It didn’t give him any strength, or reflexes, or help him survive several decades in ice. But, somehow, his aging slowed.
Now, every morning is almost impossible. The arthritis, the ache in his bones, the way he has to shake the pain out of his hands, the humiliation of putting in his four false teeth. Injuries, old and new, haunt him. He’s been fighting for a lot of years.
Destroying the formula was easy, once he’d decided to make the call. And the people who made it. Assistants, lab partners, consultants, these things, these inventions, are never made entirely by one person. All those involved are now broken, disgraced, spread far and wide from each other, to shithole corners of the world.
What if everybody wanted? he thinks. And, he knows, the public would want. We’d have a race of super-humans. The Germans would have won.
It already bugged him enough that the man they chose to be Captain America, a good man, a great man, had blond hair and blue eyes.
So, now the serum is gone. He feels like a hypocrite, and doesn’t one bit mind.
“Spider Woman…” he says, by way of greeting, as she enters the dome.
“I didn’t come alone,” she replies.
The rest of the Avengers file in behind her, Reed Richards, too. Fury stares at them.
“None of you had clearance. Please don’t tell me you fought your way in?” he says.
The Avengers just stare back.
“Nick,” Captain America says.
“Rogers,” Fury replies.
A great man.
“Okay, then. All of you it is. Jessica’s been updating me. Here’s what you’re up against, if you decide to take it on,” Fury grumbles, pressing a remote button, then keying in a file.
The room goes dark.
“The Intel is sloppy. We’ve gathered every scientist and magician we could find. Rounded them up, shook them down. Even Doc Doom. Not an easy get. Sit.”
Some Avengers, and Richards, take to chairs, some remain standing.
“This is all near as we could figure, guess work. We could be way wrong. All we know is there appear to be seven of them, each with a mind its own. Some defend, some attack. We don’t know of a way to defeat a single one.
“Dr Strange keeps his light hidden under a bushel, lets threats through occasionally, when they are no real threat to him at all. He has moved beyond stupid little egos like titles - Sorcerer Supreme, Master of the Mystic Arts - probably because he has nothing left to prove.”
The holographic brief kicks in. Images of Strange, in shadow, appear.
“But he has power. And The Seven Spheres of Protection.
“Sphere Seven: The Cursed Flames. Just imagine five Ghost Riders without an emotionally shagged stuntman shaping or tempering them. They protect him from any magical, or astral intrusion.”
“Sphere Six, Tony, Reed, you’d be happy with this. Strange has made communication with a race from a dimension so advanced their science seems, to us, like magic. It’s a living computer, made of air particles. It stops anything being teleported within the fist sphere, including biological threats and mind control.”
“Sphere Five we know the least about. It’s a solid thing, made of shifting rock trolls. A pocket of some kind of prison, we think, housed by warriors on what‘s their version of death row. Some say this sphere is the Eye of Agamotto, without the casing holding it in. One pupil, that seems to be looking at only you, even if there are ten of you. That it has just to blink and another breed of defence will appear. Being the Eye, it can see through any bad intent, and tells the other spheres who can and can’t enter his personal space.”
“Sphere Four is Death’s Glare. It warns him of danger. It never closes. Death never averts its gaze… We’re not sure what else it’s capable of, sorry.”
“Sphere Three is the most lethal. It’s a living thing, a portion of a beast made of magic and gravity, that exists like the thinnest film of light, in the mouths of wormholes. It can teleport anything from anywhere.”
“You are not serious!?” asks Hawkeye.
“It’s a muscle, near as we can figure, like a tongue. A reflex action, but, in that, if it senses a threat to Strange, it can tap into his mind, find a suitable response to the threat, and simply throw it at the problem. The ocean’s depths, the Snapping Mouths of Dimension Whatever, the Mindless Ones. The liquid core of a sun…
“It’s bound to Strange by duty. Loyalty. If it perceives a threat will follow him if he runs, it will make him stay and deal with it.”
“This just gets better,” says Iron Man.
“Sphere Two he conjured. We have some Egyptian hokus-pokus makers who swear it took him took two hundred years to make, drawing the smallest patterns in the air, with his fingers, until they scratched the Pages In Between, burning them red, layer after layer. Magics, pressed into each other, becoming unbreakable. He has shaped them into thorn-stems, but that might be an illusion. A warning for sorcerers who can see through his Veils of Invisibility. Some say he houses his soul in it, for protection, if his body dies. We don’t know. We do know it absorbs and filters all light, so lasers are out, and absorbs any heat, cold, shock, or impact.
“Sphere One contains the ghosts of Mongolia’s spirit legions. Their versions of the Norse gods, their fallen. A race who, unlike the Norse, once ruled the world. They will strike out, in all directions if triggered, friend of foe.
“And that’s without the Hulk. Or the Surfer. Or Strange lifting a finger…”
There is silence in the room.
“You sure you wanna go through with this? He ain’t bugging anyone,” Fury asks.
“Too much power is too much power, Nick,” Captain America says.
“You just have to look at-“
“I said I see,” Fury snaps. “Do what ya gotta. You don’t have my approval.”
‘We weren’t asking for it, old friend.”
Nick Fury watches them go. Hawkeye said next to nothing the whole time. Not like him, he knows something. Thor glared over his should as he went. Strange is stronger than him, he knows it now. Ego. The Captain is doing this out of his concepts of duty. Iron Man, who knows?
He hates it most when they destroy each other. There are so many greys, but greys are his trade.
He didn’t tell them everything, he never does. They are too proud to deal with being told what to do, who to fight. That some will die. But that’s war, now and always, in all its guises. And war is his job, so that others don’t have to fight them. They are what he does, and does damn well.
Yes, he has shaken down every spook he could lay his hands on. Hell, Doom, under his insufferable swagger, seemed scared. Yet, in the end, the only reason he managed any intel on Strange’s Spheres of Protection, at all, was because the magician had let him. He thinks maybe he should have told the Avengers, but holds firm. He has a world to think of. They may be the muscle, but he is a part of its gears.
His call is his call.