1963-10-27 - Human Standards Don't Apply
Summary: Rocketing motorcycles, dinner plans gone awry, mouthbreathing bad men, and new allies
Related: Rockets
Theme Song: None
skali mar-vell 

[[size 150%]] Five Forty Five.

It bordered upon being late instead of simply inconvenienced. Long enough that a man wondered if she would appear at all, but almost too long, thus giving the impression she was disorganized. The woman who strode down the hallways of Columbia University could not be farther from the frazzled sort. Her working attire had been substituted for a more fashionable ensemble; black fabric edged with a deep red trim contrasting with her pale skin. She recalled his directions, but had no need for them, her nose twitching occasionally to sift through the stench of mid-semester fear and hormonal sweat that clung to these walls and find his signature.

The receptionist asked her if she was lost, or needed someone to be called down, but the offer was waved away with a smile and a well-versed lie. Just delivering something, she said as she held up a manila envelope. It was deposited into the trash as soon as she was out of sight. Eventually the click-click of her heels slowed and she paused just outside the doorway she had tracked him to, listening for a short moment to ensure she wasn't interrupting before rapping against the frame. She leaned in the lee of the door, the usual expression of soft mischief on her lips, which had been painted a deep red for the occasion of dinner.


Dr. Walt Lawson looks a bit more rumpled than he did earlier in the day, with his tie loosened, the top button of his dress shirt undone, and his suit coat draped over the back of a folding chair while he measures off paces at the far end of the laboratory. A panel of shiny metal sits astride a wheeled cart that he pushes ahead of him, Lawson glancing back over his shoulder to make certain he is still in line with a strange looking projector before his desk. Satisfied with the distance and the alignment, he crosses back and positions himself behind the projection unit, taking up a small, hand-held controller connected to the mcahine by a long cord, and with a red button centered in his palm. A glistening, vermillion, alluring and, yes, candy-like button. Shielding his eyes with one hand, Lawson adjusts settings across the front of the machine, and then presses the button. Machinery whiiirrrrrs slowly to life in the metal innards of the device, and the lights dim a bit both in the lab, and outside it.

The projection device starts making a sound similar to a beam weapon on overload, an almost comical noise familiar to anyone who watches the televised science fiction programs like 'The Twilight Zone'. Just before the encased power charge ruptures its housing, a sharp noise somewhat sounding like, *ZZZZZAAAAAAAA-KKKKTTTTTTOOOWWW!* rings out. Simultaneously, the lab is bathed in a brillient emerald light, and the metal plating down range shudders, then glows, and in seconds melts into a shiny, puddling bit of slag.

Not exactly what Dr. Lawson was hoping for, apparently. He quickly powers down the unit, snapping switches and twisting dials as the silvery metal goo drips onto the floor. "Pama," he mutters, "more of an upgrade than even I thought possible." Belatedly, he notices a second or maybe a third tap-tap-tapping at the lab door? It's then he glances at the clock on the wall and blinks. The last time he had checked, it was 2:35 PM, and that surely couldn't have been more than thirty minutes ago. Lawson quickly reaches the door and opens it, expecting to see a receptionist ready to rail against him for being too involved in his work to answer the intercom. Or the door. But he doesn't seem tired or even hesitant to face the full force of academic secretarial wrath unbound. Hes actually more like a man confined to a cell who has suddenly been granted parole when he opens it and sees Skali in the hallway.

"Hi, there," he smiles and looks at the wall clock again, then his strange-looking wristwatch. "I didn't forget supper. Truly. I did, however, get caught up in some experiments. Please, come in." He stands aside and straightens his tie as the nova-heated metal, now cooling, makes one final drip to the floor. It slows in the descent, finally solidifying enough to make a frozen, argent fountain from the cart to the tile.


It seemed that they were of a similar mind. Perhaps she was a bit bemused by his lack of concern over her late arrival, or the all-consuming focus he dedicated to the scholastic pursuits of the laboratory. Both were quaintly human, even if he was no such thing. As the door opened to frame him in the eerie backlit of fading glow, she ghosted past him and into the laboratory with a perfunctory sniff. She was in a forgiving mood.

"Fortunate you didn't forget. Someone caused me to miss lunch so I'm quite hungry."

Certainly this was a restricted area, her presence neither necessary or appropriate. She didn't seem to care for such petty boundaries though, circling the facility with a keen eye and unwavering curiosity.

"Were they successful? The experiments, that is."


