Ms. Marvel (Warbird):
A Prize For Three Empires
Carol Danvers sat on the edge of the boat dock. Her feet were bare, her white athletic socks stuffed into the Nikes that sat beside her on the dock, and she wore blue jeans and a pink checked shirt and sat there, not fishing, not waiting for a boat loaded with friends of relatives, just sitting and dangling her toes above the water.
Her mother watched her in the August afternoon.
"Honey," she called from the back porch of the lake cabin. "You've been out there over an hour. Don'tcha wanna come back inside and eat or--" Her voice trailed off.
"No, Mom," said Carol, not turning around.
Marie, her mother, stood in blue patterned housedress and apron with her hands on her hips. In her day she had been a beauty to rival even Carol. But that was gone now, and she understood that, and she had married Joe, who owned a construction company, and had birthed Carol a long time ago, and, yes, she understood all that.
What she didn't understand was her daughter.
And perhaps that made two of them, that afternoon.
Marie stepped down the stone steps set into the side of the short slope that led down to the Danvers' boat dock. Her flat-heeled shoes clacked on the steps and she was careful to keep her balance. Carol looked behind her once as she heard Marie's footsteps on the wood of the pier, then turned back around and watched the lake again.
There were a few ducks and a couple of boats and once in a while the occupants of the boats would wave to Carol and she would give a half-hearted wave back.
Mrs. Danvers stood behind her daughter and wiped her hands on her apron. "I've been gettin' dinner ready," she said. "Stir-fry with noodles. Just the way you like it, right."
"Yep, Mom. Just the way I like it."
Marie picked up Carol's shoes in one hand and moved them over so that she could sit beside her. Carol looked at her briefly and went back to looking, scratching at her palm, and dangling her bare feet.
Marie sighed and gripped the edge of the pier with both hands. "So. You wanna tell me the story of your life, or just why you're being Miss Melancholy this afternoon?"
"To you, it's melancholy," Carol said, looking at her hands. "To me, it's a very nice day. Nobody's hollering at me, nobody's trying to beat me up, nobody's asking me to save the world." She paused, and favored her mother with a look. "I like being out here on the dock and not having anything to do. Don't you like sitting on the dock sometimes, Mom?"
"Yeah," said Marie. "Yeah, I used to like it. In between Joe yelling at me, 'Marie! Where's supper?' Or you, yelling, 'Mom! I need to get some new clothes!'" Carol grinned, sheepishly. Marie continued, "In between those times, I used to love sitting out here and looking at the lake."
Carol smiled. "I 'member when you and Dad and I used to come out here and water-ski. You looked like something out of a TV commercial. Me, I think I swallowed so much of the lake I pissed tadpoles."
"Carol!" Marie laughed and playfully whacked her shoulder.
"Well, it's true! Before I learned how to stand up on those things, I splashed down so many times I asked you to get me a pair of underwater skis. Remember?"
"Oh, yeah." Marie took off her own shoes and set them behind Carol's. "You were so convinced that there had to be skis you could use underwater, 'cause that's where you ended up most of the time. That is, until you got yourself straightened out and then you learned so well you were giving lessons at camp a couple of years. Remember?"
"Yep." Carol leaned back, stretching, closing her eyes. "I do remember camp. I do remember Sara Jackson sticking Ben-Gay in my makeup one day, and I do remember hunting the little bitch and her buddies down and beating the snot out of 'em all at once. We all ended up on report for that, but Sara was the one who got to clean up the mess hall for the next three weeks."
"And, as I recall from that letter you sent home that week, you said that after you got your punishment it was a good thing that you could ski standing up."
"Well, wasn't it, Miss Melancholy?"
"Yeah, yeah, Mom, it was." She sighed, smiling. "Dear old Dad despaired of ever making a lady out of me, but I think I turned out all right. Heck, he was the one taught me how to fight."
"And I was the one taught you how to be a lady. I think both of us did a pretty good job, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yup." Carol pulled her legs back up and rested her feet on the pier, her knees against her chest. "Outside of me not knowing how to cook very well, I'd say you guys did a great job."
"Go 'long with you. You do just fine, when you stick to what you know."
"Yeah, but restaurants do finer, so I let them stick to what they know." Carol hugged her legs. "Mom?"
