1965-05-03 - Constellation: Andromeda Rising
Summary: It turns out that not all is well after the defeat of Volga.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
bucky rogue strange 


It doesn't take prescience or precognition to know that this visit was in the wind. They had their herald in the form of that engineer par excellence and his visit to Strange first.

But even the Sorcerer surely does not expect the reaction of the wards. For they've come on foot….Buck wheeling a footlocker behind him, albeit one with wax sealing every possible seam. For all the world like kids come home from the most terrible summer camp ever. And whatever he bears has the wards up in arms - not every day a man bearing the heart of a dead sorcerer in one hand (in a glass box in a basket, no less) and the feather of the fairest of the Fallen tucked under his coat.

Red alert, Stephen Strange, red alert.

Only weeks before her departure, the bohemienne witnessed a future unlike that of the Swinging Sixties. Whatever she saw there clearly left little mark. The time in the U.S.S.R., another matter altogether. Both experiences have superficial surface impacts, some easier to see. The less said of the scar on otherwise damn-near impenetrable skin, the better. A coat or sleeves helpfully conceal that. "One word of caution," she says ever so slowly as they approach the only other mansion in Greenwich Village, this one not owned by the city or some questionable community organization. "Events go pear-shaped, focus on the trouble and not me. I won't hurt you. You ride me harder than anyone else."

A deft hand for a pharaoh's kohled eyeliner dramatically accentuates the muddied green of her surreal gaze, or the penchant for dark colours plants her squarely outside the fresh psychedelic tide arriving with the British Invasion — and she presaged by two years, but who's counting? Fifteen years ahead of the Goth movement and there's its pale-skinned empress, tea an offering in a tin. Because hospitality is a dangerous rule.

The Mystical claxon sounds at the very second a booted foot hits the final outside step leading up the double darkwood doors. The Sorcerer, meditating in mid-air up before the Window on the Worlds in the balanced Lotus position, opens his eyes to reveal them already inundated with a piercing hue of neon-amaranthine. The rapid reconfiguration of reality comes with its own singular attributes; the inner ear rudely shaken and stirred while the rip of air from lungs is rapidly reversed and gravity reorients within a large interior room.

Outside its fluctuating crystalline paneling, the haze of the true Sanctum remains. This — this is the Mirror Dimension, the Sorcerer Supreme's HAZMAT zone, and that's there the Soldier and Bohemienne find themselves within a heartbeat of their arrival. The atmosphere within it is still, allowing for a few moment's of collection as needed and then —

Ozone, crisp and sharp, inundate the air as Strange strides through the wall. His aura flickers around his form, visible in desert heat's mirage and minute flecks of brilliantly-blue mica, and he pins them both with his attention even as he slows his approach.

"It's about damn time," he nearly growls, his eyes shifting from Bucky to Scarlett. "Be succinct, please. What am I dealing with?"

The Mirror Dimension. Oh, God, not this place again. Buck doesn't flinch or startle, but it's very clear there's a major pucker factor involved in being in this reflective realm. His motions, however, are deliberate and slow. The motions of a man aware he's standing in the middle of a mine-field, even as he interposes himself between Strange and Scarlett. As if he could defend her from any threat Stephen might present.

HE sets down the basket and the footlocker. "The heart and body of a Russian sorcerer we killed. Named Volga," he explains, succinctly. Which utterly fails to explain the plume burning against his chest, visible to a Sorcerer's sight like a flare, even if it's wrapped in leather and silk to conceal it from mundane sight. That's apparently another issue entirely.

Certain moments ripple like daybreak across the threshold of the flesh. She knows too well the consequences for certain delvings through dimensions, often through the oddest means. Whilst Anubis' soldier trudges with his ugly prizes on the way to the High Priest of Thoth, the drumbeat of his footfalls and his apprehension knell ill winds for them all. Sharp facets wreathing them earn a certain hard texture, facets that reflect the face of Isis well enough. Though by rights, she might best be mistaken for her brother, Set, by that namesake feature, flaming hair turning to curling ash at the ends.

If the transition bothers her, she wears enough of a decent poker face not to show it. The slow meandering of her long tunic bells around her hips, settling far slower than the rest of her. Stillness relies on a certain trick of fading into the background, knowing when to avoid the predatory eye. Albeit, this business of conversation belongs more to the two men than a young woman slowly recovering the power of speech. Ravages of time notwithstanding, she gives a punctual nod to confirm Bucky's statements. Then she holds out the tin of tea. "Mutan white and toasted macha, accented by a layer of cocoa, vanilla, and a kiss of brandy. Venice in a cup." A pause, lengthy, as her murmured tones lilt bemused. "Minus the canal sludge."

