A Compass In the Dark
Roleplaying Log: A Compass In the Dark
IC Details

Dani, Carolus and Gwen knock on Dr. Strange's front door for help in finding Warren and Ali.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 09, 2019
IC Location:
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 10 Nov 2019 16:40
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Even with all of Illyana's magical might she could not locate Alison and Warren.

She definitely tried, but all the two women managed to locate was a demon … or something equally creepy … which irritated the Demoness to say the very least.

Now comes next steps - calling on those magical individuals that are stronger, or perhaps more skilled than what Yana currently is.

As such, text messages were sent out to various phones (burner and not) to meet up with Danielle so they could all go on a road trip. Where might that road trip lead everyone to? Well, to the Sanctum Sanctorum of course! The very house of *the* Doctor Strange.

Once everyone is assembled (whether they come along with Dani or arrives under their own power) the Cheyenne glances at all. "Word of caution - " Begins the woman, "- I would try hard not to touch too many things once inside." Then with that warning given, the black-haired woman turns to the door and does what any guest does, she either rings the doorbell or knocks.

Then she politely waits.

Also of note, Moonstar carries a heavily wrapped package and within that package is what's left of Warren's wings. She's still hopeful they can be used as a compass to find their missing family.

Carolus just flew after forwarding pertinent messages to Ghost Spider, because he didn't actually like the odds of getting here intact if a bunch of mutants piled into a car or van and just rolled on through New York traffic. Seems like the sort of thing that exposes you inordinately to getting targeted by an RPG, and while he could probably weather that, it just doesn't make sense to risk it. There's way too many active Purifiers and Purifier-wannabes to be that optimistic.

He lands alongside Danielle, sipping on a rather large pineapple soda.

"I feel like you could apply that same disclaimer to Stark's place, and it would just be correct on a completely different axis." He observes, antennae twitching.

"I'll be good, though. I have enough problems without bringing another on myself by pawing at magic stuff."

The very house of THE Doctor Stephen Strange.

To go to a different dimension!!!

Not Ghost Spider's dimension, widely (relatively) known for being strictly better than this dimension. Another another dimension filled with MYSTERY and DANGER and potentially… demons?

Gwen Stacy's life has gotten really complicated. But when her phone buzzes, she replies in the affirmative that she'll be there. And, that she doesn't need a ride. Oh no.

She's got the best ride in the business.

Carolus lands, and shortly after with a flourishing flip, Ghost Spider lands on Moonstar's other side in a low crouch, rising with a casual adjustment of her costume's hood which had grown askew as she took the streets swinging.

"That's gonna be hard." She adds, to the cautionary word. "I've been told I have very sticky fingers."

You can feel the badum-tish in your soul. The laughtrack is up to you.

It doesn't LOOK like the home of a powerful wizard. It looks like a perfectly normal townhouse that admittedly probably cost as much as five houses in anywhere with a non-ridiculous housing market. It's in a nice neighbourhood, that if you were to linger around might almost seem too nice. People involved in their neighbours' lives the way you rarely see in the modern world, especially in the middle of one of the largest cities there is. Like the fear of superpowered maniacs blowing each other up was somehow distant, much less more conventional crime.

It's kind of refreshing, maybe.

The thing is, when you step closer to 177A Bleecker Street, moving closer to the building with intent, everything else starts to seem further away. Like the building looms more and more just because you're thinking about it, your attention lending it ontological weight. Like something terrible should happen, when Danielle Moonstar knocks on the door.

Instead, the sound of regular wood being rapped upon. And then silence. A protracted silence.

It's actually maybe a full minute before the door opens.

The individual who opens said door is a lean, wiry man who looks to be in his late 30s, though there's wings of grey at the temples of his currently rather disheveled hair. Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange, M.D., Master of the Mystic Arts, Sorceror Supreme of Earth, stands there in a tatty old t-shirt that reads 'Miskatonic University Athletics Dept.', and a pair of blue and grey plaid pajama pants. He's even wearing a bathrobe that he probably just threw on… And fuzzy pink bunny slippers? One hand holds onto the door handle, while his other clutches a coffee mug bearing the words WORLD'S SUPREMEST SORCEROR. The scent off of it is a weird mix of cinnamon and sulfur. Its contents are best not thought about.

Bleary grey eyes look at the collection of individuals on his front step (they peer, particularly, at the package Moonstar is carrying, and then his brow furrows when he looks at Gwen, and he looks kind of like he's gettign a headache) and then Strange, possessed of an enlightened consciousness in tune with the heartbeat of the very cosmos, utters his profound wisdom:

"Nope," he says, and starts to shut the door on them.

Pineapple soda. Moonstar can't help but give that flavor of drink a bit of side-eye, but then Gwen lands right on cue and Moonstar automatically switches her attention off of Moth and over to Spider.

Gwen's joke about sticky-finger prompts a flash of a grin from the Cheyenne, "Ha."

And then the team waits for the door to open and when it does, well there's a moment of surprise on Danielle's part when she spies the Sorcerer Supreme in pajamas, robe and … bunny splippers? Pink ones even!

Still, Dani's poker face is pretty strong which allows her typical mask of politeness to reassert itself fairly quickly. In fact, her expression is quite normal up until Dr. Strange finally speaks and utters that singular word of his.


There's a second of disbelief from Moonstar before that shifts to something like determination and the woman sticks her foot between door and doorframe; thank god she wore her ass-kicking boots tonight.

"Dr. Strange, we really need your help. Two lives depend upon it."

Gwen isn't faster on the uptake than Moonstar, but she doesn't have a good read on this situation. Her Spider-Sense is curiously quiet - absolutely silent, in fact, which is never a good thing - but that can mean 'go' or 'prepare for a terrible plotline involving alternate realities and a spiraling abyss of moodiness' so it's really suspect on how good that is. Still, she does put a spider-hand against the door as it's shut, and, most likely in direct defiance of 'do not test a Wizard', applies her absurd arachno-strength to holding it open as she assists the current de-facto leader of the X-Men.

"Actually, it's more like…" She starts counting heads. "Five, plus the entire mutant population of New York, plus whoever's late."

