Marie Danvers had never seen a superhero up close and personal
other than her daughter.
That was why, when the man in the red and gold armor had
dropped out of the sky with the light blue flame of jet afterburners
coming from the soles of his shoes, and addressed her by name,
the only thing she could do was gape and say, "Iron Man?"
Thankfully, he had the courtesy to land on the sidewalk,
not on the lawn. His boot-jets might have ruined the grass.
It was also a blessing that Joe was at work.
But there he was. One of the oldest and most powerful Avengers
of all, reminding Marie in part of a knight in shining armor,
of that movie RoboCop which she'd caught out of the corner
of her eye and then shut off when he started slaughtering
people, and, lastly, of Carol herself, who was the only superhero
she could judge things by.
Iron Man apologized for his dramatic entry, then asked Mrs.
Danvers if Carol was in. Marie knew that the Avengers knew
who Carol was, but, until now, wasn't sure they knew she knew,
as well. Obviously, they knew Joe didn't. That was why the
man in the armor had come while Joe was away.
"Yes," Marie admitted. "She's been living
with us again for quite some time now. Won't you come in?"
"Thank you," said Iron Man. He stepped inside.
"Uh, Mr. Iron Man, please, one thing."
He turned towards her. She saw eyes through the slits in
his face plate, which was reassuring. He wasn't a robot.
"This house cost us a lot of money, and it's very dear
to us. Please don't get into any fights around here. We can't
afford to replace it."
"Wouldn't think of it, Mrs. Danvers. If Galactus attacks,
we'll ask him to take it down the block."
Carol had just about ridden out her hangover by the time
Iron Man knocked on her door. She told him to come in, saw
who it was, and didn't move from the bed she sat on. "Oh,
it's you. So, Captain America send you up here to check on
Iron Man moved inside the room, his boots making the familiar
muffled clanking noise, and shut the door behind him. Despite
it all, Carol admitted that she enjoyed hearing the sound
again. Then the hero in metal spoke.
"Cap didn't have to send me, Carol. We're all concerned
about you, and for you. The way you flew into a rage as Warbird
after our battle with the Squadron Supreme, the way you snapped
at Cap and fled."
Carol was irritated. She shifted her position on the bed,
under the big AIM HIGH poster from the Air Force. "I
was there. I remember. I don't need a recap. What's your point?"
Iron Man said, "I thought...I thought maybe we could
talk a little."
The armored Avenger walked a bit closer, looked up at the
model planes hanging from her ceiling, reached up and gingerly
touched one. "Nice work on the models, by the way. Yours?"
"The result of a zillion Saturday afternoons and an
airplane-mad youth. Anything with wings, I loved. Especially
the old Warbirds. The speed. The power. The sheer beauty of
them. No surprise, huh?"
He looked at her.
Carol continued, "That's why I renamed myself Warbird
when I joined the Avengers again. Lying on the bed so long,
looking up at these things, I guess I thought it might give
me a connection to my past."
Iron Man gauged her voice tone. He saw an open bottle of
Budweiser on the bedstead behind her, right next to a model
of a Saturn V rocket. Like it was going to take off in tandem.
It was only beer. But if Jarvis was right when he had questioned
him, Carol had been through a lot more than beer lately. He
said he could smell it on her.
"Look, Carol, I didn't come here to argue with you.
I just thought that, well, maybe, I might be able to help."
With that, Iron Man touched a control at the bottom of his
face plate, loosened a coupling, and flipped the golden plate
upward. He looked at her and showed her the face of Tony Stark.
"Tony Stark," she said. "Iron Man is Tony
Stark. Well, doesn't that make sense? You hide it well, Tony.
The voice, the attitude, the story about being your own bodyguard--I'd
never have guessed."
He locked the door behind him to keep Mrs. Danvers from walking
in, took off his helmet, and waited for her to speak again.
