Appearing in "Fighting the Masters"
- Alpha Flight
- Department H
- Sunfire (Shiro Yoshida)
- Lilli - (First appearance)
- General Jeremy Clarke
- Director X
- Doctor Horatio Huxley - (First appearance)
- Coordinator Proctor - (First appearance)
- Doctor Ko Bin Su - (First appearance)
- Lt. Oculus, head of the Monitor Division. (First appearance)
- Semi-Organic Synthoids of the Master of the World
- Miss de la Salle (First appearance)
- more Department H personnel
- Stark Enterprises (Mentioned)
- James Hudson (Mentioned)
- Madison Jeffries (Mentioned)
- Beta Flight (Mentioned)
- Master of the World (Mentioned)
- Epsilon Guard
- Mikey. One of the orphans at Hull house.
- Wolverine (Mentioned)
- Zodiac (Mentioned)
- Myra Haddock (Mentioned)
- Dr. Mobius (Mentioned)
- Manbot (Mentioned)
- Dr. Walter Langkowski (Mentioned)
Synopsis for "Fighting the Masters"
The issue begins with an exterior image of Department H headquarters. The narration explains that it is 5:00 AM and this building never sleeps. Noiseless cranes lift Stark Enterprises. In the darkened offices of the building, "men strangle other men" over office folders. These folders contain documentation that must be destroyed by sunrise. Elsewhere an experimental tank for an unsanctioned experiment is placed into a holding bay. The tank has spent a night being put into infrared tests that have now been completed. In their private quarters, the members of Alpha Flight rest uneasily. An alarm suddenly starts beeping to alert them, and a mechanical voice asks all combat personnel to go to the roof level of sector 2.
The members of Alpha Flight react in different ways and the narrations comment on it. Heather McNeil Hudson listens to the alarm while fully awake and wearing her Vindicator suit. The narration explains that she never went to sleep and could not master the courage to take off her suit. She is fatigued but troubled by her recurring nightmares of her husband dying in an electrical fire.
Guardian has already managed to wear his Guardian's Battle-suit and is rushing for the door of his room. The narration explains that he went from a slumbering young man to superhero in a heartbeat. In mentality, he has also transformed from a 35-year-old scientist to a 19-year-old foot soldier.
Puck has already left his quarters and the narration explains that he was almost ready before the alarm sounded. He has no psychic sense of impending danger, but he was expecting a struggle on this day. Because struggle is what his life has always been about. He is glad to be back to comfortable surroundings and a familiar schedule.
Radius still sleeps in his bed, surrounded by his ever-present force field. He mumbles in his sleep, only slightly annoyed by the alarm. The narration comments that Jared could sleep through armageddon without noticing. He feels insulated, as if his force field serves as a cocoon. It threatens to seal him off from the outside world.
Murmur has managed to get dressed but has yet to leave her room. She is checking out her appearance in front of a mirror. She knows that any conflict could result in her death, but she still wants to look her best.
Flex is fully dressed but hesitates to leave his room. He does not feel ready to fight again and so he waits for someone else to respond first. He wants to ensure that he will not be the first Alphan to reach this problem, whatever it is. His lack of skill in a previous battle resulted in the loss of his teammate Madison Jeffries, who was counting on Flex to save him. Flex still blames himself and fears repeating the experience.
Guardian, Puck, and Vindicator arrive at the expected location separately but concurrently. They meet a fully dressed General Jeremy Clarke, who informs them that there is an intruder at the exterior of the building. Noting that Clarke is wearing a business suit and tie at 5:00 AM, Puck wonders if the General ever sleeps. Clarke cryptically remarks that the world is not set to his schedule. He wants them to apprehend the intruder. Murmur arrives a moment later. Heather is surprised to see Arlette wearing make-up this early in the morning and comments on it.
Guardian takes charge of the present Alphans and starts leading them towards the roof. Flex turns up late and joins the other four on their way. Near the access way to the roof, Heather locates a door that supposedly leads to the Beta Flight wing of the building. She is personally curious, but does not mention her discovery to her teammates. Guardian blows the hatch separating them from the roof. The five Alphans (Flex, Guardian, Murmur, Puck, and Vindicator) jointly enter the roof area and discover that the intruder is their old foe, the Master of the World. The Master seems surprised to see them and comments that he thought there was no Alpha Flight to face him.
