1963-11-21 - An Alien in New York: Part 2 - Epics
Summary: Kree spy vs. human diplomat. Who wins?
Related: An Alien in New York
Theme Song: None
mar-vell rogue 

The gentle laugh from the young woman dissipates into the air, joining the thrum of conversation and the clacking of shoes on the scarred wooden floors. Closer to the stage, the manager responsible for sorting talent from the chaff sucks on water through a straw and waves at the sound engineer, which is to say he flips the bird and harangues the fellow about letting there be a gap in the performance. Poet down, next up is another long-haired kid from somewhere around Peoria out to show his chops as an Americana singer.

"You would not be the first to think that. Truly we're on the cusp of a brave new world here, in the heart of Greenwich Village." Scarlett settles into a seat, tucking her feet back under her. Space is at such a tight premium even their flimsy table and minor chairs are in the way of everything, and the pedestrian traffic marching hither and fro through the club might just step onto the table to get out their destination if it comes to that. She glances to the fancy watch, though the designer timepiece doesn't warrant a comment. Manners rule her much more than they could. "Some would tell you all these funny ideas and strange people gathering together spells the death knell for society. What else is new in three thousand years of civilization? It's rather required that the established members of society fear the developments in the young." Fire flatters her expression, the spin of her luminous braids spilling off her shoulders in a rainfall of intricate weaving.

His question of her monsters, and those buried around them, cause her to laugh. Raising her hands, the bohemian laughs. "Oh, there are plenty of terrors to be had. Poverty, overcrowding, narrow minded thinking as a start. Friendly, kind people turn into terrible sorts when they see others unlike them; people of colour, for example. Or you might say the devils of our worse nature are the vices, yes? It's not only wine, women, and song; drugs, cigarettes, drink. We live like louches around here, according to some. Though breaking new ground sometimes requires getting dirty. In truth, though, the real problems seem to be outside the human scope. Our monsters of demons, devils, and vampires are mostly quiet. They plagued the city. Now it's things falling out of the sky, people supposedly coming from other places we never knew before."


As the young woman takes a seat at their shared table, Mar-Vell moves his chair so that he acts as a barrier against the side with the most foot traffic; he's not imposing, but he is tall and might give second thoughts to anyone who presses them too tightly. He settles in as the girl's laugh creates a soft and lyrical solo too subtle to be heard by others farther away, owing to the din and then to the male on stage as he begins his song set, but musical no less to the finely tuned hearing of a Kree.

As Dr. Lawson, the warrior listens to his companion's take on their setting, and more, what a place such as this is meant to represent. And she even adds in her evaluation of it over the course of a civilization spanning a mere 3,000 years. That in itself is charming, and the smile Mar-Vell had originally adopted becomes a real one. He quietly listens as she lists some of the monsters on a Terran prowl, both the inner demons and those from beyond, without initial comment.

The silence lingers a bit too long, most likely, on the final note of threats from beyond the stars. Then the waiter arrives with his coffee, keeping the awkward silence manageable. "We are a work in progress, some parts of the human mystique more than others, and more actively in some parts of the world," Mar-Vell shares after a sip of the black, strong drink he has come to enjoy. "But tell me. As pleasant as a gathering like this is, as inspiring as the songs and as creative as the poetry, does it really help to change anything? Ideas are exchanged, emotions shared. But to what end? An advertising executive partaking tonight goes back to his desk tomorrow, but does he conduct business any different? A soldier on leave revels in songs of peace and fraternity tonight, and tomorrow he is back in training to kill his fellow man. The artists themselves speak of the evils of greed and material things, while accepting money for their performances. There seems to be a duality here, and sometimes it simply escapes me."


"When taken as a grand whole, does any single event change the course of events? Is the birth of a man or the death of a king, the loss of a battle so very formative?" Resting her fingers against the table, Scarlett peers down through the blue smoke in the air at the performer on the stage, then back to the doctor who is no mere doctor. But in this city, in her experience, they rarely are. "I'm fairly sure some of my professors would tell you the fall of the Roman Empire inestimably shaped the course of human events, but the Chinese would sincerely laugh at such a notion. How did that seismic shock affect their world? It barely did, trade routes to the far west vanished perhaps."

She gestures to the table, drawing a circle and planting a napkin down on the lower right half. "What about the Mesoamerican peoples, who were unknown and knew not? It can be safely said even the last great war, though we call it worldwide, was not truly so. For the llama rancher in the Andes, it made no difference. To the cassava grower, not much changes except who collects the taxes." The slow melody of an idea takes time to germinate, and she smiles at the building notion, coming right around eventually to address Dr. Lawson's question after receiving her hot water in a cup from the server. A leaky metal pot on a plate joins it, and she murmurs her thanks.

