1964-02-06 - Tangoing with the Third Reich
Summary: Wanda Maximoff hunts Nazi demon-cultists, and pulls along Strange into the heart of Nazi country: Argentina.
Related: Dirty Dancing
Theme Song: Tango Argentina
wanda strange 

The children are gone, set running friskily off to their doomed ends. Amazing how a passionate, if restrained, kiss can undo their composure, scattering those parrots in a flurry of particoloured feathers and clacking beaks, screeching about the behaviours performed by their barely elders. The power of community, hope, and wonder on display here in a house settled greatly since the ruffled departure. A jarful of honey plundered, two sweet biscuits downed, and a catnap upon the chaise in a rather forgotten corner room allow Wanda once more to return to tiptop shape. No doubt Strange needs enough time to set his affairs to order and wonder upon the hanging pair of leather dancing shoes left on the doorknob as a reminder.

Awakened, though, the business delayed by time requires her to shake off the argent dregs of slumber, and pursue her better half wherever he may be. Should that be adjacent her chaise dozing off, so be it; she anticipates a far more timely search through the hallways and chambers, focused first upon the Loft and then the library, allowing for all spots between save those locked unless he denies her all these things by presenting himself as the man about town.


Indeed, those shoes. Not boots in the least, but of the same supple leather prized by those who prefer a stable platform for executing such moves while drawn to and fro and closer still in those Latin dances that speak to the unspoken. One wouldn't expect the Sorcerer to have a file cabinet in the library, but indeed, the standard for the time: three drawers, all full of manila folders, each containing a neatly-organized accumulation of paperwork. Karl may make fun of the state of his living room, but here, at least, he shines. Upon leaving the library, he finds those heels slung and takes it upon himself to return them to their rightful owner.

Now where might a Wanda catnap? It would be humorous to a bystander to watch them hunt for one another, assuredly, especially when her path takes her to the library moments after he's disappeared briefly into the tea room. It's with a serendipitous flip of Fate's hand that they both seem to emerge out into the hallway in the same moment and it brings a grin and laugh from the Sorcerer.

"There you are." His warm words travel easily down to her and he makes his way to her, the weight of the heels slung across two fingers with idle ease. They swing back and forth with the natural shift of his steps. "You left these on the door." Captain Obvious…or is he, with that amused glint in his eyes?


"You would not have liked me in a short dress showing my thigh, as I spin around you, with one of those moves which is not a box." A light and easy guess derived graces her full lips, a breathtaking bit of ribald humour for someone so little inclined towards speaking in salacious terms. Rather she allows herself a moment to champion a cause: making Strange forever stand off his guard, and stumble sometimes where her unpredictability emerges. Corner of her mouth crooking mildly higher, she presses the mark of her palm to her hipbone, pinning down the leather sheath of her coat.

Daggers surely lie against back, side, thigh, calf, pinned in place by a variety of holsters fashioned from nylon and elastic-infused cloth, allowing her unparalleled degree of mobility. "Oh. There you have found them." The shoes show signs of use, but not a great deal, still fairly new. Straps sway and threaten to hook over his fingertips with the right movement, licking at the scarred flesh. "Not so useful for a jungle. Good for Buenos Aires. You know how different is the land, yes?"


With so few words, she conjures up such images. Has she even seen what the most skilled of Argentine dancers wear as they cavort around one another like so? With such nonchalance, the gauntlet flies to his side of the court and the stumble shows in the marked rise of his eyebrows and curling grin.

"You presume to know me so well," he flings back with a low ripple of repressed laughter in tone. The pitch deepens at marked points as he continues. "I've never been to Buenos Aires, but I've heard enough to hazard a guess that you won't find the natural rainforest in the city unless you count the locals as wildlife. A culture all its own," and he takes a step into her personal space, allowing the hand currently escorting her shoes to fall to his side, "where European grandeur meets…" Never once does he drop her gaze, even as a breath of space remains between the teasing minx and himself; he looms, broad-shouldered, his expression all cool confidence and conniving charm in that deep-claret dress shirt. "…Latin passion, as the brochures put it."

Before not another second passes, he's back a long-legged step and holding up the heels to eye them. "But no, to answer your question, not useful for the jungle at all."


O handsome devil, he opened the doors and now marvels that Wanda throws herself wholeheartedly into the magical world unknown to her until now? How those dashing swishy skirts and bold strappy dresses would ever elude her, he must not be so utterly ignorant and shut-eyed, not with the apprenticeship he undertook before the witch's coming. Illyana is as much a fish out of water as the brunette witch, save their tastes diverge and Wanda's may tilt towards the explosive and dramatic, couched in the most intense terms.

"Latin passion. Yes, they might have. But I would know nothing of that, child of Latin soldiers and Slavic wars and Indian travelers." Words selected carefully for their delicious auditory appeal crash and rush back, hissing around the barriers of consonants, rounding them out. "You would have liked the balcony. Very pretty. A place of wealth sparkling with lights, a place of bravery and excess. Grand. Passionate. Joyful. But stained."

The lilt of her voice smolders, dark eyes glinting brass to gold, and she drags her thumb against her collar to shape a triangle of leather to her whims, narrowing the contour in a roll. "You know the stories, yes? How Argentina and Uruguay and Brazil gave a home to men who should have stood at Nuremberg. Very bad. They have no integrity. Honour there is none of there. Sometimes they gather. It is helpful to overturn the house and see where they run."