Puck starts giving orders. His plan consists of Guardian and Vindicator taking the first strike at their foe, the rest of the Alphans getting behind the Master, except Murmur who must go and bring reinforcements. He suggests that she should bring Sasquatch. Guardian is annoyed and reminds Puck that as the leader, the Guardian is the one that should be giving orders.
The battle begins with Guardian and Vindicator jointly shooting blasts towards the Master. The Master easily stops the blasts and answers them with an electromagnetic pulse, which affects the electromagnetic suit of the Guardian who screams in pain. The pulse also causes the magnetized couplings of a nearby crane to go loose, unleashing its beam towards the helpless Guardian. Vindicator melts the beam to prevent Mac from getting hurt, though the Master observes that she will cause molten ash to rain down on the Guardian. He does not see how is this an improvement for his safety.
Puck surprises the Master by kicking him and shoving him towards Flex. Flex instinctively uses the flat of his hand to hit the Master, who is send flying. Flex himself is quite surprised at what he just did, though Puck congratulates him for a good job. The Master recovers and counterattacks, threatening to turn his opponents into "crippled corpses". Puck and Flex are sent flying away. The Master starts explaining that his intention is to send mankind to its eternal rest. He fails to notice Murmur approaching him from behind. She touches him and commands him to stop.
Murmur holds a seemingly immobilized Master. Puck, who has recovered, wonders what she is doing there, when he has already told her to go and bring reinforcements. She feels insulted that he send the "girl" (herself) to bring reinforcements, instead of realizing what the girl is capable of doing. She claims that she joined Alpha Flight to fight and win. She then brags that she has done both. The Master suddenly grabs her and throws her away, explaining that his mind can not be toyed with. He is supposedly immune to her powers, and was merely playing at her suggestion. Murmur starts falling down from a height, but is soon rescued by Vindicator. She is surprised that Heather cares for her, but Heather points that she cares enough to prevent any of her teammates from falling to their deaths.
Guardian has recovered and shoots a powerful blast at the Master, while commanding him to surrender or phase the consequences. The Master is not impressed and deflects the blast towards Flex and Puck, who are knocked away. The Master brags that only a power from on high will be able to save them now. He is then attacked with a sudden kick from above by Radius, who has finally arrived. The Master is knocked over the edge of the building and falls down. The battle is over, but Murmur soon discovers that the Master never landed. He simply vanished.
Flex complains that he received a head injury during the battle and it hurts. Radius mocks him for it, believing it is something minor. Jared states his belief that life itself hurts, to which Murmur replies that it does not have to hurt. Puck compliments Radius on the effectiveness of his combat moves, but that points that he does not act as a team player. Jared does not care and points that he just saved the entire team. He states his intention to return to his bed. Guardian volunteers to search for the Master, and Vindicator volunteers to join him. But she wants to talk with him while conducting the search.
While flying down in search of the Master, Vindicator asks Guardian what he remembers about their relationship. She wonders whether his regression caused him to forget her. He replies that he does know her, because he was briefed on everything. She asks if they briefed him that Mac is her husband and they have a life together. Guardian replies that he knows about it, but does not have a life with her. She reminds him of his responsibilities to her. He replies that he is only 19-years-old again, and is the leader of Canada's only super team. Most guys his age are playing college hockey. General Clarke keeps reminding him of his huge responsibility to the team and to the country. His whole life right now is really weird, and he is doing the best that he can.
She seems hurt to hear this. Heather claims that she just got Mac back in her life, she can not pretend that their past life does not matter. She lands and runs away on foot, claiming that talking to him was a mistake. Guardian claims that he still finds her "cute". He does not get to explain more as she moves away from him. An Epsilon who Guardian knows by first name arrives and offers help. Guardian comments that he could definitely use some help. Meanwhile, two mysterious figures have witnessed the entire encounter of Heather and Mac. They comment that this was easier than they thought and that Heather will never leave.