Mar-Vell watches Skali taking her tour of the laboratory, deciding that part of the pretense of their original meeting has been discarded. Not a bad thing, that, since he's not diplomat enough to conduct an ongoing and complex verbal ballet for appearances. And he also takes no offense to her peering about her to heart's content. This is a lab frequented by the students, and the work being done here of minimal security. Mostly, it's a proving grounds for determing just -how- inferior the early rocket shileding was, and the specs that need to come up to pass tolerances. That said, there are parts of the beam generator that Mar-Vell has modified since the students left for the day, and which laymen most likely would not give a second glance. However, if one familiar with the technology was to catch sight of it, say a Skrull agent, they would straight away feel like an archeologist coming across the remains of a crafted plutomium atom model, amidst stone tools and leather bindings in a cave dwelling millions of years old.

Skali's question brings a low, rumbled and spontaneous laugh, resonant and male and mirthful. "It was indeed a success, Skali, so long as the intent was to to see just how fully we could overtax the rocket housing of the first models. You've probably seen them on television. They were the ones that, after countdown, promptly warped from the heat, tilted over, and exploded on the launch pad." Mar-Vell reclaims his jacket, keeping his attention on his guest and tracking her as he shoulders into the coat. "Serves me right. I should have had the presence of mind to stop hours ago and prepare for our dinner. What's our destination, anyway? I do have a car if it will save some taxi fare."


If not for the heels, every step would have been silent, a prowling grace to her motions that was entirely foreign to this world. The dress and shoes made her passable if one wanted to see a beautiful woman in front of them. Dr. Lawson was not one of those people. The light brown eyes considered everything with a haughty consideration, the science of man amusing at best in its primitive attempt to touch the cosmos. They would someday, she suspected, the march of progress shockingly rapid for such a short lived species. Not yet, though. Not-

Skali was not a scientist, but still she lingered at the melted pool of slag, now cooled into unexciting dull grey. A smile teased at her lips, a tilt of her head as she finally distracted back to the man as his jacket was buttoned and he posed a question. In truth, she hadn't been listening. It showed in the blank expression she answered with, a lingering pause finally giving way as she processed the query.

"Minetta. It's in Greenwich Village. The subway will likely be faster than driving but if you have a preference, then it's only a few minutes difference. Or we can take my bike."

Indeed, they were past pretenses. She was willing to show him the hand she pretended belonged to a recently relocated secretary living in New York City.

While his guest looks at the frozen metallic fountain cooling to grey, Mar-Vell takes a moment to slip two lenses from the beam emitter, returning the device to a simple laser one again, and one that could hardly brown a marshmallow. He palms the ovals, adjusts his unibeam wrist device, and sets the lenses back into the wristband with a familiarity that borders sleight of hand. Skali's initial confusion about their dinner destination amuses him, and also tells him how focused she is on what lies about the lab.

The undercover Kree warrior also takes a moment to appreciate the stylish ensemble his dinner companion has selected for the evening, and to also note the deep, velvet-red lipstick accentuating her lips. The contrast between the scarlet and her skin, the placement of the cosmetic, makes a subliminal impression of sharp, hidden teeth secreted behind a disarming but telltale bloody smile. And in that same moment, Mar-Vell decides his study of the Terran cinematic art form known as horror is complete. It may be mostly a waste of their celluloid film stock, these lurid monster tales, but they also carry a primal power to unsettle. One viewing of the Chiller Thriller Night Monster Festival on WNDT, one entitled 'Vampire Brides of the Abyss', coupled with this strange and sinister All-Hollow's festival the natives take as an excuse to overindulge on candy and alcohol, has Mar-Vell's imagination accelerated to the second level of FTL travel.

He catchs himself mid-stare and tries correcting with a smile and an extended arm, accompanied by the observation, "That is quite a fetching lipstick you've chosen. And your dress, most stylish. You have a keen sense of style, and it makes you stand out even in this city, where fortunes are made and lost by how accurately the pulse of fashion is predicted. Truly, it is an accomplishment." He inclined his head slightly toward Skali, the human equivalent of tipping one's hat to acknowledge success in a colleague when one does not wear a hat to doff. "I don't know Minetta, so I would probably be a poor choice to navigate. The subway is fine, but I'm adventurous. Being cooped up indoors all day isn't what I was designed for. What kind of motorcycle do you have? "


"A Royal Enfield. Lovely twin cylinder engine. A former employer bought it for me to avoid traffic in the city, and when I left his employ, I took it as severance."

As she spoke, she took his arm and moved them into the hallway, continuing as they strode through the emptying corridors to explain the crankshaft, the newer 736 cc models that had just been released the prior year, and all the distinctions between the two. For a non-native, she certainly had a grasp on bike technologies and a passion for the two wheeled and short seated contraption that awaited them outside.

The compliment was received as an afterthought, her focus obviously more enraptured by the machine at the end of their short jaunt. A trivial explanation regarding her current employer's position as a free-lance marketing agent who assisted in television and movie releases was cited as sufficient explanation for a sense of fashion. "In truth, I don't have a care in the world for modern tastes but given my position as his representative in many matters, there's an importance emphasized in appearance."

