Sunday, August 19, 2001

Doctor Strange #2 - The Matrix Grimore


"No!" He shouted, the images fading from his mind's eye, much like a sunspot when someone closes their eyes tightly, watching the blotch of color disappear. "Damn you, no!"

Rallying against the skies seemed to be of little avail when concerning the man's plights. Many they were, in fact, the guilt laid heavily on his shoulders made his once prominent stature look sullen and weak under the weight of it all. His screams did nothing to lessen the burden he carried.

His fingers stretched themselves out frantically, calling on the reserves of powers his position had once allowed him.

His former position.

"You failed, Stephan." An ancient voice boomed from beyond the veil of reality. "I'm sorry to do this, but I must."

Stephan Strange's mind was suddenly ripped asunder, ancient hands massaging the nerve clusters and tearing the mystical chords connecting Strange to his oft-amazing powers. Each synapses that was cut sent a shock of eldritch based pain throughout Stephen's system. The metaphysical ramifications of the immediate meant little to Dr. Strange as more and more pain racked his body.

"Your gambit cost us all dearly. The Xenotech now walk among us, along the Paths they were never meant to. Practicing Arts was meant for mortals of blood alone, not the mockery of veins within their bodies. Another has already been chosen, Strange. Your time is finished," the same voice said, chilling Stephan to his core yet again. "I'm sorry," was the final comment, the presence vanishing.

"Master..." Stephan Strange wept as he once more attempted to harness a small measure of his former might.

Failing, all that Strange could do was to sink to his knees and cry like a small babe.


WRITTEN BY: Alex 'BioHaz' Cook




A babe in the woods, that's what the assembled were like; all fledglings taking their first steps along the path laid out at their feet.

What a wondrous path it was, doors to other realities opening each day as they gained more control of their suddenly appearing abilities.

"They failed." A voice from no where said to no one, nothing revealing who the speaker was or whom the target might be. The assembly of metallic shapes simply stood there in silence, listening to the words of their council.

"Yes, they did." Another answered, "The contact is still viable, however. The next phase is in motion."

The first voice sighed, saying simply, "See her dead."



"Dead?" Stephan asked, a single tear rolling past his cheek bone. A man such as him didn't cry, not without extreme provocation.

Rintrah nodded slowly, holding the torn form of Topaz in his arms. "As is Clea."

Stephan stopped short, caught off-guard by the additional name to the tally of the deceased.

"No." Strange said softly, looking up at his towering pupil.

"Yes", the green minotaur said, "You have failed us all."



All the tomes of knowledge scattered around her said the same exact thing, each page mimicking the others.


They all said nothing. The inscription Ananym searched for, the ritual or Gods it might be attached to, anything from the scene of yesterday's atrocity that she looked for turned up as nothing.

Frustrated, the mage sighed and rubbed her temples slowly, longing for the black bodysuit she used in her more battle-oriented situations. The Sorcerer Supreme sat in her study, her only friend in the hollow building was the window looking out onto New York, crisscrossed by lines of varying widths. She sat there, sans any of the garb she would have worn to show off her station. It was late, and she had little to interest her but her mystical duty, a glass of Merlot in her hand joining her as she again scanned the open tomes and grimores for any smidgeon of information.

Her silk pajamas, soft pink stripes on the white fabric, bunched up along her midsection as she stretched, the hours finally taking their toll on Ananym's hunched-over body. A yawn escaped her as easily as a spell would, a hand covering her mouth as the mage's eyes crinkled a little.

Ananym glanced around the study, taking in the surroundings, noting books and furniture that were originally not hers. Belonging to the last person to bear the mantle Ananym now did, she had inherited it all once Stephan had disappeared. It was almost as if the house was a node of power itself, coming with the title.

Ananym had to smile a little each time she thought of that.

Ananym Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth.

She had taken his name as well as his home. It fitted her, however, as she had not had a family surname of her own until then. Amnesia still obfuscated portions of her earlier life, a frustrating fact to be sure.

Ananym did remember her days within the Canadian government well, however. Department H's halls smelled antiseptic; no matter what part of her history there she thought of, that one smell assaulted her senses.

Gamma Flight was banded together due to Alpha Flight's forced absence at the hands of the Sorcerer, a constant thorn in the Flight's side. Once Alpha returned to Department H's nest, Gamma Flight still remained, the favored of the two teams at this time. A short-lived favoritism, as the political football the two teams became caused Ananym to grimace at the memories. There was good and bad tinted within those years, fighting along side the likes of Nemesis and Wild Child, against the icon Vindicator himself. The reasons were different each time, as was the outcome, but for a while it was always the same players, just revolving sides.

The Infinity Crusade, a top-level engagement secreted away within the file cabinets of Department H, changed her view on everything. Not the event itself, no, she played no part in that grand tale. The Crusade, and Alpha Flight's involvement in it, was the start of her change or perception. Stepping up into the echelons of leadership, Ananym attempted to hold the reigns of Beta Flight then, the training team working under Alpha Flight.

This was when Ananym found out about her true origins, not the doctored version department H had believed since her appearance at their doorsteps. Brimstone and fire, those were the smells she recalled as she traversed this memory. The Merlot slid past her lips as the crimson reminded her of the hair of her benefactor, the purveyor of the bit of knowledge that would change her life.

Ananym's father, one demonic overlord Belasco, location Limbo.

Plans were put into motion, Ananym nothing but a pawn for dear old Dad. Belasco's words had awoken something inside Ananym that she has fought back down everyday since. A demonic fragment of her soul she had buried, long ago, even before she screamed her birth cries onto this world. The demon sire, the one who abandoned her to the hands of humans ages ago, pushed this aspect of her onto Ananym, the girl losing herself in the surge of power she felt.

Almost coming down from a drunken high, Ananym saw the outcome of her father's conquest. Her own hand changed the Department she had called home. Members of the Flights' many teams, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, stood around her, some a mere breath from stopping her own. She recalled nothing of her past few days, no recollection of the damage she had wrought on those she had called family.

Discovering the facts, and her inability to remember them, proved too much for the young woman.

Ananym left then, unable to deal with that single fact that she didn't know enough about herself. The questions she held within her heart spurned her to make her move to independence.

Her mother's identity was still a mystery, probably a nameless wench Belasco relieved himself on one evening. It was the one thing that bothered her the most about her lack of memories. Ananym didn't know whether she smiled like her mother, or her father .

Again, Ananym sighed, looking around the chamber yet again. It was a habit, taking in the surroundings as if they would all be taken away from her someday. Perhaps they would, for within her heart she knew she was only half the icon the man before her was.

Even the great must fall, Ananym had learned, at this time only vaguely aware of the true mystical circles her powers came from. It was a time of great changes for every living species on Earth. The day the Xenotechs, the Transformers, came to Earth was the day Stephan Strange Fell from Grace.



"Grace of the Gods be with us." Clea said, softly. Stephan heard her words, but paid them little heed.

The spacecraft, for that was the only word that could used to describe it, sat against the side of the long dead volcano, its caverns providing the perfect place to hide such a monstrous construction. The arrival of the ship loosened its rocks however, as the earthquake its landing ignited caused much more than physical damage.

Rintiath pointed his hand upwards, looking into the skies black skies. "Look."

Strange raised his eyes as well, already knowing what they would see. "It's free."

Topaz's hand reached her mouth, watching the black shape as well, seeing it with her magickal perceptions more then her actual five senses.

"The Beast is free." Dr. Strange whispered, watching it blink out of this realm of perception slowly.



"Slowly this has become a war of attrition, Stephan." Rinitaith answered, rising to his mentors challenge as the past month and a half weighed down on him heavily. "We are not winning."

Stephen's eyes glared back at his student. "We will do what we must, Rinitath. We must stop this."

The minotaurs horns raised further, looking back at his mentor. "No, you have to stop this. This is your war, Master. We will stand beside you till our death, but much farther and our death will be caused by your actions, not the Beasts'!"

Strange's nostrils widened at the veiled insult. Many had died in the past month, towns and cities laid siege by Strange and his hunting party. Stephan focused on nothing but finding the Beast and binding it again, halting the rampage it had started among the Magickal College they all four hailed from. He was making bad judgement calls, and he even knew it. Part of his oath as a Doctor was to admit defeat when he couldn't do something, but Strange found himself unable to do that in this instance.

Strange was the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, and this threat was his, and solely his to deal with.

Too bad the doctor had no medicine to prescribe to this plague, out of ideas and slowly loosing the little bits of sanity left to him after these tortuous six weeks.

"You three will act as a distraction. Infuriate and harass the Beast as much as you can once it's taken physical form. You'll only have a short time before its full potential is manifested as well, so act quickly. Once the initial casting takes hold, I will end this. Tonight."



