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"A Prize for Three Empires"

A Prize for Three Empires

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28

This story is in progress.

Here's another chapter. Hope you enjoy it!

Carol stayed with her parents for another couple of days, then finally took her leave. The family shared one last cup of coffee around the breakfast table. Joe Danvers asked, "When'll we see you next, Carol?"

Carol said, "Hard to say, Dad. I'll be moving around a lot. To some pretty hairy places." She didn't like to worry him, but if he knew that she'd become a cosmic heroine, she estimated that he'd go through the roof. So to imply only a little danger was a mercy.

"Stay in touch, willya?" said Joe. "We'll miss you."

Carol got up from her chair, and her mother did the same. "I'll miss you, too, Dad," she said, and headed for the front door.

Marie trailed her there, and they spoke out of Joe's earshot. "Take care, Carol," said Marie, bussing her daughter on the cheek. "Even super-heroes aren't immortal."

"Don't I know it," said Carol, and returned the buss.

Marie regarded her daughter critically for a moment. "Is everything all right, dear? You've seemed...different, lately."

Yeah, Mom, thought Carol. A little matter of being tortured on a Brood spaceship, having my genetic matrix supercharged, and becoming a being who can tap into white holes for power. Other than that, I'm still the same old Carol, minus emotional contact to a lot of my memories, and probably some memories entirely.

"I'm fine, Mom. Really."

And Carol Danvers walked away from her home, with Marie watching until she was out of sight. Carol waved a couple of times to her, and told herself again and again not to forget the luggage next time.

She wanted to see the beach nearby one last time, since she wouldn't be coming back to it, and, possibly, to Earth, for a good long while. So she headed out to the place where the sea met the sand, found herself alone, since it was too cold for bathers at that time, and knelt down as the tide came in and felt of the water and sand one last time.

Then she transformed herself into Binary, and soared into the air on a trail of flame.

She had to check in with Charles Xavier before she left, to see if any more treatments were possible or even wanted. As unobtrusively as possible, Binary headed for Westchester County in New York. She passed a number of commercial jets, waved to them, and didn't know or care if they waved back.

Some time later, she touched down on the grounds of Xavier's private academy. She entered through the front, knowing the defensive devices would recognize her as a friendly presence. As she walked past the front hall to the living room area, she heard voices coming from the library. She reflected, as she walked, that it'd be fun to see them all again. Charles, Ororo, Kurt, Piotr, Kitty, Lil, and--

She turned a corner, walked in through an open doorway.


The seven persons within turned to see her at the sound of her high-heeled boots clicking and stopping.


The thief of her powers and mind looked up at her like a trapped scavenger.


Xavier had time enough to telepath, <Stop, Carol! This woman is under our protection,> just before Binary surged forward, grabbed Rogue, and planted an uppercut on her that sent her right through the roof.

It also sent Rogue high enough in the air to reach the upper atmosphere. But she had the power and flight ability of Ms. Marvel. She utilized it to soar back towards Xavier's school, ready for a payback.

Binary had rushed out to the mansion's front lawn, unwilling to continue the battle indoors. She looked up and tracked a flying object coming her way. She didn't have to use any of her powers to detect who it was.

"That's the spirit, kiddo," grated Carol. "Come and get me--if you can!"

Rogue looked grim, swooping back at her, leading with her fists.

Carol, not budging from her stand, ducked between them, swung her own fist up and across and tagged Rogue again with another blow. It had enough foot-pounds of force to cave in an elephant's skull.

For her part, Rogue went flying again, but in a direction parallel to the ground. She impacted on one of the sturdy oaks near Xavier's mansion and smashed it to splinters.

Binary grinned and rubbed her knuckles. This was going to be a helluva fun fight.

At that point, Colossus, in full metal jacket, grabbed her from behind and restrained her. Carol cried out in surprise and rage. "Binary," he said, "no more!"

"Lemme go, you big lummox!" she shouted. "I don't wanna hurt you, Peter--"

"You will have to, if you wish to continue this fight," the big Russian assured her, not slackening his group. "Is that what you want?"