A helmet was strangely absent from the waiting handlebars, as were any leather jacket or jeans to prevent minor injury. Apparently the woman was impervious to such concerns as she took the seat, holding the heavy machine between her thighs after the kickstand was raised and she waited for him to take the seat behind her with a smirk.

"How very forward thinking of you to accept me driving. If we're being honest, I can't stand being a passenger. It all seems so mundane and slow when another person is behind the wheel."


The description of the motorcycle is followed closely by Mar-Vell, and his reactions to the details oddly enough appropriate. Absorbed, even. He does understand mechanics, and has also formed an appreciation of these Earth vehicles. Kree technology can be so very functional and without spirit. Without flair or joy in the crafting. Terrans do not suffer from this, not yet at least, in their level of development. Their cars have wings! Well, at least, fins. One could play a Zero G match of full-court Magnoball in the trunks of their larger cars. The design of their two-wheeled conveyance is equally imaginative, from the quaint scooters favored by many of the Columbia students, up to the chromed metal stallions customized by nomadic groups of bikers. Skali's companion also asks for a few further points of clarification on the details of horsepower and the fork hydraulics ratios Skali provides as they make their way to the ground floor exits.

In that moment of shared common interest, the Kree spy also realizes that it is the first chink he has seen in his all-but certain belief that this young woman is a Skrull operative. A Skrull spy could be versed in details of a motorcycle. She could no doubt repair one, use one. But he had never met a Skrull who would delight in the freedom a motorcycle trek provides. It would be an ends to a mean, a way to get to a navigational coordinate, and little else. The realization gave Mar-Vell a certain degree of relief, but it also stoked his curiosity. Who -was- this woman who seemingly existed beside the humans without for a moment sharing that humanity fully? And did she sense that same element in him? Interesting. Maddening, but interesting.

To her confession that the fashion was merely a means to an end, and not something she pursued nor worked at, Mar-Vell allowed, "I've heard it said that the most attractive people have no notion that they are, nor do they attempt to showcase those natural qualities. And that merely amplifies their beauty. There is truth in that."

"Working in the entertainment industry must be challenging," Lawson commented as they exited the building and approached Skali's ride. The first Earth publications he'd read on his arrival were movie gossip magazines left in his motel room by a previous guest, and while he was at first confused by them, he quickly fathomed how important entertainment was to the humans. Their devotion to performers and fictional dramas bordered a harmless form of fanatacism. He had also seen from the trades how competitive that industry was, how much value they placed on the money to be made through shows and films and records. Some battles between space armadas would have seemed tame compared to warring studios, warring starlets, and competing artists. "How does the business suit you? Or is it just a means to pay the rent for now?"

Her passenger waits for Skali to take her piloting position, and he also notes the lack of protective gear as a good sign, overall. One needed to be confident and able to maneuver on such an open vehicle in a city like New York, and overindulgence in defensive items would have indicated someone who had need of them. Or who had been harmed previously without them. He was still glad that his Kree suit beneath his street clothes would offer some protection in case of a fall. "Yes!" he answers about the tedium of letting someone else drive. "It does tempt one to takr the wheel sometimes, doesn't it? Somehow, though, I don't believe I'll feel our ride is a slow one at all tonight." He smiles, relaxed in what he's sure is the wheeled equivalent of Skali's strident pedestrian confidence, and takes position behind her, making sure to keep his leg away from the tailpipe as it heats up, and holding the cushion with a firm grip on each side, behind his seat. "You may launch when ready, Miss."


"Challenging?" Her head tilted as she looked over a shoulder at him, her curls in the process of being pulled back by both hands into a messy approximation of a hair style. With the wind battering them, any effort at composure would soon be lost and therefore she made no further endeavor to secure appearances. The disdain from passing women as they regarded her posture, the way the position required her dress to hike up above any tasteful location, was received with a nod and a flippant wave. She gestured to the boots slung over the back of the bike before he took his seat, and began to lace them up as she responded.

"It's engaging. Busy and chaotic, aggressive and cut throat. It's not my business, of course, but I do enjoy supporting a man who has a passion for such things in his endeavors. There's something so beautiful about a short existence so focused upon singular notion. The passion of man is inspiring."

She had almost said 'human' instead of man, catching the misstep in her words before they left her lips. Still, there was a pause there as he settled behind her, catching herself before betraying more than she intended. Clearing her throat, she recovered enough to reach behind her and put his hands on her own hips.

"I appreciate your propriety, but I need you to move at the same time I do and in the same direction I do, or we will both eat pavement. And one of us is much too pretty for that."