"So, Tony Stark," Carol said. "You design
the world's best armor, airplanes, computers, and more. So
tell me, can you fix someone who had everything, but lost
"What do you mean?"
"That's the question, isn't it?" Carol got up and
looked out of the window, pressing her fingers against the
glass. "What do I mean?"
She drew the curtains to keep any passers-by from looking
in and possibly learning something that could hit CNN within
the hour if it was revealed. Then she gave him a short but
detailed history of her life as a woman. And as a superhero.
During the course of it, she finally admitted what she figured
they knew by now. Her Binary powers were gone, leaving her
with only the scaled-down abilities of a Ms. Marvel. "I
lost everything on Earth," she said, "only to lose
the stars, as well. I thought I could find a place for myself.
Be an Avenger, at least. And I'm going to, no matter what
Captain America tries."
Tony looked uneasy. "What Cap tries? It's not like--he's
not--" He shook his head and sighed. "Carol, I'll
never understand what all this has been like for you. But
I do know about stress. How overwhelming it can be."
He picked up the bottle of Bud from the bedstead, hefted it,
looked at it as if it were an old friend and a dangerous snake
at the same time. "And how attractive it can be to hide
from it." He paused again.
"Has alcohol been a part of dealing with things?"
He was looking straight at her as he said it. He hoped he
was giving her a gentle expression.
She looked back at him. This man who had been one of those
who betrayed her to Marcus Immortus. This man who had been
an alcoholic himself, so bad of one that a substitute had
to assume his armor while he dried out. This man who, despite
it all, she had wanted to count as a friend.
This man who was judging her.
She powered up and her lounging clothes were replaced by
the uniform of Warbird. Tony thought she looked beautiful,
sexual, and powerful, all in one package. She also looked
like a Fury.
"Oh, is that it?" raged Warbird. "That's the
pigeonhole you've decided to stick me in? It's easy, isn't
it? You're an alcoholic, so anyone you know who drinks must
be an alcoholic, too. Saves the trouble of thinking about
She was shouting, almost. Tony remembered his promise to
Mrs. Danvers. "Carol, no," he started. He wanted
to tell her he had come to help, not judge. He wanted to tell
her that he saw her at the top of the slope he had started
down, that horrible time ago, and merely wished to keep her
from sliding down any further.
But Carol wasn't giving him a chance to tell her anything.
"Sure, I take a drink or two," she snapped, pointing
at his face. "I've earned it. But it doesn't affect me,
not for long. The energy in my metabolism burns it off right
"Oh, come on, Carol," said Tony. Maybe it was time
to get tough with her. "You don't really believe that.
Although, I must admit, as rationalizations go, it--"
"Get out, Tony. Before I rip that armor off and throw
you back to New York. I'm not what I was, but I don't have
to take this."
She was breathing heavily. Her fists were clenched. In short,
she was doing everything she could to keep from facing what
she had become.
The terrible part of it now, Tony judged, was that nobody
was doing it to Carol this time. For the first time, she was
doing it to herself.
Until she was ready to listen, not a word he said would make
a bit of difference. So he turned, put his helmet back on,
went to the door, and unlocked it. He turned back to Carol
one last time.
"When you're ready to listen, I'm ready to help,"
"Get out," she repeated.
After he was gone, Warbird looked at the bottle of Bud. She
sniffed the top of it. It was probably flat, but there was
a little left in it. So she knocked it back.
Wasn't good to have one like this on so little breakfast.
Should have a whole one.
She sat with the bottle in her hand and thought. Thought
about Mr. Armor with a metal rod up his ass. Mr. Self-Righteous
Reformed Boozehound. Mr. Friend of Captain I'm-gonna-get-you-thrown-out-of-the-Avengers
Like it was her fault she felt like a drink after she'd risked
her damn neck once a month for people who didn't give a damn.
Like it was her fault she'd let it slip a little after losing
her powers. Didn't anybody remember her saving the sun? Didn't
anybody remember Marcus Immortus, for cripes' sake?