She could have broken free of him easily enough. She could have heated up till he had to release her or melt. She could have flown up and away with him hanging on for dear life, until she swooped low and dropped him off. She might have even been able just to power out of his grip. But it just wasn't making sense. Why in the name of heaven was he defending Rogue?

"I want vengeance, Peter," she admitted. "Is that so wrong?"

The others had arrived by that time, Lil pushing Xavier in his wheelchair. He raised his hand and pointed straight at her, and had the most serious look on his face she'd ever seen on him.

"So long as Rogue remains under my roof, Binary, she has my protection."

Binary gaped.

When she found her voice, she said, "How can you say that, Charles? You know better than anyone what she did to me!" But her pressure against Piotr Rasputin's big arms had ceased, and Colossus had released her. Rogue had picked herself out of the remains of the oak tree and was shaking her head to get her reality construct back in one piece.

Storm was there, in a long coat, and looked like she was having difficulty with what she had to say. But she said it. "The child repents, my friend, and has been forgiven. Behold our newest X-Man."

"Is this true?" Binary radiated more disgust than even blazing star-force, at that moment. J. Edgar Hoover had given Dillinger his admission oath as an FBI agent. "I wouldn't have thought you capable of such cruelty."

Rogue, running her hands through her hair to get the wood chips out, walked up to Binary, but stayed just out of arm's reach. "What're you talking about? What's my life gotta do with you, huh? We never even met before today."

Carol remembered, then, that her Binary-self had an all-red face, "hair" composed of a blinding power-nimbus, and blank-white eyes. So she powered down and returned to her human form. "Perhaps this will help," she said, and stared defiantly at Rogue.

Five seconds later, Rogue broke the silence, in a small voice. "Carol Danvers," she said.

"The woman whose life you destroyed, Rogue," snapped Carol. "Except that now I possess the power to do the same to you."

Storm didn't know how much Carol meant what she implied. But she didn't want to find out. So she shifted the focus of attention by turning to Xavier and saying, in a loud voice, "Professor, if Rogue stays, I go."

Nightcrawler chimed in, "My apologies, Herr Professor, but we all go."

After a pause, Xavier said, "I see. We pick and choose who we help. Is that it? Some are worthy, some are not?"

Within three minutes, he convinced the mutant band to allow Rogue another chance, to give her a tryout as a team member. Carol could not believe what she was hearing.

And yet, Storm and Colossus and Kitty and Nightcrawler were buying it.

They admitted that they didn't like it, and they didn't like her. But they would give her a try as a teammate.

Binary's lip curled in revulsion, and she swore not to let Xavier's mind-tendrils touch her again that day, in therapy or any other way.

Inevitably, Xavier's bald head turned her way. "Carol?", he said, and waited.

She finally said, "What do you want from me, Charles? Understanding? Approval? I'll concede one, perhaps, but not the other. Rogue tore my life--my very soul--to shreds. And those scales can never be balanced. I'm sorry. I'm just not that forgiving."

Carol powered up in a brilliant power-flux, with face of crimson and hair of golden flame.

"I have nothing to lose here, Charles. No real ties to break. That makes my decision easy. I'm not an X-Man...and all of a sudden, I'm glad."

With that, she blasted off and soared into the heavens.

She wanted to leave this crazy planet alone. She wanted to be rid of X-Men, Avengers, super-heroes who betrayed your trust, super-villains who broke your body and raped your soul and then had it all forgiven as if it was just a little mistake.

But where would she go? And who would show her the ropes of intergalactic existence?

Sighing, Carol admitted she had to think things over for a few days. So she became Carol Danvers again, went to the New York bank where she'd been keeping her money, and had the bulk of it wired to the Boston bank where her parents did business. She kept out enough to rent an apartment in Manhattan, and did so. She also called Xavier's answering service and told them where to bring her stuff, but warned them she wouldn't be in when they did.

But she was, because the two who came waited in the lobby until she got back from her business that day. Both rose from the couch where they had been sitting.

"Hello, you two," she said.

