Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.
and speaking of, how did you keep a group of hot-heads like the Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer together for so long?" The White Tiger entered, followed by Doctor Strange, his crimson cloak of levitation carrying the catatonic body of Baron Mordo in the air behind him.
"Technically speaking, they never stayed on the team all together for very long at one time," Dr. Strange said as he passed through the doorway. He felt a sharp twinge of pain in his mind as he carried his unconscious enemy through, the result of a protective spell meant to alert him should the dreaded baron ever set foot inside his home.
The White Tiger stripped off his snow-white mask, and the yellow glow from the eye slits gradually faded into nothingness. The police officer and dual citizen of the United States of America and the Kingdom of Wakanda, Kasper Cole, stood before his teammate, still admiring the many mystical and archaeological artifacts all around him in the place.
"I don't mean to sound rude, especially to a new teammate," Strange said, "but I really must try to find out whatever I can from Baron Mordo while he remains in such an unobtrusive state. This could be a ploy for all we know, so it would work to our advantage to understand the trap, if there be one, as soon as humanly possible. I will be upstairs in my private study. Rintrah is still meditating as assigned earlier today. You are free to look around if you wish; anything which would be activated by vision has been removed from these public areas of the Sanctum."
"So that not even a dummy like me could accidentally set them off, huh? Good thinking, Doc. Have fun picking the baron's brains."
After a brief pause, Strange said, "Indeed," and carried Baron Mordo up the stairs in the folds of his levitating cloak.
Kasper removed his gloves and stuffed them into the pockets of his trench coat. Wong came out with a hot cup of tea for him. "Thanks, man. Uh, again, I'm sorry about before
"It is nothing," Wong said. "If you remain a Defender for long, there will no doubt be some point at which you will be possessed and I shall have to incapacitate you. Everything is as it will be, in time."
"Um, yeah," Kasper said as Wong set down the tea on the small antique table before him. "Hey, Wong?"
"Yes, Mister Cole?"
"Just Kasper's fine," he continued, "with all these ancient artifacts and such around, I gotta ask: what's with that Ultron head above the fireplace? A trophy of a time the Defenders helped the Avengers or something?"
"It is not a trophy," Wong asserted, "it is a memorial. Ultron-12 served as a Defender for several months before succumbing to an injury which damaged his, what was it called, sentience program, causing him to revert to the evil of other Ultron models. The Defenders had to deactivate him, but this does not change the good he did when he was able to do so."
"Dang," Kasper said. "Ultron was a Defender? Friggin' Ultron? What am I doin' here?"
The mysterious DOCTOR STRANGE! The savage WHITE TIGER! The alien RINTRAH! Evil-doers tremble at the names--for these three form the crux of the greatest NON-TEAM in history, heroes called together only when the need arises--to battle MENACES that threaten the security--or the very LIFE--of the planet Earth!
Dan Gordon Presents: The Dynamic Defenders!
The Defenders #65
"Old Allies, New Foes"
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
Wong was drying the dishes after serving dinner to Kasper Cole. Rintrah and Doctor Strange were too busy in their private studies to be bothered with food, he knew, and so he spent the evening with the young man, the latest member of the mystical alliance known as the Defenders. He recounted some of the Defenders' greatest battles and most tragic losses, while Kasper told of the same regarding his time with the police force.
Automatically, Wong paused in his dish-drying, his breathing temporarily halted, as his ears pricked up and he narrowed his eyes, focusing his concentration on the hint of a slight noise he thought he had detected.
Soundlessly, effortlessly, with the most fluid grace available to a human body, Wong spun around and sent the dish slicing through the air, shot from his hand with all his strength and speed.
The plate shattered against a black gauntlet with three large spikes protruding in a sequence from the wrist up the arm. The intruder's black and blue body armor covered all but an area of the lower face from nostrils to chin, wide enough to reveal an inch on either side of his mouth. His eyes were hidden behind tinted lenses. His chest was covered in the profile of a black bird of some sort, mouth open as though in a defiant scream. The fingers of his gloves were sharp-tipped, and his boots had the same row of three spikes his gauntlets had. His belt was a series of black pouches with blue buttons to unsnap them open or snap them shut. His black cape exaggerated his shoulders and draped down nearly to his ankles.