Those supernaturally-glowing eyes narrow as Strange watches the assassin move to stand before Scarlett. A blink wafts nearly-invisible smoke from their corners, where it curls and evaporates quickly within the relative stillness of the dimension. His attention shifts to the basket and even then, he can see the lightly-striated musculature of what appears to be a human heart, even through the coagulated smudges of red on the inner walls of the glass container. The footlocker is given another speculative look before he returns his keen focus to Bucky. Oh yes. Hello, feather. You're noted, have no fear. The animate remains his priority in the moment, given how he sighs slowly at the red-head's confirming nod.

"Tea." It's not an entirely disbelieving tone, but the distrust is clear. They haven't passed muster, not just yet. Something's still registering on his Mystical Geiger counter, even beyond that of the angelic plume and its radiance to his Sight. "Barnes, you seem no worse for the wear. Scarlett?" The Sorcerer locks eyes with his erstwhile apprentice. "No — Autumn," and the true Name resonates with his lightest touch. "How do you fare?"

IT's a corpse in the box. As if there were any doubt. "I'm okay," he says, quietly. And indeed, he doesn't seem hurt….nor no more mad than usual. But there's a definitely taint there….the body and the heart have left their traces on the Soldier. Blood will always tell.

There's that faint, feral wariness in his eyes, but he's calm enough. Looking between them almost pitifully, but he doesn't speak up for the moment.

A heart sundered by the ugliest means and preserved without mystical assistance carries a certain unpleasant quality. Disregard the bruising along the putrifying organ or those quaint oddities that might only stand out at the closest inspection. Teeth marks might not stand up to withering well, especially in the absence of pronounced canines and ripping shreds left by carnivorous beasts long of claw and memory. Days in its current condition account to the lengthy trudge overland, and its owner long since escorted into Death's vault of whispers.

"Tea," she replies, succinct in a way. Loquacity bends when every primeval note plucked from her vocal chords still inflicts a certain measured discomfort. The tin remains flat upon her palm until otherwise taken or denied, its banner and emblem stamped gold on white, for a very particular brand. McNulty's, on Christopher Street, the source of most of her vintages of the non-ethereal sort, ought to be a comfort. Strange has been given at least half a dozen of these as many months, ever-changing. "Tired. Learning to live with the boys."

Vishanti know the poison on the lips same as her lover's, the wounds inflicted from a hundred directions that run slick with the traces of resistance and defiance, a counterpoint of despair that tastes of carbonadium and winter and water. That last note drips off the tally of lives, some her own, a weak flickering of unsalted tears. The blood will always tell indeed, the balance of hers so confoundingly, maddeningly complex, mortal with an edge.

The answers are contentment enough to bring him to traverse the two dozen feet of distance between them. Still, he stops out of immediate arm's reach; it'll take a forward step to make contact with his person. About him, the crimson Cloak gently undulates in the wake of his shifting aura.

"By boys, I presume you mean the clones. I hear tell that their…birthing wasn't entirely scientific by nature." He gives Bucky a considering squint. "We'll get to that, eventually. For the moment," and he points at the glass jar. "That — how was that removed from his body? And please, tell me that you have all of the rest of the body contained in there." Another point, towards the sealed footlocker. "Tell me that nothing is missing. If so, it's as simple as disintegrating the flesh to remove the physical connection of the being to Earth itself."

"Yeah. They weren't just made in labs. Volga used some kind of magic, involving his blood. IT was in the medication they were feeding them. It makes us addicts. I tore it out," Buck explains, matter of fact, flexing the metal fingers. And bit it, if the traces are what they seem to mean. "We got everything we could. HE's in there."

"I will let you know how it compares after I go into labour." Words flow with the tides, a playful roll of the weakest wavelet plundering some particularly sandy shore to proverbially dampen the Sorcerer Supreme's boots. That the bohemienne maintains relatively serene aplomb extends exactly so far as the verdant abyss promised in those eyes, a match dry-struck against the mischievous wall to ignite a hint of spirit. But miming the easy roll of a shoulder, she drops her arm, no longer required to uphold the tea. Either he wants the tin or he does not, but Scarlett does not intend to stand there like a statue proffering the taxed goods of America to a distant monarch.

Never mind her loyalties on that score usually go with a crown.

"Some traditional. Not all." No more score on that account, for all the sources of truth pour easily enough out of Bucky. Gainsaying him would be pointless; she can muster a murmur and not much more. After all, no one was asking her about that.

The faintest curl of lip greets Scarlett's off-handed remark, but then formality takes over his personage once more.

"Right. We'll discuss the clones and this…blood magic over the tea that you've brought, I assure you, but first…" He lifts his scarred hands into a deliberate set of mudras. The air around them shifts as the barometric pressure within the dimension drops until ears might pop. A concentrated cloud of light begins gathering around them, as if he's plucked the photons from the molecular atmosphere itself, and he murmurs, "Let's see what the man was made of… I recommend taking a few steps back."

