a flourishing bow. “Thank you, I felt your presence here Retribution. I've ignored my cause so long, I decided to help you. Besides, I have an old friend here in Canada I need to pay a visit to.”
    “After the mission brother!” cried the chief. Devolution looked at the general in confusion. Sergeant Cobb kept on rambling, his face was turning blue from not breathing.
    “Chief, we'd best discuss this outside. Go out and make sure there is no one there will you?” The chief hastened out the door, Devolution looked on in interest.
    “You mean, he actually *believes* that he is another son of Tundra?”
    “My powers have developed since we last saw each other, just as you have the power to destroy a man's mind, I have the power to re-create it as I choose.”
    “But for how long?”
    Retribution didn't answer. Cobb filled the silence with talk of dancing pigeons and Florida orange juice.
    That night Maggie arrived at the office. For weeks now he had been ignored and she would tolerate it no longer.
    Maggie did not find her husband at the office. Instead she found that all the military’s files had been copied from the computer and that Sergeant Cobb had died from asphyxiation on the floor.

    Chapter 12: “A Gathering of Evil”
    Written by: sengmah

    Judd sat cross-legged on the edge of the kitchen counter, staring at the woman he had long thought gone from this world. Despite his years of experience, he found it unnerving to see her alive and whole now, and, even stranger still, watch her nurse her baby. The child looked no different from any human infant, though he knew that it was the scion of both gods and men, and within it burned the eternal, divine flame of the Northern Gods.
    Judd had not seen the resurrection of Snowbird and her child. The flash of divine light, as barriers between the physical and divine worlds were sundered, had stunned him as it had most of the other Alphans. When he had come to, Snowbird had risen from the dead, as had her baby. Jean Paul Beaubier -- Northstar -- was nowhere to be found. The others: Heather, Mac, Walt, Michael and Elizabeth buzzed happily around the woman called Narya, and her nameless child. Judd had expressed his own greeting, and clasped Snowbird's pale hands in his. Her touch was cold, alien, disturbing. Judd had gazed at the babe, pink, fragile, adorable, yet he could not shake off the feeling of ill-omen within him.
    “You are not yet used to my return, friend Judd?” Snowbird said suddenly, breaking the silence between them. “Or to see me nurse my child here as any human mother would do.”
    Judd nodded. “To be honest with you, Narya, this is something I hadn't thought was possible. I guess I'm still adjusting to you coming back, eh?”
    “There are many possibilities, Judd. I had thought that a man like you would have been aware of them.”
    Judd shrugged. “Maybe I'm just getting stodgy in my old age.” He shook his head and grinned. He slipped off the counter top and ambled over to mother and babe. “He's a beauty, isn't he?” he muttered. “His soul, so pure, so bright.”
    “You show remarkable sensitivity to our godhood,” Snowbird said. “That is a rare thing among mortals. But what am I saying, while I wear this body, I am mortal. And my child...” she gazed lovingly at the baby resting comfortable against her breast. “He is but a child, a young avatar...”
    “Yeah, well.” Judd cleared his throat. “He's more than that, eh.”
    Snowbird looked up at him, her expression perplexed. “What do you mean?”
    Judd shifted uneasily. “We gotta talk, 'Bird. I gotta tell you
    something and I dunno if you're gonna believe me or not. But listen, eh.... “ He paused. “I've just come back from Tibet....”
    Dr. Alexander Malone, accompanied by two hefty prison officers, stopped outside Holding Cell #341A and looked in through the plasti-glass panel.
    “How long has he been like this?” he asked.
    “Since yesterday, doc,” Officer Burlam replied sadly. “He looks harmless enough. You want me to open the door for you?”
    Dr. Malone nodded. Burlam drew a security card from his pocket and slid it across the scanner next to the cell door. After a short beep, he spoke into it: “Burlam 64-27.” The panel lit up and the door slid back and sideways.
    Burlam entered first, followed by the second officer, Coltrane. Malone followed only after the officers gave him the go-ahead.
    He walked towards the man strapped to the gurney: Officer Ryan O'Malley. O'Malley had been sedated and slept the sleep of oblivion. Occasionally, his eyelids fluttered, but for Malone, it confirmed that the man was obviously in REM sleep. Quickly, he skimmed the diagnostic report and frowned; checked it again, and scowled.
    “What's wrong, doc?” Officer Coltrane asked.
    Dr. Malone looked up at the two prison guards. “Who else has been here before me?”
    “No one, doc,” Burlam said. “S'far as Gus and I know, he was shipped here straight after questioning. Not that he answered any of the questions they asked.”
    “Then...” Dr. Malone drifted off. He looked from the report to the
    patient in the gurney. “Then who's written this?” He held up the clipboard for both men to see.
    Ryan O'Malley (Psyche Report)
    Affliction: Mental Devolution Class B
    Physician in charge: Dr. D
    “Who's Dr. D?” Burlam asked.
    “I am,” a voice behind them laughed.
    The officers whirled around, reaching for their weapons, when
    another voice instructed: “Stop. Drop.”
    Both men froze in their steps, lowered themselves supine against the ground and lay there unmoving.
    Dr. Malone stared, stunned, at the two strangers walking casually into the cell. Both were dressed in elaborate overcoats. The first was dark, with a thick, tightly beaded hair. The second was sallow, almost to the point of looking jaundiced.
    “Allow me to introduce myself,” said the first. “I am Dr. D. 'D' for
    Devolution.”
    “And I,” said the other, “am simply known as Retribution.”
    A third man squeezed in behind them. This one was broad, powerfully built, with bluff, square features and a heavy jaw. He looked like a thug, or a pugilist, and wore the uniform of a riot-policeman. “And I,” he rumbled, cracking his knuckles, “Am called Traction. Good name, huh. Now you and us, we gotta talk.”
    Malone backed away from the trio. “I'm calling for security,” he
    threatened feebly.
    “You'll find that they're presently occupied elsewhere,” the one
    called Retribution said. “But you have no need to fear, brother. We are here to talk.”
    “Brother?” Malone stammered. “What do you..”
    “Mean?” Devolution finished. “Why, 'tis a long story, but I'm sure we have time, don't we brother Retribution?”
    The sallow man nodded, smiling. “And while you explain our history to 'Dr. Alexander Malone' here, I'll go play with these two boys. Okay, lads, time to get up.”
    At that, both officers, Coltrane and Burlam, rose and shuffled out after Retribution.
    “You would claim that my son is the incarnation of this lama you speak of?” Narya asked, incredulous. “It cannot be so! He has been with me in Paradise ere this while. You must be mistaken. Perhaps you have been misled in your search.”
    Judd stepped back, surprised by the ferocity of Snowbird's reaction. “Relax, 'Bird. I'm not saying anything like that, eh. Listen to me: All I'm saying is that I been tasked to look for the one who is destined to be the next lama -- the next 'wise, holy soul'. And all the clues is pointing to your boy.”
    “I cannot believe it. By Hodiak, this is a child of the Northern Gods, Judd.”
    “Alright, I ain't disputin' that, but I'm just telling you what I
    know, eh.” Judd paced about nervously. He had not expected Snowbird to react in such a... human... manner. “And what I know is that there are great things prophesied for your boy, eh. And I'm part of what's gotta help him attain that.”
    Narya still looked doubtful. “Yes... I understand. Know this, Judd: my son and I hold the key to the survival of this world in the coming age. The scions of the Great Beasts rise once more, and it is time for a new confrontation. I sense that this will be more difficult, more bloody than the last.”
    “It all connects,” Judd said. “Don't it? This news that the Beasts are coming back; me coming back here, you and the tyke returning to us... It's that time, eh: Millennium’s End. And all forces: good and bad come together for one final tussle to decide the fate of the world.”
    Snowbird's expression softened. “You are a wise man, Judd. Even a goddess must admit her folly once in a while. If you are indeed my son's protector, than I am glad that I have you by my side.”
    “No sweat, eh,” said Judd. “The little tyke needs someone to teach him and it looks like ol' uncle Judd's the man.”
    “I see you have been keeping yourself entertained,” the man known as Devolution told his brother.
    Retribution smiled. “Stop,” he said to the two prison-officers
    tussling on the floor. Both men froze; Burlam's hands were locked around Coltrane's throat. Coltrane's face was red, his tongue protruded from his lips.
    “Isn't this all a trifle childish?” Devolution said.
    “Only to you, dear brother. Ah-- I see that he has been told.” He
    looked beyond Devolution at the man who was once Dr. Alexander Malone accompanied by Traction out of the cell.
    “Yes. You could say that I have been enlightened,” the fourth
    brother said. He cast a glance at the two prison-officers locked in the pose and smiled. His eyes narrowed; abruptly, Burlam released Coltrane and both men collapsed gasping to the floor.
    Burlam looked up at the four men, confused, angry and afraid. “Doc? What...”
    “Silence,” the fourth brother snapped. “If you value your life,
    officers, I suggest you keep silent and listen. Or I'll be forced to let
    Brother Retribution loose on you again.” He sneered.
    “My, my, he's a nasty one,” Retribution said sardonically. “And what shall we call you?” he asked.
    “You may refer to me as Malignance.”
    “Ah.”
    “Now,” Malignance continued, turning to look at Burlam and Coltrane. “What shall we do with the both of you officers?”
    “I have a few ideas,” Devolution said.
    “As have I,” said Malignance.

    Chapter 13: “Ghosts Of The Past”
    Written by: ellefson

    “Stop zis, you mad man!”
    “Oh, I don't think so, we've just started. We shall destroy Alpha Flight utterly, and....poetically. You see, Devolution was just using me, but he...also opened my eyes. Now both you and he will die. And I will completely destroy the ones who almost had me killed!”
    “But we didn't kill you, it was zat android, Ms. Cou...”
    “Shutupshutupshutup! You will all be killed, and thanks to me and my friends, it will be by all of your oppressors, all the “villains”
    Alpha Flight has ever faced. HA HA HA HA HA!!!”
    “Mon du, he iz mad” Aurora thinks to herself. “How iz zat possible, many of zem are dead!” she inquires out loud.
    “We've...found a way around that! Oh Gravedigger!” As he calls, a tall man walks in, if you can call him a man. All that is visible is his bone with long pieces of dirt and weed hanging from them. The bone is a pale brown, slightly lighter than the dirt itself. He has a dead look in his eyes. “This fellow here...” Flashback says as he walks toward him “...can reanimate the dead. It isn't permanent, but it will last long enough for them to do the ...dirty deed, and our collection is almost complete.”
    Just as Flashback starts to laugh again, a familiar amour suit walked in. “They are on the move, sir. Good, Caliber,
    send the 'boys' outside to meet our guests. I am sure they will get a kick out of it. HA HA HA....” Flashback then left his captive behind, planning his next move.
    * * * * *
    “Ah!” Dr. Strange yelled as he fell to the floor, seconds later Elizabeth did the same.
    “What...” said Heather as she and the others tried to help them up.
    “Do not....touch them.” Shaman barley got out, as he was on his knees in pain. All present knew the wisdom Shaman had gained over the years doubled them all, so them did as asked. “He...it...breaks the barrier..” Then all three of the mystics got up, all a little dazed, but ok. “We must hurry, come, we leave for the Eye of the World.”
    “Michael, what barrier, and Northstar hasn't come back yet, we just can't leave him out there by himself.” said Heather.
    “It is the mystic barrier the gods of the North put in place to keep the Great Beasts out of our realm, the one loose Beast is in the Eye trying to break it as we speak.” Then Shaman thought long and hard. “You are right, we need all the help we can get, and send a small band to gather Northstar, and the rest of us shall go immediately.” Heather was not used to taking orders like that, be she figured Shaman took this gun-ho attitude because of the graveness of the situation.
    The two groups, consisting of Heather, Puck, and Doctor Strange; and Mac, Shaman, Talisman, Snowbird, and Sasquatch; go of on their separate ways immediately. Strange uses the eye of Agamotto to direct them in their search.
    * * * * *
    “Down, in that forest!” yells Strange to Heather, who is carrying Puck. They set down in a clearing, which is apparently empty “I don't get it doc, there ain't nothin' to see here...” BBLLAASSTTT!!!! Almost in response, a high energy beam shoots right at Puck, and he barely avoids it in time. “..or maybe there is.” Puck says sarcastically.
    All eyes look on their attacker. Standing on the outskirts of the clearing are a new and improved Caliber, a feral Wild Child, Scramble, a small force of mutates [not mutants] presumably from Scramble, Diamond Lil, and......
    “Nooo.....y-your dead!” Heather screams as she looks right at the last member of the squad, and she should know, after all, she was the one who killed Bedlam.

    Chapter 14: “Government Liaisons.”
    Written by: 91001534

    “Ladies and gentlemen, as you are about to see, I believe Canada is in grave danger”, agent Walker said to the high ranking government officials seated at the table in front of him.
    “Walker, why don’t you start from the beginning”, the balding gentleman sitting at the head of the table ordered.
    “Yes sir”, agent Walker replied. “Let me first introduce you to the players.” A picture of Guardian and Vindicator appeared on the wall behind the young agent. “This is Heather Hudson and James Macdonald Hudson. Also known as Guardian and Vindicator. James Hudson was the man responsible for setting up the original Department H. Since the disbanding of Alpha Flight the couple has been up North doing some research. They had a run in with a creature called 'The Hunter in Darkness'. They have recently traveled to New York to visit a friend of theirs by the name of Wolverine, the original Weapon X. But since I don’t have any jurisdiction in the States I am unaware of what transpired there. As of late they have been up north relaxing. We intercepted this phone call. The two speakers are James Hudson and Eugene Judd, the former Alphan known as Puck.” Agent Walker pressed play on a small tape recorder.
    “Hello”, came a voice from the speaker.
    “Mac, its Puck. We need to re-assemble Alpha Flight.”
    “Why? What’s wrong?”
    “Just come to Toronto. Heather’s already here. Meet at Talisman's apartment.” Walker pressed the stop button.
    “Agent Walker, how did you come across this message?”, asked a middle aged woman.
    “Wire tap sir.” The pictures behind Walker changed. A picture of Walter Langowski and a picture of his Sasquatch was displayed on the wall. “This is Walter Langowski also known as Sasquatch. He has been up North doing some radiation research. He recently had a run in with the mercenary known as Deadpool. He also had an incident in the Gulf of Mexico. He has also turned up in Toronto with his former team mates.”
    The picture changed again, this time showing Elizabeth and Michael Twoyoungmen. “This is Talisman and Shaman. Talisman has recently returned to school and Shaman has done some work for the government since the disbanding of Alpha Flight. They too are both in Toronto.”
    Once again the picture changed. This time showing the twins Northstar and Aurora. “Northstar has also reappear in Toronto. He has simply been enjoying life. However he left the apartment in a rather upset state. We lost track of him. Aurora has simply dropped from view. We have no idea on where she is.”
    “Agent Walker, we know you are new and inexperienced at this, but she simply disappeared? You were assigned to keep tabs on the people who formed Alpha Flight and one of them has simply disappeared?” asked the balding man.
    “Yes sir”, Walker replied. He hated having his age and inexperience thrown in his face. Sure he was only twenty five but he was one of the best agents the new Department H had to offer. In his opinion anyway.
    “Please continue,” the lady of the group ordered.
    The picture changed again, this time showing the man known as Puck. “This man was very difficult to keep tabs on. We lost track of him several time, but he too has resurfaced in Toronto. But the most disturbing reappearance was this Alphan.” The picture behind Walker changed to show the mystical Snowbird. “It is believed that she was killed in combat. But she has returned, and so has her baby. I, I, believe they dug up the bodies and somehow managed to resurrect them.”
    “And how do you know that this is Snowbird?”, asked another official.
    “That’s what they called her, sir. We have bugs in Talisman's apartment. They were placed there when the team, along with Madison Jeffries, went to dig up the bodies of Baby Thompson and Doug Thompson. They recently left again. Heather Hudson, Puck, and a gentleman called Dr. Strange left to look for Aurora. James Hudson, Walter Langowski, Snowbird, Shaman, and Talisman are off to battle what they believe is the Great Beasts. We have a tail on them.”
    “Agent Walker, what do you propose?” asked the balding man.
    “Well, since you ask,” Walker continued with a smile. “I believe we should re-establish Alpha Flight as a government sponsored super team. The Avengers and Fantastic Four are gone. Something doesn’t smell right about the Thunderbolts. Canada needs a team to defend her. You all know about the incident in Winnipeg, and the incident at the maximum security prison, and the murder at the Royal Bank? The video cameras caught the man change into several different animals.” Walker was getting more excited as he talked. “We NEED to re-assemble Alpha Flight. These men and women are going off to defend Canada, risking life to do so, and how to we treat them?” During his assignment of keeping tabs on Alpha Flight, he developed a strong respect for them. He would love nothing more than to defend his country alongside these people, these heroes. “Sirs, I don’t ask this lightly. I ask this for THE GOOD OF CANADA!”
    There was a strange silence as agent Walker finished his piece.
    The balding man spoke again. “Walker, I want you to catch up to Mr. Hudson and the others, assist them in fighting these...Beasts as you called them, and then offer them official government support. One catch though. You will be the official government liaison between Alpha Flight and Department H. Is that clear?”
    “Yes Sir!” Walker turned to leave the room.
    “Walker!” yelled the balding man.
    “Sir?”
    “For God's sake, Donovan, be careful.”
    “Yes sir!”
    Then agent Walker left the room to catch up to Alpha Flight.

    CHAPTER 15: “NO ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.”
    Written by: Adam-X

    “Not sure just how you did it,” Puck said, as Heather set him down gently on the ground. Almost immediately, he was doing cart wheels to avoid Caliber, and his massive swings. “But things like this always happen, eh?”
    Caliber lunged at Puck again, but he was too dexterous to ever be captured by such a sluggish machine. “I mean, look who we're facing off against,” Puck said to no one in particular. Already Heather was flying into attack position, while Doc Strange hovered - none of them were apparently used, or were using - any forms of magic, which rendered Doctor Strange near helpless in this kind of battle. A feeling Puck was once all too familiar with. “We got Caliber - you're generic little villain in a big metal costume, eh?” Again, he dodged Caliber, making him furious. “What looks to be a cross breed between Wildchild and Wolverine on a bad day, with a pinch of Sabretooth, eh?” The apparent “Wildchild” lunged at him. “But there's only one thing wrong with this picture - both Wildchild and Diamond Lil aren't who they really seem!”
    “How can you be so sure?” Heather asked, as several bolts flew from her hands.
    “You don't trust me?” Puck asked, in mock gesture, dodging Caliber yet again - without effort, making Caliber feel less than a gnat to Puck's dexterity and agility. “I have trained for a long time - been all around the world - and have walked my share of dark roads - one thing you take notice to, is everything about everyone. Those two aren't who they seem to be - I just can't figure it out as to why them.”
    “You haven't figured it out?” the voice spoke, with an echo that sounded as if it were dying. “I am Omega. I am the End to the Beginning. This new team of Alpha Flight, seems like the Birth Of A New Dream - a new beginning - well, the time to realize that it is only a dream, and nothing comes of dreams - is now at hand!” The being known as Omega was once Jefferies brother - one known as Scramble. He's changed since then - and Alpha thought they had destroyed him.
    “Should have known you wouldn't stay dead,” Puck sneered to the pile of flesh. “Should have known you'd come back, like a poorly written comic book villain!” He found his last few words, a bit amusing for some reason.
    “Laugh dwarf,” Omega hissed. “It does not matter... keep dancing around me - soon, even you will grow tired... and when you do, I shall absorb you within me...”
    “That's it, isn't it?” Puck stopped for a second. “That's not Wildchild and Diamond Lil... they're people who were 'shaped' by your flesh churning powers... to throw us off, eh?” He laughed, and dodged Caliber who had tried to sneak up behind him. “Brilliant plan, eh? Too bad nothing gets by me.” He bounced off Omega's face, and added, while doing leaps through the air. “Not bad.... for a dwarf, eh?”
    * * * * * * * * * * * *
    “I can feel them,” Snowbird whispered, holding herself against the cold that bit into her bones. “They're reaching out...”
    “They already have some kind of anchor into our world, I am afraid*,” Shaman added, darkly looking to the night sky, whose blackness ran across the heavens like spilt ink. “Something is terribly wrong...”
    “Father,” Elizabeth added quietly, afraid to disturb her father's thoughts. “I have anchored us to Earth... we can't wait for Jean-Paul any more... with the passing seconds, I can feel their darkness around me, growing stronger...”
    Looking to the black skies, Shaman bowed his head. “I do not think Jean-Paul could have come with us... even if he wanted to...”
    Snowbird nodded her head in agreement. “Where we are about to go, only magic will help us travel...”
    “Wait a minute here,” Sasquatch cut in. “You're not planning on leaving me here, because I have no magic either - to tell JP why we're not here, do you?”
    “Actually,” Shaman smiled, almost sadly. “No. You're coming with us.”
    “But I don't have magic like you three do,” Sasquatch grumbled.
    “Yes,” Shaman corrected. “Yes you do.”
    “You are in essence a part of me,” Snowbird replied, still holding herself. “As I am in essence a part of you.”
    “Not to mention,” Talisman cut in. “You're a Great Beast.”
    “No longer is he one,” Snowbird corrected. “But at one time Walter's mind was possessed by the Great Beasts **, and thus knows what we are looking for subconsciously... And through shared cells, a slight amount of magic flows through his veins... not enough that he will ever be able to control or harness it, as we do... but enough to get him into The Gates Of Heaven... Where in, lies The Key Of Argoni.”
    “Wait,” Sasquatch cut in. “We're going in there looking for a key?” He pointed to the swirling portal that Talisman was opening.
    “It is not a key in the sense that you mortals know,” Snowbird said, bowing her head, and perhaps praying to her Mother for guidance... and strength for what she was about to enter... for what she was about to endure...
    * * * * *

    “I can't believe this,” Alex moaned. “Why did this have to happen now? Our lives were so normal...” He paused in his pacing steps, and itched his chin for a moment. “Well, as normal as it could have been for Jean-Paul and I...”
    He peeked nervously into the room he was pacing in front of. “Jean-Paul and I had so many plans... so many things we wanted to do together... Then this happens... “ He rolled his eyes and threw his arms into the air in frustration.
    Alex has every right to be mad tonight. And probably many long nights to come. Life was 'normal' for Alex and Jean-Paul... or, as he told himself seconds ago, as normal as it could be for the two of them. You see, they are both males; and they are very in love with each other; they are best friends; and yet, their love runs much deeper than that. They are lovers. Despite the world's supposed 'acceptance' of the gay community; Alex and Jean-Paul found that the people of the world were quicker to say, that 'Gay is Okay' - but when they saw it - so little as two men holding hands, they got looks of disgust. Jean-Paul's attitude had help forge Alex's strength and courage.
    That was a good thing. Those were two things he was needing right now. He peeked in the room, and moaned, “Oh no, he's doing it again!”
    Alex stormed into the room, and caught the baby. This was Snowbird's son - and as Alex was quickly learning. This was no ordinary baby - this was three times now, that Alex had peeked into the room, to see the baby glowing and levitating itself. Alex took a deep breath, and wondered when his life would go back to being normal again...
    If ever.
    * * * * *
    “You 'ave confused me,” Aurora admitted. “If you wanted Alpha Flight to 'elp you against this one you call Devolution, why do you send those creatures after 'hem?”
    “Devolution isn't a push over babe,” Flashback hissed. “Especially if it's true what I found out about him... Only the strong will survive the future I have foreseen,” Flashback said ominously. “And let me tell you, some of Alpha Flight will not be coming back from the battle against Devolution***...”
    “Are you sayin' dat some of dem will die?” Aurora asked, horrified.
    “Oh yes,” Flashback almost seemed to be enjoying the idea. “And not a pretty death either, I assure you... I need to make sure Alpha Flight is ready to deal with what lies ahead... The Avengers... The X-Men... The Fantastic Four... none of them will be any good to me, or the world, if Alpha Flight fails...”
    “I never considered Alpha that strong,” Aurora muttered.
    “Oh they're not the strongest team, but they're the only ones really experienced in magic... and that's what lies ahead... dark, evil magic...” Flashback seemed to shiver, as if memories raced down his spin. His faced paled. “So dark...”

    Chapter 16: “The Smallest Super-Hero”
    Written by: Wngtom

    Baby Thompson was growing restless. Young and new to the world as he was, he had the wisdom of the Northern gods and a recently-deceased Tibetan lama in his soul, and this was enough to make him sensitive to any potential danger his mother and her beloved team-mates might face. For all this, though, he was still an infant. And the only way he could express his fears was by crying.
    At first.
    “What's the matter, baby?” Alex came into the room. “Why can't you go to sleep, like your mommy asked you to before she left?” He jiggled various toys --a small white bear, a toy telephone-receiver-shaped rattle, some brightly-colored plastic keys-- in Baby Thompson's face. Angrily, the infant demi-god struck them away. And then, to both their surprise, spoke.
    “I...want...my...mommy!...I...want...to...help...m y...mommy!”
    Alex was startled. He had seen the infant glowing and levitating as if to leave the room several times before, and each time, he had reached the baby in time to hold him down. But now, Alex noticed some subtle changes in the infant. Baby Thompson seemed to have grown slightly bigger...and older. More like a one-year-old than the newborn he had been a few short hours before. And he was starting to develop a vocabulary somewhat beyond his years.
    “Mommy...needs me!” Baby Thompson started to rise into the air, and to Alex's astonishment, started to shapeshift into a gyrfalcon. He made for the nearest open window. “I can save Mommy! Nobody else!”
    Alex could only watch helplessly as the small gyrfalcon darted past him into the night. He was far too stunned at first even to think. Then, the thought came to him. “What will Jean-Paul say? He'll think I've let him down.” Jean-Paul was always first in Alex's thoughts. The rest of Alpha Flight could wait until later.
    Flashback was gleefully holding Aurora. “I always wanted to do
    this. I think I musta been the only guy on Alpha Base you never went out with.”
    “And with good reason!” Aurora spat. “You were always the most conceited.... Oh, I cannot think of a word bad enough to fit you! If mon frere were 'ere....”
    “He will be,” Flashback grinned. “Never doubt it. Your twinship
    gives you links even you don't realize.”
    “I would like to see 'im beat you up!”
    “Bring him on,” Flashback said enthusiastically. “I can hardly wait!”
    As if on cue, Northstar smashed down the door. “Gardner, librez ma soeur!”
    Delightedly, Flashback dropped Aurora, who dashed to the opposite end of the room, as if she couldn't get away fast enough. “Jean-Paul, I knew you would come! I knew you would not fail me!”
    Northstar had already seized Flashback, and was raining blows on him, hundreds in a second. Jean-Paul was a born fighter, and was enjoying himself. “And dis is for kidnapping ma souer. And for treating 'er so badly. And....”
    He never finished what he was going to say. In his eagerness to avenge his beloved sister, he had forgotten Flashback's unique power. Now, suddenly, the air was filled with strange “popping” sounds. Costumed doubles of Flashback were appearing by the dozens...and dozens. Where Northstar had been fighting only one man before, he now found himself being buried under an avalanche of opponents.
    “Mon frere!” screamed Aurora.” Allez vous bien?”
    The fight, slowly growing on a massive scale, raged on.
    At the Eye of the World, the portal was ready to open. Shaman was withdrawing the great key from his medicine pouch. Sasquatch, Talisman, Dr. Strange, and Snowbird stood ready. All felt the cold mystical wind blowing against their flesh...and into their very souls.
    Shaman raised the key and there was an intense white light. He began his incantation. Only Snowbird understood what he was saying. So could Talisman, if she cared to keep her mind on it. Everyone accepted that Shaman knew exactly what he was doing.
    Snowbird kept her secret fear to herself; that they would not have enough power to defeat the Great Beasts, and then, return to earth to defeat the Beasts' children. “If only my small son were older.... even if only by a small amount of time. If he were ready enough to come with us tonight and to learn.... Even the smallest amount of mystical power might give us an edge....”
    Suddenly, Talisman cried out and pointed up to the sky. “Snowbird! Narya! Look!”
    Snowbird looked up, saw a small gyrfalcon circling above them, and felt her heart thump violently in her breast. “My son! My small son!”
    Sasquatch looked astonished. “What's he doing here? I thought you left him in Toronto with Alex.”
    “Indeed, I did,” Snowbird said breathlessly. “But, the god-blood within him is too strong. Infant that he is, he knows that his place to learn is at my side.”
    “Our side,” corrected Dr. Strange.
    Snowbird lifted her arms to the gyrfalcon. He streaked into her
    embrace, and became her human son again, slightly older than she had left him. No one expressed any surprise at this. Hadn't Narya herself been born the size of a one-year-old child? And hadn't she grown to adult size in a year? No telling how much growth her offspring might achieve in a similar amount of time, no matter how diluted he was by his father's human blood.
    There was no more time now. The mystical portal to the Shattered Lands had been opened. And all present in the Eye of the World were sucked inside.