Magenta-rimmed eye lenses squint in thought. "In, uh, no particular order."

"You could stick them to each other." Carolus suggests to Ghost Spider, amusedly. He adds, "Besides, between the two of us, I think I'll have more problems not touching things unintentionally. I probably should've harnessed myself up, but all things considered, I don't think that's exactly safe right…"

He trails away, frowning up at 177A. It's not the first time he's felt something like this in the last little while. Tony's place was /also/ bigger than it appeared to be. Really, he's not surprised by that at all. It seems like exactly the sort of thing that a wizard should be doing. Making things bigger than they actually ought to be.

The appearance of Doctor Strange doesn't particularly surprise him, though. They've come by on a Friday night, it's prime time for somebody to either be hiding from the universe or out and about. This time, it looks like hiding from the universe. Looks kind of comfortable, actually.

It'd be nice if that was on the table for him right now.

He clears his throat, "Yes. Well, sorry to ruin your… probably more than your night actually, but they /are/ right."

Privately, he thinks it's the most sensible way anybody has reacted to all of this in the past week or so.

The door doesn't shut.

It doesn't shut first because Moonstar stuck her foot in the frame. It doesn't shut because Gwen, who is Hella Strong, pretty much just puts a hand on it.

"Ugh," says the Sorceror Supreme, as the trio on the front step completely ignore the old saying about wizards being both subtle and quick to anger. Lives depend on his assistance, they say, and while Danielle keeps the estimate small, Gwen really pushes it up to the stratosphere, huh?

Still, that's the job. And if Xavier ever reemerges, does he want to have to explain to the mutant telepath - who he is definitely not in any kind of secret alliance with, the Illuminati is an urban legend - where a bunch of his students went?

Or a bunch of innocent people?

"Fine," Strange says, stepping away from the door and just letting it fall open. He turns, and there's another weird thing that maybe the visitors might not notice at first - they can't really perceive what's on the other side of the door until they step through it. It's just… Some dark, vague conception of 'a room' that tells their brain not to worry about it.

The actual interior is, thus, even weirder, as the living room is both entirely too large to be inside the building they walked up to, and also it seems like it must actually also be outside, with a soft carpet of green grass growing out of the floorboards, and large, old trees filling the interior to the distant ceiling, with furniture placed around them.

Moonstar, given her gifts beyond her X-gene, will perhaps vaguely notice a feeling of 'pressure' as she steps across the threshold, as the Sanctum's protective magics push off enchantments, curses and tiny astral hangers-on. But, once the three step inside, the door shuts itself behind them.

"So," Strange says. "What brings you here?"

When Gwen offers her assitance in keeping that door open Moonstar shifts a quick look of thanks her way, then it's back to the door and the Master of the House.

When Strange seemingly agrees to help them, or at least let the trio inside, Moonstar's expression eases somewhat. A quick look is given to both her companions and then the Cheyenne steps inside with the bundled wings still held firmly in arms.

Once across the threshold there are several things that vie for her attention -

The grassy carpet, the trees, the furniture around said trees, but also that feeling of pressure when she steps over the threshold. It's enough for the Valkyrie to pause mid-step and frown, before she covertly glances around the room a few times.

Honestly, Moonstar could gawk even longer, but thankfully Strange asks his question. His question brings Moonstar's focus back to the situation that's brought them here to the Sanctum.

"We need your help in locating Warren Worthington and Alison Blaire. Illyana and I have traced Warren as far as we can and all we can show for it is the knowledge that the two aren't here. Just somewhere else in some different dimension."

Carolus waits for Gwen and Moonstar to head in, since they are literally bodily holding the door open, and follows after. The change in surroundings is a little more disorienting than he experienced at Stark's new building. More… abrupt. Like a switch being flipped, instead of the oddity of the situation being evident from physical clues. His wings buzz and antennae twitch for a moment as he gets a better fix on what's around him.

It's not unpleasant, as such.

Momentarily he's tempted to go over and see that the trees are actually real, but the conversation they had before they even knocked rings in the back of his mind and instead he simply stands to one side of Moonstar and Gwen, both hands folded in front of him.

"Thank you for hearing us out, Doctor."

He gestures to himself with his primary right hand, "I'm Carolus Sinclair, by the way. Or Atlas, if you prefer codenames."

Gwen is saved from the door slamming to the other side of the wall by the amazing power of said 'sticky fingers' that lay against the wooden face of the door to 177A. Arched lightly, each digit restrains the door's terrible journey into the opposite definitely-not-a-wall-apparently with the amazing power of ELECTROSTATIC FORCE!!!

Or something. Trying to explain it takes some intense babble.

There's relief even in Ghost Spider's eye-lenses and shoulders, both relaxing in the same cadence with a breath Gwen didn't know she was holding. For some reason… She really had some doubts a 'Sorcerer Supreme' would help her. Not the X-Men, but… Her.

She's happy to be wrong. Happy enough that when she steps through the portal into the Sanctum Santorum and feels nothing but an odd 'oh ok, this is wizard stuff' she doesn't lose her stuff.

Spider-Sense: yeah I've got nothing
Gwen Stacy: aight, understandable

"I'm Ghost Spider, by the way." Gwen offers, extending a white-gloved hand out towards the #1 Wizard In His Jimmy-Jams. "Like Carolus says: Thanks a lot for seeing us. They're both worried about this being some crazy alternate reality adventure thing, and I keep having to remind them: That's every adventure for me!"

One might wonder, yes, if the trees and the grass were real. They certainly seem to be alive, their roots somehow in symbiosis with the floorboards of the house. But then comes the other question: What is 'real'?

"Mm," the Sorceror Supreme muses, taking a sip out of his mug. Maybe it's whatever passes for hot chocolate for wizards? Moonstar tells him that they need help finding Warren Worthington and Alison Blaire, who were reported rather extremely dead, but then if anyone would know better, it would be one of the Valkyrior, wouldn't it? Even a part-timer. Carolus continues to be the polite 'good cop' of the mutant duo, though he imagines it's less a calculated effort to keep him off-balance and more just how the self-styled 'Atlas' is.

But then, along came a spider. Offering a handshake.

