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Necromancy // Stephen Strange Romance //

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Annette flips through everything she has on the Tesseract and Loki's scepter. Granted, it's not a lot. Not yet, at least. SHIELD had been very tight about the subject, but the Black Widow had dumped all of SHIELD's files online a year prior. Much of it is in some form of code that Annette would have to learn how to crack if she wanted information.

She skims through a paper by Doctor Erik Selvig, a former partner of SHIELD. He was actually there when Loki attempted to invade the planet with the Chitauri. He had been tasked by SHIELD to work on the Tesseract to make unlimited power, but it didn't work out. Instead, Loki used the Tesseract as a gateway to Earth and then proceeded to mind control Doctor Selvig with Annette's second item of interest. His scepter. 

When Loki was defeated, the scepter fell in the hands of SHIELD, and that allowed it to go to Hydra. Eventually, the Avengers found the scepter, but  Tony Stark and Bruce Banner accidentally used it to build a homicidal robot. Then, Stark and Banner used the gem in the scepter to make the Vision, a new member of the Avengers.

Annette wants to discover more about these two objects. These objects have unknown amounts of energy. Why the heck are they not being anxiously studied at every physics lab? 

And that's why Annette went into physics. To study the immensely powerful objects.

Annette shifts her position on the semi-comfortable hotel bed in New York City. New York is the one known place where both objects were together, and Annette has a suspicion that the two are connected. Annette glances at the alarm clock to see it is 9:30 pm. Darn it! She had planned to go somewhere at 8:00, but she had lost track of time. She sighs. Oh well, it's not like I can't still go. 

Annette pulls on a blue coat and puts her tennis shoes on. She grabs her wallet as she walks out the door, not bothering to check it. She leaves the hotel and walks alone to her destination.

The limited amounts of research Doctor Selvig had been allowed to publish on the Tesseract mentioned that the Cube emits low level gamma radiation. Not enough to do any harm, but enough to be noticeable. Not too long ago, a study was done near the Avengers Compound that noted more gamma radiation than normal. The gem in the scepter now resides in the forehead of the newest Avenger, the Vision. Annette bets that there is a similar molecular make up between the two objects. She wants to test New York for gamma rays. Yes, Loki attacked in 2012, and it is almost 2016. But if there's anything Chernobyl proves, it's that an area can remain radioactive for a long time.

Annette will set up her technology in the morning, but she wants to find a decent place to put it. She heads for Stark Tower, where Loki fought the Avengers from. Doctor Selvig set up the Tesseract there, and Loki used the scepter numerous times. She doesn't want it too obvious. Some member of SHIELD had been regrouping, as evident by the helicarriers at Sokovia. And if they find her studying the Tesseract and scepter, they'd Area 51 all of her research. Annette finds a small alley with limited access. It's the right size for her equipment. She can come in and go out easily. Annette is about to leave satisfied when her arm is grabbed by a stranger.

"May I help you?" Annette asks the stranger with a bit of an edge in her voice. She jerks her arm away from him and moves away, just to knock into someone else. "Sorry," she mumbles. Maybe this isn't the best place for my research. She walks toward the exit at a brisk pace. Unfortunately, another stranger stood in front of the exit. All three were men of at least 5'10". They all appeared stronger than average. Frick! 

The men come closer to her. One of them pulls out a knife and Annette gulps down fear. "Wallet," one of them demands. Unfortunately, Annette is quite stubborn.

"No, and, if you'll excuse me, I need to study New York's gamma radiation problem," she half lies. Yes, she is studying gamma radiation, but Annette doubts it will cause any problems. She only said it to try to scare them off.

"Wallet. Now. I won't ask a third time." The man with the knife comes closer.

My wallet has all my information about SHIELD and Hydra's files! I can't let him have that! "Leave now and I won't call the cops."

"Do it." The men gather around her. The one with the knife draws a line of blood across Annette's back as Annette screams in pain. While she is preoccupied with the huge gash across her back, one of the men grabs her and uses his dirty hand to silence her scream and the other grabs her wallet. He rifles through her driver's license, student ID, hotel key card, some note cards and business cards, and twenty bucks.

"Where the frick is your credit card?" the one holding her wallet asks angrily. "We didn't do this just for twenty bucks and some nonsensical notes!"

