Kamala normally wasn't much of fan of Manhattan. Not only was she a Jersey girl born and raised, meaning that there was an element of rivalry with New York stamped on her DNA from the moment she was conceived, but it just didn't really feel much like her kind of place. The people were in far too much of a hurry to get everywhere. Everyone was more likely to shove to get through a crowd than side-step and the whole place seemed a whole lot more grey, miserable and cold than the "Garden State" that she called home. But...that didn't mean she didn't love to visit.
Her school, once again, was taking a field trip out to the city to show off their students' accomplishments in science at one of the many fairs that the city held. She was sitting on a bench outside the museum, staring at a loaded hot dog that was so big; she was trying to imagine how anyone that couldn't polymorph was ever meant to fit it in their mouth.
"Man, those new clean air laws are really starting to make a difference!" Bruno sighed, taking in a big deep breath. "I mean, there was a time I couldn't smell anything but smog, but now? Now I can totally enjoy every bit of this hoagie!"
"The one loaded with bacon?" Kamala muttered. "You know how cruel that is, right? Stupid, delicious smelling haram meat!"
Bruno just winked at her as he took a big bite. She had long ago gotten used to the fact that most of her friends didn't share her cultural background. It was never meant maliciously, she viewed it more no differently than when she ate meat around Zoey, who had become a vegetarian in Grade School, but she really did wish that it didn't smell quite so mouth-watering. Speaking of the devil, Zoey came over with Nakia and Mike, who were all talking about something, gathered around a tablet. Mike sat with Bruno, who slipped his arm around her shoulders.
"How's the falafel?" Kamala asked Zoey, who had her snack held in her mouth, while staring at the tablet, swiping her fingers across it. She just made a little "mmph" sound and stared at Kamala.
"I'll translate." Nakia teased her, looking to Zoey. "Kamala would like you to tell her how the falafel is."
Zoey took the snack out of her mouth, gulping down what was there, before answering.
"Oh, it's not bad." She replied. "It's a little dry...and the bread feels a little stale...and the sauce is too mild...and..."
"And all that is 'not bad'?" Kamala asked her. "Jeez, is there anything you do like about it? Why did you buy it?"
"Oh, there was something she did like." Mike answered. "Namely the girl who was working at the cart."
"Oh, I see!" Kamala giggled. Zoey just blushed a little, while still staring at her tablet.
"So, what are you watching?" Kalama asked her. Zoey didn't answer. Kamala rolled her eyes. "Bruno, would you please?"
Bruno leaned over, plucking one of the ear buds from Zoey's ear. Kamala waved a hand.
"Hi, what are you watching?" Kamala repeated.
"Just the Facts with J Jonah Jameson." Zoey told her. Kamala just sniggered.
"Wait, seriously?" She asked. "You're kidding, right?"
"No, I never miss an episode!" Zoey told her. Kamala took a bite of her hot dog, spilling a bunch of the toppings onto the pavement. She was disappointed, but as the pigeons started to gather, she figured at least they'd be happy.
"Seriously, why would you listen to that garbage?" Kamala asked her. "He just has an aneurism on air about Spider-Man on the daily. It's kind of sad, really."
"That's not all he does." Zoey complained. "I mean, he's been doing some great pieces lately. I'd have thought you'd love them."
"Why would I love an old man losing what few marbles he has over a couple of my favourite super-heroes?" She mumbled through her hotdog. Zoey just smiled.
"Oh, he doesn't hate all of them." She told her. "In fact, lately he's been pretty complimentary about our very own, home grown Avenger."
Kamala just gulped down an uncomfortably large mouthful. The one drawback of the fact not all her friends knew about her true identity was that she couldn't polymorph to make the path of the errant mouthful more comfortable, but she was so shocked, she couldn't help swallowing.
"He's...he's saying good stuff about Ms Marvel?" Kamala shrieked. "Since when?"
"When was the last time you listened?" Zoey asked her.
"You guys didn't tell the superhero freak about this?" Zoey chastised all the others, who all looked a little apologetic. "He's been dedicating a whole segment to her now for months!"
"You're kidding!" Kamala shrieked, scooting over. Zoey removed the headphone cable from her tablet and wound back the podcast, showing Kamala the segment on the show.
"And today on 'The Marvellous Ms Marvel, we take time to show the truest virtues of this latest addition to the Avengers with some heart-warming footage of her helping out around in the community." Jonah said in a surprisingly sweet tone for a man whose default setting for the previous twenty or more years appeared to be 'vein explosion imminent' levels of anger. There was footage of Kamala in Jersey, handling some of the more mundane things that sometimes slipped through the cracks while the world was more concerned about blips in the space/time continuum. "I know that many consider her a fugitive, along with the other Avengers, but you always know that your fearless host, J Jonah Jameson, has always been a big fan of those who go out of their way to help others. I consider Captain Steve Rogers a personal inspiration, and I know they have their hands full, but when was the last time you saw him taking a little time to help some kids get some lemons safely from the trees for their lemonade stalls or even just helping a struggling elderly neighbour home with her groceries?"
