Carol turned up at the Greyhound station at 2 a.m., hauling
a couple of grips, dressed in dark glasses, a coat, gloves,
and a knee-length dress. She didn't like the way the off-duty
cop who served as paid guard there was eyeing her. She figured
it had to be the shades. She also didn't give a damn.
It felt strange on the way there, being crammed in that wheeled
sardine can with around 50 other people. All of them working
class or unworking class, some of them talking, most of them
locked into their private worlds. That was all right by Carol.
She sat beside an old black gentleman who, after they exchanged
info about where they were headed, didn't talk much to her.
That was all right by Carol. She didn't much want to talk
She didn't feel like flying, either under her own power or
on a plane. She didn't trust her driving right then. So the
best thing was take the damn bus and leave the driving to
The night was chilly with stars out in full force. She looked
up at them with some nostalgia as she opened the glass and
metal door near the taxi stand. She wondered if all this incredible
crap would have come down around her shoulders if, way back
when, she had been satisfied with just being Earthbound.
"But that was yesterday, and yesterday's gone."
A slash of an old Chad and Jeremy song, from back when pop
music sounded like music. She glanced back in the direction
of the bus station and saw the people sitting there with their
possessions clasped between their feet, staring at everything
and nothing, listening for the taped announcement of the list
of destinations for the departing box on wheels.
Carol sniffed the air. It was cold and good.
In a few minutes, a yellow cab which, like its driver, had
seen better days, stopped by. Carol told him where to take
her. "That's a far piece out there," he said.
"I've got money," she told him.
The cabbie helped her stash the grips in the trunk, then
spoke his destination into his hand-held mike after Carol
got in. She leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes.
After a few attempts at conversation, the driver figured she
just wanted to sleep, and let her alone.
Once or twice, he glanced at his mirror and saw her hands
twitch or tremble. He asked if she was all right. She told
him she was just fine.
They pulled in front of the house in the Boston suburb about
an hour later. Carol paid him the fee in cash, and politely
refused his offer to help her carry the bags up to the front
porch. Nonetheless, he watched her from the cab until she
had carried the suitcases up to the door, opened it with her
key, and taken them and herself inside.
Nobody was up at that hour, and she was very glad. Carol
navigated through the front room to the hall and thence to
her own room in semi-darkness, trying not to bump the walls
too hard. She only turned on her room light after she had
closed her door. She disrobed down to her underwear and hung
her clothes over the back of a chair.
Then she briefly unsnapped the locks on one of the grips.
Carol peeked inside. The Chivas Regal bottle hadn't broken.
It still nestled safely in her pile of clothes and shoes and
other stuff. Good. Her security blanket was still safe.
She closed the suitcase again. It'd keep till later.
She turned out the light, went to bed, and crashed.
Joe and Marie cracked the door in the morning, saw her, and
let her sleep through till 10 a.m.
By the time Carol finished her toast, bacon, and egg, Marie
was ready to talk to her. Joe was already at work.
"What's going on, Carol?"
Carol looked at her mother suspiciously. "What do you
mean, What's going on', Mom? I just came back from Avengers
duty. My last time with em, too."
Marie, in a floral-patterned housedress with her hair up
in a kerchief, looked her straight in the eye. "I heard
it on the news. You left the team. Captain America didn't
say much about the reasons why."
"Captain America is one of the reasons why."
"So? What are your reasons?"
Carol ran her fingers through her hair, pushing it away from
her face. "Don't want to talk about it, Mom."
"That usually means you do want to talk about it, honey,
but you want to have it dragged out of you. Okay. What happened?"
Carol stared back at Marie in anger. "They wouldn't
keep faith with me, Mom. After all the things I've done, risking
my life, saving the sun, they wouldn't keep faith with me."
Marie gave her back an even gaze. "So tell me about
"Look, Carol, I'm the one who knows you're really this
Warbird character. I wish you'd tell Joe, but that's your
decision. Whatever it is, whether you're in that little black
bathing suit and the boots or in your regular clothes, you
can talk to me." She paused. "Can't you?"
"Ah, I--I don't know what the hell they expect from
me, Mom," said Carol. "They betrayed me after that
Immortus thing. They betrayed me--"
"Hold on a minute, honey," said Marie. "Did
they know they were betraying you?"
"Mom, they had to! I mean, they should have. Anybody
with the brains of a retarded newt would have known I was
being manipulated by that--that--"
Marie tented her fingers. "How were they supposed to
have known? When that happened, didn't you go along with that
She stared at Marie in disbelief. "Mom, don't tell me
you're siding with them. Not on that."
