Lying in the freezing Arctic, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Warbird is deep in the dream. The dream that comes more and more often, these days….
In Warbird’s Dream / Flashback:
She is in a Quinjet, over New Jersey. It is years ago. She is visiting the Scarlet Witch for reasons she cannot remember. Beach Haven Inlet is below her and to the left. And then without hesitation, as so often happens in dreams...she is somewhere else. The air is sweet and warm, and there is a smell like Jasmine. And she is not alone.
‘Who..who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?’ Carol asks, looking around. A bearded man approaches her, ‘Don’t worry. It’s all right…you’re among friends. I am Marcus’ the man introduces himself. His voice is honeyed, relaxing. He smiles. Marcus touches her cheek. Her lips. It’s…pleasant. And she can’t think straight. Why can’t she think straight?
Marie Antoinette (no, really!) shows her gowns, helps her select the finest, and to dress. And she wants to giggle…to ask Marie why she still has her head on. But she doesn’t. And there’s music…haunting and beautiful…melting her heart. And then there’s Marcus again. And she’s nervous, wary, but he keeps repeating, in that soothing voice… ‘It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s all right’.
And it is. Marcus is the son of Immortus, who is in turn a future incarnation of the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror. He was born in Limbo. And he was stranded there when his father vanished when his father vanished. So alone. So lonely. But now he has her. He brought her here to him. All he has done, he has done for her. And his touch is so gentle, thrilling her to her heart, to her soul. And she can’t think straight. They make love.
And Carol wants to shout - to tell herself that it is a trap, that he is controlling her mind - but she can’t make a sound….
Warbird’s Dream / Flashback continues:
And then she is in a hospital in New Jersey, six months pregnant overnight, and she can’t remember why. ‘Don’t worry, Carol. You’re an Avenger…and that makes you a very special person, with very special friends. Friends who’ll stand by you…no matter what’ the Scarlet Witch tells her.
And then she’s at Avengers Mansion…and she’s giving birth, while her teammates observe. And the baby is Marcus, reborn into the real world. He grows fast…from infant to child, from child to adult…in only a few hours.
But his presence…a child of Limbo in the real world…causes disruptions, warps in time, endangering all. He tries to stop the damage. He fails. And he must return to Limbo…or he will die. Holding the unconscious Carol in his arms, he is opposed by Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Yellowjacket and Wasp.
And she knows what’s coming next in the dream - and she tenses - she wants to cry, to fight, to run - but she can’t stop it….
Warbird’s Dream / Flashback continues:
‘I’ll go. Perhaps I was destined to be alone’ Marcus tells Carol. ‘No, Marcus. You won’t be alone. Some of what I felt for you in Limbo…still lingers. I feel closer to you than I’ve felt to anyone. So I’m returning to Limbo with you’.
And they go. She is so happy, on the outside. And that’s all the Avengers can see, all they can hear. They help her go, and wish her the best…and she can’t think straight. And Marcus…Marcus ages, growing years older in only days. An irregularity in his connection to the rhythms of Limbo. With a week, he’s dead. He’s dead…. ‘MARCUS!’ Carol screams.
…and she can think straight once more. And she knows…knows how he used her to make her…fall in love. She feels hollow, and used, and violated. And scared. And angry. And friendless. And alone. And she learns enough of Immortus’ technology to leave Limbo, to return to Earth. And shortly thereafter, she is attacked. Her powers, her memory, her identity...all are stolen from her. And while she gets new powers, and even gets her memories back, in time, she has little or no emotional connection to most of them. Not this memory, though. This one she gets back in full….
…this one will stay with her forever. Her name is Carol Susan Jane Danvers. USAF, retired, a.k.a. Warbird of the Avengers. The world is at war. Even now, the troops of Kang the Conqueror sweep through Europe, forcing its defenders relentlessly back. Warbird was sent north, with a specially picked squad of Avengers, to wrest technology away from another megalomaniac, the self-styled Master of the World - technology that could protect the world, possibly even rout Kang and his armies. But the Master blew up a section of his headquarters to stop the Avengers. Warbird was caught up in the blast. And now she dreams fitful dreams, in the icy cold wasteland….
