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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.

Ms. Marvel / Binary / Warbird:
A Prize For Three Empires
Part 28

by DarkMark

Waking up, Carol decided the whole thing had gotten entirely too cliched.

Someone would bop her over the head. She’d wake up somewhere in restraints and have to fight her way out. How many times had that happened over the course of this one caper? A lot more than she wanted to count.

She fought back waves of nausea, shook her head, decided that was a bad idea, and opened her eyes to see her surroundings. That was always a good idea.

The surroundings turned out to be a functional cell within a Kree starship. She knew that from the design of the place: a metallic cube with air pumped through several small apertures, each of them too small to escape through even if she smashed past the walls covering them. There were a couple of long, narrow panels through which food and water could be passed, but which were locked down now, and a Kree-designed toilet. Plus the padded bench upon which she lay. Outside of that, there wasn’t a hell of a lot else. The Kree weren’t noted for pampering their prisoners.

Well, now what? It was safe to assume that the Starjammers, the Imperial Guard, the Shi’ar, and maybe even the Avengers were hunting for her. Of course, the Kree would know that. That would mean that whatever they had planned for her, it was going to be done in fairly short order.

Which probably meant that she would be fighting Iva Kann in a death-duel for the pleasure of the Lunatic Legion, or whatever Ronan’s bunch called themselves these days.

“I am getting sick of this,” she said aloud. “Sick of being knocked out, abducted, and imprisoned. If...when...I get out of this, I am going to tear some people several new holes apiece.

“And then I’m damned well going home.”

Of course, that would mean getting out of this first. Whether or not she beat Iva Kann (and, let’s face it, she told herself, a fight between herself and Iva was looking inevitable right now), she was still within a Kree spyship, and it would be a hell of a lot harder to get out of than the Aakon ship she escaped. She knew the composition of these walls, and it would be a waste of time to try her strength or plasma power against them.

Last time against the Legion, she’d been captured. She’d also gotten drunk and been unable to function efficiently, which memory gnawed at her like a termite in wood. The memory of that Kreevian alcohol made her booze-lust surface for a long, hard instant. Carol drew a deep breath, closed her eyes, and fought it back down. You never won a battle by giving in. Whatever the outcome of her forthcoming battle, she resolved to do it clean and sober.

Carol banged against the wall with her fist. “What’s a girl gotta do to get a meal around here, anyway?” May as well make the most out of her current status, if she could.

A few seconds later, a panel opened up, only a few inches high and a couple of feet wide. A metal tray slid into the cell on servo-arms. On it was a few flat containers of Kree food and a long, flat bottle of water, sealed at one end with a removable lid. There was also a small container of Kree whiskey. She grabbed at it and threw it back into the hole beyond.

Then she carried the food and water back to her bench, sat them and herself down, and ate and drank. The fare wasn’t bad, though it would have been strange as hell to a normal Earthwoman.

For a moment, she flashed back on a scene she’d witnessed recently. The incident in which Iva Kann neatly severed the neck of a man with one blow, at the Arlakian inn. Then Carol went back mentally through her battle against Iva. The woman had not used such a blow against her. That meant she just wanted to knock Warbird out, not to kill her.

That was something to remember. Because, once they fought again, Carol was sure she couldn’t count on such a consideration again.

Thoughtfully, Warbird finished the rest of her dinner.

“She is where?”

Major Summers looked at Hepzibah. “Off-planet is my guess. The Arlakians detected a transport beam in the sector where their fight was observed. The Kree probably beamed them both up to their spyship.”

“Then we must rescue her,” said Ch’od, clashing his big scaly hands together. Corsair always thought that his big partner looked like a relative of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but he knew Ch’od would never understand the reference. C’reee scuttled from one of the big humanoid’s shoulders to the other.

“Goes without saying,” said Summers. “I’ve sent a message to the Majestrix and to Earth. We’ve gotten the ship tended to. But going up against a spyship, even if we can find it...” He spread his hands. “Don’t have to tell you it’s going to be rough going. And we don’t have Raza.”

“Also Carol, we may not have,” said Hepzibah, grimly.

