Who: T'Challa, Dr. Strange What: T'Challa arrives in NYC When: weekend Rating/Warnings: Green, spoilers
The funeral had been a somber occasion, but also an appropriate way to honor a fallen hero. He, along with Okoye and Shuri, represented Wakanda and stayed to pay respects to Tony Stark, to observe his wife and daughter sending off his very first arc reactor on the lake by their home. He had made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the future of the universe - it was a noble endeavor, and T'Challa was sorry it had to cost the man his life.
When it ended, he was set to return to his homeland with those who had joined him. It was only a short walk back to the stealthy jet, of Wakandan design - he turned, ready to respond to Shuri's light teasing, when all of a sudden he was not there at all.
He was beside a food cart, a vendor slinging plates piled high with falafel and shawarma - it made his steely heart do a lurch, as he was reminded of Tony Stark once more. "What can I get you?" the vendor asked, and T'Challa realized he'd ended up in a lunchtime line. Somewhere.
New York City. While wearing a sleek black suit. It was obvious he wasn't home - any two second look would tell him that; there were cars here, for one thing. There were no automobiles in Wakanda - they were light years ahead of that. People got around by vibranium-powered streetcars, magnetic levitation trains, and the narrow market streets which encouraged walking and socialization. The sky was different there too, beautiful - the shining stars looked like sugar that had spilled over black marble; everything was so clear the further you got away from the high-rise skyscrapers, aerial gardens and parks, and the street life below.
Let's also not mention the particular telling aroma of this city.
"Nothing, thank you," T'Challa stepped out of line, in order to get his bearings. He did not like the chaos that accompanied confusion, and would not remain this way for long.
T'Challa didn't have to wait long once he stepped out of line. Nothing like the wait for those who were craving some falafel.
A portal opened just around the corner and Dr. Strange quickly stepped through, quickly stepping at pace with the New Yorkers who barely batted an eye as the portal closed in on itself after a magician walked through it.
He rounded the corner at a leisurely pace, walking toward the well dressed Wakandan. He stopped at a respectful distance within earshot, nodding his head as a show of respect.
"Your highness," he said. "Welcome to New New York. I'm Doctor Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. I'm a consultant to the Avengers. I'm here to help."
T’Challa slung his chin in acknowledgment, cogs turning, and it only took a second or two for familiarity to set in. “Ah, yes. Doctor Strange. I saw you very recently.” He’d woken up on the battlefield in Wakanda, a graveyard of dust and dirt, baking under the sun - when he died, he had not traveled to the ancestral plane, did not reunite with his father nor did he meet previous holders of the Black Panther mantle. Bast had not allowed this for some reason - perhaps because of an improper burial, perhaps because he was not really dead at all but in stasis. Everything had simply gone dark and then he was whole again.
He recalled the sorcerer appearing then, creating a portal much like this one - when T’Challa stepped through, he and the rest of his deceased armies had been ready to end Thanos, on the banks of the Hudson River. New York City once more - but this seemed...far less dire.
“I presume you are here to answer my questions? I have many, as it were.”
Strange knew that the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together in his mind at an accelerated rate, and he knew where things were supposed to go, where things should happen as a result. 14,605,000 pieces formed broader pictures that made more sense than they had for the past year. It took many hours of meditating and allowing the leak from the other universe into this one to take hold of him, for him to embrace it fully, for this to happen. His answers didn't come in dreams, since Strange was always on different dimensional planes when his body slept. Mostly, it was on the astral plane and his mind was busy constantly, learning and absorbing everything he could.
Dr. Strange squinted a little at being seen very recently, and that was a sure sign that things were moving as they were expected to on the other side. Having that many possible scenarios in his head, however, meant that anything could have happened. He was banking on one in particular.
"Yes, I'm here to answer your questions. I can also take you to a penthouse apartment that your sister stayed in, last year. It's a Wakandan diplomatic residence." It was here that Stephen hesitated before adding, "In this universe."
He gestured around the corner where he came from, back to where it was easier to open a portal in a storefront.
"I haven't formally met you here," he explained to T'Challa. "If you'd like, you can follow me. I can take you to the residence now, or to the Sanctum to answer your questions. The choice is yours."
“Shuri was here?” T’Challa was surprised, because of course he hadn’t heard of that. But indeed, if this was some parallel universe situation, it wasn’t as if anyone had much contact with their...other selves. That must disrupt a few laws of physics. More than a few.
He parsed that out quickly, thoughts moving fast - he was not one to dawdle, especially not when there was about to be a shimmering ring of fireworks meant to take him someplace else. “Let us go to your Sanctum,” he decided. “I won’t take up too much of your time, I assure you.” He just needed the basics covered.
"She was," Strange said. "She did a welfare check on me at one point. Let's step around the corner."
He realized it was a lot to fathom and there was a lot to explain. He walked back the way he came and as he turned the corner, opened a portal through the door of a conveniently closed storefront.
He walked through and waited on the other side for T'Challa to follow, the cape lifting off his shoulders and hovering nearby.
A welfare check. T’Challa smirked fondly at that. “Of course she did,” and his sister really could stop saving broken white boys, could she? Not that he could blame her. They always seemed to need a lot of help, and who better to assist than a teenager with more intelligence in her pinky than the great (white) minds of this world?
But he followed the sorcerer, having no hesitation about stepping through the portal - he had done this before, in fact, and not all that long ago. “This is a very...nice place, doctor,” he complimented once he’d arrived and took a look around - no doubt Shuri would have loved this sprawling manor.
She would have gleefully compared it to the haunted mansion ride at Disneyland, which she always begged to go to whenever they’d visited their outreach center in Oakland. “But yes, if you can just give me a rundown...”
