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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 we go with the first all-original chapter of "Empires". Hope you enjoy it!

Carol Danvers had tasted the cuisine of alien worlds during her time as a Starjammer. Some of it was tasty. Other times, she was glad she'd undergone USAF survival training and learned how to eat damned near anything. But she had to admit that nothing anywhere could compare to Mom's stir-fry, when she got a good do on it. And she had a good one this time.

One of Mom's secrets was using big egg noodles instead of rice. It Americanized the dish and made it more agreeable to Carol's palate. So that was what they were eating, this night by the lake.

It was one of the nicer experiences she'd had in the last few months.

"This, mmph," said Carol, working on her third helping, "makes me realize how much I missed real food when I was in the hospital." She blanched. "Um, sorry, Mom. Guess I shouldn't have reminded you."

Marie looked at her daughter with the familiar smile of sadness.  "Honey, considering all you've been through, d'you think that much of anything you reminded me about wouldn't have some connection to you getting hurt?"

Carol didn't look at her mother. "Guess not. I'll try and work on not getting hurt in the future, if you keep making me stir-fry."

"A deal. And I'll hold you to it." Marie took the serving spoon and heaped some more veggies and noodles onto her own plate. "So. When are you gonna make the big decision?"

"Don't know, Mom," said Carol, honestly. She looked at her mother and hoped that she wouldn't see hope dying in Marie's eyes. "I honestly don't. But I'm going to make as much of a life for Carol Danvers as I can."

"As if that wasn't what Joe and I tried to do for you all those years you were growing up," Marie responded, quietly. "But let's not get into a fight, shall we? This has been too nice a time here."

"I know," said Carol, chasing down the food with iced tea. "Boy howdy, how I ever do know. It's really nice, Mom. It's nice not being around any super-heroes."


"Or super-villains."

"Double amen."

"I've got to go back to Seattle when the month's over, and then I'll be on the book tour. How'll you like having a daughter you can watch on talk shows?"

Marie held back tears of joy. "I'll like having a daughter who isn't risking her neck every other night. I'll love having a daughter who'll be a human being again. But I'll love you no matter what you do, Carol."

"Thanks, Mom. Love you back, and you know it."

Marie set her fork down and sighed. "This is getting too heavy for just me, though, Carol. If, no, when you give up the Warbird thing, I want you to tell Joe."

Carol's arm froze in mid-forkful. "You want me to tell Dad?"

"I do." Marie folded her arms across her chest. "He knows we've been keeping something from him, Carol. He knows. We've had arguments. I've kept your secret. But it's a strain between us. If that was taken away ... well, I don't know what his reaction would be. But the strain wouldn't be there anymore."

The woman who had led four different lives ate what was on her fork to give her time to think of a response. "I can't say, Mom. It's an idea. But I haven't committed either way yet. So how can I commit to tell Dad? Wouldn't it be better if he just didn't know?"

"No, Carol. It would not." Marie was quiet, but firm. "He might get as mad as he did when you ran off and joined the Air Force. But that would pass, and I know he'd be proud of you once he accepted it."

"No, Mom," said Carol, sitting her fork down and tenting her hands.   "You don't know how Dad would react. You just think you can predict it. I haven't known Dad as long as you have, but I've known him a long time. And I don't know how he'd react. He might take it really bad."

"So what's the worst-case scenario? You think he's going to banish you from the house? He won't. You think he'll disown his daughter? My God, Carol, the man has lost his son. I have lost my son. Do you think that, having lost one child, we're going to give up on the only one we have left?"

Carol shook her head, sadly. "I wish I could have a conversation with you that didn't end with me wanting to cry, Mom. But I'm not going to do it this time."

"You're not going to tell him?"

"I'm not going to cry," said Carol. "That's the extent of my commitment. The only decision I will make tonight." She stood up.  "I'm going to work on the book. Then I'm coming down to watch some TV. You want to watch with me?"

"The only thing we agree we both like is Lifetime."

"Yeah, and ‘The Carol Danvers Story' would be a smash for them. I've had so many hard times they could make it into a mini-series."

"So who plays you? Farrah Fawcett?"

"Damned if I know. Somebody who looks good in blonde hair and a bathing suit costume. Maybe Christie Brinkley, if she could act."

"You wish! Ah, well, Lifetime it is. Especially if they have Unsolved Mysteries on. I lust in my heart for Robert Stack."