Corsair put a hand to her furred shoulder. “No. My instincts tell me she’s still alive. That’s not court-admissable, I know. But I don’t think the Kree want to kill her without a show trial, or at least a show battle. I think Carol picked that up from the time she spent in Iva’s mind.”

“Which gives us only a little time to strike,” Ch’od answered.

“In which time we will,” said Corsair. “Lady and gentleman, we have a date with our ship. We never leave a Starjammer behind. Even if we die trying to save her.”

“Except for one leave behind, which we must,” replied Hepzibah.

Corsair looked at her and didn’t say anything. Then he turned and led them out of the hospital.

“Just great,” said Peggy Carter. “The Starjammers just said that Warbird’s been captured again.”

“Again?” said Fabian Stankowitz, sitting at the console beside her. “Who’s got her now?”

“Apparently the Kree,” Peggy answered, with a bit of irritation at the youth. “We’ve got to alert Cap and the crew immediately.”

“Done,” said John Jameson, hitting his Enter button. “Just relayed the send from your comp to the Quinjet’s.” For an instant, he almost wished he were the Man-Wolf again, if the Man-Wolf could be sane enough to help in the present situation. But that wasn’t likely.

“I’ll pass it along to the X-Men,” declared Fabian. “They’d want to know as much as we do.” He performed the data transfer while he was talking about it. “Okay. Now what do we do next?”

“Well, unless you can transfer that data directly to God,” said Peggy, “I suggest we sit and wait.”

So they did.

The Skrull ship’s monitors registered the passing traffic, both those heading off-planet and on-, as it entered Arlakian space. Since there was a fairly steady stream of arrivals and departures, it would take someone with at least slightly supernormal senses to pick a single craft out of the mass and recognize it, without having told the ship’s computers to be on the lookout for said craft.

Gladiator was sharp enough to catch it.

The Starjammers’ ship was leaving just as the Skrull ship was getting into docking orbit. Kalarrk knew its hailing frequency and gave it to the communications officer. When the connection was made, Gladiator sent a message. “Commander Summers: Imperial Guardsman Gladiator wishes to open contact. Please respond.” He added a signal code and waited for a moment.

“When in the seven hells can we get out of here?” grumbled a Skrull lieutenant.

“Worry less about that,” advised the captain, “and more about what we put on the Empress’s report.”

At that, the voice of Christopher Summers came over the link. “Corsair here. We read you, Gladiator. Are you aboard the Skrull craft?”

“It’s temporarily under my command,” said the Guardsman. “Is Warbird with you?”

“Negative on that,” said Corsair. “We’re seeking her. Can you help?”

The Skrulls noticed Gladiator’s expression become quite grim. “I can. Will you wait for me to rezendevous?”

“Don’t have much time if we want to find her, Glad. Can you take a shuttle and catch up with us?”

“I shall try. What of the Guard?”

“They’ve been notified and they’ll be hooking up with us. We’ll have more details when you get here.”

“Acknowledged. Out,” said Gladiator. He ordered the link closed, then said to the captain, “I wish to take one of your shuttles. After I am gone, remain in stationary orbit for one rotation. And Captain...if we’re attacked on the way...I will personally hold you suspect of sending messages to our enemies.”

The Skrull captain looked at him evenly. “If it’s to get the saat-licking Kree, you’ll have no problem with us, Guardsman.”

Sometime after that, a Skrull shuttlecraft docked with the Starjammers’ ship and Gladiator clambered aboard. Corsair and Ch’od were there to welcome him. Kalarrk grasped Major Summer’s hand. “Greetings, Corsair,” he said, “on behalf of myself, the Imperium, and the Imperial Guard.”

“And welcome aboard on behalf of myself and the ‘Jammers,” said Summers. “Now let’s see about finding Carol.”

Carol Danvers felt the voice in her mind as much as in her ears. “Welcome, Ca-Rol Danvers, who is called Warbird.”

She had been lying on the bench. Now she lifted her head and stared at the hologram (or what appeared to be a hologram; it could as easily have been a mental image) of the many-tentacled green head before her. She was not afraid. She had seen it before.

