Log in

No account? Create an account
12 November 2014 @ 10:34 pm
The Ice Demon and the Hydra, part 3  

The "factory" was much larger than Steve had envisioned. There were dozens of tanks and vehicles on the grounds, and the buildings themselves were huge, planted here in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere in there, were the prisoners. And somewhere in there, hopefully, was Bucky.

His infiltration was going pretty well, no alarm had been raised yet, as he removed a few enemy soldiers from his way and got onto the weapons floor. There were many strange, ominous looking devices there - guns and bombs, but very different from the ones he knew. They looked terribly lethal, glowing so eerily.

He found his way to the prisoners, held in small groups in separate cages, and freed the first group without the alarm going off, though that surely wasn't going to last now that there were hundreds of Americans and others about to run amok in the factory.

But when Bucky wasn't with them, Steve left them to find the "isolation level" from which no one had returned.

He was only halfway there when the alarm went up. Steve bit out a curse and continued punching his way upward. Fortunately the enemy was mostly trying to corral the prisoners and heading away from him, so he had fewer to deal with than the escaping 107th.

There was a nicely dressed, obviously German leader who came out of a room, stared at Steve in shock, and scurried away down the hall with a case under his arms. Steve let him go, so he could look in the room, hoping he'd found Bucky.

He hadn't found Bucky, but he had found someone.

"Dear God in Heaven," Steve whispered, and for a moment he forgot about Bucky, about the Nazis, about everything but the horror show before his eyes.

It was a man, strapped naked to a tilted metal table, all pale white skin and bone, like a corpse. He had a strange sort of mask over the lower part of his face, which reminded Steve more of a dog's muzzle than a breathing mask. There were tubes attached to him: one in each arm, two in his abdomen, and a strange form of catheter. Worst of all, Steve was pretty sure the tubes were draining blood and other fluids from him; only one was set up to drip into him.

Steve came closer to see how -- if -- he could help, and gasped to see the prisoner was restrained with metal bolts through his wrists, clamping him to the table. He would have been crucified if the table were upright.

But the eyes snapped open, shining like shards of ice and utterly mad in rage. Steve took a reflexive step back as if the prisoner could kill him with the sheer power of his fury, but recovered himself to move closer. With one hand Steve pulled the mask away, finding it had included a gag to keep him from speaking. He dumped the mask on the floor.

What the hell horrors had been happening in this room?

"I'm here to help you," he reassured the prisoner, who stared at him in empty rage. But he did reflexively start to try to loosen his jaw muscles with small motions back and forth to ease the cramping.

"Are you awake? Can you hear me?" Steve tried again. But the prisoner's expression didn't change, as if he didn't understand. Maybe the prisoner didn't speak English. "Verstehen Sie? Können Sie mich hören? Je suis ici pour vous aider. Pouvez-vous me comprendre?"

The questions seemed to attract his attention, proving he wasn't totally gone. The prisoner blinked several times, and Steve could see the mental effort as he dug his way to alertness. The blind fury dissipated, and he focused on Steve's face, recognizing him as someone new, and maybe as someone to help him.

"Yes, that's right," Steve encouraged him. "Come on back. My name's Steve Rogers, I'm American. Are you with the 107th?"

His lips parted and it took a moment for him to find his voice, but then he repeated, in a hoarse uncertain voice, "American?"

"Yes, American," Steve confirmed. "I want to get you free, but I don't know--"

"F--fjarlegja allt--" he started and then stopped, closing his eyes and gathering his strength to speak in English. "Remove all of it." He wasn't American, Steve realized; his accent sounded more like Peggy's.

"I don't think that's a good idea..." Steve said. "Let me go find a medic, there must have been one with the 107th, and we can help you--"

"No." The prisoner's voice was less hesitant already, even if it was still hoarse as if he hadn't spoken for awhile. "Remove it. Left arm first, that delivers a toxin to weaken me."

