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Chapter Two: Black as Night
Victoria held on to Spider-Man a little tighter as he swung them down 8th Avenue in Barry's direction. Even when they dropped lightly to the ground, she was still holding on for a moment.
"Oh..err..sorry." she blushed just a bit and took a step back.
It was a keen eye that scoured the area as they had she and the Spider had glided through the city. Something was up, and she let a little sigh of relief out that they weren't in her reality.
MSG looked like a virtual shell of itself. Not the grand arena she had sat out side of for two day with Felicia and Peter trying to get concert tickets.
"Well, it was pretty much established by the green minotaur guy that something was "wrong" with this reality. Otherwise, we would not be here. It's pretty basic observational studies. You listen with the big guy talks, he gives you a good idea what you're going in to while being vague and mysterious, you jump in feet first and fend off all the crap they don't want here." Victoria said nonchallantly at Rogue's line of speech. Turning to Barry, she smiled at him.
"I like you kid, I like you alot, but if you call him anything but Hank, Beast or Dr. McCoy again, I'll let him loose on you and you can play pick up the pieces later. Got me? Good. Now, seeing as I never met Dr. Strange in all my time in the Village back home, and Hank worked with the man, I feel it's only pretty damned obvious who's going to know where he lives. Unless someone else in this group happened to be his houseboy. So instead of streaking off blind eye and waiting for the pro's here to come swinging in to save your ass, next time, wait." Turning away from Barry, she looked directly at Hank.
"Now Dr. I assume we'll be needing your acute sense of smell to lead us to the great Dr.'s abode. Since that's our only lead at this point, unless some of the rest of you have any other bright ideas, you can quit with the "but what ifs?" They aren't getting us anywhere and when you doubt yourself, you put the rest of us in peril. And as much as I like all of you..."Victoria looked over her shoulder at the new recruits..."and trust me, I do... it's not my desire now, or tomorrow to wind up street pizza because someone pissed off some higher power. Now, shall we?"
Stuffing her hands in the pockets of her pants as she made her way the short distance to Dr. Strange's abode, Victoria was easily able to pick up the mental picture in Hank's mind of Dr. Strange's place in his reality. Finding here however should prove interesting. She knew, just from her short time with the good Dr., that he'd have all sorts of tricks up his sleeves.
But something else was on her mind right now, and try as she might, she couldn't quit thinking about it. Maybe it was just frustration at the entire situation, but in the end, it all boiled down to the fact that she had been lied to. And everything from that point on in her life, had been based on that lie. Just like what had happened with Sinister, she now saw the Timebroker as no better than her own twisted father. Everything she had done was all a direct effect of thinking she'd never be able to return home.
"And now? What happens from here?"
"Sure thing, Chuckles." Barry said, smiling, too Victoria. The conversation had already lost his interest though when 'Toria began her speech, so Barry sat down on the pavement, grabbing his backpack and opening it. Placing the JLA cap on his head, Barry also took out his Playboy Magazine. "Now, if you don't mind, I've got some reading I need to catch up on." he said with a devilish grin while he flipped through the pages "'Cat in the Hat is fine, but not during sex.'" He said with a laugh "Oh, Alyson, you crack me up everytime."
Peter gracefully landed the Victoria and himself to the ground, still feeling slightly awkward with She had aroused something inside him, he couldn't describe it, couldn't put his finger on what it was, but it was there, and he was unsure on how to handle the feeling. His eyes looked down at the woman who's arms were still tightly wrapped around him, and for that brief moment all he saw was her. But then the moment ended. She borke her hold on him, apologizing as she did so.
"It's alright."
His mumbled reply to her apology lacked the confidence and seculsiveness it usually maintained. He regained both as his attention shifted to his teammates that had arrived. He followed Hank to the location of Stephen Strange only to find the place looking very deserted.
As Rogue spoke her concerns of their perdicament, he turned towards the young speed demon, preparing to give the amatuer a stern lecture, only to be beaten to it by Victoria. She had said what needed to be said, probably better and more tolerable than he would have. He hoped that her speech would knock some sense into Barry, only to find that the young speedster had ignored her to look at a porn magazine.
"This kid is testing my patience."
Trying to keep his anger in check, Peter fired a shot of impact webbing at the boy's magazine. Even if it missed the intended target, it would still get his point across.
"Pay attention runt."
Peter didn't bother to mask the anger in his voice. If this kept up, they were going to have to have a nice long talk with the little brat. Turning his attention back to the suppossed home of this reality's Dr. Strange, Peter looked up and down the house's exterior.
"Doesn't look like it's been lived in for years. People running for cover like their lives depended on it, a torn down and beat up version of Hank's Dr. Strange's house. What is going on here?"
His spider sense wasn't going off, so they weren't in any immediate danger, but that didn't mean that they were safe.
"Mr. McCoy, wanna check the house out? You could sniff around for any sign of the good doctor and I could warn you of any potential danger?"
Paige hadn’t said much while they moved about New York, maybe it was the city itself that was creeping her out or the fact that it seemed the newbies all wanted to make a name for themselves. Well whatever it was it’d made the blond southerner fall silent, but that quickly changed as they entire group met up again and the new speed demon Barry opted to pull out a porn magazine while Victoria spoke.