As she had spoken, the choke had been pulled out, the key turned, the motor heating up in rhythmic purr of fast idle. Thus with this final proclamation, she was able to let out the clutch lever and hit the acceleration. The momentum quickly balanced the bike under her careful direction, and they slipped into traffic with the practice of a seamstress threading needle. After a block or two had been spent to ensure the machination was readied for abuse, Skali shifted gears and began pressing the engine into acceleration. The effort swiftly passed a point that was justified, the yellow lights turning to red as they weaved through traffic with a disregard for the law that only superbeings and criminals alike can flaunt. Perhaps she was testing him, but given the wild light in her eyes and the laughter on her lips, it seemed more likely this was simply a part of who she was - entropy's little helper.


"The brevity of life both inspires and defines. Like stars fragile in form, men blaze brightly in the darkness to achieve, to express, and then rest in hopes that the memory of their nova will be remembered long after their bones cool below the ground," Mar-Vell agrees, also not indicating inclusion in that company, but not setting it apart from himself, either. Part of what Skali says, however, also reminds him of his superior officer, an individual one could also admire for his ruthless, steadfast desire to achieve, no matter who he has to grind under his boot to do so. An individual. An entire race. His animosity has actually worked against him so far, placing his rival Mar-Vell in the unexpected position of protecting the Terrans as much as possible from Yon-Rogg's bloodthirsty retaliations.

"I'll do my best to be good ballast, Captain," the Kree warrior chuckles as his hands are placed into a better position for balance. They rest gently exactly where Skali positioned them, a firm enough hold to be effective but no more. Then they do, indeed launch and her passenger is as good as his word. Better. He anticipates well the weight placement for the motions she is putting the motorcycle through and compensates with reflexes born of Kree battle tactics and star piloting. Then, as they get up to speed, what feels like the first stage of their landbound rocket is left behind, second gear and staging rocket fired to great effect. Mar-Vell can actually see the five o'clock shadow on the cabbie they narrowly miss as he locks up his brakes in an intersection where the man thought a green light meant he was supposed to proceed. The human called Ralph Nader would faint dead away at Skali's course, Mar-Vell thinks to himself, but then he notices the grin he's wearing, and the soft laughter coming from his throat. "Are you sure you've never flown a fighter jet?" he asks, trying not to yell in her ear. "If not, you've missed your true calling." It's said with ample humor, and then her passenger ducks down behind her as much as he can to cu down on the wind resistance, matching her position on the bike as closely as space allows.

As the edge of Greenwich Village blurs past, Mar-Vell makes out some of the business names: 'Cafe Wha?'. 'Hootenanany'. Yes, this is a part of the city he has not yet visited, with people mulling about, some performing for passerbys, while older denizens of the neighborhood sit in front of brownstones and storefronts in aluminum folding chairs, the better to enjoy the coolness of the evening. "Amazing. It doesn't even look like a part of the same city we just left behind."


There were times when their knees threatened to brush the pavement rocketing past, the bike seemingly kept on an impossible axis as they maneuvered through the bustling metropolis. Without a cry of fear or trepidation from the man at her back, she pressed them down tiny corridors between stopped cars, dodging bicycle messengers with no motor to compete with the same finesse pedestrians were narrowly avoided.

"A fighter jet?"

She shouted without turning her head, the wind carrying the words whipping back to him along with the laughter that chased it from her throat, "I've flown a bit."

She left out that her anatomy needed no jet to claim the sky, some of the gravity defying essence that ran in her blood keeping them out of harm's way now. There were time when the very physics of their trajectory seemed implausible given the constraints of Earth's gravity, and yet, they were able to defy such fetters without pause.

The bike slowed as they entered Greenwich in a short twenty minutes, as compared to the forty that any other means would have brought them henceforth. Seeming to sense his appreciation of the sudden shift in culture surrounding them, she parked a few blocks from the actual restaurant they had reservations at and waited for him to dismount before putting down the kickstand. Turning to recollect her heels, she began to unlace her boots and answered his fascination with a deep appreciation of her own.

"How much of Earth have you seen?"

Catching the wording of her question, she frowned and fought with a knot in the laces, "I mean, you know, around." It was a weak save and she knew it, but maybe he wouldn't notice. After all, most of her thigh was showing. It distracted most men.


