The battle raged on.
Battle? More like a massacre.
Binary had already smashed her way through two full divisions of the finest Shi'ar troops, and now even more warriors rushed to meet her in combat.
She felt as if she'd been fighting for an enternity. The Binary power only grew stronger, however, and as she lashed out, decimating yet another wave of attacking troops, part of her gloried in the devastation.
And part of her hated it.
The internal battle she'd always fought, as Binary, raged on-- if anything, even more violently than the outer battle she was currently engaged in. Always, always, however, the Binary power won out.
As it did again now. The power blazed up through her, around her, and lashed out. Cosmic bolts of naked energy surged into the ranks of Shi'ar soldiers, smashing them down, melting their armor and weapons, driving them back.
The rage engulfed her. "How DARE the Shi'ar do this? They will PAY!"
Her energies swirled around her. She started to launch herself into the sky--
"Carol! Binary! Wait!"
Binary whirled, blazing eyes glaring. "Who--?"
Corsair and Hepzibah ran towards her, through the carnage. Corsair sought her eyes, pleading for her to wait.
Two burning, emotionless orbs stared back. The light of Carol Danvers had gone out.
***** Presenting a turning point in the history of the Marvel Universe:*****
THE RETURN OF MS. MARVEL
as told by Van Allen Plexico
[*This story takes place just after the end of Heroes Reborn -- Van]
**Binary Burning Bright**
"Carol! Binary! Wait!" The voice rang in her ears still.
Captain America leaned forward, gazing down at Carol, who lay in a hospital bed Jarvis had at some point installed in one of the Avengers Mansion guest rooms. His jaw was clenched; he said nothing, merely waited to hear her out.
"Carol? Binary? Which?" She shook her head in confusion. "Either? Both? I didn't know."
She hesitated. "Wait-- yes. In a sense, I did. I knew I was Carol Danvers. But that name had come to include so many things..."
She brushed strands of blonde hair back from her eyes. "You know me as Ms. Marvel, formerly of the Avengers, or as Binary, or perhaps as Major Danvers of NASA security. Maybe even as a one-time magazine editor.
"My friends, my acquaintances-- they may have known me as any or all of those things. But for a long while now, I haven't known myself-- really known myself-- at all.
Cap bit his lip, wanting to reply, but determined to give her the chance to let it all out.
She continued. "Many of my memories, along with my powers, were stolen by the mutant known as Rogue. Perhaps I should hate her for that, but I don't." She met his eyes. "Rogue did nothing to me."
Cap blinked. "Wha--? But--"
She shook her head. "Or at least, next to nothing. I didn't understand that before, but I know it now.
"Rogue only absorbed the physical manifestations of the powers I had gained from the union of Kree and Human genetic structures. She didn't--she couldn't--touch the altered genetic codes themselves.
"But, Carol..." Cap struggled to follow what she was saying. "You clearly lost your powers, right?"
She nodded. "But I lost those powers because they were only the surface side effect of genetic restructuring caused by the Kree machine that gave them to me in the first place.* Those powers meant nothing in the long run. In effect, Rogue permanently siphoned away a mere side effect of a much greater change.
[*It happened in CAPTAIN MARVEL #18, and was recounted again in MS. MARVEL #2; more info was revealed in X-MEN #158-- Van]
"That greater change occurred at the genetic level, and would eventually have caused me to evolve on my own. But as it happened, I was captured by the Brood, an alien race which conducted experiments on me."*
Cap nodded. "The X-Men have sent us files and information on that incident. Frankly, I don't know how any of you survived that business."
Carol sighed. "It wasn't much fun." She licked her lips, remembering again. "The Brood's tampering only sped my ongoing genetic changes along, pushing me in a mere instant into evolutionary development that, even as Ms. Marvel, would have otherwise taken many, many years."
"'Evolutionary development?'" Cap frowned. "In what way?"
"From what I've been able to figure, as a result of the Brood's actions, my Kree and Human DNA raced together towards their ultimate evolutionary destinies. They were, however, linked, and that was the critical factor. Had this not been the case, the evolution of my Human DNA would in all likelihood have carried me to an undreamt-of state, perhaps transcending this universe itself. But then there was the Kree half of the DNA; the Kree genetic structure which, in all Kree, has already reached its evolutionary dead end. What happened was, in hindsight, quite predictable. The Kree genes served as a sort of anchor, dragging my rapidly-evolving Human DNA to an eventual halt."