Tonight was the night of memories it seemed, as Ananym again found her self lost in her personal musings.

Strange not only fought a tiresome three months long battle with the Beast, where many of the magicians known throughout the world fell victim to the Beasts serial-like spree, but it seemed to feed on the essence of those it murdered, each time laughing as Strange attempted to stop it.

Strange lost Topaz and Clea sometime into the second month. The exact date was unknown, as the only living member of the three who once called Stephan a friend silenced himself from speaking of Strange's Fall. A personal vow, Rinitiath had held it to this day . Ananym couldn't blame him, with what facts she knew of the events.

Stephan hadn't been able to bind the Beast like he thought he could. It had grown too strong, ingesting too many psyches on its romp through the magickal community. Strange was unaware of its power, too late to help Rinitath and Topaz attempt to stop the Beast from feeding on Clea's powers.

Strange was nothing but late.



"Too late, Strange." the voice said, Rinitath spinning almost fast enough to drop Topaz's dead body from his hands. Dr. Strange broke down inside, feeling the words more than hearing them, same as the minotaur.

Clea was dead. Her body was nowhere to be found, Strange helpless yet again as the Beast stole another from him. He had meant to perform the spell in secret, catching the Beast off-guard, hoping to distract him enough for the bindings to hold.

The tendrils of energy were meaningless, talons and blades shredding their material as if it were paper, which it was for all their worth.

The defenses erected against the Beast equally pitiful, Rinitiath heavily damaged, his own natural fortitude the only reason he now stood, blaming Strange for the blood on his green hands.

"You caused this Strange." Rinitath said icily as he took a few steps backward. "You, alone, brought this down on us all."

Stephan Strange's psyche cracked a little at that admonishment, losing a little more of himself. His student's earlier comment about a war of attrition was right, as Strange felt himself dying inside, unable to continue to fight.

He'd forgotten the names of the people who'd died, the souls he was fighting for. Strange forgot his original reason for wanting to take the Beast down, its powers and his duty inscribed in tomes old even to Stephen's Master, the Ancient One. All of those facts washed away as the pillars of his life crumbled before him.

Now the battle had become very, very personal.



"Personal were expendable." An even voice said, an amalgamation of various voices, human and not, masking the identity of its speaker. "The goal was still reached, with acceptable losses."

"Acceptable to you, perhaps." Someone from the group of sentinels challenged, unmoving mouths screaming in response. "She was not to have been brought into the event chain at this time."

"Relax. All is accounted for, and your precious Plan is still taking effect. Have patience, it will all work out."

"Do not ask us for patience, earthling. We have none. Nor mercy."

The call was cancelled before the other end could reply.



Magicks were cancelled out by each other, spells colliding, each fracturing under the pressure of the other.

"No boasts this time, Beast?" Strange called, his two outer digits stretched out as the twin inner digits curled in, ancient powers collecting around the odd finger formation.

Another blast of eldritch energy ripped across the Great Canyon, an odd place for the Beast to manifest, but the place he did appear none the less. Picturesque and magnificent, its beauty was nearly destroyed by the battle the two opposites of the spectrum waged .

"No jabs to goad me on? nothing?" Strange pressed on, tapping further into the reserves he'd found recently.

His Master's whispered words, told through his dreams, warned him of the moves he now made. The Ancient One., veneered master, was scared of the power his pupil now wielded, arcane and dark magicks none had tampered with since the end of the second age. Strange reconciled it as a means to an end, mainly the binding and possible destruction of the damnable concept that was the Beast. Not a corporeal form, nor a spirit, what the Beast was was unknown, as was how to kill it.

Strange prayed he'd brought enough firepower to blast the demonic bastard to ashes. The Ancient One's warnings did nothing in the way of detracting the doctor from hsi goal, they only spurred him on.

If the Ancient One was this scared, then so should be the Beast.

Another fireball of energy sailed toward Strange, who easily dismissed it as he too launched another attack. Attrition was what the Beast had wanted, and Strange had found that to be the key to winning this battle. Forcing it down further and further, Strange battled with metaphysical concepts that ripped away at the essence that made up the Beast, destroying it piece by piece.

"This is over now." Strange said, bringing both arms inward as palms touched each another softly. Energy circled the mage, oscillating in strength at the center of Strange's hands. "Now, you die!!"

Strange would later look back on that day and realize how wrong he was. Not in the respect one might think, however. Strange was right about the power to bind and possibly destroy the Beast, the manifestation of evil quaking under the mammoth assault the Sorcerer Supreme unleashed then. Stephan did end their battle then, winning the war that had cost so many lives in such a short time. A three month long skirmish that had left Strange a defeated and battered man, even in the wake of the Beast's confinement from this reality. While he had won, he had never lost so much before in his life.

No, these things he was all right about. What he was wrong about was what his Masters warnings, what his dreams meant.

Fists clenched together, Strange swung his fists upwards in an arc as if he held a broadsword of immense proportions. The Beast's head snapped back, amorphous shape severed as ragged ends fluttered out as if it were blood, staining the walls. Recoiling, a tendril snapped out towards Stephen, who jumped quickly, twin disks of solid light forming at his feet as he stepped in the air as if it were ground itself. Again, he brought his combined hands downward, hard, slicing more away from the Beasts shape. Releasing his grip, Dr. Strange sunk a fist deep into the things shivering form, ripping out organs as his other fist dug deep inside and followed suit.

"Damn you." Stephen said, with finality, punching each hand into the horrors chest cavity, black flesh wrapping around his wrists. Strange's eyes seemed to glow, an iris of flame birthing from his pupils as his fists erupted in flame from within the Beast .

The Grand Canyon witnessed an explosion of proportions few would come to realize for weeks afterwards. Slowly, the effects would be seen, but not at first. The cause would elude many, but not a select few. The day Strange halted his greatest foe was the same day he damned the rest of the practitioners of the Art.



The light from within the Grand Canyon that night was seen for miles around. Ananym herself had seen it, in Nevada, outside Vegas by about a hundred miles plus.

She halted herself then, not thinking of why she was there. Her time after leaving Department H had had some interesting side effects, her finger feeling the edge of the metallic flame shape affixed over her left eye. Her red tresses of hair showed on the surface, elongated by her cheek bone and the cuts of the flame design.

Ananym stood up, pulling herself from her thoughts. That day had many repercussions, both global and personal.

Unknown at the time, there was some sort of pool of energy hidden behind the Grand Canyons rock face. The cracks in the surface, caused due to Strange's magicks, unleashed some of this pool, a type of enery not used on Earth in millions of years.

The Transformers called it Energon, Ananym later discovered. Finding out what happened that day was after all a large part of her job as Sorcerer Supreme, and the reason Strange was removed of the title.

That day, the magicks in the air mingled with the Energon, the cataclysm the large explosion which bound the Beast to its original prison, broken by the Transformers resurgence months previous. The end result was a change within the very fabric of magick itself.

To this day, it is unclear how magick, the concept, was altered in such a manner, but the facts remained none the less. Transformers slowly began to display magickal abilities. Sects of Decepticon's communed with demons, while others walked the paths of the White Collages. The Xenotechs were raping natures gift to humanity's innate need, accessing the power of magick never meant for them.

Stephan Strange damned every practitioner of magick that day, the powers they held defiled as more and more technological routes and spells were woven into magicks substance.


The sentinels sat, four steely forms, robotic in appearance, each at a point off a dark pentagram inscribed against a white floor. The top point remained empty, as each of the four chanted in a electronically created symphony of sound.

"The Resurrection is at hand." An icy voice said, white feathers dropping to the floor with a clank, the metal making up the shape appearing soft and delicate but proving to be anything but. "The Prophecy will be fulfilled."


NEXT ISSUE: A TON of exposition this issue, leading to some actual action next issue. Learn about some of the other changes Ananym has gone through, while a local Goth Club garners some new attention.



What a productive day for me. Two issues, one day. While this is a bit larger then the last issue, a bunch of ground work was needed before more of the story could continue. I promise to do better next issue. It was this, or footnotes. SOPHISM taught me the lesson there.

Where are we now? The reasons behind Ananym's accession to Supreme status are known, as well as the current state of the magickal circles. The fact Transformers have now accessed magick is also something shared above. Strange's Fall From Grace as well, a corner stone of the setup here. Finally, a group of Transformers are shown throughout, moving their machinations a little bit further. However, where does all that leave us, really?

That is for you to figure out.


Doctor Strange #1 - The Matrix Grimore

The hulking shapes stood in the sewers, crouched beneath the ceiling and the man-made pillars that confined their stature, the structures never having been designed for beings such as these. The water, traversing the steely streams of the pipe network, dripped at places, small puddles reflecting the light from the burning candles much like the surface of their skin did, chrome magnificence refracting in a chaotic spectrum at the move of even the smallest digit. Metal clanked and echoed as feet moved around the brick cavern, almost obscuring the soft sobs adjoining the orchestra already created by the movements of the constructs.