"I've got a secret suspicion about Christie Brinkley, Mom."

"What's that?"

Carol leaned closer, over the table. "She's really a Skrull. How else could she make her body look that good?"

"By not eating quadruple helpings of whatever I put on your plate. Go write. Now."

Carol grinned and went to her room.

The Supreme Intelligence was, by its very size, a hard thing for the Kree to store.

It was, basically, a union of the deceased brain-patterns of hundreds of prominent Kree over the centuries. The idea had been the fruit of one of the most brilliant cyberneticists of their race. His prize, once he conceived and implemented the idea, was to be killed and have his mind entemplated with the first batch of deadsters. He didn't much like it, but he wasn't giving orders.

Now, as a segment of the great Kree overbrain, he was, but only as a small percentage of it. The guiding overbrain was that of a coterie of dead Kree generals--the military had always ruled their race -- with scientists, priests, psychics, and even a few artists and writers thrown in for versimilitude, adding to the mix.

That the resultant mind-being was coherent and self-directed was astonishing. That it was militaristic was only to be expected.

It was manifested as a green-hued, basically humanoid face on a computer screen, or as a humanoid body-construct when it had one to wear. It had directed the actions of the Kree for centuries, and the cherished goal of a Kree military man was to have his body and encoded brain-patterns added to the Supreme Intelligence once he died.

In recent years, the Supreme Intelligence had been turned off, turned back on again, almost destroyed, and forced to upload itself into other databanks in order to survive. Kree computers are far advanced over the Earth variety, but memory space is memory space. The Supreme Intelligence took up a lot of drive.

Thus, it had to be supported through a far-flung planetary network of computers, each of which held a portion of the Intelligence, any of which could take up the load if some of the others were shut down or destroyed. Other grand databases were constantly being constructed to give the Intelligence more living room -- and make it possible to devote computer space to other tasks.

In recent times, the Kree had lost their war with the Shi'ar, thanks to some Skrull manipulation. The Intelligence had plotted and implemented the explosion of the great bomb which wiped out so much of the Kree population, but allowed favorable and powerful mutation in the small remnant. That had been the Intelligence's goal for years, to boost the Kree out of their genetic evolutionary standstill. But the price had been so great...

The recent attempt to convert Earthlings into genetic Kree had failed, thanks to the intervention of the Avengers. But the Intelligence had learned something of Carol Danvers's new identity in that conflict.  The woman who was gene-cousin to the Kree had lost her Binary powers. She was now hardly more than an amplified human.

This made her an easier target to deal with. There was the revenge factor, true. But there were other things which made her a desirable prize for the Intelligence. Things which, properly actuated, might enable the Kree survivors to throw off the tyrannical reign of the Shi'ar, and even destroy Deathbird, their regent.

The Intelligence manifested itself in one of the more secret dwellings of the Kreemen. Its tentacled green visage gazed upon a remnant of the decimated Lunatic Legion, blue and pink men and women, united at last in their hatred of their Shi'ar oppressors.

"A new plan will be actuated," it said, its synthesized tones ringing throughout the room. "It involves the Kree/Terran hybrid of Earth. Ca-Rol Danvers, the Avenger, must be obtained. More will be divulged when this is accomplished."

Ronan the Accuser stared at his lord without emotion.

"At once, Supremor," he said.

Carol was banging away at the sequel to her first high-tech space opera and was fairly pleased with the results. She'd already managed to bring out some redeeming characteristics in one of her lesser lead characters, who had been bitching out too much for her tastes in the first book. On the other hand, having Kreevian nanites injected into your blood was bound to give your personality a severe change. But the readers had to be led to empathize with her somehow, for Pete's sake...

The phone rang. Luckily, Marie was inside to answer it, in another room. Carol didn't like being disturbed in midstream of a write. Besides, she was picking up some fans for her work, and found out how many of them insisted on trying to call up their favorite authors. At first it was nice, but 300 calls a day was a real drag ... and a necessity for an unlisted number.

She could hear her mother in the adjacent room. "Hello? Oh, hi! You want to speak to Carol? Well, she's kind of busy right now, but I'll ask her. Hold on."

"Lord, let it not be another freaking Avenger in trouble," prayed Carol aloud.

Marie eased the door to Carol's room open. "Honey, it's Joe. Your dad. He wants to talk to you."

