1751The Defenders #72
- Apr 27, 2010Deep within the Earth, miles below the surface, between layers of rock and magma and elemental tempests, Doctor Stephen Strange, the original, sat meditating in the middle of a shallow pool of sparkling, clean water. There was a gentle waterfall behind him.
This was the source wherein the Fountain of Youth flowed into this plane of existence. Strange had had to come here to strengthen his own life-force, which was being divided up between several bodies, each representing different aspects of his own soul.
For some time now, the surgeon Dr. Strange had been working in a hospital mere miles away from the Sorcerer Supreme. When the two finally met, the spell was reawakened and they divided once again, resulting in a further weakening of the Master of the Mystic Arts.
This division resulted in the creation of a superheroic Dr. Strange, dressed in the costume of the sorcerer with the blue mask he wore for a short period of time. His life-force now split between three bodies, Strange had to transport himself back to the Fount to stay alive and communicated telepathically to the Defenders.
He watched, helplessly, as Cage and the White Tiger tried to protect the surgeon from harm, only for the superhero Strange to smash their car, looking for the villain responsible for his loss of home and artifacts. He could not have known that the Sanctum Sanctorum was no longer in phase with spacetime or that he was merely a duplicate and that the mystical items did not multiply as Strange himself did. Strange feared that attempting mental communion with his duplicates might result in another split just as physical contact had.
Now, his life-force was divided up between four bodies, and he was weak even while constantly being reinvigorated by the pool.
`Rintrah,' he warned, `I am now quartered.'
"What are we doing here?" The Minotaur asked, suspiciously of his new master.
"They've split again," Jonathan Sage said and laughed as he checked his compass once more, "and this one is closer than the others! Follow me!"
Sage turned and they raced down a darkened alleyway. Ed Towser had followed the mystic ever since he had been kind enough to spring him from prison, restoring his new Minotaur suit to his use. With the majority of super-villain crime suddenly in sharp decline, (1) the Maggia was looking to capitalize on a potential source of income.
"I don't know what you're talking about, but if it'll get me my revenge on that blondie bimbo, I'm with you," the Minotaur said. He had been caught by the Valkyrie, who downed him with a single blow to the helmet.
And thus the Minotaur was added to that Norse heroine's rogues gallery.
"Stop," Sage said, studying the magic compass, "he should be right there!"
He turned a quarter of a circle and the Minotaur saw a shabby man, bearded, slumped against the building, resting, quarter-full bottle in his hand.
"Some wino," the Minotaur snorted, "what of him?"
"Not just any wino, idiot," Sage laughed, walking towards him with confidence, "Doctor Stephen Strange!"
The alcoholic bum's eyes opened meagerly, wincing as he looked up as though in severe pain at the two men. He saw, hazily, a man in a Halloween costume and another in a professional business suit. He slurred a few incoherent words and then fell over, asleep.
"This is your great adversary?" The Minotaur asked as Jonathan Sage's eyes lit up with mystical energy.
The mysterious DOCTOR STRANGE! The savage WHITE TIGER! The alien RINTRAH! The high-flying VALKYRIE! Evil-doers tremble at the names--for these four 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 #72
"Strange Multiplication, Part 4 of 4."
Guest-starring Luke Cage!
Writer: John Flint
Webmaster: Liam Gibbs
"Stomp him," Sage said, stepping to the side to allow the Minotaur to do his business.
"What?" The Minotaur laughed, "You're the boss!"
He raised his foot and was about to step down on the unconscious alcoholic, when a bolt of mystical energy sent him flying away from the drunk. He smashed into a brick wall, unharmed, dust flying into the air around him, momentarily blinding him.
Rintrah came to a landing before the alcoholic as though he were his guardian angel, magical energy crackling at his fingertips. He snorted.
"Ah, the real minotaur arrives," Sage said as he summoned his own mystical might and opened his fist, the one not holding the compass. He held eye contact with Rintrah, hypnotizing him.
The Valkyrie charged, tackling Jonathan Sage and removing his hypnotic influence. "Why did you hesitate?"
"His mental power is astonishing," Rintrah said, shaking his head, "even with my skill, I was unable to"
"Fight now, talk later," Minotaur said, smashing his helmet into the mystic minotaur's gut, narrowly avoiding crushing Stephen Strange beneath them.
Sage clawed at Valkyrie's face, releasing his blast of mystical energy against her Asgardian flesh, burning her. She grit her teeth and worked through the pain, throwing him against the trashcans in the dank alleyway.
Sage's eyes glowed green in the near-dark, and Valkyrie kept eye contact with her cold blue eyes as she marched towards him, unsheathing Dragonfang as she walked, and slashed it through the air before him to show that she was unaffected.