"Okay. Okay, I can do that." Steve was dubious a toxin was the only thing keeping him weak; he looked gaunt and ill, as though he'd been here for some time without much food. But Steve did as requested, pulling that needle and tube out first, then going to work on the others as quickly as he could, grimacing at the seeping blood and fluids from the wounds. Then he was stymied lower down, and inhaled a deep breath. "I, uh, I'm sorry, oh God, I have to touch you to get it off, I'll try to be quick," he said. It was a tube connected to a metal cap for his prick, bound painfully tight to keep it in place. It was distressing how the prisoner flinched when Steve touched him, but when Steve had to grip his bare shaft to hold him steady enough to pry up the edge, he tensed but lay perfectly still, his head tilted away, eyes shut, as if this had happened so many times he could only endure it. When it started to stiffen in his hand, Steve felt sick at the suspicion of what the tube was meant to collect. He hurled the whole evil contraption to the floor with disgust. "There, thank God that's off you. Nazi filthy thing."

But those were the easy things to remove; Steve had left the bolts for last. Taking the other plastic tubes and needles out had left small wounds, but the wrists were going to bleed like a son of a bitch. He pulled the roll of bandages from his jacket pocket, wishing he had twice this amount, and bent to look more closely at the bolts to see if they were threaded like screws or more like nails. He was stunned to realize they appeared to shine similarly to his shield, perhaps they were made of vibranium as well. But they weren't threaded, it looked like, which would make this a bit easier.

Why the hell would anyone put special bolts through the wrists of a man who looked starved and was being poisoned besides?

"What's your name? Where are you from?" Steve asked. Oh dear God, the prisoner had been here long enough his skin had grown onto the bolt; he was going to have to tear it to get it out.

"L--" he didn't finish, arching his back and moaning in pain as Steve loosened the nearer bolt with a sharp twist.

"Answer me, think about that," Steve urged, "I know it hurts but look at me, and tell me your name. Focus. Can you focus on me and tell me your name?"

He didn't focus on Steve, looking instead upward at the bulb overhead. "L - Lukas," he whispered, voice shaking.

"And where are you from, Lukas?"

He didn't answer for a moment, gaze turning distant as if he didn't hear the question. Steve insisted, more loudly trying to get his attention, "Lukas, where are you from?"

He muttered something foreign, then more clearly answered, "Arendelle."

Lukas barely finished when Steve braced himself and pulled out both bolts. Lukas arched his back and screamed. "Oh God, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I have to do it," Steve told him. Then while Lukas lay there, gasping and stunned from the pain, Steve unrolled some of the bandage and quickly wrapped his nearer wrist. The blood soaked it through. "Oh my God, this isn't enough, this isn't enough at all…" He wrapped it as well as he could, and did the same for his other hand.

"Rest. I'm going to find you some clothes off one of the guards I punched in the face outside. I'll be right back," he reassured Lukas, though he wasn't sure if Lukas could hear him.

He dragged the guard by the boot and started stripping his body armor. He pulled off the pants, belt, and the undershirt and turned to bring it to Lukas.

Lukas was sitting up. Steve stared for a second, flabbergasted that he was upright. How the hell was that even possible in someone with holes in his wrists, and who'd just been having his blood drained?

"Uh, wow. Are you sure you should be sitting up?" Steve asked. It was… weird somehow, he didn't know quite what was so strange- maybe that he was sitting up at all, and so pale and thin like he didn't belong in this room. Which of course he didn't - no one did - but certainly not with holes in them, still trickling blood.

"I think we have no time for me to be weak." Lukas reached out for the clothes, forgetting about his damaged wrists. His face blanched and he twisted his body to the side to retch, dry heaving from the flare of agony. He slipped off the table, nearly collapsing to the floor, but Steve grabbed him around the shoulders.

"Whoa there, let me help."

"I… need a bit more time to heal," Lukas said in a fainter voice, slumped into him.

A bit, Steve thought with some bleak amusement as he pulled the undershirt over Lukas' head. The guy had spirit at least. "How long have you been here?" he asked.

Lukas closed his eyes with a frown. "I… don't know," he said after a moment. "It was… 1942 last I knew."

Steve's hand squeezed the thin shoulder in sympathy. "I'm so sorry. It's November '43, Lukas." Lukas fell silent at the news he'd been captive for at least a year. Steve swallowed hard, not knowing what more to say, so he didn't try. He knelt to help Lukas put his feet through the pant legs. Steve straightened and pulled Lukas' nearer arm over his shoulders, remembering the opposite situation, when it had been Steve sick and weak, and Bucky had helped him dress when he couldn't stand on his own. "Okay, let's have you try to stand, lean against me and I'll get these up."

