The Hydra Factory
Jamie was bouncing up and down in excitement as she stood beside Steve behind the makeshift stage. She was finally here. She was in Italy, and was about to put on her first show to an American regiment.
Two days after Senator Brandt had announced that Steve and Jamie would indeed be going to Europe at long last, she, Steve, Brandt's assistant, and Jamie's private tutor had all boarded a large steamship. Brandt himself was unable to make the trip due to being a politician and having to stay on Capital Hill. Jamie had been somewhat disappointed by their means of travel.
"Couldn't the Senator have at least put us on a plane?" she asked Brandt's assistant. "Flying's much more fun than sailing!"
Brandt's assistant chuckled at her comment. "And also more expensive," he calmly countered.
Jamie pouted at his response, but had no time to comment on it, as her tutor had dragged her off for her private lessons.
Throughout the weeklong cruise to Italy, Jamie had barely seen Steve at all except during dinner, as her tutor had kept her all but confined to her stateroom to work on her lessons. It was the first long stretch of time to work on her schoolwork in months, and her tutor would not let up on giving Jamie even a single free moment to herself.
Jamie grew bored of her lessons by the end of day two on the ship. Thanks to her now near eidetic memory, she really wasn't even being challenged in her schoolwork anymore. She just breezed through the assignments the tutor gave her with little to no problems whatsoever. Indeed, as the tutor droned on to her one day about the California Gold Rush of 1849, Jamie just doodled a picture of herself as Liberty Belle standing heroically beside Steve as Captain America on a battlefield right after an battle on the paper she was supposed to be using to take notes. She showed her drawing to Steve that night when her teacher wasn't looking.
Steve laughed when he saw the drawing. "You're a good artist," he complimented her.
"Really? You think so?" she asked happily.
"Yeah, though obviously you struggled with drawing the hands," he noted, seeing the sausage-sized fingers that the him and Jamie on the paper had.
Jamie grinned sheepishly. "Hands are always hard for me to draw," she reluctantly admitted.
"Would you like me to show you a trick to drawing good hands?" Steve offered her. "I told you before I did a year's worth of college. Did I tell you that the college I went to was an art college?"
"No, but I'd love to see your secret to drawing good hands!" Jamie chirped. Steve smiled to her, and they spent the rest of dinner that night drawing.
When they docked in Italy, there was no time to stop and sightsee. Steve, Jamie, Jamie's tutor, and Brandt's assistant were immediately escorted from the docks to a military jeep, and driven all the way out to the nearest United States Army platoon, which coincidentally turned out to be the platoon that was also the nearest to the front lines' of the war. Only five miles away to be exact. That was yesterday, though. They'd at least been given a full night's rest before having to do this first show overseas.
"I'm so excited, Captain!" Jamie claimed as she put on her mask while she and Steve waited for Brandt's assistant to tell them that their audience was fully assembled and they could start the show. "And nervous! We're finally here! We're finally going to perform for the troops! This is so exciting!"
"Keep cool, Jam— Liberty," Steve corrected when he caught Jamie starting to glare at him. She was very keen on following the secret identity rule. She always referred to him as Captain America, or at least Captain or 'sir,' while he was in the cowl, and she insisted he refer to her to the same way by addressing her as Liberty Belle, or just Liberty for short while she wore her own mask. "Don't lose your head."
"I can't help it! I'm so glad the Senator was finally able to pull enough strings to get us here! I know we're not fighting yet, but at least we're here! That counts for something, right?"
Steve shrugged. "I guess so… You know, we are in Italy right now. I take it you're wondering whether or not Trent's out there?"
At his words, Jamie immediately frowned, and then kicked a pebble by her feet with her one her red boots.
"I guess," she muttered thickly. "But it really doesn't matter either way in the end…"
"Hey, don't be like that," Steve advised. "I know I've never met Trent, but I'm sure he'd be hurt if he heard you talking like that."
"Oh, yeah?" she challenged. Her eyes were narrowed and filled with unshed tears. "Well, if he really cared at all, he'd have written to me by now! It doesn't matter how busy we've gotten, I've written to him everyday in the past four months since I've met you, and I've not got one letter back from him! Not one!"
Steve frowned. While he didn't like her pouting right now, he understood where she was coming from. In the four months since he'd first met Jamie back in that alleyway in New York, Jamie had written a letter to Trent every single day, but never received any replies. He could understand how that must be hurting her.