Scarlett considers him a time before answering, or bothering to fish out her tea leaves. "An idea changes everything. So, yes, the thoughts shared here spread out. They change the norms, and that matters a great deal. Forty years ago, I would have been unable to vote, or participate in public life. Well, except as someone's wife. Today I can become a doctor. Why? Because people started thinking differently. They used to burn redheads as witches, but then these artists got together and beautified the flaming locks of their muses. Sometimes a revolution in thinking happens slowly, sometimes it's a shock wave. In a place like this, men read the works of ancient Rome and Greece, preserved by Byzantines. Their foundations were rocked. In a place like this, great thinkers said there might be other dimensions and a single set of physical laws that governed everything. I don't underestimate the power of an idea."


And there it is, stated so simply and so earnestly, it rocks Mar-Vell to the foundation. Luckily, his only outward expression of it culminates in spilling a tiny drop of coffee on his trousers. But she has distilled all his feelings of Earth and the cultures he has studied since arrival as compared to his own peoples. In the Kree Empire, ideas are stillborn or aborted if they do not have a technological and military application. The fear of thoughts aimed toward changing the status quo, the dread they might take root, is terrifying to the government, especially the Blues. The Kree believe themselves Divine, and thus in no need of any change beyond the natural laws of physical evolution. On Terra, such sowing of seeds, from discontent or want or simply to make the race better than it has been previously, is allowed. Sometimes, it is even cultivated, harvested, and encouraged though as often it is met with resistance if his study of Earth history is any indication. But once loosed, the ideas do grow in the fertile climate of human imagination and, given time, often impact the planet. In the Kree Empire, any similar discourse is now extinct. Culture comes from conquered star systems, if it passes suitability by the Censor Division, and is viewed at best as ridiculous cultural farce by a failed civilization which has now been assimilated and will soon be enlightened to the Kree glory, or will find its native race as extinct as any unmutual idea.

"You make a very compelling point," Dr. Lawson replies, and reaches into his dress coat's inner pocket. "But, limiting your focus to the United States, is there really so much now that needs changing? Our military might is second to none, the standard of living is much higher than anywhere else on the globe, and it is also seen as a leader in the arts and in technical achievement." He fishes out two folded mimeograph copies from microfiched files and shares them with his companion. "A few years ago, the New York Times ran this front page story. ADMIRAL RICKOVER SAYS REDS LEARNED SECRETS FROM TOY SUB. In it, the father of the US Navy's nuclear submarine program claimed that the hobby company Revells model of the USS George Washington nuclear-powered Polaris missile submarine had given away classified information to the Soviet Union. If I were a Russian, declared Rickover, I would be most grateful to the United States for its generosity in supplying such information for $2.98."

Mar-Vell switches to the next sheet and also shows it to Scarlett. "In response, Revell's PR head invited a photographer and writer from LIFE magazine to the company's headquarters so he could reply about the charges. He proved that the details of the submarine, the reference for his company when they made the model, were easily obtainable from unclassified trade and technical journals. Once the small feature appeared in the magazine, the Admiral refused to speak further of the incident. Revell Models, on the other hand, used the dispute to sell record numbers of the Polaris submarine kit." The Kree warrior sits back, leaving the papers before her as if Exhibits A and B in a court case.

"The Admiral, a military man of considerable rank and import, could have responded by firing off a few Polaris missiles toward the Times offices. Or had soldiers with no dog tags pay the Revell officers and board a midnight call. He didn't." The very notion of it seems a thing of wonder to Mar-Vell. "It seems to me, things here are good as they are. Can change be called for just for change's sake? And in fact, perhaps, lead to limiting personal freedoms as a result instead of the converse?" Peering intently across the table he asks, "Couldn't this ever backfire?"


Trust a Columbia student to be an avid reader, and a quick one. At least one with a history degree in the works, and a good dose of liberal arts under her belt. The provided materials do not stand a chance to her glittering emerald eyes that dodge among the words and articles, something familiar enough for her to pick out the salient details about. Authenticity proclaimed for a toy sells the Soviets all they need to know! The 1961 incident brings a bit of a smile to her lips.