Not one to assume, but now that he can gather that she's been there — and recently, given the information presented to him in carefully-picked Wandaism — there's little doubt in his mind that she paused to observe such finery in motion. Strange's charm dampens to his usual sober state as he realizes that the Hellcat has found a nest of vermin and that her intent is likely to snap each individual neck herself to ensure they don't scurry away to live another day. The minute wrinkling between his brows betrays his concern even before he murmurs,

"Yes, I'm aware of the Germans who escaped. Stories, most of them, but there's always a grain of truth embedded in them. It sounds like you've already been to Buenos Aires," and he glances at the shoes in a new light. They led his Beloved to her prey. "What are your plans?" He looks back to her, lips drawn in a thin line.


Charm will not be without some reward, for the notion is planted in the brain she surely knows how to wear those ballroom-worthy garments in a size suitable to her height, and maybe how they swish about. What girl cannot help doing a little chacha or uncoordinated foxtrot when enveloped in such a slinky, provocative garment? Let him savour the imaginative notion while he lines that up to the dark-haired demonhunter met in a misty glade, blades and spells flashing, to deliver their worthy demise two decades after the fact.

"Submarines. Boats. So many ways they came, helped by many hands. I found the hands and the being who aided them. I ended it, though not the runners. They go, and they have a twelve hour space ahead of me. Only fair, yes? Sporting. They do not have my gifts." Her serene expression is a brittle paper-mache mask mounted for the moment, no more enduring than his own foul moods, easily blown away in the right circumstances. "There are places in the mountains and forests, the valleys. They were made for these men to hide in, stocked. I know one of these must be where the cult lies, the cult who gives worship to the one who made me. In a different name. They are not sure who he is, or that his proxy is a demon, but it is my business. Yours too. Maybe ten? I think no more."


Ah, so the initial strike has already occurred. There is little doubt in his mind that she was successful in dispatching those who most deserved it. As he listens, he chews idly at the inside of one cheek, eyes disappeared by half within his equally-serene expression. Both practitioners often mask their intentions behind somnolence that lacks the distinct note of sloth needed to full imbue the lassitude to the bluff; they both end up more akin to 'predatory' than 'lazy', hence the distance given by nearly all but one another. In this case, cool spring air meets summer's humid heat and one might hazard the distant rumble of thunder imminent. The lightning will fork, but not at one another.

"The demon is my business, yes," he agrees quietly. "I'll aid you. What do you need to grab before we leave?" A Gate is a simple business to draw up, especially if she knows of a safe place to reach across the metaphysical distance to that far land of Argentina.


Oh, to capture that eloquent look from across the room or even across an aisle, within reach of one another. Those handsome features schooled into a contemplative's mask allows a concentrated assessment of his features, if not his mind, allowing Wanda to think behind the privacy afforded by his solitude. Silence is not an unwelcome enemy, as with so many. She cherishes its comfort, old familiar friend pulling on leather gloves over her fingers, broken in to just the right degree.

"The demon is out of its host, displaced. I am worried more for the cultists. They have some power to pray with this. They use blood for this, it must be." Her tongue flickers lightly against her lower lip, wetting it, and patience she compensates with calm regard. "My boots. Little else."


"Then meet me under the Window on the Worlds when you're ready." With that, he turns and leads the way down the hallway and up the flight of steps leading to the Loft. The strappy heels are deposited on her side of the bed, on the end, for another time.

Once she's retrieved what she needs to, she'll find him standing in the middle of the circular platform beneath the sigil of the Anomaly Rue, interposed amongst panes of glass. Tall and introspective, the Sorcerer Supreme wears his battle-leathers in storm-blue and the crimson Cloak at his shoulders. About his neck, the Eye in clear sight, diadem of such a thing, and beneath his undershirt, tucked away near to his heart, the bronze key on its chain. No doubt that relic will glow to her Sight should she turn it upon him.


Tossing her dusky hair, Wanda strides off to claim the last of the equipment to be stuffed in a pack. Boots suitable for an amble through the forested highlands of Argentina require little effort to find from the closet. A little longer to find the correct spool of rope, a good knife, and gloves follow, though she pauses a moment to consider the necessity of a proper insect spray and thinks the better. If the Sorcerer Supreme can’t fend off jungle insects, he really has no business whatsoever being in a jungle.

Not long on, she returns, enough for Strange to instruct the wards or Merlin to his departure, and pen a little ditty to match his next invocation to. Having discovered his charming penchant for rhyming, Wanda might listen for potential terminal rhyming words more often than usual. His battle leathers mark the seriousness of the occasion, and she assesses him critically, devoid of the usual lens of affection softening her thoughts. “It will be bloody.” No preamble less than that. “I find them, they will die or lose the gifts from their rotten power. I do not think any of them can be innocent.”

A shrug of her shoulders rumples the neat line cut by the claret leather coat. Her hand lifts, forming a familiar spinning orb of faded lilac radiance, something spinning quick on its axis. Already queued to its purpose, she merely reorients the finder spell on a specific source: the inkstain of her tainted dart. “One day I will learn to do this by a map, so we can go there, seeing the location. It is better than jumping blind into the unknown, but I have learned jump very often. Can you link the gate to it, or do you need me to take us to Buenos Aires and try from there?”

“I don’t mind bloody.” This coming from the man up to his wrists oftentimes in the stuff as a surgeon. No one gets to be the cream of the neurosurgical crop by being afraid of a little blood. No one also keeps the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme without considering all the options. “But think on the fact that by spilling their blood, you might accidentally empower the others. Best be quick, minimal…minimal bleeding.” It haunts him to say it, clearly, by the way his gaze slides aside from her, back to the Window to the Worlds.

A heavy beat of silence in which so very many things cross his mind, foremost that, She knows of things far crueler than death.

“I can link the Gate.”