“Your welcome returned, Supremor,” she said to the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree.

“The last time we met, you were in the company of Captain Mar-Vell,” the composite mind answered her. “Now, many seek you. But my calculations, based on the n-dimensional model recently discovered and refined by Nar-Von in my midbrain, indicate that the chance any of them will reach you before the battle is...beyond negligible.”

“Nice to hear,” replied Carol.

“Tissue samples were taken from you while you were unconscious,” said the Supremor. “From them we will learn whether or not you can serve as the genetic template for solar plasma warriors. If so—“

“I doubt it,” Carol retorted. “My genes are Kree and Earthwoman both. Plus the Brood put me through an experimental process I doubt you’ll be able to duplicate. I was a fluke, Supremor. You could kill a thousand to produce one of me, if you were lucky. And even so, it’d only last for a couple of years.”

“It would be worth it,” said the Intelligence. “But we would not experiment at random among captive subjects. Our numbers, as you know, have been reduced by the nega-bomb. But that same bomb spared those who favored mutation. With the proper screening, the selection of those whose genes can be modified with the addition of human traits, and the administration of those same treatments that the Brood subjected you to—“

Carol shuddered.

“—then it is likely that we can produce such a warrior as you were. And if his or her capacity is only for two years, what then? He and those like him will be of great aid in regaining our Empire in that time. There will be others, as well.”

“I have my doubts.”

“That is because you are not a construct like ourselves.”

Carol crossed her legs and waited.

“Within a short time, you will be brought before the Legion,” said the Intelligence. “They have been promised an entertainment.”

“Me versus Iva Kann,” said Carol.


“What if I refuse to fight her?”

“Then she will destroy you anyway.”

“What if I beat her?”

“The probability of such a thing happening is—“

“Next to negligible. Yeah. What if I do?”

“Your time of execution may be delayed. This is in Ronan’s hands, however. He may decide to destroy you on the spot.”

Warbird looked at the image before her. “You don’t have any command over him?”

“Of course. But in this, I have placed it within his authority.”

She laughed, briefly and bitterly.

“I’ve already said goodbye to my parents and friends,” said Carol. “At least I don’t have to worry about doing that. I’ve been from the frying pan to the fire to the fire to the fire and back to the pan. If this is the last stop...I suppose I’m ready.”


“I think I’ve got a request, Supremor. Can you grant it?”

“We have power to grant many requests. Whether or not we will depends upon the request.”

“If it was reasonable, would you grant it?”


She stood and walked to within a foot of his image. “I’d like to see Iva Kann. I’d like to talk to her before we fight. Can you do that?”

The Intelligence paused only an instant. “Your request is not within the realm of impossibility. Such will be Ronan’s purview. I will relay your request to him. It will be his decision.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Now I’d like to get some rest.”

“As you wish,” said the Intelligence, and faded from view.

Carol went back to the bench, curled up on it as best she could, sighed, and brushed a strand of hair out of her face.

She wondered if she’d get a chance to shower before she died.

“Joe, what’s going to happen to our daughter?”

Joe Danvers sighed and looked up from his desk. “Damned if I know, Marie. You’d know more than I would on that account. Aren’t you the one she confides in?”

Marie had been pacing the floor of Joe’s study. He had been burying himself in business details to get his mind off his kidnaped daughter. As far as he knew, enemy agents had dosed himself and his wife with a sleeping drug and stolen Carol away. Marie seemed to have been in contact with persons who were probably in the agency which had employed Carol.

His wife was keeping secrets from him. Secrets which had to do with his daughter’s abduction, possibly her impending death. He didn’t like it one bit.

Joe raked his hand through his thinning hair. “Marie. Are we gonna end up on Unsolved Mysteries? With somebody playing Carol, and both of us playing ourselves?”

“Joe, stop it.”

“What am I supposed to stop? What the hell am I supposed to stop, Marie?”