"Dad?" She looked up from the computer screen. "Why's he calling?"

"Don't know. Does he need a reason? Maybe he likes you."

"Did he sound mad, or happy, or energetic, or..."

"He sounds like your dad. Take the call."

"All right," she sighed. She picked up the phone on her desk and changed her tone to a happy one, and was glad to hear Mom put the phone in the other room back on the hook. "Hi, Dad," she said. "Good to hear from you again. What's up?"

"Good to hear from you again, too," he said. "How's the stomach, Carol?" He sounded a bit tense as he said it.

"Oh, that healed weeks ago," said Carol, putting her feet up on the desk and crossing her ankles. "Turned out Wolverine was under somebody else's control. It wasn't really his fault."

"Oh, cripes," said Joe. "As if that's an excuse. But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about, honey."

"Go ahead," she said, wonderingly.

"I'm coming up there tomorrow. That all right by you?"

Carol was silent for a couple of seconds. Then, gamely, she replied, "Sure, Dad. Any special occasion?"

"Sure. Seeing my only kid. That's special enough." He paused. "I'm only going to stay the day and night, then you and Marie can get back to whatever you're doing."

"We're just having fun, Dad, and I'm working on the next book," she said, making sure to press Control-S on her keyboard. "Maybe if you're here, I can get to ski. Mom doesn't like to drive the boat."

He laughed, a little too heartily. "Sounds good to me, honey. The job went through okay, by the way. The savings and loan company likes the new building. What're you writing about?"

"Oh, the Kree, American good guys, and outer-space intrigue," she said. "You know, slice-of-life stuff. Should sell a bunch."

"Yeah, and I get to play a videotape of you with Joan Lunden and tell all the guys on my crew, ‘That's my girl!' When do I get to be on TV with you?"

"Whenever I do a show in Boston, Dad. Call up WGBN and see if they'll do one with us."

"I'm proud of you, Carol," he said. "I may never have told you this, but I'm very, very proud of you."

"Thanks, Daddy," said Carol, and hesitated before saying, "I love you, too. But that should be understood."

"Sure," he said. "Listen, I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow morning, try to make it by eleven, okay?"

"Defintely okay, Dad," Carol said. "Want to talk to Mom?"

"No, I'll talk to her tomorrow. Give her my best. Bye now."

"Bye," said Carol, and hung up shortly after.

She ran a hand through her hair and then called out, "Mom."

Marie's face reappeared at the doorway. "What's up, honey? Joe decide to become a beautician?"

"Ohhh, come on! He's just coming down for a visit tomorrow. That means no more Warbird talk, no more super-hero talk, none of that stuff."

The older woman looked steadily at her daughter. "Does that mean you're not going to tell him, after all?"

"Not now, no," she said. "It's just too soon for me to make a decision on that."

"You haven't got too many more days here, Carol," said Marie. "When are you going to make a decision? On anything?"

"Mom," Carol said. "I've got a story to get back to."

"You've got another one you're avoiding."

Carol said nothing, but turned back to her keyboard and started typing.

After a few seconds, Marie turned away and went back to the kitchen.

Some miles away from Boston the next morning, on a highway between Boston and the lake, Joe Danvers saw a flashing red light in his rearview. He glanced up, hoping the ambulance or cop car or whatever it was just needed to get by. It didn't.

Swearing under his breath, he pulled his dark blue Dodge pickup onto the gravel shoulder of the road. He could've sworn he hadn't been speeding, but he hadn't been watching the speedometer that often. The HiPo had stopped behind him and was getting out of his car. He had on mirrored shades and was about 6 foot 2, and looked pretty much like your generic highway cop.

Joe fumbled in his wallet for his liscence and had it out of the wallet before he opened his own door. He plastered on a smile. "Morning, officer," he said.

"Morning," said the cop, chewing gum. He didn't smile. "Like to see your license, please."

Handing it over, Joe asked, as affably as he could, "What's this all about? Was I speeding? Really thought I was watching that."

The highway patrolman squinted at the liscence for a moment. "You're Joseph Payne Danvers?"

"Yeah," said Joe. "Can you tell me what this is all about?"

"Please, sir, turn around and put your hands on the vehicle."


The cop looked at him and kept chewing gum.

Bewildered, Joe turned around and assumed the position. The cop walked over to him and held out a hand. Joe was even more confused. If the cop was going to pat him down for a concealed weapons search, why in hell wasn't he going to use both hands?