On that subdued note, amaranthine calls to like and a wisp of the radiant spell is pulled from its mother orb to be woven into the snicker-snack of a rip in reality crackling open. Blending seamlessly away into aureate gilding that outlines the shadows of a wall not akin to any found within or outside the Sanctum’s architecture. Muggy heat, the thick soup of a city found on the fringes of the true wild, oozes through like molasses and Strange realizes that unless he enspells his garments with a cooling circling of air beneath them, he’ll quickly be sweating bullets. The consideration to literally change his clothing — also with a gesture and willful, imaginative Word — is marked as a possibility as well.

Stepping forwards, he leans out to glance both ways and realizes it’s an alley. Good. No one here. Or, rather, anyone who was here scarpered in fright after seeing the thin air begin to crackle to life. Spirits! Eeek!

“Seems safe enough,” he comments before looking solemnly back to Wanda. “Ladies first.” A scarred hand outstretched towards the oculus indicates that the Sorcerer will be right on her heels, the other half of a pair containing such powers and abilities that the gods should be wary in their machinations.

She makes no excuses for her knowledge or the lack of a Hippocratic oath binding her, much less apologizes for bringing the cultists hiding under the Third Reich’s bleak banner. Wanda’s background has hardened her to doubt and grief, stirred regrets dim in the scarred mental wasteland. A nod from the witch masquerading as a dancer, Strange’s admonishment lingering in her ears. “I do not make it any longer than it needs to be.” Like any hunter, she doesn’t toy with her food.


Knives in place, bag over her shoulder, she makes an excellent traveling companion and potential murderer of unsuspecting monsters. Thick humidity boils out through the hole in reality, a change in weather not likely to cause her to complain aloud for all it induces a sudden headache to match the yawning traffic, bustling pedestrians thronging the Old World architecture gracing New World streets. Her footfall lands on the old concrete, and she pulls her coat around her, revealing less skin to fit in with Argentinian standards. Casanova lovers they may be, yet modest nonetheless when it comes to women. Hands slipped into her pockets procure a few niceties, and she pulls up her hair with a twisted pin to catch the heavy locks, something less memorable than before.

“Buenos Aires is safe,” she murmurs, her eyes a molten shade of amethyst rarely seen in art, let alone humans. That alone might give her away. The floating orb accompanying them cannot be seen by mundane souls, a constant presence that starts to move immediately in a northwesterly direction, bound for De La Tradicion, a broad boulevard running on an angle away from the port city and bisecting parkland. It might be a particularly difficult path to follow if they were reliant on so many leaps, but the pretty young woman accompanied by her older beau offers her arm, as such is expected.

“Turn left,” she says, and then looks among the buildings for any sort of planted garden. Crude, but it will do, as she guides Strange there and orients on the witch-light finder floating overhead. They take only a few steps into the greenery before the witch kindles her birthright and sends them capsizing through a glimmering disc shining brighter than moonlight on the water, plunged into the surreal Witch Road. Easier for her than gating, though he barely needs to breathe to jump dimensions, though this stepping sideways carries her on.

The winding path goes forward and back through the pampas, reflecting a vision of Argentinian plains on the Rio Platte that were, not which the capital occupies now. Trees aren’t as common though they do stand out among the mind-boggling, brightly coloured flora whipping around in the wind like a grain sea. For a Midwestern boy, it’s probably comfortingly familiar. “We travel to the park, I think, and try to follow their lead. Or I can try to take us to the end, but we might have to walk back down our path. Your preference?”

While she might pull up hair for the immediate change in appearance from lush beauty to restrained finery, Strange has to deal with his own appearance.

No one shy of a lost bull-fighter is going to be walking around Buenos Aires in a crimson Cloak. Adjustments need to be made.

The slick of the illusion spell settling on him from head to toe combines a clever rearranging of Words to include not only the effect of battle-leathers hidden away beneath the clothing of a tourist, but the air circulation to keep him from ending up with swimming pools of sweat in his boots. Once the spell settles around him — his sigh is of relief, whew, it is muggy here — the only thing he’s missing is a Cuban fedora.

“I don’t feel anything remiss,” he agrees quietly, his own eyes flashing up brightly for half a minute as he scans the immediate surroundings. At least, not nearby, he thinks to himself. Arm offered is arm taken and it’s natural to act the gallant gentleman with gorgeous lady at his side. The travels after the bobbling lavender orb allow the followers some chance to appreciate the layout of the city. As Strange mentioned earlier, it truly is the grandiose touches of European influence affected upon traditional Latin culture, all seen in architecture and locals alike. True tourists mingle with the shopkeepers of small stalls and window-shops alike and even the air is different, laden with the spices of cooking that New York can’t capture save for a few select locations.

To the left he leads Wanda and she, in turn, leads them beyond the city to the Witch Road’s take on the wilds of the Argentine plains. Linked still at the elbow with her, he considers her question with his gaze on the far distance. This plane of reality didn’t forgot the inclusion of majestic peaks, snowcapped even in this summer heat, and he idly wonders as to their altitude even as he ponders possibilities.

“Following their lead might be best,” Strange finally opines. “In the essence of tracking, we can determine how far ahead they are, what they might be carrying on or in their person,” — because, y’know, demons and all — “whether or not they think they’ll be followed…how panicked they might be. If they haven’t had time to dig in, there’s an element of surprise to take advantage of. Get in, accomplish…what we need to accomplish, get out. Your Yaga couldn’t have skipped out on the lesson that a practitioner interrupted could be a practitioner dead.” Assuredly, the Witch was taught this and if living with the good Doctor hasn’t taught her that surprise is an element to hamstring a caster, there’s probably some sordid experience that has in its place. Clearing his throat, his expression darkens further, making the silvered temples seem quite proper. “If you remember in dealing with Morgan Le Fay, the element of surprise allowed us to breach the wards and then take the fight to her. The same concept could apply again.”


