#30

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.

MACHINE MAN (Aaron Stack, X-51):
A highly-evolved mechanical man striving to understand what it means to be human. X-51 has adopted the human guise of Aaron Stack and operates as the artificial champion known as Machine Man.


NOVA (Richard Rider):
The Human Rocket uses powers given him by a dying Xandarian to protect innocents. Nova's powers include super-strength, hyper-resilience, flight, and unpredictable, gravimetric energy bursts. He's a member of the New Warriors and a staunch ally of the Avengers.

COLONEL MICHAEL ROSSI:
An agent of SHIELD and a former lover of Carol Danvers. Rossi is just now becoming aware that not only has Carol returned to earth but she's once more operating as Ms. Marvel. Rossi is a tough, hard-nosed operative who considers his job to be his top priority.


PREVIOUSLY IN MS. MARVEL:
Carol Danvers had lunch with an old flame named Michael Rossi before finding herself allied with the Human Rocket against a seemingly berserk Machine Man...


Ms. Marvel # 30
By Barry Reese
"An Artificial Life Is A Life Indeed"

"The-extermination-of-the-human-race-is-at-hand." Machine Man clenched his fist tighter around Ms. Marvel's neck, his robotic face showing no emotion whatsoever as he attempted to drain the life from the blonde heroine.

"I...don't think...SO!" Ms. Marvel wrapped her own hands around the robot's arm and squeezed, using all of her Kree-born strength. With a sudden ripping sound, Machine Man's arm came off in her grip, leaving sparks and wires in its wake.

The robot retracted his long stilt legs, heading back down to the ground below where police officers were emptying rounds against his lower half. Marvel pried loose the fingers from around her throat and tossed the arm aside, rubbing at the bruises on her neck. She saw Nova rocketing towards her, having recovered from the sound beating delivered by Machine Man.

"You okay, Ms. M?" Carol nodded. "I'm fine -- but what's gotten into Machine Man?"

Nova shrugged. "Don't know. I dropped off the Scorpion for you* and was on my way back to the Warriors' HQ when I saw Machine Man attacking people on the street...When I checked in on him, he started raving about the end of humanity."

(*Ms. Marvel defeated the Scorpion last ish. Mr. Marvelous Barry.)

Ms. Marvel frowned. "Hmmm. Well, he has to be disabled before he hurts anyone else. I want you to distract him while I move in for the final blow. He's powerfully armored but he can't stand up against my level of strength." Ms. Marvel launched herself down towards the out-of-control robot.

Nova followed suit, feeling somewhat chagrined. She was treating him like some second-rate hero...he was a Nova Centurion after all and possibly just as powerful as she was. But, he reminded himself, this WAS Ms. Marvel -- an Avenger, a former Starjammer, and an ally of the X-Men. No shame in taking orders from a woman like that...

Machine Man had retracted his legs until he was only about eight feet tall, but he was swinging his legs over and through anyone who stood in his way. "Must-retreat-and-repair. Dawn-of-the-machine-is-at-hand. Organics-will-be-eliminated."

Nova circled around Machine Man, his amazing speed stirring up wind throughout the area. "Going somewhere, pal? I think we'd rather that you stuck around for awhile -- I'd like to know exactly what's bugging you..."

Machine Man's eyes flickered with an inner light and for a moment his normal personality seemed to reassert itself. "Nova...My-programming-is-afflicted-with-an-outside-influ--URK!"

Ms. Marvel cut off the robot's words, flying up behind Machine Man and placing both of her hands on the sides of the robot's head. She gave a mighty twist and heave, separating Machine Man's head from his body. The body clattered to the street below but the head remained active. "Sorry about that, Machine Man -- but it's for your own good."

Machine Man's word were slurred and quiet. "No-doubt..." Then his light went dark.

Nova landed and moved over. "What are you going to do with him?"

Marvel ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Take him back to the Mansion, I guess. Maybe someone there can figure out what went wrong with him." She glanced over at Nova and smiled. "Thanks for your help -- both here and with the Scorpion. We'll have to get together sometime -- when we're battling the super-villain of the week."

Nova nodded as she lifted off with Machine Man's head and body in her arms. "Yeah -- I'd like that. A lot!" He smiled and whistled to himself. "That old Rider charm is still in effect..."

*****

Michael Rossi stared at himself in the mirror for a long moment, noting the ever-encrouching signs of age. His hair was thinning and small wrinkles were appearing around his eyes. Internally, his bones even ached now -- crying out after years of abuse on the job.

Finally, he set aside his reverie and picked up the gun that sat on his desk. He put inside the holster hidden by his jacket and checked himself one last time in the mirror. Another undercover job for SHIELD. Another brush with death...and for what? An ever-increasing beuracracy that was growing ever faceless. He sometimes envied Carol for having gotten out before it was too late, before her fire had been put out by red tape.