"Hiya, Carol," said Wolverine, stubbing out his cheroot in an ashtray.

"Good evening, Ms. Danvers," said Corsair, in Earth clothes, with a little bow. "We brought your clothes, computer, and whatnot with us. It's in a truck in the parking lot."

She smiled, not widely. "They knew you were two characters I wouldn't kick out on sight. Well, thanks. Let's get the stuff upstairs after dinner."

Logan said, "If it's McDonald's, I can treat us all."

"Don't look at me," said Corsair. "I've no Earth currency at all."

Carol said, "I've got the money, and I'm buying. Let me call a cab."

Over chicken Kiev for Carol, steak medium rare for Logan, and beef burgundy for Corsair, they talked things out.

"Look, Carol, about the latest development," said Logan, "if it makes you feel any better, I'm not exactly in love with the idea, either. When I saw her in Japan, I wanted to turn her into jerky on the spot."

"Why didn't you?"

He shrugged. "Mariko would'a given me hell for making a mess in her place." Then he said, "I dunno. Chuck Xavier's had some crazy ideas in his time, but this is the freakin' absolute craziest I've ever seen from him. I don't think anybody likes it."

"Well, after hearing what she did to you, Carol," said Major Summers, "I certainly don't."

She forked up some rice with her butter-filled chicken roll. "Which begs the question, Logan: why are you or any of the others putting up with that bitch? If you told Xavier you were leaving, wouldn't he have to relent? Or, barring that, wouldn't you be taking a position with more integrity?"

Logan hesitated, fork halfway to mouth, then went ahead and ate the morsel of steak, chewing carefully. Finally, he said, "There's three reasons. At least, from my viewpoint. Wanna hear ‘em?"

"Please," said Carol.

Corsair was listening as well.

"First: there's no way I'm leaving the group. I had me a solo stint a short while back, an' I'll probably have more of ‘em. Sometimes it's easier not havin' Cyke or Storm lookin' over your shoulder. Don't tell ‘em I said that. But the main reason, crazy as it seems, is...they're family. Does that make sense?"

"If it does to you, it does to me. But they can't be my family. What's reasons two and three?"

Logan forked up some peas and ate them before speaking again. "The second is, they might need me more now. Maybe Charley's idea is somethin' like LBJ said about somebody else, he'd rather have ‘er inside the tent pissin' out than outside the tent pissin' in. But if she really is a plant...or if she isn't, but she turns bad later...they're gonna need somebody like me around to help take care of things. Know what I mean?"

Carol said, "I think I can imagine. Okay, go on."

"The third reason is something you might smack me for. Promise you won't start a scene here?"

"I'll try. No promises."

"Okay. The bit is...I've seen her hurtin'. That bit of mind she took from you took root in ‘er. It's maybe splittin' her personality. And...this'll be hard to dig, Carol, but go with me a ways on it...I think it's that bit of you that's in her that's turned her around to our side."

She had to put her fork down on her plate before she dropped it.

Corsair worked his tongue in his cheek and, wisely, said nothing.

"It's nothin' I can prove. But she acts a helluva lot different than when we threw down on her in the Pentagon. So...maybe she really is changin' for the better. If she does, it'll be because that little bit o' Carol Danvers inside of her makes her want to be that way."

"Logan. You know how she got that ‘little bit of Carol Danvers', don't you?" Carol's tone was deadly. "She accosted me on the Golden Gate bridge. She attacked me, beat me up, sucked my powers and my mind out of me. Then she threw me off the bridge. She wanted to kill me. If it hadn't been for Spider-Woman coming by, I probably would have hit the water and broken my neck. And if I hadn't broken my neck, I would have hit that near-freezing water, gone into hypothermia, and died, either from that, or drowning or both. And now you expect me to be sympathetic towards her?"

"No, I don't," said Logan. "Not a bit."

"If you take that slimebag murdering bitch into your ranks, then God help you all. Because I won't." Carol sighed, sopped up part of the butter and rice with a roll, and ate it. "For god's sake, Logan. If she'd been an axe murderer, would you take her in just because she made cow-eyes at you and said she was sorry?"

