Avengers (1st series) #321

Issue Date: 
August 1990
Story Title: 
The Crossing Line, part 3: Missing Links (First story)

First story: Fabian Nicieza (Writer), Rik Levins (Penciler), Christopher Ivy (Inker), Bill Oakley (Letterer), Christie Scheele (Colorist), Howard Mackie (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

(First Story)
Alpha Flight has arrived on scene, and Guardian takes control of the situation between the Peace Corpse terrorists and the Avengers and People’s Protectorate. Guardian doesn’t want the situation to escalate, and to prevent the Peace Corpse, who have already shot Stingray, from shooting any more innocents, she gives them permission to berth the Waterwind. The traitorous Allanson soon discovers though that Stingray is still alive, but unconscious, while the Peace Corpse make their way through the Waterwind, plotting their next moves. The Avengers, Alpha Flight and the People’s Protectorate set up a makeshift headquarters and discuss the situation and the easiest way to get into the Waterwind. Guardian informs everyone that they must approach this possible nuclear-disaster as an all-or-nothing situation. Captain America agrees, and leads a small team to break into the Waterwind consisting of himself, Red Guardian, Puck, Box, Vision and Vostok, while Guardian leads the others in an evacuation of the nearby civilians. The infiltration squad make it inside the Waterwind, except Box who wont fit through the hatch, so dives into the water to do some other investigating instead. Puck discovers the crew of the Waterwind, and leads them out of the submarine to safety, while the others take out the remaining members of the Peace Corpse, until they finally discover Prokvtich and Strokov who have biologically attached themselves to the nuclear control console, ready to start World War III. Meanwhile, the begrudged Atlantean warriors plot their revenge on the heroes, and make their way towards Newfoundland.

Full Summary: 

First Story:
‘The Canadian government has authorized control of this situation to Alpha Flight!’ exclaims Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, leader of Canada’s premiere super heroes, Alpha Flight, as they stand before their United States and Soviet Union counterparts - the Avengers and the People’s Protectorate, where all three teams have gathered in Newfoundland. ‘Vindicator, I -’ begins Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America, until Heather corrects him, ‘It’s Guardian now’ she remarks, before Captain America addresses her as Guardian then points out that they are all here for the same purpose. ‘We want the terrorists who call themselves the Peace Corpse stopped and we want the Waterwind returned to the British Navy’ Cap states.

Josef Petkus, a.k.a. the new Red Guardian declares that the Protectorate are responsible for the apprehension of the Soviet military traitors, to which Heather replies by informing the Protectorate that she is empowered to order them out of her country, but offers the option of working together, and asks which it will be. The Crimson Dynamo whispers to Red Guardian that the Avengers are renowned and trusted, but that they do not know Alpha Flight. Captain America overhears this and tells the Soviets that he can vouch for Alpha Flight’s abilities.

The Vision hovers in the air and tells his leader that he does not doubt Alpha Flight’s abilities, but what he wants to know is if they are experienced enough to assume control over this international incident. ‘It’s a moot point!’ Heather snaps back. Wendell Vaughn a.k.a. Quasar of the Avengers calls out to Cap, alerting him to the fact that the deadline for the next hostage is almost up, and asks what they are going to do. ‘Well?’ Cap asks, turning to Heather, who replies that they will deal with the Devil and bide for time.

Guardian takes to the sky, ordering Quasar, Vision, Crimson Dynamo and Vostok of the People’s Protectorate to form an aerial escort for the Waterwind. ‘We’re going to give them the time they need to fix the sub’ she announces, to which the Crimson Dynamo asks if that is wise at this point. Heather replies that this will also give them the time they need to gather more information and formulate a plan to stop the terrorists. Quasar begins to protest, ‘They’ve already shot Stingray in cold blood - we can’t just -’ he remarks, until Heather interrupts him, ‘We aren’t “just” anything!’ she exclaims. ‘We’re doing something that has not been done since this incident began - we’re thinking things through!’.

Heather then calls down to those on the deck of the Waterwind, informing them that they have been granted temporary asylum for the purpose of repairing the vessel, but that the conditions of the asylum will be negated should another hostage be injured. ‘Understood?’ she asks. General Major Illyich Prokvitch, standing over Stingray’s lifeless body, replies that he speaks for the Peace Corpse and that the conditions are understood and agreed upon. Heather then informs him that they will escort the Waterwind to a berthing facility.

Heather then uses her communicator to contact her teammate and former lover Madison “Box” Jeffries, asking him to put her on an intercom system so she can talk to everyone else on shore. Box complies, and with everyone’s attention, Heather orders them to follow Box to the loading dock warehouse above the shipping yard where they can set up a headquarters. Heather informs Captain America that they counted six terrorists and dozens of hostages, but points out that there could be more below decks that they are not aware of, though at least that gives them a framework.