“Yuh know ah’ve half a mind t’ turn mahself into solid stone and smash yuh’re head in.” Paige snarled at Barry, finding his behavior overall just very disrespectful and vulgar. “Now put the porn away and stop givin’ teenagers a bad name.” The blond tapped the toe of her combat boot on the ground as she leveled a glare at Barry, having her far share of experience dealing with hormonal teenage boys.

“Ah’m all for Spiderman’s plan, because frankly it’s the only plan that’s been put in place thus far.” Paige’s impatience’s was showing through, it wasn’t really that she was impatient with anyone but more with the whole situation.
Tessa just shook her head silent recorder that she was, she didn’t intend upon stopping any arguments in this group; not unless they would be detrimental to their mission.
“Damn girl, and I thought I could be harsh.” She sent to ‘Toria after her speech, Tessa remember giving a speech or two like that back in her Hellfire days, “Remind me not to get on your bad side.” A smile briefly crossed her face as she looked at Hank.
“If we intend upon using Spidey’s plan, I think I’ll accompany you and put these specs to good use. I’m almost certain they’ll still give a heat readout, which will alert us to any living creatures inside the building.” Tessa flipped on her glasses, preparing to begin the readout.
Catching the young speedster off guard, the projectile hit its intended target and snatched the magazine clean out of Barry's hands. The small globule of impact webbing hit the magazine and instantly exploded into a thousand little strands that served to firmly cement the periodical to the sidewalk. Feeling just as annoyed with the boy’s behavior as she knew the rest of the team was, Victoria glanced at the immobile magazine and quipped, “Huh, what do you know about that? As if it wasn’t sticky enough to start with. Now, how ‘bout you get your head in the game, kid? I don’t believe Dr. Strange hired you to ogle vampire chicks while the rest of us do all the work.”