"For one," she begins, "the use of spies in industry has happened as long as industry has existed. There will always be someone looking to break down the nuts and bolts of an object, some new technology, a new scientific measure. You might as well call that progressive thought or innovation. The playwright who hears the fascinating performance rips it apart to discover the soul of the thing. A doctor who sees the milkmaids don't get cowpox or smallpox does the sleuthing to figure out the cause of their immunity." She puts down her teacup to replenish the level, pouring out some of the water from the very leaky metal container. An abundance of napkins will be necessary for them to mop up the puddle after, and she seems to be prepared, pressing her thumb down on the dented lid. But tea is tea, sacred art of conversation incumbent upon its presence.

The doctor's challenge requires her to contemplate her angle of response, unaware of her status as the ambassador for an entire globe to an outsider searching for his place. On the other hand, might as well anoint her as the welcoming committee right now. "In the span of the United States, we only achieved this position through innovation, failure, and hard work. We may be the major military power — though the Soviets with their nuclear arsenal don't make that assured. One warhead sent to a major city might decimate the lead we hold, and it's not as though the rest of the world stands still just because we stop. Someone else will come up with new weapons and tactics. Fifty years ago, we still fought on horseback until trenches showed up, and then men shot one another to bits until some genius came up with chlorine gas to corrode someone's lungs at a distance. Tanks were barely known. No one flew planes to bomb ships." Her voice softens, covering those bitter points of logic. For a pacifist, it isn't the happiest of subjects. "Things adapt and change because humanity itself always seeks new ways to do things. We want new music, we crave fresh experiences. Not everyone has the same viewpoint or preferences, for while you might love jazz, you could disdain rock music. Does that mean rock should never be heard by anyone? Hardly. You wish to stay on the forefront, you tap your creativity and keep improving. For some, they would tell you that is the meaning of life." Teacup raised as a salute, she takes a sip delicately while accepting a wad of napkins from a passing server who may or may not realize she plucked them from his apron. A measure of mischief spills over her features, gaze crackling with unspoken laughter.

The soul thief dabs at the puddle of hot water before it can threaten the pages, at least. "The admiral would not bomb a civilian news agency. We don't do that here. Had he tried, one the soldiers would probably have refused his order. Two, release of those weapons requires more than one person to approve for that very reason. Also, there stands a good chance the population, government, and military would have rose up against him and his unit, then court martialed them. You don't fire on your own civilians. The military serves us, not the other way around. But even here, standards and laws are evolving. We have poor enforcement in places for protection of coloured people — minorities, not Caucasians like me, who are considered higher status. We are in the middle of a cultural awakening to our inequalities, our differences of treatment, and plenty of people, especially here, and saying 'What gives?' Because accidental of birth does not define ability, merit"


Because accidental of birth does not define ability, merit, or talent. That sort of thinking should have died with the Third Reich, and for the most part, it is. Nothing in our birth determines our maximum capacity or value. Life is sacred. Every last person regardless of creed or colour is equally valued, worthy, and important."


Mar-Vell had never equated the racial divide he'd witnessed in America since his arrival with the Kree Blue/Pink situation of his own Empire. The pink-skinned Kree, a result of mixing with conquered races, far outnumbered the original blue-skins who still held nearly all positions of power and influence. Fairness did not enter into it, it simply was a fact of life in the Empire. Here, a minority of the population suffered in much the same way, mostly black people and people of Hispanic origin. Their opportunities were limited, they usually occupied a lower economic strata, and their prospects to improve their lot was limited. But they -were- a minority, and something in that seemed to resonate with his Kree indoctrination to allow acceptance. Not that Mar-Vell discriminated against any of the various Earth races he had met. They were, after all, bipedal and sentient. And even genetically close to the Kree save for the lack of redundancy organs (only one liver?) and a more oxygen-based respiratory system. Compared to other conquered peoples of the Empire (the Kell'kartah came to mind, with their tentacles, uni-clops visage and external uvulas), the humans were very relatable no matter the pigment of their skin.

But now, Scarlett was taking a higher ground than Mar-Vell's simplistic objective view. This is what human's meant by taking a 'moral' stand for right above might, prestige, or resource. Right for right's sake, rights for all human beings to live up to their potential no matter what area their skills may dictate and not to be hindered by others of their kind. It was noble, and it was laudable. Mar-Vell would think it quite a fine thing, except for the nobility and morality he had personally seen fold under banks of Unibeam Cannon concentrated on a population center.

