|THE MS. MARVEL GATEFOLD|
|Previously ... Ms. Marvel received the mysterious brown package that Frank Gianelli sent from Houston. As she flew through the city trying to sort out what the contents of the package meant, she ran smack dab into HYDRA!|
|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.|
|PARAMOUR and VELVET - Little is known about the two female assassins except that they wear the same costume, which includes a belt of tricks around their waist.|
|NORTHERN BEAR PRODUCTIONS|
Puzzle of the Package
written by Mark Bousquet
Ms. Marvel couldn't help but smile as she descended on a horde of HYDRA troops alongside Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Being a hero was normally a serious business, but here, in the middle of the night, with no innocent bystanders around, alongside one of the most powerful and classic heroes there were
Well, she smiled, those HYDRA troops below are going to get stomped on big time.
And they did. Namor and Ms. Marvel swooped down upon them, defeating the twenty-odd men in no time. The only threat was Viper and she had already high-tailed it out of there.
Carol finished off two HYDRA troopers and turned to watch Namor chase a fleeing trooper across the front of the warehouse that they were busy unloading supplies from. He moved fast and assuredly - the guy in the green suit didn't have a chance. Carol had to admit that she was impressed - and not just because of Destiny's foretelling.*
* Destiny foretold that Carol would have to choose between the love of a soldier and a prince in MS. MARVEL 28
But she couldn't get involved with someone right on the heels of the disappointment with Cap, destiny or not.
"It seems these HYDRA troopers were no match for the Avenging Son and the Female Fury!" Namor bellowed as he walked towards Carol.
"Nope, but then again, who could be?" she answered his smile with one of her own. "What were you doing here anyway, Namor? I don't believe in coincidence."
"I am in New York on business with Oracle, Inc.," he explained. "We have several holdings down here on the pier that I was checking on."
"Good thing you saw the HYDRA troops and came over," Ms. Marvel thanked him.
"I saw no sign of HYDRA until I was overhead," Namor took a step closer to Carol. "I merely saw a beautiful woman and could not keep myself away."
Carol smiled, "Oh really?"
"Yes," Namor added, "I have always found Viper to be an extremely attractive, if dangerous, opponent."
Ms. Marvel shook her head and took to the sky, leaving a grinning Namor behind.
Will Talltrees lay, in the dead of night, on a rise in the southwestern plains of sand in Texas, his wolf companion at his side.
"Easy, Lobo," the hero known as Red Wolf petted the animal as they looked down upon a military installation that, by all accounts, should not be here. It was a small hangar, covered with camouflage to hide it from prying eyes. Will thought, for the first time since they had broken up, that he wished the Rangers were here to see this.
But those thoughts were for other times. Now was the time to watch what would happen down inside the steel fenced perimeter and see if perhaps he could get a glimpse inside the hangar. Strange things had been happening in this section of desert and Red Wolf would find out what the cause of those occurrences were.
Carol rubbed the cobwebs from her eyes as she sat down to look at the package she had received from J. Jonah Jameson.* She spent hours looking at it the night before, but it all looked like a jumbled mess to her then and she hoped that some time away would do her some good.
* Last Issue
It didnt look like it did.
There was no note explaining what the press clippings, memos, pictures - both sketches and photo, newspaper articles, obituaries, maps and such were supposed to mean. The scribbled notes which contained no name - but Carol was almost certain it was from Frank Gianelli - and offered no explanations weren't much help.
With all the talk of conspiracy and secret government cabals and death lists and hit squads, Carol was almost willing to believe that it was a hoax.
She really needed to get ahold of Gianelli and see what was up - which, if the contents of this package were to be believed, wouldn't be easy. But how to get ahold of Frank? She could call the Bugle and see if they knew where he was working now, but that would tip Jameson off that this was newsworthy.
'I can't alert the Bugle, not now,' she thought to herself. She knew she could go to the Avengers and check their files, but No, you can't leave the Mansion and then immediately go running back there.
She sighed - there was one person she could call who would help. Michael Rossi - SHIELD agent and ex-lover of Carol Danvers. But her recent talks with him* had left her with the impression that Michael might want to start something between them again. And Carol didn't want that. Whatever her and Michael had once shared, it was over now.
* See MS. MARVEL 29 - 31 for the dinner details
Still she dialed his number.