The spell gathers momentum and glows brighter still. Loose swathes of fabric on his Master-blues and the Cloak itself — all begin to ripple as if he were standing beneath the water itself.

Obediently, Buck steps back, still keeping himself between Rogue and the Sorcerer. He even puts an arm around her, unthinkingly protective. The box with the heart is by the trunk - let Strange be the supernatural Hazmat unit, as it were. HE nods assent to Stephen, as soon as they're as far back as they can be. A glance at Scarlette for that quip. Apparently the idea of being a father the normal way still gets to him.

The Mirror Dimension gives a certain weird reflection of the true world, albeit one not precisely bounded by spatial limitations. Half a foot can turn into a league with the right gesture. If only. Scarlett turns her face away from the trunk laid open, not so much for respect as mute testimony to the disruptive quality of death. The bearer of the sorcerous mantle has work to do, potentially involving puncturing skin or poking about organs in the cadaver.

"Look at the horizon. It helps." This murmured beneath the curve of Bucky's ear gives hardly any reason for interruption. She lays her chin upon his shoulder, the better not to witness whatever peculiar pseudo-scientific assessments follow. But the tremor skating freely along the taut arch of her spine brings any hint of trepidation. Would but the memories float away. Alas not for the Soul-Thief, a living embodiment of the void.

It's fair to say Volga in death has a certain waxen, arch quality as in life. The razor-sharp cheekbones and the height of his brow would be reckoned handsome things in life, as if in death they carry over. Jet hair carries a vague hint of the lustre equal to a raven's wing, and whatever fitness he bore in life goes with him to the grave and beyond. Obviously not mummified, but he has something of that peculiar eternal quality that, say, Lenin carried off into his transparent sarcophagus. Never mind the torn open chest over the ribs or the severe damage inflicted by angry hands.

Long live the medical majors, those rarely bothered by the split of a rib cage or the muted gloss of organs exposed to the air rather than contained in the comfortable warmth of homeostasis. Strange doesn't flinch at the revelation of the opened footlocker. It's simply another cadaver in the end.

A few spoken Words, in a language than grandfathered the first spoken tongue, and the pale corpse begins to showcase a lacing of thin fissures. Without sound, without scent — without anything akin to earthly reaction of flesh and flame, the spell begins to eat away at the body. This particular incantation is one rarely used: complete organic disintegration. The being once sharing the name of a Russian river is disassembled and even as minute orbs of contained sunlight bubble up, Strange is casting a secondary containment spell. The draw is aligned to the physical composition of Volga himself; a complete scouring of footlocker as well as teethmark-flecked heart is the end result. Squeaky clean, just as the neurosurgeon would have it. He slowly lowers his hands and sighs, brows drawn into a ferocious frown.

"And now…tea, I think," he murmurs.

Buck's nervous, it's clear. He's all but holding his breath as STrange disintegrates that terrible figure. "I think that was just a shell, Doctor," he says, finally. "He's linked to the river, and the river still runs. Scarlett grabbed him, but…..I don't know enough about this to say." His tone is humble. Magic frankly weirds him out - it's so far beyond him. As Strange himself put it before, the mere sight of Strange's shadow is enough to make him flinch. That hasn't changed…..and this little show hasn't helped, not one bit. He's got his arms around Scarlett, more for his comfort than hers, truth be told.

She witnesses none of it, but Scarlett need not look to feel at a fundamental level all he does. Her nose wrinkles, as though the fizzing spell pops and tickles her nose somehow. Her rosebud mouth brands a pert moue into the fabric of Bucky's shirt, wherein the heat of her entrapped breath blooms upon his collarbone. Though they may be of an equal height, she manages to shrink herself down a little to keep the balance between them. Really, watching things fall apart is not high on the to-do list.

Away flies the spectre of so many eras, reduced to so much dust and then nothing beyond that. Unimportant considering the corpse has been in their keeping for days, weeks now. Scarlett sighs, head tipped forward. "Over?"

"Nearly over," Strange says quietly, and his voice echoes faintly in the resonant chamber that is this weirdly-reflective dimension. "The fact that Miss Scarlett has apparently made physical contact with the man before he passed is of great concern to me." The secondary spell he cast? It allows him to pull up a modicum of Volga's essence. Above his uplifted and scarred palm, a werelight gathers. Bucky might recognize it as it plays with visual similarity to the weary light filtering through muddied and hazed waters. Small orbs of its liquid-glow break and return to the mother-globe.

