Wong passed by so many contraptions and machinations that violated so many ways of thinking and sciences he fundamentally held as truths that he only numbly followed Doctor Strange as the man briskly led him through the marvels of the upper echelons to some place. Wong remembered that they had talked about it, but, for the life of him, he couldn't remember their destination.
Wong's eyes darted up. "Hmm?"
"Are you all right?" Strange slowed his pace to match Wong's meandering trot. His eyes veered to Wong's magic-encased arm, which Wong was absentmindedly adding more magic casing to his chest.
Wong nodded. "I'm sorry, Strange. This place is.. over-whelming."
"Understandable." He breathed out a sigh. "Don't worry, Wong. We are almost there." He focused his vision ahead again, his voice becoming more distant. "The Ancient One left already, that's for sure. But, with the help of the Oracle Engine, we can find where exactly she ended up. We'll make sure your final moments are worthwhile." Strange glanced back at Wong with that last line, only to find him gazing away distantly. He looked ahead and marched on.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The Ancient One flipped a fan in her hands, as they were crossed behind her back. There sorcerers were camped around a small fire that burned green against the distinct atmosphere. Several of her officers were huddled together, whispering about something regarding the battle ahead. She couldn't be bothered to join them. She was past pacing at this point, and had climbed to severe indecision as she hesitantly played the waiting game.
All of her instincts insisted that Thanos would undoubtedly be alerted of The Ancient One's presence and magnitude almost immediately. Anytime she jumped dimensions, she had to be careful where in her universe she came back to, as Thanos had repeatedly tried to ambush her. Anything else in her mind reassured her that the sheer power of the object strapped to her neck would shift the balance in anyone's mind with even an ounce of mystic ability in their head.
Even with all of that, however, she was still waiting. So, indecision and doubting thoughts intruded her mind. She was at an impasse.
On one hand, The Ancient One had managed to carefully craft a sprawling network of informants and spies across a web of systems vital to her and her allies. If she could just access one of her keeps, she would be able to know, within mere moments, where Thanos is heading and any other vital informations he would need.
However, on the other hand, every single one of her keeps were so heavily guarded by Mystics and defended by spells, some older than she was, and some more complex than interstellar, state-of-the-art defenses matrices, that she would have to teleport at least ten miles away just to avoid being ripped to shreds or trapped in another dimension. If she took too long, she would leave these to her scholars vulnerable when they were risking their lives for her plan.
The Ancient One was at an impasse. And so she waited.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Wong felt distant. It took all the concentration he could muster to keep his safeguards in place. The magic infection had consumed his entire right arm and was now intruding into the more vital areas of his body.
Doctor Strange settled him into a plush armchair and he sunk in, careful not to exert himself too much. He had to concentrate, otherwise his mind wandered. He focused is attention on the Oracle Engine.
Strange moved to the center of the ova room. A large, rotating contraption rested on a dais. Pulsating blue light flooded the room and washed out Strange's features. He held out a hand and the Engine halted to a resting position and jutted out a console that seemed to be constantly shifting. He positioned his hand on the console and whispered, "The Ancient One-2."
Wong gasped out as the machine whirred around. He knew his lungs were being devoured. How long until it reached his heart, his brain?
Strange opened a dimensional rift. "Wong, there's not much time." He held out a hand and Wong wearily accepted it.
"You're right," Wong breathed out. "Strange. I hope that this will help you. I had... spent much of my time as a sorcerer attempting to understand the Infinity Stones and preparing for Thanos. I hope you can do more with this information than I did." He held out his well-worn book. Strange glanced at it. He then nodded twice.
"Of course, old friend." He took the book and stuffed it into the folds of his robe.
Wong nodded wearily and stepped up to the port. He turned to Doctor Strange. "Am I dead in your universe?"
Strange chuckled at the question. "Give Thanos hell."
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The Ancient One stepped out of a makeshift tent, looking up at the thick light gray clouds that covered the insufferable night sky and made it near impossible to see Dark Aster II's approach. No change.
She retreated back into her tent, where two Sorcerer Supremes poured over a map. The map itself constantly shifted. To the untrained eye, it would look like complete nonsense, but to someone trained diligently in the Mystic Arts, it showed a Mystic Map of the system they were in. Thanos' mothership was nowhere to be found, but The Ancient One wasn't surprised at this. The Dark Aster II had long ago managed to shelter itself from eye of the Mystic Arts. She had long suspected there might have been a mole within her ranks, but he had never been able to find anything that affirmed her suspicions.
She laid a hand on one of the sorcerer's shoulders. "Any change?" They both shook their heads. She nodded in affirmation. She had never suspected a different answer, but, well, they were desperate. "Keep me posted," she said, and left the tent.
Hovering lights were scattered throughout their makeshift encampment, giving small solace to the desolate piece of rock The Ancient One had chosen for her battlefield. She ghosted through the camp, observing the other sorcerers as they busied themselves with creating small traps or spells.
The familiar rippling sound of a dimensional rift opening behind her caused her to turn around. She noticed the room of the Oracle Engine behind Doctor Strange and Wong.
The latter of the two stepped through the rift with much effort. She noticed more of his chest fading into dust within his mythic guards.
"Master Wong, you shouldn't be here!" she said as he all but fell into her. She grabbed his shoulders with a stern fierceness. The sky crackled, and The Ancient One pushed him towards the rift. "You must go."
He spun our of her grasp. "I will not spend my final moments cowering in fear." Sorcerer Supremes from the entire camp left their tents and looked up at the sky.
"Spoken like a true Sorcerer Supreme." The Ancient One glared up at the sky as the Dark Aster II breached the atmosphere.
"Thanos has arrived."
End of Part One