"No," he said. "But the way it is right now, all I can do is sit there and wait. ‘N' hope that things keep going right, or that I'm on hand when they go wrong." He paused. "Do you hate me, Carol, for doin' that?"

She shook her head. "No. But between the way things turned out with the Avengers, and the way they're turning out now with the X-Men, I'm beginning to think super-teams have a stupidity clause in them. And I've been with two of them, so that shows you how stupid I am."

Corsair said, "Miss Danvers--are you stupid enough to try for three?"

Carol looked at him.

Major Summers wasn't joking. Logan, who had talked with him beforehand, sat back and ate, while Corsair made his pitch.

"I'm serious," said Corsair. "Logan has told me that he heard from the others you were contemplating leaving Earth for a time. This is correct?"

She nodded.

"But the universe is a big place, Carol. Bigger than even a woman with your powers would imagine. It helps to have a group of people around you who know the ropes, or at least know more than you do at present. And most of the time, we don't come anywhere near Earth."

Carol said, "Keep talking," and finished the rest of her dinner while he was doing so.

"The Starjammers are a good unit, maybe the best. But we've got a different mission than just freebooting for the present. Princess Lilandra has asked us to help her free the Shi'ar Empire from the domination of her sister, Deathbird. Remember her?"

"Oh, yes," said Carol. She thought, Wonder what it'd be like to take her on now, with Binary power?

"We'd also be battling the Brood from time to time. I don't think you have any more cause to love them than you do Rogue."

"You've talked to the others about this?" asked Carol. "To Ch'od, and Hepzibah, and Raza?"

Corsair said, "I have, and to Princess Lil and Cr'reee as well. They'd all welcome you gladly. It's going to be rough, at least as rough as you've ever had it. Hell, we're fighting a war, and that's all there is to it. But we all want you, Carol. There's a place for you waiting with the Starjammers--and a lot of universe to see out there."

For a few seconds, there was no talk.

Then Carol said, "Will you give me a couple of days to get things squared away here? My money, my stuff, and everything?"

Smiling, Corsair said, "Of course, Carol. Welcome to the Starjammers." He gave her his hand. Carol shook it.

"Gonna be sad to see you go, hon'," said Logan. "But I think it's for the best."

"No use in carrying that stuff in the truck up to my apartment," she said. "Let me phone my folks and see if we can bring it over to their place tonight."

Logan said, "We ain't got time left tonight to drive to Boston, fa' cryin out loud."

"Who's gonna drive? You get in and I'll fly you."

Before they went, Carol hooked up her computer to check her e-mail, got her recent messages, and saw one in Ms. Marvel's long-unused box. It was an automatic invitation to an annual poker party at Avengers Mansion with the usual suspects: the Thing, Nick Fury, Wonder Man, and D.A. Blake Tower. After she read it, she showed it to Logan.

"You wanna go?" he said, lighting another cigar.

"I'm not sure," she said.

"There's a few people there you won't be seein' again soon, includin' Nick."

She looked at him. "Would you like to go?"

"You want me around for support troops?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I do."

"Then I'll go."

So after Binary flew the two of them and the U-Haul truck to Boston, making for an interesting radar blip on some air-controllers' screens, and she changed into Carol Danvers and said hello to her folks again and introduced Logan as an old friend and Corsair as "Major Summers, her new employer" (which made Joe sure that, admit it or not, Carol was working for the Company again), and they unloaded part of the stuff in the Danvers's house and the rest in a storage facility in town, and Carol slept in her old bed again and Logan and Major Summers shared a hotel room in town, Summers went back with the truck to Westchester County and dropped them off at Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, right in front of Avengers Mansion.

The tradition was for everyone except the players, and Jarvis, to be absent from the Mansion that night. Carol was glad it was observed. She would have liked to see Wanda, though.

Jarvis, the butler, met them at the door with a great deal of surprise. She threw her arms around him in a big hug. After all, he hadn't had anything to do with the Marcus affair.