Kamala grinned brightly, seeing this report. She'd stopped listening to Jameson long ago. Even when he was still at the Bugle, he was constantly dumping on Spider-Man, a hero she greatly admired and hoped one day to meet. When he announced his retirement a couple of years earlier, she had hoped that the bashing would end, but even leaving the largest media empire on the Eastern Seaboard couldn't keep his Spidey-bashing down for long, and he used some of his retirement funds to set up his web show. She still found it ironic a guy that hated spiders so much set up a 'web' show.
"Now, I will say this, I'm still not thrilled that Ms Marvel continues to wear a mask. But with the good influence of her team mates, I'm sure the day will come she shows the world the wonderful human being she really is." Jameson continued. "But, we see far more of her than we do of a certain Spider. That face, so fresh, it really is inspiring to see the youth of today taking responsibility for the betterment of the world. Her heritage...she stands as an inspiration to our wonderful minority communities and little girls everywhere admire her and for that I applaud her! I don't even hold the fact that she's from Jersey against her! She's done wonderful things in Manhattan! She has shown that inhumans, who have been so maligned as being a threat, are just people trying to make the most of the world we live in, just like you and me! Which is why, Ms Marvel, whoever you are, J Jonah Jameson is giving you his personal seal of approval!"
Kamala squealed excitedly, before looking around her friends. Only Bruno knew her real identity. Mike shoved her playfully.
"It's amazing how quickly your view of him changed now he's saying nice things about your favourite." Mike teased her. Kamala just nodded furiously.
"Uh...yeah, that's...exactly it!" Kamala rushed out. Fortunately, they thought she was just geeking out over hearing nice things about her favourite superhero, not internally losing it over one of the most popular web shows in the state giving her a glowing endorsement.
"And, in honour of our new hero, I'm announcing that I, J Jonah Jameson, am personally funding a parade in her honour right here this weekend!" Jonah announced. "So come on down, and let's all show this amazing young woman that what she does is appreciated! And if the killjoy, liberty-encroaching jackboot thugs of AIM have anything to say about it? I just remind them that the FIRST AMENDMENT STILL EXISTS! And that, ladies and Gentlemen, concludes our nightly homage to the Marvellous Ms Marvel!"
As the segment concluded, Kamala squeed out loud, dancing for joy. The others just stared at her, before laughing.
"Oh, that is just adorable!" Zoey gushed. "Look at her, all happy to hear her favourite getting praised!"
"This is amazing, this is...why did you guys never tell me about this?" Kamala asked them.
"I never did listen to him." Nakia admitted. "He always seemed to be screaming about everything. It got really annoying."
Before they could say anything else though, they heard a tune playing on the tablet.
"Breaking news, The Wrecker and his Wrecking Crew have gone on a rampage in Times Square." An announcer said out loud. "We advise you all to remain calm, and to evacuate the area in..."
Kamala felt a bump on the arm, and her hotdog fell from her grip, splattering all over the ground. She looked around, annoyed, but saw Bruno winking at her.
"Kamala, I'm so sorry!" He rushed out. "I'm such a klutz! Please...let me get you another!"
He offered her a couple of bucks, but she could see him winking at her. He'd done it on purpose to give her an excuse to leave.
"It's...it's fine, I should have kept a better grip on it." Kamala assured him. "Um...I'll go and get it. I'll meet you guys back inside, OK?"
With that, she sprinted away. As she did, Mike leaned over to Zoey.
"So, the girl at the falafel cart...did you get her number?"
Kamala made her way towards Times Square as quickly as she could; zipping up to the rooftops as soon as she found a back street so she wouldn't be seen.
Changing her costume on the move quickly was something she was starting to get pretty good at. It was quite difficult to get changed while running at the same time. For a while she had worn a costume under her own clothes, but she did find it getting rather uncomfortably warm, especially in the hotter months and climates. She'd tried a few different ideas, Tony had even suggested giving her armour like his own, but was stuck on how to make one that would accommodate her powers.
Nat had suggested an image inducer to allow her to wear her costume all the time and just appear to be wearing casual clothing, but that didn't sound too appealing either. In the end, Hank had been the one to find an answer she could live with, giving her a device that used Pym Particles to shrink her costume down to a size that allowed her to fit the whole thing under her bracelet. She just had to click a button to grow it to full size, and once she was done, double-click to shrink it back again. By the time she could hear the sounds of battle, she was just pulling on her mask.
"Alright, Kamala, it's going to be fine." She said reassuringly to herself. "The others have probably already heard about this and are no doubt on the way. You just need to hold fast for a little..."
She got to the ground, landing in the street, just in time to hear a loud scream. She ducked aside as a blonde guy that looked like he was almost as big as Big Green came flying through the air, colliding head-first with a wall, before falling to the ground, unmoving.