"I'm glad Dad isn't here today. Sometimes it's easier just with you."
"I know, honey," said Marie.
"Don't get me wrong. Sometimes it's easier with him, too. Like when I came home crying after my first really bad date, and I was yelling about how boys were pig droppings and I never wanted to see anything remotely resembling a boy ever again in my whole life, ever ever ever, and in five minutes he got me turned around again and I was ready to give it another try." Carol lay back against the wood of the pier and looked up at the sky. "And I tried it again and again and again."
"Till you got it right?"
"I got it right a lot of times, Mom," said Carol, still looking up. "A lot of times."
And I'd just as soon not know the details, thought Marie. Not until one of them comes up here with you, and you both have rings on.
Marie said, "I'm going to have to put the chicken on to fry, honey, if we're going to eat in time. Wanna help?"
"In a minute," Carol said, resting her head with her arms between it and the dock. "Mom?"
"You said you wanted to know the story of my life. Which life do you want to know?"
The story of Carol Susan Jane Danvers made for an interesting enough entry in Who's Who as it was. But there was a lot that wasn't in the public record. A lot that you only knew about if you were a CIA operative, or an Avenger, or an X-Man, or a Starjammer, or the ones who fought those various groups. Because Carol Danvers had been a part of each of those organizations, with a different name for every one. And different sorts of uniforms, to be sure.
Sometimes, even different super-powers.
It had all begun in Boston with her birth over 30 years ago to Joe Danvers, who owned the Danvers Construction Company and built skyscrapers, and Joe's wife Marie, a good hausfrau and mother. Carol wasn't the first nor the last of their brood, and there was money enough to send all the kids to college, just barely.
But Joe Danvers had an ironclad rule for his kids: the boys were going to do their hitch in the military, then go to college, and the girls were damned well going to learn from their mother how to be good wives and mommies and even cheerleaders, if it'd help them hook a man who'd provide for them and keep them straight in life.
And not even Carol, his favorite, could convince him to spend the money on a college education. Her grades were good enough. Her test scores were high enough to have some schools sending her brochures asking them to consider spending four years worth of time and tuition money with them, and even offering some incentives in the way of scholarships.
Joe wouldn't have it. Sure, he'd taught Carol to fight. He'd taught all his kids to fight. That didn't mean she wasn't supposed to be a lady, and a lady's place was in the home, not acting like some harlot on a movie screen or in Vogue or being some spinster career girl. She was going to get married, and that was that. No sense in spending tuition money when she could have her pick of men right there in Boston. But, he said, she could go to secretarial school, or learn to be a nurse. Those were useful things.
So she went and joined the Air Force.
Her father had almost hit the ceiling. When he came down out of a mad hot enough to heat up three buckets of rivets, Carol and Marie had still been standing there, impassive. No matter how many times he told her she wasn't going to do it, she told him, "I've done it, Dad. I just want you and Mom to see me off."
Marie had stood beside her. He'd never raise a hand to her, and Carol, dammit to hell, was getting too big to put over his knee.
So he'd gotten dressed up and gone to see his little girl off and hoped like hell she would find herself a good man in the military, and shook her hand and kissed her cheek. And even Joe had to admit that she did look good in that blue uniform.
She did her stint at the Air Force Academy and learned how to fly fighter planes and how to do combat that even Dad hadn't learned in his Army days.
Before long, Carol was a major.
Joe was showing off her picture in the paper to anybody and everybody at work. He had to admit, she looked even better in that kind of uniform.
Somewhere in there, Carol's C.O. had called her in and proposed a new sort of service to her, one that wouldn't require her to wear an Air Force suit. So, with Uncle Sam's blessings and a handshake from Colonel Nick Fury, Carol Danvers had left the flyboys and become a CIA agent in training. She passed.
Then she started spying.
It was exciting, even terrifying work. She was glad for the chance to do field work with Nick Fury, who'd been a legend as a sergeant in World War II and a lieutenant in Korea, and with a guy known only as Logan, a Canadian of short stature, temper, and vocabulary. At the time, she thought he was a vet of the Big One, too, though it was hard to tell. She ended up partnered with him on several missions during her tour with the Company, during one of which they encountered the mutant op known as Sabretooth and lived to tell about it.