    Chapter 17: “Deep Within.”
    Written by: Wells

    Walter Langkowski stepped, or rather was sucked into the dimensional doorway. Around him the vortex spun, and the Shattered Lads began to take form in front of his eyes. The terror that this place brought him began to rush back in I a surge of memories. As suddenly as he was sucked into the portal, he was spit back out towards land. He once again felt ground beneath his feet, and ventured to open his eyes. Fully expecting to see the gray-scale backdrop of the shattered lands Walter was unprepared for what he
    was faced with.
    Around him the wind blew rain drops that felt like shards of ice. He was standing once more in the middle of the mystic crater called the "Eye of the world". His companions were not however with him, and he felt severely disoriented from the vortex. The mystical wind rustled his fur, and chilled his soul as he heard the voice of evil behind him.
    "Hello Brother....." The voice spoke to him. Walter spun around to face the owner of the chilling voice. Walter realized with horror just why this stranger had called him brother. Looking him straight in the eyes was Tanaraq of the great beasts, his former symbiotic partner.
    "NO!" Walter cried out in utter shock, but the sound was stolen by the chill wind of the crater.
    "Oh yes brother, it is I. Your mortal fears have surly come true this day, for I have arrived on this plane of existence, my fellow beast shall follow in due course, and you shall aid the cause of our return dear brother."
    Regaining his composure, Walter realize that it was up to him to keep the rest of the beast from following Tanaraq to earth.
    "I don't know what the he-haw yer talkin' about ya cheap rip off, but if you don't stop callin' be yer dang brother, I'm gonna have to shove yer words back down yer throat!" The bold reply came. To follow up on his statement Walter took a step towards his distorted evil twin to engage in the inevitable battle. However with each step e took closer to the Great Beast he felt more of his own energy drained.
    "Ah I see thine power is weakened my earthly presence brother." Tanaraq said to Walter with a confident chuckle. "I had surmised this would be the probable circumstance. It is in fact your energy that was the implement of my arrival on this earthly plain. It was you existence on earth that provided me with the means to breach the barrier between lands."
    "Are tryin' to tell me that it's my fault yer here, and the other damn Beasts are comin' soon?" Walter questioned weakly.
    "Indirectly the blame could be place upon you, however it is more the fault of Narya, daughter of Nelvanna. For it was she who created the body in which you reside, and it was she who bestowed the power you now hold upon you. Therefor it was she who failed to sever the link between your "Sasquatch" form and myself."
    "Damn-it! No wonder Narya was so anxious to play her part in preventing this coming of the Beasts!" Walter Hissed under his breath.

    Kolomaq stood in the form of the winter like giant prepared to face off against the being known as "The Light keeper". The bearded deity tartan robes flowed in the thing air of the Shattered lands as he rushed towards "The Preserver" with the force of a juggernaut.
    To one side of the impending battle Shaman lay in a daze. Only moments ago it had seemed that all was lost for him, and Kolomaq was on the verge of destroying the weakened mystic. Yanking a shard of sharpened ice from his thigh, shaman pulled himself to his feet to provide what assistance he could to his mysterious savior. Looking up at the two behemoths Shame came to the sudden realization of who this "Lightkeeper" truly was.
    "Elmo??" Shaman gasped audibly.
    "Yes it is I, Friend Michael Twoyoungman " The Lightkeeper spoke in a jovial tone as he surged forward with glowing fists raised toward the giant Beast of Winter that was Kolomaq.

    Set back Elizabeth Twoyoungman looked down at her hands in aghast wonderment. Her power had just failed her when she most needed it to face the might of TOLAMAQ, The Great Beast of Fire.
    The voice of the beast sounded around her in crackling laughter. "Art thou having troubles child of power? It seems thine power has fled in terror of my might. Now child your destruction is in hand."
    Talisman could feel the searing heat of Tolamaq as he came descended down over her body. As his flames engulfed her body he began to emit smoldering laughter. As her body was consumed by the fire and reduced to mere ashes that laugher abated. Now the beast of fire began to emit a deep hiss, much like the sound of water landing on a campfire. The ashes of Talisman began to come together. The solidified ad took the shape of a young strong human body. In mere seconds the form of Talisman stood
    strongly in the center of Tolamaq's inferno. Her entire body was bathed in a blue nimbus that began to grow as the hissing amplified.
    With an ear-popping shriek the fiery mass of The Beast of fire leaped back away from Talisman. It seemed to almost cringe against a gray-scale outcropping.
    "You poses powers beyond comprehension." The best hissed in a weak voice. Slowly Talisman watched as the fiery mass subsided and virtually sunk into the alien ground of the Shattered Lands.

    Consciousness returning Steven Strange found himself in a land unlike any he had ever visited before. It seemed that all around him was sucked of its color, yet his form remained unchanged. Just then what appeared to be a piece of the bizarre landscape began to move towards him. As it grew close Dr. Strange realized that this was no object, but a being seemingly composes of the matter of this land. No larger than he, the thing of bland features stopped about ten feet short of the Sorcerer Supreme.
    "Welcome Mystic you may call me Somon the Artificer" The frail looking creature said addressing Strange.
    "Yes I know who you are beat, just as I am sure that you know of me and my role of Sorcerer Supreme. I have come to this your land to stop you evil plans to dominate the plane earth."
    "It as I assumed, you knowledge of the arcane arts gives you a slim chance of accomplishing your goals, but I fear that you will not live to see the doom of you world."
    On that note Somon raised a hand slowly. As he did so the earth about Steven Strange began to lift to form a tight cage around the sorcerer. In the "floor" of the cage a deep crevice opened and a green substance began to ooze from it toward Strange.
    Soaring from the vortex Snowbird and her child set down on the black and white ground of The Shattered Lands. Suddenly a pungent stench overwhelmed Narya as the shape of Kariooq emerged from a pillar of steam. In her Arms the small boy began to weep silently in fear as the Beast spoke.
    "Ah the child of the gods has brought me a present, a pure form to corrupt!"

    Chapter 18: “Untitled Again.”
    Written by: Morgue

    “What do you mean, he just disappeared?”, Donovan yelled at a field agent.
    “I don’t know sir, One minute he was on our scanners, and the other he
    wasn’t”, replied the field agent.
    “You DID plant the tracer on him didn’t you?”, Donovan was getting furious.
    He had worked long and hard tracking Alpha Flight and he wasn’t going to lose
    them now. “I want you to scan as wide as possible and you better find out
    where Vindicator is”, Donovan barked. Donovan and four other field agents
    were in a helicopter flying over Northern Canada. They were following Alpha
    Flight by a tracer they had placed on James MacDonald Hudson. Hudson didn’t
    know it though. “I wonder if they found the tracer”, Walker thought to
    himself. “Or maybe Alpha has already started the battle against the Great
    Beasts, and the tracers was destroyed, or maybe...”
    “Sir, we got him”, an agent screamed out, interrupting Walker's line of
    thought.
    “Well, WHERE IS HE?”, Walker yelled.
    “Several hundred kilometers South West of our location sir.”
    “Damn, that will take too long on this thing”, Walker thought. “You, grab
    me a jet pack”, Walker ordered an agent.
    Several minutes later the agent returned with a sleek, silver jet pack.
    “Here you go sir.” Donovan slipped off his trench coat and pulled on the jet
    pack.
    “Continue to where we lost contact with Hudson, I'll go see where he is at
    now”, Donovan ordered as he grabbed a hand held electronic device and flew
    out of the helicopter.
    * * * * *
    Heather and Mac were several yards ahead of Puck when the attack came. In
    a burst of speed a black and white blur flew past Vindicator. The next
    second Mac fell to the ground unconscious. Another blur flew past Puck and
    rendered him unconscious as well. Heather looked around surprised.
    “Hello Heather, how are you?”
    “Northstar! What are you doing? We're here to help you”, Heather stated
    angrily.
    “My brother, and I have seen the light, Guardian. And soon so will you and
    the rest of Alpha.”
    “Aurora?”, Heather said as she spun around to look at the woman they had
    come here to save. But before she could say anything Northstar made his
    move, knocking her unconscious.
    As darkness engulfed Heather her only thought was “Why did I turn my back
    on Northst-?”, and then nothing.
    * * * * *
    Donovan landed in a forest several hours later. He took off the jetpack
    and put on his trench coat again.
    This prototype jetpack can last a lot longer than those other ones
    Department H has. I'm glad they keep some of these around for me. Don’t
    believe they actually want me to wear those suits. I mean if they're not as
    good as Guardian's then what’s the point. It like saying 'here you go, go
    out with Alpha Flight and fight bad guys, oh by the way your name is now
    Cannon Fodder.' “ Agent Walker followed the electronic signal from his hand
    device. He was close now, really close. He stepped into a clearing and saw
    the burned remains of a mass of flesh, and a suit of armor that looked charred.
    “What the heck is going on here? That looks like Caliber, and Omega. But
    Omega is dead, but then again so is this mass of flesh. Man it stinks”,
    Donovan said as he walked towards Caliber. Walker bent down and removed a
    section of the suit. “Oh MAN, that reeks”, Donovan yelled as he took
    several steps back.
    “Oh lookie here, more heroes.”
    Donovan spun around just as he was clawed across the stomach by WildChild.
    Donovan took a few steps back.
    “WildChild, what are your intentions?”, Walker asked as he drew two Glock
    17s from his shoulder holsters.
    “Im going to gut you and then kill you”, WildChild said calmly.
    “I know this isn’t the real WildChild, I know for a fact that he is still
    somewhere in the States. My contacts would have told me if Kyle was in
    Canada again”, Donovan thought to himself. “Thanks, that’s all I wanted to
    know”, Walker said as he opened fire on WildChild with both guns. The
    bullets pierced flesh and WildChild let out a scream of pain.
    “What’s the matter 'Child? In all your time in hanging out with super types
    you never taken a bullet?”, Donovan yelled through gritted teeth. WildChild
    fell. “Let’s see your healing factor handle thirty four bullets,” Donovan
    yelled as he continued firing. Finally the bullets stopped. Donovan let
    the empty clips fall to the ground. As he reached for an extra clip he was
    shoved from behind. On the ground he turned onto his back to look at his
    new attacker.
    “Oh great, bullets would be useless against her,” Donovan thought to
    himself as he looked at Diamond Lil. “Guess I'll have to do this the old
    fashion way.” Donovan stood up and assumed a martial arts stance.
    And then Lil attacked.
    * * * * *
    “It appears we have a new visitor”, Flashback said to the two speedsters
    behind him. “He is not like other super types is he? He actually used guns
    against WildChild. I wonder if he has any powers. Surely if he does he
    will use them against Lil. Don’t you think?” Flashback looked at the two
    twins again. “No of course not. You can’t think can you? After all, you're
    in my control now. And soon the other three Alphans will be as well.” And
    then laughter filled the hallways of the complex.
    * * * * *

    Chapter 19: “A Call to Dead Friends -- The Battle Rages On!”
    Written by: magik

    James MacDonald Hudson looked around, disoriented. One minute he had been with Walt, Michael, Elizabeth, and the others at the Eye of the World, the next he was in the middle of a forest? He looked around frantically, and his cybernetic sensors buzzed inside him, looking for movement.
    “Maybe the Great Beasts are trying to divide our forces?” He
    thought, slightly robotically, which half-annoyed him, half-registered as correct.
    Suddenly the mechanical implants in his brain focused, and zoomed in on infra-red silhouettes through a grove of trees. The readouts on the periphery of his line of sight identified two of the figures as his wife and Puck. Several of the lifeforms were unidentified, and suddenly his mind dove into the chaos of a paradox. Three of the outlines registered as four: Roger Bochs, Lionel Jeffries, Caliber, and Bedlam. He hadn't fought these villains, but from the information he had gleaned from Alphanex, he was able to identify them. The problem was, his cybernetic brain was having trouble coping with the fact that they were there when they should have been dead. Manipulating the electromagnetic spectrum, Jimmy lifted himself into the air and sped towards the battle seeking an answer to hi conundrum.
    * * * * *
    Alex yanked open the top drawer of the desk. “Where is it? She must have written it down!” He yelled frantically to himself. He pulled out the drawer, and dumped its contents to the pine floor of Elizabeth Twoyoungmen's apartment. Paper clips, thumbtacks, pens, and other useless items fell out, along with a novel-sized black manual. Alex bent open the worn cover and searched for what he was looking for. He found what he thought might be the key to his problem. Scribbled on the inside cover of the book were the words Kathryn and Tamarind.
    Alex threw the book down, and raced to the computer screen which illuminated the room with an eerie glow. Her typed in the two words which he had just discovered, and pressed enter. He was able to tap into Elizabeth's e-mail program. “Great,” he whispered pervasively, and clicked open the address book. He found the following addresses:
    Kara Killgrave- purple@toronto.ca
    Kyle Gibney- Agent4XF@usa.government.com
    Madison & Lillian Jeffries- Diamond@perknet.org.com
    “That's it?!” He screamed in despair, hoping that he would have found more help than that.
    He wrote them each and sent the messages on their way, unaware that the message to Kyle Gibney would have trouble reaching him, now that the world assumed he was dead. Kara Kilgrave was in England, and the message from the Jeffries bounced back. He only hoped that the other two would reach
    their destination.....
    * * * * *
    Aurora suddenly snapped out of her damsel in distress mode, and flew into the frenzy of men that were piling upon her twin brother. She emitted a flash of light, blinding the multiple versions of Flashback.
    “Merci, sister!” Jean-Paul shouted, flinging the men off of his at
    super-speed, unaffected by the blinding power he had once possessed also.
    “C'est my pleasure, frere.”
    “What is going on here?” Northstar asked, stepping over an
    unconscious body of Flashback's.
    “I've told your sister all she needs to know, Northstar.”
    The twins looked over to where Flashback stood. An Asian woman clad in a yellow and white suit similar to Vindicator and Guardian's stood on his left. A sullen looking woman in her late thirty's to early forty's stood on the opposite side of him. The older woman glowed. She started to scream.
    “Mon frere, what are zey doing to zat poor woman?!” Aurora shrieked.
    “I do not know, Jeanne-Marie.” Northstar was about to fly at
    Flashback and his obvious partner when the other woman's body split open and the two entered her. There was a suction sound, a blast of green light, and all three were gone.
    Northstar looked down. Jeanne-Marie was unconscious.

    Chapter 20: “Something.”
    written by: gratton

    Kolomaq's ice fell like crystal knives, biting into Michael Twoyoungmen's
    arms and legs. [It isn't real,] he tried to tell himself. [The sorcery of the Beasts cannot harm one who has armed himself with mental res--]--”Aargh!” he screamed, as a particularly thick shard slammed into his shoulder.
    Kolomaq laughed. It was an unholy sound; the sound of dying souls and rotting bone--the sound of men being murdered and women being raped. “You cannot hope to defeat me, little mortal. You cannot hope to defeat my brothers.” The Great Beast's eyes gleamed in anticipation of the kill. “Indeed . . . . you dare not _hope_.”
    “But hope he may!” roared a voice from above. None of the Great Beasts like to be disturbed when at their most private of works, and so Kolomaq looked up, annoyed.
    From the ink colored sky of the Realm of the Beasts flew a shining star; a giant man in a simple wool tunic, his chest spanned by a tartan sash, and his legs covered by a matching kilt. His body was surrounded by the silver burning light of the stars.
    “_You_,” Kolomaq growled. “How dare you interfere here, Lightkeeper? This is the realm of me and mine brethren; Turoq's champions have no place here!”
    “Where Nelvanna's daughter goes, there go I, monster!” the warrior
    rumbled.
    Kolomaq laughed again. “I see the whelp's returned, Lightkeeper. And if you wish to wreck your life upon the rock again; as you did before—to return to your slumber--well, then, _mortal_--I shall gladly oblige you.”
    The Lightkeeper narrowed his fiery eyes. “I am mortal no longer, Son of
    Misuse. And as an immortal, I can safely say--you will harm Nelvanna's
    daughter and her comrades over my own corpse.”
    * * * * *
    “I don't _care_ if you have to break a commitment, Whit--this is important!” Kara Killgrave's face was quickly turning from lavender to magenta.
    “Look, Kary, honey--this is the chance of a lifetime. Peter Fairweather doesn't give lectures anymore. This refresher course is the only way I can keep up with the other physicians my age. I'm sick of being a bloody temporary doctor. I want residency, Kary, and this is the only way to--”
    “Don't you 'Kary' me!” Kara hissed. “Liz and the others are in trouble.
    You have a commitment to Beta Flight, Whit.”
    “I'm a doctor first, Kary--”
    “If you call me either 'Kary' or 'honey' even _one_ more time, Whitman Knapp, I'm never talking to you again, let alone marrying you. And I'm not kidding. Now look: I'm calling out the cavalry. I'm going to contact Gobbs and Laura, and I'm going to drive them to 2439 Viking Drive. It's here in Toronto. We should get there in about three hours; plenty of time for you to get to town. If I don't see you there--well, I won't be seeing you again. Are we clear on that, Whit?”
    * * * * *

    Donovan Walker shook his head once, twice. He was hanging by the wrists from a ceiling. [What happened?] He smiled a wry, bitter smile. [Diamond Lil's bloody _fist_ happened.]
    “Ah, you're awake. Good. I was hoping to gloat before I subverted you.” The speaker was thin--gaunt, actually. He was pulling on a white-and-sable costume with red glass lenses over his eyes. His voice was nasal and grating. “Now, Agent Walker--can I call you Don?”
    “No,” Walker snarled.
    “Good. Don it is. Now, Don, what is Department K doing up here?”
    Walker snorted. “If you think I'm going to tell you anything, you're even
    nuttier than you _look_.”
    The costumed man chuckled. “You know, it's funny. I was actually hoping you'd say something like that.” He turned to the doorway behind him. “Jean Paul! Lionel!”
    Northstar and Omega, both shuffling slowly--well, Northstar was shuffling;
    Omega was slithering--entered the dark little room.
    “Now,” the thin little psycho said, his eyes twinkling savagely behind the red glass, “let me ask again. Why is Department K crashing my little tea party?”

    Chapter 21: “Silenced.”
    Written by: Mountjoy

    “Where...are..” *BBLLAASSTT* If Elizabeth Twoyoungmen had time to finish
    that sentence, she would have said we, but as she takes a quick look around
    after dodging the mystic fire blast she learns she is quite alone. Alone,
    that is, except for TOLAMAQ, the Beast of Hellfire! It's been too long since
    TOLAMAQ has smelt human fear, and he wants more.
    “I remember you, daughter of power, and this shall be the last time we
    meet.”
    “That's right, because this time we're going to put you down for
    good.” With that, Talisman gathers all the mystic energy and rechanneled it
    into a deadly blast...or so she thought. “Nothing... nothing’s happening!”
    * * * * *
    As a super-hero, and as the shaman to the ancient Sarcee tribe, Michel
    Twoyoungmen has seen a lot. But as he wakes up in the bleak black and white
    landscape of the Realm of the Beasts, even he is a little bit stunned.
    “Narya! Elizabeth! Stephen! Can you hear me? The Great Beasts were ready
    for us,” Shaman says to himself “ they must have separated us in the
    portal so they could defeat us more easily.”
    “That is all too true, mortal.”
    “Who?... KOLOMAQ, beast of Winter! How are you here? Snowbird defeated you long ago!”
    “One of the Beasts is already on Earth, he feed me from my earthen grave.
    Now under Somon we shall concur all!” with that, a great blizzard the likes
    of which Shaman has never felt engulfs the entire area.
    * * * * *
    Young Kara Killgrave returns home from an exciting night at the Cineplex
    Central, seeing, as she put it, “a horrible blood and guts movie with NO
    plot.” But she didn't mind the less than adequate directing job, as long
    she was next to 'the proper company.'
    “England was nice, but THIS is the life. I think I've died and gone to...”
    she stops on her words, as she reads a very involved e-mail.

    >From : Elizabeth Twoyoungmen ELTM: twoyoungmen@utoronto.com Sent :
    Friday, May 23, 1997 10:51 PM To : Kara Killgrave, Kyle Gibney,
    Madison and Lillian Jeffries Subject: Alpha Flight
    Dear Ms. Kara Killgrave, Mr. Kyle Gibney, Mr. Madison and Mrs. Lillian Jeffries
    Hi, I don't know you and you don't know me, and I don't know you, but this
    is a matter of life or death. I assume you know Elizabeth Twoyoungmen
    (Talisman), whose apartment I'm at now, and the rest of Alpha Flight.
    Well, anyway, they went off to the center of all worlds or something and I
    was left to baby-sit Narya's (Snowbird) daughter. Oh yes, Snowbird and her
    daughter are now alive again, but don't ask me how. Anyway the baby, who is
    half god I think, grew up a couple years in a couple hours a flew out the
    window and now I need your help! I think all of Alpha, plus some guy
    named Dr. Strange, are in need of your help! Please respond and come here as
    some as possible. The address is 2439 Viking Drive, apartment 13, Toronto,
    Canada. Hurry!
    “......wow.”

    Chapter 22: “Without Words.”
    Written by: Matthew Davidson

    Eugene Milton Judd awoke, his head pounding and his Dwarven body
    aching. His vision focused slowly, and he started to remember what had
    happened.... Something had struck him from behind, something fast. He
    surveyed his surroundings, trying to figure out where he was. The room he
    was in was empty, almost sterile, with metallic walls, floor and ceiling.
    The only deviation from this theme was a mirror, and what he was restrained
    with: He was shackled in a large orb, like that of a virtual reality game.
    “Damn!” he grunted, straining against the restraints. Suddenly, out
    of the corner of his eyes, he caught a flicker of movement near the
    mirror.... In the mirror... “Whoever you are, come out of there! I can see
    you, eh!”
    There was a buzzing, electronic noise, and suddenly a voice. “Hello,
    Puck, glad to see your back to the land of the living.... Is there anything
    you'd like? A cup of tea, maybe some freshly brewed coffee?”
    “Where are Guardian and Vindicator?”
    “The happy couple are quite alright.... Nice and comfortable just
    like you.”
    “Where have I heard that voice?” mumbled Puck pensively, trying to
    remember.
    “You idiot! It's not that hard!” shouted the voice violently. “Come
    on Puck think!”
    Behind the glass, Flashback started to laugh hysterically.
    * * * * *
    Heather struggled against her restraints, also. She, however was in
    a different situation than Puck. She was tied up with ropes, stripped of her
    suit. She sighed in frustration, and fell back against the bed of her cell.
    Through the bars she could see her suit on a rack, and her husband standing
    lifeless against a wall, several wires running into his temples.
    Her wrists started to bleed. “It's hopeless. If only the others
    would show up....”
    Then a door opened, with Northstar standing behind it. He entered,
    chomping a bowl of unappetizing slop. Heather now noticed a glowing
    electronic device located on the back of his head. “That must be the reason
    he's being controlled.” Heather thought. She had to get out of these ropes.
    As she stood up, she noticed something she hadn't before, there was a jagged
    metal outlet on the far wall, it looked as though there had been a switch
    there before. Heather quickly broke a piece of the metal free and used it to
    cut though the bindings.
    She pounced on the mutant speedster's back, trying to rip the mind
    control device from his head. He fought her off, but was slowed by the
    implant. She kicked him in the knee, sending him reeling into the wall
    behind him. There was a fountain of sparks as the device shorted out.
    Jean-Paul rubbed his head, confused. “What happened Heather?”
    “Someone planted some sort of mind device on you. You and Aurora
    attacked Mac, Puck and me!”
    “So, you've gotten free have you?” said a voice from behind them.
    “Well, we can fix that can't we?” Behind them stood a woman in a yellow and
    white suit, similar to Vindicator's, and a young man*.

    Chapter 23: “Seeds of the Future”
    Written by: Sue Wong

    “Child of man!” Kariooq sniveled as he surveyed Snowbird holding
    her child. “This is better than we ever could have planned.”
    “You horrid beast!” Snowbird shouted, holding her small son
    protectively. “Whatever do you mean?”
    “I mean...” the hideous creature said with a sneer in his voice,
    “that not only are the Beasts' progeny in the world beyond, but we now have
    _your_ whelp here where we can wipe both of you out, and thus, insure that
    our children will be able to conquer the world --with _no_ interference
    with the descendants of Nelvanna --_or_ their allies! Even now, your
    associates here are in serious trouble!”
    Perhaps this may have been true when the members of Alpha Flight
    had first arrived in the realm of the Beasts. But what Kariooq did not know
    was that already Snowbird's allies were beating back the Great Beasts.
    Tolamaq could not defeat Talisman. Every time he had tried,
    Talisman used her magical powers to protect herself from being consumed by
    the magical flames.
    “Hey, dummy!” Elizabeth Twoyoungmen called out. “Why don't you
    just give up? You should know by now you can't win!”
    The fire Beast hissed and dwindled into nothingness. One Beast
    defeated.
    Likewise, St. Elmo the Lightkeeper defeated Kolomaq. St. Elmo's
    lightblasts blinded the Great Beast of winter to the point where Kolomaq
    could not see that Tundra had risen from in back of him. Now, Tundra
    grasped Kolomaq in a huge, earthy embrace . Both Beasts went down into a
    huddle...and then, suddenly disappeared.
    “My thanks, St. Elmo,” Shaman said. “How wonderful to see you
    again after all these years. Will you be coming back with us?”
    “I hope to,” St. Elmo said. “There will be great need of my powers in the world beyond. Now, we must hurry to your daughter. And then, to the daughter of Nelvanna and her small son.”
    Shaman and St. Elmo hurried to where Talisman seemed to await them.
    Talisman grinned. “ Hey, Dad, aren't you going to introduce me to your giant friend?”
    “Introductions later, Daughter,” Shaman said, as he came up to Talisman, and took her arm to propel her past. “We must hurry to help our friends. Every minute we stay here in the realm of the Beasts is another minute when the Beasts will stand a better chance of victory back in the real world.”
    “Dad, I don't understand....” Talisman began.
    “The Beasts hope to keep us here long enough for their progeny to have a chance to conquer the world outside,” Shaman explained. “The sooner we can defeat the parents here, the sooner we can get back into the world beyond to defeat their children. Now, we must find Somon the Artificer. If we can destroy him, the remaining Beasts will turn on each other, and will lose interest in penetrating the world outside.”
    Snowbird held her son against her breast. Her eyes blazed white. “My son is a scion of the gods _and_ he has the soul of a great Tibetan lama in him as well. You shall not corrupt him, Kolomaq!”
    “Oh, my dear,” Kolomaq said. “Why do you think it was so important for you to be here? Not only are we keeping you from defending the world beyond from our progeny, but we also have the great bonus of the chance to corrupt a descendant of the Gods ---to bring to _our_ side!”
    “Do not be too sure of that, Beast,” Snowbird hissed back. “My son may have too much power for that!”
    Suddenly, Snowbird's son broke free from her arms. He assumed the form of a gyrfalcon, and streaked away from his mother.
    “My son!” Snowbird cried. “Where are you going?” She shapeshifted into the form of a snowy owl, and flew after him, leaving a bewildered Kariooq behind.
    Snowbird's son flew towards the platform where Somon had Dr. Strange encased in a tight cage. A green, acid-like substance was slowly oozing towards the Sorcerer Supreme.
    The small gyrfalcon ripped into Somon's body. The artificer screamed, and tried to fight the small bird off with his staff.
    Then, the larger snowy owl appeared. She dropped to the platform, shapeshifted briefly into her human form, and then, took the form of a polar bear. It did not take long for the polar bear to finish Somon off. He was weaker than he had wanted others to think.
    When Somon was destroyed, the effects of his magic began to disappear. The green ooze vanished. Dr. Strange's cage was magically shattered, and he was freed.
    “My thanks, Narya,” Dr. Strange said. “And I am most impressed by your son. Instinctively, he knew that to defeat Somon was to defeat _all_ the Beasts.”
    Snowbird held out her arms in time to catch her small boy, who transformed from his gyrfalcon form to his human one. “He will be a great champion yet,” she said with some pride in her voice.
    Just then, Shaman, Talisman, and St. Elmo arrived. Talisman
    looked around. “Seems like we're too late to defeat Somon here. Which suits
    me fine. I'm sick of these Beasts, and want to get back into the real world.”
    “It would seem we have much to do there,” Snowbird said. “And...look!”
    Tanaraq and Kariooq were wrestling each other. Sasquatch lumbered up in time to join the other heroes to watch.
    Shaman took a handful of ice crystals from his pouch. “Let's finish this fight, shall we?” He hurled the ice crystals onto Kariooq. The ugly Great Beast screamed and dwindled into nothing. The corrupter, defeated by ice, the preserver.
    “And _I_ shall deal with Tanaraq,” Snowbird cried, shapeshifting into the form of a white Sasquatch. She bounded toward him, and the battle was brief. Once again, Snowbird managed to kill this Great Beast by ripping into his body.
    Sasquatch was a bit nervous about this. Hadn't he a symbiotic link with Tanaraq? Wouldn't killing Tanaraq destroy him, also?
    It would seem not. Snowbird, returning from her victory over Tanaraq, shapeshifted back into her human form, and answered Walter's unspoken question. “Fear not, Walter Langkowski,” she said in a soothing voice. “The Beast was only trying to frighten you into submission and defeat. You have gone through too much --particularly the last time you were here, in the Well of Souls-- for him to be able to corrupt you and
    claim any link with you.”
    “Well,” Walt said, “that's a load off my mind.”
    “Come now, my friends,” Snowbird continued, with her son in her embrace. “We have seen the Beasts defeated. Now, we must return to the world in time to defeat their next generation.”
    “If we can....” Talisman said doubtfully.
    Snowbird looked down at her child. “I would say that we have a chance.”
    Shaman withdrew the Great Key from his pouch to begin the incantation that would bring them back.