"Yes, you shouldn't be here at all," Strange says to Gwen, though he does take the offered hand with his own for a shake, because he's not completely an impolite curmudgeon. "Curious. But at least you don't have to worry about running into yourself," he concludes, with a knowing air.

"Right, so. Miss Rasputin couldn't locate exactly where your friends had gotten to. Could she learn anything at all? Was it a pocket dimension, a different plane of existence? There's a disconcertingly large number of Hells, even she couldn't check all of them…"

Carolus offers up names and politeness, so too does Gwen, and for a second Moonstar just closes her eyes as she's reminded of how to act decently.

When she re-opens her eyes Dani likewise adds, "Yes, thank you. We really do appreciate you taking the time to help us."

Of course, at Gwen's mention of alternate reality adventures Moonstar shifts her attention over to the Spider and silently the Cheyenne makes a mental note to really look into helping the young woman. As long as she wishes the help.

That comment from Strange about not running into herself earns a frown from Moonstar, but whatever thoughts she has on that are kept to herself. Especially as Strange once again asks questions about Warren and Ali.

"She said Warren's presence jumped around and that he bounced from various dimensions. That he was no longer within this particular universe." She slides a look briefly to Gwen and then over to Carolus, "But ultimately she couldn't find him. Nor could I locate their souls when I went looking for them."

She could mention the two had a little trouble during that search of Yana's, but she doesn't. That story is best left for another day.

"We've brought the remains of Warren's wings in case they can be of use."

"Please be a little more discreet about the details of her parallel self's life here, Doctor Strange." Carolus interjects, his expression falling in what is more exasperation than dismay. He unfolds his hands and turns to examine the surroundings more closely, not at all inclined to address the issue as /directly/ as Gwen is likely to. As-is, he feels a little uncomfortable saying /this/ much.

He doesn't have anything to offer on the subject of what Illyana actually found, though. The ritual that saw that particular tracking attempt took place without him. Which is just as well, because based on Moonstar's incredibly obvious overcompensating bathing habits afterwards…

Well, he's fairly certain that his setae would be absolutely drenched in something gross.

"Do you want an overview of the situation with Warren and Alison, or do you prefer to keep things brief?" He asks. Judging by Strange's initial reaction though, he doesn't really expect that the exposition bus is particularly wanted.

It's awkward all the way down, but Gwen is enough of a Liberal Arts major to find the Sanctum's strange interior actually completely radical. Sure, it's not physically possible, and it's not really *botanically* possible, but…

It is fantastically cool. Everything she's heard about Doctor Strange from the Titans and the X-Men has been wholly positive, and she's unaware of the Sorcerer Supreme of her own universe. Untainted by expectations — this is what she gets.

"Wicked…" She mutters under her breath, as she draws away from the shaken hand. His knowing response, though, twigs her lightly, a surprise tension in her neck and toes and ankles and wrists, all tweaking into a coiled spring for a half-heartbeat.

She tries to laugh it off. It is wholly 'not believeable' when she does. "Heheh… y-yeah, like I keep telling people. I'm the 'one and only' Ghost Spider."

Carolus picks up the slack on info, and Moonstar doesn't press, and that's enough for Gwen to try and relax into things, but skintight costumes don't leave much to the imagination in her physical reaction to Strange dropping bombs on her.

"That doesn't even mention the armored racists that attacked us for chasing leads. I'm glad we came to the best. Uh… Are there a llllot of parallel dimensions? Sorry, even if I'm a weird alternate, it's not like I got issued a newsletter and a membership card. Can you find them with… wwwwwizard spells?"

The Sorceror Supreme is a lot of things. He's a man of science as well as one of esoterica. A healer, a teacher, a source of advice and counselling. He's someone who's spent decades protecting the world from threats most will never even know exist, because if they did know it would be for the approximately two seconds it took for Dormammu or somebody to devour their souls. He's a member of the Justice League, who's battled alien invasions and probably at least three angry super robots.

He is also kiiiiiind of a dick?

"All right, we'll put a pin in your situation, Ghost Spider," Strange says, in his version of being obliging to what is a delicate situation. He even uses the codename provided, despite that creeping, dreadful thought that he might know exactly who's under that mask. "Let's move this up to my lab."

He turns and, in what might be a disappointingly mundane followup, heads towards the large staircase in the back of the living room. Though between steps, his clothing changes into a blue tunic with a cruciform emblem on the front, and black pants with of all things a pair of heavy combat boots on his feet. There's a flutter in the air as something red and gold streaks towards him, the Cloak of Levitation settling upon his shoulders. He still walks up the steps though.

  • * *

It's on the third floor that Strange's main workspace can be found, lights turning on of their own accord once he steps out into the study.

"The problem is, there's literally an infinite number of alternate realities. Simple multiverse theory, every decision, every possibility, creates a branching point, creates another reality. Most of those - which is still a literally infinite number - are only tiny variations. Today you had waffles for breakfast instead of toast, you wore different socks, that sort of thing. Of course, these differences are cumulative, and there are realities wildly different from our own. Most of those are, mm… Ephemeral. After all, while everything is possible, it's not necessarily likely, and less likely possibilities make for a less firm reality." Oh no, he's lecturing. "Some of them are so improbable you'd feel yourself sinking into the ground, because you were simply too real to exist there. Like a rock tearing through wet paper. Others, myriad momentary possibilities, are born and wink out in moments. And still others sink into the dark foundations that underlie existence."

Is this helping? Does he just like to listen to himself talk sometimes? Maybe it's both?

"Anyway, put the wings in that circle there," he directs Moonstar, pointing at where a pentagram is inlaid in silver into the floor. "Completely inside. Make sure they're not over the outer line at all, or we might all die horribly."

He says that pretty casually. Maybe it's a common problem?

"Now, let's see. There's only about… Eh… Fifty-ish? Realities of any real consequence. Substantially different from this reality, but firm enough to exist on their own. Some of them are the usual stuff, you know. One where everybody's Nazis, one where everyone's just regular, not specifically Nazi, evil versions of themselves, one where everyone's gender-flipped, one where everyone's cartoon animals. Others are less suited to my glib explanations."

