THE GUARD #20: "It's The End Of The World As We Never Knew It" (December, 2004)
- THE GUARD #20: "It's The End Of The World As We Never Knew It"
[Writer's Note: The Guard has been delayed due to personal
difficulties. We at Alt. Marvel apologize for the lateness. When last
we left our heroes, Pathway was trapped on yet another alternate
Earth, where she finds The Guard with a very different roster;
Scione, Skin and an older Pathway are joined by Speed Demon, Angel,
the Uber-Adaptoid, and their leader, The Wizard. She joins the Guard
of THAT world in an epic battle against the greatest villain they
have ever faced; Manikin! Meanwhile, in our world, our Manikin is
awaiting trial for the murder of two fishermen who themselves
murdered a young Irish mutant. To make matters worse, the Guard's
headquarters has been infiltrated by Emily Parris, a.k.a. The
"So who is this kid?" Pathway asked Skin as they walked up the ramp
towards the staging area.
"We don't know," Skin replied. "We raided the remains of Charles
Xavier's mansion and looked through his records. This kid was
mentioned in the Morlock files. Apparently he was among the Morlocks
who were survived the Great Massacre, but he disappeared soon after.
Scione has been waiting to find him since the day we heard about him."
"Why is she so excited about him?"
"The files say he can negate people's powers. He'd give her a shot at
"How powerful has Manikin become? Can he destroy the world?"
"He's done it already," Skin replied gravely. "There's less than
three percent of the world population left, and his tampering with
Earth's energy field is causing the planet to have massive thermal
shifts. The only hope the world has if we can destroy him." Skin
paused. "So you said you're searching for your sister?"
"Yes," Pathway said.
"I never had a sister," Laura Dean told her younger self. "My mother
had her terminated."
"Before I was born, I sent my sister to Liveworld. She was physically
"How wonderful," Laura Dean replied. "I wish I had had the same
"Are we there yet?" Angel asked from the back of the group.
"Silence, child," The Wizard scolded.
"Why don't we just have the Uber-Adaptoid teleport us to the briefing
room? Or better yet, just teleport us from downstairs?" Angel said.
"You know damned well he can only slide us once a day, and we have to
be at our most prepared. We can't do that unless we're absolutely
ready to go."
Speed Demon appeared in front of them. "Any day now, kiddies. I've
been in the staging area for a full minute already."
They reached the staging area and Wizard turned and addressed his
team. "This may well be it for us. Young lady," he said, looking at
Pathway, "I cannot tell you how bad your timing is. We can't leave
you here, yet there is no way in Hell I can vouch for your safety. If
we fail, the world is likely done with anyway. As such, I encourage
you to use your powers and bail out the instant you are able."
"I can't just leave you guys to die," Pathway said. "There has to be-"
"What?" Scione asked. "What could you possibly do for us? Take us
with you? To where? You want us to leave our world behind to be
destroyed by this madman, so we can play dimensional hopscotch
forever? We won't just run from this fight, child. We're the only
hope this world has."
Pathway looked at the elder Laura Dean, who nodded solemnly at
her. "She's right," the weathered woman said to her younger self. "We
may be doomed, but that doesn't mean we can give up. We may die
trying to stop Manikin, but if we don't, then defeat is assured. But
either way, this is not your fight. You have to leave as soon as you
Pathway nodded. Whatever connection she had with the Manikin of this
world, it wouldn't help. He had already slaughtered Alpha Flight. He
was truly insane. She shuddered, wondering how she would react if the
Whitman Knapp she knew ever went off the deep end. (1)
"Enough. Ready positions, people," The Wizard said. The Guard took up
positions in a rough circle around the Uber-Adaptoid, with their
backs to each other. "In the center, next to the Adaptoid, child.
We'll do our best to protect you."
Pathway stepped next to the Uber-Adaptoid and looked up at the
automoton's face. It bore a striking resemblance to Whirlwind's. The
thought of this reality's versions of her teammates dying saddened
"Now," The Wizard said, nodding at The Uber-Adaptoid.
The teleportation happened so quickly the change in scenery almost
didn't register to Pathway's eyes. In less than a twentieth of a
second, the environment was completely different. There was no burst
of energy, no explosion, no tingly feeling. They were just suddenly
on the edge of a vast grassy plain.
The Wizard looked around, scanning the area. "Adaptoid, do you have a
fix on Mondo?"