Like any of it was her fault.
She powered down and returned to her Carol Danvers self.
Then she went to the door, told her astonished mom she'd be
back, and got in her car. She'd decide what to do about Phony
At least a six-pack later.
As it was, she paid a visit to Tony Stark's Long Island plant
office afterward. She came through the window, and it wasn't
raised before she entered. There was somebody else with him
at the time, but she didn't really give a damn. She grabbed
Tony by the collar, one-handed, and told him that he wasn't
going to get her thrown out of the Avengers. No way. She was
lit and she felt good about it, because it made her feel like
she was on top of the world. Like she was in control again.
Almost like she was Binary again.
Stark had tried to talk her down and she felt like putting
her gloved fist in his face.
Then a tide of blood hit her brain and she looked at the
woman who was in the office with both of them and saw the
look in the woman's eyes. She was backed against the wall,
trying to edge toward the door, and looking at Carol like
she was some kind of super-villain, for god's sake.
She gazed at Tony again and saw that she might be hurting
What the hell was happening to her?
Warbird let him down, gently, tried to smooth out his suit
where she had grabbed him. She tried to apologize.
That was when, of all things, a squad of three blue-skinned
Kree burst into the same room. They used the door. They had
big guns, and they could have wiped out everyone in the room.
They wanted to take Warbird with them, for somedamnthing or
another. Tony had cued her and she had blasted through the
floor, sending herself and him into the room below. He got
to his attache case down there, turned into Iron Man in seconds,
and both of them went after the Kree.
They also had to take on a Sentry.
The Kree took off in a skycraft, and Warbird pursued it.
The building they had been fighting in had sustained structural
damage, even though the Sentry had been beaten. Iron Man told
her that the people within were in danger. She yelled back
at him to save them, she was going after the Kree.
She had faith in him. He had his job to do, she had hers.
She'd show them all.
Except the Kree had showed her.
Warbird had trailed the Kree ship to her old stomping grounds,
a hidden site near Cape Canaveral. It was a place out of a
Nazi nightmare. The blueskins were subjecting captive humans
to gas experiments, to find a method of turning them into
genetic Kree. Many of the subjects had died.
They had found Carol and battle had begun. The booze was
burning out of her body, and she was holding her own, but
She still had an Avengers Communicard, and could have called
in the whole team. But that wouldn't give her a chance to
shine. They wouldn't know she could still be a heroine. Maybe
just one would be needed. She doubted that Iron Man would
be particularly pleased with her right now. He just didn't
So she called on Cap, and Cap came.
That was good, because a few minutes after she put through
the call, the Kree captured her. She was just about to be
treated to the sight of another mass murder by gassing when
the American legend appeared, freed her, and helped her fight
He was apoplectic when she told him she hadn't called in
the rest of the team. The Kree had blocked outgoing signals
after her call.
He just wouldn't understand.
Cap had freed the prisoners and told her to see to their
safety. She pointed out, she thought reasonably enough, that
the Kree were getting away, and their agenda was to wreck
the whole human race. He gave her a lecture, and not a nice
one. He told her that she wasn't a team player, and that she
wouldn't get his approval if she didn't get her head together
and start acting like an Avenger.
So she decided to act like an Avenger, and tore off after
the Kree escaping in a spacecraft.
The bad guys caught her in a stasis field, dragged her inside
the ship, and took off.
They looked at her not unlike the way the Brood had looked
at her when they had performed their little experiments upon
her. Only this time, Carol was fairly sure that the Kree wouldn't
end up turning her into Binary again.
The Kree forced an artificial power-down with a ray and she
returned to her Carol Danvers status. She was strapped to
a table and fixed beneath another sort of beam and could look
up and see the faces of the Kree biotechs and a screen with
the hateful green tentacled face of the Supreme Intelligence
The Black Knight hadn't gotten him, after all.