Pensively, he strokes at his mustache, grey eyes following the mangled wings.

"But yes, Atlas, something brief. Especially if you have any idea who might've sent these two wherever they are now."

"Brief. Alright." Carolus breathes in deeply, turning to face Doctor Strange properly. He takes a moment to collect his thoughts, and then begins, "The night before Warren's supposed death we went and investigated the disposal site used to get rid of his wings. They'd been infected with a highly targeted technovirus that inhibited his recovery and necessitated the amputation, which spread into the disposal facility and turned the people there into waxy cybernetic zombies."

"Contextually we already knew that murder-suicide wasn't really Warren's style," he continues, "so we kept digging. We checked the crime scene, which had been cleaned up— competently, it was hard to detect, but still. Daredevil let us know that Cameron Hodge had been present there, and didn't really act like somebody who just lost his best friend gruesomely. Told us that Alison had been drugged with ketamine before she was shot. Bodies also disappeared from the morgue before anybody could get to them."

"Ghost Spider and I tracked down Warren's Doctor, who gave away that he'd been involved /somehow/ when a couple of power armored Purifiers showed up. We assumed they were there for us, but they went after the Doctor instead. Inquiries more in your wheelhouse were conducted by Danielle and Illyana, which concluded that neither Alison or Warren are dead."

"Based on the access required to Warren to deliver the techno-organic virus we started off sure that somebody close to him that nobody would question had done it, and the crime scene pretty much backed that up. Presently, Cameron Hodge is our prime suspect." He gestures loosely into the air with his two right hands, "Doctor Stuart was an accomplice of some sort, and these Purifiers offshoots with Chitauri power armor probably are too. Maybe a couple of members of Warren's family, but we're less sure of that right now. Either way the whole thing was pretty organized, which is why we're concerned for the broader mutant community."

When Carolus asks for discretion Moonstar once again glances between Moth and Spider, before she settles on watching Ghost Spider and how she reacts to everything.

Again there's the faintest of frowns from the Cheyenne, but those questions about Gwen's reality are set aside for now. Later though she's definitely going to pick up the thread later.

Now comes the time of moving to Dr. Strange's lab. The change of clothes and the red cloak are given a quick eye from Moonstar, but mostly she just follows Strange up those stairs.

His 'lab' is definitely given a once over before Moonstar shifts her attention over to Carolus as he details just about everything. Moonstar shifts slightly in place as Carolus reveals all with that excellent narrative of his and only after he's finished does Moonstar murmur dryly, "Thanks, Carolus and you know, we should just really record all of that so you don't have to keep repeating yourself over and over again." See? Humor can still be found here, even with the heaviness and seriousness of the situation at hand.

"Very organized." Moonstar agrees, "And like Carolus said Hodge is our prime suspect, especially after some phone records were dug up between Hodge and Warren's Aunt. I wouldn't be surprised if Hodge and that particular side of the family were in on everything together."

The direction given by Strange to place the wings within the circle and completely within the circle are heeded. Dani carefully steps into said circle and places the wrapped wings within, "Well, if we all do die here at least I can guide everyone to their preferred afterlife."

Once out of the pentagram Moonstar adds, "I suppose I should warn that when Illyana tried to locate Warren via his wings some sort of blood-based demon tried to inhabit them. I would appreciate if we didn't accidentally cross streams and end up in that particular demon's dimension."

"Banishing it required a lot of clean up. A lot."

Ghost Spider relaxes, incrementally, after the whole situation with her goes largely unquestioned.

The Wizard probably knows, but he has both Mind Blank and Clairvoyance/Clairaudience up. Can he read her mind??! IS HE USING OLDER RULES FOR PSIONICS???

Her point of contact, Carolus, explains the 'short' version with a dissertation of facts and things.

Carolus' 'Boss', Moonstar, explains more about it. The investigative mind of Gwen Stacy is put…

To absolutely no work. Everything had been explained. In fact, everything had been fairly coherently laid out with extra details Gwen didn't know!

"Uhhh… Sorry…" Ghost Spider brings up a hand to rub the back of her mask, snaking it under her hood to scratch expressively at a phantom itch.

"I'm actually just the muscle this time around. But the wings, at the disposal site, they were all mucked up with some metal zombie virus."


"Hmm," muses Strange, with his best professorial 'I'm listening but I'm too cool and aloof to show it' tone. And it's true, he really is listening, but he has a reputation as cryptic and inscrutable to uphold. Besides, a lot of it - especially techno-organic viruses and corporate machinations - are pretty much outside his bailiwick. Even when he was a practicing medical doctor he didn't know anything about techno-organic viruses.

Admittedly, that was like sixty years ago.

"I can't say I'm particularly surprised that Miss Rasputin might've accidentally summoned a demon," he notes at last, dry amusement creeping through his tone. Not that he doesn't respect the sorcerous mutant's power, but he doesn't seem to think very highly of her dexterity with it because he is, again, a dick. Don't even get him started on John Constantine. "Have you tried interrogating this Hodge about where the victims have been sent? If he's the one ultimately responsible for all of this, then he must've gotten the virus from somewhere, and presumably made arrangements for the disposal of Worthington and Miss Blaire. Wasn't she a musician or something?"


"Wong, how do you still have CDs?" wonders Zelma Stanton, Strange's part-time librarian and occasional apprentice, as she helps the burly sorceror clean up the practice room (it's the gym, really, but it looks like the gym out of a Shaw Brothers kung fu movie). "Look, you could just plug your speakers into like, an iPod or a phone or anything."

Wong gives the young woman a cryptic smile. "Ah, but just because something is newer doesn't mean it's better. You know Stephen still prefers vinyl records, most of the time."

"Yeah well, when you live to be a hundred or whatever I guess you automatically loop around to hipster," Zelma sighs, turning over one of the cases. "Oh wow," the bespectacled, perenially hat-wearing librarian says. "Isn't this Dazzler's first album? Really making Khalid sweat to the oldies, huh?" She turns the case over. "Wait, is this SIGNED??"

Wong, poor long-suffering Wong, is left sputtering helplessly.