Turning to the team, Victoria looked expectantly at them, Hank in particular, and wondered if proceeding into the decrepit old brownstone was really a good idea. She remembered what Rintrah said about being outside after dark, and thought that maybe Spider-man’s plan was their only option.
Barry looked at the magazine that was now covered with web. "Hey! I was reading the articles!" he said in a mocking tone "Besides, Willow is a witch, not a vamp, although that one episode..." His voice trailed off into mumbling, but he was quick to regain himself. "Letting you do all the work? If ya hadn't noticed, dollface, we're not doing squat right now."
Hank shook his head and walked away from the bickering group on the sidewalk. "Different Team. Different Reality. But we are still playing the same old song over and over." he thought, feeling more than a little disheartened as he looked up at the crumbling facade before them. "It does look uninhabited but appearances can be decieving. If this reality is being denuded of heroes, what better way to avoid the attention of any undesirables in this reality than to hide in plain sight. I would imagine most people wouldn't give this place a second glance." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his own glasses and put them on. "We best get inside." he said glancing over his shoulder at the team. "Spider and I will enter from the top. The rest of you work your way up from the bottom. We'll meet in the middle somewhere hopefully." He tapped his glasses. "Tessa. Keep an audio channel open." With a final glance over at 'Toria Hank managed a half smile. "See ya inside!" he thought, then turned back to the building. Tensing his leg muscles Hank pushed himself upwards, clawed fingers and toes easily finding and maintaining purchase on the rough stonework. He arched his head around in a most inhuman fashion, looking down at Spiderman. "Coming?" he asked and began to climb upwards without awaiting an answer.
Peter ignored Barry's complaints about his magazine. His webbing had hit its target and that was enough for him. He wasn't going to exchange meaningless banter with the kid, it wouldn't accomplish anything. Keeping his eyes on the building ahead, Peter listened to Hank give the orders, looking up at the top of the building when his instructions were mentioned. The climb would be simple, it was what was inside that he was wondering about.
Hank, apparently, had not paused to think, for he was already on his way up and was issuing the spider to do the same. Peter bent his knees and propelled himself vertically. His leap was aimed to place him several feet above Hank, for he wanted to enter the building first, just to be on the safe side.
"Showoff." Barry muttered to himself as Spiderman leapt onto the wall. "Well, ladies, what do you say we get -" Barry stopped mid-sentence, suddenly noticing something "Hey, dude, where did you leave the silver guy?" he said as he looked at the 'image induced' Silver Surfer. "Cool guitar though."
Victoria watched with a silent smile as Hank and Spider-Man left.
As they disappeared from sight, she only turned and looked at everyone with a somewhat cold look before climbing the steps to the house and going inside.
"They have to learn Tessa...yeah, it was harsh, but...ok.." she paused her line of thinking for a moment to include Paige in on it as well.
"Look guys, sorry if I've been a real..well, it's like this...doesn't it piss either of you off that the past year or few months, in Paige's case, of your life have been nothing but a lie? And everything you've done, every decision you've made has been based upon that lie?" She looked over her shoulder again to see if everyone was following. But once again her attention was drawn to what lie before them.
"Maybe it's just me, but if I had known I was going to get to go home, and maybe if Scott and Sam had known it, things wouldn't have turned out the way they did. Hell, even Kyle might not have turned out the way he did. My point is, I've begun to doubt everything now, and I can't let it show. Every decision I've made...and to be honest...I don't know if I've made the right ones or not."
It wasn't that Victoria didn't want to voice her thoughts aloud, it was just that she didn't feel comfortable voicing them to the new members of the team or letting them into her private circle yet.
Watching Victoria climb the steps, Rogue decided to follow suit. Pausing to look behind her she caught a quick glimpse of their silver companion, who was no longer silver, but she bobbed her head to motion him along. She was curious about what was going to happen on the street, but she also wanted to know what they would find in this abandoned-looking apartment. She continued to follow Victoria in. If worse comes to worse, I can always disappear, Rogue thought to herself with a small chuckle.
This device Hank gave me is amazing. I look SO different. It's not the disguise I would have chosen, but it is definitely top notch technology!
Following the lead of the others and the gestures of Rogue, Norrin followed along just behind the rest of the group. There was something like a small voice in his head, though, telling him that there was danger somewhere near. It was as if something in his body was reaching out and trying to discern the location of the negative feelings. "I don't have a very good feeling about this whole thing. Something is definitely amiss. Is anyone else getting negative vibes from this building?"
When life hands you lemons, you gotta squirt lemon juice and life's eye and make it your B!TCH
“ I made the decisions I thought were appropriate with the information I had, yes it pisses me off to know I was lied to, but I can’t change that now.” Tessa responded mentally, following Victoria up the stairs, “ I know the truth now, that’s good enough for me, if I settled my mind on every situation like this I would never move on.” The dark-haired mutant hoped that Victoria would understand, “Yes, a part of my life was taken away from me, but it’s not the first time I’ve been lied to and it won’t be the last, I just have to pick up the slack and be more careful about who I trust.” She glanced behind her at the street, and then at Barry.
“The silver guy as you so eloquently called him is standing right where you’re looking.” Tessa informed him breezily, “Now come along before you get yourself in trouble again, I realize you may still be crestfallen about the magazine, but we need you to move.” She had a neutral expression on her face, as she made sure that readout was working and that there was an audio channel open for Hank to communicate through if need be.