"Affirmative," The Adaptoid replied. "Subject: Mondo is 8.2 yards,
bearing 202.5, altitude differential plus 14 feet.
"I'm right here," Mondo said, literally emerging from the side of a
rocky butte. "I was just keeping a low profile."
"Where is the child?" Unuscione nearly bellowed.
"Small town. Two miles west."
"Let's move," The Wizard said, levitating the team. His powers had
been internalized in this world. Pathway still had a hard time
believing that he and Speed Demon were heroes in this world.
[Meanwhile, On Our Earth ]
Manikin scratched at the skin by the edge of his power inhibitor
collar. He had seen a number of these in his days, especially while
helping to quell the riot at the Vault, but this was his first time
wearing one. (2) "Heather."
Heather Hudson walked to the seat next to the cell Manikin was
in. "Whitman. How are you doing?"
"I'm in prison for two counts of murder. How's the leg?" (3)
"This isn't funny," Heather said.
"I'm not kidding," Manikin answered.
"My leg is fine. Whitman, what were you thinking?"
"What was I thinking?" he said, standing up and walking to the bars
of his cell. "Those two ignorant bastards killed a boy and then
chained him in a tarp and sank the body. They killed him because he
was a mutant. Or because he was Irish. Or both. What was I thinking?
I was thinking they deserved to die."
"You are not judge, jury and executioner."
"I dunno, Heath, I'm starting to warm up to that last one."
"Damn you, Manikin, this is SERIOUS!"
"SO AM I!" he bellowed. "It never ends! Magneto goes out and launches
a war on humanity, Xavier and his students stop him, and Xavier makes
the most stirring speech I have ever heard in my life. (4) And within
a couple of weeks, the old prejudices rear their ugly heads again. We
save the Wizard's life, and what does he do? He makes it his mission
to destroy us. (5) We stop someone from destroying the world, and
they just pop back up time and time again. It's useless. The old ways
are dead. I'm tired of the never ending battle."
"We're trying to get you back to Canada. You need mental help,
Whitman. This merger of your forms, the personality conflicts-"
"There's nothing wrong with me, Heather. I am the best of my four
forms. Every positive attribute has been brought together in one
form. I am a new stage of evolution, a higher power. And it's high
time I started to make a difference in the shape of this world."
"You're not God, Whit."
"Not yet, Heather."
"We'll see, won't we?"
Heather rose up. "I'm going to see about getting you transferred to
Glacier Bay. We're reorganizing the Flight, we can protect you. (6)
There are threats against your life."
"Don't bother," Manikin said. "I don't need to be in Canada, even in
their `special security' center. No one can hurt me."
"That collar renders you powerless, Whit."
"Does it?" he said, suddenly appearing next to her.
She took a quick step backwards. "How the Hell-"
Manikin grew visibly angry. "After all we've been through! After all
the years of me being loyal to Alpha Flight, of fighting the good
fight, and you flinch back like that, like I'm some sort of wild
animal?!" He teleported the collar off of his neck and into his
hand. "This collar is designed to stop mutant powers. I'm much more
than a mutant now. Sirius pushed my powers to their limit, and I have
evolved beyond `mutant.' I only wear it because it signifies that I
am not running from this. That I'm willing to deal with whatever they
think should be done. But don't think for one second that they've
`contained' me. I'm here because I WANT to be here. Because I WANT to
show them what a joke their justice system is. Magneto. Sirius. The
Wizard. I'M the only one in prison, and I'M the only one who killed
someone who was actually guilty! I still believe in doing what is
right, and that's why I haven't left yet. I want to see them mess
this up with my own two eyes."
"And if they find you guilty?"
"Have you been listening, Heather? I AM guilty. What do you want to
know? Will I let them punish me? Will I let them put me away? Will I
let them kill me? Is that what you really want to know?"
"Yes," Heather said quietly.
"Well, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?" Manikin said,
teleporting the collar back to his neck and then returning to his
"There," Mondo said, pointing at a small house on the outskirts of a
tiny dusty one street town. "He's holed up in there."
"Is he alone?" the Wizard asked.
"No. Wade is there with him."
"You left WADE with the child?"
"Yes," Mondo said matter-of-factly. "Why not?"
"Wade would- no, WILL- sell him out the first chance he gets!"
"No. Wade fears him."
"What?" Skin said. "Wade doesn't fear anything."
"Except the kid," Mondo said. "He won't even go into the same room."
"Buffoon," The Wizard said.
"Let's go!" Unuscione said. "Now!"