Carol also worked with Col. Michael Rossi, to whom she lost her virginity. But she always thought that it was Logan who really taught her about sex. And taught her, and taught her, and taught her...
On one mission, she'd dropped the ball and ended up in the hands of the KGB. They sent her to Lubyanka to see what she knew, what she didn't, and how long she'd live after they tortured both things out of her. The Company thought it was too risky to go after her, and officially signed off on her. Logan, and several others, had a different opinion.
They busted into Lubyanka and got her out. Carol swore she'd never repay Logan for what he'd done, though she made a good attempt at it with him, for the next few weeks. But, if Logan was a one-woman man, she wasn't quite the woman, and they drifted.
About that time, she found out her brother Steve hadn't been as lucky as she had, just recently.
Steve had joined the Air Force shortly after her, got shipped off to Viet Nam, flew 27 missions, took a hit from a SAM, and died.
What was left was put in a bag and then was put in a box which was shipped back to Boston and then buried in a cemetary there, with Carol and Joe and Marie and Joe, Jr. in attendance and the soldiers firing a 21-gun salute and one of Steve's buddies reading "In Flanders Field" and every last one of them, except perhaps the soldiers firing the guns, crying very, very hard.
Joe told Carol he was glad she was out of the Air Force but wanted her out of what she was doing for whatever government group she was doing it for. His persuasion wouldn't have done much good if she hadn't been thinking along those lines herself, ever since her thing with Logan went cold.
Soon enough she learned about a job opportunity at Cape Canaveral handling security, and drifted out of the Company and right into Project Apollo.
But there were lots of things that the public didn't get to see in those guided tours around the base. One of them, she soon learned, was a gigantic super-robot called the Sentry, which had been placed on Earth ages ago by an alien race called the Kree, and just recently deactivated by the Fantastic Four. It had been sent to NASA for study and safekeeping, and keeping the thing secret from the media and just about everybody else had been one of Carol's first tasks.
Enter Walter Lawson. Or, at least, somebody everyone thought was Walter Lawson.
When she met the man, who was a new brain-boy assigned to study the Sentry, she thought he had the whitest hair of any twentysomething this side of Mike Nomad in the comic strips, and too much secretiveness about his past for her comfort. He didn't seem to like her prying, which made her all the more eager to pry.
A day after Lawson's arrival, something reactivated the Sentry. It started trashing the base.
Then, enter Captain Marvel.
At first, they weren't sure who in the heck the super-type in the white-and-green costume and green mask-helmet was, until he shouted out his name at the Sentry, as if he expected the robot to know him. The robot didn't seem to give much of a damn. But, in a move that even Logan would have been hard-put to equal, Captain Marvel had saved her from the Sentry and used a device on his wrist which he called a Uni-Beam to wreck it.
This began a series of events which lasted for about a year and threw her into contact with Lawson and Captain Marvel over and over again. Cape Canaveral was targeted by aliens, monsters, rampaging androids, even the Sub-Mariner and Iron Man, with Captain Marvel the apparent reason they were there, and Carol just trying to help General Bridges keep the thing from falling apart. Commie spies would have been a welcome relief.
She'd almost become lovers with Lawson, and finally figured out that he was Captain Marvel, who was a Kree, and who was only posing as Lawson, who had been in the pay of enemy powers and was now dead. She had also learned that Marvel's real lover, a Kree woman named Una, had been killed in a conflict stirred up by Marvel's commander, Col. Yon-Rogg, who was not Marvel's biggest supporter.
That was how Carol Danvers started learning that there were spheres of influence beyond that of the military, or the CIA, or SHIELD, or NASA, or the United States, or even Earth itself.
And when she got accidentally injured by a repulsor blast from Iron Man, stumbled out of the hospital, and fell right into the hands of Colonel Yon-Rogg, she learned how deadly those influences could be.
Yon-Rogg was more powerful than an Earthman, almost as mighty as Captain Marvel (whose real name, she found out, was Captain Mar-Vell) himself, and had weapons that were far deadlier than anything Earthmen carried, except maybe for super-scientists like Reed Richards or Dr. Doom. Most of the time, those weapons were trained on her. Yon-Rogg took her to a cave where, generations ago, the Kree had hid a device called the Psyche-Magnitron. It was a mind-over-matter gizmo, and Yon-Rogg was using her as bait to lure Captain Marvel into a deathtrap.
