#26

Carol Danvers, a woman who had it made-- until the day radiation from an exploding alien machine gave her the skills and powers of a Kree Warrior, plus an uncanny seventh sense-- transforming a human woman into... a heroine ... MS. MARVEL!

MS. MARVEL GATEFOLD

MS. MARVEL (Carol Danvers):
Former NASA security chief and magazine editor, Carol Danvers gained the powers of a Kree warrior after being subjected to the effects of an alien machine. As Ms. Marvel, she fought alongside her fellow AVENGERS for a time, before her powers and memories were temporarily stolen by the X-Man Rogue. Her powers somewhat restored, she now represents the height of merged Human and Kree genetic potential.

CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers):
The living legend of World War II! Treated with the "Super Soldier Serum," Steve Rogers became a human fighting machine. Cast into the icy waters of Newfoundland at the War's end, Cap fell into suspended animation, only to be revived by the AVENGERS. In the years since, he has become their leader, and an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere!

DESTINY:
Female member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants; blind, but able to see into the future.



LIVING LASER:
Driven nearly mad over the years by the constant search for greater personal power, and the physical strains of that power, the Living Laser has found himself in the unenviable position of becoming a pawn for greater forces...


THE LADY IN THE SHADOWS:
Hey, we're not telling yet! But she does have blonde hair, and talks to herself a lot...

THE GUY IN THE SHADOWS:
See above (except for the part about blonde hair!)


PREVIOUSLY IN MS. MARVEL:
Recovered from her ordeal as Binary, Carol reclaimed her old name and costume (thanks to Cap and Jarvis) and rejoined the Avengers. Last issue, she defeated the vengeance-seeking Super-Skrull, but sensed that other forces were at work, influencing the outcome of the battle-- and indeed, two figures, separately, watched from the shadows...


MS. MARVEL #26
by Van Allen Plexico
TURNABOUT!

A day later:

"What? What's the matter? What did you see?"

The blind woman, obviously shaken, released Ms. Marvel's hand and sat back, as if contemplating what she'd learned.

Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, Ms. Marvel studied the woman. She was not old, not really. Probably only slightly beyond middle-age. Her manner, however, along with the blindfold tied around her head, lent her the air of age, of wisdom, and of frailty.

This was a bad idea, Ms. Marvel thought to herself yet again. I shouldn't be doing it. I should just take her in. Surely there are outstanding warrants on her-- enough to put her away for a very long time. But Ms. Marvel's heart simply wasn't in the task. Apprehending Destiny had not been her plan, her goal, and she felt no overwhelming desire to do so now.

She'd been looking for Destiny's old boss: Mystique. That was the one she really wanted. So many of the old wounds, the old injuries, led back there. Mystique was a loose end from another lifetime, one Ms. Marvel wanted very much to tie up-- or cut off. The trail had led here, to this retirement village. But it had not been Mystique who had appeared at the door when Ms. Marvel had knocked. It had been the former Evil Mutant known as Destiny. Destiny, the alleged seer of the future. Ms. Marvel had started to take her into custody, but the woman's behavior-- not at all that of an arch-villain; much more that of a tired old woman-- had given her pause. And then Destiny had touched her, and gasped, and offered to reveal a tiny bit of her future.

Carol had thought for a moment. Would that be a good idea? Could it be dangerous? And did she really want to know that sort of thing? She'd come very close to rejecting the offer outright. Then she'd remembered all the trials and tribulations of the last several years, and she couldn't help but wonder, If I'd known what was going to happen to me, could I have somehow avoided it all?

So she'd agreed. Destiny had smiled wanly, and taken Ms. Marvel's ungloved hand in her own. And screamed...

*****

A day earlier:

The day had not been a good one from the very beginning. Well, that wasn't entirely true-- the very beginning had actually been rather pleasant, if somewhat confusing. It had started with Carol coming down from her suite in the Mansion for breakfast-- another of Jarvis's culinary masterpieces-- only to find Captain America already there, at the table, in one of those rare moments when he had his mask pulled back to expose his wavy blond hair and the portion of his face that was normally covered. Carol had greeted him and taken a seat opposite him, digging heartily into her food, but had quickly noticed that Cap was staring at her. Blinking, she'd looked up and met his eyes.

"Cap? Something wrong?"

He seemed to come back from a distant place. "What? Oh, no. Sorry." He smiled faintly. "By the way, you can call me 'Steve' when I don't have the mask on, if you'd like."

She returned the smile. "Sure, C-- Steve. And call me Carol."

Cap nodded, more serious. He seemed to consider for a moment, then spoke again. "I... I haven't really known how to broach this subject with you... I'm... I'm not really good at this sort of thing, I suppose..." He held off as Jarvis entered with a tray of juices and refilled their glasses, then returned to the kitchen.