“Not negatives vibes per say, more of an uneasy feeling; but you’ll learn quickly that everything deserves to be scrutinized, this building included.” Tessa told Norrin as she moved with the group, “whether it’s comfortable or not. We have enough fire power here, so to speak to keep us safe.” She assured, dark eyes scanning the street one last time.
"Cool." Barry said, looking back at the magazine one more time "I will be expecting a refund though. Now, the big green and mean said upstairs right?" the impatience in his voice was already rising as he spoke "Seeyathere." His voice a vague sound as he accelerated and starting to ascend the stairs.
Paige was inches away from killing Barry, the guy was just plain annoying and the petite blond was not in a mood to be dealing with his arrogance at that moment. “Speedy, ah wouldn’t do that if ah was yuh.” Paige yelled after the blur that she knew as the speedster, he was just looking to have a good long talking to from Victoria or Hank…or both. “Toria, ah’m about as pissed off as yuh are about bein’ lied t’. Ah mean after all ah had t’ watch as a version of mah brother died in my arms….thinkin’ that he might have been the last familiar face ah’d ever see. Then low and behold ah’m informed that Jono isn’t dead and mah family in mah reality had spent months searching for me…in short ah’m pissed as hell and the Timebroker better hope ah never met up with him again. But like Tessa said, yuh have to move on and be happy in the fact that it was a lie and that those we love are still alive and kickin’.”

Paige didn’t allow her mind to drift to thought of home, knowing that it would in fact just anger her more over the lie they’d been told. But as she followed Tessa and Victoria up the stairs Paige glanced over her shoulder at the newbies and almost felt envious of them that they weren’t starting out this little mission thinking that their worlds had blown up…no they had the pleasure of knowing that they could go back whenever they liked. If only the veterans of this group had given that same Luxury they might not have become so jaded about certain things.
Out of frustration Paige shoved her hands into the oversized pockets that hung from her uniforms belt. When she first came to be a member of this ragtag group, their holographic assistant supplied her with the belt, and a few handy items within it as well. She walked along beside Victoria and Tessa up the stone steps, and absentmindedly fumbled with the contents of her pockets as she did. But as her hands brushed over her supplies, she found a folded up piece of paper that she was quite sure had not been there before. Paige reached for the mysterious note, but before she could pull it from her pocket she found herself distracted by Barry, running off alone as was quickly becoming his norm. Telekinetically, Victoria reached out to grab the boy before he found himself in more trouble than he could handle, but her reflexes must have been off just a hair. Because a hair was all Barry needed to vanish into the building, just barely hearing Husk’s words of warning.

On the roof above, Spider-man now found himself ahead of Beast and crawling into the shattered window that once hung above Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. As he cleared the window, his spider-sense began to buzz. It wasn’t the sort of buzz that warned of immediate danger, but he knew that the place was not safe. Quickly, he relayed that information to Hank who was following the Spider’s lead very closely, allowing Beast to then communicate the same warning below to Sage. Word traveled quickly throughout the team, and everyone took the advice to heart. Especially the Surfer, who was already on edge due to his cosmic awareness. Barry was the only one out of the loop, since his impetuous entrance had left him isolated from the team: a folly that he would soon regret.