"Some would claim the world is as it is, not as we would like it to be no matter how many calls for change and ideals are put forth," Dr. Lawson says behind his coffee cup as he drains the mug and then tries to get the waiter's attention for more of both the sour black drink and fresh heated water for his conversation partner. "Or that some details make certain situations different. That they have to be examined from an amended perspective due to the dangers involved. For example, equality for human beings may be the goal for many -for most- Americans. It is a nation that loves its freedom. But what of the mutant element coming to the forefront. Not an extradimensional threat, not an invasion by aliens, but what some see as a danger from within their own species. Can humans without enhancements be equal to those able to do more work because of super strength, to those who can move things with their minds, to those who fly under their own power? With the human race, a new level of evolution meant the end of a previous model. Or its absorption into the fold of homo sapiens."


"Unfortunately I wasn't there when Cro Magnon man overtook Neanderthal," Scarlett muses, her fingers rambling around the rim of the mug. It may be hot, but she hardly seems bothered by her flirtation with a blistering or steam burn to her fair cream skin. "Thus we cannot be really sure what one species of human thinks when overtaken by another. Mutants represent another change, and yes, some people will be repulsed. Others feel threatened by the encroachment and respond in a number of ways. They retreat, but now there are no lands to escape away to. They close ranks, as we see in Mutant Towns segregating less fortunate metahumans throughout the United States and abroad. They lash out from a defensive position, hurting or killing those they perceive as different. They form organizations of similar thought, insulated against anyone who might try to change their stance. Are they wrong?"

The question hangs in the air, the $60,000 bargain at the top of reality's pyramid. "On the other side, some say this is the next evolutionary leap for mankind. How can you loathe or hate something which beautifully proves Darwin's theory of evolution? Presumably those on the mutant side favour this viewpoint, but easy when they are not the ones who feel displaced. We have a parallel to colonialism, when one power with a technologically or academically superior culture encounters another. The British showed up in New Zealand, facing down the Maori who were not using firearms but melee weapons, and not even equivalent grades of metal at that. Does it mean Maori were savages doomed to perish without assimilation? No. I believe we can co-exist, but we must make accommodations, just as every other meting of nations and empires has throughout our history. One may have superiority, but that doesn't give them leave to go blow up all the buildings and employ their telepathy freely. We have laws and codes for conduct for a reason; an orderly society. Humans are every bit the equal of mutants, and mutants collectively are no better or no worse. Of course there are all sorts of bad examples we can use to spoil the declaration but it's that simple."

Her gaze lifts, and Scarlett's quiet convictions are writ calm and sure upon her fair face, given slightly fey lines. She is, by any standard, something of an intriguing individual for the intense colouration of her hair and especially her eyes. Verdant gems, they are almost surreal. Almost. "You are just as important as the singer down there, the Queen of the United Kingdom, or a Hollywood star, or a cotton picker. I know the majority believe that. Those who do not may call out louder, but they do not set the norm and the standard anymore than all of us are blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe. Being human is not a conditional thing. You are, regardless of the genetic changes or differences, and that is something a minority of frightened and unsure people need to hear in gentle terms. Not at gunpoint, but by demonstrating their life and their being isn't under threat."

Like, say, by aliens who assassinate the president in a week. Prescience is 20/10.


The waiter finally manages to navigate the crowd to refill Dr. Lawson's coffee cup and to pour more hot water into the leaky little metal pitcher. The break in their talk gives Mar-Vell's whirling mind a chance to catch up with the possibilities, and the difficulties, delivered by the young human with him. Governing the equal rights of a true neo-race of humanity in relation to those not meta brings with it staggering challenges and complexities the like of which the Kree man can only imagine, given his limited exposure to the race. The Kree would see it as a needless exercise; come, see, take over, and all the concerns would be put aside. The humans would be required to serve as slaves to their new masters, without regard of creed, skin color, or mutant ability. True equality at last, after a fashion. And when, not if, those humans and mutants unhappy with their newfound equality rose up against the Empire, they would be on the receiving end of a debate conduced with life-ending event potential. For their part, wouldn't some of the human factions rattled off by Scarlett also see her solution as too complex, and better sorted out in a more direct, lethal manner? The humans and the Kree were also more alike on that point than they were so vastly different.

"It seems, we have much work to do, to mere the challenges of this new frontier," Mar-Vell says, slowly shaking his head. "Then add in any interference we may get from the stars, or new considerations from the contact with aliens, and it becomes truly dizzying." He blows across the surface of the coffee in his cup, creating ripples while he forms his own ideas. In a way, it's a representation of the concept Scarlett put forth earlier. He considers her over the brim of the cup, and revels in the beauty of her visage, that otherworldly aura framing her hair, the light and hue of her eyes. Alien, yes, but very beautiful; beauty that human artists have tried to capture with charcoal, pen, pigment and paints over their short history. And, from what Mar-Vell's seen of their masters so far, have had exceptional success with. He would not be surprised if his table companion one day would be immortalized in such a fashion.

