#35
THE MS. MARVEL GATEFOLD
Previously ...Ms. Marvel teamed up with Maverick and Deadpool- er, Wonder Boy (hey, read last issue and you'll get it) to save Tigra from the clutches of the Auctioneer. Since the Auctioneer knows he's a wimp, he had hired Paramour, Velvet, Sabretooth and some Mandroids to protect him. Didn't work as the heroes saved Tigra, and he was the only bad guy actually captured. Rough day. Then again, when you're the Auctioneer, do you ever really have a good day?
CAST OF CHARACTERS
MS. MARVEL - CAROL DANVERS was accidentally irradiated by the Kree built Psyche-Magnitron, giving her powers and turning her into the heroine, MS. MARVEL! Now, after a lifetime that has seen her as a NASA security chief, writer, magazine editor, intelligence operative, Avenger and transformed into the cosmically powered heroine BINARY, Carol has regained her Ms. Marvel identity and powers and is the living embodiment of merged Kree/Human genetic potential.
AURORA - classic paranoid - half the time she's the outgoing Aurora, the other half she's the reserved Jeanne-Marie; She is her own arch-nemesis. Beat that. Ms. Marvel put her in the med-lab at Avengers Mansion for treatment.
PARAMOUR and VELVET - Little is known about the two femle assassins except that they wear the same costume, which includes a belt of tricks around their waist.
NORTHERN BEAR PRODUCTIONS

Destiny's Prince
written by Mark Bousquet


"Not bad at all."

Carol Danvers smiled as she looked around her new apartment. She needed this, she told herself, needed to get out and away from Avengers Mansion and Jarvis's exquisite pampering-

-- and Captain America--

-- and it definitely was not a decision made to get away from Captain America. Carol rolled her eyes as she walked around her large, open studio apartment. It wasn't going to work out with Steve, and they both realized that. Or, at least, it wasn't going to work right now. There was something between them, something that was more than just one night of passion.*

* You did read MS. MARVEL 28, right? -- Smooth Biscuit …

Steve wasn't the kind of guy, she mused as she stood in the middle of her kitchen, looking out at the large open area in front of her, to just go to bed with someone. There's no way he could have been. As far as she knew, he had never slept with a teammate before and she doubted that there was anyone on the team who could have kept that big of a secret.

Although that's just what she intended to do.

She could almost hear Tigra now, "Way to go, Carol!" but there was no joy in Carol's heart about what had happened as she moved to the space that would serve as the living room. Only sorrow for a romance that apparently was not to be. Steve was too committed these days to fighting the good fight. She wondered, not for the first time, just what had happened to the heroes who had gone to the alternate reality after the Onslaught saga. Steve had seemed more driven, more passionate about his role in the world since he returned.

She slumped down into the studio's only piece of furniture, a large, comfortable couch and felt tired. It had been a couple days since she had returned from rescuing Tigra down in St. Chateau.* She chuckled to herself - Tigra, Aurora, Maverick, Deadpool, Sabretooth, Bullseye, the Auctioneer …this must have been what Spider-Man felt like a few years back when he was seemingly teaming up with a different hero every night of the week.

* Which happened last issue

Those two new assassins worried her, though. Paramour and Velvet didn't look like the kind of help that the Auctioneer could afford, but then again, they were new, so maybe they were just trying to build up their reputation. 'Assassins,' Carol sighed, 'who can figure them out. Bullseye, who's as stone cold a killer as anyone, is upset that Sabretooth took his contract, even though the contract wasn't to kill anyone. Unreal.'

Carol frowned, bringing her thoughts back to Paramour and Velvet. 'What was with the younger one, though?' Carol thought to herself. 'She didn't really do a whole lot - just kind of hung back and watched. Maybe she's an apprentice of some kind?' Carol closed her eyes and remembered as much of the chaos as she could, focusing in on Velvet as much as she could. 'And what was with that stuff she rubbed into my eyes? Paramour put something she called 'Brimstone Powder' into my eyes, causing them to burn like they've never burned before, but Velvet applied a soothing salve that took the burn away. Why? Is she--'

"Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"

The vision cut through her mind with a searing blast of pain. Her seventh sense allowed her, on occasion, to see glimpses of the future.

They almost always hurt like hell.

Her eyes rolled back into her head and her body shook as she saw a nightmarish vision. It was New York and it was burning … burning to the ground … and there was the smell of … brimstone? Yes, brimstone. She tried to fight the fire, but she was held in place above it all, her body frozen and all she could hear was laughter … cold, hard laughter … she was being pushed away from the fire suddenly and she struggled to see what was happening, but the only thing she could now see was a silhouette of a face coming towards her. The darkness hid the identity, but she could make out long flowing hair … closer to the light now and she could see the smiling face of ….

"Arrggh!" She collapsed in an unconscious heap to the couch, her shivering body wracked with sweat. She didn't hear the phone ring, or the answering machine pick up. She didn't even know her phone had been connected yet.