The scene shifts to Orloo, and in particular to the Hull House orphanage. Coordinator Proctor visits the place at the request of Miss de la Salle. Beatrice quickly informs Proctor that she has a ripe one (for recruitment) and she is a legacy. This surprises Proctor who though no legacies were on the schedule. Beatrice points that the change of life is not on anyone's schedule. She instructs Proctor to look in the yard. The next image reveals two kids playing Frisbee, while a sullen girl (Lilli) pays no attention to her surroundings. The Frisbee towards her direction and seems about to hit her. It passes harmlessly through her body, as if she was a ghost. Proctor is impresses and says he will remove this girl from Hull House by the next week. He wants Beatrice to prepare the girl for harvesting. He is mildly surprised to feel the ground trembling, but Beatrice assures him it is just a tremor. She informs Proctor they have been having a lot of these tremors lately. They fail to notice a crack forming on the ground, indicating the tremors are having an effect on the area.
The scene shifts to the headquarters of Department H, and in particularly its gymnasium. Puck is exercising there by swinging around on gymnastic rings that hang from the ceiling. Heather enters the gym to exercise as well. She claims that she failed to get back to sleep and asks her teammate whether this is the case with him as well. He answers that he only wakes up late following a hard night on the town. This is is not one of these days. He asks what is the reason behind her insomnia. She answers that she has plenty of things in her mind, mostly things about Mac. She feels that there is something wrong with Mac, and its more than his sudden rejuvenation. She just can not put her finger on what is wrong. Her return to this building has make her sense of unease increase.
Puck muses that Heather has bad luck with the men of Alpha Flight, citing as examples her relationships with Mac and Madison Jeffries. At the mention of "Jeffries", both heroes stop and contemplate that there is something they should know about him. Heather finds it is something on the tip of her tongue, but something that she can not find the voice for. She questions whether Jeffries was here with them. Puck feels the same, but rationalizes that if that "something" was actually important, they would remember it. Two mysterious figures watch and listen to the conversation through a surveillance monitor. They have no idea how the two Alphans still remember Jeffries following their conditioning. They decide to recondition them after they fall asleep this night.
Elsewhere, Murmur has switched to in civilian clothing and is heading towards the Hydroponics Lab of the building. Radius is already there, working on something. She asks him to join her to the gym for some exercising. He declines as he wants to finish waxing his snowboard. He is looking forward to using it. She threatens to touch him and make him do whatever she wants. He answers that she could try, but she could never touch him. Jared suddenly takes his snowboard and leaves. Arlette follows him anyway. She asks whether Jared does not want her to touch him. He answers that he actually wants her to touch him. Hell, he would like anyone to touch him. The problem is that his force field prevents anyone from doing. He has given up hope and thinks it can not be done. As they walk away, the two of them pass next to a door leading to the "Helios Project". They pay no attention to the door. As soon as they step away, a scream can be heard through the door.
The scream comes from Sunfire, to which the Helios Project is apparently devoted. ("Helios" is the Greek name for the Sun.) Sunfire asks Dr. Horatio Huxley to stop what causes him the pain. Huxley claims that he was merely attempting to run a chromatospectrograph. Sunfire's rays reacted with the element mist that Huxley introduced. Huxley tells Sunfire to calm himself first and then they will help him out of the container chamber. Shiro protests that he came to Alpha Flight for help, not to be shut in a laboratory and tortured.
Huxley claims that they are actually helping him. He knows that Sunfire came to them by following the advice of Wolverine, and this was the best thing Shiro could have done at this point. He muses that "Logan" himself could benefit from a return visit to Department H. As soon as Sunfire is released from the container chamber, he announces his intention to leave. Huxley denies Shiro permission to do so. He claims that in light of their readings of him, Shiro will have to be quarantined. Because Shiro is dying of radiation poisoning generated by his own powers. Shiro is not pleased to hear that.
The scene moves to Combat Centrale, the room where members of Alpha Flight train in the use of their powers. Vindicator compliments Puck on a good diversion move. Puck wonders where Sasquatch is, as he does not take part in the exercise. Guardian informs him that Sasquatch had to be tranquillized during this morning, after he reportedly tried to eat his feeder. Radius pins Murmur between his legs, while mockingly repeating her threat to touch him. She is clearly in pain. Guardian informs Jared that this kind of force is not necessary, and then calls for a recess to the exercise.