*The slight defying of physics is enough to register with Mar-Vell, but he's also distracted by the screams of pedestrians and the showers of some groceries from those nearly in harm's way as the ride continues. If anyone had been truly hurt, it wold likely have sobered him but as it was, this was the most pure enjoyment he's had planetside since arrival. So he simply went along for the ride, literally, and did his best to be of help to the fighter pilot lady sitting before him. As Skali slows their rid, he runs a hand through his silvery curls to make sure they aren't askew, but his haircut is really too short for that to be a problem and the waves are no more unruly than usual. He does, however, have to straighten his tie, and he holds the lady's shoes for her while she swiches out of the boots. He also obviously notices the show of thigh but it doesn't seem to deter him. "How much of the world have I seen?" he echoes her question. "Not much, for travelling mil—many, many miles to one posting or another for my work. But seeing it from the sky, that really doesn't count." And as if making his point, he gestures to a couple doing street poetry on the corner near them. Both are probably not yet twenty Terran years of age, and they are dressed in a way that would draw notice in any other section of New York, probably. The boy with a short halo of frizzy, strawberry hair and his pale face a palette of freckles, the attempt of a beard around his mouth and chin, dressed in tight black turtleneck and trousers. The girl has almost no hair, a brown skullcap of fuzz with one long lock in front, her eyebrows penciled into startled points high on her forehead. She wears a matching kohl sweater, but with a black skirt and fishnets to round out her ensemble. Mar-Vell pauses as we finish to readjust from the wild ride to listen to their recitations

"Cut the cord, step out of your cube life!" "Our families eat well at weddings. And at funerals." "Cut the cord, step out of your cube life!" "Parents started our deaths when they made sure to throw away our crayoned skies of burnt sienna. And gold. And lavender. And only gave us the cube's view in blue." "Cut the cord, step out of your cube life!" "And when we went to our mothers and our fathers, on our knees, weeping, asking for that land beyond the here where all men are brothers, where all one works for one also achieves, where all our differences are seen as a tapestry rich in color and fabric, what did they do? They said, 'Here's a discount coupon for the Woolworth lunch counter. You look hungry.'" "Cut the cord, step out of your cube life!" "That's when I took what was me and left all their baggage behind, slammed the door on the way out, yelled, 'I'll be back later.'" Together: "Much." "Cut the cord, like me; my cube life is done."

"You don't really experience that, from 30,000 feet," he asides to Skali, not a condemnation of their work in his tone. More like fascination. Mar-Vell offers his arm to his dinner companion and drops a dollar in a coffee can sitting before the performers as we pass. "Remember, Skali, my treat tonight. And don't be polite, order whatever you like."

Just down the street from the poetry show, a dark sedan pulls up to the curb at a high rate of acceleration…the kind of speed a passenger car might have had to try and keep pace, unsuccessfully, with a wide-eyed and bleeding motorcycle heading across town. Two men emerge from the front, two more from the back, and all four are clearly intent on intercepting Dr. Lawson before he gets any nearer his destination. "Hey! Remember us, Doc?" the nearest man calls. He smiles, the unpleasant grimace of a mouthbreather who probably had a good career lined up in professional football until it was discovered he was big, and strong, and completely without talent for a game with rules of engagement. Mar-Vell lets out a sigh, glances at Skali, and actually takes a half step in front of her, though even in the moment, he's unsure which party he is protecting. He still has suspicions, none put to rest by the motorcycle trek, about his dining companion. "Yes, yes I do," he answers calmly as the foursome in their long coats stride forward, each with a hand in one of their coat pockets except the talker. "And I told you, I don't need any magazine subscriptions. Or Girl Scout cookies." One of the four actually turns to ask the speaker something and gets slapped upside his crewcut for his trouble. The Talker rejoins, "That's funny, Doc. You're a funny guy. Problem is, out boss don't pay funny guys twelve million dollars for results, and then watch while you make tracks outta state. Guess he's funny, that way." Then he displays so that only Mar-Vell and Skali can see, a short MP Walther machine gun, the stock folded, in the confines under his coat, finger on the trigger. "Let's go. Bring the skirt, too. Boss might need a little leverage to make sure he gets his money's worth outta you, Doc."


Every adjustment of her laces was echoed by a staccato pacing of spoken word, verbal constantans clashing to create the building tempo culminating in emphatic point. There was a beauty in the art, although a battle cry had always matched her tastes more than a ballad. Still, she delivered the courtesy of listening politely, glancing up at her companion with a small tug at her lips in faint smile. Truthfully, it was difficult to discern what she found more amusing; the young whelps yapping out morsels of little consequence in exchange for the very meal tickets they decried or this strange man's appetite for such trivialities.

With boots once more slung over the seat of the motorcycle, she stepped forward to take his arm and leaned into him under the guise of pulling her heels on properly. In truth, she took another lingering inhale of his scent and had to swallow the growl it provoked in the back of her throat. What the hell was he, besides good at playing human? The old human adage - it takes one to know one- echoed in her head and she shook out her curls as the elastic that had held them back was loosened whilst tires screeched to a halt beside them.

Skali blinked luminous gold eyes, and from where she stood beside him, he could likely hear the sniff she took of the air. It wasn't a surprised inhale or a gasp of shock, but a testing inquiry into the brutes that poured out of the vehicle. Was this her problem or-? No. Her attentions turned up to him with a mixture of accusation and good humor. Kidnapping and ransom? How else did one spend Saturday night?