It very nearly worked.
But Captain Marvel, who was now sporting a new, red-yellow-and-blue uniform and who had already given up his Walter Lawson pose, had saved the day, and her, once again, and Yon-Rogg ended up dying in that conflict, thankfully.
The episode had long-lasting effects on Carol, though, which she would not learn until they manifested themselves years later. In some inexplicable way, the radiations of the Psyche-Magnitron had acted upon both her and Mar-Vell, and somehow passed on genetic information from his body to hers.
Though she did not know it, and though her body would have to take years to integrate its changes, she was becoming part Kree.
More than that, she was becoming the sort of Kree Captain Marvel had become, when scientists from a Kree splinter group had subjected him to an empowering process. Men and women of the Kree race gained some super-strength on Earth's lower gravity, but Captain Marvel's strength was hyped even beyond that, and so, in time, would hers be. Captain Marvel could fly, through the power of nega-bands on his wrists. So, too, would Carol fly, with devices at first placed in a strange costume she came to wear, and then integrated into her being. She would also develop a strange "seventh sense" that gave her visions of dangers either to come, or already happening elsewhere.
But all of that was a few years down the road. For the moment, thanks to the flap over not having captured Captain Marvel, or at least not having learned soon enough that Walter Lawson was not what he seemed, her job at the Cape was terminated. She was booted sideways to security detail in a top-secret Air Force base near Gary, Indiana. There she was under the supervision of what she referred to most often as "four-star chauvinists", not nearly as easy to work with as General Bridges and his crew at the Cape.
Shortly after her arrival there, her path crossed that of Captain Marvel again, with another crazy super-villain named Nitro in the package. She hadn't been able to stop the latter, who could blow himself up and reintegrate his atoms, from managing to puncture a canister of deadly nerve gas that was supposed to be in her safekeeping. Captain Marvel managed to reseal the canister, but only after thoroughly exposing himself to the gas.
That would have long-ranging effects, too.
Thanks to that incident, Carol got busted down another rung again and kicked back to the Cape again, this time as a low-level security officer. Even though she liked it better than the Indiana gig, she still didn't like it, knew they didn't like her, and felt that her government days were soon to end. General Bridges wasn't even there anymore.
But a strange parasitic being in the body of Captain Marvel's dead lover Una was, and it beat the hell out of her when she tried--and failed--to stop it from commandeering a rocket launch console. Mar-Vell couldn't save her from the beating, or from subsequently losing her job, but he did save her life. Some life, she told herself.
She went back to Boston, rented herself an apartment, and sat down to work on a book about the space program and her role in it and, of course, her encounters with Captain Marvel.
It sold. Through the roof.
Carol Danvers, who had never completed a single hour of college, became a literary celebrity and enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame. Fourteen and a half minutes into that hectic round of touring, talk shows, and autograph parties, she got a call from J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of New York's Daily Bugle.
Jameson, he of the ever-present cigar and Hitler mustache, was starting a new magazine called Woman. He wanted her as an editor. "The way I see it, a woman's magazine should have articles that are useful," he had explained to her at their interview. "Like new diets, and fashions, and recipes, things like that." He was willing to pay her 20K a year. She settled for 30K, told him her name was Ms. Carol Danvers, and added, "And as far as diets and recipes go, forget it."
And so Carol Danvers found herself an editor of a big women's magazine in the Big City. Without ever having gone to college. With only a year's worth of journalistic experience.
There was one other big problem she hadn't counted on.
She had also become a superheroine called Ms. Marvel.
And she didn't know about it.
The exposure to the Kree Psyche-Magnitron had finally manifested its effects in Carol's body. She gained a split personality, and her other half had the consciousness and powers of a Kree warrior, complete with a red, yellow, and deep blue costume patterned after Captain Marvel's, but with a feminine slant. It automatically appeared on her when she switched to Ms. Marvel, triggered by her unconscious. In a way, it was like a fugue state.