Cap nodded, feeling back on more familiar ground. "Right. Those dead-end Kree genes..."
"Exactly. I was, in effect, trapped halfway; halfway between the realization of all that Humanity can become, and all that the Kree are cursed to be.
"That moment when my Human genes surged toward their ultimate potential, however, caused another factor to enter the equation. My rapid transformation attracted the attention of an entity heretofore unknown to the Human race, a "blinding light," a "thing apart from me," which bonded with me and formed a union I believed, at some subconscious level, would 'last 'til death.'*
"This union granted me powers I'd only dreamt of before. I became the 'functional equivalent of a star.' The 'thing apart from me,' which was now a part of me, provided me with all the raw energy I could ever have required. It granted me a seemingly inexhaustible source of power. I eventually determined that my first guess was correct:* I was linked to a white hole, tapping into the raw power of a universe. I believed this power, and this bond, would continue; would indeed last for the rest of my life.
"I was Carol. I became Binary.
The two could not long co-exist."
Binary stood triumphant. An entire army of Shi'ar warriors lay at her feet. Power blazing about her, she prepared to leap into the sky.
"Carol! Binary! Wait!"
She whirled. Corsair and Hepzibah ran towards her, eyes imploring.
"Carol-- you need help! We can help you! Please!"
Binary looked at them; saw them only as tiny, insignificant insects. She turned away, looking up. Up at the sky. At the stars.
Carol turned back. The blazing halo about her head slowly calmed itself, faded away. Tears ran down her cheeks. Her eyes met Corsair's, filled with fear and pain.
The blaze returned. The Binary power burned like a star. Carol Danvers was gone again. Binary roared into the sky like a rocket.
****Part Two: ****
**New Star Rising**
Binary streaked down like an avenging angel from above. The planetary governor's palace loomed ahead of her like a bullseye. Its defenses could do nothing to stop her; all too easily, she reduced them to rubble. Her power blazing around her, she melted her way through the ceiling and down into the palace.
Elite troops sought to stop her, or at least delay her. They scarcely distracted her. She mopped through them as if they weren't even there. Moments later, she was through into the throneroom of the Shi'ar planetary governor, catching him as he attempted to reach his escape craft. There, amidst the wreckage of his palace, guards lying unconscious all around, she held him easily aloft by the neck, glaring up at him. "WHY?" she demanded.
The governor was near panic. "I-- I was ordered--to attack you. To capture you..."
"The-- the Imperium. They-- they believe you've grown too powerful-- you're a threat. They--"
"They are fools!" She flung the governor away--
She saw them arrive this time. Corsair and Hepzibah, teleported in by their ship.
"I have no time for you," she barked back at them. "I must teach the Imperium-- the Majestrix herself-- a much-needed lesson."
"Carol, wait. We can help you."
"Help? I need no help. The Majestrix, on the other hand--"
Another teleport beam stabbed down. A female form solidified within it.
Binary's mouth dropped open.
Ms. Marvel stepped out.
"Carol Danvers," Corsair said, "meet Carol Danvers."
Binary was outraged. They'd all teleported up to the ship, but now the Starjammers could barely restrain her.
"Who is this impostor?" she demanded.
"I'm no impostor," the other Carol replied. "I'm you. I've come a very long way, yet no real distance at all. But you have to believe me. I'm here to save a world-- an entire universe." She smiled a weak half-smile. "And to save you."
Binary did not hesitate. Her fury overtaking her, she lashed out, her power surging forth in a blast that hurled her counterpart away. Stalking forward after her, Binary unleashed yet another blast-- a blast the other Carol, obviously possessing the speed and elusiveness of Ms. Marvel, managed to dodge-- a blast that instead ripped through the hull of the Starjammer.
"Decompression!" Corsair shouted as he was swept off his feet and hurled toward the void. Desperately he swept his arm out and managed to grab onto a railing, his legs kicking out behind him as the air rushed out through the hole in the ship's hull.