"You think I'm going to make apologies for Marcus? A
man who virtually rapes my own daughter?" She looked
cold, hard, and not at all like the mother Carol Danvers was
used to. "Hell, no. If he wasn't dead, I'd find out where
he was, no matter how long it took me, and shoot him down
dead with your father's .38. But the Avengers...they may have
been dumb, all right. But weren't they just going on what
information they had available to them?"
"I'm about ready to throw up on this table after hearing
"You do and you'll clean it up. Now, just sit there
and listen. Okay?"
Carol didn't give her mother anything but a sullen look.
"I wasn't there. I just heard about it from you. All
right, you turned up pregnant, had the baby that turned out
to be, God help us, the guy who impregnated you. I still don't
understand that. But when you went back with him, to all intents
and purposes, didn't it look like you were doing it of your
own free will?"
"My God, mother," breathed Carol. "They should
have known. A woman is mind-controlled, raped, made amnesiac,
forced to bear a child without knowing who the father is,
and then goes with that child, now a grown man, to live with
him--and they didn't know something was going on? They should
"Should have," said Marie. "But did they?
Carol, if they'd really known you were going with Marcus unwillingly,
don't you think they would have busted him up into little
pieces to get you back? They're the Avengers, for crying out
loud. Don't you think they liked you? Don't you think they
considered you part of their team?"
"Mother," she said. "I can't believe you are
doing this to me."
"Carol. Listen. It's time you pulled yourself out of
that pity-pool and got on with your damned life. And part
of it is realizing where you may have been wrong, and trying
to do something about it. And part of it may be trying to
see something from beyond your own perspective. Okay?"
"Sure. Like we have to consider the perspective of the
rapist, don't we? After all, I must have been just teasing
him from another dimension. I must just have wanted it!"
Carol was almost in tears.
"Will you listen to me?" Marie was up, standing
beside Carol, about to shake her by the arms if it was necessary.
"Marcus was evil. The Avengers were just dumb. They let
you down. You were hurt, all right. But did they really mean
to hurt you?"
"Did they really mean to hurt you?"
Carol was flatly crying. "They may not have meant it,
but they did! They hurt me so much!"
"All right, they hurt you. You think I don't feel that,
too? When my daughter goes through what you've gone through,
you think I don't feel some of that, too? Do you think you're
an island, Carol? Don't you know that what hurts you, hurts
Carol didn't stop crying. But Marie knew she was listening,
too, so she plowed on.
"You may not know this, but I am very proud of you.
I was proud when you went into the Air Force, when you served
your country as a secret agent, when you worked for NASA,
when you edited that magazine and wrote that book, and, yes,
when you put on those costumes and fought idiots in their
fancy underwear. I think I'm even more proud of you than Joe
is, because I know some of the things about you that he doesn't.
How many mothers have a daughter who can achieve any one of
those things? Not very many. And I've got a daughter that
has done them all."
Carol reached out for her mother. Marie pushed her hands
away. "No, you don't. You're not hugging me until I'm
finished. And I've got a lot more to say yet.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Avengers
are made up of the dumbest, most cowardly people on the face
of the Earth. Am I right? I think I am. They maybe should
have known what was going on with you and Marcus. But they
didn't. Maybe they couldn't. All they saw was you, acting
like you wanted to go with him, and you did. That's the information
they had to go on. Honestly, Carol, do you think they would
knowingly have let you go off with a rapist?"
"No," said Carol, snuffling.
"Well, then," she said. "We have established
that they were dumb, yes, or maybe just deceived. But not
malicious. Can we agree on that?"
"I didn't say they did it deliberately," Carol
said. "I just said they should have known."
"Maybe they couldn't have, Carol," said Marie.
"If they didn't know you were being controlled, how could
they have known?"
"So, now, you're out of the Avengers," Marie went
on. "What went wrong this time?"
Carol stared down into her breakfast plate. "Long story."
"Wait till I go to the bathroom," said Marie. "Then
don't leave anything out."
After the tale was told, Marie shook her head. "So now
you've got a drinking problem, on top of all that. It's a
wonder that I don't."
"Mom, I'm tapering off," said Carol. "I haven't
even touched that bottle I brought home with me." She
caught herself, and cursed. Marie was staring at her.
"What bottle? You brought some booze home with you?"
Carol slapped the table, remembering to pull her impact.
"I need a drink every once in awhile. It calms me down.
"No, it isn't," said Marie. "You really need
me to tell you that?"
"I don't need a lecture, Mom," said Carol.
"You need Al-Anon. I just hope you don't need Betty
"Look, I admit there was some problem in the past,"
said Carol. "Okay. I admit that. But they should have
known I was having problems--" She caught herself again.