Vindicator confides to Puck that she keeps having hazy thoughts about some villains, called the Zodiac. They are not memories, they feel more like "déjà vu" (French for "already seen") to something that never happened in the first place. Puck claims that he has had similar thoughts lately. Meanwhile, Murmur is still in pain. Suddenly the alarm goes off again, calling on all combat personnel. Guardian figures that the Master has returned. He wants to have the team search the entire building room-by-room. General Clarke objects and orders an individual reconnaissance mission for each member of the Flight.
Clarke sends Puck to search the air ducts, Murmur to search the ground floor, Flex to search the kitchen and cafeteria complex, Guardian to search the storage warehouse levels, Vindicator to search the lab sectors, and Radius to search the sub-basements. Puck feels that he was send to the air ducts because of his small size, and feels insulted. Flex wonders why they fail to go after the Master as a team, and why would the Master invade the kitchen. Guardian wonders why the Department could not use the buildings sensors to pinpoint the intruder's location. Each of the 6 Alphans encounters his/her own version of the Master. Each of these 6 Masters wears a different uniform and greets his opponent with a variation of the phrase "The Master has been awaiting you".
Each version of the Master seems to be adapted to the skills and powers of their opponents. The one facing Puck is firing net bombs, trying to counter the acrobatics-skilled Alpha in nets. Puck finds it curious that a big-time villain with world-conquering aspirations is now interested in invading Department H and fighting Puck himself in hand-to-hand combat. The one facing Murmur is covered in steel armor from head-to-toe, preventing her from touching any area of his skin. Arlette resorts to using her combat skills and starts by copying the move of Radius that was so effective on her. The one facing use is covered in corrosive material and gross-looking. He is chasing a fleeing Flex on foot. Flex is actually scared, but is trying to lead his opponent to the meeting point which the team arranged earlier. The one facing Guardian can nullify electromagnetic forces, rendering the attacks of the Guardian's Battle-suit useless. Guardian resorts to finding a new strategy to face his opponent, reasoning that he is more than just the product of his suit. The one facing Vindicator claims that her geothermal powers will have no effect on him. Heather points that she herself has yet to figure out what her powers can do, but promises to fully test her opponent's theory. She is actually trying to lead him to the meeting point. The one facing Radius has an intangible form that makes Jared's force field useless. Radius tries to lead "Casper" (as he calls him) to the meeting point.
Each of the 6 Alphans arrives at the meeting point, followed by a version of the Master. Puck is the first to realize that they are facing multiple masters. He figures that each Master is geared for its individual opponent. He shouts to the others that the solution is to switch dance partners. They all change sparing partners. The invincible foe of each Alphan turns out to be an easy target for another. The Masters all fall down and the battle is quickly over. Vindicator feels like they have been had. Guardian theorizes that these duplicated were sent by the real Master, but he can not figure the intentions of the villain. Both Puck and Murmur quickly argue that these "robots" may not have been send by the real Master at all.
The suspicions of Puck and Murmur are quickly confirmed. General Clarke introduces the team to Dr. Ko Bin Su of the Department who proceeds to explain that these Masters were creations of the Department. According to Su's explanation, these Master duplicates are not robots. The proper term for them is "semi-organic synthoids". Each of them was custom designed for each of the 6 Alphans for training purposes. The purpose of this exercise was to train the Alphans in using skills other than those inherent to them, while encouraging the individual Alphan's emotional commitment to an existent adversary. The synthoids will become a continuing training tool for the team, as these Masters are able to track their opponents' strategies, adapt to them and change. Were the synthoids more advances, Su claims, they could almost replace Alpha Flight.
Clarke congratulates the team for doing very well in this exercise. Vindicator is annoyed, however. She warns the General not to wake her up for any more surprise field drills. She has been with Alpha Flight for years and she does not need this kind of stress. Clarke reminds her that she is still adapting to a new suit with new capabilities. He also claims that Heather needs whatever the Department tells her she needs. Heather angrily leaves the room, reminding him that she is not Clarke's slave. She is followed by the Guardian who asks her to go out with him and talk. She is pleasantly surprised and accepts the invitation. Clarke dismisses the rest of the team, as he has an important meeting to attend. He takes the time to inform them the new powers which run Department H do not look favorably on insubordination. He warns them not to follow Heather's example in this direction.