They descended towards the small house. They landed in the dooryard
and approached the small covered step that served as a porch. When he
reached the front door of the house, The Wizard stopped them. "Wade
is very particular about protocol." He turned back and knocked seven
times on the door. "Deadpool," he said loudly. "It's The Wizard. I'm
"No need to shout," Deadpool said from the spot he was hiding under
the porch roof. They all looked up and saw him clinging to the
rafters by his legs with his guns pointed down at their heads. "And I
should shoot you in the head just for calling me Wade. Is this the
`Laura' kid Angel told me about?"
"Get down here," The Wizard said. Deadpool swung his body up and let
his legs lose their grip on the beams, cartwheeling gracefully
through the air and landing on the ground.
"Go right in. He's in the living room."
"Won't you be joining us?" the elder Laura Dean asked.
"Get the Hell out of here. You know what happens if I go near that
little lima bean?" Deadpool drew his finger across his neck.
Unuscione nearly destroyed the doorway rushing into the house. The
Wizard stepped through the doorway, and looked back at Speed
Speed Demon looked nervously at Deadpool, who made another finger
across the neck gesture. "No, I'll stand guard out here, keep an eye
out for Manikin." He reached into his pack and took out a purple
singlet. "Give this to `Mella."
Unuscione stopped in her tracks when she reached the living room.
Sitting on the couch holding a small, tattered teddy bear to his
chest was a small boy with green skin. His face was streaked with
"Are you here to kill Leech?"
"No," Unuscione said. "We're here to protect you." She walked forward
tentatively. "There's a bad man, and he wants to hurt you. But we
won't let him." As she approached, her field diminished in intensity
with every step. She looked around in amazement, and started to cry
"Why is shimmery lady crying?" Leech said.
"I am happy," she said, as her field disappeared completely, and her
feet touched the ground for the first time since The Mimic had
amplified her powers. She looked around and saw a mirror on the wall.
She stepped towards it and looked at her face, haggard and weathered.
He body was a disgusting mess lacking any kind of hygienic upkeep.
But she was bare. No energy field. She had never felt so free. She
looked back at Leech and smiled.
Leech began to smile as well, but quickly stopped when Unuscione
smashed her fist into the mirror, sending sharp shards cascading to
the ground. She picked one of them up and walked towards Leech. "I'm
only gonna take a little bit. I promise I won't kill you. But I need
a part of you to keep me from going back to what I was."
Leech recoiled in fear and instinctively turned up his powers. The
only effect it had was to prevent the others from using theirs to
"Carmella! Don't!" Skin yelled.
"I just want to cut a little piece of his skin. See if it will keep
my powers from reactivating," she said. "I promise. I won't kill him."
"No!" Mondo yelled, grabbing her by the arm.
The wall suddenly exploded inward, and Speed Demon flew through the
opening unconscious. He was about to hit the ground when his black,
oily suit speared tendrils out and softened his landing. Outside, the
Uber-Adaptoid's mechanical form was splayed out like a technological
"He's here!" Deadpool screamed from outside before he was covered in
a thick, pink fluid. His skin immediately began to smoke as proto-
acid devoured his flesh. His regeneration factor created new skin to
replace it, but it too was eaten away. Deadpool screamed in agony and
dropped to the ground as the horrific cycle continued.
As The Wizard turned to look outside, Unuscione sliced at Mondo's
arm, creating a deep gash. She lunged and caught Leech by the collar
of his sweatshirt, and yanked him forward. "I need it! Just a tiny
piece!" she screamed. She pulled the jagged shard of mirror behind
her, rearing back to carve off a piece of Leech's arm, and was struck
in the forehead by a highly focused beam of energy. The piece of
mirror fell from her hand, and her eyes went completely blank as
smoke wafted from the drink stirrer-sized hole that had been burned
through her skull. Her form slowly fell backwards.
Speed Demon came to almost instantly, and looked over to where
Unuscione's body lay in a heap.
"NO!" he screamed, and simply disappeared. The world around him
seemed to freeze as he accelerated at maximum speed and left the
house. In front of him, the glowing avataristic form of Manikin
hovered in front of him. "You murderer! I will kill you!"