Marie looked at her. "Right. Should have, should have.
That's a really useful phrase, isn't it, Carol? Bound to be
a million uses for it. I should have gone to college. I should
have been a working wife. I should have this, I should have
that. I should have won ten million dollars in the lottery.
But you know what, Carol? I didn't."
"Really cool, Mom. Non-sequitur city. I won the super-power
lottery twice, maybe three times. Now I almost wish I hadn't."
"Really? You've been blessed with powers that maybe
one out of a million people on Earth has, and you think that's
such a bad thing? If it is, why don't you go to Reed Richards
or somebody and have em taken away?"
"Because they're mine! I may have lost a lot, I may
not be Binary anymore, but I'm still Warbird, and I'm going
to stay Warbird."
"Good," said Marie. "I'm all for that. But
don't you think that a Warbird who's drunk on her kiester
is just about as dangerous as a super-villain?"
"I am not drunk on my kiester! I can handle the stuff."
"Is that why they were about to vote you out? Because
you could handle the stuff?"
"They were hypocrites. Hawkeye and Thor drink. Iron
Man had a drinking problem."
"Iron Man?" said Marie. "So that's why he
came here that morning. My God, honey, why didn't you tell
me back then you had a problem?"
"Didn't think I had one," said Carol. "Just
blowing off tension's a defense mechanism, not a problem."
"It is if you blow it off in a problematic way,"
said Marie. "Don't kid yourself. And this Hawkeye and
Thor, do they go out drunk into battle?"
Carol shook her head. "I don't know. I don't think so.
Doesn't really matter."
"Yes, it does. With as much power as that Thor guy has,
he could knock down the World Trade Center if he tied one
on. Honey, you've admitted you lied about your powers fading
out when you rejoined."
"I didn't lie about it, I just didn't tell them."
"And that's your excuse? You withheld important information
from them? What if you'd been up-front about it from the beginning?
Would they have kicked you out then?"
"They might have," said Carol. "I don't know."
"You've got as much power as you did when you were Ms.
Marvel, and they let you in then," said Marie. "Carol,
when in the hell are you going to do some thinking for yourself?
Why do I always have to be Mary Worth? You're over 30, you'll
be 40 in a few years, but if you don't start getting your
stuff together the way you used to have it, you probably won't
make it." Marie shook her head. "Maybe you shouldn't
have gotten any powers. Maybe you just can't handle them."
Carol stared back at her. "I can handle them. I'm going
to show every damned one of them that I can be twice the hero
they are. I'll hold down a regular job, too. I can do it.
I saved the sun, I can sure do that much."
Marie said, "Could you have saved the sun when you were
Without a word, Carol got up from the table and started walking
Marie called after her, "You've got some mail. One of
the letters looks pretty important."
"Thanks, Mom," said Carol, over her shoulder. She
went to the coffee table in the front room, where Mom usually
put the mail, and saw a small stack of letters addressed to
her. She shuffled through them and found the one Mom had probably
been talking about.
The return address had a Tech Support logo on it,
the name of an aerospace trade magazine, and under that, the
name of Tracy Burke, the editor. Tracy had been her successor
at Woman magazine, years ago.
She walked to her room, careful not to go near the kitchen
where Marie was now taking care of the breakfast dishes, and
flopped down on her bed below the Air Force recruiting poster.
A few seconds after reading the letter, Carol had punched
up Tracy's work number on her phone. The secretary put her
through. "Burke, can I help you?" said a familiar
"Tracy, it's Carol," she said. "Do you really
mean what you just wrote me?"
"Sure did, kid, or I wouldn't have written it,"
affirmed Tracy. "If you want to come up here, and you
can stand the rain, there's a place for you. I haven't read
all of that novel you sent me yet, but your articles look
"Will you help me get a place in Seattle?"
"Can I take that as a yes?"
"Then my answer is: you bet."
After a few more minutes, Carol hung up, trotted into the
kitchen, and grabbed her dishwashing mother from behind. "Mom,
believe it, you'll never believe it!" she shouted.
"Believe what? And don't crunch my poor old ribs, honey."
"Sorry. Mom, I just finished talking to Tracy Burke.
She's got a writing job waiting for me in Seattle, on Tech
Marie turned her head, giving Carol a sad smile. "Do
you think you're really ready for it, dear? Remember, if you
blow assignments down a bottle, they're not going to like
it any more than the Avengers did."
"Mom, would you not rain on my parade for once? My drunken
days are behind me. Just like the Avengers. I'm ready to rattle
in Seattle. Let me get my plane reservations."
"Do something first for me, honey."
"Take that bottle of booze out of your suitcase and
pour it down the sink, with me watching. Or don't go."