Carol frowned at Cap's sudden awkwardness. What the--?! "Um, well, feel free to speak your mind, Steve. I'm sure anything you have to tell me will be useful."

Cap bit his lip, looked away.

Carol was taken aback. This is not the Cap I'm used to following into battle. He's so-- pensive. What could possibly make him--

"Then I'll just come out and say it, Carol." Cap straightened, directed his gaze stonily out the window. "Before-- back when you were an Avenger the first time, before the business with Immortus, and..." He let that thought trail off, figuring the less said about it the better. "Um, back then, just before it all happened, I sort of felt that we-- that you and I-- were beginning to grow... closer..." He looked up, met her eyes again, a question undeniably hanging there between them.

Carol was shocked, but she didn't reveal it. She considered his words, and the sentiments clearly behind them.

Cap breathed deeply; exhaled. A moment passed in silence. Then, "Perhaps I shouldn't have said anything at all. I..."

Carol shook her head. "That stuff is all in the past, Steve. Believe me, I want it buried there. I've moved on."

Cap met her eyes again, the blue deep and penetrating. He nodded sharply, once. "I see. I fully understand. Anything we might have felt-- it shoud be left in the--"

Carol's eyes widened. "No! You misunderstand me. I mean the old resentments-- the whole business with Immortus. I'm saying I don't blame the Avengers for that stuff anymore. It's gone-- it's history." She reached across the table, laid her hand carefully, gently on his. "As for the rest of it... well... that hasn't been forgotten. Not at all."

Cap met her eyes again. He was not as successful as Carol had been at hiding the shock he felt. Shock quickly melting into something... else.

Carol smiled to herself. He's such a soldier boy. So stoic, but with everything right there under the surface, ready to burst out if the right button-- a button he barely suspects he has-- is pushed. So refreshing. So... charming.

Her smile focused on Cap, and broadened. Her red lips parted, revealing dazzling teeth.

Cap allowed a tight, controlled smile in return, but his eyes couldn't hide it-- they betrayed it all.

Carol allowed herself to come to a decision, and found herself feeling very good about it. This could be rather... interesting...

*****

And so had the day begun on a surprising note. From there, it had been all downhill:

*****

Sha-RAAAAK!!!

The laserblast just missed her; her seventh sense screamed at a hundred decibels in her brain, urging her to MOVE!, and move she did, just as the beam sliced through the wall behind her and shattered it.

No time to look for the culprit. She had to MOVE! again, just before another blast ripped across the room and nearly took her head off.

The basement lab of Avengers Mansion she'd been exploring was slowly being blasted to pieces by the attacker, and she knew that if she didn't go on the offensive quickly, she'd be next. Using her flying speed to cross the room in the blink of an eye, she dived behind a huge metal machine which occupied an entire corner of the facility. The beam followed her, melting gouts out of the high-density alloy. Not stopping, she rolled and came up moving in the opposite direction, even faster. The move caught her attacker by surprise, and she saw his figure momentarily, before he disappeared in a sparkling flash of light.

The Living Laser!

Ms. Marvel's mind raced back to what she remembered from the Avengers files she'd studied during her previous stint with the team, and during her recent recuperation. Something about the Living Laser seeking out more and more power, and eventually being driven mad by it, before being defeated by Iron Man.* Well, clearly, he was back, and just as homicidal as ever, though what he wanted-- aside from, apparently, a dead Avenger-- was still a mystery.

[*In IRON MAN #153 --Archivist Van]

Another blast just missed her, singing her hair, and Ms. Marvel gritted her teeth in anger. "You picked a bad day to come here, Laser!" she shouted. "I'm in NO MOOD!"

She lunged for him, fist swinging hard, but her blow passed through him as he vanished yet again. "So you can teleport now, eh? Great."

This time a blast glanced off her left leg, burning through part of her boot. She cried out in pain, whirled, and this time managed to connect. The Living Laser sprawled back, but teleported again before she could press her attack.

"Think, Carol!" she hissed to herself. "You're fighting stupid, like the Skrull did. THINK!"

She forced her mind to relax, and became aware of her seventh sense screaming at her again. BEHIND!! Her fist lashed out, over her shoulder--

--and the Living Laser appeared right in its path. He had no time to react, no time to cry out. His nose crunched in and he collapsed like a sack of potatoes.

Seconds later, Captain America dashed into the room, shield raised and ready. A moment later, the Vision phased down through the ceiling and solidified between them. Cap and Vision took in the damage, eyes wide, then spotted the incapacitated form of the Living Laser.

Ms. Marvel stood over him, glaring down. "I think we need to get him into some kind of restraint before he wakes up," she said quietly.

The Vision nodded once and bent down, lifting the villain and carrying him into an adjoining room. Cap placed a hand on Ms. Marvel's shoulder. "Are you-- you're--?"

"I'm fine." She moved away from his touch, irritated.