The Road behaves as no mundane road would, full of harrowing threats as much as dimensional pathways and starways are littered by wrecks and hulks. Here dreams pepper the already surreal landscape, contorting great spires from tangled, weaving bushes that react with psychotropic force to the proximity of any caster, and a witch or a Master of the Mystic Arts prove incredibly alluring. Things with too many eyes on stalks that branch and radiate prove the bounty of nature’s devising in DNA, though some of the titanic shapes recalling when South America was an island — or the world worshipped elder powers before the dawn of Man — warrant moving and quick.

Wanda’s rule on the Witch Road: never stop unless you must. No cairns or shrines indicate the right of way, the intersecting paths forming out of the mire and mist encouraging her only to keep a tight watch. With ceramic dagger drawn from the top of her boot, she hacks at several of the grasses trying to clutch at them, species without mortal names, bloodthirsty and eager, supple and supine.

“Yaga threw knives at me while I cast until I stopped worrying about the knives.” A memory forms and falls, and the thicket tightening into a thorny bessom warrants a very cautious look after a matter of keeping. She hisses at the landscape, but what can she do? Naturally it reacts to her words, emotions, thoughts. “She hit me in the face with her broom then.”

The bobbling sphere glows bright, aspiring to guide them in their endless effort. It floats ahead near one of the mistier holes in a darker thatch of firs and weird pampas grass, for she rotates to follow the hole hacked in through the aquamarine daylight. She is not cavalier with her footfalls on the path, and a gesture follows. “This way. We step through in there.”

Untangling arms allows the Witch ability to move and Strange too carefully watches the foliage around them, content to keep his peace with it if simply for the knowledge that they want the Mystically-inundated blood within his veins. Counter-casting might actually encourage the curious things and so, he simply keeps his hands in loosely-balled fists at his sides.

He has nothing new to say in regards to Yaga’s training methods. It’s a dead horse long beaten; he doesn’t approve. It’s as simple as that. No need to express it via words. His face, turning a shade thunderous, provides enough tells to it. Wanda might be too involved in preventing said carnivorous flora from approaching them to notice it, which isn’t the end-all. There will be plenty of times in the future for the Sorcerer to grumble.

“I’m right behind you,” he murmurs, following in her steps with the same care that she exercises. He does fairly well. Time at Kamar-Taj and experiences in other dimensions has made him more cognizant of where his feet fall. Snap a twig here, maybe a hundred eyes turn towards you all at once. Snap a twig in some other dimension, maybe the air itself condenses around your head with the goal of suffocating you simply because the being woven into the very composition of the place lives on the essence of last breaths.

He’s tempted to swat at the uncurling vine that reaches out, stopped beyond reaching him, simply for the pleasure of telling it off. The urge is reined in, hands kept close, and they disappear into the foggy hollow.


Dead horse since vaporised, likely the atoms flogged and flayed by a disapproving master. The extenuating circumstances to find their position means encountering the different perils of traversing the Witch Road, like moving through the marshy atmosphere tightened and thickened ‘round their legs closer to water than air. Still, she carries on, approaching the barely visible waver in the atmosphere where the lantern awaits them.

Wanda’s voice rings out, commanding in turn: “Deschide la poarta trădător.”

Willing her energy through the permeable barrier, it splits open and allows them briefly through, shattered ice crystals and chaff floating on the air, chiming as crystalline notes meet their ears. Passing through feels like disembodied shadows coalesce into heavy, dense forms of flesh and bone. Blood heats to the searing wind warmed in summer’s foundries, blown out through wide plains baked under the heavy sunshine, though the hour is late enough that they can consider supper — small plates, surely, or a bit of choice steak.

They enter a garden, one shaded in trees, as similarly the great boulevards stretching out through the old 16th century quarter of the city are. Wide trenches flank those lines of stately sylvan watchmen, the backdrop of high mountains in the distance a reminder where pampas fields meet Andean heights. The place absolutely rings in some respects with the feel of Tibet. A Tibet not scoured by war, one not blasted by countless attempts at diminishing the culture. Language naturally varies, the flowing roll of Spanish overtaking the harder high plateaux chansons of Tibetan and its cousins, yet were there a lowland vale overlooking India, it might appear thus.

Spanish as the city may be, figuring their whereabouts is sure to take a little time. Far to the west of Buenos Aires, yes, the lyrical fire of the capital turns into a sleepier state enriched by the vineyards and silver lodes out of those mountains. Prosperity through agriculture and an iron fist abounds on the wider routes here, and they’re taking to the street on foot as the lilac lantern bobbles and heads into a dense cluster of residences.

“Why here?” A question asked to the baked street, the leafy shade, Stephen Strange? The beacon is wearied but reinforced by a dribble of energy from her, though not one she can sustain forever. Tidy streets and squares, not a knotted slum, no lane near a dilapidated church. “The Germans never could like being poor. They took the gold with them, you know. Money of war and sin to pay for their way.”

Welcome to Mendoza. In thirty-three years almost to the day, a man will film a movie about Tibet here.

Slogging through thickened air and then subjected to the reminder that he is more than iridescent spirit-stuff, some of the beauty that could be found in the transition to the dry, thin heat of their emergence into reality proper is lost.