Carol sighed. "Will you feel better about me if I do?"
"I'll always love you, Carol. But this is about you
feeling better about you."
"Okay, okay." She marched back to her room and
came back with the Chivas Regal. The seal was still unbroken,
and she made sure Marie saw that. Marie dumped the water out
of the plastic rinse tub in the sink and took the tub away.
Carol stepped up, cracked the seal, unstoppered the bottle,
and upended it.
The expensive stuff gurgled and glooped its way out of the
glass neck and spattered against the aluminum of the sink.
Carol watched it go down the drain.
She watched very intently.
Two days later, Warbird was flying over the Seattle skyline.
She was smiling, even though she had told her father of her
alky problem a day before. He had almost insisted that she
stay there and start going to Alcoholics Anonymous. She had
stood up to him again, said she was going to the King City,
that her problems with the sauce were down the drain with
the Chivas, and that was that.
It was fun to see the locals point up at her from street
level and watch the window-washers wave at her. The norms
did that everywhere. The universal super-hero salute. She
waved back. Then she found a suitable alley to land in, powered
down, and exited as Carol Danvers. It was close enough to
a designated meeting spot for her to walk.
Tracy was sitting at said spot, on a bench underneath a tree,
near Ivar's big clam restaurant. "Carol," she called,
waving to draw the blonde's attention.
Carol called out Tracy's name, and stepped up to her. The
gray-haired editor was dressed in gray coat, black blouse,
and maroon skirt, and looked attractive despite her 50-plus
years. A helluva lot better than when they both had worked
in the New York pressure cooker. Carol extended her hand and
Marie shook it.
"You're looking good, Trace," said Carol. "The
magazine scene out here in aerospace country must agree with
"Well, it sure beats working for Jonah Jameson,"
said Tracy. "C'mon, kid, I'm starved. You like clams?"
After a first course, during which Carol learned to endure
clams, if not like them, Tracy gave her the verdict. "Your
samples are terrific. And as editor of Tech Support
magazine, I can promise you as many freelance writing assignments
as you want. As for that other matter--"
"The book?" said Carol. "You don't have to
spare my feelings, Tracy. If it's awful, just--"
"Don't sell yourself short, kid. What I was going to
say was that, due to that other matter, I don't think you'll
be writing for me long." Tracy grinned. Carol waited.
"Your novel's wonderful, Carol," Tracy continued,
"and utterly publishable." She went on to praise
the manuscript, the one Carol had written about the American
agent who gets involved with the Kree. "You write about
outer space like you've lived there, Carol. I know editors
in New York who'll snap it up in a second, and who'd kill
to have you under a three-book contract."
"You're serious. You're not just pulling my leg."
Tracy shook her head. "Nope. You could be the next Michael
Crichton, if you can put this stuff out consistently. That's
the truth, Carol."
Carol beamed. "Well, this calls for a celebration."
She hailed a passing waiter. "I'll have another seven
and seven. And my friend here'll have another of whatever
She glanced at Tracy, who had an almost terrified look on
her face. Carol turned to the waiter. "Just a seven and
seven for me," she said, and he left.
"I forgot, Tracy--you don't drink anymore," said
Carol. "Does it bother you, me having a drink?"
Tracy's expression had faded to sadness. "It's not a
problem. I'm nine years sober, and I'm staying that way. It's
just, I never knew you to drink in the day before."
Carol forced a smile. "Don't worry about it, Trace.
I'd been drinking a little much recently, but I'm rationing
myself now. Got it all under control. I'll tell the waiter
to skip the--"
She was facing the window, and had seen three people go by
outside. One of them was in a wheelchair, wore shades, and,
though bruised, looked quite familiar.
A familiar reaction went off within her like a meltdown.
"Excuse me, Tracy, but I just saw someone outside. I'll
be back in a minute." She counted out money from her
purse and nudged it underneath her plate.
"Carol, what is it?" said Tracy. "Are you
"I'm just peachy, don't worry," she said. "I'll
talk to you tomorrow."
Carol walked as quickly as possible out of the restaurant
and was very thankful that there were few people on the sidewalk
at this odd afternoon hour. Stepping into an alley again,
she powered up enough to use flight ability, but did not alter
her clothes to her Warbird attire. She sprang into the air,
and came down on the sidewalk right in front of the guy in
the wheelchair, the big bruiser behind him, and the freckle-faced
redheaded woman beside the bruiser.
Carol stood there, hands on hips, feet spread apart to give
her a solid stance, and forced the three of them to halt in
front of her. She focused her angry glare on the man in the
"Well, well, well," she said, with much acid. "Tony
Continued in Chapter
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