The Sorcerer rotates his palm about, from beneath to behind the floating werelight, and then a gentle push sends it outwards. It's a tracking spell, one with little chance of failure, and one headed straight towards the red-head. He banks on established trust here…but also her immediate reaction. Neon-bright irises focus solely on her for the passing moments.

Buck is frankly still clutching her like a teddy bear. But he makes no protest, merely regarding the wizard with those pale, wary eyes. Trusting the Doctor, even if the apparent treatment seems strange and alien.

Yon globes may split into smaller bubbles, but the largest invariably seeks out the bohemienne. She might have her own surfline if the werelight splinters in its own confusion, for the targeting mechanism certain to distinguish three targets in the space of two individuals. Go figure, maybe math is hard for the simplistic spell.

Say what one will in eldritch chant, the girl isn't exactly fleeing through the depths of the dimension or scrabbling for some manner of defense. What is there against Strange, the good doctor not exactly lacking for weapons or an abundance of firepower? Neither does she shake off Bucky, albeit the seawater rotation churning within his embrace confronts whatever lambent judgment lies upon her. A look up and ah, there lies the incorrigible curiosity to poke at things which really ought not be toyed with. One fingertip — still healing of its mistreatment — prods the werelight, the tip of her tongue peeking from the corner of her closed rose lips. Hopefully the spell doesn't precisely zap her. Should her hand pass right through, no bother. If she consumes that…

It wouldn't be the first time she devoured something unexpectedly.

The dark-haired man nods to himself, watching the reaction of the separating werelights. Poor Bucky; he gets a healthy dose of scrutiny in passing, enough to perhaps trigger fine hairs to rise, but eventually the Sorcerer's gaze slides to Scarlett once more. Once touched, the spell falls apart, though the Soul-Thief gets her fair share of a little spell-energy. It's a bit like a mouthful of seltzer water…if it tasted like the dredges of the Russian river and licking the inside of a earth-molded crematory chamber.

"Hmm." And Strange takes a few steps back to grant himself more space, about ten feet or so. "Miss Scarlett. Come here, please. I wish to speak to the being you managed to absorb." A beckoning finger accompanies his request.

Oh, this is where it gets bad. Buck's face is ever paler, and that wolf-light is rising in the blue eyes. But he's enough himself, enough James, to deliberately release his embrace of Rogue. He trusts the wizard…..nevermind how the ghost of memories down his own absent link are yammering at him about what dealing with sorcerers gets you. His throat works, once, as if his mouth had gone terribly dry.

Whatever energy remains to be taken, her intuitive grasp to absorb goes unabated. A bubble of power possibly worthy of theft either seeps in through her skin or ends up charged into her aura, a plasmic creation dancing around her in restless, surging waves unseen to the naked eye. Scarlett flexes her fingers, almost playing with the werelight, treating it exactly like a teenager with a candle flame, albeit said teenager is effectively resistant to being easily burnt.

"Autumn." Very small correction, but in the company of wolves, that cognomen selected by her will do. A half-dozen others could apply at any time. In the end, she relinquishes Bucky's embrace only because she must, and the conflicting cadence of loyalties turns into a mire navigated only by very careful movements and a light-footed grace.

Two steps forward and he's suddenly the one shielded, protected by that ebullient lionness guided much by instinct as direct habit to protect her pride. Route. Parliament, shiver, sleuth, however one cares to define the collective. No claws, as yet, but the set of her posture follows unconsciously protective lines, contoured to shield. "I can wake him up." The grimace gives her opinion of that. "Memories are less risky."

The true Name rings to the Sorcerer's elevated senses and he allows himself a thin little smile of relief. Good.

"I wish to speak with any semblance of the being's spirit. If it lingers on this plane, through your touch, I would rather it be removed. Though I needn't say it, it is dangerous to have such a magnitude of feral power contained. Perhaps, through it, I may also discover a manner for removing the stain of the blood-magic within you both." He includes Bucky in his glance, sharp as it is.

Buck just looks wry, and doesn't bother to deny it. "The kids will probably need that kind of….exorcism? Purification?" He ventures. He hasn't even gotten to the point where he mentions the planned jaunt to the Underworld….if it's to happen.

"Faster to pop to Russia." The words are scratchy and immeasurably thinned by the weariness in her larynx. Some damage sinks deeper than let on, a provocation for any scholar hungry for real answers. Deciphering sense out of the strange lot life handed her takes a little effort, bound silence while Bucky spars over his future with the dimensional guardian. She can almost lose herself to her inward thoughts, albeit the contemplation is one of those rare moments when the veil drops. Scarlett may be human, but her genetic curse flowers in a lie. A blink and those green eyes are black as night, rimmed in a faint crescent of fractured ice from the polar latitudes. Add a creeping hint of shadows racing up her braids and the transition is marvelously short, all said and done.


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