“I can see it now. Robert Stack walking up in his trenchcoat and saying, ‘If you have any information about the missing Carol Danvers, get in touch with Unsolved Mysteries at—‘”



Both of them stood almost close enough to touch noses. A terrible current of hatred, fear, love, desperation, and a dozen other emotions possessed the space between them.

Joe Danvers lifted his finger and spoke breathily. “You tell me, woman. You tell me everything you’ve been holding back from me about Carol.”

“I can’t.”

“You damned well can!”

“It’s her secret.”

“We don’t have any secrets here, Marie!” Joe grabbed her shoulders and shook her. “This is a family, remember? I’m her father, remember? I’m your husband, remember? Remember all that, Marie? Remember?”

“Joe, Joe, Joe...” Marie was crying.

“Tell me what you know, Marie. Tell me about my daughter. Tell me!”

Marie could only sob at him.

“Tell me now, dammit!” Joe shook her again. “Tell me about Carol! Tell me what she’s done! Tell me what I don’t know! TELL...”

He looked at his hand.

It was upraised, poised to strike.

Both Joe and Marie looked at the hand for a long, hard moment. Then he lowered it, slowly, and eased his grip on Marie’s shoulder. But he didn’t let go. Not just yet.


Joe Danvers breathed heavily. He didn’t look into his wife’s eyes. “I better go.”

“Joe, don’t.”

He let go of Marie’s shoulder and headed for the door. “I don’t want something to happen to you, too. My God, Marie. My God. I lost a son. I may have lost a daughter. If I lost you...”

“Joe, wait.”

“I’ll call you, Marie,” said Joe. “I’ll call.”

“Joe. She’s a superhero.”

His hand stopped on the doorknob.

“She’s had a bunch of names. She used to be Ms. Marvel. Now she’s calling herself Warbird. Yes, the woman who was in the Avengers. That’s her, Joe. That’s your daughter.”

“Jesus Christ forgive me,” said Joe, softly. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

“It’s your daughter, Joe,” Marie said, still crying. “She’s a superhero, and somebody’s kidnaped her and taken her to outer space.”

He turned around, slowly, and looked at Marie with dulled eyes.

“It’s true, Joe,” said Marie, more softly. “Carol is a superhero.”

It took Joe Danvers a little while before he could form the words. While he was working on it, he crossed the room to stand before Marie, and, gently this time, lay a hand on her shoulder.

“Let’s maybe go into the kitchen,” he said. “I want you should make me some coffee. I think we’re gonna need it.”

Ronan the Accuser walked unchallenged through the installation and was passed through by the guards without comment into the training area. Though he would hardly admit it, he would derive pleasure from the sight of his charge in action.

The doors opened and the former judge, jury, and executioner of the Kree Empire entered the chamber which served as gymnasium, dojo, and, sometimes, killing ground for Iva Kann. The woman was confined by walls of force spanning two large metal surfaces pocked with holes, from which, at random intervals and from random spaces, deadly streams of white-hot fire issued. Iva, stripped to boots and a two-piece outfit, was leaping, twisting, ducking, dodging, avoiding every fiery missile like the physical genius she was. Ronan studied her for a few moments.

Then he activated his Universal Weapon. It glowed, briefly, and the streams of fire and walls of force were nullified. “Enough,” he said.

Iva touched down upon both booted feet and one hand. “My training session had several minutes to go, Lord Ronan.”

“Time better spent resting yourself,” replied the Accuser. “Your battle tomorrow is paramount. If you perform at less than peak capacity thanks to expending your energy tonight, more than one life might be forfeit.”

Iva bowed and straightened, her blue skin showing sweat. “You need have no fear on that count, milord. The dispatching of Ca-Rol Danvers will be done with efficiency and spectacle. The Legion will be entertained. If I may venture to say so, Lord Ronan will be also.”

“Lord Ronan expects no less,” said Ronan. “It was Lord Ronan who arranged for the treatments which increased your power, and the training which refined them. It was Lord Ronan who sent you on the mission to capture her, and who was just barely satisfied with the operation. And, should you fail and live tomorrow, it will be Lord Ronan who sees to your sentence.”

“I understand, milord,” said Iva, dispassionately.