"Listen, I'm not sure about this," said Joe, and that was as far as he got.

The cop slapped a cold metallic disk to the side of Joe Danvers's neck and, within three seconds, had to hold up Joe's unconscious body.

He fireman-carried Joe to the cop car, put him in the back beside another unconscious man, shut the door, got in the front, and drove off.

A few minutes later, the police vehicle returned. A figure got out, entered Joe's Dodge, and drove off.

Somebody noticed the driverless cop car in the afternoon and called the Highway Department.

By then, of course, it was too late.

Deathbird had just heard from her Chief of Security. She didn't like the man, but that was all right. She wouldn't like anybody she had put in that job.

"The data you obtained from the computer taps," she said. "Their accuracy?"

He laced his fingers together before him. "Until after the fact, excellency, the accuracy of anything of this sort is impossible to judge. But in my opinion, it represents a possibility that calls for some intervention."

"My decision, not yours," she said. "Go. I will contact you later."

"As you wish, excellency." The pink traitor Kree bowed his way out of the throneroom.

Deathbird sighed. It was impossible so far to obtain data directly from the damnable Supreme Intelligence, even with their spy network.  But they could hook into some secondary communications networks used by Kree undergrounders, and put together various scenarios from what they found there.

Now they had been given something concrete. The Kreemen were interested in Earth again. This, so quickly after their last defeat there.

But they weren't out to conquer the planet or use its populance for gene alteration this time. Apparently, they only had one objective.

The woman Danvers, who had been both Ms. Marvel and Binary, and was now, by what reports she'd received, calling herself Warbird.

If the Kree wanted her, that was reason enough to keep the woman out of their hands. But Deathbird had another reason for wanting Danvers in her own hands. During her days as a solo operative for the empire, she had clashed with the Terran on her backwater world, and had never succeeded in defeating her.

It would be a break from administrative duties to have Danvers captured, brought to her, and then killed by her own hand.

She called in her chamberlain. "We have a mission for the Outbound Services," she said. "To be handled discreetly, and -- quickly."

"As you wish, your excellency," the man responded, and listened to her plan.

A little after 12 noon, Carol and Marie saw her father's blue Dodge crunching up the road towards the lake house. They waved. The driver waved back.

"Remember, Mom, I'm trusting you," said Carol.

"Honey, I'm not about to give away your secrets," she said. "I just wish you would."

The pickup pulled up and the familiar figure of Joe Danvers stepped out of the cab. He smiled, waiting for them both.

Marie was the first to throw her arms around him. "Joe! Good to see you again," she said. "Glad I still remember what you look like. You do still remember me, don't you?"

And then she sagged in his arms.

Carol gaped. Joe looked up at her with an astonished expression, holding Marie up by her shoulder blades.

What's going on here? Alarm bells went off in Carol's head. She didn't know what was coming off. The only relevant fact: her mother had collapsed in her father's arms, and she didn't know why.

Marie had a good, healthy heart. Could she have caught a bit of sunstroke? Dad was apparently too surprised to say a word.

All this was thought and perceived as Carol ran towards them, taking her mother's limp but breathing form from the man's arms. She put her fingers over Marie's jugular, checking for a pulse, and breathed, "Thank God," when it checked out normally.

Her mother was only asleep.

Her father placed a hand on her shoulder, and another on her neck. He placed something else on her neck, too. Something cold and metallic-feeling. Something that Carol judged should not be there.

Instinctively, she triggered the process that altered her garments to her Warbird costume. By the time the shimmering was done and her suit was manifest, she had sunk to the grass by the driveway, as unconscious as her mother.

The man who was not Joe Danvers picked up Carol in one arm, supporting her against his chest, and pulled an instrument from his pocket with his other hand. He spoke into it.

"Transport on," he said.

If there had been anyone looking on, they would not have been able to perceive the beam that struck the man and Carol Danvers, unless they wore special eye-filters of a sort not devised on Earth. But there were no onlookers, and none of them would have had access to such equipment.

They would, however, have noticed the two people vanishing from sight within instants.

It took over an hour for a passerby to notice the sleeping Marie and get her to a hospital. It was hours after that when others found Joe Danvers and a highway patrolman in a similar state.

It would be much longer before anyone on Earth saw Carol Danvers again.

If ever.


Continued in Chapter 18.


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