It had been happening since six months after she left government work. But she only found out about Ms. Marvel's existence when the heroine encountered and beat the Scorpion, a super-villain, just as Carol began working for Woman. And she only found out through a hypnotic session with her psychiatrist, Mike Barnett, who was also her lover, that she herself was Ms. Marvel.
From Air Force major to spy to NASA security staffer to author to superheroine, just like that. The strange thing was, she found out that she was really, really good at it.
She sometimes wondered about that suit and why she'd created it like that. Red shirt like Mar-Vell's, but with a big cutout that exposed her stomach. Black trunks that were really just a bikini bottom, even if they were attached to her shirt. Black gloves, a black mask that covered the upper part of her face, black boots with red tops, and a long red scarf that seemed fashionable but was always being grabbed by whomever she fought, so she did away with it early on. The costume had no leggings, so she showed off most of her legs. Nobody much complained, and it distracted male villains, and Carol admitted she was proud of her body. So what if she was dressed like one of the Rockettes in a mask? She could fight!
A second blast of the Psyche-Magnitron, received during a battle, integrated the costume's flight-power into her own body. Later, Carol's and Ms. Marvel's personalities became integrated, which was helpful, considering she was having to fight menaces such as AIM, Modok, the Doomsday Man, Grotesk, Deathbird, and Tiger Shark on almost a daily basis. She met and worked with other super-heroes, such as Spider-Man, the Vision, Dr. Strange, and the Defenders. But the ones she found herself most closely paired with were the Avengers. She had met the Vision in an early case, and later went to Avengers Mansion to use their lab and encountered the Beast, who was all blue and hairy, and the Scarlet Witch, a lovely mutant with a hex power. Finally, she got a "seventh sense" message concerning the team and their foe Ultron, and jumped right into the fray. That was how she got to meet the Big Names like Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Yellowjacket, Wasp, and Iron Man, plus Wonder Man, who seemed a quite hesitant hero. Ms. Marvel fit in well as an ally, and kept working with the Avengers on many cases beyond that.
She wondered, in later days, if she would have gotten involved with them at all, when she learned what was up the road a little ways. But she had a lot of things to wonder about that time, and the bitterness over that event to come soon became just one part of a very dark, sad, and pitiful mosaic.
During that time, she saved her father from Steeplejack, a crooked builder who was threatening Joe Danvers's life. She also met Captain Marvel again. The first time, they were both partnered against the Kree's Supreme Intelligence, that malevolent composite being who had threatened the Earth time and again. The second time, they were both allied with the Avengers in a long conflict with a being called Michael Korvac.
Neither of them knew that that was the last time they would set eyes on each other.
Carol kept sleeping with Michael Barnett, kept being a super-heroine, kept working with the Avengers, changed her costume to a black bathing-suit affair with high black boots, long black gloves, a mask, and a red waist-sash, and kept trying to edit Woman. "Trying" was the operative word there, because editorial duties on a struggling major magazine and the duties of a super-heroine do not mix.
Jameson got tired of the constant battles with her over budget and content, over her constant delegation of authority to others, and of her constant absenteeism. Finally, she came back from a Ms. Marvel adventure, changed into Carol Danvers, and found a pink slip on her desk.
Another great kick in the head.
Luckily, she still had money, and she still had a lover, and she still had a friend, Salia Petrie, who was an astronaut and whom she had saved from an alien who had taken her prisoner aboard a spacecraft. So Carol Danvers picked up what she had in her desk, put it in a box, and went home to figure out her next move.
Her next move was to join the Avengers.
There had been a big shakeup in that team's relationship with the government, who wanted more regulating power over it. As a result, active member count was limited, some members were put on reserve, and a few new ones were recruited. Since Ms. Marvel had done exemplary work on her cases with them thus far, she was asked to become an active Avenger.
She tried not to show it, but she was more than awed.
On a day-to-day basis, she would be associating with Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Vision, and all the rest. They were accepting her as One of Them. On top of that, the base salary for an Avenger was even better than she had gotten at Woman.
So Ms. Marvel had become an Avenger, which was her new job, and took up residence primarily in Avengers Mansion, and learned how to live with one of the most famous super-hero groups of all time.
For a long time, it was a lot of fun.
And then, all of a sudden, it wasn't.
To Be Continued...