Lukas tried to stand on his own, but his knees sagged and Steve had to brace him between his body and the table, while Lukas muttered something annoyed under his breath.

In pulling the trousers up, Steve frowned. There had been a tube into the upper abdomen, as if it had been draining something from his liver, but the seeping wound was gone. He looked all over, on the other side, if he'd forgotten which side, but it was gone. "It's… not here. It healed." Steve touched the place it had been, the skin was unbroken and yet it felt a little smoother and more tender in a sign that it actually had been there. Steve looked up in astonishment. "Lukas, it healed."

Lukas did not seem impressed with this observation, and he was certainly not surprised by it. "I need food and water to process the rest of the toxin; it's interfering with the healing."

"You knew?" Steve demanded. "You-- you're like me? You had some kind of serum?" Then he wished he'd kept his mouth shut, because obviously those tubes hadn't been put there for fun, but for probably horrific Nazi experiments.

"Like you?" Lukas looked at him curiously, but seemed less disturbed by the reminder of being given a serum or experiments than Steve would've expected. "I know nothing about that. Hurry, Steve Rogers, I have an abomination to kill."

Steve opened his mouth to say something about how Lukas was not going to be killing anybody any time soon - quick healing or not, he still had holes in his wrists, he was sagging against the table, and he was skinny as a rail. Steve could count all his ribs, and his waist was barely bigger than pre-serum Steve's had been, despite the added foot of height. Steve had to tighten the mesh belt as far as it would go, just to keep the pants on his bony hips. But Steve knew from personal experience that nobody weak wanted to hear that they were, so he just asked, "Abomination?"

"Schmidt," Lukas hissed, and the mad glint in his eyes was back, from when he'd first woken up. "I will crush every bone in his body, kill all of his servants, and burn Hydra to the ground."

Steve had heard a lot of oaths during this war, some even more extreme than that, but this was the first Steve believed. It was chilling in its intensity, which seemed all at odds with his physical weakness, but there was no doubt Lukas meant every word.

"Oh. After what he did to you, I get that," Steve nodded. "But first, we need to see if there are other prisoners. Bucky Barnes, from the American 107th is somewhere around here. We need to find him. Do you know where he might be?"

That turned the oath of revenge aside, as Lukas had to think about it. "There is always … screaming," he murmured, with a flick of his eyes to the upper corner of the room and the small air vent there. "Not far I think. But I saw very little of this place when they brought me here."

Steve closed his eyes in brief distress at screaming, and prayed Bucky was still alive. Trying to stay focused, he pulled in another breath. "Okay, hold onto the table. I'm gonna pull this kraut's socks for you, even if his boots are way too small…"

"No matter," Lukas answered. "Let us find your compatriot. I would not leave my hound in this hell."

Steve didn't want him to walk barefoot, but they were running out of time. It was still surprising that Lukas could walk at all, but with Steve's arm around his back, he moved his feet, and only twice had to lean into him as a wave of light-headedness weakened his balance. He kept his injured wrists pressed against his body, and his lips flattened to a grim line.

So close to him, Steve figured out what had been weird. Lukas' jet black hair was long, down to his shoulders and oily from being unwashed for awhile, but his jaw was as smooth as if he'd just shaved. Maybe the mask thing he'd been wearing had suppressed his beard, since Steve couldn't believe Hydra had given their prisoner a shave this morning, or any morning.

But the appearance of two enemy soldiers wiped it from his mind as he raised his shield before him and Lukas. Then, seeing more enemies on the stairs, he shoved Lukas through the next open door, so he could grab his pistol off his belt. "Wait here."

Lukas fell against the door jamb, trying to hold it with his hands though his injuries still prevented a good grip, but managed to spin himself around the corner out of the way.

Steve picked off the enemies and when he was done, called, "Lukas? Let's go."

"You should come in here," Lukas called back and Steve ducked in the room.

Oh God, Bucky. Lukas was standing next to the table, holding out a hand and looking frustrated that he couldn't help open the manacles that were keeping Bucky against the table.