"Hey," he said kindly, setting a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. "You don't know what's been going on over here, or what might've happened to him—"
"That's the thing, though, Cap," she insisted. "Nothing has happened to him! If something had happened to him, like he'd been killed or captured, the army would've sent a letter about it! That means he's fine and has just been ignoring me! I'm entitled to be angry about that!"
Steve sighed. "Look, you don't know that for sure. He might have been writing to you all this time, but the replies just got lost in the mail, or something. And that door swings both ways. If your letters got lost on your way here to him, he may be thinking that you haven't been writing to him, either. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, I guess so," she mumbled in agreement. "I just wish I'd know for sure the real reason is why I haven't heard from him at all…"
"Tell you what," said Steve. "Before we leave Italy for London, I'll talk to Brandt's assistant and your tutor. I'll tell them both to give us a couple full days off, and we'll track down your brother's army encampment. How does that sound?"
"You'd do that for me? Really?"
"Of course. It's your brother. While you're here, you should spend some time with him, and I admit, I am curious on meeting him. He sounds like a nice guy, and besides, you mentioned before that he's in the 107th. That's the same infantry that Bucky's in. Wherever Trent is, Bucky most likely is, too."
"I'd like to meet Bucky! You said before he's your best friend, right?"
Steve nodded. "Known him since I was your age."
At that moment, Brandt's assistant came strolling toward them. "It's time," he said.
Steve and Jamie nodded, the latter with an excited smile plastered to her face, and they slowly approached the side stairs leading up to the small stage as the opening bars to their theme song began to play.
As they climbed onto the stage and stood up before the large gathering of young soldiers, they were surprised that they didn't receive any sort of applause. Generally their audiences applauded them once they saw them take the stage. They disregarded the lack of welcome, though. These soldiers had never actually seen them in person, after all. They would simply have to do the show and make them enthusiastic about Captain America and Liberty Belle.
"Hey there!" called out Steve into the microphone. "How many of you are ready to help us sock old Adolf on the jaw?"
None of the soldiers responded to his question. They did not cheer loudly in confirmation that they were willing to help him or Liberty take down Hitler, nor did they at least raise their hands to show that they, as one soldier in particular, would help. They just stared rather irritably at Captain America and Liberty Belle, as though they were already bored by them despite being on stage for no less than ten seconds.
Jamie glanced up at Steve, they hadn't been expecting this, for the men in the army to be so uncooperative, but Steve did not meet her gaze. He was pressing his lips together tightly, trying to figure out how he could get the men before them to be more enthusiastic about the show.
"Uh, okay…" said Steve awkwardly. "Um… we need a volunteer!"
"I already volunteered!" shouted someone in the audience. "How do you think I got here?"
There was a collective laugh from a great number of the men around him.
"Bring back the girls!" someone else in the very back called out, cupping his hands around his mouth to make sure he was heard. The men around him agreed, and there was a great eruption of catcalls and whistles following his statement.
This time, Steve met Jamie's awkward gaze. This wasn't going at all how they'd planned.
"Let me handle this," he muttered quietly to his young sidekick. He knew that these men were not in the mood to see any of her usual stage tricks of pirouetting in place while she made sparklers burst forth from her torch. He knew her well enough to know that she'd only be greatly insulted and hurt by the soldier's jives if she were to try talking to them. He'd take the brunt of their words, and spare her any pain if he could.
Jamie stared at him. "But—"
"No, Liberty," Steve lightly hissed so the microphone wouldn't catch their words. "Let me handle this…"
He turned his head back to face the men in the audience.
"Um… I think they only know our one song, but, um… Let me… I-I'll see what I can do…"
"You do that, sweetheart!" shouted a man in the front row.
"Nice boots, Tinker Bell!" yelled someone else.
Steve's jaw tensed. He really should have expected this. He should have expected that the men overseas wouldn't really care about him and Jamie as the icons of the war. To these men overseas, Captain America and Liberty Belle were a joke.
"Come on, guys," he let out lamely, but still courteously to the men in the crowd. "We're all on the same team here…"
The crowd just laughed at his words.
"Hey, Captain!" shouted someone from the middle of the crowd as he got to his feet. "Sign this!" He turned around, and flashed Steve and Jamie his bare bottom.
As the men in the crowd laughed at the rude gesture, Steve attempted to shield Jamie's eyes. She really shouldn't see this, but Jamie had finally had enough. Ignoring what her mentor had told her, she deftly swatted his hand away, and grabbed the mic.
"You do not disrespect the Captain like that!" she snapped. "He is a good, kind man! Braver than any of you put together!"
"Brave?" someone in the back shouted out. "He's not brave! He just sings and dances on stage all day! Just like you, sugar!"