Annette realizes she must have left her credit and debit cards at the hotel. She had taken everything out of her wallet to find a business card, and she must have forgotten to put everything back. Annette sighs in relief. The knife guy looks over at the wallet contents. "Hotel key, she probably left them there." Frick, they figured it out! She grimaces in pain as she struggles against the hold of the man's arms. "We can easily get in there and take them."

"And what do you think about her?" the one holding Annette asks as Annette tries to fight his hold but continually stops as she agitates her gash, gasping in pain. "If we leave her here, she'll tell the cops, and then the cops will come barging in on her room."

"Exactly why we take her with."

Annette fights even harder, trying to scream. But it is to no avail. One of the men punches her head, knocking Annette out.

•••

"Are ya crazy!" 

"What the heck would you do, huh? Go rated R?"

"What? No!"

"Well, it certainly sounds like you don't want it PG-13!"

Annette slowly awakens as she hears the heated argument. She flicks her eyes open and groans as she slightly moves her back. She feels the rope tight around her wrists and ankles. Her head pounds and her ears ring. She feels something wet around her arms. It looks like she's in a run down building. She listens to the argument.

"Why in heck would you want to keep her? No, we aren't doing this! We're dropping her off at a hospital or something!"

"Why?!"

"Because you want to do stuff with her, and we all decided we wouldn't be doing stuff like that!" 

Annette gasps as she realizes what they are arguing about. She shudders at the idea. She sees a window not too far away. She doesn't see her muggers, so Annette tries to drag herself to the window, but it shortly results in a help of pain. The muggers walk in right then.

"So, she's awake. I'm gonna take you away from him while they go get your cards. Scream and you'll have more than one gash," said the man as he drew a knife. But before he can take a step closer, all of the lights go out.

Annette hears grunts and shouts of pain as she desperately tries to see what on Earth is happening. When the lights turn back on, the three muggers are unconscious on the floor. A man wearing some crazy looking hood stands in the middle of them. Annette's vision darkens and she thinks she's seeing things. The hooded man comes to her and cuts the rope off of her.

"Who are you?" a confused Annette says shakily. 

"Master Daniel Drumm," the hooded man says without looking up. "You've lost a lot of blood. I need to get you help. Can you stand?" Annette tries to stand, but can't even sit. Once she gets moving, everything spins around her like a top. "You can't. It's okay, I'll get you somewhere safe." Drumm scoops her up, making Annette's world spin faster. Before he even stands, Annette falls unconscious.

•••

Annette wakes in a dark room on a soft bed. She slowly sits up, still a little dizzy. This isn't a hospital room... There are no medical supplies, and the design of the room looks more like a bedroom. She looks at herself to find odd colorful cotton clothing her. Annette walks out of the room, but her legs feel like lead. She falls against the doorframe and moans in pain.

"You should be resting." Annette turns to find the same man that rescued her, but his hood is off. He has dark skin and short hair. He helps Annette walk back to the bed. He hands her her wallet, which now has fifty dollars in cash in it. She checks to make sure everything is in there. She finds everything she had before and sighs in relief.

"What—where am I?" Annette asks.

"The New York Sanctum," Drumm responds casually. 

"What is that supposed to be?"

"It's...a long story."

"Why the heck am I here and not a hospital?" Annette's eyes dart around the room. There's a window there. What story am I on? If I need to, can I jump it? "And where the heck are the cops?" If I was kidnapped twice in twenty four hours...do not kill people, do not kill people!

"Now that I'm thinking about it, this does look bad, doesn't it?" Drumm smiles, amused. "Oh, you can leave whenever. That is, once you can walk. I give you my word."

"And I have no clue how trustworthy your word is."

"I told you I'd get you somewhere safe, didn't I? I highly doubt there's a safer place in the state."

"You must be pretty confident about that, since the Avengers Compound is upstate." 

"The Avengers have made public their location. Makes them an easy target. Very few know of the Sanctum, and they know the consequences of attacking it."

"Which are?"

"Part of the long story."

"Why on Earth didya save me?"

"For one, those three were jerks. Another, I believe I can help you in ways outside of punching muggers, specifically about your research."

"You're studying the Tesseract and glowstick of destiny too?"

"Not directly, no, but I know a fair share about them."

"Well, by all means, do tell me."

"This is part of that long story."

"And when are you going to tell me this long story?"

"Oh, I won't be the one to tell you. It'll be my...boss."

"Well, where is he?"

"Not until you're healed."