Face down in the freezing snow, Warbird does not see the Plodex wolves approach her cautiously. The Plodex know that this is one of the soft ones, the ones their Master ordered them to chase, to fight, to rend. But this one does not fight and does not run. Is it dead? The pod leader leans close, to smell it, to see if it breathes - and its closeness wakes Carol, who instantly leaps upwards, blasting two of the Plodex back with energy bursts, Carol screams, and tells them to get away from her, realizing that her blasts are nowhere near as strong as they should be, and wonders why. Carol takes a moment to rub her head, telling herself that she is so cold, while wondering how long she was out. She tells herself that her body has been drawing on her stored energy, using it to keep her from freezing to death, and that has almost drained her, leaving her almost powerless.
Warbird tells herself that she is in no shape to fight the Master’s alien sea-wolves, not like this, she wouldn’t last ten seconds. Carol takes flight, knowing that she has to find somewhere safe, someplace defensible, she hides in a crevice in a nearby cliffside. ‘There she go. There!’ one of the Plodex calls out. ‘We get. We get!’ another exclaims as they follow her. ‘This’ll do - but not for long’ Carol tells herself, reminding herself that when she channelled the power of a white-hole star this would have been no problem - she never ran out of energy. ‘But now…I may well die here. I need something - some kind of power source to charge up from - and there’s nothing in -’ she thinks to herself, when her train of thought is startled by a voice from behind: ‘Are you all right, milady Warbird?’
‘WHAT? WHO -?!’ Carol exclaims, spinning around, she sees the Scarlet Centurion, hovering over her. “It’s him” her mind screams. “HIM!” ‘No - no -’ Carol exclaims, readying a blast of energy, she frowns. For this man may call himself the Scarlet Centurion, but she has heard his voice and seen his eyes. He says he is Kang’s son - and Kang and Immortus, they are the same man in all that matters. That makes him Marcus. Marcus! Carol’s mind goes white. ‘Eh?’ the Scarlet Centurion calls out as Carol unleashes her blast of energy, knocking him off his hover-disc, Carol tells him that this time he will not find her such easy prey. ‘I know who you are - what you are - and by Hala, you won’t get away this time!’ she shouts as she flies towards him in a fury.
‘Milady? What -?’ the Scarlet Centurion asks. Even if he had been ready for Carol’s attack, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. She is operating on pure reflex - drawing on genetically programmed combat skills. Carol’s first blow shatters his helmet. Her second cracks his chest plate. And then she’s on him, just battering - battering - until, the Scarlet Centurion slams his staff into the ground between them. ‘Enough!’ he shouts. ‘Peace! I did not come here to attack - did not come here to fight!’ he tells Warbird, who lands a few feet backwards.
The Scarlet Centurion commends Warbird for her efficiency. ‘You not only destroyed my aero-skiff, but my internal communications gear as well’. The Scarlet Centurion announces that it will be some time before his armor’s self-repairing circuits allow him to contact Damocles Base and arrange for retrieval. ‘Yeah, and I’m all broken up about it’ Carol replies, before reminding the Scarlet Centurion that he said he wasn’t here to attack. ‘What did you come here for, then? In case it slipped your mind, we’re enemies’ Carol adds. ‘I know’ the Scarlet Centurion replies as he begins to remove his helmet, declaring that he cannot help it. ‘Your strength, your beauty, your magnificent inner fire - I have been hopelessly enchanted since first I laid eyes on you, at your United Nations Plaza!’ The Scarlet Centurion reveals that he has observed Warbird and her subsequent battles from Damocles Base, and when he saw her in such dire straits, he simply could not leave her to die. ‘I had to come to offer my assistance!’