"Regardless," Doctor Strange says, unaware of the hijinks unfolding elsewhere in his home, "perhaps we can glean some insight others couldn't. Few things in this or any other universe can hide from the Eye of Agamotto!" Making declarations like that is really one of the things that makes the whole wizard business worth it, as the Sorceror Supreme makes an arcane gesture in front of the amulet hanging on his chest, and the Eye opens, shining a pure white light on the once-beautiful wings of Warren Worthington, to reveal whatever threads might still connect them to him.

Carolus catches Moonstar's look. He makes momentary eye contact with her, until she looks back towards Ghost Spider. The truth is that he doesn't /actually/ know all that much. Just enough to know that Ghost Spider wasn't interested in sharing more than she had to, and he can hardly blame her for that. It's not as if this is the reality she intends to remain in, if she has anything to say about it.

"Haven't made a recording of it because it seems like the sort of thing that would abruptly fall into the hands of somebody I don't want to have it." He explains, amusedly.

But he's completely serious. That's why he hasn't formlettered this stuff.

He glances towards Ghost Spider, vaguely concerned, but he doesn't voice any worries immediately. She's the one who wants not to cross the streams, after all.

"We suspect that Hodge may have a secret escort of power armored racists, and if he's behind this he's definitely gone out of his way to do it so that it reflects badly on mutants. Basically… we have to be careful with him." Carolus explains.

"Our first thought was to get some telepaths on it. Our second thought was that there are probably traps for the low-to-middling telepaths that are prolific, and we'd rather not get more people hurt rushing into things. I think Jean was going to take a look when she got the opportunity." He shrugs lightly, and lapses into silence as Strange brings his amulet to bear.

"Once we have Warren and Ali back we'll know who was behind all of this." Moonstar states grimly after Carolus explains why they're handling Hodge with such a delicate touch.

"And whoever it is will meet justice." She promises, and while those words of hers sound dark with that promise she does add, "Legal justice."

Hopefully Moonstar doesn't break that promise, but even she can't necessarily say if she will or not. It all depends upon what Alison and Warren tell them.

At Gwen's additions, Moonstar offers a smile of encouragement to the young woman.

Then comes Strange's declaration and that brings Moonstar's gaze over to the Sorcerer and the Eye of Agamotto. When the light shines upon Warren's wings Moonstar switches her attention back to those mishapen winged appendages.

Her expression is rather wary, but for now the Cheyenne woman is quiet as she waits to see what happens.

"You can't even bring him in. That's the problem. That's the entire problem. Why, at least I think, the best choice is to get Warren and Alison back."

Far from the 'guh, dunno' of previous, Ghost Spider actually has a whip-crack reason for this question.

"You can't bring in Hodge because there's no smoking gun. There's nothing that actually directly points at him that we have. Sure, the Institute could get it. I've done some research - a powerful psychic could just pull the confession or details out of his head. But it wouldn't stick. It'd make things worse."

"No DA is going to prosecute this case because it's an automatic loss. It's not a preponderance standard, you can't just stack up more evidence than the other guy. You'd have to pin them to the wall beyond a reasonable doubt, and Hodge could just go 'these mutants are framing me' or 'a biased psychic found exactly what they wanted to find' or even 'a wizard changed things' and with how bad everything's going right now with public opinion… The State of New York wouldn't be able to convict. They literally could not put Hodge in orange even if the judge, the jury, and the DA wanted to."

"Sorry, Mister Strange, but I think wizard portals are the best way to go. The criminal justice system won't help."

She's aware of the looks in the way that animals become aware of focused gazes - brief gusts of phantom wind against her cheek. Expecting some interruption, she gives a quick turn of the head back, a questioning quirk of her lenses.

'Is something I said wrong?' they wordlessly ask, having long since gotten into the flow of the night and aggressively moved past her own part in this story.

"Is the Eye, um, like a sense you have? A Wizard-Radar? Or, is it, like, literally an eye?"

While Strange is himself debatably the magic police, he's definitely more used to only being answerable to his own conscience and inscrutable cosmic forces than the sorts of authorities regular police are supposed to be… So it's probable when he referred to interrogating Cameron Hodge he meant less taking the guy downtown to perp sweat him and more letting a hairy Canadian threaten to snikt his bub. Or the telepathy thing, even. Gwen's quite right about nothing about that ever sticking in court, but on the other hand it would save at least two lives.

It's not his fault, the sorts of villains the Sorceror Supreme deals with aren't really the kind you lock up in Arkham Asylum or the Raft, or even Blackgate or Iron Heights. Baron Mordo doesn't go to jail, Baron Mordo gets banished to the Dark Dimension while swearing he'll get you next time, Straaaaaaaange!

"Hmm," he says instead, when the Ghost Spider rightly points out how the legal system wasn't going to back them up just yet. Besides, she also asked something that demands a portentious answer. "The Eye of Agamotto is an ancient relic given to the current Sorceror Supreme," which is him. "It reveals truths, banishes illusions. A conduit to the very concept of illumination and discovery."

The light that shines onto the ruined wings almost seems to have a physical presence to it, like you could reach out and touch the platonic ideal of light itself. Tiny things float in it, like motes of dust in a sunbeam, but they glitter oddly; they turn and twist around something, something unseen.

But if you turn a little, redirect your consciousness just so, you can see the outline of it traced in negative space, outlined by those dancing, shining motes. A thread, gossamer thin, worn ragged by time and tide. But it's there: A link, a connection, between two parts of a whole thing. A connection that grows weaker by the moment.

Strange reaches out, and he grabs it.

The room folds onto itself, unfolds in a different shape, a kaleidoscope of matter twisting around them. The light of the amulet, of the Eye of Agamotto, winks out, and then the shifting Escherian madness of the room is replaced by dark, empty and silent and cold, so cold, colder than all the infinite graves in all the myriad realities put together. They stand in a place that isn't, and in that moment they themselves are not: Not Strange, nor Ghost Spider, nor Moonstar, nor Atlas. But still those hands, faded ancient scars from the surgeries that failed to restore their sublime skills running down the back of each finger, hold that thread, and pull it, though it threatens to snap.