His first few breaths are experimental, testing the altitude (far higher than New York, that’s for sure!), and Strange eyes the garden surrounding them carefully with Sight-brightened eyes. Here, within the shadows cast by trees not yet turning their autumn hues, they haven’t been detected by anything supernatural — at least, at this moment. Movements of his neck remind him of the weight of the Eye and also the bronze chit, both hidden away for the illusion. There’s no clever blending it into the weave of their surroundings; he’ll simply have to hope that it’s finely-woven enough to avoid immediate detection, silk to an apprentice’s rough wool.

Still appearing as the tourist with lady upon arm, thus he travels, letting her take subtle lead. As they walk, he’s silent, thoughts kept behind his teeth for how they make his stomach unsettled. That is, until she wonders aloud. Glancing over at her from the path beneath his feet, Strange can’t offer up anything more of a smile than a heavy-hearted ghost.

“Politics, location, distance…if they have gold, they’ve bought their safety.”

As the little tracking orb leads them to houses closer upon one another, his expression closes off more. Would that the ones being hunted down lived instead in an estate in the outskirts of the city, a vineyard, with meters and possibly miles to mute any sounds of battle.

“Do you know any of their names?”


“Valentin Ritter. Alaric Braun. Thomas Hafner. Heinrich Baumgartner; his wife, Sophie. Hanne Weiss.” Names are given in fine detail. “The demon himself sent fleeing into the night, Kurt Schaeffer.” Wanda hisses out the German sibilance and harsh edges, ethnic familiarity giving her something far nearer to true to the ear than most Americans possess. Her tongue wets her lips to a sheen, swiped past the fullness of the lower.

Her pace is quick, implying they have somewhere to be. Branches in summer’s lovely weight bear huge plate-like leaves on many of the trees, leaving Mendoza a garden city the equal to Portland or Savannah, so very shaded and balmy in the dying of the light fading to copper and gold against flanks of the Andes. Few of those snowcapped crowns are much visible against the spreading crowns and the roof lines of the nearest houses.

Strange may look casual, but Wanda is the sort of intense person who never will, even fast asleep and wrapped in a blanket.

Her footsteps cover the cracked concrete and it reveals that Mendoza is much like an aging woman, using a few layers of face paint to cover up the broken infrastructure come with age and neglect, as will be Argentina’s sorrow. For all its great wealth, the benefits to the people are few.

The globe leads them steadily southwest, bobbing a little back and forth. They have a ways to go, given how it keeps zipping ahead. The sudden pull left would imply a car of some kind, and she curses. “There are times I wish may we fly.” Breakdown of English, she slips upwards. Swiveling, she stops in time to avoid being sideswiped by someone on a Vespa.

And that’s when she utters a curse, and the rider shakes a fist, and she takes off at a sprint after him. The globe isn’t headed that way, but apparently there are faster ways to travel than walk. Nothing like twisting the forces of fortune around the Vespa so it skitters and the engine doesn’t respond quite as well, preventing his acceleration away from her.

Poor man. Poor Strange. His damn witch apparently has no issues with Roman Holiday style hijacking.

It’s easy to keep up with her brisk stride, even as his stomach acidifies more for the number of names she listed. Maybe the good Doctor expected one or two. That’s a handful of names — bodies. He carefully files away the one who apparently hosts the demon, a mister Schaeffer.

If the man in question felt a cold brush of fate down the back of his neck, it was the ephemeral sights of the Sorcerer Supreme aligning upon his relative person.

“We still have the Cl — ” In response to her sudden twisting in place to avoid said motorized scooter bearing down upon her, Strange levels an angry look after the bike and rider — and then wider eyes as he watches Wanda take off after the person. The elbow once grasped for the sake of propriety allows an outstretched hand to linger so, lips parted in incredulity.

“«Beloved, that might not be the best idea!»” His shout might travel to her, worded in Tibetan for the sake of privacy. She looks, for all intents and purposes, to be bearing down on the stuttering Vespa with the intent to borrow it — permanently.

Long legs take him swiftly after her once common sense overshadows shock and he’s quickly at her side, grimacing and wondering at how in the hell he’s going to fit on the small scooter. I mean, legs. Legs for days.

Strange is more than strong enough to prevent her from launching herself at full bore into someone, if only by using his greater stature and strength to advantage. Daddy Longlegs will overcome a smaller black widow by sheer length of his limbs.

On the other hand, she is bloody evasive and fast when she means to be and the witch relies on sheer impulse and experience. No, she’s not Quicksilver. He’d be driving off with the Vespa in question before either of them blinked. But the girl trained in working in tandem with a speedster twin knows the fundamentals of the game.

Heel to the ground, she throws herself at the back of the irritated driver, her weight enough to probably pull both of them down. That’s rather the point, making the driver plant a foot and swing around, gutting the throttle altogether or losing control of the bike. Forget the helmet. A snap of her wrist goes straight for his back, something to further offset agreement, and predictably, the poor driver lets go of the handlebar with his right hand because that hurts.

“Off!” she snarls in German, emphasis cutting. “Go! You want to see how angry my father gets? How dare you put a hand on her, you filthy, foolish teddy bear, like you belong on the bed made with a very nice patterned quilt in paisley and wool!”

It doesn’t matter the latter is nonsense. It sounds terrifying when invoked by an enraged young woman, not the least because German in a love song has an ominous overtone. In the face of a crazy girl, the guy gets running, helmet and all, cursing in Spanish.

She rights the Vespa, hauling it around. Memory serves, it can’t be that hard. Traffic isn’t great. “On!” she calls to Strange; Tibetan, this time. “We will return it with full gas, but I cannot get us after the lantern this slowly. On foot we will lose their signature with too much interference.”