Hepzibah, the only other member of the group present in the room, scrambled to grab onto something immobile. "Not again!" she cried.*
[*Binary's done this to the Starjammer before. The first time was in X-MEN #164 -- X-Van]
[*Binary's done this to the Starjammer before. The first time was in X-MEN #164 -- X-Van]
The air was nearly gone from the room. Corsair and Hepzibah could do nothing-- the strain of decompression caused the hole in the ship's side to widen, sucking them towards it. Air rushed out, followed shortly by Corsair and Hepzibah, and then by the other Ms. Marvel. Binary watched them tumble away, her face passive, unconcerned.
The three floated further from the ship. A second passed. Two. Binary watched them. Three. The halo of fire about her head flared, shrank. Four. She watched them tumble, fragile forms in the icy void. Five.
Carol flashed into action, catching each of the three and surrounding them in warm bubbles of energy, carrying them back aboard the Starjammer. Her power easily closed the breach in the hull. Air rushed into the room. Corsair and Hepzibah shivered, staring up at Binary in a mixture of anger, fear, and compassion. The other Carol, not seriously injured, sat and watched Binary, eyes calculating.
The hatch opened; Raza and Ch'od rushed in, bringing medical kits with them.
Carol looked at the Starjammers, remembering that they were indeed her friends. Carol's friends. Binary had ignored them. Carol. Binary. Carol. Binary. Two points of view. Two personalities. Carol and... an Other. She staggered backwards, sat down. Her counterpart, Ms. Marvel, approached her. Carol met her eyes. "Alright. I'm listening. Tell me."
This other Ms. Marvel sat with Binary. Sat with her, and told her things. "I am the Ms. Marvel-- the Carol Danvers-- of another universe," she said. This alternate-Carol told Binary of a world, a universe, slowly dying. A world slowly watching as its energies trickled away into a parallel reality. All because of a strange entity-- an Other-- which had escaped that universe, but was still feeding on its power, in this one. She--the new Carol, the Ms. Marvel of that universe-- had come through to this one, to try to prevent a cataclysm.
Binary was skeptical at first. The Carol Danvers side of her personality wanted to believe. Binary did not. Binary stood, made as if to leave. Then, suddenly, she dropped to her knees. The raging flames about her head receeded. Carol Danvers looked up, met Carol Danvers's eyes.
"It's true," Binary-Carol whispered.
"And there's only one way to stop it."
"...I believe so."
Without hesitation, Binary launched herself into the sky. Corsair and Hepzibah watched her go, uncertain as to what was happening.
The Ms. Marvel of another reality knew. Part of her was glad.
And part of her-- the part that was a hero, that was Ms. Marvel-- simply could not accept it.
She rocketed into the sky.
A tear ran down Carol's cheek. Cap automatically started to reach out, then instantly stopped himself, remembering who this lady was. She was the living embodiment of the equality of women, and of women declaring themselves fully capable of taking care of their own problems. Surely she wouldn't want him to put her into the role of a "weak female," wiping away her tears. But still, her undeniable attractiveness and sudden vulnerability tore at him. Cap struggled in his mind, unsure of what to do-- and not liking that feeling one bit.
As if sensing his dilemma, Carol quickly daubbed at her cheek and eradicated the tear.
"I was Carol Danvers, and I was Binary," she continued. "I possessed more power than I'd ever imagined possible.
"There was only one problem. I was tapping into the power, the very fabric, of another universe, a universe not my own. I had become the functional equivalent not of a star, but of a great cosmic leech. And every time I drew power from that connection, I drained a little more life from that other universe.
"The realization that I was slowly destroying an entire cosmos was difficult for me. Even as I came to understand, I did not want to accept it. This power, after all, gave me so much of what I had always longed for. With it, I could travel to the farthest star. It is no wonder that I did not want to relinquish it.
Cap leaned closer, almost whispering. "But you did?"
She smiled. "It took friends, friends from Earth and elsewhere, to remind me of my Human side once more, and of my true nature. They'd been trying to make me see it for a long while, and I think, in part, that made what I did next a bit easier-- not that it could ever be called 'easy.' But I came to see that the power only served, like a drug, to distract me from my true inner demon-- the nagging, gnawing, gaping hole in my psyche. That hole had a very human shape, and a name. The name was Carol Danvers.
"I knew then that the only way to recover Carol Danvers, to know her, to truly become her again, was to rid myself of the power. To break the unbreakable union, to send that which was a part of me back to where it had come from. Only then could I live again as the woman I once was.