Fortunately he was neither naked nor bolted to its surface, Steve saw as he hurried to join them. Bucky stirred, blinking his eyes blearily, first looking at Lukas without recognition, reciting wearily, "James Buchanan Barnes, Staff Sergeant, serial number…" But his voice faded away as his eyes found Steve. "You… I know you. Steve?"



"Yeah, buddy. And this is Lukas. He used to have the fancy suite down the hall."

Curling his lip in hate and disgust, Lukas slammed a foot into an apparatus hanging with tubes and glass vials, knocking it to the ground and the vials shattered and oozed liquid over the floor. "Similar accommodations."

Bucky's gaze flipped up to the duct in the corner of this room, but all he said was, "Oh. That was you." He'd heard sounds from Lukas' room, too, Steve realized. They'd heard each other being tortured. Steve's stomach lurched with horror and dismay, and his anger let him pull apart the manacles like they were paper.

He helped Bucky sit up and Steve couldn't resist, dragging him into a hug. "Oh, God, Bucky, I thought you were dead."

Bucky pushed back and had a good look at the changes. Steve felt a bit self-conscious under the staring. "I thought you were smaller."

"It's still me," he offered. "I'll explain later."

"That has to be some tale," Bucky said, shaking his head and accepting Steve's hand to stand up. He wavered, moaning softly as he clutched at Steve to keep his balance and bent over in evident pain. "Oh, Jesus, like fucking fire…"

Steve threw an arm around his waist to keep him upright. "Lukas? Can you manage?"

It felt wrong to ask the one with the holes in his wrist who'd been a prisoner more than a year to be the one to manage, but Lukas wasn't leaning on anything, finding some reserve of strength or his serum-healing was working well enough that he was able to stand in his bare feet.

"I can manage," Lukas replied curtly. "Help your friend."

They headed back into the corridor, and fortunately it seemed all the Hydra soldiers had fled. Unfortunately, they had fled because the base was on fire, and was rocked by another explosion that nearly tossed them all off the walkway.

Thinking quickly, Steve decided they had to go up, at least there was nothing on fire up there, unlike the floor where weapons were burning, and maybe if they could get out of the building through a side exit…

Both Bucky and Lukas seemed to gain strength as they went, finding reserves to escape, so Steve could go climb ahead.

That meant he was the first to see Schmidt and that toady of his Steve had seen before. They were both standing on the other side of the catwalk. He wanted to stop there, at the top, blocking Bucky and Lukas from seeing them, but then his own anger rose up.

You Nazi bastards need to pay for this hellhole. They can't do it, but I can. "SCHMIDT!" he yelled.

Schmidt turned and casually walked back toward Steve. "Ah, you are the one Erskine made."

"And I'm gonna take you down, you son of a bitch!" Steve shouted.

"You think you are the only one?" Schmidt returned sneering. He ripped off his mask, to show his red skin, and Steve at first could only stare in horror at what had happened to him. He looked like the devil.

He also fought like one, as Steve discovered, when they fought. Good God, the power of his fists... but Steve was getting the upper hand when suddenly the catwalk groaned and split apart, separating them.

But Bucky and Lukas had been watching and Lukas saw the separation and possibility that Schmidt would escape. He yelled something at Schmidt and rushed the end of the bridge, as if intending to jump the widening distance.

Steve, who might have jumped it himself, caught him around the chest with a lunge. "No! You'll never make it!"

Lukas struggled against him, wildly, with enough strength he managed to throw Steve off him. "Let me go! He needs to die!"

Steve grabbed him again and spun him against the railing, to hold him there and look into his face. "He will! He will Lukas, I swear it, but not today!"

"We could have ruled this world, you and I!" Schmidt called to Lukas. "We could have been gods together!"

"Never!" Lukas spat back, incensed. "You are no god! You are a child playing with matches, nothing more. And you will pay for your offense, when I rip out your heart."

"Or perhaps I will rip out yours in Götterdammerung!" Schmidt yelled. "Another time, meinen Dämon!" He and his toady disappeared into the elevator on the other side.

Lukas stilled, cast one last longing look in the direction Schmidt had disappeared, but then gave in with a spitting oath, "If I have to pursue him for a hundred years, I will see him dead at my feet," Lukas promised darkly.