Go for your joyride, Sorcerer Supreme, and remember that when it comes to hunting down cultists, small sins are forgettable. The greater are not.

Angry Witch sounds appropriately angry. His eyebrows nearly disappear into his hairline as Strange considers the ratio of bluff to borderline true anger aided on by frustration at a lavender tracking orb getting agitated in its actions, torn between following its target and remaining present for its caster.

Watching the driver take off at a full pelt, he has a moment to wonder precisely what she said to make him scamper — hope he never figures out that ‘father’ comment, oh Consort — and then to stare at Wanda in a moderate level of still-present startlement.

He replies in Tibetan as well, “This is theft!”

Trust the man raised in polite and proper society to balk at such a thing while Nazi cultists travel farther and faster than them. Throwing up his hands in the face of such an imperative glare from the Witch, he swings a leg over the seat behind her and then scrunches himself as small as possible. It looks utterly ridiculous, I promise you. 6’2” of virile male crammed up against the smaller woman, his only seatbelt in the wrapping of arms around her waist. Not that they’ve traveling very fast, but still — safety counts. He’s seen more than enough vehicular wounds to warrant the circumspect approach to it all.

As they whip around the corner (relatively quickly) after the wobbling tracking orb, he speaks in her ear, English this time,

“How are we supposed to catch them by surprise on something as loud and annoying as this?”

Her father, several thousand miles away, might also be disturbed to know she invoked his name for reasons entirely reasonable, but out of keeping with context. On the other hand, given the man he might become, he could be perfectly satisfied to know his legend grows from such seeds as these, a crazy brunette shouting at a now-pedestrian, and threatening his presence even this far.

“«Borrowing»,” she replies, and should shades of laissez-faire opinion on possession as nine-tenths of the law apply, he may well see why Pietro, Tommy, and their associates equally hold to such opinions. “«Necessity and, besides, his aura was spotted with black. He without sin and stones.»”

Wanda isn’t entirely cruel when it comes to Strange being snug against her back or frowning on the proper balance cosmically and judicially for stealing a Vespa, but neither will she let her quarry get too far. Adjusting for balance is tough, and the little mint green bike has enough pep and kick to get them through the streets of Mendoza. Size counts. The bumps aren’t forgiving and sure, she’s not going eighty miles an hour. Soon enough the reasons become clear as they zip through the initially straight, broad avenues flanked in treets — one hundred thousand of them, broad-leaved and broad-armed.

Yet the traffic lights of behemoth cars, steel on rubber, fills the roadways. The hours aren’t much different from New York and it’s telling: rush hour. Disconnected from any sort of logical traffic patterns, the lights being few and far between at intersections, drivers have to negotiate the hellish pace without right of way or care. Strange is given a fine view of this while Wanda hops up onto the sidewalk to get around stalled traffic or cuts between lanes, going slow but going, at least, at times.

They swerve and weave a stitching route, humming right along, following that damn lantern. It may be twenty miles an hour, sometimes more, sometimes less, but at least they’re on the move.

“«We go near, not on them. Surprise isn’t so odd. There are many of these.»” She’s right; there aren’t a lack of motorbikes, from Vespas to dirtbikes to actual motorcycles, around.

A fine view. A fine view.

More like, ‘How finely can she cut between the taxi attempting to merge with the pick-up truck full of chickens in cages?’ and “My, you did a fine job avoiding sideswiped by that bicyclist!” and “If we hit one more bump like that, certain parts might be squished to a finite point.”

They aren’t the only ones without helmets, but they might be the only Vespa to leave swirls of newspapers in their wake as the side mirror clips a stack of them on a street corner. Strange has time to glance over his shoulder and mouth some sort of apology to the gesticulating stand-owner before they’re taking another corner. This requires a refocusing and cooperation in shifted weight, in which he obliges.

“«And then what, once we’re near them?»” Might as well ask. He’s been toe-to-toe with a number of interdimensional interlopers and impossibly-weird monstrosities, but never with Nazi cultists. A demon is his cup of tea any day.

Also might as well not admit that he hugs her closer in an underlying moment for security and solidarity. Her hair smells lovely too, even within the general acrid tang of exhaust, and the nuzzling of his nose between her shoulderblades might be noted even for her concentration.

Should he be prone to bending his face low, he’ll scent on her the traces of narcisse, tuberose, and mandarin to replace her telltale black rose. Disposing of her habitual fragrance permits her a hint of anonymity, as life affords very little opportunity to run a risk twice, and demons might mark her too soon if they recognized the invisible presence in “Isabella Enriquez’s” company was in fact a demonic vessel hunting infernal entities.

The alternating squeeze on the brakes and acceleration helps Wanda develop a rhythm to the stop and go traffic, weaving among traffic and using lanes where she can. Alas, Mendoza’s general layout and choked streets do not afford many opportunities to give Strange a blitzing ride worthy of a James Bond movie, in part because the alleys are few and nearly every driver knows about the shortcuts, willing to take use of them as they can.

Her body leans forward behind the tiny windscreen, and she keeps the lavender ball of spell light in her sights as long as she can. There are times when it vanishes, only to bomble out from a corner store or a launderia, once more setting the pace and direction for their given quarry.

Route 40, the main state highway cutting along the Andean backbone of the country, will soon enough come into view, something that more or less resembles the dusty outskirts of any American city. Palms and low billboards advertise various wares, traffic contributing to the hazy cloud. The flatlands give way to blue mountains and she cuts around a larger truck rumbling along with a load of gravel, eyes narrowing. “They go to the river, south.” A frown follows this, and she glances around her. “We will be out of the city soon enough.”