Honestly, as long as his people were safe, his home, then he would take just about anything as opposed to the dark, dreary, soul-crushing timeline he’d been pulled out of.
"Thank you, but we have those in Kamar-taj to thank for it. I'm just the groundskeeper for...this lifetime."
For New York at large, the world in general, and for reality as a whole. At least he learned how to Fantasia a broom for sweeping duty.
The portal closed as Dr. Strange started to explain at a slowly measured pace, weighing out his words.
"This universe, and the one you've just arrived from, are connected. It's an alternate timeline, a newer part of the ever expanding Multiverse. Unfortunately, it is unstable, and it seems that people of importance are being...copied over, so to speak, and dropped into New York. Which you've just experienced.
"Everyone you left behind in Wakanda is still there. Wakanda still exists. We faced off against Thanos there. After taking Vision offline and Shuri removing the stone, Wanda destroyed it and we took the remaining stones from Thanos. Along with his hand. Unfortunately...."
And here's where Strange paused and seemed mildly uncomfortable.
"...the Mind Stone reformed when Vision arrived online and functioning, last month."
Honestly, all the doctor needed to say was that Wakanda still existed and his people remained. As long as it wasn’t some situation where they had fought Thanos here, and half the universe was gone again; that was a carousel ride T’Challa did not want to take over and over.
So when he his hopes were confirmed, he let out a sigh of relief - he didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath. Good, hopes confirmed, his mother and sister and guard were alive, his armies were intact, Erik hadn’t inexplicably returned, things were -
“What.” It wasn’t a question, more of a dry, deflated statement. “Then if I may inquire - why is he not in Wakanda having the stone removed by Shuri now? So we do not repeat ourselves again?”
"Seeing as how this universe reversed that, it's safe to assume it won't let them be destroyed. Also, Thanos is the one at a disadvantage in this universe. We were all a united front against him and his armies in Wakanda. His generals are dead. We are now, more or less, an Infinity Watch. The stones are broken up among each faction, and our duty is to protect them from him, or anyone else trying to use them to murder or subjugate others."
Strange gestured to the Eye of Agamotto, which was very much unbroken and still housed the Time Stone within.
"In this universe, I'm not beyond using the Time Stone to stop Thanos," he told T'Challa, "but only as a last resort. I only refrain, because I don't want to risk further dimensional instability."
He hoped that explanation would explain matters relating to the stones, which was something that was not going away. Much like the hole connecting the universes.
The infinity stones were practically sentient, so T’Challa could see the notion of them working to prevent their own destruction, even at a very base level - but that didn’t mean he was going to let his guard down. Or just assume everything was going to be just fine.
“Then consider me a part of your Infinity Watch,” he said. “I will stay here, and simultaneously do what I have to do for the good of Wakanda.” It wasn’t as if he couldn’t get there quickly - he could also communicate solidly using the kimoyo beads.
Clearing his throat, T’Challa couldn’t contain his curiosity about one particular aspect. Strange hadn’t asked for a rundown of events in his timeline (perhaps he had his reasons), but regardless. There was one thing the King wanted to know. “And...Tony Stark - is he well?” he asked carefully.
There was a fair amount of things that Dr. Strange wasn't disclosing. A part of him knew that they changed enough things here that it wouldn't be the same as over there. And even with those puzzle pieces in his head, he knew that one of them was the chance of survival that they were aiming for. There was a fix. And he trusted his other self to be aiming for that final goal, as much as he would be aiming for it if he was over there too.
A lot of adhering to a choice timeline involved keeping one's mouth shut. Because telling others ran the risk of over compensation, and that could make things go horribly, horribly wrong. And people who were supposed to live or die, might not live or die according to what they were told was going to happen.
"We are glad to have you," Dr. Strange replied. "Including Tony Stark, who has a child here with Pepper. Born a month ago."
“Ah.” T’Challa actually smiled, the expression tinged with relief and a ray of sun from beyond the clouds. “That is wonderful to hear.” He would have to visit as soon as he could - he was looking forward to it, in fact. First he wanted to contact his mother, his sister - but he would distinctly not mention that he was from a different timeline. That would just muck things up further, he assumed.
No, it would be business as usual - and for him, his life usually always business.
He held out a hand to Strange. “I thank you for the information, doctor. If there is nothing else, I will get out of your hair now. I have much to do myself, even as a newcomer.” There would be time to get settled, to figure out what his duties would be now that he’d been essentially shunted elsewhere.
That was really the best course of action. And mentioned in the pamphlet. Speaking of which....
Stephen shook T'Challa's hand and let go, turning so that he could beckon a package over toward him. It floated over into the sorcerer's waiting hands and he held it out to the other man.
"I know you have your own resources, but this is what we give to all new arrivals. There's more information inside, as well as a network secure phone and laptop. I'll also open a portal to your penthouse. The building should be very safe if you choose to stay. There's a few people living there already, including Vision."
A penthouse, well, wasn’t that a nice welcome. “Thank you again, doctor,” T’Challa said, taking the...floating package. If Vision truly was here, with the mind stone intact, then T’Challa most certainly wanted to be in the same building to help keep watch - those damned stones were a risk for everyone, though he knew very well that Vision was so intricately tied to it, it essentially kept him alive.
Things would be interesting. Hopefully a marginal improvement from before, but at the very least? Interesting.
Wakanda did own the building so it made the most sense. It was set up as a diplomatic residence...partially to side step the legal issues of some people not being U.S. citizens or being wanted by governments and security councils.
"Thank you," Dr. Strange said, turning and opening a portal to the penthouse apartment at 30 Warren. "If you have any further questions, you can reach me on the network or through my contact information on the business card."