"You gonna totter after him with your old man cane?" Bucky asked.

For an instant, Lukas looked blank as if he didn't understand the tease, but a small smirk formed on his lips. "It will not be so long, but whatever it takes."

"And I thought I hated that asshole," Bucky muttered.

"Come on, you two. Let's get the hell out of here before it collapses on our heads." Steve slung an arm around Bucky to help him. Both his old friend and new one needed food and rest, and proper clothes, and hopefully once they rejoined the 107th outside they could get those things.

Outside the facility, Steve urged Bucky and Lukas to a safer distance as the factory prison exploded.

Lukas turned to watch, his expression closed and hard. "Hey," Steve said, "at least you're out of there."

"There are seven more," Lukas said. "I will see them all burn to the ground."

"Not alone." Bucky's expression echoing Lukas' in grim promise.

"But first," Steve said, "we find the rest of the prisoners and we get everyone back on our side of the line. Which is about thirty miles that way." He pointed in the general direction of Italy. It was going to be a rough march. He glanced down and grimaced. "Hopefully we can find you shoes on the way."

Lukas looked down as if he'd forgotten he was barefoot and shrugged. "It is irrelevant."

A voice called out from the smoke and the looming shadows of trees, "Barnes, is that you?"

The three turned to find a group of former prisoners, now armed. "Morita!" Barnes shouted and waved his arms.

Steve saw the same American prisoner he'd mistook for an Axis soldier, when he'd opened the cells, and several companions, who were eager enough to bring one of their own and their rescuer back to where their group was now organizing. Steve, not surprisingly, found that he outranked everyone there- the squad's captain and lieutenant had been the first to disappear into "isolation" after their capture.

It also turned out to be a fairly mixed group of Allies, in which Bucky's squad included an English soldier and a member of the French Resistance.

They both gravitated to Lukas when they heard his accent. "What division, mate?" Monty asked.

Lukas blinked at him. "I am of Arendelle," he answered curtly. "Not English." He turned and walked away, rubbing at his blood-stained bandages as though his wrists pained him.

The others seemed a bit startled by his rudeness, but Steve felt sorry for him. He murmured explanation to Bucky, knowing it would spread to the others, "He told me he was captured some time in '42."

Bucky's eyes went wide. "Jesus, more than a year with those bastards? How the hell is he even walking?"

"I don't know," Steve answered, though he figured it had to be some kind of serum that Schmidt had invented based on the incomplete version he'd taken and then used on his prisoners like lab rats. At least Bucky was okay, and it seemed Lukas had gained some kind of benefit from his nightmarish captivity.

"We have a truck. And Duggan captured one of their tanks," Jones exclaimed.

"We're never getting him out of it, by the way," Monty said drily, and Bucky chuckled.

"Then let's go. Lukas and the other wounded can ride on the truck," Steve ordered, and with Bucky and Duggan's help shouting commands, they managed to get the group moving.

It was quite a column that started south, toward the Allied lines. They were well enough armed that the Germans only tried to attack them once. But Duggan in his captured tank made short work of them, and a more conventional explosive took out a lightly armored truck. The remnants scurried away, and Steve was impressed as Bucky picked two of them off with rifle shots as if it was easy.

In the aftermath, as Steve was sending out scouts to make sure the Germans weren't regrouping, and getting everyone else organized again, Dernier came up to him, waving a pair of boots. Jones translated for him, "He found these for Lukas."

"You found boots for him? In this?" Steve shook his head, impressed all over again with their resourcefulness. No, he was impressed most that Dernier had even thought about it in the melee.

He led them to the truck, where the medic was rewrapping Lukas' wrists with new bandages scavenged off their enemies.

"I found these for you," Dernier told him in French.

Lukas reached out for the boots, the hand getting smacked by the medic. "No. Stop using your hands."

Lukas glared at him, narrow-eyed as if he could set the medic on fire with the strength of his annoyance. "I can put on my own boots."

"No, you can't," the medic returned placidly. "Let them help."

"I don't know them."

"I'm Sgt Gabe Jones, 107th," Jones introduced with a bright grin. "That's Jacques Dernier."