Farms aren’t abundant here but the properties are stretching out, saloon cars trundling along with the rutted roads. One particular green one ends up capturing the spell’s attention and it goes flying after the hard-top, the people within — three — reacting in various ways. The driver seems not to care, one of the passengers in the back looks around, and the third reaches into the glovebox.

Apparently they sense the magic, if not the source.

The Sorcerer does not mind at all that the traffic’s flow doesn’t afford many opportunities to risk bodily harm, even at a presumably controlled speed. I mean, road rash still hurts and there’s the chance of a concussion and the long bones of the body have a tendency to snap when torqued just right upon impact and — stop thinking about it!

“«Sounds like they’re running,»” he comments, fully aware that she never answered his question as to how she plans to engage the enemy. Never mind; they’ll deal with it as it arrives, thus is the supposition. He’s given up flinching at the shifts in direction and the bike beneath him by the time they slip around the gravel-laden truck and instead, looks around the wind-blown hair of the Vespa’s driver.

It seems that the lavender light has honed in upon its target, a sedan quintessentially recognizable as a model that might be used in a rival gang’s drive-by shooting, gatling guns and all, and his heartbeat kicks up a few notches. With a blink, Strange’s eyes bleed Mystically-bright. The tracking spell wends a tail like a comet behind it, ephemeral sparks flickering off and dying in passing. Within the car, still somewhat far ahead, he can sense a touch of darkness and malevolence, but nothing more than the soot stains of a departed presence.

If he were any closer, he’d note the shuffling of the occupants and be specifically ready. In this moment, with the back of his neck tingling and his aura flaring up at a gut suspicion, he’ll do his best to counter what comes in order to keep the Vespa from crashing. So sorry if the sensation of the Sorcerer Supreme’s aura so close to one’s skin makes it feel as if electrified ants crawl upon it.


Another vehicle, a land yacht like the saloon car, trundles down the two-lane divided road, the driver focused on adjusting the radio and hopefully catching wind of the latest futbol match results rather than worrying about dirt and dust on the soft shoulder. Its black finish barely gleams, whereas the saloon car moving in the opposite direction accelerates. The driver there has his orders, snapped by the man in the passenger seat who unfastens his seat belt and swivels around.

A black tuxedo marks him out, the woman in the back in her finery. What they converse about will never be known to history, but the pale blonde ducks down to lie flat and starts to chant, clutching at her purse. Its contents spill over the vinyl seat and into the wheel well, a collection of cigarettes, lipstick, and a token landing there. It’s the latter she reaches for with lacquered, shaking nails, and she snaps it.

Fell energies spill out from the shattered pieces cleaved in twain, a rectangular card embossed by a jagged black wheel. The ink bleeds out from the balsa-like halves, and forms a swirling cloud in front of her. Black light crackles and bursts around the woman clutching her sides. Only to the Sight does it radiate as an accursed beacon, a swirling pool of energies drilling down through linear angles that converge in a wheel, boring a hole through space — albeit not dimensions — around them.

Window rolled down, the passenger anchors the MP 40 against the rolled down window, checking the case. He snaps another cartridge into place and takes aim at the lantern, though that puts him squarely in line after checking the sideview mirror of a Vespa. A mint green Vespa with two riders trundling at a distance. Too far to be really a helpful shot, he instead unloads a few rattling slugs as a warning towards the purple lantern. Of course, to anyone who isn’t mystic, he’s shooting at nothing. But it’s Argentina. This happens.

Wanda glances to the needle measuring their speed, a number far too low to pursue the car in question as it starts to speed up. Choices splinter away by the second. She doesn’t even glance back to Strange, hissing through her breath. At that range, taking out the tyres means slowing down, stopping even. This has always been the careful balance, and sorcerous combat while driving is not a mystic’s forte.

So be it: she flinches, flattening further to give him less of an impeded shot. No doubt the Vishanti would be unimpressed if he can’t cast at 30 miles an hour. Or even thirty five!

Oh gods below.

Even as the sounds of the gun reach him, he’s gritting enamel with what would be audible noise and stark cheekbones. That is Dark Arts in action, the Sonnenrad in anti-light that causes his innards to squirm with foreboding; at his neck, the Eye beneath the illusion clicks open with a chime that carries to the ears of the two practitioners straddling the Vespa struggling to catch a car with many more horses to utilize than the motor bike.

So — let’s take out the horses.

Time slows to a treacle of speed for the adrenaline rush. The spell coalesces within his mind even as it reaches his lips. Hands gloved in Mystical light shifted towards the azurine end of the spectrum form mantras and as Wanda ducks, so he extends both limbs past her ears to reach just beyond the edge of the Vespa’s glass windshield.

The spell blitzes across the space between them, heedless of any concept of physics. It’s a roiling ribbon of air, naught of any Earthly origin for its hues in that same shadow-blue, and braided to plasmic lightning that lights up what smoke it exhales as it slips beneath the undercarriage of the car. The Mystical intent defies gravity to slip up into the mechanics of the car’s engine and…there is a vacuum where any liquid content used to be.

What gasoline? What coolant? What’s propelling the car anymore?

Simple momentum, suckers, and that’s about to start trickling away too.

The goosebumps that flood his body beneath the battle-leathers still illusioned away are reacting to the ominous feeling that they aren’t getting out of this so easily. Surely the expectation of needing to dismantle that MP 40 is the other reasoning for it and this requires a more tactical approach; after all, he needs to dismantle all the guns within reach of the car.