"I must confess," he spluttered, "after the way you and the Avengers parted, I hardly expected to see you again, especially here."

"Time, as they say, heals all wounds," she lied. "Besides, I missed the game."

She introduced Logan and the three of them went down the hall to the dining room. Nick Fury was there, and her warmth matched his surprise. It was great to see the Thing again, and she wondered what her reaction would be to the Beast, he who wanted to be Marcus's "stuffed toy", or to Wonder Man.

She didn't forget what she had gone through. But she chose not to sustain the hate.

The Thing hadn't known her as Carol, so she revealed that she had once been Ms. Marvel. Nick got a double surprise when he saw Logan. They were grabbing hands within seconds. "It's been years," said Fury.  "When was the last time?"

"Vladivostok," said Logan. "Just before you got tapped to take over SHIELD."

"Hell, it's Old Home Week and a half," said Fury. "C'mon, you two, siddown and get dealt in. If this keeps up, Reb friggin' Ralston's gonna be the next one to come through that damn door. Then you'll really see some poker."

So they played, and Carol took them for all they were worth again, raking up the chips with a full house, aces high, for the last hand.

The Beast didn't mind. It took him awhile to get secure with Carol, and she wasn't as chummy as he'd hoped she would be. But at least she didn't seem to hate him, and that was all right for now. Wonder Man was courteous to her, if not warm. And the Thing said, "What was that you wuz sayin' about Reb Ralston, Colonel?"

Fury said, "I think it'd take him and Gabe to beat Blondie here...and I ain't makin' an on-record statement of that!"

Then a late arrival arrived, in a beam of light.

She was a black woman in a black-and-white costume, and, when she chose to, she was composed of light. The Thing introduced her as the latest Avenger to the three, Nick, Logan, and Carol, who hadn't met her. "Carol Danvers, meet Captain Marvel."

Carol dropped her jaw, and then asked if Mar-Vell had retired, or suddenly gotten a new look? She meant it as a joke.

It wasn't taken as such.

"Carol, didn't you know?" asked Nick Fury.

"Know what, Nicholas?" she responded.

"Mar-Vell's dead."

"What? When?"

"A few months back," said Nick, waiting for her questions stoically.

"How?" blurted Carol. "Accident? Murder? Who killed him, the Kree Supreme Intelligence? Tell me!"

Fury sighed. "It wasn't like that at all. He had cancer."

That was when Carol knew, her shoulders slumping, that for her, the Book of Job was not yet finished.

The Thing explained that everybody from Reed Richards on down had worked overtime for a cure. None was found. Mar-Vell had died, with almost every Earth hero he had known, and many he hadn't, at his bedside.

The new Captain Marvel had tried to apologize. "I know how you must feel," she said.

"Lady," said Carol, "you know nothing."

In an instant, she powered up, and an astonished group of heroes saw her transform into a fiery, red-and-white-clad fury.

Then Binary blasted through the roof of Avengers Mansion and was gone.

She called the X-Men, as little as she liked it, and learned from them the location of the world where Mar-Vell had breathed his last. Then she went there, and saw his memorial stone, and embraced it.

She thought of the alien who had been a friend to her, who had enabled her to become a super-hero through a genetic gift. She wondered if, somehow, a transplant of genes or blood from her body to his could have saved him.

Probably not. The cancer was too far into him. But at least she would have tried.

She looked up, and, through a few tears, saw the stars.

And she realized that that was where she wanted to be.

A day later, Logan found Carol, in her Binary costume but in human form, on the beach at Boston where she liked to go. There was nobody there but the two of them, and they talked about Captain Mar-Vell, and about Rogue, and about lost memories and emotions, and about themselves.

In the end, Logan had kissed her farewell, and said, "I'll miss you, darlin'."

Then she powered up, soared off, and didn't stop till she reached the Starjammers' spacecraft, orbiting the Earth.

Binary stepped through the airlock door. Corsair was waiting there for her, with Ch'od, Cr'reee, Hepzibah, Raza, glasses, and a magnum of champagne.

"Welcome home," he said.


Continued in Chapter 7.


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