"BEEP! Leave a message. Or don't. It's your call. Just keep it short. BEEP!"

"Your darn right it's my call, young woman and I'll keep it short only if I feel like keeping it short! J. Jonah Jameson doesn't have the time to wait around for you to grace me with your presence! I've got a newspaper to run and a city waiting to get it! Now, if you'd be so kind as to tell me why I'm receiving packages for you at the Daily Bugle, I'd love to--- BEEP!"


AVENGERS MANSION

Aurora stirred in her bed, a dizzying fever wreaking havoc with her brain. The dark cloud that had engulfed her face* was so dark and so cold and she had felt so very alone.

* See MS. MARVEL 32 & 33 - Dark Cloud on the Horizon Biscuit …

She wanted to run and hide, but she was already hidden and safe inside Avengers Mansion. What was she to do?

'Stop whining and make something of yourself!' a voice inside her head say. It was Jeanne-Marie, the other half of Aurora's personality. Aurora, with sheer terror, watched her body rise up against her will from the table and exit the Mansion.

Edwin Jarvis, the team's longtime butler and currently the only person in the Mansion, was in the kitchen, making a sandwich for himself and didn't see the former member of Alpha Flight's sudden departure.

Aurora soared into the night, desperate to regain control of her body. 'Stop this!' Jeanne-Marie ordered from inside her head. Aurora was in a panic - just what had that dark cloud done to her?

"Get out, Jeanne-Marie!" she screamed over and over again and finally, Jeanne-Marie's voice was gone. Aurora looked around to see where she was and discovered she had landed in the back of a very dark alley. "No!" she screamed, falling back into a pile of trash bags. "Make ze dark go away!!!" Aurora's eyes were clamped shut. If they weren't she would have seen the bright light pouring from her own body, lighting up the entire alley.

And, perhaps, she would have seen the eyes that peered at her from underneath the manhole cover in the middle of the street.


THE DAILY BUGLE

Carol Danvers felt unexpected thrills run through her as she rode the elevator to the newsroom floor of the Daily Bugle. She'd held many jobs in her life - from her days at NASA to her days as a CIA operative to being a superhero to being a magazine editor to being an intergalactic space pirate … of all of them she often thought of the magazine editor position as being the most safe. And certainly it was from a physical standpoint, but it was a very dangerous position to be in, like the others she had held the public's trust in her hands during the days as editor of WOMAN magazine.

It was a thrilling experience in it's own, less physical, way.

The elevator reached it's destination and with a small PING the doors opened. Carol was immediately hit with the aura of the newsroom - the shouting, the chaos, the smell of burning cigarettes and sweat, the ringing of telephones. 'Now I remember why I worked for a monthly magazine instead,' she thought.

She stepped onto the Bugle's floor and to a receptionist's desk. "May I help you?"

"Name's-"

"Carol Danvers! It certainly took you long enough to get down here!" J. Jonah Jameson's voice cut across the end-of-the-day newsroom buzz. The paper would have to go to print in another hour if it was going to be ready to hit the streets for the morning rush.

Carol nodded to the receptionist and smiled, "I think I'll just go on in."

"You do that," the receptionist smiled.

"Hello, Jonah," Carol smiled easily as she walked across to the Bugle's publisher. "You called?"

"Several hours ago!" Jonah yelled as he ushered Carol into his office. "Do you know how hard it was to track you down? It was like you fell off the face of the Earth!"

"But, Jonah," Carol smiled, taking a seat, "that's what I did."

"Harumph! Everybody's a wise guy these days," he fumed, moving around to his side of the desk, chomping his ever-present cigar. "This came for you," he spoke, the curiosity unmistakable in his leathered voice though he tried hard to hide it, as he handed her a small package wrapped in brown paper. "I'd have opened it myself, but it's probably hate mail." He smiled, "And I get enough of that as it is."

She took it from him and read the hand written address on it's cover.

CAROL DANVERS
c/o WOMAN MAGAZINE
NEW YORK CITY

"But you're not even publishing WOMAN anymore, are you?" she asked, puzzled.

"No. We didn't have nearly enough fashion articles, gossip and fad diets to appeal to enough women to sell enough copies to compete with the … fluff women's mags on the stands," Jonah admitted. "Kept it going until we made our money back and than that was it." He tapped out the ashes from the end of his cigar, "No return address, but the postmark is from Houston."

"Well, thanks, Jonah," Carol said, standing to leave. "I'll let you know what's inside."

"You're not going to open it here?" he asked, rising quickly. Carol could see the blood starting to rise into his face. "Damnit, what's inside could be newsworthy!"

"And it could also be private," Carol countered.

"Then why did they send it here? As far as I'm concerned, that's Bugle property! Besides, I could've opened it hours ago!"