"And in the process, perhaps, save a universe, as well. "
**Binary in Eclipse**
***************** A bright star lay just ahead, and Binary flew towards it.
Closer and closer she drew to the sun. The heat, the pain, were almost unbearable. The Other screamed in her mind, but Carol, in what she felt must be the supreme effort of will of her life, denied both the Other and her own survival instincts, and bore onward. The sun began to burn through her Binary-powered defensive field, and she felt herself begin to burn. The Binary costume melted away. Her halo of blazing energy swept back in a great trail behind her; she was a blazing comet on a trajectory toward death.
A comet? In fact, she was a binary star, because her alternate-universe counterpart was just behind her. Somehow-- and it took every iota of power she possessed-- the Carol Danvers of another universe managed to stay just inside the tail of Binary's cometlike trail, within the warmth and life-sustaining energies of her halo, protected by the trailing effects of the defensive field as Binary bore the brunt of the heat and radiation just ahead. But the pain for her was just as bad, if not worse, than Binary's. Desperately, she called out one last time.
Perhaps it was the Binary power, the power of the Other; perhaps it was simply the basic sameness of the two minds, two genetically enhanced minds, unique in each of two universes. But somehow, their minds touched.
And Carol Danvers, Binary, sensed the other Carol behind her. Through the haze of blazing fire and sheer agony, she looked back. Her own face, her old face, gazed at her, pleading. Binary slowed, and the other Carol slipped forward through the field, catching up to her, grasping her about the waist and holding even. The two women (who were the same woman) stared into one another's eyes for a moment; a moment which hung suspended in time for a seeming eternity. In that moment, Carol Danvers/Binary sensed what the alternate Carol was trying to do.
"NO!" Binary-Carol cried, struggling to pull away. But her reaction came too late. The Carol from another universe was already imagining herself fleeing the blazing heat of the sun. Her thoughts thunderously echoed through Binary-Carol's mind-- images of retreating to safety, of leaving Binary-Carol here in the inferno's heart. Thoughts visualizing Binary-Carol falling onward into the sun, and death.
"NO!" Binary-Carol screamed again, desperate.
Alternate-Carol's eyes were only filled with compassion, with love. "Yes."
It happened in an instant. The Other, in its terror and desperation, fully believed the thoughts it sensed from Alternate-Carol. Ripping itself free of Binary-Carol, it surged into Alternate-Carol, possessing her fully.
Alternate-Carol reeled, head thrown back in shock momentarily. Soundlessly, she screamed.
Binary-Carol, now free of the Other, could only watch.
Alternate-Carol, recovering, gazed back at her other self one last time; reaching out, she caressed her cheek once. Binary-Carol shook her head weakly, but knew she could do nothing to stop what was about to happen.
"It's from my universe. It's my responsibility."
Alternate-Carol smiled sadly. "I've touched your mind. You've known such pain-- so much more than me. Now is your time to live. Live for me. Live for yourself!"
Alternate-Carol touched her again, a measure of power flowing across the connection, and then shoved her outwards and away. Without looking back, Alternate-Carol, the Other firmly attached to her soul, whirled about and dove into the heart of the sun. The Other's scream washed outwards in all directions, faded, died.
Carol Danvers, naked and alone, tumbled away from the raging inferno of the sun.
Carol Danvers had awoken in, of all places, a guest room in Avengers Mansion. Corsair and Hepzibah had been there; they had rescued her as she drifted away from the sun. She had no major burns; she appeared in perfect health. The Starjammers had brought her here to make certain she was alright.
As soon as she had awoken, Corsair had asked her what had happened, and the memories had washed over her. She remembered the Alternate-Carol's last act, lending her a last portion of the Binary power to heal her and protect her as she fell away from the sun. Carol had put her face in her hands, then, and begun to weep.
Corsair had tried to comfort her but Hepzibah had pulled him away. "Come, Corsair. Times there are when a woman must be alone." Corsair had reluctantly nodded. "We-- we'll be downstairs, if you need anything. We aren't leaving until tomorrow." They had stepped outside.
Minutes later, the door had opened again. Carol hadn't look up. "Yes, Corsair?"
The sound of a deeper voice; a man clearing his throat, had gotten her attention. She'd looked up. Her eyes had widened.