Red Guardian suggests to Heather that she have Vostok perform a magnetic resonance imaging scan of the vessel’s interior. ‘Copy that, smart move, Red Guardian’ Heather replies, before Heather, hovering above the Waterwind, calls out to Vostok and orders him to MRI on the Waterwind so they can see what is inside it. ‘Understood and proceeding’ Vostok replies, while Heather orders everyone else to get over to the warehouse.

‘Pushy female’ Perun remarks in his native Russian while he takes flight, carrying Red Guardian with him. Sersi of the Avengers flies nearby, while Red Guardian remarks that the women of the West are far different to their own, ‘But in some ways, don’t you find is rather refreshing?’ he asks. ‘I’d like to give those Commies a refreshing punch in -’ Lillian Jeffries a.k.a. Diamond Lil remarks while her lover Box carries her in the air, and interrupts her, suggesting she lighten up. Down on the shore, Fantasma of the People’s Protectorate, and Dr. Michael “Shaman” Twoyoungmen of Alpha Flight use their own teleportation abilities to transport themselves to the warehouse.

Captain America remains on the shore and looks out at the Waterwind, while remarking to himself that he had heard of the return of Heather’s husband, and notes that it has not seemed to have adversely affected her. Cap decides that, if anything, Heather has grown in her role as leader of Alpha Flight, and wonders if Alpha Flight’s presence here is exactly what the situation needed, for so far, the two teams representing the world’s so-called “super powers” have spent most of their time tripping over each other. ‘I’m not surprised, though I am disappointed. I had always hoped the world’s heroes could work together in a way the world’s nations haven’t’.

Sixteen hours, forty-eight minutes and counting…. ‘Eh? What’s this?’ asks Strokov as he steps on something. Picking it up, he discovers that it is a flattened bullet. He alerts Illyich, asking him if he missed Stingray when he shot him. ‘Are you still investigating me?’ Prokvitch asks. Strokov replies that he found the bullet on the deck. The traitorous Allanson of the Waterwind kneels beside Stingray and remarks that he is still alive, before asking if no one has noticed he is not bleeding. One of the terrorists suggests that perhaps the bullet could not penetrate Stingray’s pressurized costume, to which Prokvitch replies that makes no difference now as the heroes have met their demands. ‘And we weaken our resolve at every turn’ an angry Strokov thinks to himself.

Allanson motions to his former crew mates and tells the Peace Corpse that he will escort them to their quarters, and suggests that the Peace Corpse work on making the ransom demands. Prokvitch replies ‘Very well’ and suggests Allanson maintain guard on them, assuring him he will have him relieved shortly, while in his native Russian, remarks to his fellow Soviets that Allanson seems to still believe they are doing this for the money. Strokov exclaims that he thinks they have lost sight of why they are doing this, to which Mendev tells him not to be such a lout.

Voroshilov lights a cigarette and replies that Strokov does what comes naturally, before remarking that the real problem is that the heroes will never allow them to take this vessel into New York Harbor. ‘I assume they are merely allowing us the pretence of repairing our vessel in order to prepare an assault!’ Voroshilov adds, to which another member of the Peace Corpse agrees, remarking that it is what he would do in their situation. ‘Then we must prepare to make our final stand here and right now!’ Prokvitch declares.

The quintet make their way through the chamber where the nuclear warheads are being kept, to which someone asks if the message will be the same. ‘After all, destroying Newfoundland does not carry the same amount of international impact as would the destruction of New York!’ Prokvitch agrees, before pointing out the fact that Canada will become directly involved could help to precipitate the conflict that they desire.

Prokvitch turns to Mendev and tells him to begin to properly prepare the warheads for their needs, adding that they will draw lots to determine who is chosen. Prokvitch then begins the launch sequence, and the hatches on the deck open, with the nuclear warheads armed. Prokvitch adds that implementing their final solution may be the only chance they have of succeeding. ‘And the only hope this world has of seeing the next century…will be destroying it in this one!’….

The Waterwind is berthed, while in an empty warehouse above, fourteen super humans try to find a way to stop the terrorist threat. Thirteen hours, twelve minutes and counting.

The heroes of all three teams are gathered around a large table, with blueprints of the Waterwind laid out before them. Heather motions to a point on the vessel and declares that it remains the quickest access route, to which the Crimson Dynamo adds that it is also the most dangerous. Captain America agrees with Dynamo and asks Heather what she thinks about portals 13 and 14. The Vision informs the group that it would require them to traverse half the length of the vessel to reach either the terrorists, or the hostages, to which Shaman remarks that they will have to make a choice as to which is more important.

Shaman adds that between the information provided by Vostok’s scans and the schematics they have received from British Intelligence, they now know everything they need about the Waterwind. ‘We still do not know why!’ Red Guardian shouts. ‘They make no demands, they do not ask for money! They are too unpredictable! We must be equally so!’ he suggests. Quasar asks about the people of Newfoundland, suggesting that if they act rashly now, they may as well be sentencing the civilians to death. Cryptically, Fantasma tells Quasar that there are worse fates to be sentenced to.