Carol. He chuckled, remembering the way she had looked earlier in the day at lunch. Just as beautiful as he remembered. He'd cried for her -- inside, the way his father had taught him -- but he'd thought he'd moved on eventually. Reconciled himself with the fact that Carol was one of those elusive Loves-That-Got-Away. But learning that she was back now...Suddenly, subconsciously, he saw her as a way to regain a misspent youth.

He smiled cockily at his own reflection. He'd charmed her once before -- and he hoped to find the time to do it again. She needed someone who could help her reconnect with the past...and Michael felt that he was the one to do that.

*****

The mansion was strangely quiet. Carol set Machine Man's head and body down on the kitchen table, making sure that no spare parts went rolling across the floor -- fully aware that Jarvis would kill her if she made a mess. She looked down at Machine Man's vacant expression. "Looks like it's just you and me, kid*."

(*The Avengers are quite busy with their own synthetic-life problems -- check out Avengers # 411-413. Pluggin'-Barry.)

Carol removed her mask and arched her back, feeling how tight her muscles were. It'd been a very long day...

She idly wondered if Captain America (Steve, she reminded herself...) was going to be back in time for them to get together tonight. She peeked into the fridge while she allowed her mind to wander back over their little rendezvous of several nights back. He'd been remarkably tender -- almost too tender, for Carol's tastes -- and very sweet. She wasn't sure what the future held for them, but she was interested in pursuing it as far it would go.

She had just broken into a container of the Beast's favorite Fudge-Ripple ice cream when she heard a snap and a hiss from behind. She turned in time to see Machine Man's body standing upright, placing its own head back into its proper spot.

"Programming-is-resumed. System-repairs-complete. Return-to-homebase-imminent." Machine Man's eyes lit up brightly as the robot's hand completed the reattachment. The robot was making no threatening moves at the moment and Carol merely stood watching.

He mentioned an outside influence or something....I wonder who's pulling his strings. Carol watched as Machine Man picked up his severed arm and moved towards the door. He was behaving very oddly now, showing no signs of even being aware of her presence. She allowed him to step out and watched as boot jets launched him into the air.

"Take me to your leader," she murmured wryly. She put her mask back on and cast a mournful stare at the remaining fudge ripple. "I hope the Beast doesn't finish that before I get back..."

*****

Machine Man flew for half an hour, finally coming to a landing outside a small unmarked factory. He showed absolutely no interest in Ms. Marvel, not even when he walked up to a door and stepped inside.

Carol remained in the air for a moment, contemplating her next move. Should she wait for the Avengers to come back? That would be the safer route...But she grinned. Who needed the Avengers?

She set down just outside the door that Machine Man had entered. Her Seventh Sense was detecting no immediate danger though there was something odd in the air. A sense of...unease.

She crept along the side of the factory, peering inside. It was dark but she could make out six or seven humanoid shapes inside. One of them, the only one she could see with any clarity, was Machine Man. He stood motionless and silent.

Carol's senses warned her a second before a small robotic drone wheeled around the corner. It was tiny, with a mounted security camera on top. "By Hala...What have I stumbled into?" She murmured, lifting herself into the air somewhat. The tiny camera moved upwards with a whirr, capturing her every movement on film.

She sensed movement above and behind her, turning just in time to see three tiny wasp-like robots buzz towards her from the factory. Their stingers were equipped with small lasers and she knew immediately that she had made a terrible mistake in not waiting for the Avengers.

The wasp-bots fired tiny darts at her, which she dodged with ease, losing herself in her combat training. But when three more wasps appeared behind her, it was too much as one of the darts grazed her skin. Hala...It pierced my hardened skin...What am I dealing with here?

Immediately she could feel her a strange sensation on her flesh as a tiny, metallic scab appeared over the wound. The horrible metal seemed to slide over her arm, slowly inching over more of her flesh. With a terrible groan she felt her mind growing somewhat confused and slow...

*****


NEXT ISSUE:
Is Ms. Marvel about to become Machine Woman or something? Be here next issue as all is explained and a powerful new foe joins Ms. Marvel's rogues gallery!

AUTHOR'S NOTES:
Hope you're enjoying the ride so far -- next issue will end our first storyline and will hopefully set the stage for the wild and wacky things that will follow. This series is a departure from most of my MV1 work in that this is a somewhat 'light and frothy' series for me -- an homage to the classic Marvel Comics of the '70s and early '80s when guest-stars were a frequent occurrence. This feeling for the series was originated by Van Plexico and was, I felt, the strong point of the book.

Let me know what you think of the series thus far.
You can write me at aric_dacia@yahoo.com

Barry Reese


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