"You're young, your mind isn't yet conformed to a social norm, nor ossified from a lack of exercise," Dr. Lawson chuckles, raising his recently-refilled coffee cup to his companion in salute. "And you are versed, obviously, in history, literature, and- well, you are a student of the discourses that go on here. The poetry, especially. Tell me, do you think you could identify a culture based on a selection from what would be considered an epic poem for their civilization? Or at least fathom things about the culture, get an impression of it, evaluate it, from such a sampling?" He tilts his silvery-haired profile curiously. "More to the point, if I came up with a bit of such a work for you to hear, would you do me the kindness of examining it in that manner?"


"'My mother! During my night, I, having become passionate, wandered about in the midst of omens. And there came out of the stars in the heavens, like a sword of heaven he fell upon me. I bore him but he was too heavy for me. He bore a net, but I was not able to bear it. I summoned the land to assemble unto him, that heroes might kiss his feet. He stood up before me, and they stood over against me.'" The rolling cadences from memory shine upon her tongue, a peal of elegant meter contained in the English tinged by her distinct accent — Kentish, Savannah, hard to place. Nonetheless, Scarlett touches upon a lyrical waxing without hesitation. Faintest pause lingers there when her thoughts shift into another speed, forcing her to shift backwards from where she was headed.

"'These battles that I fought, I fought, alone. No man has shown the valor I have shown. But we have talked enough: if you agree, take up your wine, and slake your thirst with me.' Rostam replied, 'Our deeds will be our memorial in the world.'"

The point, then, is decidedly made in her casual upshifting from first gear to fifth, hitting the intellectual gas pedal for a mental straightaway. He may have selected the right person for this exercise. "I am a poor judge, but young and overly flexible, a willow who bends to the storm. Yet there may be value in that. Should you grace me, I will hear you."


"I must agree," Dr. Lawson finally answers in the afterward of the lovely recitation. He had been entranced, for a moment, by the cadence and dialect of the alien tongue Scarlett spoke. Or the dialect. Or the antiquity. Or the combination of all, converted into a lilting and mesmerizing chant. Without the translator device he carried, he may not have understood the underlying meaning of the words, but he was not immune to their magic; if he didn't understand even a syllable, the delivery and expression brought feeling, which is exactly when humans say artistic expression should do. "But no wine for slaking, so coffee will have to do for the toast." He carefully clicks cups, coffee and tea, with Scarlett. "I wish I had something as flowing and beautiful as that in return," Mar-Vell apologizes beforehand, "But it's a different work. And that's why I'm very interested in your response to it."

The Kree warrior sets down his cup and softly clears his throat as he searches memory for the Empire epic known as 'Gardar'. He begins, melodic and male tone very low, but with an intensity his voice did not carry before. "'Have we not the Equation of the Undivine, freeing us to know the only true source worthy of adulation and awe? Science compels, with the sounds of diverse molecules scraping, interacting, transforming; what need have we of lesser interactions?

As Science compels eternally, so Conquest defines us as the final authority, raising us to the pinnacle of godhead through race and ability. Proving our worthiness of the mantle without end, we know war as our cathedral. Wars for territory, wars for commerce, wars to prove the inferiority of all who oppose the Empire. Conflict is sublime, the only artistic form worthy of consideration or tolerance, for each battle invests us with pure distillation of what is best in our race: Honor. Duty. Service. Sacrifice.

We would be no better than the Garden-Makers, but for the ability to look upon their works, then cut them low as scythes to plants. Could we thrive beneath the heel of the Star-Kings? No. Our own divinity was proven and was our salvation, leading to slaughter of the false pretenders and promising their final destruction through our own glorious and bloody evolution.

Compromise not, negotiate only enough to attack by surprise, and in the end claim our prize. Scorn any who speak of peace and weakness as desirable things and cast them from you. They carry the plague of doom and deserve purifying flame. Gaze not within yourself, but to the horizon of the galaxy. There our destiny and our worship await, across a thousand thousand battlefields yet to be christened with lesser blood. Therein lie the only answers, and the deeper faith of Empire.'"


What irony. The Kree being judged by the soul-thief, whose very genetics are the sort of weapon of their ungods, could they only harness her in some fashion. No doubt their scientists would find a way to extract the hideous secrets embedded in the black whispers of her DNA, ere death claimed her, or she devoured them with all the rage of a black-eyed Kali unleashed upon their civilization. And to think, the price of such hubris found in a pacifist, for what lies at the core of the peaceful woman but an abiding fury to defend what is hers? Scarlett tips her head, nodding to the passing server to assure all is well. They know her hee; then again, most of the village does.