Vostok offers that the time now might be right to decided upon an acceptable casualty rate. ‘That would be a logical course of action’ the Vision concurs. Shaman declares that the supposition that a minimum amount of people should be expected to die to ensure their success to be reprehensible, to which Captain America agrees, and asks why it is they must approach this as an all-or-nothing situation. Heather asks her American counterpart if he is suggesting they prepare for both contingencies.

Cap replies that he thinks there should be a small interdiction team to infiltrate and incapacitate the terrorists, while the others evacuate the civilians. Cap adds that they cannot let the Waterwind leave the harbor, for in open sea, they lose all of their current advantages. Heather asks Cap what his recommendations for this interdiction team are, to which Cap replies that he will lead, and that he wants Vostok and Box for their mechanical manipulative abilities, Vision for his stealth capabilities, and Puck due to his size and experience in such matters.

‘It’s a tight unit’ Cap concludes, to which Red Guardian declares that he wants to be added to the team also. Josef adds that the men responsible are Soviets, and that he is a symbol of Soviet people, so he is responsible for their capture. Never one to hold back, Sersi quickly points out that this is not about petty national boundaries or honor, to which Heather backs her up, remarking that there is too much at stake here for pride to dictate their actions.

Red Guardian announces that he has other reasons, and reveals that Vostok’s information has shown him one of the Peace corpse is Illyich Prokvitch, whom he has been friends with since childhood. Captain America informs Red Guardian that he can join the infiltration squad, and thinks to himself that this way he can keep an eye on him at the same time. From within his Box armor, Jeffries announces that he is taking a holographic pix of the submarine’s schematics, that way he can call up the visual anytime they need it. ‘Smooth, Madison’ Heather tells her ex-lover, before asking Captain America if he is ready. ‘As we’ll ever be’ he replies.

Nearby, in the devastated undersea kingdom of Atlantis…eleven hours, seven minutes and counting…. ‘Again and again they do this to us!’ shouts the angry Tyrak as he smashes a pillar over. ‘We act upon them and they crush us! They act upon us and still they crush us! How long must our land be subjected to the whims of surface dwellers?’ he demands angrily. ‘How long will they continue to despoil our seas and flagrantly transgress our borders with their weapons of war?’. Meranino, flanked by several other Atlantean warriors, reminds Tyrak that it has gone on for decades, and asks him what a handful of exhausted soldiers can do about it if their entire armies have failed.

Tyrak replies that Meranino forgets in his old age that the humans invaded them with the very weapon which could lead to their destruction. He then asks why they would have all been fighting over that submarine, and from his water-cycle, launches a communications probe to find out. The probe rises from the water, and continues up into the darkening sky, where it clicks into place, and begins operating. From the receiver in the ocean, Tyrak learns that the situation has not improved and that the nuclear submarine remains in dry-dock in St. Johns port.

Tyrak remarks that it is as Meranino thought, the submarine is indeed stolen and is now berthed in Newfoundland. ‘Let us go crush them!’ exclaims Orka. But Tyrak tells him that this is not about crushing. ‘It’s not?’ the dim-witted villain replies. ‘No, it’s about helping them crush themselves!’ Tyrak exclaims, before he, Meranino and the others take off on their water-cycles, exclaiming that they will play the game of the surface nations. ‘We will cause the nuclear weapons on that vessel to detonate while it is still on the surface! Onward to glorious victory!’ he boasts.

Meanwhile, in the Bay of Placentia, ten hours, twenty minutes and counting. Kuryestan is nervously standing guard. ‘You go out there with one rifle and hold off a dozen super humans!’ he mumbles to himself angrily. Suddenly, ‘Pardon me son’ a Russian voice exclaims from seemingly nowhere. Kuryestan looks down, where Puck is standing. The diminutive Alphan excuses himself, and asks the young member of the Peace Corpse if he can direct him to the closest unconscious man. ‘Oh, never mind…I just found him!’ Judd remarks as he leaps up and kicks Kuryestan hard in the face with, knocking him out.

‘You speak Russian?’ Josef asks, surprised. ‘With more eloquence than you, I might add’ the aged Alphan replies, while Captain America drags the unconscious Kuryestan away, remarking that they cannot only have on guard. Vostok attempts to open a hatch while remarking that it is not unfeasible to believe that the Peace Corpse do not have the necessary compliment to defend the exterior of the vessel. He reminds his comrades that the Peace Corpse had not anticipated the dry-situation, before announcing that the hatch is locked.