"War's no place for a pretty little girl like you, princess!" somebody else yelled. "Go back home with Captain Spandex, there!"
Jamie paused as the men in the crowd laughed in agreement, greatly hurt by the jives. Steve tried to seize the mic away from her.
"Liberty, stop!" he snapped.
Jamie just ignored him. "Captain America and I have traveled a very long way to see you all today! To thank you for your services!" she pressed on, trying to keep her shoulders from shaking so the men wouldn't know how upset she actually was. "You can at the very least be respectful—"
"Services?! You call dying a service?!" somebody up front shouted. "I'm just here because the draft demanded it!"
The agreed shouts from the crowd were starting to make Steve very nervous. He needed to get Jamie out of there now. If he didn't, who knows how hurt she'd end up getting emotionally, and possibly physically, too. He tried to grab her hand to pull her off stage, but she whacked his hand away. She had to try at least one more time.
"All Captain America and I want is to help you end this terrible war," Jamie went on, but this time, everyone could hear the tears she fighting back in her voice. She was very, very hurt by their words. "We have both been working very hard for all of you to ensure—"
"Working hard? Honey, I hardly call smiling dancing on a stage all day hard!" a voice yelled out from somewhere in the middle.
As the men laughed, one man in the audience got to his feet, and chucked an old, rotting tomato right at Liberty. Jamie flinched as the fruit came flying right at her face, and squeezed her eyes tight as she braced herself for the impact of being covered from head to toe in its rotting, slimy contents. To her complete surprise, the feeling never came. She opened her eyes. Steve had blocked the tomato with his fake shield.
"Come on," he urged as he blocked a second tomato from pelting them both in red with his shield. "Let's go."
He grabbed her hand, and dragged her off the stage before she could protest, and not a moment sooner, as lots of the other men were beginning to throw food at them now, too.
"Bring back the girls!" shouted someone as they left. His wish was granted. The chorus girls took their place on stage, and the soldiers whooped and cheered happily at last as the music for the Captain America and Liberty Belle theme song started up.
Steve ignored the cheers from the audience for the girls. As soon as they were both behind the stage again and out of sight, he chucked off his cowl and turned to Jamie.
"Jamie, I told you to let me handle the crowd," he lightly scolded as she removed her own mask and Brandt's assistant rushed up to them. "Why didn't you listen?"
"I… I couldn't just stand there and listen to them humiliate you like that!" she said sadly. "I just wanted them to stop… I didn't think they'd start throwing food at us!"
"Don't worry," Brandt's assistant said as they began to climb down the steps of the stage. "They'll warm up to you guys. Don't worry."
Steve and Jamie both just gave him encouraging fake smiles as they nodded to him. Light raindrops were beginning to fall from the cloudy sky.
"Guess we'll head back to our tent for now, then," Steve muttered, taking note of the rain. "Come on, Jamie."
They walked silently back to their shared tent. It seemed as though all the hard work they'd done for the last few months just to get here had just been a huge waste of time. They may have won the hearts and kept hope alive with the general American public, but it looked as though the army had no place for either of them. To the soldiers of the United States army, Captain America and Liberty Belle were nothing more than useless characters that had been created just for the war propaganda.
When they reached their tent, Jamie went straight to her duffel, and took out Pannie, her portable record player, and her copy of The Wizard of Oz. It's ripped page fell out as she took it out of her duffel.
"You still haven't fixed that or gotten a new one?" Steve asked, his voice dull from the disappointment of their show to the soldiers, but still curious about her book as he pulled out the leather portfolio she'd gotten for him for his birthday.
"I'm not planning on buying a new copy," she answered as she popped her copy of Come Josephine into her record player. "This was my Mom's copy from back when she was a kid. It's irreplaceable. I just haven't had the time to go and look for tape to fix it."
"Oh," he said, and they fell silent as the words of the first verse of Come Josephine in my Flying Machine began filling the tent. Jamie did her best to read her book despite its ripped out page as she cuddled Pannie, and Steve began doodling a picture of himself and Jamie as monkeys dressed up in the Captain America and Liberty Belle costumes as they wheeled back and forth on unicycles as they carried umbrellas over their heads.
The rain droned on, but neither Steve nor Jamie took any note of it. It was as though the weather was mocking their melancholy moods. It wasn't until they heard a voice that neither of them had been expecting to hear did they snap out of their depressed states of mind.
"Hello, Steve, Jamie."
Steve and Jamie both looked up. In front of them stood Agent Carter, looking just as pretty as she had the last time either of them had seen her four months ago.
