Ms. Marvel pulled herself to her feet, wiping absently at the small trickle of blood--
blood!-- running down her jaw, from her lip.
Moonstone crouched, waiting, ready. Her metallic costume bore testimony to the violence
of her first clash, seconds earlier, with the Fighting Fury. She glared back at Ms.
Marvel, eyes narrow.
In an instant, they had clashed once again. Ms. Marvel surged forward, lashing out, her
gloved fist homing in unerringly toward Moonstone's chin. The two shapely female forms
collided savagely, bodies twisting together as they tumbled head over heels across the
floor, hands at one another's throat.
They exchanged punches once more, even as they rolled about. Carol sought to pull away,
to gain some distance to prepare another attack, but Moonstone would not allow it; the
golden-clad villainess kept the fighting close, kicking and punching and occasionally
striking with a burst of energy. Carol endured the onslaught and returned in kind, and
slowly began to think that this fight could go on forever, with neither of them ever able
to gain the upper hand.
But that wouldn't cut it. Because, even as the two blonde powerhouses battled, mere
yards away, in the next chamber, Captain America drew ever closer to death. Death at the
hands of a hate-filled and heavily-armed mob, a mob wishing nothing more than to slay the
star-spangled Avenger with their bare hands.
Carol Danvers fought on in a sort of autopilot mode, then, as her mind searched back,
over the events of the past few days-- the events that had led her to this point
"I think you were right, after all, Carol," Captain America said softly.
"Going out in costume was the right call."
Captain America and Ms. Marvel sat at a private table in one of New York City's finer
restaurants, one of the few that didn't object too strenuously to super-heroes dropping
in. The menus lay open before them, but neither had glanced at the pages yet. They were
still eyeing the tables around them, both of them somewhat surprised-- and relieved-- that
little in the way of a fuss had been raised by their arrival. Cap had objected to going
out in costume, at first, because he'd felt certain they'd get no peace from fans,
critics, and other rubberneckers. But Carol had done her homework, found a restaurant
where not only the food was good, but the usual clientelle would take their visit in
"It just goes to reason, Steve," she replied, "that if we're going to be
seen together, then better it be as two known associates, than as two civilians. Because
if we're spotted as civilians by someone who knows one of us, they could put two and two
Cap nodded. "Right." He lifted the menu, scanned over it. "I have to
admit," he said quietly, glancing back at her, "I was somewhat startled when
asked me out."
Carol smiled. "You didn't think I was attracted to you?"
Cap pursed his lips. "I didn't think about it, one way or the other, to be
honest," he replied.
Carol considered. This was the one man who could say something like that without giving
any sort of offense. He was Captain America. He thought about bigger issues, larger
ideals. If he hadn't considered that she might like him, then he simply hadn't given it
any thought. Satisfied, she smiled again.
"To be honest," Cap continued, "my reaction probably came from the fact
that I grew up in another era. Back then, women rarely came across as
At this, Ms. Marvel couldn't resist a laugh. "Well, hey, I'm supposed to be the
poster girl for women's lib, right? What else was I to do?"
This time they both laughed. Carol turned her attention to the menu. "So-- what to
eat? For our first date, it should be something memorable--"
And of course it was at that point that the waiter rushed them, brandishing a butcher
Cap caught the movement out of the corner of his eye, and instinctively raised his
shield arm. The shield, however, rested on the floor, leaning against the table leg.
Recovering his control instantly, Cap caught the waiter's arm and used a judo move to
throw the man over the table and across the floor.
Captain America and Ms. Marvel were both on their feet now, scanning around, seeing the
other patrons fleeing in shock from the waiter with the knife. After making certain the
civilians were safely out of the dining room, Cap strode forward, confronting the man with
the knife. "Alright, buddy. That's enough. Drop the knife and--"
The waiter screamed in anger and lunged forward again. Before Cap could execute his own
move, Carol had already moved forward, catching the man in mid-leap, smashing him to the
floor. Before anyone could blink, Carol had the knife wrenched out of his hand and her
foot planted firmly on his back, pressing him to the floor.
"Nice work," Cap started to say-- but then, of course, he saw the entire
kitchen staff, as well as the customers who had fled moments earlier, all rushing back
into the room, armed with whatever knives and utensils they'd been able to grab, teeth
bared, their eyes filled with hate.
Ms. Marvel wrestled away from Moonstone and backhanded her, gaining just enough
separation to take a deep breath and then strike out again, her fist smacking the
villainess roughly across the cheek. Moonstone gritted her teeth and struck back,
savagely, sending Carol to her knees.
"This is it, Danvers!" Moonstone grinned evilly as she moved in again.