It's the only moment of understanding they could possibly share before his shadow steps before her and the confidence she wore fizzles into a nervous twitching of fingers. The progression of fear was convincing, a sudden turn, bumping into him as her breath hitched, a trembling of her bottom lip as she quaked, "W-w-walter?"

As if she was actually scared. The men would see what they wanted to see though, and not the creature flitting just behind her pupils, the musculature adjusting underneath the skirts they referenced her by, the distance between them making nigh silent admission of need from the back of her throat inaudible, formed into a soft whine that was lost as soon as she falsified a sob.


The chemical scent Mar-Vell exudes is present, a bit more prevalent than earlier in the day indicating he'd consumed a dose of whatever it was sometime shortly before her arrival. It isn't a stench, not unpleasant, just like nothing Skali's ever sampled before and far beneath the detection of regular human beings.

Had he been able to read her thoughts, it would have been an amusing conundrum for the Kree warrior to be thought of as proficient at playing human. He was a battle-hardened veeran of the Kree-Skrull Wars, plus numerous other actions, on behalf of the Empire, and proud of his heritage. He was also becoming very attuned to the human condition, which, in his espionage mission, served its purpose. But already his Colonel harbored suspicions that Mar-Vell had 'gone native'. And Mar-Vell was not certain there wasn't validity to the notion.

After the exchange with the new arrivals, Mar-Vell checked peripheral vision, seeking any collateral damage path should the men open up. The performers behind them, given the angle and position of the four trenchcoats, would be directly on the recieving end of any ballistics bursts. And of course, there was Skali. Hearing her very convincing murmur, feeling her tremble slightly beside him, the Kree spy was taken by surprise. Had he been wrong, and Skali simply a product of this city and this society, hardened by the urban surroundings and a competitive professional trade so that she seemed more formidable than she actually was? He briefly looked down with an expression meant to instill confidence. And that's when he noticed her body language: feet and legs registering perfect balance and placed in a ready position, muscles tensed, not like prey ready to bolt. Like a finely tuned instrument of war, more than ready to play her own version of street music for these armed and dangerous criminals. "Don't worry," he gave a crooked smile and continued, "you're going to be just fine." Was that a lilting irony behind the words? Yes. Yes, it was.

The man using the identity of Dr. Walter Lawson turned back to The Talker, held up his right hand as if in semi-surrender. "Alright! I'll go quietly. Just leave her here. She is not involved in our business," he negotiated, indicating Skali with a tilt of his head. Then his right hand, held in a position used by many New York's Finest to halt oncoming traffic, flattened downward. A soft *zzzzrakkkk*, a static pulse of energy, and an otherworldly, glowing grey light flashed once at the four from Mar-Vell's unibeam wristband. "Hey! H-hey! What the hell?!? I'm blind," The Talker managed while one of his men, equally blind, reached out to find something to grab hold of. Air proved insufficient, and he discovered the trash can he could no longer see was yet a good two yards frm where he recalled it being. He toppled forward to his knees, striking the curb as air rushed out of him.


In the milliseconds that the blast of light enveloped their battlefield, Skali disappeared. It was with a sudden gust of air sucked into the void she left behind, dust thrown out from where she had launched in one fluid leap that took her from quivering cur on the street to deity spiraling to the heavens above. As the air thinned and the wind chilled her flesh to pin pricks, she peeled off one heel and then the other, letting both shoes fall to the ground below where combatants looked almost like ants. Perhaps it would strike one of the doctor's opponents. Or some wayward civilian casualty. The wolf god couldn't be bothered with such concerns.

While there was an appearance of abandonment, her path drifted downward at a leisurely pace, head tilting to gather sounds of whatever conflict brewed below. When she came to rest on the rooftops above the fray, it was with hands tying back her hair once more, a pause as her stomach gave audible growl. This interruption had cost her a timely dinner, something that irritated her almost as much as losing a pair of 200 dollar shoes. Had this been her fight, these men would be stains on the pavement instead of living and breathing. Their suffering wouldn't be worth the inconvenience of keeping them alive long enough to enjoy their pain. As it was, she had a far more pertinent interest in one strange doctor that wasn't quite human. And if she were to lift her paws in this, his true potential would remain a mystery.

Examining a nail, she slung both her legs over the edge of the building and peered down as one may be enraptured with a film. If he proved uninteresting, she could simply claim to have escaped in the fray and cite reasons of near-death experience for not scheduling a second date. If he held her curiosity, well then - Skali smiled and licked her red-stained lips. Then perhaps she could come down from her seat in the heavens and dispense justice appropriately.