"Michael, hi, it's Carol," she spoke seriously. Michael was a pro and would know by the tone of her voice that this wasn't a social call. "I need a favor."
"For you? Anything."
"I need to find Frank Gianelli. He's an ex-reporter for Woman Magazine when I was the EIC there. I think he's in Houston, Texas, but I'm not sure."
"Carol," the voice in the headset spoke somberly, "Frank Gianelli can't be in Houston - he's in Schenectady, New York."
Carol's body went suddenly alive, "That was awfully quick."
"I'm sorry, Carol you haven't been around, so you probably hadn't heard."
"Frank Gianelli died five months ago."
Plexikaard, Norway was a large town with a small population. There were miles upon miles of thick forest where civilization rarely tread. It would come as somewhat of a surprise to a resident of Plexikaard that there was a cabin out in those woods, but it would come as a total shock to find the cabin inhabited.
There's no telling the reaction if they knew that the people living there were two female Assassins from another planet.
"You have failed me, Velvet!" Paramour shouted. WHACK! "Do not think I failed to see your application of the Edam Salve onto Ms. Marvel's face!"* WHACK! "How do you answer this?"
* In MS. MARVEL 34
Velvet said nothing and tried her best to not show the pain that coursed through her body. She stood on the floor of the cabin, her arms tied above her head and hung from the rafters above and used every bit of training she knew to not show pain as Paramour lashed her for insubordination.
"We are Grellian Assassins! The greatest killers in the galaxy! We did not become that way by actions such as yours!" WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! "If you act this way again, our next master shall do far worse than what I do to you now."
Velvet said nothing.
"It is bad enough we are trapped on this planet, bad enough that we were forced to work for a pitiful man like the Auctioneer, but do not shame us by performing your tasks in treasonous ways!"
Velvet said nothing. She was unconscious.
Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers long-time butler took a step back, "I-I'm sorry, but Aurora is missing."
"How is that possible?" Ms. Marvel fumed. She had brought Aurora here because she thought this was the safest place for her to be.*
* It's in MS. MARVEL 33 - Honest Biscuit
"I-I don't know. It couldn't have been an intruder, so she must have let herself leave. There was no security measures taken to keep her from leaving, but that may have been because the team was called away to deal with Kang* and Master Beast didn't have time to-"
* See AVENGERS 415 for details
Carol put up her hand, "It's okay, Jarv. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped. It's just there's so much going on right now. It's tough sometimes," she shook her head, using Jarvis, as so many Avengers had in the past, as a confessional. "I've got memories of things I've done, but not all the emotional attachments that go with them. I found out today that a friend died while I was out in space as Binary." She hung her head, "And I barely even care. I'm sorry he's gone, but I don't feel the loss."
Jarvis watched the heroine with sadness in his aging heart, "Is there nothing we can do?"
Carol picked her head up, trying hard not to feel sorry for herself, "Maybe he's not dead."
"Maybe this friend isn't dead. According to SHIELD, he died five months ago, but the postmark on the package was from just last week."
"What package?" Jarvis asked, confused.
Carol wasn't even paying attention to the butler. "I was so wrapped up in the news that he was dead that I buried my thinking that the package was from him."
"Er who's 'him'?"
"But I'm positive that the hand writing is his - the style of the notes tells me that more than me remembering what his hand writing looked like - so that means even if he is dead, whoever found these notes knew enough to get them to me. Which means I've gotta thanks, Jarv!"
Carol jumped at the butler and kissed him on the cheek, "You've been a real help!" She turned and left the Mansion leaving a confused Edwin Jarvis in her wake.
FBI - NEW YORK HEADQUARTERS
She had debated whether she should come to this meeting as Ms. Marvel or Carol Danvers, but in the end she chose her civilian identity, even though that meant that information wouldn't come her way as easily.
Or maybe it would. She was ex-NASA and ex-CIA, so maybe her intelligence past would be good for a few points with Agent Gayle Loonan, the agent in charge of the Gianelli affair. Agent Loonan had called Michael Rossi during her investigation, when it came up that Gianelli had worked for Carol and they couldn't find her. Loonan had known that Michael and Carol were once involved, and had called the SHIELD agent in hopes of locating Carol. As to why the FBI were investigating Gianelli's murder, Carol was here to find that out.