"Bother," Sage said, blasting her with another mystical bolt, this one smashing into her abdomen and keeping her from advancing but doing no harm to her.
Her face still smoldered as she kicked him in the face, knocking him out cold.
"I am not pleased," Valkyrie said as she heard the sounds of struggle behind her.
She spun to see the two Minotaurs clash.
"Breathe," Cage said as he beat on the surgeon Doctor Strange's chest. Finally, the surgeon gasped for air and struggled to sit upright. The White Tiger got the superhero Strange similarly awake a few seconds later and helped him up.
"What's going on?" Strange asked, looking at the surgeon, "Who's the imposter?"
"He isn't an imposter," Cage spat out, helping the surgeon to his feet, "anymore than you are!"
"He's telling the truth," the White Tiger said, "on the honor of the Panther God, I so pledge to you."
"If you're lying, Bast will punish you severely," Strange snarled as he replaced his blue mask.
"I am not afraid for I do not lie," the White Tiger said. Cage wondered at the fact that the Tiger had taken on such a heavy Wakandan accent while in costume when he spoke entirely American dialectic when out of costume.
`Luke, Kasper,' the quarter heard in their minds, a familiar voice to them all; to two of them, it was his own voice. `Bring my others to this location; that is where the fourth is. Rintrah and Valkyrie are already there. Hurry! Time is of the essence!'
"Is it really a good idea to bring `em together? You saw what happens" Cage asked.
`As long as they stay within close proximity, it will not happen again. It is only after they separate and then reunite that the division can occur.'
"It's your life," Cage said, "I hope you know what you're doing."
"He is Doctor Strange," the White Tiger said, "Of course he knows what he is doing."
With no more words, the quartet rushed away from the scene of the auto accident, a siren sounding in the distance as the police were just about to arrive.
Rintrah wrapped the Minotaur up in his cloak while Valkyrie carried the unconscious Jonathan Sage over her shoulder like a limp sack. She held in her hand the mystical compass which now pointed with four hands.
The White Tiger, Luke Cage, and the two Stranges arrived, all of whom looked with sadness and astonishment upon the drunk unconscious before them.
`Get them together,' Strange mentally communicated.
Cage, the White Tiger, and Rintrah lined the three up like the points on a triangle and held them in place. The original Dr. Strange teleported into the middle of them, simultaneously touching all three of them, and the familiar crimson energy crackled out but this time held on, reverberating and shaking them to their cores.
This time, the explosion was smaller, cracking the mystical compass, which caught fire. Valkyrie dropped it and it melted into a small pile of slag. The crimson energy quickly dissipated, the four Stranges evaporating into the original.
"That's better," Dr. Strange said, "now, then, who is this?"
He pulled out his pocket watch and scanned it against the sleeping face of Jonathan Sage, still held over Valkyrie's shoulder. "Jonathan Sage," Strange said, "last living descendent of le Diable. (2) Swore vengeance against me, using all the magical knowledge amassed by the family in the time between Diable and today to attack me with."
"I guess that's it, then," Cage said. "What're we gonna do with him?"
"I shouldn't worry about him," Strange said, "now that his master spell is defeated, his dark overlords will be somewhat displeased with him. He won't be bothering anyone ever again."
"That's well enough," Valkyrie said, "but what about his goon, the buffoon in the hairy costume?"
Strange turned to the unconscious Minotaur in the folds of Rintrah's cloak.
"Leave that one to me," Cage said. Rintrah handed him over, and Cage tore away the Minotaur helmet, revealing one Edward Towser beneath. "I promised his grandmomma I'd see him home safely, and Luke Cage doesn't back down from a promise, powers or no."
"Just to be safe, I shall help you escort the man home," the White Tiger said.
As the two heroes walked off, Ed Towser between them, Valkyrie let Jonathan Sage fall to the ground. "That's it, then. Back to Akhnet?"
"Not yet," Strange smiled. "Now that my health is restored to me, there are a few investigations which the Sorcerer Supreme must perform. You're welcome to join me."
Rintrah bowed. "It would be an honor."
"Don't wear yourself out when you've just recovered," Valkyrie offered, "Aragorn can give you a lift to wherever we're going to this time."
The Defenders walked off, leaving Jonathan Sage behind. He feebly opened his eyes, the melted compass a pile of slag in front of his face. "No," he whispered, "No!"
"You have failed us " came a deep, hoarse voice from the shadows.
Jonathan Sage gulped before he was dragged away into the depths of night.
1. See upcoming issues of the Mighty Avengers.
2. See issue 68.
NEXT TIME: SCORPION CRISIS
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