"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.
DR. STRANGE MARVEL UNIVERSE: TRANSFORMED
THE MATRIX GRIMORE #2
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.