Carol sighed - there was no winning with Jameson sometimes. Especially when he had some semblance of a point. It must have killed him to see it sitting on his desk all day. "Look, I'll tell you what, anything newsworthy inside I'll give the Bugle first crack at publishing it. I'm not going to sell it to some other paper, don't worry."

"And how do I know that?" Jameson asked, knowing a negotiating session when he saw one.

"You have my word," Carol answered honestly. "Hey," she spoke quickly, his face reddening by the second, "if it wasn't for you, I never would have gotten the package in the first place. I owe you. I can't make any promises that anything in here is going to be newsworthy, but if it is, you can pay me to write the article for you." She smiled. "You still pay exorbitantly for freelancers, right?"

Jonah threw his hands in the air, "You've got a deal. Anything from that package gets published, we get first crack at it. Your pay will depend on what the information is, and if you still know how to write a decent article."

"Sounds good." They shook hands. Jameson smiled - for all the arguments he had had with Danvers when she was working for him, there was no doubting that, to her, a handshake was just as good as any contract.

And in this day and age, that made the old man happier than any news that could possibly come from inside that package.


THE PIER DISTRICT

The Pier District was quiet at night, but not silent.

In one particular warehouse there was a large amount of activity going on as men dressed in green transported cargo onto a ship.

"Hurry, my troops!" a woman in green yelled, "I have no want to be caught by any of the local super community! Now that the holier-than-thou Fantastic Four reside in the Pier District, we have to be quicker than ever before!"

One of the men in green grumbled to another, "Yeah, well, maybe if you didn't yell so loud - or do this stuff in New York City, Superhero Central - we wouldn't have much to worry about, huh Ph--urk!"

The man's hands reached for his neck as he felt something crush his windpipe. He looked up into the eyes of terror.

"Nobody questions Viper!" She turned to the rest of the troops, "Hail HYDRA!"

"HAIL HYDRA!" they shouted back.


ABOVE

Carol soared over the city, enjoying the thrill of flying through the nighttime sky. She had brought the package back to her apartment and opened it and …

She needed time to absorb what she had seen. It was jumbled, chaotic, nothing seemingly connected. She had spent the better part of four hours staring at it, trying to piece it together, but she finally gave up for the night. She hoped taking a fly across the city would give her some time to relax and think about it subconsciously.

And if she ran across some super villain who needed his head handed to him, well, all the better. She grinned as she increased her speed, arcing out towards the Pier District.

If she had seen what was going on beneath her at that moment, she wouldn't have smiled.

She would have seen Aurora, her light doused and her body unconscious, being dragged across an alleyway and into the sewers.

But she didn't.

Instead she flew in a wide arc towards the Pier District, thinking about everything that had happened to her since she came back to Earth. She had rid herself of the Binary powers, presumably for good,* and worried about the effect she had had on that other universe, the one where she pulled energy from when she became Binary.

* MS. MARVEL: THE RETURN

It was chilling to think that by using the Binary powers she had been draining another universe, but she had no way of knowing that. The important thing was that that universe was safe.

It was too bad, too, about Steve, but, damnit, she told herself, everyone is busy. Why is it only him who can't find the time to make a relationship work? She thought back to her meeting with Destiny.* She had said that Carol would be torn between the love of a soldier and a prince. If Steve was the soldier, and he undoubtedly was, than who was the prince?

* MS. MARVEL 28 - Van's Last Issue

She smiled, it was probably some geek with a heart of gold. Hank Pym, maybe? Or maybe it was a Prince Charming type like Tony Stark?

"Bah!" she laughed. "If I don't read horoscopes, why should I listen to another fortune teller?"

Her laughter was cut short as movement below caught her eye. "HYDRA!" She dove immediately, taking the scene in as she descended. They were loading something into a cargo ship - she couldn't tell what, it all looked like wooden crates to her, but she was sure it wasn't anything legal they were doing.

She came in hard, grabbing a handful of shocked HYDRA troops by their collars and dropping them in the ocean's waters. She swung back around, only to be hit by a blast cannon. It was fired, she noticed right before impact, by Viper. Her body was flung backwards, hurtling out of control. She wondered what she was going to hit and she hoped that it was the water.

"Ooof!" she gasped as the air was expelled from her body. She had hit something hard, but there was no crash. Shaking the cobwebs out, she heard the voice before she saw the face.

"What manner of deviltry is this?" the voice boomed from right above her head. "HYDRA shall not use the waters for their evil purposes as long as the Avenging Son of Atlantis lives!"

'Avenging son …?' she asked herself as she opened her eyes. "Namor!"

Namor … Avenging son … Prince of Atlantis …

'No,' she told herself, 'no way …'

to be continued …

comments to mariner2@tiac.net


NEXT ISSUE: Namor and Carol vs. HYDRA! Plus, Carol searches for Frank Gianelli as she tries to figure out the contents of the mysterious brown package!


-- Mark … 25 June 1999

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