‘What…kind of assistance?’ Carol asks. ‘Whatever is within my power to give. You absorb energy to fuel your superhuman abilities, do you not?’ the Scarlet Centurion replies, moving his staff forward, he tells Carol to grasp his halberd and replenish her power stores. ‘Power up - from that? Okay…but don’t make an sudden…’ Carol begins as she reaches out for the glowing staff. The Scarlet Centurion smiles, kindly, gently, but ‘No!’ Carol exclaims, lunging backwards. ‘Eh?’ the Scarlet Centurion remarks, confused. ‘Oh, I just bet you’d like me to grasp your halberd, pal. What is it - the mind-control technology’s in there - so you can take me over again, like you did before?’ Carol asks.
‘I…I do not understand’ the Scarlet Centurion replies, perplexed. ‘Sure you don’t…Marcus!’ Carol exclaims. ‘Milady, I assure you - I mean you no harm. I am not here to force you into anything unwelcome. Still, if you will not allow me to loan you my power I trust that I will at least be allowed to provide warmth!’ the Scarlet Centurion exclaims as he uses his staff to create a small fire.
Sometime later, they huddle around the fire in silence, until the Scarlet Centurion announces that he has accessed his father’s files on Warbird, and tells her that he believes he knows the “Marcus” of whom she speaks. ‘But though my name, too, is Marcus, I assure you - I am not that man’ he claims. Carol watches Marcus intently as he announces that he is the son of Kang, not of Immortus, and that he is born of a different place, at a different time, of a different mother. ‘With a different past, a different upbringing’ he adds. Marcus continues, telling Warbird that his father and Immortus are temporal doubles of a sort and asks her if it is so hard to believe that their genetics would produce similar looking sons, or that there would be something in their shared past that would lead them both to name those sons Marcus?
Carol continues to watch the Scarlet Centurion through the flickering light of the flame. ‘You are wary - suspicious. I acknowledge that. But unlike that other Marcus - I know the value of honor’ the Scarlet Centurion claims, adding that it was his father who taught that to him.
‘You must be bold, my son - bold and independent, as I have been. You must think for yourself, make your choices and seize them - but do so as a man, with a man’s honor. A battle honestly lost is no disgrace - but a battle won through treachery is a stain that can never be cleansed’. Kang told his son.
Marcus announces that he learned to be a warrior and learned the warrior’s way. ‘I will fight for what I want, yes - but openly, honestly. Or I do not deserve to win it’. Carol tells Marcus that she is not so sure Kang is the noble warrior he thinks he is. ‘But still, for all that what you say sounds good - I can’t take the risk that you’re lying’. ‘I am impressed once again. Here we are, near death in a hostile environment - and you’d die rather than lose your freedom’ Marcus exclaims. He tells Carol that he knows he is no threat to her, but she does not, so she must treat the threat as real. ‘Very well. I shall accept your wishes. But at least let me help you reach your goal’ he tells her.
Earlier, the Scarlet Centurion had spotted an outcropping of the Master’s base, as he approached from the air. Conserving what little remains of Warbird’s power, they make their way over the Icefall, avoiding the Plodex wolves, until suddenly: ‘There!’ the Scarlet Centurion announces, pointing at the part of the Master’s base visible through the icy wasteland. Marcus tells Carol that he senses a hollow space below them, coming closest to the surface, and blasts at the ice, creating an entrance to the Master’s base.
‘Not bad. Not bad at all’ Carol tells Marcus as they leave the ice-cold landscape and enter the sterile complex. ‘With any luck, he’s not scanning for us, so he won’t know we’re here - but there’s bound to be a power source I can use to - WHOA!’ Carol shouts, interrupting herself as the pair find themselves in some sort of lab, filled with tanks of Plodex-green colored creatures. Marcus tells Carol that it looks like a genetic engineering laboratory of some sort, pointing out that these creatures resemble those that Carol called the sea-wolves, only they are all different, as intended for other environments.