Captain America had stood there, tall and trim, dashing as Carol remembered him, yet strangely awkward, for once. "Um, am I disturbing you?" he'd asked. "--I could come back later."
"Cap! No-- no, it's okay. I'm glad to see you," she'd said. "Nice to have company." And shortly thereafter, she'd begun to recount the tale.
Now, her story at an end, she fell silent, unsure of what else to say. Before she could speak again, Cap stood beside the bed, his face uncertain.
"We-- the other Avengers and I-- just wanted to make sure you were alright."
Carol managed a half-smile. "I'm as 'alright' as can be expected. The Binary power-- and the being that provided me with it-- are gone."
Cap nodded. "And you--?"
Carol shrugged. "I can't tell yet. I feel okay..."
Cap looked down, then met her eyes again. He picked up a small package from beside the chair where he'd been sitting, and held it out for her. "Here. You might want this. Jarvis has been keeping it-- he found it back when we remodeled the Mansion."*
[See the 'Siege of Avengers Mansion' storyline, from Avengers #273- 277 --Baron Ze-Van]
[See the 'Siege of Avengers Mansion' storyline, from Avengers #273- 277 --Baron Ze-Van]
Carol, frowning in curiosity, opened the box and reached inside. She pulled out a carefully-folded item: a black swimsuit, a yellow stylized lightning bolt down the front. Packed beneath it were long gloves and boots, and a red sash. "My old costume!" Carol beamed at Cap, who smiled warmly back.
"I-- um, Jarvis-- thought you might like to have it again."
Wordlessly, Carol leaned up, placed a hand softly on Cap's cheek, and kissed him tenderly.
The kiss ended. Cap blinked, stepped back, flustered. "Um..."
Carol smiled up at him. He melted finally, relaxing a bit, and smiled back.
Moments passed. Then, "I'm afraid I have to run, Carol. But if you need a place to go when you're back on your feet, you'll always have friends here in the Mansion. I-- I know you must associate some bad feelings with the Avengers, and I'm very sorry about that. But... They say time heals wounds. I hope so." He smiled tightly. "We'd love to have you around again."
Carol smiled more broadly, nodded, squeezed his red-gloved hand. "I just may take you up on that."
My name is Carol Danvers. No longer 'Binary.' Now I am 'Ms. Marvel' again.
My powers-- the ones I possessed as Ms. Marvel-- were never stolen by Rogue. Only the superficial side-effects of them were taken. Their source, my unique Kree-Human genetic makeup, can't be removed. With the Binary power-- the Other-- gone, my powers have reasserted themselves.
My memories from before Rogue's attack remain fuzzy at best; I do know, however, that there will be a reckoning between the two of us. I do not know when, or where, but it will come. She did me less damage than I've previously thought, but still, more than enough to earn my lifelong enmity. One day soon, she will pay.
But in the meantime, there is much to be thankful for. Two universes are safe. A brave woman-- in a way, myself-- died to ensure that it would be so. I will grieve for her, and owe her my life. But that life must go on. I must try to live, to truly live, again.
In that woman's honor, and for myself, as well, I'm Ms. Marvel again. A hero.
As I was always meant to be.
APPENDIX: BINARY REFERENCES
March 7, 1998
Revealed that her genetic structure was irrevocably altered when she was transformed into Ms Marvel. She gained super powers AND was *evolved* into a perfect physical specimen of humanity. Even after losing those powers, the basic genetic material and modifications remained intact.
APPENDIX: BINARY REFERENCESX-Men #158--
The Brood subjected her to evolutionary modification. She has a unique DNA matrix. Wolverine says "Her scent is no longer human."
The Kree machine, at her original origin, combined the best genetic elements of human and Kree to transform her into Ms. Marvel. She kept those hybrid genes even after losing her powers. The Brood caused the untapped potential of her genes to be realized. BUT also says--"A blinding light flares within her soul, a thing *apart* from her that instantly becomes a part of her to form a union that will last 'til death."
She's the "functional equivalent of a star" as Binary.
"My old friend Captain Marvel was gifted with cosmic awareness--an ability to become one with the universe. I think I've gone beyond that. His was a spiritual merger, mine is physical. Somehow, when I use my power, I tap into a white hole--my energy source is the primal fabric of a universe!"