    Chapter 24: “The Temper Of The Inferno Ahead”
    Written by: Adam-X

    “C'rest, who are deze people?” Aurora stopped, facing the two figures standing
    before them.
    “I recognize them,” Puck growled. “Temper and Inferno... they're from Omega
    Flight - and that means they're on the wrong side of the team.”
    “Zare's only two of zem! Let's take care of zem and get on wit' zis!” Aurora
    said, and before anyone could move, was already in motion...
    “That's right,” Temper smiled. “Come on...”
    Just as Aurora drew close - even moving at her incredible speed - she stopped
    in midflight and collapsed to the ground, as if all her life had been robbed from her. Northstar screamed, “Monsters! What have you done?!” And he was the next to move - and despite his speed as well - the same fate befell him when he drew too close to Temper.
    “Curse it!” Puck growled. “They got tempers quicker than their feet, eh?”
    “Now the odds are a little more even,” Inferno laughed. “Now it's two against
    two and a half, eh, Puck?” The last words were bitter and harsh. There was some
    connection between Puck and these two - but there was no time to find out what
    that connection was. “You always thought you were hot stuff, eh, Inferno? With
    your little lava lamp powers, eh? How many times have I beaten you to the
    ground, eh? What makes you think this time will be any different than the last?”
    The ground erupted with explosive results. Puck quickly, and with little
    effort, tumbled out of the way, while Vindicator and Guardian took to the air.
    “This has gotten out of hand,” Vindicator growled. “We're taking them down
    now, and we're taking them down hard. I am not sure what's going on here,
    fighting people you and Puck claim to be dead - and now these people from
    Omega Flight...”
    “I guess you can't keep a dead person down...”
    “Who the - ?” Vindicator, Guardian and Puck turned... at were at a loss
    for words... save one.
    “Flashback?”
    * * * * *
    “Was it me or did that seem too... easy?” Sasquatch muttered, as they headed for the gate that would return them to Earth...
    “Easy?” Talisman coughed sarcastically, as she began weaving her hands in an ancient pattern.
    “No,” Snowbird cut in, her voice as cold as the winter's fall, as she held her son - so caring, and warmly - contrasting her voice, and her white, snow like pupils. “Walter is correct... the battle turned too easily...”
    “What are you suggesting, Nayra? That this is a trap? A setup?” Shaman asked, nervously glancing at Doctor Strange and Talisman, whose magic was stronger than his own - wondering if they detected anything.
    “No,” Snowbird said again, tilting her head slightly. “The Great Beasts here... they were testing us... finding our strengths and weaknesses... Somehow they are communicating to their Children on the other side... there on Earth... They know that only we - as Alpha Flight - can stop them... they needed to learn who was in Alpha Flight now... what we could or couldn't do... Now they've learned... now they know what to expect... Surprise is no longer on our side...”
    The Magical Gate opened, and they stepped into the swirling colors...
    It felt as if their souls were being pulled from their very bodies, into the
    colorful doorway beyond... and it felt as if it took a minute or two for their bodies to catch up to their travelling souls...
    Earth. The Eye Of The World.
    Walter ran off to the side and threw up what remaining food he had in his stomach - and anything else that might have been there and between his mouth. He wretched and held his gut, trying to gasp and breathe when he could. “I hate how that feels,” he managed to choke. He collapsed to the side, when he finished wrenching and looked around, dazed.
    Elizabeth Twoyoungmen placed her hands on her hips, and smiled coyly. “Well look, Walt' - I'd like to see you try and make it better!”
    Doctor Strange placed his hand on Snowbird's shoulder and whispered in her ear. “Nayra, it is nice to see you among the living again... And I wish I could stay and help more... but -”
    Snowbird turned, still holding her son close. “Say no more, Stephen. I understand.” She smiled at him warmly - again contrasting her cold appearance.
    Doctor Strange bowed, and closed his eyes. He changed a few words and held the necklace he wore... in a brilliance of light, he was gone.
    “Where did the good Doctor get off to?” Elizabeth asked.
    “He has matters of his own he needs to take care of back in the States...”
    “Hope he feels better than I do with that magic travelling thing...”
    Talisman shot Walter a dirty look and laughed...
    Right now, they were bathing in their victory over the Great Beasts, and how easy their victory was... trying not to think of Snowbird's words... That this had all been a test to learn Alpha Flight's weakness... and now the Children of the Great Beasts would be even more ready for them... when the time came to face them...
    ... and that time would come soon.
    All too soon.

    Chapter 25: “Escape.”
    Written by: Seng

    They were surrounded. Mere moments ago, they faced off against two of Omega
    Flight's deadliest members: Inferno and Temper - almost even odds. Now, a dozen, if not more, gaunt men in white and sable filled the room. Even by Puck's accounting, they were outnumbered and even perhaps outclassed.
    “Surprised, my friends?” one of the white and sable clad men sneered.
    “Thought I had gone the way of old villains?”
    Mac launched himself into the air, threw up an E-M shield. “Watch your backs
    everyone. He's everywhere!”
    “I am indeed,” the Flashbacks gloated, their laughter mingling into an
    insane cacophony. “Take them my Omegans!”
    The world erupted into fire as Inferno summoned flames from the earth.
    Guardian turned, in time to see Puck suddenly jump at her.
    “What? Judd-?” His action took her completely by surprise, as did the punch
    that knocked her senseless to the ground.
    “Heather!” Vindicator shouted above, surprised at the sudden treachery of
    the man he had long regarded friend and team-mate. Instinctively, he sent a
    barrage of E-M pulses in Puck's direction. The dwarf nimbly leapt away,
    laughing. There was something tinny about his voice as he cartwheeled from
    the blasts.
    “Surprised, Vindicator?” the Flashbacks said as one. “That old friends
    should turn against you so suddenly?”
    Realization dawned on Mac. “Blast you!” he cried, blocking off a gout of
    magma that had erupted from the ground beneath him. “That's not Puck is it?”
    He looked down at Northstar and Aurora lying prone on the ground. Were these
    the real Jean-Paul and Jeanne-Marie, or were they imposters too?
    He did not have time to ponder long as Inferno unleashed more fire at him.
    Quickly, he prioritized the situation. He had to get Heather to safety --
    and then get the both of them out of here. Find the real Puck, Northstar and
    Aurora if he could.
    He swooped down, still shielded from the flames (though his cybernetic
    readings told him that the E-M shields would not last long under this
    punishment), and grabbed Heather.
    Grounding himself was a mistake -- the Flashbacks piled on him, joined by
    the ersatz Puck. He struggled against their weight, pulling as much power as
    he could from his systems to enhance his strength. In one burst of E-M
    force, he lifted himself off the ground, Heather in his arms, sending the
    Flashback and false Puck tumbling to the ground. Another E-M pulse burned a
    sizeable hole in the ceiling and he flew through.
    The Flashbacks yowled in anger. “Get him! Get him!”
    * * * * *

    In another room within the complex, the real Puck struggled uselessly
    against the restraints that held him within the orb. The orb generated some kind of field which dulled his mind and numbed his muscles, making his enhanced strength effectively useless. He ground his teeth, thinking hard. Minutes ago, Flashback had revealed himself to be the mastermind behind this entire thing. In true fashion for a villain, the man had proudly outlined his plans to Puck, thinking the dwarf helpless to act against him. If the
    madman was right, then Judd had little time to act before Flashback's plan came to fruition.
    The field had to be generated by something. Puck scanned the chamber, looking for some kind of generator but if there actually was one, it was not in the room.
    Suddenly, a loud humming filled the room and the ceiling burst open in a shower of sparks and golden energy. Puck's spirits lifted -- he recognized the energy signature -- but his heart sank when he saw the prone woman in Vindicator's arms as he flew into the room.
    “Judd? Is that you?” Mac asked.
    “The one and only, eh?” Puck asked. “Why-?”
    Mac shook his head. “Long story. Let's see if we can get you out of that.”
    He shorted out the restraints with his E-M bursts and cracked open the orb. Judd stepped out unsteadily, still shaky from the effects of the field.
    “I'll be okay, eh. Just give me a moment,” he said.
    “That's about all we've got,” Mac said as alarms sounded throughout the
    complex. Quickly, he informed Judd of Flashback. Judd nodded. “And there's
    more. It looks like Monroe is even more crazy than we first thought, eh.
    What he's got planned: if we don't put a stop to it, then it's going to be
    hell for Canada... and the world.”

    Chapter 26: “Something: Not By the Hair of my Chinny-Chin-Chin.”
    Written by: (Falstaff)

    “Okay, it seems to me that our first step is to . . . .” Laura Dean's
    voice trailed off. “Hey, Kara, wake up!”
    Persuasion's eyes snapped away from the apartment's door. “Sorry. I'm just--y'know--a little anxious.”
    Laura's eyes twinkled. She tossed a playful glance at her twin sister. Goblyn snorted.
    “Oooh, Whit,” Laura cried melodramatically, “I love you!” She rose, crossing her arms. “No, I hate you. I never want to see you again!” She knelt again. “Wait, I love you…”
    “Stop that,” the harsh voice of the Betan known only as Wyre grated. “It's bad enough when she does it. I didn't come here all the way from the Alaskan border to listen to the pair of you prattle.”
    Their host, Northstar's boyfriend Alex, turned to the pockmarked man. “Monsieur, would you kindly extinguish that . . . . thing?”
    Wyre's lip curled above his cigarette. “Nope.”
    Goblyn looked at her sister and flared her nostrils, her equivalent of a shrug. The silent mutant didn't have to speak to convey her thought: 'It is going to be a long wait.'
    * * * * *
    One would expect that superheroes, when racing to the rescue of other superheroes (even aboard a borrowed DC-10 officially licensed to Air Canada) would be deep in some meaningful, momentous discussion, or perhaps planning some form of battle strategy. One would expect that. But one must first take into account the fact that said heroes are--at least in all the ways that count--human . . . .
    “You are too thin,” Saint Elmo pronounced in his booming brash voice.
    Snowbird's tone was exasperated and faintly icy. “It has been many years since I have required a nursemaid, Saint Elmo. I am perfectly capable of regulating my own diet.”
    One who did not know the formerly dead Welshman well would have missed the
    fatherly twinkle in his deep gray eyes. “Nonetheless, O daughter of Nelvalla, it is plain that you are far too thin for a woman of your age.”
    He mock-glared at Shaman. “What are you feeding this child, old friend? Your shuffled eggs and bowls of raw wheat? Pah!” Now there was no mistaking the smile in his eyes, for it was matched by one on his face. “A few loaves of good rye bread, a bowl or three of thick mutton stew, and you'll be fit to walk the world again,” (a wink), “my tiny one.”
    “You leave my mommy alone!” Snowbird's son piped up from her arms.
    The assembled Alphans laughed, but Elmo was absolutely serious as he turned to the child. He nodded gravely, his bristling red beard alight in the rays of the rising sun that streamed through the window. “As you wish, little master. Elmo at Elphan is forever at your service.”
    “Okay, Redbeard,” Elizabeth Twoyoungmen said. “I'm sick of this cloak and
    dagger stuff. Who are you, and what were you doing in the Beast's realm?”
    Elmo raised an eyebrow at Shaman. “Is she always this ill-mannered, friend Michael?”
    A quirk of a smile graced Michael Twoyoungmen's stately features. “More
    often than not.”
    “I am Elmo ap Elphan, from the humble village of Ffydrich Garan in the north of Wales. For five thousand years, I have been in the service of the goddess Nelvalla. And I was in the realm of the Sons of Misuse for reasons of my own.”
    “_What_ reasons?” Talisman asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
    Beneath the russet beard, the Welshman's jaw tightened. “Reasons of my own, Binder.”
    “And that's it? That's all you have to say?”
    Elmo's eyes bored into the young woman's. “Quite so.” His eyes flashed like a storm in the midst of a peaceful sea. “Step carefully, Binder of Spirits. Some things are not for mortals to know--not even she who bears the talisman.”

    Chapter 27: “A Name for the Littlest Alphan”
    by: Wngtom

    Donovan Walker hesitated on the doorstep of the RCMP station. He looked down at the photo of the pale blonde young woman Mountie in his hand. “Anne McKenzie,” it read on the back.
    According to RCMP records, Anne McKenzie had been assigned to this post in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Donovan felt that he should see her as soon as possible.
    He steeled himself, and stepped into the building. This police station was bustling with activity.
    A young brunette woman Mountie looked up from behind her desk. “May I help you, sir?”
    “Er...yes,” Donovan said. “I'm looking for a Mountie by the name of Anne McKenzie.”
    “Anne McKenzie....” the young woman reflected. “She disappeared ages ago. She and Sergeant Douglas Thompson. I should know, because I was assigned to take over her duties as Records Officer. Perhaps there's something I can help you with....?”
    “Thanks, but, no. It's Anne McKenzie I have to see,” Donovan said,
    turning to go. “Thank you anyway for your help.”
    He stepped outside again and reflected upon what he had just been told. Now what was he going to do? Anne McKenzie had disappeared, and he didn't have a clue as to where to find her. Where could she have gone?
    The erstwhile Anne McKenzie --who was in reality the resurrected demi-goddess Narya AKA the super-heroine Snowbird-- now sat in the seat of a DC-10, her small son sleeping in her arms. She was deep in conversation with her seat-mate, the dwarf Judd, also known as Puck.
    “Don't mind St. Elmo's teasing, eh?” Judd said. “That's just his way of showing his concern for you and your son, too. Say...what is the little fella's name gonna be? We can't keep on calling him 'Baby'. Especially after the way he's grown in such a short time.”
    “I have just been considering this, Judd,” Snowbird said. “I have thought of the name Richard, from that of my mortal father, Richard Lawrence Easton.”
    “That's a fine name, eh?” Judd grinned. “And it's got a noble lineage. Richard the Lion-Hearted and so on. A good name for a demi-godling. And how about a middle name for the little guy? Something birdlike for _you_, eh?”
    “You flatter me, Friend Judd,” Narya responded with a slightly warm smile. “Do you have a particular bird name in mind?”
    “How 'bout Peregrine? It _is_ a real name, eh? There was a Peregrine Churchill. Grandson of Winston, I think he was.”
    “Another name with noble overtones,” Snowbird responded in a deeply satisfied voice. “And the peregrine falcon has many fine qualities that I hope my son will have in his bird forms. A skilled hunter...a most excellent bird of prey. And my son already gravitated to the form of a gyrfalcon as his avatar.... Yes, Judd, I think your suggestions are quite appropriate. Very well...as of this moment, my son will be known as Richard
    Peregrine Thompson. Thank you, Judd.”
    “You're welcome, eh?” Judd said, with a grin. “I feel like the kid's godfather already.”
    “He will have much to learn from you when we finish this mission,” Snowbird said. “And I for one will look forward to seeing his progress.”
    Suddenly, she went pale and clutched the top of the seat before her. Judd was alarmed at the change in her appearance, and called out, “Michael! Come here quick!”
    Snowbird straightened, a little more color in her face. “I am quite better now. It was a small dizzy spell, nothing more. And it was mystical in origin, as Michael would tell you.” The plane had begun its descent. “We draw ever closer to the confrontation with the children of the Beasts.” She looked concernedly at the child beginning to stir in her arms. “If only he were a little older. Judd, you and the rest of the Flight will yet have
    much to teach him.”

    CHAPTER 28 : “Cryptic Writings”
    Written by: Adam-X

    “What do ye mean, 'the rest of the Flight will yet have much to teach him?' You say that like you plan on leaving us, Birdie.”
    Snowbird was silent for a moment.
    “Tell me you're not going to be leaving us,” Walter leaned forward. “I'm just getting used to the idea of someone else returning from the dead!” It was a jest, in reference to the time “Walter” died as well.
    “We never plan on leaving,” Snowbird said, her voice chilled.
    “Fasten up people, we're coming in for a landing...”
    It was the voice of Mac Hudson. Yet another who had apparently returned from the dead. Northstar was beginning to question his own sanity at this given time. It seems most of Alpha Flight had returned from the dead at one time or another. Is it no wonder he hated being a part of this team - he wanted a normal life - or as normal as it could be - but being a mutant, as he was - could he turn his back on the world when it needed him most?
    “We're not getting a response from the tower,” Mac's voice came over the intercom again.
    Shaman looked out the window. No planes were coming or going from the airport. For that matter - all the lights were out. Suddenly, Shaman felt a shiver render itself through his body, as if a rollercoaster burned through his nerves!
    “Vindicator! Get out of here! Get out -”
    There was an explosion.
    It looked beautiful.
    Had it not been Alpha Flight's DC10 that had exploded...

    Fragments of metal came crashing to the ground, ablaze.
    “That was quite a light show,” a twisted voice spoke.
    “Don't be foolish, Retribution,” came another voice. “That explosion did not rid us of Alpha Flight... The Cursed Child is among them. This is unexpected. And unfortunate.”
    Silence.
    Then coughing. “Is everyone all right?” it was the voice of Heather, also known as Guardian. “What hit us?”
    “The Children Of The Great Beasts... they're here... in the airport...” Snowbird whispered, cradling her child. “My son sensed them, and cast a Globe Of Protection around us, just prior to the plane's explosion...”
    “I can smell them,” Jean-Paul commented.
    “The smell of decay is strong...” Shaman added, reaching into his pouch, casting magical dust around them for protection, inside the airplane hangar.
    Just then two security guards entered Hanger 18, where Alpha Flight was. One guard looked at the other and shot him through the heart. The fallen security guard looked up at the other, holding his bleeding heart, and spoke in an English accent. “A message for you, sir!”
    The other security guard who had shot him, looked surprised and leaned over and picked up a note that had been stuffed under the fallen security guard's badge. “Let me see. Ah yes! It reads, 'Help me O' Brave heroes! I am in great danger! Children of Evil wish me to marry Mother Earth, and corrupt her precious soul!' “
    They looked animated. As if they were controlled by strings; like hand puppets. Then the first officer who had shot the other, took his gun under his chin, and pulled the trigger.
    A lifeless body fell to the ground.
    The note blew over and stopped just outside the circle that Michael Twoyoungmen had made. He leaned forward and read the note.
    “WE'RE COMING FOR YOU.”

    Chapter 29: “Endless Night.”
    From: sengmah

    The smoke cleared.
    Heather MacNeil Hudson coughed, clearing her lungs of the foul, acrid stench
    that hung in the air.
    “M-Mac?” she gasped.
    Silence. Only the roaring echo of the explosion in her ears, only the chill
    quiet of the northern night.
    “Judd?”
    She stumbled and cried out in shock.
    Bodies, in the hundreds, littered the stretch of tarmac between the DC-10's
    crash site and the buildings some hundred or so meters ahead. Carnage of a proportion undreamed of. A sob threatened to rip out of her throat.
    “Impressive, don't you think?”
    Heather spun around, the chill of that voice sliding deep into her heart.
    A pale man -- ghostly and sallow-skinned -- stood swathed in midnight blue;
    the color of his great coat a stark contrast to the pallor of his skin. There was no need for questions: Heather knew that this was her foe - one of the children of Somon the Artificer - a Child of the Beasts. At his heels crouched another man: not as tall or reedy, this one was broad, burly and clad in black, his face drawn in a feral mask.
    “Allow me to introduce myself,” the Beastling purred. “My name is Retribution. You see before you the seeds of my labor.” He seemed pleased, almost proud, as he made a florid gesture in the direction of the dead.
    “You're a monster!” Heather growled, even as she reacted when the burly man
    sprang at her. Her shields deflected his blows and she blasted him off with power enough to stun. He crashed into the tarmac, howling, but was quickly on his feet, coming at her.
    Suddenly, her world spun, darkened. Heather fought for balance, orientation,
    yet an inky blackness struggled to take hold of her consciousness. She fell back, shields up as the man in black struck her again and again. His blows were stronger than those of a man his size and build, but her shields held.
    Must take to the air, she thought. Scarcely had that crossed her mind when
    her suit responded, lifting her upwards. She surged with the E-M currents, turned and directed a barrage of plasma missiles at the sallow man. The bolts struck home, but passed cleanly through the figure.
    Damn, she cursed: should have known better than to think that one of them
    would face me fair and square in the field. That only leaves the bruiser to be dealt with. This is all obviously a distraction. Trouble's brewing elsewhere.
    She redirected her plasma, aiming this time for the other, the sounds of
    Retribution's laughter at the edge of her consciousness.
    * * * * *
    Laughter rang heartily in the control tower. Devolution clapped his hands.
    “Splendid, brother,” he said. “I didn't know that you could do that.”
    Retribution stopped laughing. “There are many things about me that you do
    not know, Brother Devolution. Creating that mental projection was just one of those.” He paused, surveying the scene on screen. The Alphan known as Guardian circled her quarry -- the man once known as Brian Coltrane.
    “What of Brother Malignance?” Devolution asked.
    Retribution turned to another screen. “Let's see how he's doing with our other thrall...”
    Lights flickered.
    * * * * *


    If there was a hell, then this was it. Narya, also known as Snowbird,
    shuddered, cradling her child close to her, as if the warmth of his little body could stem the icy chill in her heart.
    “This is madness,” she said.
    “You're not far off the mark, eh,” Judd agreed, his face grim as he surveyed
    the sea of corpses before them. As both mercenary and hero, he had been places, seen things, but nothing could compare with this. His eyes scanned the horizons. Ahead, the lights blinking atop the control tower taunted them. Where're the others, he though anxiously. I should be with Heather -- but I gotta remember my duty. Narya, and 'Little Richard' need me here.
    Suddenly, a flash of light to the side caught his attention. He pointed.
    “Look! I'd know that golden-glow anywhere. It's gotta be either Mac or
    Heather. Narya-?”
    “I'm, as you would say, ahead of you,” the bird-woman said. She lifted her
    child. “Come my child. Our friends need our help.” Her form shimmered, as did that of her son.
    Wings beat the empty air.
    * * * * *
    The Beastling known as Traction lay slumped in a drunken stupor in the room
    of some seedy hotel enroute to Yellowknife. The television crackled white noise; outside, a truck roared down the highway, but Traction slept.
    He dreamed of another man's life, and another man's past. Of a golden haired
    woman and her name: Anne McKenzie. Of the heart break he felt when the woman
    suddenly vanished, of the guilt he had borne in his heart since then - loving another, yet trapped by his own devotions to... his wife?
    Traction's eyes opened. Wife?
    He had no wife. He was Traction... one of the Sons of Somon. Wasn't he?
    Slowly, the dream faded. Traction rose, groaning, the alcohol still clouding
    his brain. Clumsily, he fumbled at his shirt pocket, drawing out the image of the golden-haired beauty. He stared longingly at her, the compulsion that had pushed him north and westwards welling once more in his heart.
    He got out of bed, pulled his jeans on and stumbled out, oblivious to the bite of the night air, and almost ran into another man.
    “'Scuse me,” he grunted, straightening.
    A hand fell on his shoulder, the grip firm, steadying. He blinked, looked up.
    The man was well-dressed and neat, yet there was something in his expression
    that told Traction that this was no soft-pawed office-worker from the city. The eyes of a seasoned veteran looked him over.
    “You alright, buddy?” the man said.
    Traction nodded. He could smell the whisky in his own breath.
    “Just some advice,” the man continued, smiling. “If you're gonna come out in
    public, make sure you've got your fly done up.” He gestured at Traction's trousers. “Or I might end up having to arrest you for indecent exposure.”
    Flustered, Traction quickly zipped up his jeans and muttered some apology.
    So the man was a cop. Well, so was he.
    “Hey,” the man said. “You been here long?”
    Traction, wanting to truncate this encounter, nodded dumbly and began
    shuffling off. “Wait!” the man called. He grabbed Traction again on the shoulder. “Have you seen this woman?” He pulled out a wallet from his pocket and flicked it
    open. Traction's eyes bulged.
    The same woman -- golden haired, ethereally beautiful -- emblazoned on the
    inside of that wallet.
    “Uh...”
    Hesitation. It was all that Donovan Walker needed for confirmation.
    “Where did you see her?” he pursued, then quickly ducked as one ham-sized
    fist swung near his head.
    “Figures,” he grunted and slammed his own fists into the bigger man's gut.
    Traction collapsed with an exasperated gasp. Walker crouched down beside the
    wheezing body, held the photograph closer to the man's ruddy face. “Now, you
    gonna tell me -- where have you seen this woman?”

    Chapter 30: “A Single Candle, A Spark of Hope.”
    From: Falstaff

    A young, dark-haired boy, exclaiming with delight over a chemistry set.
    A girl in pigtails struggling to hold back her younger siblings as they run around in circles, refusing to return to bed.
    A serious young man in a lecture hall, face sober as he takes scrupulous notes on human anatomy.
    A girl of perhaps two years, her scarlet eyes flashing, glaring up in resolute fury at a red-bearded man, declaring that she will _not_ finish her porridge.
    A tiny man, eyes burning dangerously under his thinning black hair, dares the hulking mercenary before him to call him 'Shorty' again.
    A dark haired girl clutching a teddy bear as her mother tucks her in, smoothed her hair, and says that Daddy's sorry he can't be here to say good-night, but he's working a double-shift at the hospital. Again.
    A young man trying not to wince as his father asks him why in the name of God he wants to waste his brain playing a moronic sport like football—American football, no less?
    A nightgown-clad girl soaring through the sky, whooping as she turns somersaults in mid-air.
    A young man, sardonically grinning as he mock-bows to his defeated opponents
    as the strains of 'O, Canada' fill the Olympic stadium.
    A tousle-haired youth sitting on a hill, looking out at the western sea, wondering if there really is an Avalon far away . . . . and resolving to find out.
    A boy, eyes wide in rapt attention, watches his father dress in a scarlet uniform, complaining that Mounties don't get a quarter of the respect they used to, by God.
    A too-thin young boy with hollow, frightened eyes hears the sound of broken glass and angry screams, knowing his father's 'sick' again.
    What's all this about, you ask? What does this have to do with anything?
    Even heroes—even government agents—yes, and even sinister psychopaths—were young once. The point of which is, they are human.
    Something even they forget. Sometimes it's a blessing, other times it's a curse. Which it would be this time—ah, but that would be telling, wouldn't it!
    * * * * *
    There is nothing more terrifying than waking up and not being able to remember where you are. But—as Elmo well knew from years upon years of barroom brawls—a few shakes of the head will put everything right.
    Except it didn't. Elmo could not see anything. Then—in the dim light of a lightning flash—he saw his surroundings. He was in the hold of a ship, chained to the deck. And seawater was quickly flowing in through a hole in the floor.
    [No!] he thought, stupefied. [This all happened five thousand years ago! It cannot be real!] He heard a rat scream as it drowned, thrashing about in the deepening water. [Can it?]
    And for the very first time in nearly four thousand years, Elmo ap Elphan—the Arctic Avatar, the Champion of Nelvanna, living incarnation of the Northern Lights, patron saint of all those who sail the seas, bravest of all brave souls—was afraid.
    * * * * *
    Gardener Monroe's grin was so big, it looked like it was about to split his head in twain. “Now that,” he said, smoothing the white cowl of his costume back onto his head, “is something else.”
    “Parlor tricks,” Somon the Artificer said. He'd taken the shape of a human male for the sake of expedience. As it happened, the form was that of Jacob Brightwind, a particularly annoying Sacree chieftain a hundred mortal years dead. “My sons have no artistry. No subtlety. _Look_ at these sheep,” the Son of Misuse said, pointing at the bodies of the ten motionless Alphans. “They don't even know what is happening to them.” Somon shook his head sadly in a way that every father—from the most insignificant mortal man to the great Hodiak himself to his brother Great Beasts—could recognize. “No originality. My brothers and I passed this point in our infancy.”
    Flashback shrugged. “Kids. What can you do?”
    Something--something decidedly unwholesome—glimmered in Somon's eyes. “What would you say to a wager, my maniacal mortal ally?”
    Beneath the scarlet glass, Flashback's eyes darted in weasel fashion. “What kind of wager?”
    The Artificer smiled. It was not a pleasant nor a welcome sight. “Do you recall our first meeting, Gardener Monroe?”
    “When I was in Gamma Flight? Sure.”
    “And do you recall the . . . . item I took from you?”
    Now Flashback was honestly intrigued—the vein in his forehead was pulsing so hard it could be seen beneath his ivory mask, as a fine sheen of sweat appeared above his upper lip. “Of course I remember. You think I could forget something like that?”
    If the Beast was moved by the angular mortal's enthusiasm, he hid it well. “Would you like to have this item back, Gardener Monroe?”
    Flashback's jaw dropped. “I thought you said I could never get it back!”
    “I was lying,” Somon said frostily. “But we were discussing a wager.
    What say—simply for our personal amusement, of course--we pit my rather lackluster offspring against your erstwhile associates. In a real battle—no illusions, no tricks: skill against skill alone. They fight for you, my sons for me. And the item goes to the winner.”
    “So I get—” here Flashback's voice faltered—”what I lost—back if I win?”
    “Quite.”
    “And if you win?”
    The frozen tundra on the bleakest December day was a blazing sun compared
    to the Great Beast's smile. “I get whatever I want, Gardener Monroe. I get whatever I want.”