She felt queasy and nerved and wondered if the good guys
would get her out before the final reel again. They owed her,
after all. Hadn't she saved the sun?
A drink would help clear things up. Good Lord, she needed
She managed to ask the Kree soldier tending her for one,
but he said no.
They examined Carol's hybrid human / Kree DNA and used it
to program a dingus they called the Omniwave Projector. They
said the Omniwave would transform normal humans into Kree,
and thus replenish in part the Kree they had lost during Galactic
Storm. Of course, genetically modified persons such as superheroes
would die. That would be convienient for the Kree.
Quicksilver had gotten to her and freed her. Then he ran
off. Carol was shaky. She thought about powering up to Warbird,
but wasn't sure how she'd feel if she did so.
One of the Kreemen, to taunt her, had brought in a few flasks
of some stuff and had toasted her along with his buddies.
There was still about a third of a big glass left of it.
She looked at it for about five seconds, then drank it.
It burned down in her like bourbon and it made the familiar
and comforting click go off in her brain. Now she could handle
things. Now it was all right.
She powered up, and her Warbird uniform appeared on her body.
Let the whole damn Kree Empire come at her, now. She could
handle em all. Handle em all without Avenger one
Warbird found where the Kree were keeping the Omniwave generator.
Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and the Inhumans' big
mutt Lockjaw were there. So were a bunch of Kree. That was
She sent out a barrage of power bursts. They weren't going
just where she wanted. Nuts. Well, she figured she just had
to keep sending them out, and sooner or later all the bad
guys would fall down. It was the law of averages.
The bad guys fell down. So did the big dog, when she hit
him in the leg. Well, after all, he shouldn't have been standing
there. Wasn't he fast enough to get out of the way? What was
he doing there if he wasn't?
She hit the generator. It blew up, ruptured the roof, and
made the air start leaking out.
Quicksilver whizzed up, got her, and got Lockjaw to teleport
them all out of there. He said he was going to report her
to the Avengers.
He was a damn ingrate. She'd heard of how he'd tried to kill
the whole team, East and West Coast together, some months
back, before he reformed.
Back at Avengers HQ, they patched up the dog, patted his
head, and sent him back home. She apologized for hurting the
mutt, but pointed out that she'd stopped the Kree. She didn't
think they'd bust her out for hurting a dog.
She was wrong.
The next day, the Avengers had called a special tribunal.
She had slept off the booze, woke up with a three-alarmer
inside her head, and threw up in the john. Then she took a
painkiller, got into her costume, had breakfast, noticed that
Marilla wasn't saying anything to her, and went into the conference
Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch,
the Vision, and Quicksilver were waiting for her. Court-martial
was in session.
Thor, who presided, spoke to her. "Warbird, all those
here know thee to be a brave warrior and true. But thou dost
face most grave charges today, that alcoholism hath made thee
derelict in thy duties, and a danger to thyself and thy fellow
Avengers. If this be true, then let thy comrades aid thee--help
thee to triumph over this."
He waited for her to say something.
She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
After a few more seconds, he said, "Very well. We shall
handle testimony in this matter in chronological order. And
thuys, we shall begin with Iron Man."
Warbird listened to the whole damn thing. She heard Iron
Pants, Captain-friggin-American Pie, and Slicksilver give
their testimony. She objected, pointed up parts that they
should have understood, that they could have understood if
they'd only been trying. But they hadn't tried. And they still
Finally, the testimony was done. Thor asked if she had anything
to say in her own defense.
"Yes," she said, and didn't bother to cover up
the anger. Maybe it was the remnants of her headache, maybe
she was undergoing some major PMS, maybe all the Kreevian
booze hadn't flushed itself out of her system. All that she
knew was that she was mad as hell, and didn't mind getting
a chance to tell these asinine Avenger schmucks off.