Counting three, maybe four induviduals besides the crying child, a sixth had entered the maze of tunnels that made up the sewers. Their robots were not only heard, but also observed through the light shimmering from a golden disc, fashioned in the shape of an eye, displaying the scene on the surface of the water for its owner to behold, hundreds of yards away. The ends of a red cape splashed against the edges of the images the Eye showed on the rippling surface. The rippling array sent chills down the spine of the bearer of the artifact.

A metal wrapped digit, bendable at the gear-made knuckles, converted itself within the blink of an eye, unmasking a scalpel of severe proportions.

A crying child's tears mingled with the puddles of water, lining the floor.

An electric spark heated the edge of the blade until it glowed red as it sunk closer to the trembling, pink flesh.

A stifled scream, mouth being halted by a steel palm, signalled contact between surgical instrument and skin.

Red drops fell from the sides of the table the girl was strapped onto, mingling with the tears and water collecting on the concrete surface that made up the ground.

Cries of pain were joined by electronic chanting, the two cresting into a symphony of pain as intestines were emptied onto the alter.

With a wave of a hand, gloved from the fingertips to the shoulders in a black fabric, The Eye spun at an unbelievable revolution, the picture show it once had cast from its pupil disappearing as a click was heard in the stagnant air. Fingers seemed to move to the collar of the cape, making sure a golden neckpiece that wasn't there the moment before was securely attached. Thumb and forefinger pulled a red hood forward, head turning to show the intricate yellow and black design interwoven along the cusp of the cloak wrapped around the retreating body, ducking a low pipe as they traveled further into the sewers.

More images assaulted the infiltrators mind, slowly, new ones as each foot took a new step forward.

Memories of the past, before the Cataclysm. Memories of the friends, the enemies, the lovers, all the people in the life before this. The battles, mighty and great, awash in the sea of red created by the losses. Then the Cataclysm itself, and the appearance of Earth's newest inhabitants. A chronological list of events, each event playing itself out after the other. All key parts of the bearers life, leading up to this day.

The infection now needed exercising from humanities body.

The sobs grew louder, toward the left, as the form clad in black and red form, with blue highlights seen here and there, darted from shadow to shadow as the tunnels swerved.

Espionage was all smoke and mirrors, the same as the school they had graduated from. A college of the elite, few could say they have walked the same hallowed halls. Built on illusion, mystery, and faith, they were the magi and witches of old, the sorcerers and mystics of new. The College of Magick opened it's doors to only a select few. At least, until recently, it used to be selective entrance process. Now, abominations walked the same pathways as they did.

Radio transmissions created a resonance in the air as they passed overhead but not unheard, mystical bindings tuning to the frequencies as the message was unencrypted through arcane means.

"Central, scanners have something."

A grin painted the sorcerers face, ducking a little to listen in on the targets.

"Explain something." Was the curt reply, the voice hollow and manufactured.

A click, what passed for electronical swallowing, was heard. "Movement in sector 3, somewhere above us."

"That is too close. Do your job and find out what the Unicron is up there."

The smile increased as plans were made. Incantations were cast, spells of a defensive and offensive nature primed and ready to launch. Moving the shrouded head to each side, a crackle of joints could be heard as the mage physically prepared themselves as well as mentally. Not a hint of trepidation could be found in their mannerism, nothing denoting the possibility of fear at the coming sentry.

No, only joy could be seen within the stance the magus took, hands raised as psychic feelers warned of the approaching creature.

Brick and mortar rained down as six feet and seven inches of a metal alloy not produced on Earth hammered its way through the opposite wall. Inhibiting humanoid shapes and features, it was everything but blood and flesh. Made of wires and metals, the living machine standing admist the rubble of its entry twisted its arm at impossible angels, the forearm portion of it transforming into a fierce looking bladed weapon. Adjoined to its elbow, the serrated edge extended sixteen inches past the point its fingers would have.

The Mystic's plans for hand to hand combat changed slightly as the robots scanners began searching the sewer junction point.

"Over here." A voice challenged, black gloved fist forming around air that seemed to ripple, solidifying into a glowing staff of light, a circular blade attached to the end. Energy seemed to spark around the edges of its shape, glowing slightly within the darkness of the sudden subterranean battlefield. Even with the additional light, the hood obfuscated the challengers face, although a slight metallic sheen could be noticed from underneath its dark mask.

"Central, we have intruders." The mechinoids hailed, moving at the same time. The mortal below him darted as well, blade raising to match his as a shower of sparks, both mystical and electrical rained to the ground. Feinting left, then spinning right, the machine screamed as the metal casing of his shin exploded once the magi's edge found purchase.

"Deal with it!" a disembodied voice answered, emitted from the speakers attached to the constructs head.

"He's trying to." The sorcerer answered, golden blade again connecting with metal as another scream echoed the sewer tunnels. "Failing, though."

The staff twisted a hundred and eighty degrees, now raised above the mystics head. With a smile seen on the bottom half of a chin, which was all that could be seen due to the lights location, the pike came down fast, wiring and metal bursting outward as the blade sunk through any hindrance until it found purchase in the concrete beneath.

Footsteps padded through the waters tinted by oil and alien fluids, the implement of the mechas death vanishing with a wave of the mage's hand. Deeper down the rabbit whole now, again keeping to the dark heaven that was the shadows. Stairs were easily found, footsteps lightly connecting with the metal planes of support.

"Unit 04?" the same disembodied voice asked, silence his only answer as the infiltrator came closer and closer to the child and her tormentors. "04?"

Seeking to make the proper entrance, the mage let the mechinoids she now heard rather than felt call out to their fallen comrade a little longer. Fingers twisted in the air, energy trailing after them as mystical symbols burned to ashes. Levitating, a smirk pasted itself on the hidden face, red clock billowing slightly slong the edges against some magickally created wind.

"Damn it, 04, answer me!?"

"He won't be able to." An equally disembodied voice said from the corners of the room, red tendrils of cloth all that could be seen snaking out from the blackness the remaining targets were found within.

An ebony leg stepped outwards from the black, lighting against the floor softly as another followed it. A torso followed, a blue tunic with an almost V like shape embroidered across the front. Form-fitting and tight, the garment displayed the bearers ample chest nicely, a slight cut at the neck line hinting at cleavage to be found beneath. Cut short at the shoulders, the black bodysuit continued, the only skin seen the aforementioned chest and neck area. Fingers were wrapped in the same black material as her other appendages, although a collection of metal encircled her right wrist. Made of nodes of light, small circles of dials, it was an odd piece of jewelry that almost seemed to sink past the black substance making up her bodysuit. The red clock around her, hooded with an odd shoulder piece that was trimmed with the same yellow design lining the rest of the cape that scrapped against the floor she levitated upon. Her hands rose to her shrouded face, pulling the hood back, the darkness her face had been hidden in disappearing. Red locks freed themselves from the cloths confines, a strand of crimson falling over the woman's left eye as well.

It was her eyes that were the most striking, beautiful and scarred. One eye-ridge was covered the same metal as the piece of jewelry along her wrist, in the shape of a flame, appearing to burst forth from her left pupil. Gleaming, reflecting the candles as well as the magicks collecting around her balled fist, those eyes were nothing but deadly.

"Neither will you." She challenged, her form displayed and her powers ready. The energies she called on that day were great, powers ancient and long forgotten, duelling with constructs of the future. The Past waged War against the Future as the soul of a child seeped out of her body more and more with each passing second.

The child, a girl of no more then thirteen, would remember the fierce fray, the colors of power that were sent after each side; lasers against spells, blasters against fireballs. Three to one, and the child didn't know which side was winning. All she could concentrate on was the growing point of light, just beyond her field of comprehension. The girl knew there was someone there, fighting for her survival, fighting desperatly it seemed at moments, but all she wanted to do was to let go and make the pain leave her. Leave her forever.

"Mama..." her weakened voice asked, the red haired woman from within the circle of white light almost calling to her.

"Not this day child." Her vision cleared as a calming hand laid itself against her sweat soaked forehead. Slowly, consciousness came back to the child, as her eyes looked down and saw the horror the demonic machines had visited on her. "My name is Ananym. I'm here to help young one."

"no.. oh gawd..." she weeped suddenly, startling her savior who retracted her hand thinking she had caused the child's torment. Looking down, the mage saw what the child cried for, her lower abdomen slashed as her blood flowed out into grooved etched along the tables surface. Taking a step back, she glanced at the grooves design, looking closely at the picture they created. The child had seen it too, horror movies chilling her as her mind reconciled that some of that terror was very real.