Measured words strive to capture the spirit of the notion, even though the poetic treatise is something of a diktat, "Clearly a martial society proud in their strength and achievements in war. I am left in the mind of several other great writers observing the chronicles of war, foremost among them Sun Tzu, the great Chinese philosophers whose treatises upon combat and conflict formed the basis of modern thinking; and then the ancient Spartans, renown even today for their culture. Tyrtaeus, the poet, gives insight."

Drawing breath, she has a task to summon up the snips of poetry from memory. Barnard and Columbia are both rigorous institutions, and this is her art, among others. Her understanding of a dead language comes from the voices of its skalds; things are little different as the bard adopts the strumming pace, elegy for a lost dawn uttered so.

"Let a man learn how to fight by first daring to perform mighty deeds, not where the arrows cannot reach, if he is armed with a shield, but closing in where fighting is hand to hand, inflicting a wound with his longspear or his sword, taking the enemy's rich life. Let him be in the storm, with his foot planted alongside a foot, and his shield pressed against shield, and his crest up against crest, and his helm up against helm, and breast against breast, embroiled in the action. Let him fight man to man, holding secure in his fate, the haft of his sword or his spear!

"'For ye are of the lineage of indomitable Heracles, so be of good cheer; Zeus has not turned his face away. Fear ye not a multitude of men, nor flinch, but every man hold his shield straight towards the van, making life his enemy and the black spirits of death dear as the rays of the sun. You know the destroying deeds of belligerent Ares, and have well learnt the disposition of dolorous War. You have tasted both the fleeing and the pursuit, brothers, and had more than your fill of either. Those who stand shoulder to shoulder go with a will into the melee, and resist the swords of the weak; their valor saves the nation… '"

She pauses, then, and smiles wanly, going for the tea to replenish her thirst. "I ought to know more of the fragment, but that about exhausts my immediate ability to summon it up without reviewing the original text, at least faithfully. Nations that tilt so strongly towards one extreme, like war, or the other, like farming, are swept aside in history. Eventually their brittleness will bring them to their knees and their end, because of the glaring overdependence. This is particularly true of martial lyrics inclined nations. What happens when they reach a bigger power than themselves? Suppose your age-old dominance ends when someone shows up in chariots to your footsoldiers, using the tight formation of long spears that shatters your armies, drops atomic bombs on your battalions? They also rely upon the goodwill and satisfaction of their citizens, and in defeat, that solid platform cannot be trusted to stay compliant and happy. The most martial societies in history tend to be built on slavery and oppression of the broadest classes. Not everyone is a warrior. Makers are needed, artisans and technical sorts. They all need to be fed, clothed, housed, and their industry fed with raw materials.

"A soldier by definition isn't out mining or tending to forests. We cannot make these things happen in a factory even now, and I think it a stretch to believe it will be possible any time soon. So what of your helots, your slaves, and those who supply the lifeblood of the empire? Conquest only goes so far. Lines stretch only so far. Maybe a few generations, but even then, they will be undone by the weight of their inner weakness or shattered from without. I can't name one martial society that's survived more than a millennium, and that is a generous set of parameters. Not even China, Rome or Egypt were purely martial, and they fell or crumbled at their edges and center."


How do you tell someone that, while their logic is sound and the mirror of a few thousand years of their history bears out their position, the Kree have risen to their pinnacle of achievement and technology over half a million years, and have not, so far, encountered any race more advanced to oppose them? No chariots versus their foot soldiers, no atomic weapons against their spears. The Kree have, thus far except for their initial meeting with the Skrulls, held the nuclear weapons agai9nst the muskets of their enemies. The few approximating that sophistication, again like the Skrulls, are bitter enemies, but have also consistently found themselves unable to sustain hostilities against the ways Kree make war. All have fallen, and all will fall. That is the lesson of his history, and he has also seen the ways his people have exploited the infinite starways to ensure resources as nearly unlimited as any other star empire has achieved, the science of ongoing, multi-generational slavery, the system of rule that makes resisting it not only fatal, but squeezes a subject of the Empire who is deemed unmutual to slowly eradicate his or her entire lineage from the Imperial Equation. One of those ways seems perfect to deal with the bothersome Terran question, now that metahumans here have begun to appear with powers sufficient to give any Kree General concern. Just as one could not condone the folly of a child with access and opportunity for using a unibeam blaster, one cannot allow a world as uncivilized and as potentially dangerous as Earth to live. If Mar-Vell had not intentionally downplayed his findings in his official reports, he had no doubt the planet would already be scheduled for demolition. If asked for his professional soldier's opinion, he would suggest a Dark Torpedo of the largest sort be launched at Sol from outside the star's immediate system and let the resulting black hole devour what it may. Based on past use, the device would likely leave only a few of the outerlying planets intact.