In that nothing, that nowhere, that nowhen, something dares to creep in, drawn by the heat of them, starving for the guttering embers of existence the mutants and the spider-powered young woman bring with them. Whispers in their ears, ghostly brushes against their skin, half-seen images of their own faces just out of the corner of their eyes: All the things they might've been if they'd made different choices, or had different circumstances inflicted upon them. All the things they fear about themselves in the small hours of the night.

"Fooooolish, to wander into the dark," slithers a voice into all their minds, while Strange continues to pull. "I wonderrrrr, did the Strange One bring you to slow ussss while he searches for some answerrrr? Would weeeee be delaaaaaayed sucking the marrow from your bones? Ah, ah. Not the firrrrst, not the firrrrst."

There are eyes everywhere, now. Huge and dark and terrible. In colours myriad, in shape and form beyond count, some with serpentine pupils, some segmented, others all too human. Those ghostly, unseen touches become stronger, firmer, as though a hundred thousand hands were grabbing, clutching, seeking to pull the visitors down into the dark and an eternity of terrible anguish with sweetly whispered awful promises and

With a last, sharp yank Strange pulls that thread, and it snaps, it snaps, the sound is sharp and cutting, the sound is suffering itself, the death of an old life; it snaps, but in that moment he reaches further, and catches something, a tiny light. And he grasps that light and closes his fist, but it shines between the gaps between his fingers and you can feel fingers on your wrists and teeth on the back of your neck and they know every wrong you've ever done and

With an abrupt suddenness, Strange's study is back, as normal as it possibly could be. The Sorceror Supreme has his hand raised, closed around something, like a gently captured butterfly.

The remains of Warren's wings are on fire in the magic circle.

"Thank you." Carolus interjects towards Moonstar, when she amends 'legal justice' to her statement. It's been worrying him for more than a little while, but he hasn't wanted to press it. It isn't as if he can /blame/ anybody for wanting to string Cameron Hodge up by his ankles and cut his throat.

Or dump him in a hell dimension.

"I imagine that we'll have something more concrete by the end of it," he asides to Gwen, "but you're right for the moment. Between you and me, I think Hodge is probably more susceptible to being arrested on /financial/ crimes than murder. Or attempted murder. I'm not really certain how all of this shakes out legally…"

"Warren and Alison are going to have a time just getting themselves flagged as alive again."

The little look /she/ offers among the silent exchanges, Carolus simply smiles at, leaving the answer to her interpretation.

It fades quickly enough when the Eye does its work, and the cold settles in. Carolus's arms all draw in around him, the strange cold brought about by the magic at play more than enough to overwhelm even his higher-than-normal tolerance of it. Is this what Doctor Strange puts up with all the time? How do you even /learn/ something like this?

No wonder his initial answer as a flat 'Nope'.

Uncertainly his gaze turns towards Moonstar, searching for /her/ reaction to the things creeping into the edges of their consciousness and perception, trying to ascertain whether or not she's panicking to verify whether or not it would be right for /him/ to do so.

And then it's done. The cold is gone, the things in the dark are gone, and it's weirdly warm because— because Warren's wings are on fire.

"I'm sure you did that quite skillfully, and I'm still appreciative of your efforts, Doctor Strange," Carolus says, still drawn in on himself, wings vibrating visibly without lifting him off the ground or properly unfolding, "but that was still one of the worst things I've ever experienced."

To think Danielle Moonstar was just worried about another bloody demon trying to enslave the wings again.

That's a paltry fear compared to what happens next.

The room twists and changes, and Moonstar tries to understand the logic behind what's happening, but there really isn't any.

At least, not logic she understands. All she understands is that magic is never easy.

When the crazily cracked room disappear and is replaced by darkness and coldness, Moonstar feels grateful. Up until the light of the Eye vanishes and the things that hide in the dark make their presence known.

Whispers and images flash around Danielle Moonstar, of choices made and not made. Decisions that were good, brave and others not so. Sometimes good. Sometimes evil. Happy. Sad. Sane. Not.

A bear haunts many of those flashes seen at the corner of her eyes. As does winter.

She could say something to those eerily whispered words, could lash out at the creepy touches upon body and limb, but she doesn't. Instead the Valkyrie stands there stiffly, hands fisted and her expression grim.

That expression of hers hides whatever else she might feel.

And while she doesn't see Carolus look to her in the darkness, as soon as the room reverts back to something approaching sane and normal, the Cheyenne lets out a harsh breath. That sound is one of relief and in that moment of relief all Moonstar can say is a low, "Spirits."

Then with a shake the woman immediately looks to her two teammates. First Carolus and then Ghost Spider, to make certain they're ok.

Because let's face it that was so not okay.

"Attempted, if they're alive at the end of it." Gwen quips back, rolling her shoulders as if she has to physically get ready for the spiritual adventure they're about to engage in. Her last time, shattering through dimensions like a vortex through a pane of broken glass, spiderwebbed quite literally with colors, sounds, and potentia had been a very physical experience.

Her journey through the Spider-Verse had been abrupt, colorful, and the entire time her special Sense had reassured her through the process.

'Dodge the falling polkadot' it would instruct. 'Brace against the building you're about to ram into'.

This… Was different. As the room folds in on itself, Ghost Spider's legs leave the ground as she springs up involuntarily, surprise evident across her lenses before she's swallowed up by nothingness and darkness.

A ringing like tinnitus fills her not-ears, a Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory Love Tunnel Of Impending Doom tumbler of colors, feelings, urgings, needings to react and being simply incapable.

Gwen - not Ghost Spider, the hero, but Gwendoline Stacy, the girl - sees What Could Have Been in heaps of bodies around her, weakly pawing at her costumed legs. A tumbling, roiling sea of dead-eyed and blond-haired bodies gasp at Ghost Spider. Out of the corner of her eye, a dripping meaty tongue laps at the side of her neck, and over her other shoulder, a version of herself far older aims to wrap both hands about her neck.

But it's the voice that really gets her, as she flails and struggles, dangerously throwing around her enhanced strength to kick off or struggle free from the 'zombified' horde of spectres.