A pentagram, now red with the girls blood, pulsed beneath the child's thrashing body.

Steeling herself, Ananym Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, stepped forward again, wrapping the child in her arms as her voice chanted the transportation spell she desired. Her red clock whipped in the maelstrom it created, Ananym looked back before leaving the sewers she had fought so valiantly inside of.

Three Robotic bodies, laid strung out in pieces on the floor, devoid of sparks. She didn't even know their names, and she'd bet they didn't know the name of the child they were attempting to sacrifice on that alter of theirs either.

'How very', Ananym thought as she jumped into the portal, 'interesting. The events have begun.'


WRITTEN BY: Alex 'BioHaz' Cook


NEXT ISSUE: Ananym Strange? Wait... where's Stephan? And hold up, weren't those Transformers sacrificing that kid? Wait a minute... Ananym Strange? Find out more next issue.



So what the hell is this? Simple. It's me being a fan-boy. Yep, that's really all there is to it.

I'm writing Transformers. It's kinda cool actually.

Wait, Alex, you're writing Dr. Strange, not Transformers, and NOT even Dr. Strange!!

*smirk* am I?

What I am writing is magick in a fic universe dominated by science. Stay tuned for more, as more questions are answered and asked. This will be a twisted ride, but it will breath magick into the Marvel Transformed world.


Friday, August 10, 2001

Fantastic Four #1 - Strangers in the Night



By Chris McFeely

Adjusting his spectacles, the man reached forward and tapped several more keys on the computer keyboard in front of him. The emblem of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate, flashed up on the screen in front of him, the likeness of an eagle surrounding a spherical representation of the American flag, along with the message "Access Denied". The man sighed, removed his spectacles, and rubbed his tired eyes. He yawned. One more try, then he was going home.

After replacing his spectacles, the man paused to think for a moment. He pursed his lips and extended a hand over the keyboard, striking his chosen keys quickly and accurately. His little finger extended and hit the 'Enter' key. Again, the image of the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo appeared on his screen, and he sighed, and reached for the mouse to shut down the unrelenting machine. Then, suddenly, a second or so later, the emblem vanished, and he was greeted with the sight of a message box reading "Access Granted: Press Enter to Continue". The bespectacled man gave a sigh of relief and leaned back in his chair. Reaching forward, he casually struck the 'Enter' key again. After a brief pause, the screen flashed once, and reams of information exposed themselves to eyes that already knew every single bit of the data there, and more. The man smiled, and began to proceed with his task.


"Ah, cripes!" Benjamin J. Grimm exclaimed. Ben, the rock-skinned member of the Fantastic Four known as the Thing, was presently standing in front of the oven, in the kitchen area of the Fab Four's secondary residence, Pier Four, wearing a chef's hat and the apron that Sue always made him wear when he cooked.

"What's wrong, Unca Ben?" inquired Franklin Richards, son of Sue and Reed, as he walked over to Ben, his godfather, clutching his favourite toy, his blue ball. He barely even reached the height of Ben's knee.

"Breakfast just went down the drain, short-stuff," Ben replied, poking the burnt yellowish mass that lay in the frying pan on top of the cooker in front of him with a spatula he held in his right hand. "Mama Grimm's blue-eyed baby boy's extra-special Clobberin' Time cheese omelette - patent pendin', kiddo - is now tomorrow'ss garbage." He picked up the frying and stomped on the pedal of the trash can beside him. The lid promptly snapped up, broke off its hinge and sailed through the air, shattering a window and landing with a splash in the Hudson River. Franklin watched with great amusement.

"Not again, Ben...," came the voice of Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman, as she walked into the room, alerted by the sound of breaking glass. She was wearing a purple suit jacket.

"Sorry, Suzie," Ben said, with an apologetic grin on his face, as he scraped the over-cooked jaundice-coloured blob into the trash can. "Just don't know my own stren'th."

Carefully, Sue put her head through the large hole in the broken window. She sighed, a mixture of exasperation at the broken window, and at the numerous wolf-whistles directed at her from the dock workers below. Drawing her head back inside, she turned back to Ben.

"Sure hope Reed gets done with his experiments soon," Ben said, tossing the frying pan and spatula into the sink and removing his hat. "I'm gonna go stir-crazy in this tiny li'l place! You got any idea what he's workin' on, Suzie?"

"I honestly don't know, Ben," Sue replied. "But is must be something big if we all had to leave Four Freedoms Plaza." "Think it's got anything to do wit' that Deathlok character we had that run-in with?" Ben asked, struggling to untie the cord of the apron bound around his waist. He muttered curses and something about having only three fingers.

"Could be," Sue answered, moving behind Ben and untying the cord for him. "He seemed greatly taken with his technology."

"Just like Big-Brain," said Ben, slipping the apron off and hanging it up on a peg on the wall.

"I'm starving," said Johnny Storm, as he sauntered into the room, wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, with a grey sweater tied around his waist. "What's for breakfast?"

"Depends, Matchstick," Ben replied, walking out from behind the kitchen counter. "What are ya makin'?" Ben threw himself down on the couch, which complained nosily under his weight, grabbed the TV remote control, and flipped on the morning news. Johnny's stomach rumbled abjectly. "Ya mind keepin' it down?" Ben asked, with a wry grin on his rocky face. "I'm tryin' to watch the tube over here."

Gesturing with the index finer of his left hand, Johnny ignited the throw pillow Ben was sitting on with a small jet of flame. Ben leaped up with a cry, his blue 'diaper' aflame, and proceeded to slam his rocky hands against his equally rocky behind, in an effort to extinguish the flames. Johnny chuckled, as Franklin fell over, giggling uncontrollably. Sue rolled her eyes and tossed the flaming cushion out the already-broken window with an invisible projection.

Ben exhaled with relief as the fire was dissipated under the continuous blows of his rocky palm. A wisp of smoke curled from his singed garment, and he glared at Johnny. "You wanna throw down, Hotshot?" he asked, good-naturedly, advancing towards his young team-mate. Johnny backed away, holding his hands up, grinning, as Ben continued to move forward, until he was abruptly stopped by a wall of invisible energy.

"Oh, no you don't, Benjamin J. Grimm," Sue scolded, wagging her finger at Ben. "You're not starting that in here. You break one more window, and I swear, I'll kick you out of here myself!"

"Too bad, Benjy," Johnny said, smiling, satisfied that he was going to avoid a thrashing. His expression change abruptly as an invisible projectile whacked him none too gently over the head. "Ow!" he exclaimed, rubbing his wounded scalp.

"You're each of you as bad as the other," Sue remarked.

"Aw, lighten up, Suzie-Q," Ben implored. "We're just havin' a li'l fun! Ain't nothin' else to do around here these days." Ben picked up a newspaper from the coffee table, and slapped the front page with the back of his rocky hand. "Lookit this, there's so little happenin' in the world, the papers're makin' up the front page stories!"

Sue took the paper and read the headline: "RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE". She skimmed the article, which claimed that numerous sightings of giant mechanoid lifeforms across the country had occurred, prompting government action. "Stranger things have happened, Ben," she said, handing the paper back to him.

"Ah, c'mon, Suzie!" Ben exclaimed. "You really think that if a buncha giant robo-whatsits wuz tearin' up the country, we wouldn't know about it?" He threw the paper back down on the coffee table and resumed his position on the couch, sans pillow. He turned his attention to the news.

"Reports indicate that the mutant outlaws known as the X-Men were responsible for the break-in," the announcer droned, leafing through a collection of sheets in front of her. "Preliminary reports indicate that some form of documents were stolen, but further comments were not forthcoming."

Ben muttered angrily and flipped the channel to a cartoon show. "Heads up, Frankie," he said, gently tossing Franklin the remote underarm, and getting up from his sitting position. Franklin caught the remote in both hands, still managing to keep a hold of his ball. He scrambled up into the indentation left by Ben's behind in the couch and focused intently on the cartoon.

Ben walked over to the front door, the room shaking under his heavy footsteps. "I need some chow," he said, grabbing his overcoat off of the coat rack. "I'll be back in an hour or two. Maybe I'll drop in on Reed, see what the guy's up to."

"Bye Unca Ben," said Franklin, not taking his eyes off the TV screen.

"Try not to disturb Reed, Ben," Sue warned. "Just let him get done with his experiments, so we can move back in."

"Scout's honour, Suzie," Ben said, grinning. He tugged on his coat, and donned his wide-brimmed hat. He didn't really need to wear the outfit any more, as everyone in New York City knew who he was, so it's purpose as a disguise was moot, but he had grown attached to it, after all the years spent wearing it in the early part of the Fantastic Four's life. "Later," he said, and shut the door behind him.