    Chapter 31: “Wings Above Madness”
    Written by: Sue Wong

    The snowy owl that had been the demi-goddess Snowbird only moments before, circled above the corpse-strewn airport. Her concern was divided between trying to find her friends and keeping track of her small gyrfalcon son.
    “This is no way to train my son in the fine art of battle,” she thought. “We should be in a more controlled situation: a battle room or an assault course such as we once had in Department H. It would be far better for him to learn gradually, to make his mistakes in a safer environment, that to thrown into battle with no preparation. Mother Nelvanna, he is still but a babe himself....”
    The gyrfalcon, sensing his mother's thoughts, swerved closer to her, and suddenly spoke. “Don't worry, Mother. I have you and Uncle Judd and Aunt Heather and everybody to help me. And...I think Grandma Nelvanna is helping me, too.”
    “Mother Goddess!” the Snowbird-owl exclaimed. “You have power enough to sense this? That is quite wonderful! And with your power added to that of the gods and our earthly friends, how can we fail now?”
    Suddenly, the voice of Retribution rent the air below them. “The Children of the Great Beasts would be delighted to show you how to fail!”
    That was all he could say before Heather zapped him with an electromagnetic burst. Which didn't seem to work.
    Judd clambered over wreckage. “Narya! Richard! Where are you?” There was Heather to look for, too, his soul reminded him, but Snowbird and her son had been in his immediate charge. And Judd was nothing if not conscientious.
    “Here, Friend Judd!” called a majestic woman's voice. “And see who is with me!”
    Judd looked up and was rewarded to see Heather glowing above. “Good to see you, eh?”
    “Yes,” the red-haired woman called. “Tell me, have you seen Mac anywhere?”
    She would have to ask that, Judd thought sadly, before telling himself, _Stop it, he's still her husband _. “No, can't say I ha--- Whoa!”
    He cart wheeled out of the way just in time to miss being punched by Retribution. “Can't catch me, you ugly slime ball!”
    But where _was_ Mac? And Shaman? And Talisman? And Walter? And St. Elmo? Had the Children of the Beasts succeeded in dividing Alpha Flight's forces?

    Chapter 32: “Spiders And Flies”
    Written by: Adam-X

    “I tell you, it feels like I downed a whole bottle of Judd’s secret sauce… My head is pounding like you wouldn’t believe,” were the first words out of Walter’s mouth. He was rubbing his head, gazing through a fuzzy vision, not even sure if there was anyone around him to hear his words.
    “If it were only that,” came a soft, soothing voice.
    “What happened Michael?” Walter began to stand up - his knees buckled and he fell back, his arms sprawling to catch something.
    “You’re not going to like what I’m going to tell you…”
    For the first time since the explosion, Walter’s eyes were finally beginning to see clearly - or so he thought. The world - or whatever surrounded him - was a kaleidoscope of rainbow colors, constantly swirling. “Michael…” There was a hesitant sound in Walter’s voice. “Michael… just what is going on?”
    “As I said, you’re not going to like my answer…”
    “Will you just tell me?” Walter screamed. He was growing impatient. He tried to shift into Sasquatch form, but his head rang too loudly, destroying the little concentration it took to change forms.
    “We’ve been eaten.”
    “We’ve been what?”
    “Eaten.”
    “I don’t like this…”
    “I didn’t think you would…”
    “It’s no use,” her voice said plainly.
    He landed next to her - his face clearly marked with stress and frustration. “So what do you suggest? We just give up here and now?”
    “I didn’t say that,” Elizabeth cut back to Mac.
    “You said it’s no use.” Mac sneered. His frustration was clearly showing now, and he was in no mood for riddles.
    “No use using your electro-magnetic blasts,” Elizabeth smiled.
    “What do you suggest? I don’t even know where we are.”
    “In essence,” Elizabeth, better known as Talisman began to explain. “We’ve been eaten.”
    “What?” Mac screamed. He was better known as Vindicator - husband of Heather Hudson, also known as Guardian. Mac is normally a calm man. Alpha Flight’s main leader by default and experience. Right now, Mac was anything but calm. “And what do you mean ‘in essence’?”
    “We’re in a … holding type of cell… they’re feeding off our magic…”
    “Our what?”
    “Magic.”
    “That doesn’t make sense. What magic do I have?”
    Elizabeth turned to Mac, her eyes deep with a hidden sorrow. She was just about to explain when the entire ‘holding cell’ jolted violently… sending her and Mac tumbling to the ground… or what passed for ‘the ground’… screaming.
    “You’ve got to be mad if you think we will help you after all you’ve done!”
    “Now, now, Jean-Paul,” came the retort, softly. “That was all in the past, my friend. Like I said, it would benefit us both.”
    “You’re a madman,” Aurora cut in. “You did terrible things to me!”
    “No Aurora, I brought you back together,” Flashback smirked. “Your mind was still fragmented. I found out a lot of things… my… other selves… from my past, future… they have seen wondrous things… but there is one thing they have not seen… One thing that was taken from me… so I could not see it… and that is the outcome of this battle…”
    “We will not help you,” Northstar growled. “I should pelt you to the ground where you stand!”
    “Jean-Paul, always thinking with your heart, rather than your mind. Right now, the last thing you need is more enemies… You saw what they did to this airport… to all those innocent people… right now, what you need are allies… and I could be that.”
    “I have no reason to even trust you,” Northstar spat. “Your previous history shows me no reason to trust you!”
    “But it’s my future I am trying to change…” Flashback smiled. “For the better.”
    He was gasping for breath. Amazing. He was actually grasping for breath. Did this mortal realize who he was tampering with? Traction turned his eyes up to Donovan Walker and grinned. “Yeah, yeah, so I have seen this goldilocks? What about it?”
    “Where have you seen her?”
    Traction smiled. “In a grave… a fresh grave… with her son…”
    Donovan sneered and with a heavy fist laid a hard punch across the grinning face of Traction…
    As he slipped into unconsciousness, Traction’s drifting thoughts were, “Cursed mortal shells… they’re so weak…”
    Dr. Whitman opened the door, and paused for a long moment - staring at those that had rung his doorbell.
    “Whit?” came a soft voice.
    “Kara,” Dr. Whitman returned.
    The title of “Dr. Whitman” is misleading. Mr. Whitman is in his teens, and was once a member of Beta Flight. Now he was here at his door staring at his past. And staring at his past love. “So they’re right.”
    “Who?” Wyre asked. “We all got an e-mail from Alex. What’s this all about?”
    “I’m not too sure myself,” Dr. Whitman began. “But I am sure they’re ready to tell us…”
    “What?”
    Dr. Whitman opened the door further, and moved out of the way, revealing several people in his living room. “It’s the government,” Whitman explained. “They’ve got some questions for us.”
    “How did they know?” Alex whispered.
    “Our e-mail addresses must be tagged,” Wyre growled. “When I was with the government, I know they tag certain e-mail addresses, phone lines, whatever - and when a group of individuals are contacted, it red flags at the Department. All of us, once a part of Alpha Flight - probably red flagged when Alex e-mailed all of us.”
    Whitman didn’t have to say a word. His face showed that he had asked the same question when the government officials showed up at his door. Growling, Wyre entered, followed by Kara and the rest of them…
    It was so dark.
    St. Elmo screamed.
    It echoed back.
    He pulled against the chains.
    They grew tighter.
    He tried to see through the darkness.
    He saw nothing.
    He listened.
    He could hear the cold water wrapping around his legs.
    Death.
    The water was rising… but never going past his knees… always rushing in, but never filling…
    “… so what magic do I have?” Mac asked.
    “Did you not return from the grave?”
    “I suppose. That entire thing is a mess. I am no more certain of what happened than the next person.”
    “Mac, something, or someone brought you back…”
    “So that gives me magical powers?”
    “No, but whatever brought you back used magic.”
    “I am not sure I understand.”
    “Neither do I. Neither do I…”

    Chapter 33: Deus Ex Machina
    From: sengmah

    "Hit him with all you've got!"
    The woman in the red and white battle-suit dove dangerously close to the
    seething mass of evil that was Retribution, discharging bolts of burning
    plasma even as she shouted her orders. Below her, Puck flung himself into
    the fray, using his powerful, compact body as a veritable weapon against the
    Beastling.
    Retribution roared; black lightning crackled around him and he grew larger,
    more monstrous. Gone was the gaunt, ghastly frame; in its stead was a morass
    of darkness, a cloak of night bound to the frame of a skeletal man twice the
    height of a full grown human.
    His thrall, the man who was once Brian Coltrane, prison guard, also burned
    with black otherworldly energy, growing in size and breadth, bursting
    through the black bodysuit that he wore. His face changed, broadened, his
    brows deepened; he took on more mass, his muscles bulging until he had
    become a gross caricature of some ogrish abomination.
    "Kill them!" Retribution shrieked, his voice piercing the night, sending the
    snowy owl and the smaller gyrfalcon reeling in the wind. "There can be no
    survivors tonight!"

    "What the hell's going on?!" Walter Langkowski growled, flailing about
    violently in a vain attempt to steady himself. In this place where there was
    no up, or down, no sense of space, time, or depth, Langkowski found himself
    alternately falling and being flung off his feet.
    "Whatever is holding us is in pain," Michael Twoyoungmen explained
    matter-of-factly.
    "Thanks, Mike!" Langkowski sneered, then yelled again as the 'holding cell'
    jolted violently. He tried again to shift into Sasquatch, but without
    success. He turned again to Twoyoungmen. "Hey? Why don't you just magic us
    outta here?"
    Twoyoungmen shook his head. "Not while we're held here. My magic doesn't
    work. This being that has us held within it is feeding off my magic. And yours."
    "Mine?" Langkowski growled, lurching again on his feet. How can Michael
    remain so calm in this storm, he thought to himself.
    "Don't forget: you wear the physical body of a demi-god, and before that,
    you were a Great Beast yourself."
    "Oh, right," Walt rolled his eyes. Then stopped. "Hey, you're right!" he
    said, and brightened considerably.

    The cold drew goose pimples from his skin, froze his muscles. His legs had
    gone numb. His throat was sore from screaming.
    Elmo sagged in his chains, feeling helpless, useless. Somewhere, outside of
    this place, he knew that his companions in arms faced the biggest battle of
    their lives. And he was unable to aid them.
    Suddenly, he sensed a presence rising out of the cold liquid that surrounded
    him. He tried again to summon light, but somehow, this place seemed to have
    dampened his powers. He tensed, feeling the presence grow close.
    A voice, chill as the heart of a winter storm, hissed out of the darkness,
    mocking. "So, the mighty champion has been laid low."
    Elmo tugged again at his chains, but they held tight despite his massive
    strength.
    "Who are you who hides in darkness?" he bawled out.
    "You know me."
    And realization struck him suddenly. Realization, and despair. Without his
    powers, without his strength, how was he to triumph against this being: the
    ultimate evil?
    "Afraid?" the voice purred.
    Elmo's face grew grim. He prepared to confront his fate. "Yes, but I will
    still fight you."
    "Then you are a fool!"
    Icy fingers touched him, pulled clothing away, and bared his chest. Elmo
    struggled against the chains, but they held.
    Laughter, soft, mocking.
    And the fingers plunged into his chest, closing around his heart.
    Elmo shrieked.
    Puck squirmed against the force of the giant hand holding him hard against
    the tarmac. He was effectively pinned to the ground. He cursed his lack of
    caution: caught in the heat of battle, he had allowed Retribution to strike.
    That one error had been enough. He struggled for breath, feeling darkness
    encroach on the edge of his vision.
    Above him, he could see the glow of Heather's suit dim. Her power reserves
    were running low. Nearby, Narya and young Richard, circled anxiously,
    knowing that they could do little against the Beast. Somehow, through some
    inexplicable means, Retribution had transformed from Beastling to Great
    Beast itself. At its side hunkered the ogrish thrall, slavering for blood.
    "And so it ends." Retribution's voice was loud as the night. "Sad, pathetic
    fools, to think that you could stop us." The hand squeezed and Puck groaned.
    "No!" Heather's voice rang out. "Not as long as one of us still stands!" She
    unleashed another blast, striking Retribution on the shoulder. The Beast
    grunted, more out of irritation than in pain. He reached out his other hand,
    struck, and swatted Guardian away, as if she had been nothing more than a
    pestilent fly.
    "Heather..." Puck moaned weakly, helplessly.
    "Heather!" the snowy owl swooped close to Guardian. "You cannot defeat the
    Beast this way."
    "Then you tell me a way, Narya! Right now, I'm prepared to try anything!"
    The snowy owl's eyes looked directly into hers, and they were at once sad
    and triumphant.
    "There is a way. But you will need to be brave. Of us all, only you and Puck
    have not the magic that feeds a being such as Retribution. Judd cannot help
    now. You can. Do you remember what happened to your husband after his first
    battle with Omega Flight those years ago?"
    How could I forget? Heather thought. "He died, or at least, that's what I
    thought then. His suit overheated, exploded, caused a rift in space, flung
    him to one of the moons of Uranus."
    And then she knew.
    "You mean...?"
    The snowy owl nodded.
    "But-"
    "Yes."
    Heather rose. "Alright. If that's what it takes." She dismantled the systems
    that regulated the flow of power through the suit, and began charging up.
    "You are a brave woman, Heather MacNeil Hudson."
    "Bravery has nothing to do with this. Tell Mac... tell Judd.. tell everyone
    that I love them." Without another word, she flew off, streaking towards the
    Great Beast.
    "Retribution!" she cried. "You want me? You've got me!"
    She could feel the energy and heat build around her. Only a few moments more...
    The Great Beast turned, its face delighted at the sight of the lone woman
    charging straight towards it. It laughed. And Heather plunged directly into
    its maw.
    Below, Puck gave one last despairing cry. He had seen the look on his love's
    face, noted the buildup of energy around her suit. He knew.
    And then, from within the Great Beast, an explosion blossomed, so vast, so
    powerful, that it ripped Retribution's head apart, sending his massive body
    crashing, smoldering to the ground, burying the thrall beneath it. The hand
    released its hold; Puck rolled free and ran towards the burning remains of
    the Beast called Retribution.
    "Heaathherrr!"
    His one lone plaintive cry, the only sound in the darkness.


    Chapter 34: In Light There Is Hope
    From: Wells

    Love some say, is the most powerful force known to man. Others may look at it the other way around praising the power of hate, or evil. In the chill air that evening both forces came head to head. When such cataclysmic events transpire there are always fatalities
    Kneeling on the frozen ground was a man. Many thought him small, or freakish, but in fact he was one of the largest men on earth. A recognized hero, loved by most and hated by few. This night his entire world was shattered. His love was ripped from him so cruelly that would change him only for the worst.
    Beside the grief stricken man a heap of darkness burnt. This was the true form of the being known as Retribution. As the son of evil, his true form was that of darkness, and solid hate. Great tongues of flame liked up from the fallen form of Retribution. Though the flames crackled and burnt they did not consume the mighty form.
    Lifting his head the man called Judd rose to his feet. His eyes opened wide, he saw something that made his stomach sick. From the great, fallen from of Retribution there was a breath. No, not the breath of Heather Hudson, it was Retribution himself!
    A shaky voice emerged from the titanic form "Stupid, Stupid mortal woman, you think that I am so easily defeated?"
    Slowly the burning form of darkness rose to his knees. Every hero present loosed a horrid gasp of despair. Their leader Guardian sacrificed herself to destroy the son of evil.......and failed.

    The icy fingers of Somon the Artifice sank deep in to the heart of Elmo. There in the great man's heart Somon struck fear. Only one before in his existence had Elmo experience this emotion, now there it was again. Slowly he could feel Somon absorbing his great life force, and Slowly the fear grew. Clenching his fists Elmo began to sob.
    As the life force of St' Elmo leaked into Somon the was a strange bonding of minds, and all at once Elmo realized the true extent of The Beast's plans of domination. It was horrid! At the same instant the great man saw that if he did not defeat Somon now, he would never be defeated. Tapping into his heart, Elmo drew on his own fear, not fear for himself, but for Mankind.
    There was a flash.
    In the blink of an Eye Elmo's restraints were transformed to light. In the flash Somon recoiled, allowing the link to be broken. Elmo Stood tall now, bare chested, and prepared himself for was to come.
    "I didn't think you had it in you, oh champion of Nelvanna" The Beast sneered. His frail appearing from lunged at Elmo, arms stretch out, bent to kill. It took all the speed and power within the great form of Elmo to dodge the attack of his enemy. Falling into the solid liquid darkness around him Elmo rolled to his feet. Somon drew near once more, but Elmo was the one to strike now. He threw himself onto the ancient beast wrapping his thick hand around the cold neck of Somon. Summoning his power he began to do what he had sworn never to even consider. In the same instant Somon sank his icy fingers once more into the chest of Elmo. The two Godling spun in the endless liquid Darkness around them, each struggling to destroy the other.

    Swirling in direction less darkness ware more heroes. Upon discovering that their magical forces were being slowly devoured but some unknown foe, they desperately sought to escape. Walter Langkowsky felt dreadfully helpless. They all had some means to fight for their escape, All but him that was. He had always relied on the great strength of his other form to save himself, but know he could not draw upon that shell of protection. Slowly Walter began to feel a strange tingle come over his entire body. Gradually it became more and more pronounced as Walt began to feel light headed.
    "Dad," Elizabeth Twoyoungmen gasped to her father "what the heck going on with Walt?!"

    As Shaman turned to look at his old friend he saw that Walter's eyes were rolled back, and his whole body carries a nimbus glow of pure light.

    From above the Godling snowbird and her young child saw a truly unique scene. On frozen turf knelt the form of Retribution, not dead, but dazed. Beside him was the wreckage of the plane that had brought Alpha to this place. On his other side was the emotionally crush form of Eugene Jud, who had just witnesses the death of the woman he had love for so many years. Off about two hundred yards in the background was the airport the plan was heading towards. There was something stage about the complex that Narya had noticed earlier, but had not allowed it to register. Emanating for the
    building was pure evil, and darkness. Now glancing once more at the structure she saw something new, and even more strange. All about the structure there was a faint light, as if it were beginning to glow. As she watched, the goddess couldn't take her eyes from the building.
    Suddenly there was an explosion of light. Narya was blinded by the light that ensued, as the building dissolved before her eyes into the purest of light. There was no Sound.
    The light spread, and intensified. In the blink of an eye they were all enveloped in its power. It was with such intensity that none within its embrace could see anything but light. There was a sound.
    "NO!" it was the voice of Retribution "It can't be! You said that we would win! Why did you lie to me? Why Father" The voice was not that of the mighty son of darkness, but that of a sniveling child, a spoiled child who did not get his way. Over and over, all those in the envelope of light could hear one word echoing over and over "why" gradually at first, then more quickly the voice began to fade into the light.
    Time passed. How much time is still unknown up to this date, for none within the light knew. It might have been seconds or minutes, it might have been days. After this uncounted time passed the light about them faded. The scenery began to take form once again. The fearful form of Retribution was gone. The Airport was gone, and in its place stood Vindicator Talisman, Shaman, Walter Langkowski, and the powerful form of St. Elmo . On the charred ground where Retribution stood was a small piece of light that would not fade, as if it possessed a stubbornness of its own.

    As the "lost" heroes walked towards the battle ground, Elmo moved to therefore. Coming to the place where Heather Hudson had laid down her own life as sacrifice, Elmo knelt. No true believer he was kneeling in mourning, or with fatigue. Elmo knelt down and picked up that stubborn bit of light that would not fade.
    "It pleases me to have found you, Oh brave soldier. Your sense of love for your fellow man puts mine to shame. This day I have destroyed one life, that of my enemy. It is required of me to restore the life of another to bring back proper balance to the world. I see no other more deserving of this gift that you."
    Holding the bit of light in his outstretched hands St' Elmo bowed his head. As he stood there, motionless in the chill wind, the bit of light grew, and intensified. As he raised his head all about the great man hard him exclaim in joy "Ah, it happens!"


    Chapter 35: "She's Back"
    by Sue Wong

    What happened next took everyone's breath away, even though it probably shouldn't have.” After all," Elizabeth said later, "we shouldn't be surprised by this kind of thing. Haven't we already seen Snowbird, her son, and St. Elmo come back to life? I mean, we _ought_ to be used to people coming back from the dead.... or something."
    "Or something" was more accurate a description of what transpired next.
    The light, the stubborn light before them, grew into a portal. A woman's hand emerged from the brilliance, groping the air, seeking....
    seeking....
    Both Eugene Judd and James MacDonald Hudson started forward.
    "Heather!" It was unclear which of them said it first. Or who tried to get there sooner. But St. Elmo was the nearest, and it was he who grasped the seeking hand.
    "I have you, brave mortal! Draw upon the strength of my light power, and pull yourself back into your world. _Our_ world! Because _you_ have helped to turn the tide in our favor!"
    Slowly, the form of an exhausted young woman wearing a tattered battle-suit emerged from the portal, and collapsed into St. Elmo's arms.
    ("From the look on Judd's face," Elizabeth confided to her father later, "you'd think he wished Heather had fallen into _his_ arms instead.") Heather looked around, dazedly at first, but with growing consciousness of her surroundings.
    "What's... happened? The...airport? What happened to...Retribution?" Heather's words came slowly, but with increasing strength. Mac reached his wife's side, and took her into his arms. Judd stood just behind, a disappointed look flickering over his face before it hardened into a stoic expression.
    "Dear lady!" St. Elmo boomed. "Do ask one question at a time! The airport has vanished as a result of our battle with Retribution.
    Fortunately, it had been evacuated, so there were no living people wiped off the face of the earth.
    [Author's note: If I'm wrong about this, you can change it. But this is what I like to believe happened. Back to the story.]
    "And as to Retribution," the beaming giant continued, "did you not hear what I said as I pulled you back into the world? We have defeated him. He is finished! And it was your bravery that accomplished this. You provided the spark that engulfed the evil son of the Beasts, and helped to send him into oblivion."
    "I...am glad. So very...glad," Heather slumped against her husband. Her friends came to surround her. Snowbird and her son swooped down from the sky, and joined the happy group.
    "I almost envy you, dear friend," Narya said. "You have accomplished what _I_ have been set upon the earth to do. You have defeated the offspring of a Beast!"
    "But where were you when you disappeared, Heather?" Elizabeth asked.
    "Though," looking at Mac, "I think I might have an idea where you got blasted into.... and back."
    "I think I know, too," Mac said.
    "I'm not into telepathy," Heather said beamingly, " but I understood a little of what they meant. And I think the Quwrlln want me to say hi from them!"
    "Well," Judd said, "one junior Beast down, and... _how_ many left to go?
    Let's go get 'em all, eh?" Seeing Heather restored to this world was all the incentive he needed.


    The Great Beasts' offspring weren't the only concern of the restored Alpha Flight. At the RCMP headquarters in Regina, Saskatchewan, a certain man came seeking information.
    "Maybe here's where I can find a clue as to where to find the elusive Anne McKenzie," Donovan Walker said as he approached the building. "Come out, come out, wherever you are...."

    Chapter 36: "… and the brightest star…"
    From: Adam-X

    "Where are Northstar and Aurora?"
    "I think we have much more pressing concerns on our hands!"
    "What?"
    They turned and could not believe their eyes.
    The one known as Walter - better known as Sasquatch was glowing brightly. He reached forward. "Michael, help me…"
    However Doctor Twoyoungmen did not take a step forward. He could hardly believe what he was seeing before his eyes. Walter let out a vicious scream.
    The next few moments would be hard to explain.
    It could only be said best that Walter took the form of Sasquatch - or something close to it. In the form of Sasquatch, Walter had grown large fangs that sprang upward from his massive jaws. His nails were long, and sharp, like talons.
    "What’s happening to him?" Elizabeth asked.
    "It seems that the gamma radiation in his blood is mutating…"
    "But what caused it to do so now?"
    "I do believe," Shaman replied. "His blood is also mixed with magic. With all the magic that is coursing about here, I believe it began having an effect on Sasquatch…"
    "So you gonna tell us what’s going on, or are we going to sit here and play a long game of twenty questions?"
    "Still have that sharp tongue, eh, Wyre?"
    "Look, that’s not all that’s sharp!" Wires ripped from his flesh, and danced controllably like cobras enchanted by the flute.
    "Cute," replied the man, completely uninterested. "And that’s just what we’re here to talk about…"
    "Get to the bottom of this garbage, already, because from up here on the surface, it’s already starting to smell."
    The man smiled. "Charming to the last," he said with a thick accent. "You were all summoned here by him," the man waved his hand towards Alex. "All to go and help out Alpha Flight. Well, keep this is mind. It is still Canadian Law that states, ‘Any Person Or Being, Wielding That Which Is Considered A Power Beyond That Of An Ordinary Human, Be It Mutant, Or Otherwise - Must Be Registered And Approved Under The Department Of The Canadian Government. Any Who Disapprove And Proceed To Use Such Extra Ordinary Powers Will Be Considered ‘Illegally Armed And Dangerous’ And Will Be Prosecuted As A Criminal, Under The Canadian Super Powers Registration Act…’" He grinned widely. "Now, none of you work for any government department here in Canada, thus making it illegal, and thus prosecutable as criminals, should you even try to use your powers…"
    "I don’t get it!" Alex screamed. "We’re here to help!"
    "We’re the government. We didn’t ask for help."
    "But - !"
    Wyre put his hand on Alex’s shoulder. "Let it go." He turned back towards the government officials. "It’s like fighting a wall. You’re getting nowhere. They don’t hear a word we’re saying…"
    "So what do we do?" Alex asked, disbelieving any of this.
    "We let them win this round."
    "What?" he said in disbelief again.
    "Look kid, I have fought the government. They made me what I am now - but like most government bodies, don’t want to take any kind of responsibility for it. Let this day be theirs - but it’s far from over… trust me." He paused as he walked out the door. "As for Alpha Flight… they’re good. They have gone through a lot. They know how to take care of themselves."
    "I can’t believe this," Alex whispered. "This is incredible."
    "It’s the fact," a government agent sneered into Alex’s ear, as he gripped Alex by the arm. "Now, for your pleasant little limo ride home…"
    "I can walk myself, thank you," Alex snapped, and pulled his arm free.
    "Suit yourself," the agent laughed. "Suit yourself…"
    They moved at the speed of light.
    Tonight, they were not here for battle.
    They were searching for something… or someone.
    "Any sign?" Northstar said into the comlink.
    "None," came back Aurora’s reply.
    Just then Northstar struck something, and fell back.
    A voice laughed. "Looking for something?"

    Chapter 37: "Transformation"
    By Seng Mah

    "Stand back, all of you," Shaman ordered.
    The Alphans did not need reminding; they fell back in horror watching as the man they had always known as Walter Langkowski -- Sasquatch -- metamorphosised into the tusked behemoth that reared up before them.
    "Can you do something, Michael?" Heather shouted, her recent harrowing experiences already forgotten, her attention drawn to her tormented team-mate. The beast that had once been Langkowski roared into the dark heavens of night and shuddered as the transformation came to an end.
    Shaman nodded. "Yes. I can." He dipped his hand into the medicine pouch hanging from his belt and drew a collection of odd baubles and powders. "Retribution's death released a surge of magic into the weave of this world, somewhat like an electrical over surge." He turned to Talisman. "Daughter, do you think you will be able to contain the magic? I'll try and neutralize it."
    Elizabeth Twoyoungmen nodded. "Sure, pop." She raised her hands into the air, extending her ability over the preternatural into the ether. Ethereal winds whipped about her, lifting her hair and edges of her dress. She felt the flow of magic around her, so powerful, so intoxicating. She beckoned the flow, drew it around her.
    She began to glow with radiant energy; tiny bolts of lightning crackled around her form.
    The Alphans watched, agog. "No matter how many times I see this, it always amazes me, eh?" Puck said.
    "I've got most of it under control," Talisman gasped.
    Shaman threw the baubles about his daughter, uttering an incantation even as the mystic objects struck the field of mystic energy that had surrounded Talisman.
    The world went white.
    For a heartbeat, it was as if things ceased to exist.
    In the next heartbeat, the world reconsolidated.
    "By Hodiak," Snowbird gasped, awed even for a goddess of the north.
    "Certainly a light show, eh?" Puck said. He pulled himself from the ground and cast about for Langkowski. The man lay prone on the ground, human once more. "Hey, Walt? You ok?"
    Langkowski stirred. "What the heck was that?" he groaned.
    Shaman was beside him, laying a careworn hand on his shoulder. "Rest easy, Walter. You have just undergone an experience I wouldn't wish on my closest enemy," he said wryly.
    "Tell me about it," Walt said, smiling grimly. "Am I ok?"
    "You should be," Talisman said. "Why not see if you can change into Sasquatch now."
    Langkowski looked doubtful. He glanced at Michael, who nodded.
    "Alright. If you say so."
    He stood up and seemed to be waiting.
    "Well?" Talisman asked.
    Walt's brows creased in confusion. "Nothing's happening."
    "What?"
    "I- I can't trigger the transformation."
    "What are you saying?"
    "I can't turn into Sasquatch!" Walt cried.
    "Zounds!" said Elmo.