<… suck the marrow from your bones? Ah, ah. Not the firrrst…> comes the voice, and finally Ghost Spider's sixth sense goes hog wild. She has to fight, she has to leave, she has to stop this thing, whatever it is, whatever would consume her, she had to fight Fight FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT IT RIGHT N-

And it ends, with the cutting snap, and Ghost Spider is left with a host of visions and awful promises, quietly holding back sobs (badly) and falling to her knees.

She doesn't have a witty comment, but she's currently sucking in breaths as if she had decided to not breathe for the whole intervening seconds/minutes/years/subjective eternities spent in wherever Strange had tugged them.

"The between spaces are not to be tred lightly," Doctor Strange says, as though he didn't do just that and also bring along three essentially defenseless people for the ride. "I need you all to understand this, because you will need to cross them again. To get to where you're going, you'll need to navigate the primordial chaos of the Bleed, the stuff from which universes are made and the sea in which they float. One careless move and it will destroy you, or if you're lucky deposit you in some other world than you intended, with no way to return. Where we went was… Somewhere else. The things there are ancient, beyond ancient. They were old when the foundations of creation were laid."

The Sorceror Supreme ignores the fire; it doesn't spread beyond the invisible barrier of the circle, even the smoke of the fire constrained as though trapped in a tube. It doesn't take long for the remains of Angel's wings to render down into nothing but ash and dust. He ignores it, and walks towards the trio who came to him for answers. With every step he takes, there's a drip-drip-drip of blood, black as pitch, that runs from his nose and his ears, that weeps from his tear ducts.

"Though Miss Moonstar is a part-timer, she's still a Valkyrie. Her talents are to find the dead, not the living. Ghost Spider has a heart that cares so much it bleeds, risking so much to find people she doesn't even know, but she lacks the connection. Atlas," he stops in front of Carolus, holding out his hand; he turns it, opens it, and in his palm is a tiny little light, pulsing lightly like the beat of a heart. "This will lead you to where you need to go. It will draw you, inexorably, towards Warren Worthington III, because this is part of him, and it wants to be reunited."

Drip, drip, drip. Strange hardly seems to notice, but if he wasn't use to agonizing pain that most people would turn to gibbering madness to escape, he wouldn't be able to do his job.

"It won't survive out on its own for very long though," the Sorceror Supreme explains. "You're going to have to eat it."

Before he has the opportunity to look after either Moonstar or Gwen any further, Carolus's attention is drawn squarely to Doctor Strange. It's specifically the … blood? That is running out of his eyes and ears and nose, but even as he's getting ready to step forward and try to figure out how to even /begin/ to help somebody in that state, it becomes evident that it's not particularly necessary. He supposes it's rather like psychics— that just happens when they're shocked badly enough, and as long as they don't drop dead it isn't worth worrying about overmuch.

But it still induces a sinking feeling, watching that, listening to the Sorcerer Supreme explain where they had gone and where they would be going back if they wanted to do anything about Warren and Alison.

Seeing the thing that's in his hand.

Atlas looks up into Strange's face, and then back down towards the tiny, beating something. He makes a noise, something between a sigh and a vocalization — not quite a groan — that is so very characteristic of somebody who knows that they really, truly must do something that they would very much prefer to avoid. Like anything to do with having your bone marrow messed with.

He reaches out and takes it with his primary left hand.

"I suppose that I'll just have to be sure not to accept any gifts or eat any pomegranates after this." Atlas remarks, wryly.

Then he pops the burning, bleeding 'something' into his mouth and swallows before he has time to think about it any further, shutting his eyes and bracing himself for whatever nightmare hell he's bound to experience as an immediate consequence.

Carolus seems to be ok.

Then it's over to Gwen and upon seeing Ghost Spider struggling Moonstar makes her way over to the young woman.

"Spider." Moonstar says quietly, "You okay?"

Of course, even as she checks in on Gwen, she can't help but see Warren's wings burn completely up. Nor can she ignore the sound of dripping blood.

The fact that the blood is coming from Dr. Strange causes Moonstar to stare at the man for a silent moment, then it's back to Gwen.

Depending on how the young woman is doing, Moonstar extends a hand toward her to help her to her feet, if she's ready.

Even with attending Gwen, Moonstar keeps some of her attention upon the conversation at hand. As such, when Dr. Strange mentions her part-time status, the Cheyenne can't help but snort softly to herself. It's not like it isn't the truth, after all.

Of course, when Dr. Strange presents that bit of light to the winged man, Moonstar frowns, but does she stop either of them? Nope, because in the end they need to find Warren and Alison.

If that means poor Carolus has to eat whatever-that-really-is then so be it.

A questioning look flicks over to Strange, "Carolus is our compass to Warren, but will that open a portal as well? Or will we need to gather the troops and bring them all here so you can send us off?"

It doesn't take long at all for Gwen to calm herself audibly, her quiet choked sobs quieting with the rhythm of her breathing. In and out her chest heaves, and with the rise and fall of her shoulders, she crawls back towards her center.

Dani closes to her, and Ghost Spider looks up with drooped, furrowed lenses. "I'm…" The words catch. She's really not. Her ears ring and throb alteratingly, and her scalp feels pricked by pins and needles. Dani's hair looks like flames running down her shoulders.

"…Fine." She grunts, reaching a hand - and Moonstar can feel the tactile adhesion, an unbreakable chain between Gwen's hand and Danielle's wrist as she claps the offered hand high to heave and be heaved up.

"It's not the first time I got thrown through a universe or two. Last time it was more wow-fun and less wow-I'mgoingtodie." There's no smile in her tone, no brightness to her quipping. "Definitely not leaving a good review."

Brought to her feet, with the Wizard offering Carolus a weird edible soul bit, and it's all Gwen can do to gawk. "Moonstar, is this normal? I feel like I need a hot cocoa and a blanket after a scary movie."

It's rather like the sensation of suddenly realising you're not alone in a room you previously thought was empty. What Carolus experience is an awareness of presence, like there was someone just out of sight, no matter how he might look. The bit, the mote of 'Warren Worthington' doesn't really taste or feel like anything itself, the act of swallowing it perhaps more important as a metaphor than a literal thing. Rather, as it absorbs into the X-Man's very self, it brings a sudden, uncomfortable sense of intimacy.