"Anyone seen Sandy this morning?" Johnny asked, rummaging around in the fridge for something remotely edible. "What the hell is this...?" he muttered to himself, prodding a gelatinous glob of something grey that was sitting in a bowl on the middle shelf.

"Sandy was up real early this morning, Unca Johnny," Franklin said, still fixated on the cartoon. "She went up to the roof."

"The roof?" Johnny asked, looking up from the contents of the fridge.

"Yup," Franklin replied.

"You'd better go up and see if there's anything wrong with her, Johnny," Sue commented.

"Yeah," Johnny replied, absently, shutting the fridge door and forgetting his hunger for the moment.


The woman known as Alysande Stuart stood rigidly on the edge of the roof of the Pier Four building, her hands resting on the hilt of her sword, which remained in its scabbard. She was dressed in blue armour, decorated with a giant white cross, which extended from her shoulders to her waist. A cape of the same colour fluttered around her, gently moving in the wind coming from across the Hudson, the same wind blowing her short-cropped auburn hair about her face. She raised a white-gloved hand and brushed a strand out of her field of vision.

"Sandy?" she heard the voice of Johnny Storm from behind her. She did not turn around. Johnny flitted up through the hatchway to the roof, his body aflame, in the form of the Human Torch, and floated over alongside her. "You okay?"

"Aye," she replied, her Scottish accent evident in her words. "Nowt ye need concern yuirself wi'."

"Sandy, you're in your Caledonia form," Johnny persisted, rapping his knuckles on her armoured shoulder. "Something must be wrong."

"I... I cannae explain it," Alysande stammered. "I just... have a feelin'. Something is nae right wi' the world."

"And I suppose that justifies you standing up here, at 9 am, freezing your hiney off?" Johnny asked, arching his brow. "C'mon, lets go inside."

"Aye... I suppose yuir right," Alysande relented. Johnny extended a hand, and she accepted. She hopped own from the ledge, and in a flash of light, her armour disappeared, to be replaced with loose fitting pants and a blouse, both items green in colour. Johnny 'flamed off', and the two walked back across the roof towards the stairway hatch.


"That's more like it...," Ben Grimm said to himself, as he finished off a danish, and patted his stomach. Still holding a plastic cup of coffee, and a small paper bag, he entered the ground floor of Four Freedoms Plaza.

"Good morning, Mr. Grimm," Roberta, the receptionist, called to him from behind her desk.

"Hey Roberta!" Ben replied. "When'd Reed get you up an' runnin' again?"

"Just yesterday, Mr. Grimm," the robotic receptionist responded. "Your new human receptionist was only too happy to leave, after that nasty business with that Deathlok person." Roberta swivelled on the metallic pole that connected her to the desk at her waist, her legless body sharply turning to the intercom that sat on her desk. "I assume you'd like to see Dr. Richards."

"Yeah, if he ain't too busy," Ben confirmed. He took a sip of his coffee as he waited for Roberta to check. The female robot pressed a button on the intercom.

"Dr. Richards?" she spoke into the device. "Mr. Grimm is here to see you."

"Excellent!" came Reed Richards's voice, through the speakers on the machine. "Send him up!"

"You're in luck, Mr. Grimm," Roberta replied, looking up.

"Thanks, doll," Ben replied. "See you around."

"You too, Mr .Grimm," Roberta smiled at him, and turned back to her paperwork, as he pressed the button for the elevator.

"Your timing couldn't have been better, old friend," Reed Richards said, welcoming Ben into his laboratory. His chin was coated with stubble, and Ben felt the need not to comment on the mild odour Reed seemed to be emitting. He must have been working straight for the past two days.

"Hey Stretch," Ben said, handing Reed the paper bag he was carrying. "Kinda had the feelin' you wouldn'ta has breakfast yet. Coffee anna couple'a pastries."

"Thank you, Ben," Reed said, taking the bag. Stretching his arm across to the table on the other side of the room, he set the bag aside, and turned to the row of computer terminals that lined the wall. "Look at this," he said, stabbing an elongated finger at the first screen. Displayed there was the emblem of S.H.I.E.L.D., along with a message box reading "Access Denied".

"What'm I lookin' at, Reed?" Ben inquired.

"Well, it has to do with the new Deathlok," Reed explained. "At first, his technology seemed completely unknown to me, but then as I reflected on the information, I realised that some of the principles on which his cybernetic aspects functioned were indeed familiar, but I could not, for the life of me, recall where I had seen them before."

"So...," Ben made hand motions to speed up his friend's story.

"I know that we have an extensive storage of technological devices at Pier Four, but I found it more expedient to use our computer files on the technology stored there. After poring through our personal computer archives, with no luck, I attempted to log onto the S.H.I.E.L.D., Pentagon, and Avengers computer databases to locate the information. This is what I got."

Reed stretched out his arm and gestured at all the other screens, displaying similar "Access Denied" messages. "What about Stark-Fujikawa?" Ben asked.

"The same," Reed replied.

"Starcore? NASA? Project Wideawake?"

Reed shook his head. "Nothing."

"What the heck's goin' on, Reed?" Ben wondered, massaging his brow.

"I wish I knew, old friend," Reed sighed. "I can't get in contact with any of the Avengers themselves. There's some form of massive security block on all our computer files."

"Well...," Ben reasoned, "we wuz 'dead' for a year. Maybe they just didn't think we wuz comin' back."

"Possibly...," Reed mused, "but I'm going to run a few more checks, just to be sure. You can all move back in tomorrow."

"Sure thing, Reed," Ben said, turning to go. "Good luck."

"I'll need it, Ben," Reed muttered, absently scratching at the stubble on his chin.


"So, what's the sitch, Ben?" Johnny asked, as the rock-skinned superhuman came in through the front door of Pier Four at midday.

"It ain't good, Matchstick," Ben replied, taking off his coat and hat. "All access to our computer databases has been cut off. We can't get at any of our technical information."

"What?!" Sue exclaimed. "How?"

"Reed's workin' on it, Suzie," Ben explained, hanging up his coat. "He figgers he oughta have it straightened out by tomorrow. He said we could move back to the plaza then."

"Looks like your hunch was right, Sandy," Johnny commented, turning to Alysande, who was sitting with Franklin on the couch. "Something sure as heck isn't right here." Alysande met Johnny's gaze, but said nothing.

"There ain't nothin' we can do about if fer now," Ben said. "Reed'll deal with it."

"Yeah," Franklin piped up. "Daddy c'n fix it."

Sue picked Franklin up in her arms. "Let's hope so, munchkin," she said. He giggled when she called him that. He liked it.

Ben walked towards the communications room. "I'm gonna try to get in touch with the Avengers. Maybe they can help straighten this out," he said. Sue followed, still carrying Franklin, as did Johnny and Alysande. "Computer," Ben ordered, using the machine's voice activation control. "Give me a connection with Avengers Mansion."

"Complying," the computer replied in a modulated electronic voice. In seconds, the image of the android Avenger known as the Vision appeared on the screen.

"Greetings, Thing," the Vision said, in his moderated voice. "How may I help you?"

"We seem ta be havin' some trouble with our computer systems," Ben explained. "I wuz wonderin' if maybe you knew anythin' about it."

"One moment, please," the Vision replied. He powered off his optical circuits, and stared into space for a few moments. Then his optics glowed with life again. "I'm sorry, Thing," he said, "but there is a security block of considerable proportions on your files in the Avengers database. Strict protocols forbid my conversing with you on this matter. This discussion must be terminated."

And with that, the Vision disappeared from the screen.

"Well, how d'ya like that?" Ben said, in exasperation. "Lousy, no-good, crummy, stinkin'..."

"Pouting wont help, Ben," Sue said.

"I ain't poutin'," Ben responded, even though he quite clearly was.


That evening, as Franklin was asleep in his nursery, with Puppy, the strange unnamed dog found Caledonia had found in the Four Freedoms Plaza ruins, curled up beside his bed, Ben, Sue, Johnny, and Alysande, sat around watching TV.

"What a day," Ben commented, flipping rapidly through the channels. "Aside from computer troubles, ain't not a single thing happened! No super-villains, no common criminals, and now, not even a blamed decent thing on the flamin' tube!"

"You should be grateful, Ben," Sue said. "It's not often the Fantastic Four get a day off."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever...," Ben muttered.

Alysande shifted uneasily in her seat, and looked around. "C'mon Sandy," Johnny said. "You've been like this all day. Nothing's gonna happen."

"I wish I could believe ye, Johnny," Alysande said morbidly. "I just feel as if... as if..."