Unfortunately, to the ones ensconced within the vehicle without propulsive means, who have already shown an indication that the stalking ball of violet light can be seen, it’s unlikely that they have much of a cover anymore. Confidence tends to skip hand-in-hand with showmanship when it come to Stephen Strange.

Energy crystallizes into the Sonnenrad pattern, the wheel locked into place as the angular equations snap. Gears metaphorically catch and an inky lens opens within the vehicle, the width of the bench seat nearly. With a cry, the woman all but falls into the gate, falling through a pinched spatial fold to land somewhere else. Inside, the gunman barks a shout to the driver when the vehicle shimmies and a long bolt of energy pours through the distance, twisting around the engine.

Smoke and hissing squeals erupt from within, the ignition gone, source of momentum lost. Driver gripping the wheel in both hands, the vehicle fishtails as momentum gives way to inertia and the inevitable slowing of an object in motion. Bullets hail backwards but without any accuracy, a spray aimed roughly at Strange and the Vespa. Across the lane, the other driver jerks the wheel sharply to the side and practically drives off into the verge, cursing and covering his head. Fence posts and palms impede easy action and he slams into one with a groan of crumpling steel and a solid thwack of crunched wood.

Rattling retorts between the saloon car driver and the passenger aiming the MP 40 behind the long trunk of the car, and a decision is made. The machine pistol is hauled through the window while a buckle disengages, and in the split seconds piling up in the narrowing window between Vespa and saloon car. Without remorse, the man in the suit hauls himself over the back seat belly-first, falling into the central eye of the sun wheel.


Wanda has no words, only the bitter focus of speeding up on the chrome bumper and considering the wisdom of zigzagging while a hailstorm of bullets comes their way. Hissing breath escapes her and she demonstrates that unfailing trust in the man behind her: she isn’t shielded nor relying on her ability to warp space and probability. Not with the burning Eye awakening behind her.

At least the spell did what it was supposed to do. Strange can see the light-inversion of the portal clearly now — it bleeds through the steel frame of the car to his Sight as if the barrier simply weren’t there — and it looks like the rats are jumping ship!

Shield of Seraphim, before us at my whim!” A palm outstretched past Wanda’s ear projects forth the forwards-facing lens of a mandala in shades of citrine, rotating and counter-rotating within its rings, before the Vespa. Any errant bullet strikes it with visible spark of impact and audible zing of deflection.

The other driver passing by them gives him cause for great concern, especially after hearing the car’s impact multiple times to wooden poles and trees alike. Glancing over his shoulder, he hisses out a litany of curse words before glaring back at the saloon car they’re coming up upon. It tears at his heart, but he has to hope that someone will pull over to aid that bystander. He’s not leaving the Witch to take on these crazy people alone.

With the car slowing down drastically now and still the driver to contend with — he can’t see where that MP 40 went, whether it was tossed to the driver or went with the cowardly tuxedo wearer into the Sonnerad-shaped rift in reality — the Sorcerer leans in and murmurs in Wanda’s ear,

“Get to the portal. I’ll deal with the driver.”

The crimson Cloak comes into play, spelled into invisibility as is, and catches in the passing wind almost like a sail. He disengages from being the oddball rider on that struggling green bike to become the Supreme practitioner hovering momentarily in mid-air. He lands gracefully, one knee nearly bent to the earth before standing tall. Once grounded on the gravel, the touristy-looking man spits out a few more Words and aligns mudras in the direction of the driver and car alike.

It’s a whammy of combined spells: one aimed for total cessation of the vehicle’s movements by all four tires going flat at once (bad luck, that!) and the other seeking out the body behind the wheel to buffet his head in a vertigo-inducing perceived rollercoaster ride in reality. All an illusion, of course, but the inner ear doesn’t know better in this instance.

Bullets ping off the great shield rotating into being in front of her, causing the Sight to burn and her aura to repeatedly pulsate. Everything in her makeup, saturated by the imprisoned power under Mount Wundagore, ought to resist the essence of the seraphim. Mostly it stings, and she hardly cares, grateful not to be dead or bleeding on the roadside.

Their route weaves away from danger to the side, though not so much Strange is dislodged. She is a courteous driver, and doing her best not to ruin the poor Vespa as its engine hisses and whines at the task put upon it. Thankfully the tank is full enough of petrol to keep them going.

When his weight is suddenly absent, Wanda blinks. Very well, instructions are taken. She can adapt on the fly, so much of her life being the business of the unknown and chaotic.

The Witch knows when to defy gravity. She pulls the Vespa over to the roadside, spitting up dust and gravel as it slows to a lurching halt that nearly throws her over the handlebars. Reason to wear those boots is revealed in the slowdown and she practically springs off the seat, managing not to get her feet tangled up and falling face first on the asphalt. Wouldn’t that be heroic.

The Doctor’s efforts do slow the car almost to a crawl, though the brake lines aren’t cut. She has to catch with the moving vehicle, all the same, whereas he flits closer with the assistance of a grand relic. Already the driver focuses on being the diversion, trying to haul a pistol out from under his coat. Never bring a gun to a sorcerous show, it just isn’t safe or smart. Still, Strange might face a few shots in his direction for all the good it doesn’t do.

At a dead run for the car puts her somewhat at risk, but not without just cause. She forms a pivotal orb around her hand, raw spell energy conjured by the most basic of incantations. She can do that one nearly without a word, though her hands hold the unstable mass. Yanking the door open, she stares into the black-rimmed circle with nothing short of simmering disdain in eyes glowing dangerously magenta.

No time: she has to lurch through, throwing herself into the backseat awkwardly while the driver shouts at her in German, “«What!? You’re not supposed to be in there! Stupid, get out of there!»”

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