Ms. Marvel struggled to rise, blinking in surprise. "'Danvers--?' You
"That's right-- I know who you are! But you know what? I don't care! Don't care at
all! All I want to do now-- is beat you into a little, blonde pulp!"
Something was nagging at Carol's mind, though she found it increasingly difficult to
concentrate. This isn't like Moonstone, she thought to herself. She's a schemer,
a manipulator. She lives for useful bits of psychological insight that she can turn
against her enemies. She wouldn't just casually toss something like that away, and resort
to physical violence. She's behaving irrationally-- even for her!
But something else was bothering Carol, just out of reach of her thoughts
Moonstone's fist brought Ms. Marvel back to reality. "Daydream all you want,
Danvers-- it's only making my job easier!" The lithe blonde leered at her. "I'm
going to beat you to a pulp! Do you understand me? A PULP!"
Ms. Marvel backed away, on the defensive, knowing that something wasn't right here.
"Someone's manipulating you, Moonstone! Can't you tell?"
"Don't try to distract me," Moonstone hissed back. "You can't get into
my head! I'm a psychiatrist, remember? And you-- if anyone's ever needed a
psychiatrist, it's YOU!" Moonstone raised a balled fist. "Here-- LET ME
PRESCRIBE SOME HELP FOR YOU!"
Carol recovered first. She lunged at Moonstone, and the two women again crashed to the
floor, first one, then the other on top, pummeling the other with blows. Carol's sash was
stripped off; Moonstone's golden armor shattered in places and fell away. Within moments,
the two women stood glaring at one another, their tough hides intact but their somewhat
less impervious costumes in tatters. They were both nearly naked, now, but neither seemed
to notice, or to care. All that occupied both their minds was the utter annihilation of
Moonstone lashed out with a blast, but Carol, summoning her deepest reserves of
strength, ducked under it and caught the villainess with a savage uppercut. As Moonstone
reeled back, Carol swung a roundhouse punch that laid the Thunderbolt out on the floor.
Before Moonstone could recover, Carol was upon her, both fists smashing repeatedly into
"Ms. Marvel!" Came a shout, from somewhere
Moonstone's facemask had long since shattered and fallen away; only Karla's unprotected
face absorbed the blows now. Blood splattered from her lip and her nose. One eye swelled.
Still, Carol attacked.
"Ms. Marvel! CAROL!!"
The voice-- the shout-- finally penetrated Ms. Marvel's brain. She hesitated, just long
enough to look around.
It was Captain America, who had made it halfway into the room, only to be buried
beneath a sea of attackers. His arms and legs pinned within the mass of humanity, Cap
nonetheless had his head turned so that he could see the two battling women, and was
"CAROL! STOP IT!!"
The buzzing in Ms. Marvel's head continued, but she fought to regain at least some of
her senses. She looked down, and saw a strange sight: Moonstone, nearly unconscious-- or
nearly dead!-- and nearly naked, too-- lying beneath her. The woman's face was bruised,
bloody, and swollen; and now that Carol thought about it-- or was able to think about it--
her own face felt as if it must look fairly similar.
"What-- what am I doing?" she whispered.
Moonstone could only moan in response.
Carol's thoughts cleared a tad more. Things began to make sense. Something in her head
clicked, then. "It's hate, don't you get it, Moonstone? HATE!"
Moonstone's head was buzzing, both from the beating and from
Ms. Marvel gazed into the shadows. "He's there-- in the darkness. Filling
us-- both of us, as well as that crowd that wants to kill Cap-- with hate!"
Moonstone, still mostly insensate, peered dizzily into the shadows. "Wha--?
Hate?" She pulled herself unsteadily to her feet.
Ms. Marvel pointed. "THERE!"
And from the shadows, a figure emerged. He was clad head to toe in dark robes, and a
black, pointed hood covered his head, revealing only glinting, darting eyes.
"The Hate Monger!" Carol grimaced in revulsion.
"Ahh ahh-- not quite," the dark figure replied. "I am called
XENOCIDE!" He gestured at the two women. "I bring you the gift of xenophobia!
Fear the different, the unknown. Destroy it!"
The power seized Ms. Marvel's and Moonstone's minds again, and they glared at one
another, murderous thoughts dancing in their minds. But Carol shook her head, hard, and
turned back to Xenocide. "NO! You won't do this to me again!"
Before the dark-robed figure could react, Ms. Marvel leapt towards him, punching him in
the jaw. He stumbled back, the hood falling from his head.
"No." Ms. Marvel stared at his face, unbelieving. "No way."
Karla regained enough control over herself to look as well. She gasped. "It can't
The face of Adolph Hitler glared back at them.
Ms. Marvel shook her head. "No
And the man with Hitler's face screamed one word, the sound echoing in Carol's and