And a light tug inside the soul. That bit of the missing Angel wants to be reunited with the rest… But right now, it's impeded. Unable to reach Warren because the barrier isn't in a particular direction, but rather is everywhere around Carolus, all the time.

"We all need rest," the Sorceror Supreme declares, answering both Danielle's and Gwen's questions in one fell swoop. "Atlas will be able to find Worthington, but you'll need a portal opened. The best place would be wherever they were originally sent from but we can do with somewhere with a strong enough connection. A home, a favourite place." The wizard half-stumbles over to a rather comfy-looking armchair and practically falls into it. The bleeding has not stopped. "If you need a portal, just… Let me know where to meet you. The place will make the connection easier, Atlas will provide something to home on to. After that, he'll know where to go." A frown crosses his lean face, brief and painful. "There may be side effects. Magic always has its costs, its consequences. The longer that stolen piece of Worthington is kept from him, the more it's going to want to get back to where it belongs, which is likely to seep back into you. Much more than two, three weeks and you may start to suffer… Deleterious effects to your sanity."

Strange gives a tight, tired, apologetic smile.


Carolus makes an aggravated noise at the sensation of swallowing the mote. He's a mild person, but he still likes his privacy, and there's something that he doesn't especially like about what he's experiencing. He couldn't articulate it all that well if he tried— he suspects that it's rather akin to what some psychics experience when they first start exploring other people's… maybe not their minds, but their emotions at least. It's not like that, exactly, either. But if it was easily conveyed, it probably wouldn't be magic.

He opens his eyes and takes a step back, looking around.

"Two weeks." He repeats, raising his primary left hand to a temple. What would the consequence be, exactly? Simple insanity, or some sort of bizarre ego leak? Probably a bit of both, he decides, and all told he'd rather not actually go and ask. Carolus looks away from Strange, avoiding the gaze of the others as he tries to follow the sensation to nowhere in particular.

"The morgue." He suggests.

"They disappeared from the morgue. That's probably where we should try to punch through." Carolus stops shy of leaning against anything, though he's clearly off-balance enough that he wants to. His wings twitch and buzz in place, this time /actually/ lifting him about an inch off the ground.

He shakes his head, "It's fine. It's… If this is what gets me, it wouldn't be the worst."

"You prefer codenames?" He wonders, halfway between dazed and curious. Or perhaps a little loopy, it's a bit hard to tell.

Moonstar helps pull Gwen to her feet and at the Spider's questions, the Cheyenne answers simply with, "No. This isn't normal."

"But neither is it surprising."

Because magic. Nothing more needs to be said.

At the offer of Strange opening a portal for the team, Moonstar nods, "We may need to take you up on that.", Carolus' mention of the morgue prompts a thoughtful look from Dani. "That or the apartment."

Where Ali and Warren were killed.

"Both have advantages and -" The rest of what she was going to say falters as Strange reveals the possible side effects of swallowing that mote of Warren.

The cynical thought of 'of course there's always a price to pay' flickers through her mind, because there always is.

It's Carolus' words that prompt a reaction from the woman, "This isn't going to be what ends you.", promises the the Cheyenne, "We get there, we find them, we extract, then we get home."

It really sounds all very simple when stated like that, but Dani knows life is rarely that easy.

A look now turns to Strange and seeing the man still bleeding and exhausted, Moonstar adds, "Thank you, Dr. Strange. For helping us with this. Is there something we can do to help you? Or someone we can call for you?"

"Yeah, that's…"

Gwen snorts, despite the graveness of Danielle's comment. "That's kind of a free space, isn't it? Alien battlesuits, the murder-suicide being just a murder being actually a kidnapping, whatever THAT was…"

"It's not normal, but it's not really surprising." Ghost Spider repeats.

It's then that it is revealed to Gwen Stacy that her presence today, and the associated gain of trauma and nightmares, was entirely unnecessary for her to be there.

"Wait. We're not in another dimension? We're going later? We're going back through that?"

Ghost Spider's voice trembles with a mixture of despair and exasperation. 'How dare you' her shoulders scream. 'How COULD you' gasps the tightening of her fingers into fists at her side, after leaving Dani's grasp deliberately.

"And Warren and Alison and through it? They're lost in that garbage?"

"We've got to go get them then." She exhales, the tension in her jaw audibly, if not visibly present. There's no easing off. She's wound up too tight.

Honestly, Strange had expected more anger.

One of the terrible truths about magic is that the help you get from it is rarely the help you want, that the solutions often seem, at least on the surface, like they're as bad as the problem they're meant to solve. These are the sorts of things he learned a long time ago, and has had years, decades to come to some kind of terms with. Others, especially those who aren't deep in the magical world themselves, understandably have not.

"If we'd tried to pass through that space, we would've died," he tells Gwen tiredly, looking at her with grey eyes from which bloody-black tears still trickle. "The connection between Worthington and what was left of his wings was nearly broken. The best I could do was pull that bit of him to us before the link gave out entirely. We would've almost certainly been lost in there, with minimal protection against the Many-Angled Ones, and then there'd be a life-hating abomination wearing your skin in this world instead. I can assure you that the people you're looking for aren't in there, they're in another reality. Now that we have a compass, I can create a portal to the world they're in, which will make for a much less unpleasant trip. But you're right, there's no time left to waste."

He shifts a bit on the chair, waving off Moonstar's questions about getting him help. The only thing that's going to help him any is time.

"Names are important," he does answer Carolus, though. "They have power. Especially the ones people take for themselves, those names are a kind of vow. About who you want to be. Well, Atlas, I'm afraid there's a bit more weight on your shoulders now."

He's silent for a long moment, his eyes drifting shut. The Cloak of Levitation, all red and gold, slithers off of his shoulders seemingly of its own volition, instead settling over him like a kind of blanket.

"Tomorrow," says the Sorceror Supreme. "Nightfall. The morgue. Bring your X-Men, Danielle Moonstar. Bring whoever you've got. I expect you'll need them."

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