Mar-Vell might have noticed the sudden disappearance of Skali, as graceful and silent as it was, if one of the three standing gunmen hadn't brought his own Walther MPK compact machinegun out of pocket to wave in the direction he last knew his intended victims to be. By dead reckoning, he was slightly off the mark, and took sighless aim in the direction of the performers instead. Their cries of alarm the thug also mistook for Lawson nd Skali, and it was all the confirmation he needed to point toward the noise and pull the trigger.

The distance between Mar-Vell and the man vanished. No one without a ringside, aerial view would know, mainly because the only two would-be witnesses now crouched over their coffee can, hands over their heads, hiding their faces. But in a burst of movement the envy of any cheetah, Dr. Lawson closed with the gunman so quickly that, had a human being observed it, he could not later have testified to seeing the advancing man's legs actually move. Nor seeing his Kree-trained martial acquisition of the gun and the offender's hand. Only that the barrel of the machine pistol was suddenly pointing skyward, and there was a very wet, hollow crack of bone when the trapped trigger finger was snapped off by the restraining trigger guard much like a tobacconist snips the end off a stogie. Mar-Vell kept hold of the gun, and the severed finger, and used his other hand to punch the offender once, square in the face. The blow carried the man into the middle of the street where he sprawled, unmoving.

The other mute thug had the same notion belatedly of his downed comrade, except he simply aimed his gun in the confines of his coat pocket and tried facing where he last knew Lawson to be. Mar-Vell threw the compact machinegun he still held into center body mass of the second gunman, and with sufficient impact that he doubled over. And flew backward. And onward, across the engine hood of his car before coming to a blissfully unconscious halt, head on the pavement, legs leaned upward against the auto's fender.

The Kree warrior glanced back in the direction of Skali and only then noticed her absence. But he was already moving in on the Talker, who had sussed out something was happening, took note of the distinct lack of gunfire he'd expected, and was preparing to remedy that deficit with a chorus of his own. He had enough of a headstart, it appeared he wold loose a few wild rounds before Mar-Vell could reach him, so he didn't try. He again aimed what appeared to be a very strange wrsitwatch at the man, and a beam of clear energy displacement, a visible wave that rippled across the distance between them, struck the MPK and blew it to pieces. Chunks of the man's hand went with it. The Kree spy then closed on him, struck him hard enough that the Talker flew into the passenger door of his car and left it too rumpled to open. Three men down in less than three seconds, the fourth still trying to get his wind back as he reclined in the gutter. Lawson bent down over the shattered gun pieces, bathed the area with the rippling air effect once more, and the shattered gun reassembled to lay on the sidewalk. The gunman's hand, shattered and bleeding, did not.


Every last step of the ballet below was watched with the rapt attention of a critic, an eyebrow arched as her meal ticket came underneath the shadow of formidable gun - the hail of bullets she was eagerly anticipating never leaping free from muzzle. Something itched unsatisfied as the first man fell, no scent of gun smoke hanging in the air, the efficiency with which the threat was dispatched regarded in bored apathy. It was to be expected; the heroics of minimal violence imparted while maximum result was achieved. The precision was surgical, and while there was beauty to it, the smile didn't spread over her features until she heard the bone break loose and the smell of blood hit her nose.

Fingers twitched, the pupils receding as if threatened by the gold pulsing on all sides, a heat burning through the vestiges of human appearance she clung to. Her throat bobbed as she swallowed thickly, regaining her focus as the inhuman agent hurled the now defunct weapon into the gut of the second man. To conceal the obvious glee spreading throughout her expression, she steepled her trembling fingers in front of the smile that had consumed her cheeks and shook her head in wonderment.

By the time Lawson had straightened from bending over the remnants of the weapon now reconstructed, Skali descended from her perch at a lazy pace, abandoning all appearances to do so. Floating to a delicate landing beside the prone gunman, her hands clapped in the slow and bemused way of an emperor pleased with their blood sports presented in pits.

"You my dear-"

She paused, looked down at the groaning man with bloodied mess of a hand at her feet and ruthlessly shoved the ball of her foot into his injured appendage with a "Hush, I am trying to compliment someone." The motion didn't quiet the man, and that seemed to please her just fine as she tossed her curls back and continued, "-Are lovely. What are you?"

And now she stepped forward, angling her gait to circle him cautiously. The measurements had been made, but she knew better than to assume details left unevaluated.