Cap frowned. A few moments later, the Vision returned. "The Living Laser has been placed in a stasis chamber until more permanent accomodations can be arranged," he reported evenly.

Ms. Marvel was pacing about the room, hands behind her back. "Somebody's setting me up," she growled.

Cap glanced at Vision, concerned; neither of them said anything.

"I wasn't sure before, but this is just too much. Somebody's out to get me. And I have an idea of who it might be."

She whirled and stalked out of the wrecked room, Cap and Vision staring at her in surprise and silence as she exited.

*****

"So quickly," the deep voice murmured. "She is quite formidable. Perhaps the time has come to move to the next phase."

The big man folded away his telepathic link device which had connected him with the Living Laser and made his way down off the rooftop and into the alleyway.

*****

"So, someone else is interested in her as well."

From her car, parked across from Avengers Mansion, the tall, blonde woman watched the big man slinking away in the shadows.

"This bears close examination. I won't dispatch him yet-- I'm curious-- but he WILL NOT interfere."

Her cell phone chirped, and she unfolded it. "Yes? What? Four Freedoms Plaza? Fine, I'll be there shortly."

Folding away the phone, she started the car, pulled out into the street, and sped away.

*****

A day later, again:

"What is it? What did you see?"

Ms. Marvel waited for Destiny to recover from whatever trauma she'd apparently suffered. "Um, listen," she said, "if it's all that bad, maybe I don't need to know after all."

Destiny breathed slowly, deeply, then spoke. "Listen carefully, Carol Danvers. Your future contains the possibility of tragedy and pain the likes of which even you have never known."

Ms. Marvel rolled her eyes. "Great. Figures."

"But--" Destiny leaned forward, her voice tense. "Your fate is not yet sealed. You contain equally the potential for much happiness and joy, for contentment and peace. The possibilities for both outcomes are there."

"Hm. Is that so?"

"Yes." Destiny held up three fingers. "I see three possible paths your near future will take. The path you choose will determine the outcome."

"And these paths are...?"

"I cannot say."

Ms. Marvel snorted. "Well, that's a lot of help."

"But," the mutant continued, "I can tell you this much." She laid her hands out on the table, spread wide. "One: you will find yourself caught between the love of a soldier and the love of a prince. Choose carefully. And remember that in a love triangle, there are always more than two sides, and more than two choices."

Ms. Marvel frowned, but said nothing. At that moment, suddenly, her head swam, her seventh sense crying out. Images formed in her mind-- shocking images-- images of herself, nude, in the muscular embrace of... of... whom? And then, just as suddenly as the images had appeared, they vanished.

She came back to reality just as Destiny was continuing. "Two: You will be tempted, but must not give in to hate."

"Hate?" Ms. Marvel shook her head to clear it of the seventh-sense visitation. "Why on Earth would I--?"

"Hate can come in many forms," Destiny whispered. "Believe me, I have felt a number of them in my time with the Brotherhood." She paused. "Hate is the opposite of love, but it is at the same time very close to it. Closer than you might imagine. The two are... intimately connected. Remember that."

Ms. Marvel nodded. "So your advice there is--?"

"That was it."

"AAaahh..." Carol drummed her fingers on the table. "Anything else?"

"Yes. This is more difficult than the others-- they were very clear, very distinct. This is not." She inhaled, then breathed out slowly. "Your foe-- your true foe-- lies not where you might suspect."

Ms. Marvel frowned deeper, leaned forward. "Okay, what exactly does that mean? Foe? You mean Mystique?"

Destiny shook her head. "No. I know that you harbor deep animosity for that one, and quite justifiably so, but her fate is long-since sealed."

"Then... Rogue?"

"A child. No."

"Then who?"

"You will know when the time is right for you to know. But be ready. Do not become too complacent. And do not long turn your back on the shadows."

"Oooo-kay." Ms. Marvel nodded, once, then stood. "Well, look, this has been very pleasant, very informative, but I have to go. Relax-- I'm not going to turn you in. I don't think you're up to much mischief these days, and besides, I know where to find you."

"Indeed."

Ms. Marvel started to say something else, then thought better of it and simply strode away. The other residents stared at her with awe, watching her leave the building and leap into the sky, flying gracefully away. They were not looking back at blind Destiny, seated peacefully at a table, when a tall, blonde woman in a long coat stepped out of the shadows and moved to stand behind her.

Destiny did not move, indeed could not see. But she spoke: "I knew that you would come. You are too late, as I foresaw. She knows now, though she doesn't realize that she knows."

"You are a fool for giving away your gifts so cheaply," the blonde woman whispered.

"Perhaps. But others-- innocents-- have paid the price for my actions and those of my colleagues in the past. I think it is time I gave away something for free."

The tall woman laughed cruelly. "It's not like she can do anything about it, anyway. She's mine."

Destiny shrugged. "We shall see."

But the blonde woman was already gone, as if she'd never been there...


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