‘Right on the money, I’d say’ Carol remarks, announcing that Alpha Flight’s files on the Master said he wanted to creature creatures like this, but didn’t have the genetic raw material. ‘He was after one of them - Marrina - but I heard she died’ Carol adds. ‘I wonder how he managed it?’ she remarks, before deciding that they should take a look around. She presses a button on a control panel, and a door slides noiselessly open. But before Carol steps into the room, a voice calls out ‘Halt where you are, intruders!’, and Carol turns to see several Plodex, in humanoid form, approaching her with weapons - so she does not see the tank in the next room - with Marrina inside it!
‘Uh-oh - looks like we didn’t get in unnoticed’ Carol tells Marcus as the door slides shut behind her. ‘Surrender, intruders…or the Master decrees…you die!’. one of the Plodex exclaims. ‘Quickly, Warbird - you must power yourself up! It’s your only chance for survival against them! Do it!’ Marcus urges Carol, shoving his staff at her. ‘No! I - I can’t!’ Carol exclaims. ‘You not surrender, intruders! So standing orders apply! Fire!’ one of the Plodex exclaims, and they begin firing their weapons. ‘Blast it! If you won’t protect yourself - I will! The Scarlet Centurion exclaims as he steps in front of Carol to protect her from the oncoming blasts. ‘Centurion, don’t -’ Carol begins, as the Scarlet Centurion takes the brunt of the attack, and is knocked backwards.
Carol calls out to him, before leaping at one of the Plodex creatures, thinking to herself that she didn’t ask him to sacrifice himself for her, but she cannot let the act go to waste either. Examining the weapons, she tells herself that they are some sort of plasma-packet projectile weapons, so they would probably rip her to ribbons. ‘That’s a brace man you just gunned down, ugloids - whatever else I think, I’ve got to give him that!’ Carol exclaims, kicking two of the Plodex in the head, causing them to drop their weapons. Warbird adds that the Scarlet Centurion came alone, so he doesn’t have any of his people around to stand up for him, so she guesses that is up to her to make them pay for what the did, and she kicks another of the aliens in the face. ‘That’s one - two - three down - and baby makes four!’ Carol exclaims as she grabs the weapon of the last Plodex, and kicks him in the face.
Carol tells herself that the weapon projectiles are useless to her, but it uses some sort of power pack, which will charge her up for a few minutes, and she grabs the power pack, recharging herself. Carol drops down beside the Scarlet Centurion and tells herself that she still cannot bring herself to touch him, but asks him if he is all right. The wounded Centurion replies that he will heal, and not to concern herself with him. ‘But truly…even without power, you are majestic!’ Marcus adds. Carol is a little confused, when suddenly, one of the Plodex creatures raises its weapon, and fires at them. ‘Whoa! One of ‘em’s still awake! Move it, big guy!’ Carol exclaims, pulling Marcus to safety without thinking. The shot misses its target, traveling the length of the corridor, and before the echo of shattering steel fades as it strikes a wall panel, chaos erupts.
There is wind, vacuum - and an agonizing scream of pain and rage in both their ears and minds. ‘Centurion! Hold on!’ Carol calls out as they are sucked towards the vortex. The injured Centurion cannot hold on, and he finds himself tumbling inexorably toward the shattered bulkhead, caught in a wind that is as much psionic as physical. He only glimpses the horror before him in the shifting shadows - but the dank, fetid smell and the overwhelming wave of hunger, bloodlust and blind unreasoning rage fills his mind - almost drowning him. He tries to break free of the wind, to twist away, reach the bulkhead wall - but in the end, all he can do is fall towards the foul creature below.
His shoulder feels dislocated, and he can feel the touch of the thing below, making the red rage swell all around him - and he knows he’s got to hang out - to haul himself out - but…. ‘He - he’s visibly weakening. He can’t last much longer. He needs help. Id’ have to - have to -’ Carol thinks to herself as she watches the Scarlet Centurion fall. She sees his face, he won’t call for help, he knows what she’s thinking. And he won’t ask that of her. But she can see him hope.