    RCMP Headquarters, Regina, Saskatchewan
    The man known as Traction skulked in the shadows of the giant elms that lined the driveway into the RCMP base. He had trailed Donovan Walker here -- the both of them in search of the same woman -- and now, at journey's end, he did not know what to do.
    He looked critically at his own unkempt appearance. His clothes were torn and stained, his hair wind-ruffled and peppered with dirt, his skin damp and cloying with the stench of one who had not bathed for days. Still, he felt the need of a desperate man driving him forward. He was, after all, Traction, scion of a Beast. So why was he feeling so bad about the entire thing?
    Shrugging off such thoughts, Traction stepped forward and approached the base.
    Abruptly, something drove him to his knees, a force so powerful that it battered him to the ground. He yelled, shouted, cried, but was helpless against the sudden energy that surged into him. He felt himself on fire, as if the very fabric of his being had been ripped apart and reconstituted.
    His cries drew members of the base out. They were stopped short by the sight of a man bent double on the grass, sheathed in crackling white energy. Before their startled eyes, the man began to change. He grew larger, limbs and body bulking until they ripped through his clothing. Reddish hair sprouted over his body, turning rusty orange as they elongated. The man reared back and roared; his face too had changed -- become more simian. His orange-haired brows protruded from his forehead; his features became squashed, and his lower canines extended into short tusks.
    "What's happenin' to me?" Traction growled.
    He raised himself, a full ten feet in height, naked, but covered in orange fur.
    "What the hell?" he grunted, feeling the surge rapidly fade away.
    One of the RCMP officers took a tentative step towards the orange-furred beast. He recognized the creature from the files.
    "Sasquatch?" he said.

    Inside the base, Donovan Walker waited impatiently outside the captain's office. Finally, the captain, a slim middle-aged woman in smart uniform, stepped out.
    "My apologies for the wait, Mr. Walker. Come this way."
    She led him through the halls.
    "Your inquiries into Anne McKenzie seem to have struck a raw nerve with the powers that be," the captain said.
    "Well, yeah, I guess it would," Walker replied.
    She stopped outside a door.
    "I must warn you that what you are about to see constitutes a closely guarded state secret. You know the rest of the drill."
    Walker nodded. To betray that secret would be tantamount to treason. But there was a price to pay for everything, and Walker knew that price.
    The captain inserted an electronic key into the lock. It clicked, numbers cycled through the display box, and the door clicked open. She pushed through.
    They descended the corridor to another secure chamber underneath the base. Wordlessly, the captain disengaged the door into the chamber and motioned Walker through.
    He stepped into a dimly lit room, furnished as though it was an old laboratory. But it wasn't the odd display of old monitors, scanners and implements that drew his attention. His eyes were fixed on a glass cylinder hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room. Within the phosphorescent fluid inside the cylinder rested the form of a woman: lithe, slim, yet sublime; pale-complexioned and blonde-haired. She looked as if she were asleep.
    "There's your Anne McKenzie, Mr. Walker," the captain said.
    Walker gasped. "But that's... that's..."
    "Snowbird. Of Alpha Flight."
    "But how? Snowbird died..."
    "And from reports coming in just recently, it would appear that she has resurfaced to fight along her team-mates."
    "Yes.. so who.."
    "Who is this?" the captain finished for him.
    Donovan cast her a glance, then nodded. For the first time in his life, he was dumbfounded.
    The captain smiled. "Do you believe in genetic engineering, Mr. Walker? Or more importantly, do you believe in the reality of human cloning?"

    Chapter Thirty-Eight: House Rules
    by Falstaff


    Gardener Monroe hadn't always been this way. Once upon a time, he would have been leading the attack to stop anyone doing what he was doing now.
    Once upon a time, he was a warm, caring, brave -- even *good* -- man. If you peruse his initial progress reports as a Gamma Flight trainee (assuming you're possessed of the proper DOD security clearance or are a particularly skilled hacker) you'll see that Dr. Hudson found him to be one of the best and the brightest -- 'maybe the finest recruit in the program,' is what Hudson wrote back then.
    But that was a long time ago. At some point between the final week of his Gamma training and his graduation to the Beta Flight program, he had some kind of encounter with Somon the Artificer. They wagered; something inconsequential. Monroe lost. And it was not inconsequential.
    Call it his conscience, call it his heart, call it his soul, if you believe in such things -- it doesn't matter. The Artificer took it away. And now, years later, some small part of Gardener Monroe -- something that had survived the destruction and shambles his life had become, survived death itself -- now had somehow stumbled out of limbo to return to life.
    And he had his shot. He could be alive again, instead of the pale mockery of life he was now. But that wasn't the point -- no, not at all. He could become a real human being again. That was the true issue. To be real. To care, instead of being a collection of self-concerned wants and wills.
    Gardener Monroe didn't have feelings beyond anger, fear, or selfishness anymore, but he remembered having them. And the Artificer had given him the chance to become real again. Gardener Monroe -- Canadian mutant, former architect and landscaper from Calgary -- was willing to pay any price to bring that to pass.
    And damn anyone who dared stand in the way of that, Alpha Flight or no Alpha Flight.

    "So, can I get anybody something? Soda, whatever?" Whitman Knapp said, leading the former members of Beta Flight, plus their companion Alex, through the smallish main room of his hole-in-the-wall apartment in Toronto.
    "Don't suppose you have a beer, do you?" Wyre asked, his voice raspy.
    "Sorry. I don't drink, I'm afraid," Knapp said.
    Wyre snorted. "Figures."
    "I'd like a soda," Laura Dean said softly. "Could Goblyn have one too?"
    "Sure. Two sodas comin' right up," Knapp said. He walked to the kitchen doorway, pausing suddenly. "Kary, hon, could we talk for a sec?"
    Kara Killgrave walked away from her teammates, joining Knapp in the kitchen. He reached forward to embrace her, grinning that devil-may-care grin that always melted her defenses.
    She belted him one across the face.
    "Ow!" Dr. Whitman Knapp, M.D., said eloquently.
    "Dammit, Whit, you bastard, you never showed up," Kara whispered, trying to show her anger as best she could without letting the others hear her a room away.
    Knapp rubbed his jaw. "I was there, wasn't I, Kary? I tracked you down.
    I wouldn't dream of letting you down, not like that."
    "You . . . . moron," Kara muttered, the anger seeping out of her. She pulled the tall, thin man into an embrace. "I make an ultimatum and you go and call my bluff."
    "I live to serve," Knapp grinned.
    "C'mon, you lug," she said, scooping a pair of sodas from his ancient refrigerator. "Let's get back out there."
    When they re-entered the living room, Alex was speaking excitedly. "What we must now do -- "
    "What we must now do," Wyre's gravelly voice grated harshly in the cramped room, "is remain calm." He looked at the Quebecer, his dark eyes intense.
    "I understand that you are worried about Jean-Paul," he said, speaking slowly, and with a strange, unfamiliar formality. "I can empathize.
    However, take my word as an old soldier: now is not the time to make angry declarations. Now is the time to speak carefully; to *plan* carefully.
    It's true that we have been inconvenienced. It's true that the lives of our friends and -- " there was an almost imperceptible pause -- "loved ones are almost certainly in danger. But it is also true that we are their last, best chance for survival; and as such we cannot allow ourselves to lose control. It is, to put it bluntly, our move. And it is necessary -- no, it's *vital* -- that we plan this calmly, swiftly, and above all, rationally." He rapped the rickety coffee table lightly in time to his words.
    "Wow, Wyre," Whitman Knapp said, breaking the long silence that followed the former assassin's words. "Never knew you had it in you."
    The corner of Wyre's mouth quirked as he lit a cigarette. "There are a lot of things you don't know about me, kid."
    "Sorry, but -- " Laura Dean said, looking carefully at Wyre. The large man waved a hand at her, urging her to continue. "But that tells us how to go
    on, not what we should do, if you follow me. So . . . ." the young woman said, spreading her hands before her, "what do we do now?"
    Knapp opened his mouth to answer, but before he could get the first words past his throat, the doorbell rang.
    "Now," he said, turning toward the portal, "we answer the door." He walked to the door, opening it.
    "Whitman Knapp?" said the man who'd rung the bell. He was wearing a plain brown jumpsuit, the sort a million different delivery groups utilize every day of the year. "Package for ya, eh. Sign here, please."
    Knapp signed on the dotted line, looking out at the giant crate that stood behind the delivery man. "What *is* that?"
    "Hey, pal, they don't pay me to go snooping in your mail, eh," the guy said with an air of self- righteousness. "You'll have to open it and find out
    for yourself."
    "Works for me," Knapp told him.
    "What's up?" came a rough voice from behind him. Whit turned, nearly bumping into Wyre's broad chest.
    "Package," he said, and would've said more, but Wyre walked smoothly past him, out into the hall with the enormous crate. The older man walked around and around the carton, scrutinizing its every inch. "Hm," he said.
    "This thing's a good seven feet tall, and what's inside it -- " he knocked on the box with a callused fist -- "is very large, and very heavy." Wyre craned his head back, allowing his fingers to drum along the sides of the crate. "But there's nothing explosive in there. That I'm sure of."
    "How do you know that just from looking at it and hitting it?" Whit asked.
    Wyre just looked at him.
    "Okay, fine, point taken. Who's it from?"
    Wyre squinted at the return address, then lifted an eyebrow. "It's postmarked Ottawa. No name, but this thing went through a DOD listening post at one point."
    "How -- "
    Wyre pointed to the small series of scarlet letters that decorated one side of the crate. "Standard DOD coding for an inter-base mailing. I don't
    know how it got to your door, Knapp, but it left a DOD installation in Ottawa."
    "Well," Knapp said, rubbing his chin, "let's open it up."
    Wyre grunted, letting the tendrils in his chest, shoulders, and upper arms extend to the top of the box and pull on the crate. The muscular man cursed under his breath.
    "What's wrong?" Knapp asked, the physician in him snapping to attention.
    Wyre's head whipped toward the younger man. "Nothing's wrong, kid. I just
    don't like doing this very much."
    "Oh," Whit said. "You never mentioned that before," he finished lamely.
    Wyre snorted. "You never asked before." As he spoke, the nails holding the section of the crate he was pulling on gave way, falling forward with a creaking sound. Wyre stared at the contents with an expression of incredulous disbelief. "I will be damned," he said quietly.
    "What?"
    "I think you best take a look at this, kid."
    "What is it? What's so important, Wy -- " and then Whitman Knapp cut himself off in mid-sentence. Because standing in the gigantic crate was a six-feet eleven inch metal man. Its scarlet-and-chrome alloy gleamed, even in the dim light of the hallway.
    "Sweet Jesus," Knapp whispered. "Box!" He turned to Wyre. "What's going on here, man?"
    "You think I know?" the older man shot back.
    "Madison never used that design," Whitman said quietly. "That set was only used by Dr. Langkowski and -- "
    "Its designer, Roger Bochs," Wyre finished. "What?" he said, at Knapp's astounded look. "I read the mission logs." He ran a hand through his sandy hair, reaching out a tendril toward the armor's neck. "There looks to be an emergency activation switch right -- about -- here!"
    The Box armor stiffened for an instant, and then went limp. It raised a hand to its glistening chrome head. "What's going on?" a tinny, metallic voice echoed from its throat.
    Knapp shook his head, recognizing the former Alphan's voice. "Roger!" The metal face seemed to become perplexed as a metal hand caressed its forehead. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"
    "Do you *know* me?" Whit asked, surprised. "Roger, we were team-mates in Alpha Flight. Right up until you -- " [Right up until you died,] his mind finished.
    Now the metallic face seemed suspicious. "Look, I know everybody in Alpha Flight. And I have no idea who you are."
    Quickly, Wyre stepped in front of the metal man. "Look, Mr. Bochs, could you do me a quick favor?"
    "Sure," came the wary reply.
    "Tell me who's in Alpha. Right now, I mean."
    "Is this a trick question?"
    "No," Wyre said, his gravelly voice soothing. "Just tell me. Maybe we can help you."
    "Okay," Box said, a metallic sigh coming from his speakers. "Heather Hudson's our leader, and there's Northstar, Aurora, Puck, Snowbird, Shaman, Talis -- no, wait, Liz isn't a member any more -- my buddy Madison Jefferies . . . . oh, and me, I guess."
    "What's the last thing you remember?"
    "Let me see . . . . We'd just gotten back home after fighting Deadly Earnest . . . ." Metal alloy, 'living' or otherwise, isn't supposed to be able to shiver in revulsion, or in fear, but now the Box armor which held the body and soul of Roger Bochs did both. "He almost killed Madison and the twins . . . . and me. That's 'bout the spookiest thing I ever found out. That I could die in this tin can, I mean." He made the sighing noise again. "Anyway, I was about to phase out for the night . . . . I was gonna do some work on a new armor design Madison and I've been fooling around with . . . ." his voice trailed off. "And that's it. That's all she wrote. I don't remember any more."
    "Okay," Wyre said, gesturing through the door, into Whitman Knapp's apartment, "would you mind stepping this way, please, Mr. Bochs?"
    "Yeah, sure," Box said, following Whit into the apartment.
    Once inside, Wyre gestured at Kara Killgrave and the Dean sisters to vacate the couch. "Care to un-phase, Mr. Bochs?"
    "Who put you in charge?" Alex whispered hotly. Wyre gave the French-Canadian a swift, angry glare. Alex did not continue.
    "Uh, yeah. I guess I will." The tall, glittering man-in-armor walked to a spot just behind the couch, and within seconds a pudgy, ruddy-faced man with bright, slightly curly red hair and no legs below the knees had materialized before. He dropped onto the couch, deftly keeping himself upright with the air of countless hours of practicing. "Now," he said, "you can answer *my* questions."

    Chapter 39: Daddies Home
    by The Ancient One


    Devolution rested, he did not need rest, but the human form he was inside burnt energy and this energy needed to be replenished. His mind was in turmoil, designs and plans were in ruins and he was sure that the battle had been lost, Retribution was destroyed, what to do next? On the fringes of his subconscious a form began to take shape, drifting towards full form as it
    seemed to get nearer,
    "FOOL", The Artificer shimmered in his mind’s eye, "You and your kin have allowed this Alpha Flight to gain the upper hand, they have drawn 'First Blood' and now feel strong" "We have lost", Devolution shrunk back as soon as the last word had left his mouth.
    "We have lost the battle, not the war, you and that pathetic fool had no plans, no design, we must strike now, in their moment of glory, we must strike Alpha Flight a body blow, then with their cohesion gone we will win.
    We will rip out their heart, killing the Halfling and her child will diminish them, now you must do as I say..................."

    Jay Runningelk lay sprawled across the bar with his head in a pool of beer, his thoughts were a jumble, but the main theme managed to permeate the alcoholic haze, 'I should have been Medicine man, Twoyoungmen is never there, I know as much', lost in his thoughts he did not see the stranger enter the bar, but he did see the whiskey bottle that was thrust in front of him. Like a carrot before a mule he was enticed swaying and stumbling from the bar. Words were exchanged and deals struck, then Devolution smiled and led the Sacree mystic away.


    Devolution stared at he ruined building, 'So this is where Alpha Flight had lived, I would have liked to have met this Bedlam though, I believe we could have worked together', at his feet lay freshly disturbed earth, two mounds which until recently had contained the forms of his two greatest foes, to the side a third lay undisturbed, for now. Jay Runningelk sat cross legged to the side, incantations flowing from his mouth, the soil of the third mound began to move and then shift, while the slow excavation proceeded, Devolution thought back to Somons plan...........................................
    "We must get in close to the Halfling, then strike, her friends will be ready and prepared"
    "Yes, but who would they trust long enough to let them get close enough to strike the blow", Devolution felt his physical form starting to stir, "It would only take a moment and we must hope that emotion will cloud Snowbirds judgement long enough, go to a place called Tamarind Isle", Somon had started, Devolutions thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the Sacree mystic,
    "It's free",
    Devolution starred down at the casket lying at the bottom of the of the hole. Slowly the casket rose until it lay at his feet. The body in the clear coffin had decayed, a crack in the lid probably caused when the mansion had been destroyed had helped nature to corrupt the body. Tattered red cloth mingled with desiccated and corrupted flesh, a myriad of insects crawled in and out of fissures and different orifices, Devolution grinned as he bent to open the lid.
    The freshly stripped skeleton lay on the ground and to the side lay a pile of decaying flesh and manmade materials. Jay Runningelk sat swaying cross legged, slurred incantations pouring from his lips. Devolution stared intently at the almost white bones and then his eyes rolled back into his head. slowly the skeleton began to shake and then small discolorations started to appear, cells born from unearthly machinations began to adhere to the bones, slowly the bones were covered then blood vessels and musculature appeared, eventually dermal and epidermal layers were added and at Devolutions feet lay the naked dormant form of Doug Thompson.
    "Ready Medicine man, weave your spell and sunder the barriers" Through glassy eyes Runningelk glanced at this false form, he knew the true nature of this Devolution, but his need to visit revenge on Twoyoungmen for believed wrongs outweighed his revulsion at the presence of this creature.
    Ancient words tumbled from his lips and slowly a disruption appeared, a spinning vortex which disturbed the normal view of the surrounding scene.
    Inside the vortex numerous worlds seemed to spin into view and then disappeared, a new scene came into view, "Now Medicine man, now"
    The incantations became more intense and within the vortex a form took shape, the form pulled clear of the vortex and it collapsed, the disembodied form sailed through the air then disappeared into the inert form of Doug Thompson. The body shook, the eyes jerked open flitting to and fro, "Take your time, co-ordinate your body and mind, we have the time" The eyes turned and starred at Devolution, "Whe...Where am I and who are you", struggling to his feet the body of Thompson swayed,
    "All in good time, test your powers and grow accustomed to your new life", Devolution glanced at the drunken Medicine man, "Test you powers",
    With a questioning look the body starred at the Medicine man, Devolution nodded. Massive arms rose from the earth and gripped Runningelk, manipulating his form like plastic, the sound of cracking bones and liquefying organs were heard and then the ruined body was dropped to the floor. Devolution smiled
    "Your powers are strong and you are ready, but come we have much to do and much to talk about Captain Crozier"

    Chapter 40: "Picking Up the Pieces"
    by Sue Wong

    It should have been time for Alpha to rest. After all, they had been through battle after battle ever since Snowbird and her son had been reborn, and they had all been off to fight the Great Beasts. "To Hell and back," as Judd put it succinctly. Now, with Devolution defeated (they thought), it was time to turn their thoughts to other matters. Such as introducing their resurrected teammate and her son to the new members of Alpha Flight who had joined since her death.
    "Let's see...." Judd said, as the team flew back towards Toronto.
    "There's Kara Killgrave; you probably remember her as the Purple Girl, eh, Birdie?"
    "Indeed, I do," Snowbird replied. "So she is still with the team, then?"
    "She sure is, eh, only now she's called Persuasion. Then, there's Whitman Knapp....Manikin....."
    "He joined shortly after you croaked," Elizabeth threw in flippantly, Since she had been instrumental in bringing Snowbird and son back, she felt a little more at ease in talking about their deaths, even to making a half-jesting remark. Snowbird rewarded her with a frozen look, though, before turning back to Judd, who continued.
    "Anyway, there's Laura Dean and her twin sister, Goblyn... Witchfire...
    Windshear.... and Wyre--- he's a real tough guy who shoots cables out of his skin... stay on his good side, eh?"
    Snowbird nodded, trying to pay attention as Judd reeled off the names and powers of each of the teammates she was shortly to meet. Her son, small Richard, was in his usual post-battle position, sleeping in her arms. Then, he stirred, and for a moment, her thoughts strayed to something else.
    It was going to be a difficult job to bring him up without a father.
    Oh, the rest of Alpha Flight would always be around to help raise young Richard, but there was more to it than that.
    Snowbird had loved Doug Thompson enough to defy her god relatives to marry him, enough to suffer through an excruciating childbirth to bring their son into the world (only to lose him to Pestilence), and enough to refuse to enter the gods' realm unless Douglas and their baby were admitted with her. Yet, Narya had once dreamed things would be different. From the first moment Doug had mentioned marriage, Narya had imagined he would be by her side watching their son grow up, seeing Richard's first steps, teaching him about the world, a role model for their son to emulate.
    At first, with her and Richard's return, their only concerns had been to defeat the Great Beasts, help their Alpha Flight teammates, and ensure their own survival. But with the Great Beasts wiped out, there was now time to think of other things.
    To wish and to dream of the impossible.
    "Douglas, dear Douglas," Narya whispered in her secret heart, "how I wish you could be here to see your son grow up. He did so well against the Great Beasts, and I feel he will yet be a fine man. If you could only have been pulled through the barrier with us... what I would not give to have you back."
    She failed to notice how Shaman had been brooding ever since they boarded the plane. There was a great evil, but he was unable to pinpoint it as yet. Best to go back to Toronto until such time as the situation could be made clear. If it turned out to be as bad as his instincts told him it might be, they would need reinforcements.
    For all her psychic ability, Narya did not yet know that Douglas Thompson had arisen again. But perhaps that was because he was not really Douglas Thompson, but a dreadful hoax of the Beasts. Captain Crozier in Doug's body!
    If Somon had had a sense of humor, it would be a pretty sick one.

    "Okay, people," Mac Hudson rose. "We'll be landing in Toronto in a few minutes...."
    "Hey, 'Bird," Judd leaned over to whisper to Snowbird, "mind everything I told you about the new folk, eh?"
    "Certainly, friend Judd, " Narya replied, "Without you to guide me in this, I would indeed be lost." And how I wish, she cried silently, that Douglas were here to meet us after this mission.
    Be careful what you wish for, Narya, anyone would warn her if they had known her secret thoughts. You may not like how they could come true....

    Chapter 41: "Surprises."
    By Adam-X

    Manikin sat down, his hands on his head. "This is too much for me. I can't take this. I'm losing my mind."
    "What's wrong with the kid?" Box asked. Roger had phased back into the Box armor.
    "Box," Wyre began. "Roger… by all means, you should be dead…"
    "Dead?" Box chuckled. "I don't feel dead."
    "Box… everything you recalled… as recent events… those are old… Box…" He was looking for the right way to say things. Then shrugging, and realizing, being subtle was never his style, he finally said, "Look. You died. We buried you. Madison took on the form of Box. Alpha Flight went through a mess of things. Disbanded. Recently regrouped again, and, well, Snowbird's back as well."
    "Snowbird?" Box exclaimed. "But she's dead!"
    Perhaps it was the irony, but there was a cold silence…
    The plane landed safely, and the members of Alpha Flight left the plane. They tried to shake from their mind the horrid images they had seen the last time they were at an airport and their DC-10 exploded.
    "I still can't change back to my Sasquatch form," Walter complained, straining again to change.
    "When we get to the base, I will run some tests on you, Walter," Shaman spoke, as he approached Walter. "Perhaps with the combined efforts of Talisman and myself, we may find a way to fix you."
    "And you can count on me," Snowbird said, cradling her son. Her mind drifted again to the idea of her beloved husband. With all the fighting, she had little time to think of anything. Now, with a moment of peace, she could do nothing else but think of him.
    Vindicator looked back at everyone who was with them. There was himself, Guardian, Shaman, Talisman, Puck, Snowbird (and her child), Northstar and his twin sister, Aurora, as well as Sasquatch and St. Elmo.
    The base seemed so cold.
    Vindicator removed his helmet and took in a fresh breath of air.
    "The Great Beasts still remain… but we have delivered them a devastating blow," Snowbird whispered. "They know we are a force to be reckoned with."
    Vindicator hardly heard her words. Mac was already thinking about the team that would become Alpha Flight. "Either Heather or I would be the team leaders," he was thinking to himself. "There'd be no need for both of us wearing these suits. It would be good to have either Shaman or Talisman… I am almost suspecting Talisman because she is younger… although a lot more rebellious than her father…" His thoughts went deeper. "Puck is a must. Snowbird, I'd love to have - but with her child with her, I am not certain what path she would want to take. But I'd love her on the team. Northstar and Aurora would also be great, but I doubt if they will both remain. Northstar was never really the team type - and Aurora seems to have too many problems to ever stay put. For a power house, and raw strength, I'd love to have Walt back as Sasquatch, but if we can't find out what happened to his powers, that idea can go out the window… and I am not sure what Saint Elmo will do … if he's going to stay or go… he's always been to himself… and distant… more the loner sort…"
    Over and over Mac Hudson tried to come up with the perfect team, almost from the time he walked in the door… and those thoughts never stopped… never realizing just what else was going on around him…
    His name is Donavon Walker. He's seen a lot of things in his life, but little prepares him for the sight before his eyes…
    "There's your Anne McKenzie, Mr. Walker," the captain said.
    Walker gasped. "But that's... that's..."
    "Snowbird. Of Alpha Flight."
    "But how? Snowbird died..."
    "And from reports coming in just recently, it would appear that she has resurfaced to fight along her team-mates."
    "Yes... so who...?"
    "Who is this?" the captain finished for him.
    Donovan cast her a glance, then nodded. For the first time in his life, he was dumbfounded.
    The captain smiled. "Do you believe in genetic engineering, Mr. Walker? Or more importantly, do you believe in the reality of human cloning?"
    "That's insanity!" Walker finally exploded. "You've got a full grown woman with super natural powers cloned in that glass sphere!"
    "Precisely," the man replied.
    "Do you realize what that could mean?" Walker asked.
    "Of course. No nuclear weapons. Just cloned heroes to do battle.
    If they die, you release another clone. Rather fabulous, don't you think?"
    "That's inhumane!" Walker protested.
    "None the less, it is government funded as well," the scientist smirked.
    "Who showed you this kind of technology?" Walker asked, looking at the equipment. The entire complex in this room seemed to be something from a bizarre futuristic movie.
    "A man by the name of Essex," the scientist remarked. "He's quite intelligent. He's the one that told Department H about one named Adam Peters. Better known as a part of Next Flight's members. The one - you may recall - Caterwaul?"
    "The psycho member?" Walker shouted. "Jesus man! Isn't that any indication of what you might be doing here?"
    "Whatever do you mean?"
    "What if these clones go crazy? I mean what if this Caterwaul is a clone of some kind. Or some kind of genetic mix match," Walker screamed. "And as a result they go mad?"
    "That was another thing Essex showed us," the scientist went on to say, dismissing Walker's insane ideas. "He showed us genetic engineering. As I said," the scientist said, as he turned and left the room. Walker followed behind him, and the door shut automatically. "A brilliant man indeed…"


    Chapter 42: Convergences
    by Seng Mah

    James MacDonald Hudson - Vindicator - studied the template of Alpha Flight members, past and present. So much had changed since he first donned the red and white battlesuit lo those many years ago. He had survived two 'deaths', returned to find his wife in charge of the superhuman task force he had created; in many ways, Heather had been a better leader than he, one who could temper her responsibilities of leadership with a very human compassion. Plus, in the times of his absences, she had garnered much field experience, confronting the likes of Scramble, Deadly Ernest, Pestilence, Llan the Sorcerer, the Dreamqueen, the Wrecking Crew, the Hardliners... the list grew on.
    Hudson sighed. Perhaps, old man, he thought to himself, it's time for you to hang up the old union suit and admit that you're too much past your prime to be playing super-hero. Still, he could not shake off the feeling that he needed to remain with the Flight; indeed, he needed to continue leading the Flight. It was not a petty sense of insecurity that fueled this desire. Something deep within him told him it was right that he take on the mantle of team leader.
    Heather's reaction had not been pleasant when he first suggested it to her. In fact, she had had accused him of a petty obsession with playing leader.
    "You want to play boss-boy, Mac? Fine!" She retorted before storming out of their room. "But don't expect me to play the obedient wife/team member just because you say so. After all we've been through, I'd have thought that you'd know that Alpha is a team, a family. Sure, we need a leader, but more than anything else, we're a tight unit. That's how we've survived this far. Mutual respect. Mutual admiration." She shook her head exasperatedly.
    His eyes lifted to scan the myriad of mug-shots on the template. A few new surprises: the return of Roger Bochs, the galvanization of Beta Flight by none other than Northstar's boy-friend, a dispatch from Department H requesting audience with the reformed Flight...
    There was much to do. And so little time. The Beastlings, far from defeated, were stirring, and Alpha needed to act before all Canada, all the world, fell under their dark grip.