Before Alysande could finish her sentence, a massive explosion shook the room, throwing everyone to the ground. Debris flew in all direction, even as Ben manoeuvred his rocky body to protect the others from the hail of rubble. "What in the sam hill was that?!" he bellowed.

"Let's find out," Sue said. Her suit jacket's unstable molecules reformed themselves into her familiar Fantastic Four uniform, as Alysande shifted into her armoured form of Caledonia.

"Flame on!" Johnny cried, and his body ignited in a flare of light. Seconds later, it was the only light in the room, as all electronic appliances winked off.

"What the...?!" Ben stumbled backwards in the darkness. "Who turned out the blamed lights?" Even as the words escaped Ben lips, a section of wall collapsed in front of them, as thunderous blows were rained down upon it from outside. A tall, powerfully built figure crashed through he hole created, followed by about five more similar beings. Ben couldn't see clearly in the dark, but charged forward anyway. "Lousy bums!" he exclaimed, pulling back his fist, preparing to deliver a punch. "Man's home is his castle!" Before Ben could swing his fist, the lead figure, the one who had smashed the wall down, turned and slammed his fist into Ben's jaw. Knocked clean off his feet, Ben went sailing through the air, and crashed into a bookcase. He massaged his jaw, and blinked a few times. "Awright!" he yelled, getting up. "Now you done went an' made me mad!"

"Fan out," the lead figure said to the others behind him, in an electronic voice, paying no heed to Ben in the least. "Position the space-time disruptors as directed." The five others darted off in different directions.

Johnny moved to intercept one, but was backhanded into a wall. As he righted himself, the figure darted past, clutching some form of machinery. He was moving faster than Johnny would have though possible.

Caledonia leapt in front of another, and brandished her sword in its direction. "Let's see if ye like the taste o' Scottish steel!" she cried, and dived towards the being, which was a head and shoulders taller than her. Moving gracefully, the creature side-stepped, and Caledonia missed it completely with her swipe. He seized her wrist, forcing her to drop her sword, and tossed her over its shoulder, sending her hurtling into Johnny.

Ben again charged towards the lead figure, yelling his battle cry. "It's Clobberin' Time!" he proclaimed, smashing the figure in the chest with his massive fist. It staggered under the attack, but was not badly hurt. Ben was dumbstruck. "That punch woulda floored the Hulk!" he cried in disbelief. His surprise was soon forgotten as he crashed into the kitchen counter, having been punched again by the creature.

Sue, meanwhile, was struggling with another of the beings. She had knocked the device it was carrying from it's hand, but her invisible projections were not phasing the creature. It simply shrugged off everything she hit it with. It raised its fist high above its head, and prepared to deliver the final blow.

"SUE!" she heard someone cry. Then, suddenly, the elasticated body of Reed Richards tore into the room, and slammed into the back of the creature looming over Sue, sending it to the ground. Morphing his malleable fists into mallets, he pounded on the creature's skull, until it reached up, grabbing his left hand, and hoisted him into the air. Whirling him like a lasso, he threw him into Sue, and the couple collapsed to the floor, entangled.

"Are you all right, darling?" Reed asked, his voice full of concern, as untangled his extended appendages from around Sue.

"Yes, Reed, I'm fine," she said, getting up, "but who or what are those creatures? What do they want?"

"I don't know, Sue," Reed replied. "The computers at Four Freedoms Plaza registered an explosion at the warehouse. I came immediately."

"Disruptors in place," reported the being who had backhanded Johnny, as it ran back into the room, along with the other four.

"Excellent," the leader said, still grappling with Ben. "as entertaining as this is, Mr. Grimm, I'm afraid we have to leave now. Thank you for a wonderful evening." With that, the leader kicked Ben in the gut, hurtling him across the room. When Ben looked up, all he could see were six pinpricks of light in the night sky, flying away from Pier Four at incredible speed.

"Why'd those crumbs leave like that, Reed?" Been asked, looking up. "They planted bombs or somethin'?

"No, old friend," Reed responded. "Something worse." He stretched his body across the room, to examine one of the devices the creatures had positioned in the building. "This is a space-time disruptor, set to detonate in under two minutes. As you know, this warehouse is a tesseract - it exists in time as well as space. The space inside the warehouse is unlimited. There's always room for storage."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got it from that Doctor guy you were friends wit', I know," Ben said. "Do we really got time to hear this?"

"When this disruptor, and the others around the building detonate, it will generate a massive disruption in the lines of matter binding the tesseract. The warehouse is going to implode!" Reed yelled.

"Can't you defuse it?" Johnny said. "There's no time!" Reed exclaimed. "This technology... it's incredibly advanced, there's no way I can defuse it in this time left! Everybody out, now! Sue - get Franklin!"

Racing faster than she ever had before, Sue burst into the nursery and jostled Franklin awake. "Wake up, little man," she said, urgency in her voice. Puppy was already awake, barking ferociously, aggravated by the loud noises of the battle.

"Aw, mommy...," Franklin yawned, "do I gotta? I was havin' the coolest dream... there were these giant robots, an'..."

"Not now, munchkin," Sue said, lifting Franklin from his bed and surrounding him, Puppy, and herself with an invisible forcefield. With a crash, she hurled both of them out through the nursery window, just as the disruptors went off. Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Alysande rushed to her side, as the warehouse glowed with an inhumanly bright light, and then collapsed in on top of itself. With a small flare of energy, the entire building was gone, the only thing indicating that it had ever stood there being the pieces of broken glass, and a few chunks of rubble from the battle.

"Dear God...," Reed breathed. "All those machines... so much of my work..."

"Reed, are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" Ben asked. "We just lost access to our computer files on all the technology we've ever encountered, an' now, the warehouse storin' most of the physical examples o' that technology gets attacked an' wiped offa the face'a the Earth too."

"Indeed Ben," Reed said, helping Sue and Franklin up. "Someone... or something... is trying very hard to keep a secret from us."

"The question is," Ben pondered, stroking his chin, "who?"

"Perhaps more importantly, old friend," Reed added, "what secret?"

Next Issue....The New Frightful Four!

Bishop #1 - Now You See It..

Bishop #1 - "now you see it.."

By Michael Murray

Bishop looked around the Warehouse for his "meet". He saw nothing, and it worried him. Eric had never been this late before, and was probably one of the only reliable people he would go to for information.

He looked for any signs of a trap. All he could see was the broken window, and the pipe in the corner, sticking out like a sore thumb.

"Just big enough for a bomb", he mused to himself, before a shuffling noise to his left startled him.. Turning round, he saw a rat, sniffing the floor for food. Something told Bishop that the rat was on to something, and he followed it out the back door, stopping by the Dumpster on his right. Suddenly, a hobo clutching a 12-gauge Shotgun burst out of the top of the Dumpster.

"So, fat Eric was right. Some freakoid cop *IS* Harassing him for info. Well, sorry buddy, but your number’s....."

The Hobo didn’t get a chance to finish. Bishop spun round, and, not wanting to use his weapons on the man kicked him smartly on the jaw. The man dropped the shotgun on the floor, and it went off, blowing the unfortunate rat into something resembling a run-over tomato. The hobo collapsed back into the Dumpster, but before he could do anything, he was grabbed by the scruff of the neck by Bishop, who pulled him up to his face, and stared him in the eye with an angry look.

"Who are you, and where the hell is Eric?!" Bishop demanded, angry upon seeing the strange calmness in the hobo’s face.

"Look at me! Where is Eric?"

"Right here Bishop."

Bishop spun round to see where the voice had come from. He saw Eric standing there, apparently unarmed, and as scruffy as always.

"Eric. What’s all this about? Why have Elmer Fudd over here try and shoot me?"

Eric drew himself up in a dramatic pose.

"Look Bish. The city is full of people. Homeless people. Jobless people. . _My_ people. With the money you gave me, I’ve found myself a place in the world. I’m not just some stool pigeon giving titbits of info to anyone who asks. I’m somebody."

Bishop wondered what Eric meant by somebody. He looked at Eric and saw the way his arm was reaching. Saw the handle of the weapon. Dived aside.

"You like this huh?" he said, looking lovingly at his new Photon Blaster.

"Got it special, off a friend you could say...."

Eric fired again. Bishop was hit by the blast, and roared with pain. He fell, but instead of falling unconscious as Eric had hoped from the stun setting, he reached out his arm and blasted the energy back at Eric.

He picked up the barely conscious Eric from the floor and looked around. The hobo had run off, but left his shotgun. Bishop picked it up, and held it under Eric’s chin. The Cold steel quickly brought back the man’s attention to the present.

"H-hh-h-hey man, I didn’t wanna kill you or anything! It was on stun, h-h-h-hh-honest!"

‘This looks more like it’s from my time than anything I’ve seen here’,

thought Bishop.

"Where did you get it?" he demanded.