"What? This could take weeks to heal! The cut is so deep, and I bled so much for so long! I mean, how long was I out the first time, and how long did it take for you to bring me here?"

"Another reason to not take you to the hospital. I know much more efficient ways of healing than any doctor does."

"...Like what?"

"Again, part of that long story."

"Everything is part of that long story it seems." Annette shakes her head in disbelief. How did I end up with this weirdo? "How long then?"

"About a day. I'm sure you can wait that long."

"We'll just have to see. Have any books I can read? Or are they all part of that long story too?"

"Most of them are, actually, but I can quickly head to a library."

"In those clothes?" He looks like a member of a cult.

"No, I'll find some jeans. What genre do you like?"

"Fantasy. Dragons, magic, all of it. If you can, I just finished the first book in a trilogy. See if the next two books are there. Beyonders is the series, by Brandon Mull. I think the second book is called Seeds of Rebellion, but I'm not sure. All I remember is the first one is A World Without Heroes." 

"As you wish, Miss Browne."

"How the heck-"

"Do I know your name? You forget I stopped muggers from taking your wallet, which has your driver's license."

"Yeah, thanks for that, I guess."

•••

A day later, the gash along Annette's back is miraculously only a scar. Annette asks Drumm how that is possible, but he just replies by telling her it is part of the long story. He gives her food and drink, telling her that she needs it more than ever after she lost so much blood. Once Annette finishes, Drumm leads her down a hallway. Annette sees some weird stuff, and decides she must be hallucinating when she sees a floating red cape. 

He stops her at a doorway and sighs. "I too stood in your shoes once, and I too was disrespectful. Take my advice. Forget everything you know."

"Uh, okay?"

Drumm leads Annette threw the doorway, where a woman with a hairless head clothed in clothes similar to what Drumm wears. She is looking away from the duo as she studies the center piece of the room. "Welcome to Kamar Taj, Miss Browne."

"Who are you? And I thought this was the New York Sanctuary or something like that."

"You may call me the Ancient One, and you were previously in the New York Sanctum of New York City. Congratulations, you're in Nepal for the first time."

"How on Earth is this Nepal and how did you know I've never been to Nepal?"

"That is the long story she'll tell you," Drumm says. "I must return to the Sanctum, Sorcerer Supreme."

"Yes, you must. Thank you, Master Drumm." Drumm leaves Annette alone with this Ancient One without a word.

"Sorcerer Supreme? Master? What type of cult is this?"

"The magic wielding, planet protecting type. As a side we know much of the Infinity Stones, two of which you study."

"The Tesseract and Loki's scepter?"

"The gems that give them power, to be more precise." The Ancient One walks toward a small table. "Tea?"

"Uh, sure. What do you know about those gems?"

"Patience, let me explain this "long story,'" the Ancient One says as she pours Annette some tea. 

She explains to Annette that, before now, Annette had been looking at reality through an opening the size of a keyhole, but she now has the chance to widen that opening. Annette stands and listens attentively as she sips her tea. The Ancient One explains that Asgardians aren't the only ones to be able to use sorcery which confuses Annette.

"So, you're telling me you're a sorceress?" 

"Yes I am."

"But how is that possible? Loki is a god, the code of the universe doesn't apply to him. But you! You're just a regular human! How is this possible?"

"Let me demonstrate." The Ancient One pulls Annette's arm to her and pushes Annette back. Suddenly, Annette can see her body and she gasps. She looks at her unconscious body, and at the translucent body she can currently control. Then, she suddenly is back in her body.

"What kind of '60's acid was in the tea?" Annette exclaims.

"None, it as just tea. With a little honey."

Annette laughs. "After Loki, I shouldn't be surprised. But what was that?"

"I pushed your astral form out of your physical body. If I teach you these powers, you'll learn more about the Tesseract and scepter, or rather Space and Mind Stone, as well as their four Sister Stones."

"Well, I don't have much for me anyway."

•••

Year or so later

Annette hears the soft knock on her doorway. She stands from her bed and opens the door to find Wong, the librarian. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Master Browne, before the Ancient One died, she assigned you somewhere."

"Where?"

"You are to be co-master of the New York Sanctum."

"Co-master?"

"After the London Sanctum was destroyed, she decided the sanctums require more than one sorcerer standing guard."

"Who am I with?"

"Stephen Strange. He's newer, and needs some help still."

"Why me?"

"The Ancient One saw something in you, Annette.

"Ah, what the heck, I'll go."