    Roger Bochs - safely melded with the massive metal housing of the robot Box - strode down the halls of Department H. For a man confined to a wheelchair in his physical body, he could never get over the joy and freedom something so simple as walking granted. Light from the fluorescent tubes in the ceiling gleamed off the red chrome of his robot-body. If his robot face could smile, he would grin.
    "Box?" The bald man in the military suit greeted him succinctly.
    "General Clarke?" Box said. He had never met the man face to face, but knew of him through rumor and by reputation.
    "Welcome back. Both to H and to your life," Clarke said.
    "Thanks," Bochs rasped in his deep, robotic voice. Clarke seemed a pleasant enough individual, perhaps a trifle too militaristic, but that was to be expected.
    "This way. The others are waiting for you."
    Bochs followed Clarke into the wide conference room on the eighth floor of the towering H complex. Morning sunlight filtered in through the large screens overlooking a copse of woods and a bright blue lake surrounded by the woods.
    Bochs paused in his stride.
    "Wow!" he gasped in his robotic voice, his scanners taking in the collection of brightly dressed individuals gathered within.
    James Hudson - Vindicator. Heather Hudson - Guardian. Beside her, Eugene Judd - Puck. Walter Langkowski. Michael Twoyoungmen - Shaman. Elizabeth Twoyoungmen - Talisman. Jean-Paul Beaubier - Northstar; his twin sister Jeanne-Marie - Auroa. Persuasion. Pathway. Goblyn. Alex. Whitmann Knapp. Alex. Snowbird, a small boy crouched next to her. Wyre. Next to the scarred veteran stood an even bigger man, easily towering head and shoulders above the rest. Bochs did not recognize him: he was broad, red-bearded and clad in an odd combination of tartan, armor and leather, looking somewhat like a massive Scot clansman.
    "Rogair?" Aurora whispered, as though unable to believe her eyes. "Is that you?"
    "Yup," Bochs said happily.
    Within moments, he was caught in a tumble of embraces and companionable back clapping. Even the red-bearded giant ambled over to grasp his robot hand.
    "Zounds! A warrior of metal," the big man boomed. "Finally, someone to match the mettle of Saint Elmo - Keeper of the Northern Lights."
    So, this was Saint Elmo, Bochs mused. He'd heard of the man -- one of the first members of the prototype Flight, and its first casualty. How could Elmo be dead and still be here? Bochs grinned in his mind: he wasn't going to worry over such illogic: after all he, without even knowing how or why, was here when, as far as the others were concerned, he should be dead. "Lobotomized by Scramble," Kara Kilgrave - Persuasion - had so bluntly informed him.
    So, he shook their hands and returned to their fold without hesitation.
    Soon, they settled in their seats, or stances. Here was gathered the might of Canada's superhuman forces. He could feel the power and energy brimming from the crowd gathered before him. He cleared his throat.
    "You all know what this meeting is about," he began. "We're here to relaunch Alpha Flight. Officially..."


    John McCauley couldn't believe his eyes. He stared at his own reflection in the wall mirror. He was hideous! Covered in long orange fur that reached down his elbows, loins and shins, he looked like some throwback to a primitive ape-man, more ape than man certainly by the set of his head and the simian slope of his forehead.
    "How?" he growled.
    "We don't know," the RCMP officer said. "But you're Sasquatch, of Alpha Flight."
    "I ain't no Sasquatch," he rumbled. I'm Traction, he almost added, but now he wasn't so sure. His memories of the past weeks seemed vague, like the images of a dream half-remembered upon waking. He'd remembered his name, though that was all he remembered. Perhaps more would come in time.
    "Can you change back?" the woman scientist asked, surveying the monstrous orange form that loomed before her.
    "How?" McCauley asked, shrugging.
    "I don't know. Just... _will_ yourself to change."
    McCauley's heavy brows dipped in a frown. "Al- Alright." He concentrated, trying to recall his real appearance, his real shape, the way it felt in his real body. He felt an electric tingle run down his back.
    Moira Harrison, science officer at the Regina RCMP Headquarters gasped in surprise as the massive orange-furred behemoth changed, losing mass, bulk and orange hair. Within a minute, a man stood before her, fully naked. He was about forty, broad and hefty in built, a square-faced man with a short-cropped army-style haircut. He gave a yelp of surprise and futilely tried to cover his nakedness.
    "Get Mr. Langkowski some clothes," she informed an officer.
    "Langkowski? Who's Langkowski?" he asked, eyes wide with alarm and confusion.
    "You are," Harrison said.
    "No. Name's McCauley," McCauley said.
    Harrison lifted a brow curiously. "If so, Mr. McCauley, how did you come to possess the form of Sasquatch?"
    McCauley could give her no answer.


    Heather Hudson looked at her new suit with undisguised distaste.
    "It's not too bad, eh?" Judd said, looking at the circuitry within the new battlesuit. "A lot prettier than the old one."
    Heather made an unpleasant sound. "If he'd not been so damn childish as to insist on a different design for my battlesuit..."
    "Ah, Heather," Judd consoled. "Maybe he's got a reason, eh?"
    She shook her head adamantly. "He's just obsessed with playing team-leader. Doesn't want me impinging on his territory."
    She leaned back against the side of the window. Outside, blue skies and a fair wisp of cloud on the horizon announced fine weather. A wonderful day. So why was she feeling so awful and uptight inside?
    Judd clambered up and plopped himself down on the window sill. The team conference had been over for two hours and he had exchanged his red and white Alpha costume for his customary singlet and jeans.
    "So, you thinking of leaving?" he asked bluntly.
    Heather sighed. "I don't want to. Alpha's been my family for as long as I care to remember. Even before there was an Alpha, you've all been family: Michael was a close family friend; I knew Elizabeth when she was a kid; met Narya on my honeymoon with Mac..."
    "And we're still family, eh?"
    She nodded. "Leaving Alpha would be like leaving home."
    "I'm glad you said that, Heather." He paused, choosing his words carefully before he continued. "If you'd left, I would've packed up too."
    She looked at him, though without surprise. She'd always been close to him, always knew that he bore something special for her inside him. Yet, their relationship had always remained on the point of firm-friends, confidants.
    "Judd-"
    Judd took her hand in his, squeezed it. "That's all I wanted to say, eh?" He lifted her fingers and kissed them tenderly. His beard scratched her skin, but it was not an unpleasant sensation.
    Someone cleared his throat in the doorway. Heather jerked back, turning, suddenly awash with an irrational feeling of being caught doing something very, very wrong.
    "Heather?" Michael Twoyoungmen said. "They've completed the final roster. Care to come?"
    "Be there in a minute," she said, exchanging glances with Judd.
    "You ready?" Judd said.
    "As I'll always be," she replied.
    They walked together to the conference room where the other Alphas too had collected. Clarke waited until they were seated before beginning.
    "Alright. James Hudson and myself have sorted through the details and we're ready to announce the official Alpha Flight roster for the relaunched team. Now, we're not necessarily saying that those of you not selected are no longer part of the Flight. We envisage a primary or core team of hard-hitters who can deal with threats to province and planet, threats such as the return of the Beasts that Hudson and Snowbird have spoken about. The rest of you will be required as a support network, subsidiary teams, so to speak, that may be deployed on certain missions if and when the core team is unable, or if such missions require your... special... skills. Subsidiary teams will be formed based on the requirements of the mission at hand. Now, if you've got no questions, let's proceed."
    He waited a breath, then read out from a list in his hand.
    "The core team will consist of: Vindicator, Guardian, Shaman, Northstar, Snowbird, Saint Elmo, Box, Puck and Wyre. Vindicator will resume his position as team leader, with Guardian and Puck serving as field tacticians." He nodded at Heather and Judd's direction.
    "The rest of you will belong to subsidiary teams as I have outlined. We hope that this new Flight will be able to deal with the threat the Beasts pose..."


    "Jean-Paul?" Alex said. "Something's worrying you."
    It was later that day and the both of them had retired to the Department H common room to talk. The young man in the black and silver bodysuit turned to his partner. "Have you ever felt as if something is gravely wrong, yet been unable to put your finger on it is exactly?"
    "Of course," Alex laughed. "Every day of my life."
    Northstar felt the faint stirrings of a smile lift the ends of his lips. "Seriously though, Alex. I can't shrug off this feeling that... I'm not even sure how to say it... that there is this wrongness about all of this."
    "What? This place? Department H?"
    "Yes. In a sense." Northstar sighed. "Perhaps I'm just getting paranoid."
    "Hey, Jean-Paul, you wrote the book on paranoid as far as I'm concerned," Alex grinned. He grasped Northstar's arm. "Come here."
    They drew close.
    "It's been a long time," Alex said, his fingers reaching up to touch Northstar's face. He pressed his lips slowly against the speedster's.


    "Field tacticians?" Heather laughed as they walked down the corridor. "Is that his idea of a joke?"
    "I think it's cute, eh?" Judd said. "At least he's acknowledged our experience. Mine and yours, Heather."
    "Alright. I'll give that point to you, Judd," she said, then drew short of the doorway to the common room.
    "What?" Judd asked.
    Heather held up her hand. “It’s Alex and Northstar," she whispered.
    Judd nodded. "Ah, young love, eh?"
    Heather grinned wryly. "Wish I could be that young again," she said, shaking her head ruefully. "And that in love."
    Judd looked up at her, his expression serious. "You are, Heather. Young, that is. And someone loves you. Very much." Did he dare say more?
    Heather's smile disappeared. "Judd-"
    He hesitated, then took her hand and drew her to the side of the door. Gently, he drew her down and towards him. She did not balk. There was no equivocation in her eyes as she knelt down. Calmly, he took her face in his hands and drew her close. Their lips met.

    Chapter 43
    Quarter Past Forever

    By Falstaff and Celendra

    Editor's Note: the following chapter of Birth of A New Dream contains adult themes and references that make it unsuitable reading for younger readers. If it were a film, it'd probably be classified MA15+ or R17 (in the US). So if you're a prude, or a parent concerned about adult content, be forewarned.

    Day 97
    The situation has not improved. Something has gone wrong at the processing lab; I have lost contact with Courtney II. I have been relegated to Ottawa. This guise is not foolproof. Eventually one of them will put two and two together. I postulate Wyre; my failure to recruit him into the Marauders will make me stand out in his memory. In any event, I must take measures to ensure my safety.

    They were there, in the hallway next to the door to the Department H common room; he standing, she kneeling, her hand at the back of his head and his caressing her face, their lips touching and their tongues dancing the prelude to the oldest dance there is. It was a shock to her when he broke the kiss, air flooding into her lungs as she realized she'd been without air for several seconds.
    "Need to breathe, eh," he said, short of breath himself, his craggy face scarlet. He watched her; looked deep into her eyes and waited for it to come. Waited for the rejection. 'I'm sorry, Judd,' she say, any second now, 'I didn't realize what I was doing. We can't. I can't. What with rebuilding the Flight, and Mac, and -- ' and her voice would trail off, and she'd walk one way, and he'd walk another. It was okay, he insisted to himself, though he didn't believe that for a second. He'd had his moment of paradise. It was over. He could live with that. But he couldn't move his hand from her cheek.
    "Judd -- " she said, looking into his eyes. He looked at the floor. Here it came. Time to pack it up, soldier. Incoming hailstones, dig in deep and get ready to run for the planes, boys, 'cause when these suckers hit it's gonna hurt.
    "Judd," she said, and her voice was gentle. [Oh, God, Heather, just say it and have it said. The sooner you say it, the sooner I can find a bar and drown the memory of this moment away.] "I think we'd better go upstairs?"
    His head snapped up, his eyes met hers. "Wh-what?" he asked in a choked stutter.
    "Well, unless you want to do this in the hall," she smiled at him, her green eyes twinkling. "Me, I'd like a little privacy."
    "You want . . . ." he couldn't bring himself to say it. To give it words might mean she'd realize what she was saying.
    She brought her hand to her cheek, covering his. "Yes," she said softly.
    "I want."
    He considered that for a moment, then moved one hand to the middle of her back and the other to the back of her lower thigh. "All right," he said, and using his leverage, he swept her off of her knees and into cradled her into his arms -- the way one would cradle an infant, even if the infant was a full foot and a half taller than you: with complete gentleness and utter tenderness.
    "Judd!" she laughed, elbowing him in the shoulder. "What're you -- "
    "Taking you upstairs," he said shortly, walking down the hall to the stairwell. He nudged the door open with his foot and began to climb.
    "I'd've taken the elevator," he said, his eyes never leaving hers, "but I would've had to put you down to work the buttons."

    :So you and Lil got back together?: the metallic voice rang from the Box robot's mouth.
    "Yeah," Madison Jefferies said. "Got married and everything."
    :Wow,: Roger Bochs said from inside the armor. :That's great, Madison. I'm happy for you.:
    "'Preciate the thought, Bochsie," Mr. Jefferies said. "Whaddaya think of the new design, if you don't mind me asking?"
    Box's cameras focused on the brown-and-silver armor that Jefferies had used during his days as Box, leaning against the training room's wall. :I don't know. The design's great, and of course your power makes it really versatile, but . . . .: the mechanical voice trailed off.
    "But what?"
    :But it seems a little bit cold. Inhuman, almost.: The mighty metal shoulders shrugged. :That's just my opinion, Madison.: There was a long pause. :I'm sorry, buddy, I shouldn't have -- after you came all this way just to help me check out the bugs in my armor -- :
    Jefferies waved him off. "Nah, it's no big deal. The Department picks up the tab. And to tell you the truth, I was glad to get a little break. I love Lil -- love her a lot, don't get me wrong -- but I needed a break, y'know?"
    :Nope,: Bochs said. :But it's okay, Madison. No harm done. Here, I was up last night working on a schematic I want to show you . . . .:

    It was late, very late, but the Alphan called Wyre was not sleeping. Not late in the day; it was only four o'clock in the afternoon, but Wyre had been unable to sleep for the last few days. Something had been nagging at him, a memory of a night in a bar on the island of Madripoor some three and a half years ago . . . .
    They'd come in looking for him, or at least that's what O'Donnell the bartender told him later. Three men who couldn't look less alike if they'd been trying. One tall and darkly handsome, wearing a dark trench coat with reddish brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. One taller still, with dead-pale skin that stood out against his sleek, black Armani suit and eyes that looked as blank as any corpse Wyre'd ever seen. One short and scruffy, blond hair bristling, cracking leather jacket with the Royal Canadian Army unit patches still sewn on the sleeve -- "First Royal Armored Division: the Immortals" -- and the bullet hole in the upper left back, from the night Wyre had shot him, when Scruffy had made his escape from Alpha Base almost twelve years before: [Creed,] Wyre had thought at the time. [His name is Victor Creed.]
    "M'sieu Wyre?" the handsome one asked, strolling up to his table, the others by his side.
    Wyre could see the other mercenaries who frequented the Princess Bar staring at him -- Patch, Wisdom and Culley, Cole Cash, Wilson, Lynch, Helmut Hess, Craven, Dayspring, Constantine, with Judd deep in conversation with Darkhölme and Adler at the bar -- and he narrowed his eyes. "Sit down and keep your voice low. This is a quiet house, you know what I mean?"
    Handsome nodded. "Oui, yeah, we understand." He and the others sat.
    "Creed," Wyre said, breaking the silence that followed. "How you doing these days?"
    Victor Creed bristled. "My shoulder hurts whenever it's colder'n 10 C -- and I live in Alaska these days. How the hell d'you *think* I am?"
    "Enough talk, mon ami," Handsome said, cutting in his not-quite-French accent. Wyre couldn't place it, but it wasn't Québécois either. "We come here tonight to talk business. You gonna listen or what?"
    Wyre raised an eyebrow, lighting an unfiltered Marlborough. "I'll listen.
    But make it quick. I finally got the Prince's permission to unload my cargo and get off of this miserable piece of rock. And it has to happen before midnight, or I owe his highness another cut of the proceeds. I don't like that. I have to be in Nova Scotia by six tomorrow night." He spread his hands on the table. "But go ahead and talk. I have a few minutes to kill."
    "Fair enough," Handsome said. "Me and Victor here are putting together a team for a very special job. Strictly hard case professionals, no bubble gummers. We hear you're the best."
    "You're wrong," Wyre said around the cigarette.
    Handsome blinked. "That so?"
    "Yup," Wyre said. "Patch, John Lynch, Nate Dayspring, Slade Wilson -- all four of them are in this bar tonight. All four are better than me.
    Where'd my name come from?"
    The heretofore silent man in the middle spoke, his voice colored with a British accent. "You're a man who doesn't ask questions, Mister . . . .
    Wyre."
    Wyre nodded. "That's right," he said quietly. "I don't. Not usually."
    Handsome looked at the tall, pale man. The pale man nodded. "The job we're recruiting you for pays three million English pounds. In gold bullion. Stick around afterwards and you get another ten thousand a month, with bonuses every Christmas." Handsome grinned. "Not bad, eh, mon ami?"
    "Impressive," Wyre allowed, his face inscrutable.
    "Don't you want to know what the job is?" Creed demanded suddenly.
    Wyre didn't blink. "You're going to tell me sooner or later anyway, whether I ask you or not."
    "No," the pale man with the British accent said. "We won't. But I do have one question for you, Mister Wyre."
    Wyre inclined his head. "Ask your question."
    The pale man leaned forward. "What are your feelings on . . . ." his mouth pursed in distaste, "'wet work,' Mister Wyre? That is to say, would you be able to kill if hired to do so?"
    Wyre's face was an immobile mask. "I've done it before."
    "Ah, yes," the Englishman's hypnotic voice went on. "But have you ever attempted to kill a large number of persons? Say . . . . one thousand or so?"
    Wyre ground his cigarette out in the table's ashtray and got up. "Find somebody else. I don't do wholesale murder."
    "Okay, bon," Handsome said. "Thanks for your time, M'sieu Wyre."
    The Englishman stood, the other two standing with him, as if they'd practiced. "If you change your mind, Mister *Beltane* . . . ."
    "I won't."
    They turned, then, walking right out of the Princess like they owned the place. Creed turned back at the door. "See ya 'round, smart guy."
    He'd heard about it about six months later, from Nate Dayspring, of all people, in a tiny hole-in-the-wall diner on Bleeker Street in Brooklyn.
    Victor Creed and a team of killers called the Marauders -- including an old friend of Wyre's, Michael Baer, a German gun-for-hire who called himself Blockbuster -- had killed the Morlocks, a group of mutants living under the streets of New York City. They'd left maybe ten or twelve survivors out of the original one thousand, three hundred twenty-nine people.
    Not honest work, he and Dayspring had agreed at the time. Not fair. Not right. It wasn't that either he or Dayspring were particularly nice people, or that they hadn't done nasty things themselves in their time . .
    .. . but there were rules in the business, rules you didn't break, and one of them was that killing women, children, and helpless old men just wasn't *done.*
    He'd caught up on the rest of the story back on Madripoor a few months later -- the very night, in fact, that he got the tip he'd been waiting for, the one that sent him back to Canada on the trail of Kyle Gibney. He was sitting in his usual dark corner of the Princess Bar in Lowtown, waiting on information from a contact, when he overheard Slade Wilson and Pete Wisdom *****ing about the Princess' regulars who'd dropped out of sight -- Lynch, Dayspring, Lynch, Cash, Patch, Craven, Constantine -- and a few like Judd and Darkhölme who'd gone legit and started working for governments long-term -- Judd for the Canucks, Darkhölme for the Americans.
    And it was Wisdom's casual mentioning of a former advisor of his organization, Black Air . . . . a tall, dead-pale man who favored Armani suits and sometimes flamboyant, tattered capes . . . . a man who was a regular mad scientist, and had more than enough cash to do whatever he wanted, including kill the Morlocks . . . . a man called Sinister.
    He'd talked Wisdom into finding him a copy of the man's file. There wasn't much in it -- just a name, a picture, and the consulting work he'd done for Black Air; no date of birth, no phone number, no pager, nothing -- but Wyre always remembered the face. How could he not? After all, the last time he'd gone by the name of Henri Beltane had been forty years before. How had the pale man known his name?
    And how was it . . . . what kind of a coincidence was it . . . . that he could swear that he'd passed a man in the hall three days before, a man getting off of an elevator that Wyre *knew* he'd never seen before, and hadn't seen since . . . . an ice-pale man with a dead look to his features.
    It was impossible, Wyre knew . . . . and yet, maybe not. He wasn't sure.
    When he was, he'd take it to Judd, or Hudson. The woman, not the man. He didn't know James Hudson, didn't know if he could be trusted. He knew that Eugene Judd and Heather Hudson could be trusted. And he knew that whatever steps he took against this man who might or might not be the mysterious man in the Armani suit, he could count on them to stand by him. That simple.

    "I can get the door."
    "I want to do it. I'm trying to make this special, eh."
    "I understand. You're a true romantic, Judd, and I love that about you -- " she paused to watch his ears turn red -- "but rest assured that my opinion of you isn't going to go down if you let me open your door for you.
    Okay?"
    Judd sighed, giving her a gentle squeeze. "Okay. Fine. I'm sorry."
    "Your hands are full," she noted, still cradled in his arms. "It's only fair that I help out." She reached out, one delicate hand closing around the doorknob and turning it, pushing it open.
    Judd, for all his usual solid calm, seemed very nervous as he looked around for a place to set her down. She grinned at him. "It's okay to put me on the bed, you know."
    The blush spread from his ears across his face. [Dammit, what am I, a schoolboy or something? I've done this before. I've had women in my room before.] He sighed, almost inaudibly. [But never this woman.] He set her gently on the bed, sitting down gingerly.
    "I guess there're a couple of things that need be said now," he murmured, looking quietly at her. "First thing, this bein' the nineties, you should know that I've had all my shots, and I've been prodded by the best docs they could throw at me. I haven't got any nasty diseases, and I haven't .
    .. . ." his voice trailed off. "Hell. No way to do this delicately, eh?
    I
    haven't slept with anybody in . . . . seven years."
    Heather felt her eyebrows attempt to nest in her hairline. [Seven years . .
    . . that's when the Flight started up . . . . but why wouldn't he . . . .
    unless . . . .] Heather's eyes clung to his, her face unbelieving.
    Judd smiled quietly. "You look like you think I'm fibbing, eh?"
    "Judd, you haven't . . . . I mean . . . . you didn't . . . ."
    He shook his head, his craggy face a bright red. He rubbed his bald pate slowly. "Nope. Not since I walked into that run-down apartment in Ottawa the day they shut down the Flight and I saw you . . . ."
    She looked down, her pale face matching her fiery hair as she murmured slowly. "Oh, Judd . . . . I . . . ." her words faltered, but her hands went to his face, gently cupping it in her hands and bringing her lips to his, molding them to his and gently teasing them with her tongue until they parted.
    She was surprised by the dull moan that echoed as she slipped her tongue into his mouth, probing lightly.
    His arms wrapped around her by instinct, plain and simple, and he felt himself moan again as he pulled away. "Heather . . . . wait. Stop a second. We . . . . I have to say something."
    Her green eyes looked up at him, a flash of hurt echoing. "Wha . . . .
    what did I do, Judd? Was I . . . . too fast?"
    He laughed then, a brief bark of laughter that matched the twinkle in his eyes. "Not by a long shot, after seven years." He shook his head, tracing her jawline with his fingertips. "It's just that I want to make sure about something." His voice trailed off, and he looked out the window for a moment, thinking.
    Her soft lips on his cheek brought his head back around. "Please, Judd, what is it?"
    "Well . . . ." he sighed, shrugging slightly, "I want to make sure that whatever's about to happen isn't just going to be a one-time thing. I don't want it be because you're mad at Mac, or because you're frustrated.
    I want it to be the first of many times, Heather -- and I want it to be because we love each other."
    [Poor guy - he looks like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over his head,] thought Heather as she reached out and took his face in her hands. "Eugene Judd, I love you. It took me a long time to figure it out, but now that I know it, nothing is going to tear me away from you side, do you understand?" she asked, holding him close after the first few words and pillowing his head on her breasts. "I love you."
    He smiled then, and it was a grin, a boyish grin, that made his chiseled features lose forty years. "You do?" He looked up at her, brown eyes dancing. "Well, good. Great!" He winked. "And now that we've said all that, would I be outta line if I asked what we were gonna do about it?"
    Laughing gently, and none to coincidentally causing the bosom he was resting on to shake suggestively, she stroked his scalp fondly. "Line is not what you would be out of, Eugene. Your clothes, however, are," she grinned, taking hold of his shirt and yanking it over his head, pressing her full lips to his as soon as it had cleared, her fingers, caressing his compact torso.
    Impishly, he nipped at her chin. "Well, if the lady insists." He winked, laughing quietly. "But only if you join me, eh?" He lifted her gently, efficiently removing her shirt and extending his hands, stopping an inch short of her bra. He blushed again. "May I?"
    This time she did not laugh, but placed her hands on his and guided them onto her breasts, a small gasp escaping her lips as he lingered there before unsnapping the infernal contraption and throwing it off to the side, her full breasts shaking gently as she leaned into him, running kisses along his jaw.
    A small huff of laughter escaped his lips. "Y'know how many times in the last seven years I dreamed of us . . . . doing this?" he asked. His eyes still twinkled. "And d'you know what I always thought I'd do next?"
    Kisses punctuating every word, she worked her way up his neck and jaw to his ear. "What. Is. That. Dear?"
    He grinned. "This!" With that, he spun her down, his small, muscular body pinning her below him. "The center of gravity is a wonderful thing," he grinned, slowly kissing from her neck towards her hardening nipples.
    "Um . . . . Eugene . . . . there's probably something I should tell you about now,"
    she started, her hands flying up to grasp the sheets in an attempt to maintain some sanity.
    He froze, his eyes looking upward, meeting hers. His hand gently stroked her face. "What is it, eh?"
    "I'm. . . . umm . . . . I'm a scratcher, so it might be best if you didn't do that
    for a while....I don't want to hurt you but I can't help it," she blushed, the flush suffusing down to the tops of her breasts. "Y'see?"
    He grinned. "Aw, I'm a tough old bird. I can take it." He inclined his head. "'Sides, if it makes you feel good, you can rip up my back all you want, so long as you help me patch up later, eh?"
    She muttered softly. "You might not think so, once it's happened..."
    Judd grinned down up at her. "Remember what I told you years ago? I live with pain every day of my life. I learned to focus past it a long time ago. Take it from me, Heather, I can take it. Question is . . . ." he let his tongue slide gently to her nipple and began to caress her with it, "can you?"
    Her eyes flew open quickly, her hands coming up to grasp his shoulder, her nails digging in as she arched herself, her mouth curved into a blissful smile. "They . . . . say experience is a good teacher, Judd. Are you going to
    teach or am I?"
    "Well, I got the practical experience end all covered," he smiled. "What can I say . . . ." he moved to her other breast, suckling, "you live sixty-three years, you meet people."
    "Oh . . . . really?" she asked, the second word coming out as a slight moan. "J-Judd . . . . you really, really should stop that. I - I'm starting to muss the bed," she blushed, running her hand over his head.
    He shrugged, nibbling. "It's the Department's bed. I don't even have to do my own laundry. And . . . . you mussing this bed is not an entirely unpleasant prospect, eh?"
    Her voice dropped about two octaves, coming out a deep whisper. "I'd rather you muss it with me," she breathed, sitting up and disengaging his mouth, gently running her tongue over his lips.
    His own tongue extended, dancing with hers for a long moment. "Tempting offer . . . . but . . . ." he blushed. "I'd wanted our first time to be perfect, and certainly last longer than . . . ."
    Nodding, a blush of her own coming, she drew him back down with her. "Pick your own pace, love. I'll be right there, at the end."
    "Well . . . ." he grinned, his voice husky, "once again, if you absolutely insist . . . ." He stopped suddenly. "Heather, could you do something for me?"
    "Of course, darling," she said, running her hands over his arms slowly.
    "Anything."
    He swallowed. "Get off the bed?"
    With a confused and startled glance, she rolled off of the bed and stood beside it, watching him curiously.
    He rolled over on his side, removing something from his bedside table and rolling back. "Sorry. But . . . . well, you know I'm not exactly tall, eh? Gonna have to be me below, this time," he said, pulling on his beard and trying to force his blush to recede.
    Leaning over, she took his chin in her hand. "Makes no difference at all to me. I knew everything about you before we got in here, dear. Now, what is all this about, Judd? You didn't make me get off of this contraption just to tell me that I've got about a foot on ya."
    He grinned up at her. "I'm already lying down. I'd Like it if you'd join me again, though. Other stuff'll keep, I guess." He twirled the packaged condom between his fingers. "Maybe get started?"
    Smiling softly she snagged the package from his hand and, darting her head down to place a kiss on the tip of his penis, she ripped it open. "I'd love to get started," she practically cooed. "The sooner I do that, the sooner I can polish you off."
    "Ahhh . . . ." He smiled, almost blinking back a tear. "Sorry. Just a foolish old man, under it all. But I love you, eh."
    "Not foolish, Judd. Never that," she whispered, kissing his eyelids softly.
    "You've always been the sweetest man I've ever known - and you always shall be, my love. Now, shall we get this thing on you then?" she asked holding up the small sheath of latex.
    He looked up at her, his eyes sparkling. "On one condition."
    "Name it, love. Anything you want."
    Judd's face was sober. "Question for you, Heather. Answer the question and then . . . . then'll come. I know you and Mac haven't . . . . been together in the way married people are in a long time. What I'm asking is, if you leave him . . . . if you're ready for that . . . . would you . . ." his voice trailed off. "Dammit. Heather McNeil Hudson, I'm asking you to marry me, eh?"
    The expression on Heather Hudson's face grew positively rapturous. Her strong arms twined around his neck and her head pillowed on his shoulder as she squeezed him close. "Of course, I'll marry you, you silly fool! If you want me to," she murmured, tears springing to her eyes. "I'll have a lawyer draw up the divorce papers in the morning. There's nothing left for me there and there's the whole world waiting for me here."
    Eugene Judd cried like a baby.
    He cupped her face in his hands. "I love you. I always will, eh. Now . .
    . . come here and let me show you how much."
    Her arms still twined around his neck and her legs knees hiking up to wrap around his legs, she looked at him with unshed tears in her eyes. "So what're ya waitin' for, eh?"
    He reached down, rolling the condom onto himself. "That, eh. Don't want you getting pregnant on the first go-round."
    She looked down, still blushing. "Well, if it helps love, we're double insured. I've been on the pill since Mac and I went splitsies." Her fingers traced around the thin sheath, leaving small trails.
    Swallowing hard, he looked up at her. "Then let's get to it, then, eh?" His lips reached up to brush hers. "Could I get a kiss, eh?" he whispered quietly.
    "You could get more, if you liked," she breathed back, her lips fusing with his, her tongue gliding along his lips as they parted and then into his mouth, slowly encircling his as she rubbed her stomach against his hard penis.
    "Heather . . . ." a soft growl left his lips, "I'm sorry, but I can't reach . . . ." he blushed. "Please . . . ."
    A look of understanding entered her eyes as she broke contact with him and felt him slide down her body until his head was positioned just above her throat. She took hold of him and turned so that she lay flat on her back with him atop her, making the difference in size less noticeable.
    He looked into her eyes, his lips pressed to her throat. "Ready?" was all he could say.
    "Always, my love....please," her breath caught in her throat, her pelvis curving up to receive him.
    He took a long, slow breath, nibbling at her throat, and then thrust forward with all his might, entering her fully. He looked into her eyes, deep brown dancing with bright green. "Not small everywhere, eh?" he grinned.
    Her eyes widened dramatically, her nails coming down and digging sharply into his buttocks as she thrust up against him with a small, animal groan.
    "Not . . . . at all . . . . oh, love."
    "What?" Judd asked, awash in the moment. "I'm doing all right, aren't I?"
    For a response she dug her claws in deeper and started to buck, sporadic jumps catching them both by surprise. All throughout her breath was caught so that all she could do was sob happily or moan his name when the air returned for the brief seconds between thrusts.
    He moaned above her. "Heather, love . . . . remember what I said . . . . about being . . . . an old man?" He swallowed hard. "I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to keep this up much longer . . . ."
    Her shudders increased at his heart-wrenching moan, her hands slowly scratching down her back. "N-neither am . . . . I . . . ." she hissed, arching sharply and crying out as a particularly hard spasm gripped her. She knew her body well enough to know when it teetered on the brink of orgasm and, at this moment, she was amazed she hadn't already fallen in.
    Judd gathered himself, covering every inch of her he could reach with kisses. "Love you, then," he said, and delivered on last stroke, as hard as he could, thrusting into her with all the strength in his body.
    At that word she cried out, her muscles contracting around his penis as she bucked and writhed, unable to escape the sharp shudders of pleasure that shot through her. After what seemed an eternity it stopped and she felt truly sated, truly fulfilled as she had not in a very long time.
    He cried out himself, holding her to him, shuddering against her and whispering into her throat. "Love you, love you, love you . . . ."
    When both of their orgasms had finally subsided she still held him close, keeping him from disengaging from her. "Please...please, I want to feel you now, like you are, just for a little while longer."
    He laughed against her. "I'm not moving ever again, eh."
    "So we're gonna fight like this, eh? That'll be good for the team's image."
    Chuckling, he shrugged. "Just wait until Clarke finds out. He'll have his own private fit."
    Laughing even harder, a note of wry amusement crept into her voice. "Clarke? Wait until *Logan* finds out!"
    He held her close. "So . . . . feel like sleeping, future Mrs. Judd?"
    Smiling, she reached down and touched the slippery condom, still dangling limply. "I don't know -- do you think we could survive that twice in one night?"
    Sighing, he grinned up at her. "Gimme another half an hour and I'll show you just what you can survive."
    And he did just that. For the record, she survived nicely.