"Unlikely," Manikin said as he fired pencil thin beams in a wide
pattern. Speed Demon, still moving at super speed, ran into multiple
beams, and his legs and arms were neatly sliced off. His costume,
which had seemed to have a life of his own, instantly flared into a
full-fledged symbiote defensive mode. It grabbed the limbs and
brought them back into position, the microscopic tendrils working to
reattach the nerves and blood vessels. It sprouted tendrils with
spikes and claws, swinging them wildly in front of itself, trying to
deter any form of physical attack. Speed Demon's body was losing
blood quickly, and the symbiote tried to save its host, but it was
obvious the battle would be lost soon. Manikin fired another stream
of proto-acid at Speed Demon, and the symbiote abandoned all pretense
of saving anything but itself. It detached from Speed Demon's body,
which died as it hit the ground, and leapt in insane arcs like a
slinky across the dirt. It headed towards the senior Laura Dean, who
screamed as the symbiote enshrouded her form.
The Wizard levitated Leech and began moving him towards the front of
the house. "There's no more time! We have to take him out! Turn off
his powers!" he yelled at Leech.
Manikin decapitated Leech with a single blast.
"Fool!" Manikin said. "He can't stop me! Neither can you!" He
teleported the right half of the Wizard's body three inches to the
right, splitting him cleanly down the middle like a ripe piece of
fruit. The two halves dropped and Pathway screamed in horror. Angel
tried to fly as high as she could reach, but Manikin blasted her from
the sky. She hit the ground with a heavy thump.
Skin grabbed Pathway and pulled her back towards the house. "It's
over, chica. If you are ever leaving, it's got to be now."
"No! How can he do this?!?" Pathway said, her eyes streaming tears.
Mondo transformed into solid adamantium and deflected one of
Manikin's energy beams. "Go now. It's over."
"WHITMAN!" Pathway pleaded. "What has happened to you? How could you
"Laura?" Manikin said, confused. "How did you get so young again?" He
looked over to where Laura Dean's adult form writhed under the
smothering influence of the symbiote, struggling to escape and not be
overwhelmed. "Another trick. It won't do you any good."
"It's not a trick! I'm from another world! A world where you were
kidnapped and tortured by Sirius, but you never resorted to becoming
a genocidal monster!" she screamed.
Manikin smiled. "It's only genocide if you focus on one race. I'm not
particular about who I kill, girl."
"Neither am I," a voice said from behind her. A thick green energy
bubble formed around Manikin. The bubble began to collapse, and
Manikin managed to keep it at bay by expending tremendous amounts of
energy. Scione held her hands out, as if trying to feel through her
energy waves. "I can't hold on much longer."
Skin was amazed. "He blasted your brain! How-"
"His attack was apparently too precise. I can't see, and I can't
remember what my father's first name is. But I'm still alive. But not
for long. I'm getting weaker, and it's only a matter of time before
he overwhelms me. At least try to kill him before I die."
"I think I know what to do," Laura Dean said from behind them. She
was covered head to toe with the symbiote that had served as Speed
Demon's costume. "This creature that Speed Demon wore amplifies
powers. Mine are amped up a thousand fold. I can use it to tap into
the anti-matter dimension. I'll open the door way, and all we have to
do is let some of the anti-matter leak in. That will kill him."
"Si," Skin added, "and everything else here!"
"You have any doubts that he has already destroyed the world?
Humanity is dying, either way. He's left nothing to rebuild with. The
only difference is if we destroy him with us."
"Won't that destroy the whole universe?" Pathway asked.
"Maybe," Unuscione said, fighting to contain the enraged
Manikin. "But it's the only way to destroy him."
"As soon as the breach opens, the anti-matter will explode and kill
us. With me dead, the breach will close again. With any luck, it will
only destroy the Solar-System."
"Hurry," Unuscione said, blood spraying away from her as it dripped
"You have to go," Laura Dean said.
"I can't!" Pathway screamed. "Even if my powers worked, I couldn't
just leave you guys to die!"
"We're dead already," Laura Dean said. "My sister is dead," she
added, crying softly. "Yours isn't. I'll open a gate for you. It
should take you to where you want to go the most. Keep looking for
Goblyn. Forget about us."
"Never," Pathway said, giving her a quick hug. A swirling vortex
opened behind her.
"GO ," Unuscione said, dropping to her knees.
Pathway looked back at Laura Dean, Skin, and Unuscione one last time.
The symbiote stretched out at the last second and shoved her through,
a small piece of the creature being sliced off as the portal closed.
Unuscione smiled. Skin turned to Laura Dean and nodded.
Unuscione dropped, as did her shield, and Skin caught her, holding
her tightly. "It's all over, chica. You did it."