"It's a crock, all of it. From beginning to end. I made
a few mistakes, granted, but everyone does that. I've done
pretty well, all told. I'm the one who exposed the Corruptor,
after all. I'm the one who found the Kree, and I'm the one
who blew up their power unit. Okay, so I shouldn't have hidden
my power loss. But I'd already lost my past, my family, my
friends, the stars. I didn't want to risk losing Avengers
membership, as well.
"And now--now--you want to label me an alcoholic because
I take a drink now and then? Try to throw me off the team?
It's not just a crock. It's an outrage! If it wasn't for me,
everyone'd be speaking Kreevian right now. If it wasn't for
me, there wouldn't be anyone to speak it, because I saved
the sun! Remember?"
There was a pause. Carol was hyperventilating. Her neck veins
were visible to the others. They struggled to hold their composure.
Thor broke the silence. "And that is thy defense?"
She didn't say anything. She didn't think she had anything
else to say.
They called a vote. They all went against her. Even Wanda,
who was on the point of tears as she begged Carol to get some
help, to beat this thing that was dragging her down.
They'd even gotten to Wanda, too.
An alarm came in. The Kree had been detected on the Blue
Area of the Moon. Cap told the other members of the team to
get ready for action, and had the Vision call up Justice and
Carol gave them one last chance. She'd show them. She could
swallow her pride one last time. Maybe they wouldn't be such
hypocritical bastards after all. She put a smile on her face
and turned to Cap.
"I've been on this from the start," she said. "And
I know the battleground. You can't mean to--"
"No, Warbird." He said it firmly. His face was
That did it.
"Well, fine," she snapped. "If that's the
way you're going to be, I'll save you the trouble of finishing
your kangaroo court's vote. Effective immediately--I quit."
So she stomped up to her quarters, powered down, packed what
she had in a duffel bag, and left by a way which would not
bring her into contact with any of the Avengers.
She chanced a look back as she reached the front gate, and
saw Wanda looking down at her from a window.
Then she stepped through the gates, which automatically shut
She didn't look back.
That evening, she looked up at the moon. The Avengers were
up there. So were the Kree. She had started in this fight,
and she could help finish it. She'd show them. Then, after
she showed them, she'd tell them where to stick their crummy
team. By gosh, she'd do that.
Carol powered up, turned into Warbird, and streaked into
the sky. Flying under her own power, that was a trip even
jocking a fighter jet couldn't match. Nothing beat self-flight.
She soared up and up and up, into the farthest reaches of
the atmosphere. She'd hit open space, soon, just like when
she was Binary. She'd make a beeline for the Moon, plow into
those Kree, and not even bother taking names when she kicked
their blue butts.
It was getting kind of hard to breathe.
Well, maybe she just needed a little more determination.
She forced more power into her flight. Warbird hurtled forward,
The stars beckoned.
Her lungs were laboring for air.
Damn it damn it damn it NO...
The blue was turning to blackness, and she couldn't
She began to fall towards Earth.
She plummeted back, as she had when she was Binary, some
weeks past. Only her flight wasn't nearly so well-controlled.
At the end of it, she was glad she had aimed herself over
the bay. It still hurt, when she hit the water, even using
all of her remaining power to pull up.
She managed to get to shore, to drag herself into an alley.
She lay there a few minutes, gasping and gulping in the sweet,
sweet air, as bad as the New York variety tasted.
She had blown it. The Avengers were fighting the Kree up
there, and she had not been able to aid them. She had washed
She needed a drink.
She powered down, got up, and went in search of a bar.
It wasn't hard to find. It was there in the night with a
friendly light and a cute SAFETY CHUTE parachute sign outside
and the sign on the window said that it was indeed a bar and
stayed open 24 hours.
It was her haven and her home.
While she was inside, the TV over the bar flashed a picture
of the Avengers from stock footage and mentioned that they
had beaten the Kree again.
She looked at the drink before her, which she had been nursing
like she was afraid it would go away and leave her alone.
Then she knocked it back.
There was plenty more where that came from.
Continued in Chapter
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