Scanning the entirety of the building with the thermal array built into her glasses, Sage came up empty. The only heat signatures registering were the two normal ones coming from the top floor and the super hot signature that Barry’s body gave off somewhere near the middle of the structure. Finding the lower floors devoid of anything other than demolished furniture, broken down walls and mountains of torn and tattered books, Sage and Victoria led the remaining three members of their team up the stairs in order to meet up with Barry. He was moving much slower now, apparently interested in something not far away. With telepathy their only source of communication, Victoria reached out and contacted the boy. His only response was, ”You guys gotta see this.”

Above, Beast heard the message loud and clear through his mental connection with Victoria and ushered Spider-man in the right direction. His glasses were also set to view the thermal spectrum, and it didn’t take long for him and his arachnid companion to find Barry’s location. By the time they arrived at the doorway to the interior room that the young speedster had discovered, Spider-man’s spider-sense was going nuts. He crouched into a ready position as the rest of the team came up behind them, making sure to be ready for anything. Within the room, now facing his teammates, Barry’s face displayed a look of excitement and joy as he jerked a thumb over his shoulder, indicating something of interest behind him. “Ain’t it cool?” he asked, as he stepped to one side, revealing an ornate sarcophagus laying in the middle of an otherwise empty room. Outside, on the horizon and well beyond the view of any of the heroes , the last sliver of sunlight disappeared. And with that, before their very eyes, the lid to the stone coffin slid aside and from it stepped a man clad head to toe in red, with horns atop his cowl and seemingly unending stains of blood covering the front of his crimson costume. His icy gaze fell upon the heroes and with a snarl he asked, “I guess Frank has called in the cavalry? That’s fine, lets do this.”
“Ladies, Gentleman, we’re dealing with a bona fide vampire.” Tessa sent out the mental message to the rest of the team, she was sure the others could piece it together but she felt the need to inform them anyway, she had figured it out when the man hadn’t shown up on the readout, and with the blood stains on the front of his costume, there wasn’t much else that it could be attributed to.
“By the looks of it, he’s also a messy eater.” There was no humor in her mental voice, and her face was the unreadable mask she took on when analyzing something. Tessa kept her distance, watching him closely from just inside the doorway, the voice had seemed familiar, sparking a thought in the back of her mind; but it hadn’t gone much farther than that.

“Do what?” She inquired in an icy tone, her blue eyes locked on the man, “If it’s not too presumptuous to ask.” Tessa then glanced at the rest of the team, Barry in particular, who seemed enamored with creatures such as this, “Don’t get too close.” She warned the teenager, "and listen for once." Tessa brought her eyes back to the creature in red, looking him up and down. There was something so familiar about him that she couldn't put her finger on, not even with a fair amount of concentration.
It all makes sense, but why is this man here, and what do we do now? There really aren't any instructions as to what we are supposed to do, and now we're in the same room with a vampire.

Concentrating her energies, she lit her hand on fire. If anything to illuminate the room.
Peter's body lay crouched very closely to the floor preparing to move in a moment's notice, his eyes never wavering from the creature before them. Both of his hands were already in their infamous position for projecting webbing, waiting to fire. His left was aimed at the beast's mouth and his right was aimed to fire two strands at the monster's hands. He had dealt with Vampire like beings before. Heck, he lived with one. But from the way his spider sense was reacting to the new comer that had Barry so fixated, he was sure that this guy wasn't as friendly as Morbius was back home.
Fixating her gaze on the vampire in front of them, Paige tried to keep her cool and figure out a husk that might be handy in a situation such as this; after all it wasn’t everyday you had to fight a creature such as this. “Come on Paige, think!” She muttered to herself, having only used her powers defensively in the previous mission. Pushing blond hair away from her eyes as she ran through the list of husks she’d ever done, finding many that would work to keep her safe from harm but not any that would help her teammates out as well. Her curiosity was still peaked from having stumbled upon the note in one of her pockets, so Paige was not keeping her full attention on the task at hand either but she was trying her best.