With the Skrulls showing such interest in Earth, however, the Kree would not be too hasty to use heavy weapons until they discovered what had captured the attention of their enemy. That might give the humans a chance to surprise and repel the initial assault, and also grant them some time before a proper conquest fleet was dispatched. Still, would the long-term outcome be different?

The only reason the Captain can fathom for hope is in the observation the young human here has so pointedly demonstrated. The human race is fallible, young, reckless, but very much alive. Very much evolving in millions of ways at a time, a testament to trial by fire in pursuit of a better society, a better way, a better human being. That fire, for the Kree, has gone out. They are all they will ever be, even if they manage to overcome a million additional worlds. Inwardly, as a society, they are stagnant.

"Your analysis is quite correct," he proclaims to Scarlett. "Martial society, assured of its infallibility due to a very long history of successful conquest. Confident in its ability and versed with putting down rebellion, or ripe for the decline of its own system?" He swirls the coffee in his cup a bit, and studies the patterns of the tiny, brackish sea. "Time seems the only constant in all the situations presented. Small bits, or eons of it, but it's the only reliable scorekeeper, no?"


Yes, well. Mighty as the Kree are, they probably haven't banked on three factors.

One, an infinity stone on the planet. Possibly several, but very definitely one.

Two, the wielder of that stone.

Three, the Phoenix Force with a particularly strong dislike for anything that eats a sun. Or her planet. Or her host(s).

Have fun, battleships. There may just be a few sleeping dragons who think you taste especially tasty with Skrull ketchup, and absolutely nothing halts them from flapping up from that little speck of rock, third from Sol, to throw a few gouts of fire on the unsuspecting slavers. Half a million years, that's nice. Dear and lovely firebird: Dracarys.

No pretty terror, no hidden nuclear force, just a single girl in a club in New York with a man who knows too much against his harsh task masters. Destiny plays a funny game with its pawns, and the Norns weave the strangest warp out of imperfect cloth that is her. She shakes her head. "I am not perfect. I do not see all ends, I see only the patterns which could emerge and I imagine how things could be. We could set aside all the poetry for a moment and look where we are now. The Soviets and the US, held to the brink, by a set of nuclear missiles and a promise of mutually assured destruction. Cuba showed us that, didn't it? Now here we are, on the threshold, adrift in the unimaginable shifts of a tide. Frightening prospect, unless you turn it on its head and see it for another sign: we are still growing, advancing, and learning. There will be errors, lessons learned along the way, and we spin through how many possibilities before us. The future is not fixed. Nothing says this is going to be the conflict that turns the lights off on Terra, and so long, folks. I cannot believe in the doom mongering some of my compatriots speak to. The reality is a whole lot less impressive. Every day advances slowly. Every day moves along much as it always has, but for the greater patterns. What is immense for you and I, in the scope of the universe's great age, is but a flickering. Put in perspective, either all of us are nothing, dust in the incomprehensible, or we are absolute miracles to reach this far and further still. I side with hope. I am in collusion with possibility and wonder."


ROLL: Rogue +rolls 1d100 for a result of: 29


Rogue has partially disconnected.


Indeed, Mar-Vell knows nothing of the Phoenix Force, nor the Infinity Stones, nor other Aces dealt the Earth-dwellers in the stellar card game of Fate. He does, however, know something of Terran history where the native peoples of the Americas are concerned. They, too, once faced invaders with much more sophisticated weaponry and vastly greater numbers. And though their lifestyles and culture reflected a reverence for nature, a caregiver to the planet and wisdom in stewardship of nature's bounty, the natives were forced from their lands and in some cases slaughtered like animals when they refused to yield to the 'superior' forces and culture of the interlopers. To his credit, the Kree spy determines here and now -not- to see an historical repeat of that progression where humans are the Indians and the Kree are the Europeans. It is a harder road than he could take, but it is also the right one. Maybe he can yet avoid a conflict that would mean very little on the galactic scale to the Empire, and cost this quirky little blue planet dear.