"You can't hurt me," a raspy voice came out of the mouth of the intruder, as though he had been chewing on a steady diet of glass and smoke all his life. "But I can hurt you. Stay put and don't make a noise and I won't"
Without a word, Wong snapped his wrist, wrapping the damp towel around the intruder's armored neck. If he were not so heavy as a result of his body armor, Wong could have thrown him to the ground at that point. Instead, the intruder stood there, spellbound for an instant at the man's temerity.
With a speed beyond human possibility, the intruder head-butted Wong, sending him crashing against the sink and landing on the floor, barely able to keep himself conscious as the sledgehammer pain swelled in his forehead.
"I'm sorry," the intruder said, "but it has to be done."
He reached into one of his belt's pouches and threw down a gas capsule against the floor. It shattered and released a colorless gas that made Wong cough three times before he had finally had enough and dropped unconscious to the clean floor.
The intruder scanned the room for any other attackers, then proceeded into the hall. "If I remember correctly, it should be just in
The intruder stepped through the doorway into what he believed would be the parlor, only to find that he was now upstairs in a private bedroom that had been hastily moved out of, boxes still packed on the floor.
"Huh. Wrong turn. Okay." The intruder exited the room, finding himself in the hall upstairs. When he had walked around to the end of the hall leading to the stairs, he found that he was instead in another hall. He walked the length of this hall, only to find that it was a dead-end, and so he walked back and found himself in another hall, entirely unrecognizable. He snorted. "Hate magic."
Kasper Cole stepped out of the bathroom, ready to head home and take a short nap before getting up in the later evening to patrol the streets. Such was the life of the costumed vigilante.
"Hey, Wong," Kasper said, stepping towards the kitchen, "I'm heading out, give my regards to Strange and
He found Wong out cold on the floor, shattered remains of the thrown plate across the tiles. He immediately slid on his knees across the floor, coming to a stop right before the fabled man-servant, and checked for a pulse.
"Hey, buddy, wake up for me," Kasper said, slapping Wong's cheek lightly, "you can't pin this one on me. What happened?"
" Wong said, "Armored
"Stay put and get some rest," Kasper said, as he slipped his white gloves back on. As he pulled his mask tight over his face, the yellow glow returned to the eye slits and his voice automatically deepened. "I have a scent."
The White Tiger stalked off into the labyrinthine hallway, leaving Wong to shake the cobwebs out of his head.
"Never known it to be this difficult to get around the place," the intruder grumbled to himself, "must have reinforced the spells since last time I was here."
The black and blue armored intruder stood still as he finally found the parlor and his vision immediately rested upon the shelf above the fireplace. His face tightened in rage at the sight of the dented head of Ultron-12.
"It's about time," the intruder said, removing a long, thin metal device, almost like a screwdriver, from his belt. It glowed with a red light. "Now I just have to use the sonic lance to permanently erase all its circuits and"
"No," he heard come from a deep voice behind him, a half-second before he was thrown across the room, to smash into a cabinet of antiquities. Several ancient, irreplaceable items shattered forever, some dissolving into a liquid or evaporating into a gaseous state. The intruder rose to his feet, unharmed.
"I didn't hear you coming," the intruder said, and the White Tiger could detect a light behind the lenses which was analyzing his own talents and equipment. "Vibranium-soled boots."
"As befits all in the service of the Panther God as a White Tiger to adopt," the White Tiger said, sliding his 9mm pistol from its hidden holster beneath his trench coat. He aimed it at the revealed flesh of the intruder's face. "You have three seconds to tell me exactly what you are doing here. Two."
"None of your concern, Wakandan," the intruder said, "you're not a Defender. You have less right to be here than I do."