"...while?" She said. A device hit him, before exploding, oozing a sticky goo over him, which quickly hardened, pinning his unconscious body to the concrete. She went close to him, inspecting him, seeing him completely out of it. She touched the webbing, tugging at it cautiously, making sure it would hold.
"Piledriver?" She gulped. She looked around, seeing a man that had to be about eight feet tall, and weigh around 700 or more pounds suspended over the ground, stuck to a wall upside down. He was wearing a thick metal helmet. Just underneath him, a guy of similar size was lying underneath a wrecking ball, also stuck to the ground. "Bulldozer? Thunderball?"
She snapped her head around as she heard a crash, seeing a man being driven through a brick wall, scattering debris into the street. He was wearing a green jumpsuit and a purple mask, and was as big as the rest of his crew. His bowling-ball sized fist was clutched around a crowbar of immense size. He was breathing hard, and blood dripped from his mouth as he struggled back to his knees.
"You're gonna get yours, web-slinger!" He panted. "I'm gonna wreck you if it's the last thing I..."
A line of webbing shot out, snatching the crowbar from his hand. Kamala looked up in awe, seeing him crouched in the hole that Wrecker had just crashed through. There he was, the man on the cover of hundreds of comics all over her bedroom, the man that she had at least three sets of bedding dedicated to. The web-slinger himself, Spider-Man!
She was frozen to the spot, her brain hitting a dreaded Blue Screen of Doom as he flipped down from the building. Using his webbing, he swung The Wrecker's own crowbar around, whipping it through the air in a figure-eight before launching it out, where it collided with his skull with a metallic clang. Again and again, he brought The Wrecker's own weapon into his own face until he was close enough to leap up, smashing both knees into his chin.
The Wrecker pitched backwards, but seemingly without thought, Spider-Man kept close, manoeuvring in mid-air to plant both feet in his face. Two webs came from his hands into the ground, anchoring him so he could pull down with even more force. By the time The Wrecker's skull hit the concrete, Spidey's feet on his face drove downward, smashing it into the tarmac. He somersaulted away, before turning around, dumping a bunch of webbing over him, sticking him to the ground in a rather futile gesture since The Wrecker was already clearly unconscious.
"Yeah, everyone should have a dream, chuckles." Spider-Man said wearily. He turned to see Kamala staring at him. "Oh, hey, you're that new kid from Jersey, right?"
Kamala had rehearsed this moment in the mirror so many times throughout her life, but now she was face-to-face, all that came out was an unintelligible babble of nonsense, and she was sure, an embarrassing amount of drool. Spider-Man's head jerked up as he heard sirens.
"Uh...that's my cue." He told her. "Stay articulate, kid!"
With that, he sent out a web and swung away. Kamala was still rooted to the spot by the time the cops came pouring into the street with a full riot crew, and a bunch of media. They looked around, sweeping the area with their weapons, but quickly coming to the conclusion that the situation was safe.
"Alright, call the RAFT's collection unit." One of them said, before seeing her. "Hey, Ms Marvel! Look, everyone, it's Ms Marvel!"
"Uh..." Was the most intellectual response that Kamala could muster. Her brain was still trying to reboot after seeing one of her idols up close for the first time. A camera crew started barging through.
"Out of the way! Make way for the press! Don't you know who I am?" A gruff, familiar voice rattled off. Kamala saw his face, the distinctive nailbrush moustache and flat-top hair that by now was almost completely gray. Jonah looked at the scene before him and his face lit up. "Ms...Ms Marvel! It's Ms Marvel!"
"Uh...hi?" She offered. Jonah swung around on his camera man.
"Start rolling!" He ordered him. "Ladies and Gentlemen, risking life and limb your favourite journalist, J Jonah Jameson is right here, where the incomparable, the amazing, the stupendous Ms Marvel just moments ago saved the entire city from The Wrecker and his Wrecking Crew!"
"Wait, what?" She asked.
"We arrived just moments ago, finding all four of them contained and unconscious and awaiting recapture by the RAFT's collection team as we speak!" Jonah continued. "How many lives have been saved today by this amazing hero? How many of us owe their lives to Ms Marvel?"
"Wait, you just..." She stammered. "...I didn't do anything!"
"And do you hear that? So MODEST!" Jonah gushed. "Ladies and Gentlemen, let's hear it for Ms Marvel!"
She tried to explain, but before she could say or do anything a couple of cops had already hoist her on their shoulders and were parading her around as the crowd all started chanting.
"Ms Marvel! Ms Marvel! Ms Marvel!"
"Guys, seriously, I didn't do anything!" She protested weakly. "You...you do see the webbing, right?"
But none of it mattered. Being swept up in the moment, she was being bobbed up and down on the shoulders of the cops, jubilantly parading her around while the audience chanted. All the cameras were trained on her. A smile crept across Kamala's face. She knew that being a hero wasn't about credit. It wasn't about cheers or even thank yous. But right now, as the first responders broke out into a standing ovation, she had to admit. This...this felt good!