"I ain’t gonna tell you that! I wanna wake up with my skin still coverin’ the rest of me!"

"You’re not going to wake up again if I don’t get told what I want. NOW TALK!"

The anger in Bishop’s voice, coupled with the shotgun in his hand convinced Eric to speak.

"Downshift! He’s been selling these shootas to everyone with the money! C’mon man, don’t kill me! I’ll tell you where to find him! I’ll tell everything! Just get the gun away from my head!"

Bishop complied, and Eric began to speak again.

"The guy’s in L.A! I got this by one of his 'associates' It's Somewhere near the........."

Bishop rolled along the floor to avoid another blast from the plasma rifle. It was hot enough being next to Eric when he was vaporised, and Bishop didn’t want to find out how hot Eric had got.

Looking up, he saw a shadowy figure in one of the nearby alleys, but he was already involved in a fight with a young woman. Bishop decided that stopping him was less important than finding the gunman who had blown Eric away, but remembered to sort them out in a minute. He unholstered one of his guns and looked to the roof of a nearby apartment block. There was the marksman all right. Bishop took aim, and fired a shot at the arms and gun of the man. It was dead on target, and the plasma rifle was destroyed, and the man screamed in horror as his arms were burned. He staggered around on top of the roof, but lost his balance and fell onto the platform of the nearby fire exit.

Bishop then turned his attention to the pusher and the woman. He fired a shot at a nearby pipe, and it exploded all over the man’s expensive looking suit, dousing it in something brown and insalubrious looking. Satisfied, Bishop turned his attention to the man on the damaged fire exit stairs.

"This is a job for Spider-man", he muttered bitterly, jumping to catch the closest undamaged rail on the ladder. He climbed up to the man and once again hoisted him up by the neck.

"Hey! Get offa me, before I call the cops to bust your ass for shooting me!"

"As I recall, you fired on me and Eric first."

"I got you? Hhh-h-hey, sorry bud, didn’t mean it!"

"Why did you kill Eric?"

"Hey man, no-one likes a stool pigeon! Least of all the Shifters...."

"Shifters? You mean as in Downshift?"

"Aw heck man, I can’t tell you nuffin’! If they hear about this they’ll have my guts!"

"I don’t care! Eric was killed over this and I want to know what it was he died over!"

"Awww man!" He looked round for any other snipers nearby. Thinking this to be a distraction, Bishop pulled one of his guns under the man’s chin. A reply was quick in coming.

"Alright man, I give in! The Shifters, they’re a gang from L.A. They’ve started to move further afield though, and they paid me to make sure no one grassed! Anyway, Eric’s just a small time leader, he ain’t got no links, he just felt big, you know?"

"Then Why Kill him? A guy on the small time isn’t worth killing without a reason."

"Alright, he knew enough. Too much. They don’t want no loose ends or nuffin. They offered me the job, so I took it."

"Where can I find Downshift?"

"Man, I dunno. Maybe you go to LA huh? Ask someone there?"

"Indeed. You on the other hand, are under arrest."

"Arrest! Aw heck man, I ain’t gonna spend no time with the cops! I’m deadmeat ‘fore you say ‘shotgun’!"

"Shut up and get away from here."

"You’re letting me go?"

"You could say that.."

"Huh? What the.." His sentence is cut short as he is thrown into the Dumpster.

Bishop pondered for a minute. If this Downshift guy were from his time, It’d figure. If not, he wondered what the hell was going on.

"I’ve got to get me to LA" He muttered.

Captain America #1 - Avengers Mansion Christmas Eve 1999

With the aid of science, in 1941, Steve Rogers became the fighting embodiment of freedom and the symbol of a nation; he became Captain America....

Captain America #1

written by:

Brian Kilby

Avengers Mansion, Christmas Eve 1999. Steve Rogers sits alone in the mansion's fire-lit den, watching "It's a Wonderful Life." The comforting warmth of the fireplace dancing across the skin coupled with the familiar crackling the fire makes as it is fanned by the wind blowing through the flue envelopes one in a sense of contentment and happiness only matched by the tender comfort of mother's arms. Outside, snow is falling on the usually-busy world of New York City. However, man and beast alike, have decided this day is far too special to be bogged down by the hectic-speed of city life; everything has slowed to a standstill in an almost desperate attempt to live forever in the perfection of the moment. It's a type of absolute-faultlessness that can only be found in Rockwell paintings, Christmas Carols and Capra movies.....

"Another Christmas alone with James Stewart, sir?"

Steve sits up in his chair and shifts his attention away from the screen to find Jarvis, The Avengers' butler, brandishing a mug of Hot Chocolate. "Oh, hello Jarvis." He takes the Hot Chocolate from Jarvis and smiles. "Thank you."

"It's an extraordinary film, sir."

Taking a sip from the mug, Steve says, "Yes it is. I make a point to watch it every year." He settles back into the chair. "It's a tradition of mine."

"Fitting, sir, since it is an American tradition."

Steve smiles, "It is for a reason, is for a reason."

"Now if I may, sir, I have more duties to attend to."

"Jarvis, sit down, please. It's Christmas after all. Enjoy yourself."

"Sir, if it's all right, I might enjoy myself preparing Christmas dinner."

"That can wait...sit down and watch the movie with me. You can't tell me that you don't have a few memories attached to 'It's a Wonderful Life.'"

"To the contrary sir, I have many memories attached to the movie. You no doubt have many as well?"

Steve sips from the mug, again, and grins, "a few."

"I imagine that you saw the movie when it originally debuted...?"

"No, Jarvis...I missed it by a few years. Did you see it?"

A glimmer of joy rekindles in Jarvis' eye, "Yes. Why, I can remember sitting on my father's knee all those years ago as we watched it at the old Thornbury Theater on the Thames. Of course, at the time I was woo young to know exactly what the movie was about, but I knew the delight that it conjured up in others. I'll never forget how the audience erupted in applause at the movie's finale; how they left the theater with smiles on their faces and tidings of good cheer in their words. Why, my father insisted that we sit through two more showings...through each viewing, when I heard the rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne,' my heart exploded with joy. To me it wasn't a was real. The characters onscreen were as real to me as anyone else. The movie created something magical...almost tangible. I could reach out and touch it...I could feel it in the air." Jarvis pauses, as to relive that moment, "it's a shame that they don't make movies like that again, sir. It's an utter shame."



"Oh, yes, it's quite a shame, Jarvis. Almost criminal." Steve tarried momentarily to collect himself, "I was just thinking back on some of my own memories from those mother, my friends." He sighs, looks to the window and then turns his head back to the television screen. "It was a different time, old friend, I sometimes lose myself when thinking back on it."

"Would you say that it was a better time, sir?"

"You know, Jarvis--" Steve's sentence is cut short by The Mansion's Emergency Alert System. "What?"

The wail of the siren is harsh and alarming; the confusion that it creates is intended to precipitate the addition of adrenaline to the bloodstream. It is quite effective in its task.

Jarvis stands up, "Sir, look at the monitor."

"Already on it. Okay...the report's coming in. Central Park...carnage...destruction...blast it!"

"What is it, sir?"



"Yes, Batroc. Apparently he's wanting another of our 'confrontations.' Jarvis, why do they always come out when I'd rather be watching television?"

"I do not know, sir."

"Is my motorcycle gassed up?"

"Yes and it is in the garage, as usual."

Already in full sprint, Steve turns and salutes, "Thanks, Jarvis."

"Thank you, sir."

Within seconds, Steve is already on the streets, making his way towards Central Park. The crisp Winter air enters his lungs and ignites in him the flame of imagination. He thinks back.... Back to that cold November day when a frail, young, boy decided that he wanted nothing more than to serve his country. He's carried back to the day that changed the fate of one boy, and the world, forever....

New York City. November 7, 1940.

"Is he real, Steve?" asked a bright-eyed young girl on a snowy New York sidewalk. "Is the Red Skull flesh and blood...or is he something somebody made up to scare little kids?"

"He's real, Pat," said a slender, tall, young man named Steve Rogers; a person whose tremendous strength of will and determination is bottled up inside a meager frame unbefitting its passion. "As long as those...those...butchers--!"

Steve's friend, Elliot, butts in...something at which he's quite adept. "Sure he's real, Steve. In fact, I hear that he and Tarzan are good friends with Buck Rogers...."

"Leave him alone, Elliot."

"Look at him, Pat. If he's so wound up because of this mess in Europe, why doesn't he do something about it? Hm? Why don't you, Steve?"

Steve searches for an answer but comes up with nothing, "I...I don't know."

Pat smiles and puts her warm hand against Steve's cheek, "don't worry about him, Steve. Heh, you'll show Elliot. I bet that one day you'll punch-out Hitler himself...yeah, you'll peg him right on that funny little mustache of his."