Is he hopeful? That might be asking a bit much of the warrior, one who has already seen his fill of the 'glory' of battle. But he is determined, and that can be a very handy quality when displayed by a warrior of renown who has seen his fill of the 'glory' of battle, but also knows his way around a campaign and methods to decrease casualties. He reaches back into his coat's inner pocket and comes out with a small silver flask which contains Quist brandy, a heady and mellow liquor only available in the Empire if you know someone stationed in or near that star cluster. He watches Scarlett as he unscrews the cap, and pours a thimbleful into his coffee. The cap is its own shot glass-sized container, and so he offers it to his companion, the golden brown drink giving off a smoky and floral aroma that should seem at odds, but somehow comes off inviting.

"Here's to hope. In collusion with possibility, wonder, and a fine libation to make it all seem the more achievable," he holds up his spiked coffee cup. "May our ideas outlive and outlast and outshine any nay-saying…uhm…nay-sayers."


Aces in Fate, plans wrought by the Norns in their domain separate from Midgard, yet attached. All lies upon the great tree, wrought in a vast book, for which none are knowledgeable of its contents save the highest of the high. Does It favour mankind? The decision hardly matters. They who are specks of dust in the vast sweep of creation play their parts as all have, from bacteria to incomprehensible Celestials.

Daughter of a pale blue dot pours more tea for herself. He is many things, this strange fellow she shares a table with, but a philosopher, a scholar, and apparently a military historian along with someone vastly interested in the effects, socially and technologically, of toy submarines. In sum, and interesting dining companion. Her gaze flicks to the brandy and then she inclines her head, then gives a slight nod. Alcohol then lies among her chosen vices. "Thank you. You needn't share, but I do appreciate it. To hope, wonder, and all the fine companions who make life worthwhile." Her smile brightens a few thousand watts at his uncertainty about nay-sayers. "And may we blind and dazzle the opposition, thus enlightening them."

Scarlett, your puns are awful. Truly.


Dr. Lawson drains the cup and belatedly unravels the play on words woven by Scarlett. Luckily, it's after he's downed the enhanced coffee because he snorts, softly. A charming snort, and not a sputter of coffee as it might have been otherwise. "Yes, may they be baffled by our—brilliance." It's not the word choice he's heard bandied about the laboratory, but likely more acceptable outside the work place. "And with that, good lady, I must say my good nights. But thank you, most deeply, for sharing your thoughts and listening with patience and grace to my more pessimistic ones. You are very wise, and as wisdom usually comes too late and after too many years of trial-and-error, to see it in one so young is cause for hope in itself," Dr. Lawson smiles, rising from his seat. "I would stay to take in more of this atmosphere and hear more of the bards and their revels, or reveals, but my day at the rocketry works begins just after sunrise." He pauses a moment to listen to one of the young singer's tunes, the lyrics speaking of a generation burying the dead of the last Conflict to End All Conflicts, and pushing the machinations of war in the grave after them. "We must be about building better, faster and more powerful machines to carry intrepid, and hopeful, explorers into the stellar frontier. Safely there, and back again." He leans down and confides, "And we must also be about making certain that our methods and discoveries are couched in terms and codified briefs which make it difficult for steely-eyed missile men to pervert our science for the delivery of larger and faster nuclear payloads, unsafe at any speed." The Kree spy starts to put down payment for his coffees, considers the novelty of letting the female pay, per the waiter's earlier wink and nudge. He places a few bills on the table to cover the bill and a tip, deciding that a warrior of the Kree should not hesitate to repay enlightening conversation with a Warrior of the Spirit. Differing battles, but equally daunting duties. Dr. Lawson fixes Scarlett with a mischievous gaze and tries, without benefit of the right Terran accent, a bit of Robert Burns. "I for my sake must go! Thee, Hamilton, and Aiken dear, A grateful, warm adieu: I, with a much-indebted tear, Shall still remember you!"

As he exits the club, Mar-Vell feels a certain relief in the bracing New York wind, the mist of winter rain it carries, and the grittiness of the well-worn street outside. It's more what a warrior is used to, while the coffeehouse, though fascinating and enlightening, is unfamiliar territory. And Captain Mar-Vell, though a work in progress as he cited earlier, is still much more at home trying to win a war than plotting to win the peace. Destroying is always a much easier task than building or creating, and the Kree have trained him to be good at it. That only makes it convenient as a retreat, but the Kree spy intends to broaden his horizons even if it's uncomfortable and dangerous. Only water should follow a path of least resistance, never warriors; in that way you only get crooked rivers, not twisted men.

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