‘Oh blast it! Hang on, Marcus, just a few seconds longer! Hang on -’ Carol exclaims as she swoops through the wind, down towards him. ‘- I’m here!’ Carol exclaims, grabbing Marcus’ staff, she gets a good grip on it, and through her leather gloves, it feels just like plain metal. And though the psionic storm builds in hysterical, shrieking intensity - Carol pulls Marcus free. ‘Just a little more!’ Carol exclaims, while Marcus thanks her for calling him by name, and addresses her as Carol. v
Shortly, the bulkhead is completely sealed thanks to Marcus’ halberd, and Carol and Marcus can hardly hear the angry howls behind it. ‘There was...there was something like that in the Alpha Flight files, too. it was supposed to be dead, too…but I’m betting that’s the genetic pappy of all the Master’s Plodex pets’ Carol remarks. ‘Perhaps’ Marcus replies, before remarking ‘But if I might bring up what we are not talking about…you took the risk, Carol. You made contact - risked your freedom to save me’ Marcus exclaims, pointing out that he did not attack. ‘Did not use hidden technology to control your mind - or cause illusions that you love me. Yes?’
‘I…don’t know that, how could I? How could I know for sure why I feel what I feel? How could I ever?’ Carol asks, when, suddenly, her communicator alarm sounds. Carol raises her wrist, and the communication-bubble appears, so she excuses herself from Marcus, pointing out that the communication is faint. Hank “Yellowjacket” Pym, Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff and Maria De Guadalupe Santiago a.k.a. Silverclaw observe their teammate. ‘Good to see your face!’ Hank exclaims, assuring her that the three of them are safe, at least for the moment, and they have managed to hook back up in one of the damaged sectors, adding that they are ready to tackle the bad guys. ‘You in?’ Hank asks. ‘Tell me where. I’ll be there’ Carol replies. ‘Great’ Hank exclaims, before transmitting the co-ordinates.
The transmission ends, and Carol and Marcus look at each other in silence, before Carol smashes her fist into a wall panel, and absorbs the energy inside it. The Scarlet Centurion informs her that his communications gear is functioning again and he has sent a command for new transport. ‘Warbird. Carol. I…did not fully understand the depth of what you’ve been through. If I have won your regard today…if I have won your regard, you have no way of knowing whether I did so honestly. I know I did, but…but that’s not enough’ Marcus exclaims, reaching out to Carol.
‘I will leave you. You no longer need my physical support, and will accept no other kind’ Marcus remarks, looking upwards as his new hover-disc appears. ‘But if I can think of a way to prove myself - short of betraying my father - I will do it. And should you need me…all you need do is call’ Marcus announces, stepping onto his disc, he leaves. Carol watches him until he vanishes into the clouds. She tells herself she doesn’t have the power to subdue him - take him prisoner. She tells herself he came in truce and should be able to leave the same way. She tells herself. And she wonders if she believes it….
Meanwhile, at the Avengers Deep Space Monitor Station, in the Asteroid Belt. ‘This is nuts, Quasar!’ exclaims Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning. Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn reminds his teammate that it is what they agreed to do, agreed to serve. ‘Maybe that’s okay for you - you’re stuck out here anyway!’ Miguel complains, reminding Wendell that there is a war going on back home, and he is way out here watching monitor screens and studying for his mid-terms. ‘I want to go back! I want to do my part!’ Miguel exclaims, but Wendell tells him that they cannot just abandon their post.
‘Listen to yourself! You ever heard an order you didn’t like? There’s nothing happening out here, man! And they need us there!’ Miguel exclaims. ‘We don’t know there’ll be no -’ Wendell begins, when suddenly, an alarm sounds. ‘Sector 17-A’ Miguel exclaims, looking at a monitor, they see a large pyramid. ‘What the heck is that?’ Miguel asks. Wendell replies that he doesn’t know, but that whatever it is, it is big, and headed into the solar system. ‘And it’s moving very, very fast…!’. Indeed, a massive pyramid hurls through space….