"Carol Danvers? I'm Agent Gayle Loonan," the FBI agent greeted, shaking Carol's hand. She was a little shorter than Carol, but in excellent physical condition, wearing a sharp, if not overly expensive, suit jacket. FBI Chic, Carol thought, everyone wants to look like Scully. "Won't you take a seat?" Gayle asked, pointing to a chair on the opposite side of her desk.
"Hello, Agent Loonan," Carol greeted, taking a seat, "thank you for seeing me."
"Think nothing of it, Ms. Danvers. When Mi- Agent Rossi called and said that you were interested in the Gianelli affair, I made room in my schedule to see you." Carol caught the way she had stumbled over Michael's name - perhaps there was a reason why she knew of Carol and Michael's romance? "It was a puzzling case."
"Mystery surrounding the murder?" Carol asked, thinking of the package.
"Yes and No," Gayle frowned. "There's no doubt that Gianelli is dead, but it's the how and why that are troubling to us."
"No doubt that's he's dead?" Carol asked, frowning.
"No, I'm afraid not. I'm sorry," Agent Loonan consoled. "It happened in Washington five months back. We'd gotten a tip that Gianelli was stealing state secrets and we went to track him down at the motel he was staying at in DC. We found him and " Gayle shook her head and shuddered, " and he resisted arrest, got violent and he ended up getting shot dead." Gayle finished the last sentence quickly, leaving Carol to think that she was hiding something. "He must have had an explosive device on him because he triggered it and exploded." Agent Loonan looked away, "We lost three men in that motel room. The blast blew me out the window and down into the pool. I thought I was lucky until I went back upstairs and saw the burning bodies."
Carol let the revelation sit there for a moment, allowing Agent Loonan time to compose herself before she went any further. "Was Gianelli stealing state secrets?"
Loonan looked back to Carol and shrugged, "We don't know. There was nothing left in that hotel room that we could use for evidence. That's why we were looking for you. Since Gianelli used to work for you at WOMAN, we were hoping you might know what he was into."
"No idea, unfortunately," Carol answered. "I haven't talked to Frank since my days at WOMAN."
"You were a hard woman to get ahold of," Agent Loonan asked in an accusatory tone. "Would you mind telling me where you were?"
"I could," Carol answered, "but I won't. Where I was and what I was doing is of no concern of yours."
"That a fact?" Loonan asked, making Carol uncomfortable that the conversation had suddenly turned sour. "There's something about the whole Gianelli affair that still bothers me."
"You want verification that I wasn't involved in this?" Carol asked, trying to control her anger. "You call SHIELD." She stood to leave.
"Michael is SHIELD and he didn't know where you were," Agent Loonan countered, also rising.
"Then he didn't ask the right person."
Carol turned and left, not bothering to look back.
APARTMENT OF CAROL DANVERS
Carol went home to look through what she had dubbed the Gianelli Files again. She didn't yet have a television, so she turned on the small radio that she kept on the kitchen counter.
"--and in sports today, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, again, extending their losing streak to nine games --"
"Good," Carol smiled. "Any day where the Sox beat the Yankees is always a good one." She slumped into her couch and pulled out the package, flipping through the files to see if anything new would catch her eye.
"--but to repeat our top story, Senator John Edmonds of New York has been found dead tonight in a posh hotel in Washington, DC. Early reports from the nation's capitol indicate that the fifty-two year old Senator was discovered by a hotel clerk, who reportedly discovered the unconscious Senator lying on top of a young woman, who's screaming is what led the clerk inside to investigate. Senator Edmonds is married and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Moral Affairs --"
"Figures," Carol scoffed, shaking her head when her blood ran cold. Edmonds was mentioned in these Files somewhere. Furiously she tore through the mess of paperwork until she found the hand-scribbled note that she had remembered. It was written in pen in the bottom right hand corner of a piece of notebook paper. The message, which Frank (she was certain that this was Frank's hand-writing) had circled repeatedly said the following:
EDMONDS - NY
17 STRAIGHT ANTI-NASA VOTES
WON'T SEE X-MAS!!!!
Carol shuddered, "Alright, Gianelli. You've got my curiosity sufficiently piqued. Time to go to Houston and see what I can find."
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NEXT ISSUE: THE RANGERS!!! 'NUFF SAID!! What, it isn't? Okay, well, Ms. Marvel shows up, too, as the mystery of the Gianelli Files deepens.
25 June 1999