“Make no mistake. The woman Ca-Rol Danvers is no small opponent. She has faced many challenges in her short existence, and survived. She is a seasoned warrior. Not, I think, of so great a power as you. But a warrior, nonetheless. A soldier who underestimates the enemy is, in short order, a corpse.”

“You will be satisfied by my performance, Lord Ronan.”

Ronan went to her, grasped her arm, stroked it almost gently. “The power that flows through this arm is mine, Iva Kann. Everything that is within you, I placed there. You are my creation. The warrior Captain Mar-Vell should have been, had his Pink sympathies not led him against the Blues. Now you will face another Pink in the arena, whose genes are mixed with the Pink people of Earth. She who was a member of the hated band, those who call themselves Avengers. In this, Iva Kann, you strike for more than just your proving. More even than for my authority. In this, you strike for the vindication of the entire Kree race—and for revenge.” He grasped her arm a bit more tightly. “Revenge.”

“I understand, Lord Ronan.”

“You cannot understand!” His eyes blazed into hers, and, unthinkingly, she shrank back. “You will never understand! But it is not necessary that you understand. It is only necessary that you kill. Is that clear, Iva Kann?”

“Yes, Lord Ronan. Most affirmatively, Lord Ronan.”

“Good,” said Ronan. He released her. “Now to your bed. In the morning comes vindication. For you, and for all of us. Sleep well, Iva Kann.”

Iva watched him exit the chamber. Then, with a determined stride, she turned and left through the door that led to her private quarters. She would bathe and sleep. There was nothing to keep her awake. The death of Ca-Rol Danvers on the morrow was a certainty.

Well, there would be some duties she would have to take care of before sleep.

After all, the thought of what she would do in the morning would make her body tingle too much unless she did something about it.

Carol Danvers had spent a good part of the night in thought, a good part of it in prayer, and the rest of it simply in resting.

The prayer was the sort airmen prayed, or at least the kind she had prayed when she was in the USAF. More or less, it asked for God’s favor, and an honorable death if she failed in combat. More than anything, like an airman, she prayed that she wouldn’t louse up. A line from an old Jerry Reed song came to her: “Hey, Lord, if you ain’t gonna help me, don’tcha dare help that bear!”

Only Iva Kann was a lot more dangerous than any bear.

She supposed she should be frightened. But she’d learned how to deal with the thought of impending death a long time ago, when she was jockeying F-16s. Later on, she’d gotten closer to it than she’d ever expected to, in Lubyanka Prison, at the hands of the Kree, when Rogue had dumped her in San Francisco Bay, and when the Brood had given her the tortures that turned her into Binary. Other times, too. But those were the big ones.

Death was just something that had her number. Sooner or later, the house always won.

But what mattered was the way you played the game. Standing up, taking the cards you were dealt—always stud, never draw—bluffing, hitting, folding if you had to. She knew enough about poker and, she thought, enough about life as well.

Now, it was probably time to learn about death.

So the Kree hated her? Big deal. The Russians had hated her. Deathbird had hated her. Mystique had hated her. A lot of enemies had hated her. It didn’t seem to matter a hell of a lot. All that mattered was how you dealt with it.

Maybe there wasn’t a last desperate chance, this time. Maybe it was just the end of the road.

Whatever it was, she was going to die with honor. Like an Earthwoman. Like the kind of Kree that Mar-Vell had been. If she saw him on the other side, she was going to be able to hold her head up high. If she didn’t get a chance to die in bed, like he had...well, that was the way it was for warriors, all too often.

There was nothing else she could do. So she did what fighter jocks did, the night before a mission.

Carol turned her face to the wall and went to sleep.

Several hours later, a voice awakened her. “Prisoner Ca-Rol Danvers. Arise.”

She came awake immediately, turned to the source of the voice, and saw one wall had been withdrawn from her cell. Three guards stood there with the deadliest of handweapons pointed at her. She could possibly take them out with her strength or plasma blasts. But there would be little point in that.

Warbird stood, put her hair in place, and faced them.

“I’m ready, gentlemen,” she said. “Take me where I have to go.”


To be continued


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