Manikin screamed in rage as he fired a beam of energy to destroy
Laura Dean, but she managed to open a small portal into the anti-
matter universe. A small streaming blob of anti-matter entered the
air, and as the beam struck it, the Solar System was annihilated.
[Another Universe ]
Pathway trudged a couple of steps through the dense forest and then
collapsed to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. All the horror she
had endured was too much to bear. To see her teammates slaughtered
before her eyes, to leave knowing that that world was now ash, it
broke through her walls of sanity. She wept miserably for the people
she had known for less than a day.
For an hour she sat on the ground crying. All the frustration over
the search for her sister, all the grief of learning time and time
again that the worlds she was stepping into were not her own, that
death and devastation seemed to follow her like a stalker, came
flooding forward. She knew that she was leaving herself vulnerable to
whatever evil this world had to offer, but she couldn't stop. Her
eyes would run dry after a couple of minutes, her throat would hurt,
and she'd feel cried out, and then a fresh wave of grief, guilt, and
relief would hit her at once, and she would start anew.
Only when she heard a howl of sadness from the trees did she stop.
She looked around, wiping her eyes. Looking down at her feet, she saw
a small blob of the symbiote that had enveloped her older self. The
same symbiote that had increased Speed Demon's powers, and protected
him. Would it be able to help her? She hesitated for a moment,
fearful that it might actually kill her. But then she would be free
from her travels. She held out her hand and the blob slowly rolled up
her fingers. It flowed weakly over her skin, covering only the lower
third of her arm. She sensed a consciousness communicating with her,
almost pleading with her.
The howling had stopped. She looked nervously around. More noise.
There was some rustling in the trees, and Pathway realized for the
first time that she was truly defenseless. She was exhausted and
powerless on a hostile world with something stalking her through the
trees. And strangely enough, she felt a strange sense of relief. If
this were the end, then she would welcome it. She'd rather die now in
this place of relative peace than to find another world where her
teammates were dead, where the world was full of horror and
suffering. She only wished she could see her sister one last time.
"Come on," she said weakly. "Just end it. Please." She closed her
eyes and laid her head back. She heard a frantic scramble of
underbrush and braced herself for the end.
She felt a warm hand on her face, and opened her eyes, and suddenly,
her wish for death was forgotten.
"Goblyn?" she asked.
Her sister knelt down and grabbed her by her shoulders.
"Goblyn. Is it you? Are you the Goblyn from my world?"
And then it hit her. In all the worlds she had visited, she had not
ONCE seen a version of her sister. Was Goblyn such a miracle that she
had died in every universe except her own?
Goblyn stooped and hugged her sister tight.
"It is you, isn't it? Oh, Goblyn, I've missed you so much! I've been
searching for you for so long! My powers are malfunctioning, so I
don't know if I can get us back home. But at least we're together,
Goblyn stroked her sister's face.
"I'm so sorry I almost gave up," Pathway cried.
Goblyn put a finger to her sister's lips. The symbiote twitched and
began to slide up Pathway's arm. Goblyn growled slightly, but Pathway
soothed her. "It's okay. It will help me."
She stood, and Goblyn helped her up. Suddenly, Goblyn's head snapped
to the side, and her fur bristled. "This isn't home, is it?" Pathway
asked, and Goblyn shook her head in the negative. "Is it safe?" she
asked, and Goblyn once again replied in the negative. As if to answer
her, a slow steady rumble grew out of the forest, and t leaves on the
trees began to rattle.
"I think I can try another portal. Give me your hand. Whatever
happens, I'm never losing you again." She grabbed her sister's hand
She held out the other symbiote-covered hand in front of her, and
felt a voice in her mind guiding her. A pinprick of light appeared
before her, and began to grow. The trees began to shake more
violently, and the sound of flames crackling grew louder. From over
the trees a giant form made of flaming stone crashed through the
trees. Its body seemed to undulate, as if not entirely solid, and
it's feet disappeared into a fine mist as it traveled.
"I am Eff-eph, the Fantastic! All those who trespass must be
"Let's go," Pathway said, and she stepped through the portal with her
sister into yet another unknown world.
1. Pathway has a nasty surprise awaiting her. See issue 18 for
2. In The Guard #12.
3. Heather was injured the last time Manikin saw her in The Guard #5.
4. Check Out The Gene War for details!
5. The Guard #1-3 holds the truth.
6. That's right, folks! Alpha Flight Returns! Look for them in