Shifting from foot to foot she let Tessa try and figure this creature out while she continued to rack her brain for what she might be able to husk into. She also tried to remember any kind of vampire lore she’d ever heard, knowing that if she could just think up one of their weaknesses she might be able to turn herself into that and attack that way. A few moments later it was almost as if a light bulb had gone off in her head, and with a little jump Paige exclaimed “Wood!” her blue eyes wide with delight at finally figuring out a husk that would work offensively just as well as defensively. Lets hope the new members don’t freak out at a girl pullin’ her skin off. Paige let the thought drift through her mind as she began to pull away the outer layer of skin and clothing to reveal what she hoped would be wood underneath, being she’d never before tried to husk into wood the young metamorph wasn’t sure if her attempt would be successful or not.
The slight warmth that had been visable in Victoria's brown eyes slowly faded at the sight before them. She stood transfixed by the devil before them. A devil she had another life, a long time ago.
"He looks almost like...Ok, snap out of this. You're a pro at this now. You've met people who look like ALOT of people you know, just because it looks like him, doesn't mean diddly." She mentally chided herself.
It would have been easy to smile and say hello to the devil, but this wasn't the time...or her time.
"I don't want to do anything. We were looking for someone, wasn't you. Sorry to have disturbed your slumber." Victoria said and bowed with a flourish.
"Everyone, slowly...back out of the room...behind me...." she sent the mental call to the team, hoping they'd listen.
Tessa gave Victoria a look, “I’d like to observe him.” She sent telepathically, her frame not moving from near the doorway, her eyes locked on the vampire in red. Tessa was waiting for him to move, waiting for any mannerism that might spark another distant thought. She knew there was a familiarity to this being, not because he was a hero in her reality, but in the back of her mind that voice sounded so familiar, but she couldn’t place the voice to a face in her mind.
“I’m a big girl ‘Toria, I promise I won’t be long.” Tessa continued, “But there’s something eating at the back of my mind that needs to be resolved.” She had projected so only the other telepath could hear, she knew Hank would by default but she didn’t want to give anybody else any ideas, contrary to appearances she knew what danger was, she had grown up in a war zone. If she felt she was in immediate harm that she could not get herself out of, she would follow the team, but at this point in time she didn’t feel like she was in danger.
Victoria looked at Tessa for a split second and only nodded.
"Tess, the outfit looks familiar to me, the guy in it, body structure does as well, but where I'm from, he wasn't prone to sleeping in a coffin...well, as far as I know, wasn't like I ever went home with him or anything. Anyway, my point is, while I know you are a big girl, you're the person least equipped with any sort of offensive capabilities should Toothy there decide to get friendly."
As Victoria slowly backed up, she shot a concerned look to Hank and Spider-Man both.
"Why do I have the feeling this is going to get messy? Does this guy look vaguely familiar to either of you?." she whispered softly, not letting her eyes leave the red clad being before them.
Tessa sighed deeply, “ So you think I’m really in that much danger?” She finally asked ‘Toria, “I recognize him, I just want to hear him speak again, I need to place his voice to a face. It’s a personal thing.” Tessa knew that her offensive capabilities were nowhere near the rest of the teams, but she could make up for that if it came down to it.
“Please, I’ll leave an audio link open, I’ve already mapped out this entire room and the exits that I’ll be able to use if that’s at all necessary.” She knew that ‘Toria was concerned, possibly Hank as well, but Tessa was used to being at a disadvantage physically and offensively…She could cope, plus, if she stayed she might be able to get information that would be useful in their endeavor.
“I won’t let him hurt me, I can think faster than he can attack, no doubt. Which means any type of move he makes to harm me I’ll be three thoughts ahead of him, at least.” Tessa continued, “Or, you could keep Paige in here with me, she’s husked herself into wood. I’ve gone through all the vampire lore I know and that’s nearly a constant in all mythology. She can stick her arm through his chest if he gets aggressive.” She commented, hoping that her teammate would have enough faith in her to let her gain some intel if possible.

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