"Nighthawk," the White Tiger said, as the intruder shot tiny spikes from the tips of his fingers. The White Tiger rolled out of the way, and they sparked with electricity as they hit the wall behind him. "Kyle Richmond is dead. You're an imposter."
"I'm his protégé," Nighthawk revealed, "from another Earth." He slid his gauntlets before his face in time for White Tiger's gel bullets to bounce harmlessly off of them. "My name is Neal Richmond, though that doesn't matter anymore. The only name that does is Nighthawk."
"A commendable attempt, my friend," White Tiger laughed, "but Neal Richmond was also killed in battle, while working in Europe with the Champions." (1)
"Almost," Nighthawk agreed, picking up a fallen wand and pressing a stud that caused it to fire a beam of magical energy. "I was saved from the explosion of the underground, rebuilt practically from scratch. I'm more machine than man today. That's why I'm doing what I'm doing here."
White Tiger easily dodged the mystical bolt and hurled an energy dagger of Wakandan design at the armored intruder. Nighthawk tried to slap it away with his gauntlet again, but this time it cut through the spikes.
"Nice," he admired, looking at the damage to his armor, as White Tiger leapt across the room, flipping through the air, and fired several more plastic bullets at the man from another world. They shattered harmlessly against the chest of his suit of blue and black armor.
"You are good, I admit that," Nighthawk said, "but it doesn't really matter. I'm here to see that every last remnant of Ultron is destroyed; I'll go to the ends of the Earth itself if I have to. I have the backing of the entire Machine Nation behind me."
The White Tiger drew another energy dagger, holstering his useless pistol. "You will not desecrate the memory of a fallen Defender. I will protect my late comrade to the last breath, regardless of who you may or may not prove to be."
"That's a shame," Nighthawk said, "because I can respect that. I was a hero once; Nighthawk, then Iron Man. Now, I'm a mechanized bird of prey, and my prey is the predator who destroyed an entire country and would have decimated mankind itself if only given the chance."
"And I am representative of the Panther Spirit," White Tiger said, gripping his energy dagger tightly, "and a Defender. I do not take either of these affiliations lightly. Leave here now, Nighthawk, and I will not kill you."
Nighthawk reached into the pouch to pull out another sleeping pellet, when White Tiger threw his energy dagger, stabbing between the nerves at the wrist, nearly tearing his entire arm off with the force of the throw.
White Tiger crouched, ready to attack, expecting an opening when his enemy would cry out in pain. Nighthawk did no such thing; he no longer had any nerves there, as his arm was entirely cybernetic now.
A hot gas hissed out and Nighthawk looked down, frowning at the arm that would need repaired yet again. "Okay, I am done playing with you. You're not the Black Panther and you're not a real Defender; you're just some wannabe or somebody's sidekick, so step aside and"
The White Tiger leapt at his foe, and Nighthawk pulled out his sonic lance to strike the last Defender down.
[Within Dr. Strange's private study.]
Dr. Strange put his fingers on the sides of Baron Mordo's head as the Eye of Agamotto shined its all-seeing light down on him. There was a powerful magic blocking it; nothing that couldn't be pierced, but it would require time and great attention.
"Huhh!" Baron Mordo suddenly gasped, his eyes opening wide with fear and bedevilment, his chest heaving, gulping in the air, and he jerked himself up, still floating in the air via a simple levitation spell.
Before Strange could offer a rebuttal, a piercing screech filled the entire Sanctum Sanctorum, deafening, as the fabric of space began to warp and brighten, blinding all within its walls.
Dr. Strange, Baron Mordo, White Tiger, Nighthawk and Wong, all screamed out at the top of their lungs in the instant when the deafening shriek was at its worst, unable to hear it, only able to feel the hoarseness resulting in their throats.
In an instant, the Sanctum Sanctorum and all within its walls ceased to be there in its proper place in Greenwich Village.
[To be continued in Defenders Annual #8
1. See Champions #50.