General Clarke soon arrives for a meeting at the 66th level of the building. Director X, the "man with the serpent ring" as the narration calls him, is meeting with some of his most trusted "point men". Myra from the Prometheus Division has yet to arrive, but the impatient Director starts the meeting anyway. Clarke reports trouble with Alpha Flight, and that it concerns "Heather" again. Dr. Horatio Huxley observes that it has been nothing but trouble with Alpha Flight. He acts whether they are sure using the team was a good idea. The Director reminds him that it is not his place to decide. He then asks for their reports.
Lt. Occulus of the Monitor Division, who keep surveillance over Alpha Flight, reports that his staff noted two near-violations of regression in Vindicator and Puck. He also reports that Guardian and Vindicator have left the building and have headed into the city. His staff has kept track of them and monitors their meeting at "Scaratino's Pizza". The rest of the Alpha Flight members remain within the building and are all accounted for. He concludes by saying that Dr. Mobius will have Manbot fully operational and ready to return to the team by morning time.
General Clarke reports that his department has launched a two-fold field of study of the 6 core Alpha recruits. Someone else questions why they have only 6 Alphans. Clarke informs them that Madison Jeffries has been abducted and that they are having trouble with "Dr. Walter Langkowski" (the Sasquatch). They have decided to simply tranquilize "Langkowski" and focus their energies on the more controllable subjects.
Coordinator Proctor reports that the Youth Acceleration division has a new harvest set to occur. This time it is a girl (Lilli). She has manifested intangibility, though they have yet to test her powers. He finishes by reporting that this girl is "another legacy".
Dr. Horatio Huxley reports that they have no progress yet with Beta Flight. Sunfire has been told of his condition, as discussed before. Shiro is taking the news better than expected. The Director is pleased with the reports. He wants Manbot returned to the ranks of Alpha Flight by the next "test battery". He is concerned about Heather, who in his eyes seems to be "trouble". he suggests that they should perhaps regress as they did with "Mac".
The story ends with two numbered epilogues. In epilogue 1, Puck is visiting a "doped up" Sasquatch. He wanders why Walter does not look the same or act the same as the teammate he remembers. He promises to help Walter find himself. In epilogue 2, the scene moves to Orloo at the abandoned site of the Cosmic Collector Project. The ground is trembling and a rumbling noise comes from the site, but nobody is there to listen. Suddenly a hand emerges from the ground, signifying that Chinook has returned.
- This issue is the first appearance of Lilli, who would later use the codename Ghost Girl.
- Though mentioned in the story, Alpha Flight members Sasquatch and Manbot do not take part in its events. A drugged Sasquatch has a single-panel cameo at the epilogue.
- The issue introduces several members of the Department H senior staff. Most of them become additions to the supporting cast of the series. Dr. Horatio Huxley is the most prominent character among them.
- The memories of the Alpha Flight members have evidently been altered and manipulated since the previous issue. They no longer seem to remember the battle against the Zodiac or the abduction of Madison Jeffries. These set the pace for the team, with their memories and perceptions frequently altered by the Department.
- The issue reintroduces the concept of Beta Flight, mentioned twice through the story. However, it keeps a mystery about what the Department has planned for this Flight. Previous incarnations of Beta Flight were junior teams of Alpha Flight, where relatively inexperienced heroes trained and improved their skills.
- The Master of the World, the villain on whom the villains of the issue are based, is one of Alpha Flight's major foes. He is effectively an immortal with thousands of years of experience and advanced knowledge of alien technology and science. Curiously, the real Master does not appear at all in Alpha Flight Vol 2. He appeared as a major villain in Heroes for Hire Vol 1 (1997-1999), which was published at about the same time.
- Hull House was previously introduced in Alpha Flight Vol 2 -1 (July, 1997) as the place of employment of Eugene Judd. This issue introduces its affiliation with Department H. which apparently uses it to recruit super-powered teenagers.
- This issue introduced the term "legacy" for the super-powered children of Hull House. While this term was used for four different characters in Alpha Flight, its meaning was never really explained. There were hints that they were children or descendants of older mutants, but this was left unconfirmed.
- Sunfire (Shiro Yoshida) was seeking the help of Department H in the previous issue. He does not seem to enjoy being in their custody.
- The Master of the World version which meets Vindicator calls her "Guardian". This is her previous codename.
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