Mar-Vell winced along with the moaning gunman as Skali treaded, not lightly, onto the fractured hand after her delicate dismount and touchdown from somewhere above. Still, his sympathy was limited for a hired mercenary like this one. You take bloodwork, you accept the risks. Instead of answering her question, Mar-Vell crossed back to the man in the gutter, one with vision likely beginning to clear. He bent down and bounced his forehead against the curb to induce unconsciousness. Now the performers were looking this way, happy not to have been Swissed by a barrage of bullets, but also curious as to what happened to the imminent threat of the gunmen. Lawson turned his back to them, found the wallet of the man in the gutter, and tossed it over his shoulder in their direction. "Looks like a good night for you. Maybe time to warm up at a coffee house, hmmm?" The man took the wallet, a wallet pretty well stocked with bills, and decided, "Uh, yeah, man. Time to go, Saffron. They're, like, expectin' us back at the Bean, anyway." The girl nodded silently, grabbed the coffee can in trembling hands, and vanished around the corner. "Thanks, man," the boy called back before joining her.

In the brief interlude, Mar-Vell has given up on trying to classify what Skali might be. She's no Skrull, and that's at least something. But how best to handle his own blown cover? Military training, required for his employment? It might fool a regular human being. Somehow, he doubts she'll be so easily mislead. Secret government operative of Terra with specialized weapons, like that film hero played by Sean Connery? Close enough to the truth to be a shadow of it, and yet somehow also-what? Beneath the dignity of a proper response for someone like her, a fellow fighter. And possibly otherworlder.

"I'm not from around here, as you somehow surmised. And I'm not supposed to be here, no so that anyone realizes because they might alter their behaviour if I told them who and what I was. So I took the identity of a dead man, and use it to observe the population here while learning what I can of their development. Their potential. Their weaknesses, as a people. Unfortunately, the dead man I replaced was taking bribe money from some very nasty individuals, and now they want me to complete their bargain with Lawson." Mar-Vell stood before Skali, arms crossed over his chest. "Which would also taint the situation it's my mission to monitor, developing advanced weaponry their Organization would use to victimize others."

It may not seem like much explanation, nor much detail, but it is factual. So far as it goes.


Eventually she slows, her pacing circles completed after only two rotations around this new sun. As he spoke, her humor faltered only because of the deepening interest in the details, the little pieces of knowledge he withheld like the promise of a dessert menu. She faced him barefoot, blood from the man's hand still staining her heel, and inhaled again with a thready exhale that sounded far more intimate than their circumstances warranted.

"I've been here longer than the founding stones of this city. If your purpose is to defend the people of this planet-"

Her shoulders rolled back as she looked up to the skies, scanning them for the only threat she feared even as she continued, "-I would be happy to assist however I can." A content had settled on her personage, seemingly satisfied by the offering of violence he presented as well as what honesty he could divulge. Closing the final distance between them, she extended her arm in invitation and raised an eyebrow in question,

"Let's get a burger and discuss dull and human things for the rest of the evening. I'm famished."


And there's the point of contention, isn't it? Kree martial edict demanded he faithfully report every detail to the Empire and then stand back while they atomized this beautiful, untamed and diverse planet until it was a lifeless cinder orbitting Sol. And with it, all the mysteries he yet knew so little about; the metahumans emerging, the areas with rumored life forms thought long-extinct that may yet still somehow exist, and yes-even beings like Skali. Mysterious, primal, and apparently far older than her appearance would indicate. Mar-Vell did not believe he could play the cog in the machine others of the Kree satisfied themselves with. Not after walking among these people and becoming one of them. Yet, honesty still dictateed his answer to the mysterious woman circling him. "That was not, initially, my mission. Not to defend. But I'm no longer following those parameters. The human race is worth defending. Depending on fortunes beyond purely human reckoning, it may need a lot of defending. I would welcome any ally in that cause. Especially one with vast experience exceeding a mortal lifespan. Or several lifespans. And one who shares a warrior's spirit."

The unusual breaths Skali takes, the deepness of them and the nearly intimate nature of the action is something he would imagine her doing across a decimated battlefield, and that would frighten civilians. It would put many soldiers on their guard, Mar-Vell being one of them. But it would also unnerve the advanced and civilized races who might expect to take this world as an outpost. Facing beings like Skali, if his intuition regarding her was right, would be far afield from the sort of warfare the Kree and Skrulls had become accustomed to. They wanted things sanitary. War at a distance. Victory through technology. The new generations coming forth, they blanched at bloodshed, at facing an enemy eye-to-eye and letting pure hatred take over.

Mar-Vell considers the offered hand, catches a whiff of the blood from Skali's feet, a more iron-laden scent than Kree blood, but unmistakable. He takes her hand in a more martial grip than he did the first time and nods. "Allies, then, it will be." The moment flees, and he smiles even as sirens begin to draw nearer. Could well be the kids didn't just go to the coffee house for a hot cuppa, but maybe told a few tales of their narrow escape and now authorities are responding. "Sorry it can't be your chosen restaurant, but yes. Please. A burger sounds good. And those icy, frosty fruit drinks. The ones that make your head hurt if you drink them too fast? And human matters. I have many questions for one who has watched the human race as long as you have."

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