‘One to guard the exterior. One to guard the hostages. Four to fix the sub?’ Cap suggests, remarking that at least they know where they all are now, before telling Vostok not to force the hatch, and turns to the Vision, addressing him as “Vizh” as he had been commonly referred to, the Vision is quick to remind Captain America that his complete appellation is “Vision” and phases down through the locked hatch, remarking that he will return momentarily. Cap thinks to himself that it is almost as if the Vision was having a contest with Vostok to see who could be the least human, and wonders what is really inside that synthetic mind of his, when suddenly the Vision returns, opening the hatch and announcing that the below decks are now devoid of activity within a thirty meter radius.

‘Let’s move it out, people. Keep it tight, keep it calm!’ Captain America remarks, while Judd leads the way down the hatch. Red Guardian, Vostok and Vision follow, while Box remarks to Captain America ‘Could be I should cut down on the sweets, eh?’. Cap realizes Madison is referring to his large Box armor, and admits that he never considered that factor. ‘Don’t sweat it’ Madison replies as he transforms himself into a sub-mercable and dives into the water, informing Cap that he will scope out the situation from under the water, adding that he might be able to find a way to “gum up” the works from outside, while the rest of them do it from the inside.

Down in the Waterwind, the Vision holds up an unconscious member of the Peace Corpse, remarking that he found him monitoring the communications systems when he entered. Cap replies that is two down and dour to go, while Judd points out that they have to make sure the hostages are still alive, and makes his way down a corridor, ‘Why wait, eh - life’s too short for that!’ he jokes, while Captain America thinks to himself that with Judd’s size he is more able to handle the corridors than the rest of them can.

Judd opens a door where the crew of the Waterwind are being held at gunpoint by their traitorous comrade Allanson, and are currently hassling him, asking him how much it cost to make him turn, when suddenly, Judd lunges at him from behind. Allanson fires some shots, but they go over Puck’s head, while Puck exclaims that it is time to give these boys their chance. ‘Though I’m sure they’d like to whack you more than once, eh?’ Judd adds, before smacking Allanson in the neck, knocking him unconscious. Captain America and Red Guardian enter the room and Cap remarks that there are three down now, before telling the Waterwind crew that they will take things from here, before asking Judd to take the sailors topside.

Nearby, Voroshilov asks Prokvitch and Strokov if they heard gunfire also. Prokvitch replies that he did, but points out that they cannot leave as the work is almost completed. Voroshilov goes to check on what the gunfire was about, ‘We were all planning to die on this vessel anyway, right?’ he thinks to himself. ‘What difference does a few hours make?’ he adds, when suddenly, his weapon turns into a plant that clasps his hands together. Vostok appears before him, exclaiming ‘Perhaps re-creating your weapons of war into a symbol of peace will show you the errors of your ways?’ Vostok suggests. ‘Or maybe not’ Red Guardian exclaims, kicking Voroshilov over and rendering him unconscious.

Cap orders the Vision and Vostok to fly on ahead as they are the fastest. ‘Quickly - they know we’re hear!’ he adds. Vostok remarks that, logically, he would anticipate that the remaining members of the Peace Corpse will be in the missile-control room. The Vision adds that the Peace Corpse, knowing they had no real hope of escaping the docking facilities, then the nuclear warheads would be their last bargaining tool.

Shortly, Captain America and Red Guardian arrive outside the door to the missile room. Josef remarks that it is quiet. ‘Too quiet, to coin a phrase’ Cap adds. ‘Pardon?’ Josef asks, not understanding the remark. The Vision declares that they had best proceed with great caution, to which Cap asks him what is going on. The Vision replies that it would appear that what has been, until now, a very complicated dilemma, has developed yet another intriguing facet.

Vostok opens the door to the control room, and motions to Prokvitch and Strokov, the two remaining members of the terrorist insurgency, who have biologically attached themselves to the missile control console. Indeed, both men are attached to the console with dozens of wires protruding from their bodies, and Vostok remarks that, in essence, they find themselves confronting two men whose sole desire has been to start a third world-war - but now they have turned themselves into living nuclear arsenals!

Characters Involved: 

First story:
Captain America, Quasar, Sersi, Stingray, Vision (all Avengers)

Box IV, Diamond Lil, Guardian III, Puck, Shaman (all Alpha Flight)

Crimson Dynamo V, Fantasma, Perun, Red Guardian III, Vostok (all People’s Protectorate)

Meranino, Orka, Tyrak
Other Atlantean warriors

General Major Illyich Prokvitch
Kuryestan, Mendev, Strokov, Voroshilov and others of the Peace Corpse

Story Notes: 

This issue features a back-up story featuring the “Avengers Crew” written by Mark Gruenwald.

First story:
Heather changed her codename from Vindicator to Guardian in Alpha Flight (1st series) #90 with the return of her husband, who once more took up the Vindicator codename. They would switch names again in Alpha Flight (2nd series) #1.

Stingray was shot in Avengers (1st series) #320.

Written By: