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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.

What has gone before: Warbird has been kidnapped by an Aakon starcraft in hopes of auctioning her off to the highest bidder to learn the secret of her old Binary powers. Let's go...

Ms. Marvel / Binary / Warbird:
A Prize For Three Empires
Part 19

by DarkMark

Deathbird often wondered why in seventeen hells she didn't just have the Earth destroyed.

Of course, she knew the answer to that one. Her accursed sister, Lilandra, was in power, and she had Terran sympathies that began with her bedding the Earthman, Charles Xavier. Of course, Deathbird herself was keeping company with Bishop, who was also from Earth and also an "X-Man". But that was different. If she had to, and he became difficult, she could have him killed.

But Carol Danvers? Now there was somebody irritating she could have killed without too much static from the others. True, Lilandra wouldn't like it. But start a big thing about it? She didn't think so.

Years ago, Deathbird had fought Carol Danvers repeatedly when the Earthbitch was pre-Binary, and calling herself "Ms. Marvel". Now, she called herself "Warbird" if intelligence was correct, and she was back to roughly the same power level that she had earlier. In other words, she would be much easier to deal with.

Now the warship she had sent to Earth had reported Danvers was missing from the planet. Commander Tor-Vonn was awaiting further orders. She opened a comlink from the throne room and saw his face on a holoscreen before her.

"Majestrix," said the green-helmeted man before her.

"Commander," she acknowledged. "You were ordered to send probe-rays to detect any non-Empiric travel from Terra within the last week. Results?"

"Trails are difficult to track, as cold as they are," acknowledged Tor-Vonn. "However, we have picked up something, an outside possibility. Propulsion analysis is inexact, but we have a conjecture."

"And what," she said, a trifle cynically, "would that conjecture be, Commander? Skrull?"

"More likely Aakon."

"Aakon?" Deathbird frowned. It had been some time since the Empire had anything other than a few minor trade-war skirmishes with those mercantilists. If they were involved, the yellow-skins were sticking their flat noses in places where they didn't belong.

"Can you give me a possible course for their travel, Commander?"

Tor-Vonn said, "Ship's computer has given us their most likely course, Majestrix. You should be able to access the data on the ‘Base."

"Do not be presumptuous, Commander," said Deathbird. "Attach the coordinates to this transmission, immediately. And watch your tone of voice with me."

"Acknowledged, Majestrix," said Tor-Vonn. He was keeping a flat tone. Deathbird noted that, and approved.

"Orders?" The Kree commander waited.

"Your orders, Commander, are to try and find that ship," said Deathbird. "And then stay out of the way of my strike force unless you are needed. Acknowledged?"

"Acknowledged," said Tor-Vonn. His face and tone subtly indicated his displeasure. After all this time and effort, all he and his crewmen would be reduced to was observers. If they got there in time. Deathbird barely held back her smile.

"Communication ended, Commander." The holoscreen image faded. Deathbird activated a reading device and found the coordinates for the Aakon ship's possible course in the attachment Tor-Vonn had sent. With another command, she opened the comlink once again. A familiar face appeared.

"Majestrix," said the man in the viewscreen.

"I am transmitting a set of coordinates to you," said Deathbird. "Very probably you will find an Aakon ship there. It is holding the Kree/Terran woman, Ca-Rol Danvers, prisoner. You will stop the ship, capture her, and return her to me. Intact. Acknowledged?"

"Acknowledged," said the other. He didn't look pleased. But he would do his job. And that, thought Deathbird with an internal smile, was all that mattered.

That, and getting to kill Carol Danvers after all this was done.

Carol Danvers had been phasing between her two identities so often that the Aakon who brought her meals saw her change from costume to civvie clothes back to costume no less than three times before she could walk across the floor of the chamber. The Aakon woman looked piqued.

"Should quit changing self so much," she chided Carol. "Waste of good energy. Need you in good condition for auction."

Carol turned her head to smile at her, and phased from Warbird back to Carol as she did it. "What can I say, dear? I just can't decide what to wear."

"You will wear black suit for auction," declared the woman, placing a tray on a rack about the prone Carol's neck. There were divided units with different kinds of food upon it, like a cafeteria tray from Earth. A spoonlike device telescoped out from the rim of the tray, scooped up a bit of the material, and moved it towards her mouth. She obediently bent her head up and swallowed it.

"Thought you weren't going to see me again after I spit the booze on you," said Carol, in between bites.

"Superiors had other ideas," said the Aakon. Carol noted that the woman had moved out of expectorating distance. "Would have cut salary for impertinence."

"Wow, talk about a businessman's paradise," said Carol, as a meaty substance moved towards her lips. "Did you guys invent Wal-Mart on Earth, or what?"

Frowning, the Aakon woman said, "Shilla does not understand ref. Kree/Terran disparages mercantilism. That is not appreciated."

Carol gulped the spoon's contents and Warbird swallowed them. "Hey, I've got nothing against making money. But there's such a thing as ethics, and consideration for others, and all that. And we did away with slavery a long time ago in my country."

"Not slavery. Delivery, auction to highest bidder, transformation into money."

"I am not going to be transformed into money!"

"You are goods, Kree/Terran. The making of money is highest virtue among Aakon. Finances empires, gives greater stature to individual Aakon. Greater power to Aakon Consortium. We give fair value, expect fair value in return. If not -- war."

"Isn't that counterproductive?"

"No," said Shilla. "Costs of war figured to slightest fraction of credit. Tribute taken from losing party in credits equivalent to loss, plus 30 percent profit share. Loser is invited to buy shares in Consortium. Benefits all around. More efficient way of doing things."

"Sounds like more Earth wars than I care to think about," said Carol. She switched back to her civilian clothes. "Can you take this tray away now?"

"Cannot be finished eating so early," said Shilla. "Continue till tray is empty."

"Oh, all right," sighed Carol, and opened her mouth to take in a spoonful of vegetable matter. "Tell me something about yourself, will you? How'd you get this sort of job?"

"Father in debt to Consortium. Self wanted to travel in spaces ‘tweenworlds. Decent credits. Fifty percent signed over to eliminate his debt. Fifty percent goes to self account. In this way, father only had to lose one hand to pay off his share."

"Ouch," said Carol. She switched back to Warbird. "But you aren't in debt yourself, are you?"

"Self is thankful she is not."

"And you'd still keep the money coming to your dad if something bad happened on this ship, wouldn't you?"

"Account is so arranged," said the Aakon, a tad nervously. "Why?"

The blonde on the stasis-table flexed her hybrid-powered muscles, closed her eyes, and raised up, scattering the tray from her neck. A pinging alarm went off. She rolled off the table, the front of her suit stained a bit by food fragments. Once out from under the beam, she felt her full range of motion returning, though she felt a bit stiff.

"Don't take this personally," said Carol, and smashed Shilla with a roundhouse right.

The Aakon woman hit the floor just as Warbird trained her hands on the portal into the chamber and unleashed an energy-blast at it. It took some doing, but the door gave way. She accentuated its collapse by smashing a shoulder against it. Aakon construction was strong, but her powers were stronger.

In the corridor outside, she encountered three soldiers on their way to see what was going on in the holding cell. Between the time they dragged their weapons out and when they would have fired them, Warbird plowed into them with fists, feet, and another energy-burst. She kicked their senseless bodies into the room she had just vacated, and then began to run down the hall, and then to fly.

If this ship was built anything like the ones the Aakon used when the Kree half of her self was familiar with them, she should be able to find the communications room, try and raise the Starjammers or maybe the Avengers, and drum up some aid.

After that, she had to get to the pod bay and try and liberate an escape craft, and make a getaway without getting shot down by the mother ship. Yeah, right. But it was the best chance she'd had in some days of pulling this one off for the home team.

She blasted through the ceiling, flew through the hole, and prepared to pound anyone she found on the upper deck.

The Commander of the Aakon ship was aware of the alarm from the holding bay. Right in the midst of one of his favorite pastimes, which was reading about the great masked enemy of the financially inefficient Kree, Undercommander Vortex. He'd been a UV fan since he was a kid and he'd worked extra shifts just to get his old collection back and complete it. Sometimes, when he needed inspiration for his tasks, he asked himself, "In similar position, what would be Vortex's course of action?" It always seemed to help.

He doubted he'd need Vortex's legendary wisdom and fortitude this time, however. How hard could it be to recapture the Kree/Terran girl? Even with her added powers?

The Commander opened a clear channel that reached every part of the ship. "Kree/Terran prisoner has escaped. Repeat, Kree/Terran prisoner has escaped. Recapture immediately. Undamaged if possible. Repeat, not to harm salable goods. Order. Commander out."

He closed the channel, slapped his handweapon against a magnetic disk on the side of his belt, and gave an order to his private computer. The scanning device went into action and tracked Ca-Rol Danvers by her heat-pattern index. The wench was moving in the direction of the communications room. No, she had already broken in.

Once again, he opened the channel. "Prisoner is in comm room. Take alive. Commander out." He closed it again, swearing softly in a hybrid of Aakon, Kreevian, and Skrullish. Then he opened his door-portal and sprinted out.

Failures came out of one's paycheck. They were always inacceptible.

Damned if he'd let the Kree/Terran witch ruin his credit rating for anything.

Captain America hung up the phone. Peggy Carter looked at him. "How bad?" she asked.

"Very," said Cap, rubbing the back of his neck with one red-gloved hand. "At least, for Carol. She's been abducted by persons unknown. My guess is, by aliens. Or, if not them, possibly by Mystique. She's a chameleon."

Peggy had spent more time with Captain America than anyone else in the Mansion. Their history went back to World War II, when she was a government agent known as Agent Thirteen (which designation her younger sister Sharon later took, in her honor) and had crossed paths during the Sando and Omar incident. They met on more occasions, finally mutually admitting that they had fallen in love. But by that time, Peggy had enlisted in the WAC's, got transferred to OSS, and ended up working with the Resistance in occupied France. She got captured by the Nazis and was scheduled for execution when Cap came through with a rescue. But they didn't make contact, and a shell impact near her gave her amnesia for a very long time. Decades, in fact.

She was packed off to Virginia to live with her parents, and with Sharon, who became a SHIELD agent. Finally, Cap came to her and restored her memory. But it was a cruel blow which followed: he had to tell her he was no longer in love with her, but with her sister. That relationship appeared to end when Sharon was believed killed, but actually went into deep cover for some years. When she was revealed as living to Cap, Sharon wasn't too enthusiastic about their romance anymore. So it went.

Peggy, in the meantime, was recommended by Cap for the position of the Avengers' communications officer. In plain language, she took calls from the outside world, filtered them, and passed them along to the team when they were deemed important enough. The kidnapping of Warbird was indeed important.

"Let me see," said Peggy, sitting at the computer console and tapping a mechanical pencil against her lower lip. "Mystique. Isn't she in some kind of government agency? We could check with them."

"Freedom Force," said Cap. "We can check with them, but first I want to try someone else. Call Starcore. Get Peter Corbeau."

Starcore was the orbiting observatory that kept track on cosmic happenings near Earth. Corbeau, a longtime friend of the Avengers, was brought up on the videoscreen. "Good day, Cap," he said, peering out through his bifocals. "What's the problem?"

"Peter. Any evidence of alien ship activity within observable distance from Earth, say from yesterday at 1600 until today?"

"Let me check," said Corbeau, and tapped away at his keyboard. A few minutes later, he said, "I think we have something, Cap."

"What is it?" "Looks like a directional energy beam ... let's see ... hard to pinpoint, but it definitely hit North America. I could try and pin it down more narrowly than that."

"What was the source?" asked Cap. His voice was calm, but Peggy knew from his stance that he was concerned for Carol. Understandably.

"Okay, let me enlarge the image I've got," said Corbeau, looking at a computer screen displaying a stellar photograph. The scene changed, zooming in on a barely-visible speck among the stars. It took several minutes.

"That's it," said Corbeau, gesturing to the screen. "Highest magnification I can do. What's it look like to you?"

Cap looked. It was an alien space vessel, to be sure. Not one of a type he was familiar with, but there was no Jane's Ships for starcraft. It didn't look Kreevian or Skrullish. "Can you transmit that to us?" he said.

Corbeau hit a "send" key. "It's on its way now. From what I can tell in later data, the ship didn't hang around our quadrant long afterward. If it had been closer than that, we'd have been on top of it yesterday. Any further out, and we wouldn't have seen it."

"You've been of great help, Dr. Corbeau. Out," said Captain America. Corbeau's image was replaced by a screen saver.

Peggy said, "So Warbird was captured by aliens?"

"Yes," said Cap. "And just when we've got ourselves something to deal with at home. We can't divide our forces right now, but we have to recover her."

"Once an Avenger, always an Avenger, I guess," said Peggy, softly.

"An Avenger, and almost an X-Man," replied Cap. "And ... wait a minute." He reached over Peggy without warning, his fingers tapping out a series of characters and then hitting the Enter key. Peggy looked. The sequence was one she had never used, to her knowledge.

It took some time for the connection to be made. When it was complete, Peggy knew why: it had to reach into outer space.

The face of a handsome, bearded, older man in a piratish getup was on the screen. He smiled, briefly. "Corsair here," he said. "That you, Captain?"

"It's me," said Cap. "We need your help, Major Summers. Carol Danvers has been shanghaied by an alien starship."

Corsair looked more businesslike. "You've got it. Give me the details."

Warbird only had to punch, kick, and blast her way through fifteen people to get to the communications equipment in the Aakon ship. There really wasn't time for this sort of stuff, she told herself. But it wasn't like they were just going to step aside and hand her the mike...

She shoved the unconscious body of one Aakon out of the seat facing the big vis-tank. What it amounted to was a large circle of panels with numerous seats facing a central area. Inside that was a 3D holoprojection of the space-sector through which the ship was passing. Various parts of the image-area were devoted to other things, such as a display of spatial coordinates, a screen which carried infocasts from the Aakon homeworld, and other things.

It was very strange how this was unfamiliar to her, until, seeing it, her Kree memory bank automatically identified it and she "knew" it as if it had been taught to her in school. She also "knew" to attach the small disk she had taken from the fallen Aakon to her throat, and how to activate the device that would let her broadcast a verbal and visual message to Earth. There were only a few receivers on that world that would pick her up, but the Avengers had one of them.

As she commanded the machine to function, Carol was glad she could override the protectors on it and get through to home. She didn't have much time before they broke into the place to get her. It was doubtful they'd kill her, but she had no idea what they'd do to subdue her.

It'd take several minutes to connect to Earth, and she didn't have that kind of time. Best to record a message, send it, and cross one's fingers and toes. She said in Aakon, "Start record. Cap, this is Warbird. I've been kidnapped by the Aakon. They want to auction me off to the Kree or Skrulls or whomever to find out about my old Binary powers. I haven't been harmed yet ... repeat, yet ... but if I don't get out of here, after the auction the lucky buyer might have other plans. I need help. Aakon should be coming for me soon. Tell my parents you heard from me and that I love them and I'll ... try to be back. That's it. Chocolate soda. Warbird out." She paused. "End record. Transmit."

"Chocolate soda" was an authenticator phrase she used for her Avengers messages. It came from a phrase a World War II G.I. had used when transmitting to the outside world while under fire: "How about a chocolate soda?" She had to admit she could use something a lot stronger than that right now.

But she wouldn't let herself think very much about that.

She wouldn't.


The door portal was glowing. A point of light showed through where they were burning their way in with a slicer. Well, hell, why not accomodate them? If they wanted in...

Carol stood up, braced herself, and pointed both hands at the door. A double burst of plasma coursed from her fingers. It smashed into the door, ripping its metallic surface from its housing, wrenching it free along the lines of the incompleted slicing job, crashing it into the five Aakon that were behind it. A second later, Warbird herself soared through the space in which the door had been. She kicked the door aside with one foot, grabbed two of the Aakon soldiers and knocked their heads together. They went out, but she didn't pause to look; she just tossed them aside and waded into the other three.

The one with the slicer tried to bring it into play. She grabbed the arm he had holding it, wrenched the slicer free, and smashed it against the wall. It sputtered and fell dormant. By that time she had done a knee lift to his breadbasket and a karate blow to the side of his head. One of the remaining two tried hitting her from behind with a stunner. Carol thrust her leg behind her and caught him with a kick. Then she whirled, to take on him and the last remaining Aakon. Five seconds later, the two were down.

She flew on. She was a long way from the bay where the escape pods were kept. About a quarter of the ship away, and three decks down, to be exact.

Carol remembered hearing Dum Dum Dugan tell her once of the time Nick Fury destroyed an entire Hydra installation, and everyone in it, single-handedly after being kidnapped by Baron Strucker. She recalled the Starjammers telling her how they heard Adam Warlock was taken captive by a prison ship of something called the Universal Church of Truth, and took out all of its crew himself to free the captives.

So one person could do it, if he or she had to.

As she sped down the hallways, she hoped that whatever those two did would be accessible in her Kree memory bank.

Somehow, she doubted it would be.

"Commander Tynx," said a subaural computer voice in the Aakon commander's implant-piece, within his skull.

"Acknowledged," he muttered, still sprinting down a corridor with a squad of three enforcers trailing him.

"Sensors picking up two vessels approaching," the ship's main computer continued. "One a Kree vessel. Another imperial Shi'ar. Will be within battle range in twenty tempunits. Orders."

The Commander stopped. His men stopped with him. To the computer he said, "Hold." To the squad, he said, "Without me, go. Battlestatus within twenty."

One of the men said, "Battlestatus, Commander? Wish us to pursue Kree/Terran with that?"

"Do," he said. "Battlestatus about survival. Kree/Terran about money. Neither is of import without other. Remember that, Sublieutenant."

"Recorded," said the other, and the three continued on.

The Commander sighed and made for the nearest lift. This would cost time, time would cost money, money would cost status. It wasn't as if he wasn't making payments already on a new landgrabber and a resort by the lavafalls.

About this sort of stuff, the Kree and Shi'ar just didn't understand.

Agent Iva Kann was always uplifted to see the face of Ronan the Accuser on a screen. She had never met the man, but his status was legend among those who remained of the Kree race. Her posture was a bit straighter, her eyes a bit more intent upon seeing him. But she tried to make no other visible sign of her heroic admiration.

She was, after all, the woman he was counting on for this mission.

"We have intercepted a transmission from Ca-Rol Danvers," said Ronan. "As we expected, she is being held by an Aakon ship. One of our own and a Shi'ar craft are in the vicinity."

"Understood, Accuser," said Iva, her battle suit still wet with the days training and the bodily fluids of the aliens she had killed. "This, then, changes my status re: Danvers?"

"Impossible to say, at present," Ronan replied. "Until she is in hand, we can make no statement. If she is taken by our ship, I believe we can arrange a transfer of her to a more suitable place. Such as an arena."

Iva drew in her breath a little too quickly. She hoped the sign of excitement did not meet with Ronan's disapproval.

"If not, if she escapes, or is taken by the Shi'ar, your mission will be unchanged," Ronan continued. "You will seek her out, you will deceive her, and you will carry out your onus. Agreed?"

"Agreed with highest concurrence, sir," Iva said. One of her hands clenched involuntarily, as if anticipating Ca-Rol Danvers's neck within it.

In one scenario, the woman might face her in an arena. In the other, she would inveigle her into accepting her as an ally. The end result would be the same. It would have to be.

Sometime soon, she would get to kill her.


Continued in Chapter 20.

and while you're at it, why not visit DarkMark's Domain at for more stories?


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