    Chapter 46
    Forbidden Love...Or Is It?
    By Sue Wong

    Snowbird watched the transformed image of her small son, in the form of a small falcon, circling the field just beyond Department H. The sun was just beginning to set, painting the sky with vivid pink, deep blue, dusky purple.
    Once...twice...three times.... Suddenly, he went into a dive, plummeting to the ground, pouncing onto the small animal just out of sight.
    Success!
    Snowbird gasped, clasping her hands in delight. Richard Peregrine Thompson, in the chosen form of his avatar, was now blooded! He had not only taken on the form, but the complete lifestyle, of the gyrfalcon. A development of which she could be justly proud. It was too bad that Douglas was not here to share it with her.... She shook her head. _I must not think of that now...._
    The small gyrfalcon flew swiftly towards her then, landing on the ground before her. The young bird's form began to flow upwards... changing into that of a young boy about six years old to human eyes. Even within the past few days, he had continued to grow and change beyond infancy. Now, he threw himself into her arms.
    "Mother, I caught a MOUSE! Did I do good?"
    "You did _well_, my sweet son," Snowbird said on a laughing note, caressing the boy's pale blond hair, so like her own. "But, it grows late.
    Now that you have had your dinner..." she smiled faintly at this, "....you may play inside for a while before your bedtime." They were walking to the entrance of the building, when a familiar man's voice stopped them.
    "Good job, son! You're going to be a regular chip off your mommy, aren't you?"
    "James MacDonald Hudson!" Snowbird gasped. "I had no idea...."
    "I happened to step outside for a breath of fresh air when I saw you two on the edge of the field." Mac Hudson, resplendent in his maple-leaf costume, approached them from just outside the door. "I had a feeling something big was up, and you didn't disappoint me. Looks like this little fellow is almost ready to be a member of the Flight, aren't you, son?"
    "Yes, sir," Richard said, awed at the attention this striking figure of a man was giving him.
    "He is now fully blooded," said Snowbird. She was hard-pressed to keep the pride out of her voice. "We have been working on this for days now. And I am most proud that he has accomplished this most important goal."
    "Well, that's fine," Mac Hudson continued, looking affectionately down on the handsome little boy. "It's too bad Doug Thompson isn't here to see this. I can imagine how proud his father would be."
    "Yes," Snowbird said with surprising shortness. James Hudson's comment had stirred a faint memory in her... a flicker of remembrance....
    "Well, I can goof off only so long. Wyre will be wondering where I've gotten to. It's so hard to pin that man down sometimes, and I have a few dozen things to discuss with him. Take care. So long, little fellow." Hudson waved, and then, opened the door for Snowbird and her son, ushered them in, and then, took off down the hall.
    Snowbird, with her hand on her son's arm, stood for a long time looking after him.
    _I can imagine how proud his father would be...._
    There it was again.
    _ Oh, James MacDonald Hudson_, Snowbird sighed within herself. _If things had been different, you would have been his father...._


    Narya had not understood the intensity of her feelings the first time she had met James MacDonald Hudson. Perhaps, it was this feeling that had made her so quick to join James Hudson's fledgling team, when Michael Twoyoungmen was urging her to hold back. Narya only knew that she wanted to be with James Hudson, to prove her worthiness to the team, to make him so proud that.... he would want her as much as she wanted him.
    So, in those earliest days of Alpha Flight, she progressed quickly through the ranks, honing her skills, delighting in his praise, and feeling her attraction growing stronger with each passing day.
    When the time was right, she would let him know how she felt.
    The time was right one day when Heather Hudson (whom Snowbird had conveniently forgotten) was working for her then-boss, Mr. Beresford. Alpha Flight --then composed of Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Shaman, Vindicator, and Snowbird-- had just finished a particularly grueling maneuver in their training room. The others had departed for the showers but Snowbird had lingered behind with James Hudson to have a private word with him.
    "You were excellent today, Snowbird," Hudson --then known as Vindicator-- said.
    "Indeed, James Hudson?" Snowbird queried, edging closer to his side.
    "Definitely. I loved your save of Northstar from Sasquatch. It's this kind of teamwork that will put us right up there with the Avengers."
    "I am most gratified to hear you say that." Snowbird moved around so that she was directly in front of him. The glowing presence of James Hudson in his Vindicator costume was a powerful attraction for her. She could feel her veins pulsing with liquid fire... the heat spreading throughout her body.
    _ Now... now... show him now...._
    And then, she had her arms wrapped around him, her lips seeking his, and far from satisfying her needs right then, her all-encompassing lust increased.... She was consumed by it, and she was about to consume James Hudson with it.....
    "NARYA!"
    Michael's voice was like a crack of thunder across the quiet room.
    Snowbird reeled backward from Vindicator. Her arms dropped limply to her sides. Only now did she realize that James Hudson had not embraced her back. He stood there looking totally bewildered, taken aback.
    Snowbird was aware of her own heart pounding resoundingly into the silence.
    Michael crossed the room in only a few strides. He seized Snowbird's arm. "Narya! What are you doing?"
    Vindicator recovered, then. He smiled sheepishly. "Er... I was just complimenting Snowbird on her performance today, and she was showing me her gratitude, no doubt."
    Michael's mouth hardened into a thin, hard line. He was no fool. He had long suspected the intensity of Narya's attraction to James MacDonald Hudson, but he had hoped that her infatuation would burn out of its own accord. Now, he could see that he had waited too long. The situation would have to be corrected before any more harm could be done.
    "James, I should like a private word with Narya. Is there an empty room available?"
    "Yes, the conference room is unoccupied at this time of day. Be my guest."
    "Very well. Come along, Narya." Michael continued to hold Snowbird's arm as he led her out of the room. "And, James..." he paused and turned in the doorway," I think there is no need to let Heather know what has transpired here today."
    James Hudson straightened himself to his full height. He was no fool, either. Any scandal, or potential scandal, could wreck Alpha Flight. What with the hassles he was getting from the government lately, he didn't need this headache. And why hurt Heather? "I understand. We'll all just forget it. Permanently."
    With that, Snowbird felt herself propelled into the hallway and down the length of the corridor into the conference room.
    Michael closed the door. Tightly.
    And for the next forty-five minutes, Snowbird received a stern lecture on the great harm she had almost done. How James Hudson had done a lot for her in training her to be a champion for the land. How Heather Hudson was her friend. How any scandal could destroy Alpha Flight -- did Narya want that? And did Narya also understand about the institution of marriage?
    True, Narya's parents had never been married, and Narya had not grown up in a traditional family. But was that any reason to insinuate herself between a husband and wife? Did Narya understand now why any relationship between herself and James Hudson was impossibility?
    Yes, Narya understood. And she emerged from the experience totally chastened, and completely in control of her fiery impulses. Indeed, from that moment on, she pushed any such feelings down deep inside her, so far in fact, that she became known to her fellow teammates as "the ice queen".
    And then, Douglas Thompson had come along.....

    Snowbird stirred slightly, bringing herself quickly across the years into the present. So much had happened since those earliest days of Alpha Flight. She had met Doug Thompson. They had fallen in love, married, had a son. And then, tragedy.... No! No more of that!
    Richard had given her something to live for. And that would probably be enough.

    It was much, much later that night that Snowbird closed the door softly on her small son's room. She walked stealthily down the hallway. The full moon was up, she knew. Perhaps, she could get in a little hunting now herself....
    Then, she saw Judd's door open. Heather Hudson slipped out, followed by Judd. They turned to each other, embraced, kissed deeply. And kissed again.
    Snowbird stood still in the darkness.
    "I'll call my lawyer first thing in the morning," Heather was saying.
    "All right,," Judd said matter-of-factly. "But, what I'm worried about is... how's Mac going to take it, eh?"
    "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," Heather continued. "But maybe it won't be so hard on him after all. We haven't been together in so long a divorce won't be such a great shock to him as you might think."
    "Well, I hope not," Judd said, with some concern, "Well, good night."
    "Good night, darling Judd."
    Judd's door closed. Heather continued down the hallway. She didn't see Snowbird, who had slipped into a shadow before Heather passed by.
    Snowbird stood stock-still for a long time after Heather was gone. But while her form was still, her thoughts were not.
    A divorce... for all her mystic precognitions, Snowbird had never taken into account that this might happen to James Hudson. He and Heather had always been so devoted. But now... in a flash of lightning, everything had changed.
    Snowbird once had pushed aside her own feelings for James Hudson. She had long ago dismissed her love as part of a no-win situation. Now that James Hudson's world was about to fall apart, Snowbird realized that he might need comfort. A great deal of it.
    Snowbird began to smile in the darkness. She was beginning to realize that here was a game that she might win.


    Chapter 45
    The Passing of Innocence
    By The Ancient One (aka Del Robinson)

    A graveyard, to many people's minds, is a place of peace and serenity, a place where you can sit and ponder the passing of a loved one, the thoughts of promises unfulfilled, what might have been, but for the indiscriminate stone-cold touch of death.
    To the figure standing beneath the Yew tree, the graveyard had been like a beacon, the dank damp stench of decay and death, beyond the ken of ordinary mortals, had assailed his nostrils and the familiarity of the aroma had bought him a comfort unknown since his return to this plain of reality. To him the graveyard represented opportunities not yet discovered and a possible source of future allies, but not yet, "Vengeance is mine sayeth the lord,.... not this time, for today vengeance is mine and I owe allegiance to a different being".
    Pushing away from the tree, he began a slow walk towards the man-made citadel, silhouetted by the clouded moonlight, "Tonight Halfling cow, vengeance is mine!!".

    She lay, bathed in the afterglow of lovemaking, a tiny tear escaped from the corner of her eye, a tear of joy?. She had not intended to return after leaving his room earlier, she had wanted time away from the unbridled passion she felt while around him, time to perhaps take stock of all that had happened and try and figure out her conflicting feelings. Either thought or urgings had drawn her back to his room, he had been surprised to see her so soon, but one look into his eyes had weakened any reservations she might have had, this time the love making had been more primal in its form, his fingers and tongue had awoken instincts within her she had never thought possible, this time emotional love had given way to the need to pleasure each other in other ways, now she rested. Regular breathing from behind her, a pointer to Judd's slumber, his breath an intermittent breeze which just added to her comfort, a left arm draped over her, rubbed fingers brushing slightly against her breast, his member, now flaccid, nestled in the small of her back. For now she was contented, but she knew the hardest part was to come, telling Mac. She rolled over and stared at the stunted figure beside her, his scent, a familiar thing, but now with added connotations, she kissed the hairless dome and sighed, once more she breathed in the scent, it triggered a sense of wellbeing, sleep claimed her before the aroma faded.

    2 am
    Snowbird laid the sleeping child down, tonight, for some reason he had been agitated. Even now, asleep, he fidgeted, his arms and fingers a constant whirr of movement. Maybe it was a consequence of his first kill, she thought back to that moment, his wings a blur, a swoop and the cry of triumph, he had talked about that moment for most of the evening, but now his agitation seemed centered elsewhere. If he was still this restless and unsettled in the morning she would have to ask Michael for his opinions.
    She slumped in the chair, five minutes to let him settle and then she would take herself to bed. Her thoughts turned to Heather and Judd, should she say anything, what could she say?, she had a task to finish, then there was Doug in the realm of the Gods, waiting for her return, but more and more she felt that she belonged here, would she be called back when her earthly endeavors had been completed?, her re-awakened feelings for Mac another part of the ever evolving equation, a flashing red light drew her from her thoughts, it was the intercom which every quarters within the building had, pulling her protesting body from the chair, Snowbird made her way across to the intercom.
    "Yes....., don't you know what time it is?", "Sorry, this is reception area, we have a man down here, who says he knows you and that he must see you now",
    "Who is it?",
    "He won't say, all he said is he must see you and you would know him when you saw him",
    "OK, I'm coming down, can you send someone up to watch my child while I'm gone",
    "No problem, I'll have someone stand by the door until you get back".
    Snowbird enjoyed the Department at this time of night, she heard the humming of electricity, feeding countless systems, as it passed along cables hidden by the walls, data was being constantly fed along parallel fiber optics, yet for all this, the absence of human activity gave her a sense of serenity. The elevator stopped and gave her access to the ground floor, through the reinforced wire glass, she could just make out two figures, the receptionist and one other. A sense of familiarity overcame her, for a brief moment dizziness overwhelmed her, steadying herself she pushed open the doors.
    "Snowbird, I'm sorry to disturb you, but this man says..............." Narya, was no longer listening, she was trying to take in what she saw before her,
    "Doug?",
    "Narya, I, I err......",
    Conflicting emotions rose through the turmoil in her mind, Doug, but how?
    and what of Mac?, Richard's reaction, should she rush to Doug, human mind versus Godlike logic, instead of outpourings of feelings, a simple phrase was all she could muster.
    "How?",
    "Later, please.......... could I see our son?" He walked slowly towards her, arms outstretched, a flash of eldritch fire, tinged with feral yellow blazed briefly in his eyes, they came together and held each other tight. Walking back to her apartment he explained his reappearance as best he could,
    "I don't know how long it was after I came awake that total knowledge of all that had happened came back to me, I wandered for days and eventually managed to make my way here, I've spent the last few hours trying to think what I would say when I first saw you, but it completely left my mind, seeing Richard will make everything complete".
    Arriving back at her apartment, she waved the security guard away, "It's OK, you can go now, thanks for looking out for him".

    Shaman came awake suddenly, something was wrong, he didn't know what, but somehow there was great danger close at hand, he rose and hurried to get dressed.
    Heather shook the inert form next to her, "Judd, wake up",
    "Mrs. Hudson please, I am but one man, I need my rest", "No!!, Judd, the alarms are sounding".
    "You are not my husband!!",
    The creature turned, mocking, using Doug's voice, it's face laid open to the bone,
    "Don't you know me mother?, why, I have you to thank for life, do you think I would not come and see my own brethren".
    Snowbird backed away, it had all happened so fast, they had entered her home, no warning of the danger to come, the pseudo Doug had walked to where the child slumbered and picked him up. The child, it's eyes suddenly wide in terror had transformed and raked Doug's face with a savagery she had not seen before, Doug had released the child and now stood before her, mocking.
    "Come mother, hug me, hug the fruits of your labors", "Pestilence!, you are no brethren of mine, what do you want", "I thought that would be obvious mother, I want you and that thing," he gestured towards Richard's bed," dead, you didn't have the decency to stay dead last time, maybe this time you might get the message", "It will take more than a sad pathetic man with delusions of grandeur to kill us, Crozier",
    "Oh mother, I thought you were better than insults,............by the way, do you like my form?, I chose it especially, don't you think I wear it better than that sad pathetic man you called darling?", Snowbird had managed to maneuver herself towards her bed, with a sudden dart, she pulled the alarm cord hanging by her bed.
    "Did I ever tell you the joy I got, when I infected his flimsy human form with corruption, you left him, you left him to die in his own filth, .........now you entertain thoughts of the half man, Hudson. Your Doug?, you no more care for him than you do for your children, come mother show some passion, show me you have fire in your belly, I am going to kill you and then I intend to take my time with your son, first I'll corrupt his soul and when he is ready I'll show him what could be his, then tear it away from him, I'll take it all, imagine my power.", "The first time we met, I was weakened, with child, the second time, I made a mistake, I assumed a form you could manipulate, now look hard Pestilence, remember what you see for the rest of your life, I call these my true fires, look hard at my face for it is the last thing you will ever see".
    Her face transformed, for the first time since he returned, he was no longer sure of his supremacy. Snowbird walked towards him, her right arm, extended before her, drove hard against his chest, he felt bones crack, her hand entered into his chest searching for the pulsating organ, found, she twisted and pulled until it lay in her hand. She raised the now still heart above her as if making an offering, a bestial cry seemed to grow in her throat, pulling her hands towards her, she prepared to feed.
    "Narya, no!!",
    Shaman and Hudson stood in the doorway, again her face transformed, tears came to her eyes,
    "Michael, it was......",
    sobs broke from the young woman, at that moment Puck and Heather arrived, he in boxer shorts, she in Puck's dressing gown, "What's happened?",
    Mac looked, realization spreading across his face, firstly at his wife and then at one of his closest friends,
    "Heather...?, Puck....?",
    he walked past them both and out into the corridor. In the room Snowbird rose and approached her sobbing child, he had curled himself up into the fetal position, the position, that in his short life had offered him the most security,
    "Richard, it's all right, mummie's here", The child's true fires burnt across his face, "Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!",
    the child collapsed, repeating the same word, over and over, "Daddy, daddy, daddy, da............."
    A cloud-like wraith, stole into the night, like the predatory hunter it was, it was already hunting it's next prey.


    Chapter 46
    Break Out

    By Mike Morgado
    "Mr. McCauley, I do believe if we were to have our skirmish now, I would be at a disadvantage", Donavon said from the corner of the lab.
    "You, your that punk kid cop who attacked me", McCauley growled as he transformed back into his sasquatch form.
    "How did you get back in here?" Moira Harrison asked.
    "I let myself back in. I couldn't, in good conscience, let you keep creating clones. Oh and before you do anything stupid, I've rigged the base with enough explosives that would even take you out big guy", Donavon mentioned as he lit a cigarette and smiled. "By my watch you have about five minutes to get everyone clear of the base."
    McCauley looked around confused.
    "Were not through yet punk. I'll catch up with you some other time. No one beats Traction and gets away with it." Then Traction jumped through a wall on the fifth floor and ran into the woods with thundering footsteps.
    "Your bluffing", Moira yelled.
    "You willing to take that risk?"
    "You’re a government agent for crying out loud. This is treason."
    "This is RIGHT!"
    Moira Harrison turned and ran out of the room. Walker looked at his watch.
    Damn, two and a half minutes, this is going to be close, Donavon thought as he ran down to the secret cloning lab. As he turned the corner of the hall he ran straight into an armed guard.
    "Don't move," the guard ordered.
    "What the hell are you doing here? Haven't you heard that we're evacuating the compound? Some psycho is planning on sending us straight to hell," Walker bluffed.
    "But…"
    "No buts about it pal. You may be older than me, but I'm your superior. So get the hell out of here now before I have you arrested, understand?"
    "Yes sir!" The guard left his post.
    Donavon Walker smiled as he looked at the thick metal door blocking his way. God, I love explosives, he thought as blew the door open. The lab was empty, empty except the female, floating in the greenish liquid.
    Walker looked at his watch again, one and half minutes. Sweat started to bead on Walker's forehead. He pressed a series of buttons and the glass chamber began to empty its contents. The blonde female spilled into Donavon's arms, unconscious and naked. Donavon lifted her effortlessly and ran. He had to time this perfectly. The way he had rigged the explosives would give him a clear path out of here, but he couldn't be off by a second or a centimeter. One or the other and he was dead.
    The compound exploded. Flame and debris shot by Walker missing him by inches. Within five minutes he was in his car, watching the flaming RCMP station burn to the ground. He had taken off his trench coat and covered up the clone sitting in his passenger seat. His cell phone rang.
    "Agent Walker."
    "Walker? Where the hell are you? We send you to find Alpha Flight and you get lost?", came the voice on the other end.
    "General Clarke, how the hell are you? For your information, I was with Alpha Flight for a while. They just didn't know it. We were both captured by Flashback. They escaped, and I escaped later on my own. However sir, I have been doing a little investigating, and found some rather shady goings on with in the government."
    "Walker, don't going but your nose where it doesn't belong," Clarke ordered. "Hold on, I have an important call coming in."
    Donavon smiled as he lit another cigarette and watched fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and paramedics drive up to the devastated RCMP station. He turned his head to look at the woman beside him. He couldn't stop staring, she was so beautiful. She was approximately the same age as him, around twenty-five, they must not have finished aging her. She had very delicate features with long blonde hair.
    "DONAVON!!, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" Clarke yelled into the phone. It jarred Donavon back to reality.
    "Huh, what sir?"
    "You blew up an RCMP complex?"
    "Uhm, yes sir, I did. They were doing something immoral so I stopped it."
    "Walker, get your ass back here and turn yourself in," Clarke ordered.
    "Yeah, right. Oh if you haven't figured it out yet, I quit"
    "You got nowhere to run Walker, I'll have every authority on your ass before sunrise. I'll even get Alpha Flight to hunt you down."
    "You forget baldy, I've been collecting secrets since I started working for the government and the position of "watcher" let me learn a lot of secrets.
    I'd sleep with the night light on now if I were you General. You never know what's lurking in the shadows, and you never know what's watching you.
    Remember this is the kind of thing the government trained me for."
    With that Donavon hung up the phone and though the cell phone out the car window and started driving down the street. The woman in his passenger seat started coughing. Her eyes opened and she looked around. She appeared to be frightened.
    "It's okay, your safe now", Donavon tried to comfort her.
    "Who, who are you? Where am I? What's going on?"
    "Well, I'm Donavon Walker, a government agent, uhm make that former government agent. You’re in my car, headed towards Toronto. And we are on the run from the government. I plan on destroying a government complex that is less than spotless. So, now onto you. What's the last thing you remember?"
    "I, I, I don't remember anything. I don't even know my name", the woman answered almost in tears.
    "Hey, that's okay. We'll just call you Anne. How's that sound? Don't worry everything's going to be all right."
    Donavon reached over and placed his hand on Anne's and gave it a squeeze.
    "Everything's going to be all right", Donavon said aloud again.
    Oh man, if Department H sends Alpha Flight after us, we're screwed!, Donavon thought to himself.

    In a bar somewhere in Toronto a man drinks to forget his problems.
    "Give me another!", Mac ordered.
    "I think you've had enough," the bartender retorted.
    "DO I LOOK LIKE I'M DONE," Mac yelled. He was usually a calm man, but the events of tonight have left him a bit unsettled.
    The bartender placed a half empty bottle of whiskey in front of the cyborg.
    "Knock yourself out."
    Mac picked up the bottle and smiled.


    Chapter 47
    "Defeat From Within."