"Comment appellez-vous?" Dernier asked.

"Lukas," he answered, and then added with what sounded like reluctance, "Onsdag. Of Arendelle."

"Rank?" Jones asked.

"I am not a soldier."

"You're a civilian? Oh my God." Jones was incredulous, and Steve was shocked. Though he realized he shouldn't be - they all knew the Germans were doing terrible things to civilians, too. It was still horrifying.

"Not precisely," Lukas admitted. "I am... in the defence ministry."

Steve and Jones exchanged a glance, both reading between the lines. "Defence ministry" of Arendelle most certainly meant Arendelle resistance, since Arendelle and Norway had fallen to the Nazis together back in '41, and maybe the Arendelle Shadow Cabinet. For all Steve knew, he was looking at Arendelle's Defense Minister himself or chief intelligence officer, considering how cagey he was being.

He was someone above Steve's paygrade, certainly. "When we get back to camp, I'm sure Colonel Phillips will want to talk to you. And Agent Carter is in the British intelligence service, she should be able to get you in contact with your people."

A smile toyed at Lukas' lips at some private humor. "Oh, that would be interesting if she could. But in this case, I do not require it. I intend to bring down Hydra before I go home."

They exchanged a look, neither wanting to say it was unlikely that he would be going after Hydra with holes in his wrists anytime soon. "I want to be right there with you," Jones said, and beside him Dernier nodded solemn agreement.

After it proved difficult to hold the water canteen between his hands without bending his fingers or wrists, they put Lukas' boots on for him, paying no attention to his half-hearted complaint.

"Thank you," he said when they'd finished tying his boots for him. "I am … unused to such dependence."

"Luckily I don't think you'll stay that way," Steve said.

Lukas' eyes dropped to his injured wrists. "No. Though longer than I wish. I would like to contribute more to the defense of this group than being a passenger." His lip curled in distaste at his helplessness.

"Ah, don't worry, we got you covered," Jones said cheerfully. He waved a goodbye to Lukas and headed off, as Bucky joined them.

"Yeah, we've got Captain America," Bucky greeted, lifting his eyebrows at Steve's outfit deliberately. The shield somehow felt heavier under Bucky's skeptical eyes. "Let's hear the story. Because you somehow gained about a foot of height and fifty pounds of muscle since I saw you last."

Out of the corner of his eye, Steve saw Lukas' head lift to look at him curiously. He told the story mostly to Bucky, but so Lukas could hear, too -- how he'd volunteered for Erskine's formula.

"That is the craziest stunt I've ever heard!" Bucky declared in disgust at the end. "Volunteering for some experiment. Jesus, Steve, did you not see what it did to Schmidt? What if that had happened to you?"

"It wasn't ready then, Erskine told me. Schmidt took it too early."

"His greed will be his undoing in the end," Lukas murmured, "But we must hasten it along before he does something even more irretrievably stupid in his arrogance."

"So what happened to you?" Steve asked. "Erskine would have told me if about another. Are you from Schmidt's experiments?"

"Wait. You?" Bucky asked in confusion. "Are you like Steve?"

"No," Lukas answered shortly. "I am not." He walked away, leaving Steve and Bucky behind him.

"They bolted him to the table and had tubes in him," Steve told him softly.

"Jesus Christ," Bucky blurted in horror.

"Yeah, a bit like that, actually. But the smaller wounds healed up like they barely happened. They did something to him that worked."

Bucky clenched his jaw and his gaze went distant, fixed out to the treeline. "Injections. They kept giving me this shit that burned. And that wouldn't have been so bad, except I knew they were just going to keep doing it, until it failed… Everyone else they'd sent up before me died of it. I guess, except for him."

"You got out, Bucky," Steve gripped his shoulder. Bucky turned to face him again, a shadow of a smile on his face.

"And somehow you managed to make yourself a captain, Captain. Some guys have all the luck," Bucky teased.

Steve rolled his eyes, but he was grateful for the teasing nonetheless. Bucky was alive and free, and the rest of the prisoners were free.

His gaze found Lukas barely visible among the trees, standing alone, his head tilted back to look up at the sky. And though Lukas had denied it, Steve knew the truth, that he'd found someone else like him.

Next Chapter