Steve smiles.

"Hahahaha!" Elliot laughs until his throat becomes sore. As he gasps for breath, he tries to speak but most of his words are lost as steam into the crisp night air. "That'll--*koff koff*--that'll be the day...."

New York City, Central Park. December 24, 1999.

The new fallen snow is tossed around and tread-worn by the frantic footsteps of bystanders, who are in a mad-dash to escape the destruction manifesting itself in the heart of Central Park.

Talent, finesse and an unerring sense of the dramatic...three things of which Batroc claims to possess. "Merry Chrizmas to all, and to all a good death!" Perhaps the truth can be said of the two, former....

Contrary to its definition, it takes more than one set-back to ruin a 'perfect day.'

"'...and to all a good death?' Batroc, that's worse than the time when you called yourself 'The Poet-Laureate of Anarchy.'"

"Capitan America!? Finally, you arrive! Prepaire for ze first Noel of annihilation."

Cap leaps towards Batroc. "And that, Batroc, takes the cake. I didn't think that anyone would ever beat-out Stilt Man."

Batroc dodges and retaliates with a quick left kick. "And what did he say, Capitan?"

"'I'm going to dance on your grave, from thirty stories above.'" Cap dodges the kick and responds with own of his own.

"Ha ha ha! He may get the opportunity yet, Capitan, but not before Batroc gets his!" Batroc anticipates Cap's kick and dodges. "Too slow, you telegraphed that one." While the extended leg is vulnerable, Batroc strikes and lands a solid punch into a cluster of nerves above the knee!

Cap falls to the ground, writhing in pain.

"Hahahaha! Do you give, Capitan?"

Gnashing his teeth, he doesn't hesitate in his response: "Never!"

"Then it is up to me to send you to your maker!" Into the air Batroc leaps, channeling all of his mass into heel of his foot. The potential force created is aimed straight towards the wind-pipe of one Captain America.

Instinctively Cap rolls out of the way and, blocking out the pain , he leaps to his feet, produces his trusty shield and hurls it away from Batroc.

"No! You cannot fool me again." Batroc turns around to see the shield returning to Cap's hand, with himself in its path! Fully aware of the game that he is playing, Batroc dodges to left and misses the shield on its return trip. "You missed me, no?" Batroc turns back around.

"No." Batroc's nose flattens under Captain America's fist.

Stunned but not beaten, Batroc runs.

With his adrenaline piqued, Cap follows. Inexplicably, his mind doesn't....

Project Rebirth Testing Center, Steve Rogers' quarters. Dec. 24, 1940. Two hours past "Lights out."

Someone opens the doors to young Steve Rogers' quarters and a voice calls out, "Steve?"

A subdued "Whu?" is his response.

"Steve, it's past lights out."

Steve's heart jumps when his brain wakes up from it's trance. "Cindy!" Lt. Cindy Glass, secretly Steve has a crush on her...though it's obvious to anyone who has seen how he acts around her. "I mean, I know...I'm sorry."

"Is something wrong?"

"Oh, no. I was just...uh, thinking."

Cindy enters the lonely and sterile room that Steve has called home for the past several weeks. She closes the door behind her and gingerly sits down on Steve's bunk. "What were you thinking about?"

"About home; about my friends. About how this is my first Christmas away from those I care about."

Cindy smiles, "Cheer up. I'm sure that they miss you."

"I know that they miss me...."

"Is that what's troubling you?"

"No. For the past month, I've been worried that my friends...that Elliot, disapproved."


"Of me enlisting...he's against the idea of America going to war in Europe, he called me 'crazy.'"

"Steve...the war, it's...complicated. But it's necessary."

"I know. The Nazis are evil...the things they''s." That aforementioned passion beating in Steve's heart tries to explode through his chest. "It's not human!" Steve's tired, meager frame rises up from the bed, like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, seemingly ready to march straight into the heart of Berlin. "We have to stop them! It's the right thing; the only thing that we can do! If we're truly the land of freedom, which I know...I know to be true, down in my heart, we have to be willing to fight and die in the name of that freedom!"

"...Right." Cindy's eyes look down to her feet.

Steve sits back down. Concerned, he asks, "is everything okay, Cindy?"

"Yeah. Steve...don't worry about what your friend thinks. With your spirit, your drive, there's nothing else in the world, that would be more fitting than for you to serve your country."

"Thanks." Steve blushes ever so slightly. "I'm not worried about what Elliot thinks anymore."

"Good," smiling, Cindy stands up, pats Steve on the knee and walks to the door. "Good night, Steve."

Steve reciprocates with a smile of his own, "good night, Lieutenant."

With the door no longer ajar, Steve reaches to turn out the light...but he hesitates. He looks down at his pillow and then bites his lip. "I think that I'll read it one more time." He reaches under the pillow and produces a letter and gold pocket watch. He lays down on his bed, pulls the warm blanket up to his chest and opens the letter.

Dear Steve.

I didn't have an address to send this to, so I addressed the package to Steven Roger, US Army and I put your birth date on it...I didn't imagine that there'd be too many Steven Rogers born on July fourth, 1917. With a birthday like that, I guess it makes sense that you're such a flag-waver. Everything is fine here, the utilities are paid on-time and we make sure to eat good, just like you told us. I've kept my end of the bargain, I haven't rented out your half of the apartment--I expect you to keep your end and come home safe!

I ain't too good with words, you know that, I just wanted to let you know that we were thinking about you.

Well, I'll write again and you do the same, okay?

P.S. I sent your dad's pocket watch, you left without it! I hope that you don't mind but I had an inscription added. If you do mind, well...feh on you, Rogers!

Steve holds the pocket watch in his hand. He looks at the watch's surface, the light from the lamp glistens off the golden finish, exposing all of the scratches, dents and fingerprints. Steve doesn't see the scratches as a flaw...each and every one is a testament to his father's will and his determination. Steve's father died in World War One and even though Steve never met his dad, he knows him quite well. In fact, Steve sees a lot of himself in his father. Steve grew up in a bad situation, sick and poor. But through all of the bumps and bruises--all of the scratches and dents--he's made it through, bettering himself by learning from the hardships. With each scratch, a Christmas morning without presents, or day without supper, he learned a new lesson...about himself and about life. Like a favorite book, Steve re-opens the watch and smiles. On the inside, the inscription reads: "Make us proud."

New York City, Central Park. December 24, 1999.

"You cannot catch me, Capitan!" Batroc looks around. "Capitan?"

"I don't have to catch you," says Cap, who is about fifty feet away.

"And why would that be?"

"Look down."

"You won't fool me with that one, mon ami." Batroc hears a cracking sound. "What?"

"Your standing smack-dab in the middle of a frozen pond...." Before Cap could finish the sentence, "...a partially frozen pond," the ice gave way and into the cold water, Batroc goes.

"Help meee, help meee! I cannot swim!" Batroc's limbs flail and swing erratically in the near-frozen water. "I cannot die, I cannot! I haven't beaten you yet, Capitan. I haven't beaten you!"

Not about to let anyone drown--not even Batroc--Cap jumps in after the Insane Frenchman. It takes little of Cap's effort to lift Batroc up from the icy water.

While Cap pulls himself from the water, a tired, yet wily, Batroc attempts to escape. "Goodbye, Capitan," he thinks to himself. Confident in his escape, Batroc slows down to a walk. He makes it a good three hundred feet before it hits him--Cap's shield! To the ground he falls and unconsciousness overtakes him, momentarily. Waking up, he finds three armed police officers, guns drawn, standing over him. Sadly, Batroc realizes, endgame is at hand. True to the fashion of a second-string villain, Batroc does manage to get out the obligatory proclamation of vengeance: "I'll get you Capitan, this is not our last dance! You shall shall see!"

With Batroc in custody and the police in complete control of the situation, Cap walks towards his motorcycle. As he reaches for his helmet, he realizes that it has quit snowing and city life has re-instituted itself once more. With a smile on his face and a good memory warming his heart, he heads back for The Mansion.

And so the story ends where it began....

Avengers Mansion, Christmas Eve 1999.

Inside, Captain America, still in his wet uniform, makes his way towards the den....

There, he finds.... "Jarvis?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Is the movie still on?"

"Quite. There are about ten more minutes left."

"Well, I suppose that I can wait ten minutes to change clothes." warm in the spirit of the season, Steve finds his seat in front of the fireplace, waiting as if he'd never left it. He fixates his eyes on the television and his heart on lessons learned....

For the world-renowned hero and the simple butler, the next ten minutes are spent on a mutual plane, in the warmth of a good memory and the seasonal reminder that no one is richer than he who has friends....

Merry Christmas.