    From: Adam-X
    Sometimes you just don't know what kind of curve ball life is going to throw you. And sometimes, there's going to be curve balls that will put you right over the edge.
    Welcome to Mac Hudson's life.
    He's officially given up every dream he's ever owned, for one more glass of stinging liquid to numb his pain. Here, no one knows Mac for who he is. This is just how he wants it. Perhaps forever, if he could have his way. Here, no one knew him, so no one could betray him. No one could leave him. There were no friends here, only strangers. Funny, he told himself as he sipped another drink. Isn't that what we really are to one another? We all keep secrets from one another. Even from those we love and trust the most. Why is that? He didn't care to think the answer through. He only wanted one more drink, time and time again, to take away every ounce of pain in his heart.
    "… I want a divorce Mac…"
    Another drink now!
    "… I know I should have got a divorce before this happened…"
    The pain was racking his heart.
    "… but Puck and I… we…"
    He slammed the glass down and it shattered upon the bar, fragments of glass flying about like meteors… dangerous with their sharp edges.
    He looked at his hand… it bled heavily.
    Red. Red blood. Warm. Red... Red Rum...
    But there was no pain. The alcohol numbed that.
    He sat back and laughed as he never did before.
    He felt, perhaps for the first time, as though he were truly free.
    No Department H. No aliens. No team. No obligations. No responsibilities.
    No more Alpha Flight.
    If Heather wanted to lead… it was all hers for all he cared.
    He wanted nothing to do with Department H, or Alpha Flight, and least of all Heather…
    Shaman held Snowbird closely. "Nayra, are you all right?"
    "It was Pestilence," Snowbird wept. "He's come back."
    "I know," Shaman replied, looking into her eyes. "I sensed his presence at the last possible moment."
    "How? Why?" Snowbird asked.
    "Magic was involved," Shaman answered shortly. "That is how I sensed his presence. A deep and terrible magic… and something tells me it may have to do something with the Children of the Great Beasts… though we have not heard from them, I do believe Traction and Devolution remain at large…" He paused. "It would not surprise me if they sought your child.
    His innocence and intense magic could easily be used as a portal, to perhaps open a dark gate."
    "A dark gate?" Snowbird asked. "A dark gate to what?"
    "To that I do not know yet," Shaman said, looking off in the distance. "But I do believe the loss of Walter's power has something to also do with the Great Beasts. When we were captured in a magical sphere, that's when Walter's body began to act strangely. It was shortly after, he realized he could not transform into Sasquatch."
    "But I thought Walter's transforming powers were more a science accident rather than magic?" Snowbird asked, puzzled.
    "Perhaps in the beginning," Shaman answered. "He was exposed to Gamma Rays much like Bruce Banner, who you know is, or was, the Incredible Hulk. But when Walter was exposed, the explosion also caused a small friction between realities, which allowed the great beast known as Sasquatch to slip through and it sought out the first host it could find…"
    "Walter?"
    "Exactly," Shaman whispered. "Exactly… that is why you had to kill him so long ago, when you tore his heart from his chest."
    "Please do not remind me of that time, Michael," Snowbird whispered. "I feel terrible for what I did."
    "You did what had to be done," Michael replied. "The same reason Heather had to originally slay you," Michael finished, not knowing how Snowbird would take the words spoken.
    If she was upset, or any other emotion, she did a wonderful job hiding it.
    In hushed tones, she whispered, "I understand… Sometimes we must do what we know may feel wrong…"
    "Well," Traction hissed. "Your little minion failed you."
    "Do not be so sure of yourself," Devolution chuckled insanely.
    "Disease can be passed by touch alone…"
    "What are you saying?" Traction growled, changing into Sasquatch's form.
    "My furry friend," Devolution cackled. "That child of the insolent Snowbird is dying slowly, as of right now… And there ain't nothing in this pretty little world that can save him, except for you and I…"
    "Why would we save the child?" Traction growled.
    "For a price we would."
    "What price?"
    "To save the child's life, we demand that he use his powers to open the gate so our father can pass into the earth realm."
    "They will never go for it."
    "Then the child will die."
    "So we still wouldn't have the portal open…"
    "But with the child dead, the prophesy spoken can never be completed, and you and I will reign supreme here on Earth while our fathers and cousins remain locked away in a portal that they can't get through…!"
    They say it's wrong.
    But sometimes you have to go with the gut feeling of what you believe to be right.
    Even if it's against the law.
    Welcome Donavon Walker, and his strange female companion.
    Donavon Walker made short work of a cloning facility that was cloning human beings for war, and other purposes. It was an impressive explosion if anything else.
    Somewhere else, at the same time the facility exploded, Roger Boches doubled over in sheer pain, letting out a terrible scream.
    "Roger?" Northstar inquired, running into the room. "I heard you scream."
    Roger was twisting and turning on the floor as if some alien were inside of him trying to break free of its prison. His face was twisted beyond pain. "Roger," Northstar shouted, and bolted through the hall.
    Half way through, he met with Alex.
    "What is it?" Alex asked, grabbing Northstar.
    "It's Roger. He looks terribly ill," Northstar replied, his face ashen white. "I must get to Shaman!" With that, a small boom was all that was left of Jean-Paul's presence. Alex crumbled to the ground. His face fell into his hands. "Jean, if you only knew how sick I was… and that I am HIV positive…"
    Northstar ran into Snowbird's room where Shaman was looking after Snowbird and her child. Northstar noticed a worried glance on Shaman's face. Shaman looked up, it seemed each day aged him another year. "Yes Jean-Paul?"
    "Shaman, you must come with me. It's Roger. He screamed. I found him and he looks terribly ill!"
    "No!" Shaman whispered. With his magic, he teleported to Roger, arriving even before the speedster. Northstar.
    Shaman placed his hand on Roger's forehead. "He's burning up with a fever." Immediately he cast magic over Roger…
    It radiated a cool, soft blue. Good, he told himself. He had feared that Pestilence was still alive and was now using Roger as a host; but such was not the case. He immediately had Jean-Paul carry Roger to the intensive care - a teleport with magic might be too much of a strain on Roger's body…
    Darkness.
    This is what he liked.
    "You might as well come out of hiding boy," his chilling voice called out into the moonless night. "Sooner or later I will find you. And when I do I will have a bullet ready to pierce your flesh, and go through your heart, ripping everything inside of you out, as the bullet exits the back of your body."
    His name is Scalphunter. He's a part of what is known as the Marauders. He is after a mutant by the name of Vincent Hall, also known as Minaret in the circus life he once led. "You make have caked over a few of my team members, but your weakness is you don't kill. I do.
    Without a second thought. I live for it. I drink the blood of the innocent I spill, just to get to know them as their dying eyes look up at me." He looked around. "Canada, huh? Interesting place to run. Too bad we don't run under United States laws. We kill wherever we might be. So running to Canada won't save you, little boy. As a matter of fact, I have some unfinished business here myself… maybe I should give the ol' chap a call on the … 'wyre'… and tell him that Sinister says hello… and goodbye…" *
    * For more on Vincent Hall (Minaret) and his deal with the Marauders, check out the current fanfic spin off of BoND written by me, called "Next Flight." It can be found on Net Alpha's Fan Fic site.


    Chapter 48
    Sinister Machinations
    By Seng Mah

    It was cold here in H's medi-lab. Roger Bochs fought hard to suppress the anxiety that threatened to overwhelm him. Lying prone on the gurney, subjected to the unrelenting glare of the light above and the scrutiny of H's team of medicos, he felt exposed, vulnerable, a sentiment that he had long banished since acquiring the mobility that came with his ability to phase into the Box armor. The fact that he was almost naked -- clad in nothing but a pair of boxers -- did nothing to improve his mindset.
    "Bio-scans reveal nothing out of the ordinary," one of the white-coats noted, his voice distant, detached.
    The doctor nodded in agreement. He turned to Bochs. "Our examinations indicate that you're in the pink of health for a man your age and size, Roger," he said, his voice warmer than the other's. "For the life of me, I cannot account for what happened to you last night. The attack you experienced was severe, and you had a temperature, but that all vanished an hour or so after you were admitted to intensive care."
    Bochs shrugged as much as he could in his position. "I dunno, Dr. Twoyoungmen. For a moment, it was as if my insides were on fire, and this pain in my chest, in my heart."
    "Your cardiovascular system checks out okay-"
    "Okay for a pudgy paraplegic in a wheelchair, you mean?" Bochs retorted with some humor.
    "You could always get a little more exercise into you, Roger," Michael Twoyoungmen berated gently. "It'll do you a world of good."
    "I'll make sure I do that, once I'm out of this examination table. Scout's honor."
    Michael Twoyoungmen turned to the medic. "I see no reason to keep Roger here." The other man nodded.
    "You make sure you take things easy for a while," Twoyoungmen said. "And keep out of that Box robot too... until you're feeling better."
    "Will do." Bochs gave a mock-salute and grinned. And I feel better already, he told himself.
    Bochs dressed quickly and, with the medic's aid, regained his wheelchair.
    "Remember what I told you, Roger," Michael Twoyoungmen reminded as the stocky man wheeled himself out of the room. "Don't over-exert yourself."
    But Bochs was already gone.
    He returned to his quarters and spent long minutes gazing at the Box robot. The behemoth stood stock still against the wall, its red and chrome body glistening as though newly polished. Why can't I remember, he thought. Last thing on my mind was the fight we had with Deadly Ernest. But according to the others, that was years ago. Old friend, where have the both of us been since then, and why can't I remember anything? He edged the wheelchair closer to the robot. Dr. Twoyoungmen said not to use the robot until I'm certain I'm okay, he thought. But I feel fine now. No pain. No fever. Nothing abnormal.
    He reached out, his fingers brushing against the smooth surface of the robot's leg. A snap of static traveled up his arm, seductive, tantalizing. It's better than sex, he mused. Not that I'd know what sex was since.. well, since that happened, he though, looking briefly at the stumps of his legs.
    There are answers to my questions, he thought, and you and I are going to find them, old friend. He pressed his fingers hard against the alloy of the robot's frame. A single though, a command, crossed his mind.
    "Phase in!"
    Two voices spoke in the shadows of the laboratory hidden underground in a government sponsored facility few knew existed. Only a faint light suffused the darkness, its source, five vats of clear blue fluid through which effervescent bubbles coursed.
    "Our Saskatchewan facility has been compromised," the first, a dry voice, male, rasped. "Agent Walker has gone rogue. There's no telling what he might do. This place may be his next target."
    "If he knew of its existence, which he doesn't," the second speaker said. Her voice too was husky, the strident gravel-voice of a long time smoker. "And Division H will be alerted to his activities. He will be stopped before he can do more damage to the Project."
    "We've been at this too long to see it all go up in flames," the man said, moving closer to study the contents of the first vat. Suspended in the blue solution was a naked man. He was short, bald, compact, with a hirsute, heavily muscled body. Tubes extended from his mouth and nostrils to complex machinery above the vat. More tubes and wiring were attached to his body, inserted into his arms and legs.
    The next vat held a full-figured young woman, her black-tresses dancing in the phosphorescent solution that surrounded her. The one after held another woman, though this one was clearly not human. The hue of her skin, the translucent film between her digits, and the deep viridian of her hair marked her as some otherworldly being. And beyond the strange, alien woman, two more figures floated in blue solution.
    "That makes two we've lost," he said, somewhat wistfully.
    "We have these five yet. All is not lost. Don't be such a pessimist."
    "A pessimist?" the man forced out a hoarse chuckle. "No. Not a pessimist. A realist. We cannot risk exposure, Helen," he said.
    "No. You're right, Richard. Whatever the cost, we must make sure that Walker doesn't go public with his findings."
    Her shoulders trembled a little.
    "What's wrong?" Judd whispered, edging against her back, letting the bristles of his beard rub against her skin. It tickled her, he knew, and she liked it. "Thinking about your blow-out with Mac?"
    She shook her head. "No. It was his decision to make: leaving the Flight. He's a grown man. He can live with its consequences. No, I was just thinking that we'd just got back together and already we're falling apart. So little has changed."
    "The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh," Judd murmured into her ear. He reached around and wrapped his thick arms around her belly. "That's got to be the motto for this team." He grinned in spite of himself, extended one nubby index finger and traced a ticklish circle around her belly button.
    She squirmed. "Stop that," she said, disengaging and rising out of bed. "This is no time for fooling around. Clarke has hit the roof with this most recent revelation and it threatening to withdraw support for the Flight."
    "So what else is new, eh?" Judd grunted, reaching for his briefs and pulling them on under the bedsheets. "But H can't afford to pull the plug now. Not with what's been happening around here. The Beastlings. Pestilence."
    "Yes," Heather said, slipping on her t-shirt and shorts. "It's a good thing we have Michael and Elizabeth. Lord knows what we'd do without them in a situation like this."
    "Speaking of Pestilence, how's Birdie and the kid, eh?"
    Heather shrugged. "It's a bit hard to say with Narya. She's fine, physically, as is Richard. But she keeps a lot to herself. Seeing Doug again after all this time, only to have him revealed as Pestilence... she may be part goddess, but she has mortal feelings... mortal cravings."
    "Like us, eh?" Judd said with a wink. He clambered out of the warmth of the bed and gathered his discarded clothes. "So, we finished for the night?" he asked, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Should I put these on?" He held up his shirt and jeans.
    "Ummm," Heather mused, grinning. "Hold that thought-"
    They lay together, warmed by the heat of their bodies. Under the covers, this close to the other, each felt safe, secure in the fact that he had the other nearby.
    Jean-Paul Beaubier was the first to stir. Emerging out of the slumber, he reached out to touch the shoulder of the man beside him. His fingers traced a gentle line down Alex's cheek, making a tender pirouette along his jawline. Beaubier leaned closer and lay his lips on the back of Alex's neck.
    With a half-whispered murmur, Alex turned. Jean-Paul reacted instinctively, gently drawing the other man close, feeling himself react even before their bodies touched.
    He was fully unprepared for Alex's reaction.
    "No," Alex gasped groggily, pulling himself with a savagery that surprised the young mutant.
    "What is wrong?" Jean-Paul asked, bewilderment, anger, frustration and fear flashing in his eyes.
    Alex rolled out of bed. Rose on shaky legs and pulled on his shorts. "I'm sorry, Jean-Paul," he muttered, leaning against the bedpost. "I- just- don't-"
    "Feel like it?" Jean-Paul finished for him.
    Helplessly, Alex nodded, suddenly aware at how contrived and deliberate his lie must sound to Jean-Paul.
    "It's not-" he began.
    "Not me? But you?" Jean Paul too rose and drew on a bath robe. "I have heard that before. But not from you," he said. "Something is wrong."
    I can't lie, Alex thought. Not to him. It'd make it worse.
    "I-" he began, then sensed that if he were to continue, his voice would falter and his emotions would get the better of him.
    Jean-Paul walked around the bed and enfolded him in his arms. "Whatever it is, we will deal with it together," he whispered into Alex's ear.
    "I don't know, Jean-Paul. Don't know if we can."
    "We will," Jean-Paul said firmly.
    Alex stepped back. "Okay. But I'll tell you that it's going to hurt both of us in a bad way."
    "What is it?" Jean Paul asked, perplexed.
    Alex fidgeted. "When you were gone -- with Alpha --" He paused, thinking through the thousands of ways he could phrase what came next to blunt the hurt. But there were none. "When you were away, I had slept with another." There. It was out.
    He looked way, suddenly shamed, feeling a pain much worse than the fear and rejection he had felt from his parents on his outing. For them, it was a speaking out of the truth, of what he was. For Jean-Paul, it was the articulation of a betrayal that he had sworn he would never initiate.
    The look in Jean-Paul's eyes intensified the pain.
    "I do not know what to say," Jean Paul finally uttered.
    "Neither do I. But there's more..."
    "More?" Jean Paul laughed, a coarse, strained sound that was totally devoid of humor. "What more can there be?"
    Alex flinched, taken aback by the barb in Jean-Paul's tone.
    "When we- uh- we didn't use any kind of-- protection, and he told me the day after, this man," he said. "Told me that he was HIV positive. I- I went for a test. The results aren't in yet, but I'm almost certain that- that-" His voice broke. He felt the flush of heat rise up his face to his eyes, squeezing tears from him. "I- I'm sorry. I was stupid not to have insisted that he used a condom. But that's the reason why I can't make love with you. I don't want the same thing to happen to you if I-- I mean, if he-- "
    Jean-Paul laughed again, the same awful cackle that drove deep into Alex's heart. "Too late, my friend. You've already brought me into this when we decided that we'd remain... a couple."
    "I won't make excuses for myself," Alex said.
    "Good. Because I'm not looking to excuse you." Jean-Paul snapped. "And I'm not looking to forgive you either." His voice softened, and his expression, then cold and hard with anger, grew more tender. "But I love you. So if you're expecting me to get bitter and resentful and leave, you are going to be disappointed."
    "I- I-" Alex stammered.
    "When will the results be known?" Jean-Paul asked.
    "Um- not until... um... next week."
    Jean-Paul nodded. "And this man. Who is he?"
    "Why?" For a moment, he envisaged Jean-Paul bearing down in a furious rage on the offender.
    "So we can talk to him. Find out more about why he did what he did. Speak to his doctor or the police if we must."
    "Oh."
    "I'm not leaving you alone in this, Alex. God knows I've lived alone long enough myself to know how awful the bite of loneliness can be. So for good or ill, I am in this with you."
    "You're not angry?"
    "Angry? Oh, you bet I am. At you? Definitely. Furious? For sure. But do I hate you, Alex? No. How can I hate someone for whom I feel so much. When this is all over, God help me, I will kill you. But until then..." He let his cheek brush against Alex's, sensing the dampness of spilled tears there. "Until then, we're in this together," he murmured.
    He caught Judd outside the corridor of the mess hall. Within, he heard the Betans in cacophonic play: Whit, and Kara, Laura and Goblyn, their voices raised above the broadcast from the radio.
    "A word with you if I may, friend Judd," he said.
    The dwarf stopped in his tracks, looked up at Michael Twoyoungmen, and sensed that the Shaman had something important that he needed to say.
    "What is it?" he asked, his thick brows furrowing as he contemplated the sobriety on Shaman's face. "You sense the Beastlings stirring, eh? Or it is Pestilence."
    "None of either," Michael Twoyoungmen said. "I was going to speak to you before, but Snowbird's incident took my mind off it. Now that some modicum of sanity has been restored, I can finally get back to it. It's about your relationship with Heather."
    Here goes, Judd thought. I knew it was coming. Not everyone's gonna approve of it. Inwardly, he steeled himself for the lecture from Michael Twoyoungmen, MD and Shaman, one of the most senior member of the Flight. "What of it?" Judd said, almost as if it was an invitation to a challenge. "It's Heather's and my business, eh? Not anyone else's."
    Twoyoungmen shook his head. "You misread my intentions, Judd." A wry smile creased his lips. "Years ago, when we thought Mac dead, I spoke to you about the feelings you had for Heather."
    "I remember. We were at Heather's parents' place... that was when Elizabeth had just put on the talisman."
    "You remember the gist of the conversation?"
    Judd nodded. "Yeah. Sorry, Michael. I guess I was shooting from the hip, eh?"
    "Apology accepted. I just wanted to- ah- how can I ask this delicately?"
    Judd settled back. It was discomfiting seeing this usually stoic and calm man struggle to find words.
    "You and Heather... are the both of you..."
    "Are we sleeping together?" Judd offered helpfully. "You bet'cha." Then: was it a blush creeping over Shaman's cheeks? Judd thought, bemused.
    "Ah- no, that was not what-" Michael Twoyoungmen smiled. "There's no easy way to say this. I'm a doctor and a father, and I thought to tell you that, well, given your - and take no offense at this - respective ages, perhaps you'd have need of..." his voice trailed. Finally, and with an exasperated sigh, he dug into the pocket of his coat and drew out a handful of packets. "Here. Take this. And enjoy."
    Judd accepted the dozen of so packets of condoms that Michael dropped into his hand. He grinned.
    "It's not like I'm, you know, a first-timer," he commented with a sly smile.
    Twoyoungmen cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well, I thought- er-" He looked at his watch. "I have to be going. I told Narya that I'd see to Richard..."
    Judd watched as the Shaman, medicine man of the Sarcee tribe, and world-renowned surgeon, hurry down the corridor. His grin remained with him for the rest of the morning. That night, he put Michael's gifts to good use.
    He had checked into a cheap motel on the highway, seeking to retain his anonymity amid the turbulence that crowded his mind. Without the suit, without the flag, he was just another regular Joe, a nameless, faceless traveler on the road to nowhere. Which was why he was surprised by the knock on his door near midnight.
    "Who is it?" James Hudson croaked, his mind half-deluded with sleep and whisky, as he struggled out of bed.
    "James, it is me," came a familiar female voice.
    "H-Heather?" he drawled, struggling into a pair of jeans and a shirt. He rubbed his chin: he hadn't shaved for three days and the stubble growth was fast approaching a dull beard. "Hang on."
    He flicked open the lock, pulled the door in.
    "James..."
    "Y-you?" Mac stumbled back, surprised.
    "It is me," Narya said as she stepped into the room. Her heightened senses were almost overwhelmed with the stench of sweat and alcohol.
    "What're you doing here?" Mac asked, winding his way to the bed. "How did you find me?"
    "My post-cognitive sight. I used it once before, a long time ago, to find Alpha Flight when we first confronted the Master of the World."
    "Oh, yeah. Guess I forgot about that." He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. "Man, how long did it take you to get here?"
    "A few hours," Snowbird said nonchalantly. "Distance means little to one such as I."
    Mac nodded. "Alright. You're here. What do you want? Did they send you to get me back?" he added with a note of surliness.
    Snowbird shook her head. "No. I came of my own accord. I was... concerned... about you."
    "Yeah. Well. You can go back to H. I'm fine." He turned his back to her and fiddled with a bottle cap he found next to the bed.
    "I needed to see you. To speak to you. The incident with Dou- I mean Pestilence, troubled me. Still troubles me. And Richard too suffers nightmares from it."
    "What has all of this got to do with me?" Mac barked. "Look, the Flight and I are quits, alright? Heather is a capable leader. Hell, she's probably a better leader than I would ever make." He slumped down, wallowing in his own grief. Suddenly, he felt her hand on his shoulder. It was oddly warm, the abrupt contact with another human strangely comforting.
    "Do you remember the time. Years ago, during the early days of the Flight program. When I- I showed you my feelings about you?"
    Mac shifted uneasily. "Uh- you mean. Yeah, I do."
    There was a pause before her voice resumed, this time huskier, more laden with emotion. "I came tonight to tell you that I still have those... feelings for you."
    He turned this time, slowly, and gazed into her dark eyes. A fellow could get lost in there, he thought. "But - what - about - Doug?"
    "I love Doug. He was the first mortal I wed. He is the father of my son. But you, James MacDonald Hudson, you are the first man I loved. Love," she corrected.
    I should get up. Get her out of here before things get worse. It'd kill any chance I have of getting back with Heather.
    But he thought instead of Heather and Judd, and of seeing them partly unclad three nights ago.
    He reached for Snowbird's proffered hand. Clasped it in his own. Rose slowly to his feet.
    And pressed his lips to hers.
    Slowly, lyrically, they sank to his bed.
    "Mommie..."
    His plaintive voice carried across the darkness.
    "Mommie...?" It was a soft cry, a whisper of a frightened child. "I don' feel well..."
    But only silence and the ever-present darkness greeted Richard Peregrine Thompson's call.
    He wiped warm tears from his face and clambered slowly out of his bed. "Mommie..." The pain was growing worse. At first he thought he was being brave withstanding the burning sensation that crept within him. Now, the fire coursed through his veins.
    "It hurts, Mommie..."
    Yet there was no mother, no comforting embrace, no soothing words, to chase away the pain and the fear.
    He made his way to the door, the layout of the room coming clear in his god-sight.
    "Mommie..."
    A figure appeared before him. No, two figures.
    "Hello child," the first one said.
    Richard looked up to the tall, reed-thin man. He sensed that this was bad. This was a bad man. Another man stood behind the first: just as tall, but broad, powerfully muscled. This was a bad man too.
    "Isn't your mummy around?" the thin man asked, his voice low and honeyed.
    Richard shook his head. He was afraid. He looked at the other man -- the big one, but the brute only grinned stupidly at him. "Go away," he tried to say, but fear gripped his throat and stifled his voice.
    "And daddy isn't around either, is he?" the tall man said.
    Richard closed his eyes. Daddie. He pictured a kindly-faced man in his mind, an average-looking man with short-cropped hair, laughing eyes, and a warm smile. He missed his daddy.
    "So you're all alone?" the thin one said. The brute behind him emitted a sound like choked laughter. Richard shrank back to his bed.
    The thin one smiled. "Good."
    Elizabeth Twoyoungmen opened her eyes. They're here, she thought. In a fluid motion, she bolted out of bed and rushed out of the room, careless of the fact that she wore little more than her underwear. With but a thought, she garbed herself in her chosen attire: the red and gold of the Talisman. With another thought, she sent a mystic summons to her father.
    "By Hodiak!" Snowbird screeched in the midst of love-making.
    Mac grunted in both pleasure and pain, the effort and exertion getting to him.
    "My son!" Narya screamed, tearing herself away from him. "I should not have left him!" She spun out of his grasp, he form already flickering, changing.
    "Narya!" Mac shouted after her. "What's going on?"
    "James, my son is in danger. I must go to him." Her transformation was complete. There was a shattering of glass and the great arctic owl was through the window.
    "Dammit," Mac growled, climbing into his clothes. "I thought I'd gotten away from all that." With a thought, he activated the circuits that had been fused with his system. Electromagnetic pulses lifted him off the ground and propelled him out the same window Narya had taken.
    He sped after her in the cold northern night.
    "That scream!" Heather cried, rising from him.
    "Huh?" Judd gasped, his body still aflame with passion. Then, he heard it too: a child's cry, a psychic knife-point to the mind, infused with fear, horror and.. pain.
    "It's Richard. It's got to be!" She was out of bed and grabbing her dressing gown. He, stumbling after her as he struggled to pull on his briefs. They were out in the main corridor in moments, drawn by the sheer panic of the child's telepathic cry for help.
    Elizabeth and Michael were outside Narya's room. Michael lay slumped against the far wall, perspiration drenching his pajamas. Elizabeth, in full Talisman regalia, wove magic that sparked from her fingertips.
    "What happened?" Heather asked.
    "The Beastlings," Michael panted. "They're here. They have Richard." He looked wan, exhausted. "They had set a trap on the door. I tried to counter it, but they were too powerful."
    "Don't lose sleep over it, pops," Elizabeth said. "I've almost got... this... " She gestured and the door collapsed inwards. "Done!"
    Darkness within the room flooded out to engulf them.
    "Watch out!" Elizabeth cried as dark tendrils rose out of the void towards them.
    The alarms rang through Department H, summoning all Alpha and Beta personnel to an emergency. They leaped out of their beds, from each other's arms, hurrying to Corridor 6 on the Residential level. And there, they confronted the Horror.
    The room was empty.
    Judd blinked, hardly crediting his vision. Two seconds ago, they were about to be consumed by some black-tentacle nightmare that leaped out from the room. Then, all of it vanished.
    "Where's Snowbird?" Kara asked, her voice breaking the shocked silence that followed the creature's disappearance.
    Tentatively, Judd stepped into the room, entering the shadows. "Narya?" he called.
    But the room was empty.
    "It's gone," Elizabeth sighed. "The entity I sensed is no longer here."
    "And Richard?" Heather asked.
    Elizabeth shook her head. "I can't sense him either..."
    In a dark laboratory, located beneath a government sponsored installation few knew existed, two bodies lay cold on the floor.
    "Delicious," the being known as Malignance hissed, licking what passed for his lips. He turned his gaze from the five vats, now empty, to five other bodies naked and prone on the floor. However, these bodies drew and exhaled air, their torsos rising and falling in quiet rhythm. "Such fine specimens," he admired. "Perfect."
    He recognized their semblances in the mortals he had battled recently. The battle had cost the life of one of their own -- his brother Retribution -- and that of one of their thralls. The defeat had hurt. Deeply. And earned them the ire of their father: Somon the Artificer. Still, the time for retreat was over. In his brother's name, they would extract grim Retribution from the mortals.
    And what better means than to turn their very selves against them?
    Grinning, Malignance knelt over the two closest bodies, that of a voluptuous young woman and a burly dwarf, and pressed a hand each over their faces. Power sparked from his eyes, his hands glowed, briefly, and then the bodies stirred. Quickly, he proceeded to do the same to the remaining three.
    The dwarf was the first to open his eyes. He looked into the darkness, feeling the cold prickle over his skin, sensed his own nakedness. And saw the stranger.
    "Who're you," he croaked, his voice catching in his throat. His muscles felt leaden, unwieldy, as if he had been asleep too long and his own body had ceased being his. He sensed movement nearby, turned and saw the others.
    "Aurora?" he gasped, reaching for her arm.
    "Who? Oh-" she made a small fearful sound. "Eet ees dark!"
    "Judd?" another voice called. "Where are we?"
    He cast about the darkness, his eyes little able to make anything out apart from the single silent figure crouched nearby. "Don't know, Marrina," he said, carefully rising to his feet. "Maybe he can tell us something." He pointed at the figure.
    "Don't know who you are, buddy," a fourth voice joined the fray. "But you have some explaining to do."
    "Walt? That you?" the dwarf called.
    "Yeah. And I've got Froggie next to me."
    "Do not call me that," a younger, accented voice snapped. "What infernal place is this?"
    "This was your prison," the figure finally spoke, its voice close to a sibilant hiss. "For the last four years, you have languished here. Now, you are free."
    "Free, eh?" the dwarf growled. "And who might you be?"
    "I was Dr. Alexander Malone," said the figure. "Though you will soon know me by another name."
    "Well, I'm impressed, eh. Enough ta knock you silly if you don't come up with the truth soon." He fisted his hands and advanced on the figure.
    Malignance raised his hand, turned it and extended a finger in the direction of the dwarf. He collapsed, squirming, gurgling with pain.
    "Judd!" The alien-looking woman rushed to his side. "What have you done to him, Monster?"
    "Monster?" Malignance smiled, baring his teeth. He retracted the finger. The dwarf fell still, his hoarse breathing filling the silence that ensued.
    "Know this: I can and will kill you. Mercilessly. Painfully. All of you." He clenched his fist suddenly, and the dwarf jolted again, a harsh cry torn from his lips. "See?"
    "What do you want of us?" the man known as Walt demanded.
    "Simple. Nothing short of utter obedience on your part."
    "Northstar bows to no one," the younger man spat. His form blurred, sped towards the figure. Malignance swept up his hands, and the speedster struck an invisible wall. He collapsed with a muffled grunt, out cold on the floor.
    "We waste time with futile games," the figure said. "Rise and come with me." He watched as they tottered unsteadily to their feet, the dwarf still gritting his teeth as if still in pain. "You-" he pointed at the other man. "Carry the foolish one."
    The man hesitated a moment, but complied, heaving his unconscious friend over his shoulder.
    "Where're we going?" the woman asked.
    "You'll see," Malignance hissed. He raised his hands, and a dark wind swept about them, enshrouding them in a spiraling veil dark as a moonless night.
    When it cleared, the laboratory was empty.
    Save for the empty vats.
    And the bodies of the dead.
    Last edited by Tawmis; 08-16-2016 at 05:48 PM.

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