"Agent Carter!" Jamie gasped.
"Hi," said Steve, though he was unable to mask his surprise of seeing her again out of his voice.
To his and Jamie's surprise, she blushed. "Hi," she said back as she sat down beside him.
"We weren't expecting to see you again," Jamie said, her eyes wide. "What are you doing here?"
"Officially, I'm not here at all," she replied. She paused for a moment, and then added, "That was quite a performance."
Jamie went very still as she recalled the horrible performance, and looked away. Steve just gave her a sheepish shrug.
"Uh, yeah," he agreed, looking away slightly. "We had to improvise a little bit…"
"A little bit?" said Jamie sadly. "Try everything!"
Steve patted her shoulder. He knew how excited she'd been about today's performance. "The crowds we're used to are usually twelve." He added.
"As I understand, you're both 'America's New Hope's.'" Agent Carter pressed.
Jamie gave her a grim nod. "That's right. America's Sweetheart and The Star-Spangled Man With A Plan."
"Bond sales take a ten percent bump in every state we visit," he went on emotionlessly.
"Not just bond sales," said Jamie tonelessly. "Wherever we go, you get entire cities working double shifts in factories for weeks on end."
"Is that Senator Brandt I hear?" said Agent Carter at once.
"Don't criticize the Senator!" said Jamie at once. "The performances are usually fun!"
Steve just sighed. "At least he's got us doing this," he somewhat agreed. "Phillips would have had us both stuck in a lab."
"And these are your only two options?" She asked, glancing down the sketch he'd been drawing. "Lab rats or dancing monkeys?"
Jamie sighed. She was growing even more miserable by the conversation, if that was even possible. "So long as Colonel Phillips is in charge, apparently so," she muttered, hugging Pannie tightly.
"You were meant for more than this, you know," Agent Carter told her gently. "You both were."
Steve and Jamie did not reply to those words. They both just seemed to grow even more depressed.
"What?" Agent Carter asked, not sure what she'd said that had upset them.
Steve sighed again. "You know, for the longest time I dreamed about coming overseas and being on the front lines, serving my country…" he paused for a moment as he trailed off. "I finally got everything I wanted, and I'm wearing tights."
"My only wish was to come here so I could help Trent," said Jamie, hugging Pannie even tighter. "That's all I wanted. I just wanted to help my big brother. Now I wonder if he even wants my help or misses me at all, considering the last time I heard from him was before I even met either of you…"
There was a sudden loud honk from somewhere off to the side. All three of them turned in the direction of the noise. There was a military ambulance rapidly approaching the Medical Bay tent. Two doctors scrambled out from the tent as the ambulance came to a full stop, and hurried to open the back door. They slowly lowered a wounded man out of the ambulance via a stretcher, and rushed him into the tent.
"They look like they've been through hell," Steve commented.
Jamie lightly smacked his shoulder. "Swear word, Steve!" she scolded.
He half-heartedly chuckled and ruffled her loose brown locks of hair.
"These men more than most," Agent Carter explained. "Schmidt sent out a force to Azzano. Two hundred men went up against him, and less than fifty returned. Your audience contained what was left of the 107th. The rest were killed or captured."
Both Steve and Jamie wheeled around at her words. The 107th. That was the infantry that Trent and Bucky were in.
"The 107th?" said Steve in alarm.
Agent Carter nodded, confusion filling her face. "What?" she asked.
"No…" Jamie whispered. "No!"
She threw Pannie and her book back onto her cot. Steve was doing the same with his art portfolio. They both flew out of the tent, desperate to find Colonel Phillips.
"Come on!" Steve yelled over his shoulder at Agent Carter, seeing that she wasn't following.
It didn't take them long to find the Colonel. He was sitting in another tent and going over battle plans.
"C-Colonel Phillips!" Jamie gasped as she and Steve approached his desk.
"Well," said the Colonel, sounding very amused to see the two of them again after four months. "If isn't America's Sweetheart and the Star-Spangled Man With A Plan. What is your plan today?"
Steve ignored the insult. "We need the casualty list from Azzano," he demanded.
"You don't get to give me orders, son," said Phillips, sounding quite stern.
"I just need one name," said Steve, fighting very hard to keep his voice level and neutral. "Sergeant James Barnes from the 107th."
"Make that two names!" added Jamie. Unlike Steve, she was on the verge of full-blown panic. She had to know. She had to know what had happened to Trent. "My big brother's in the 107th, too!"
Colonel Phillips immediately shot a furious scowl at Agent Carter. "You and I are gonna have a conversation later that you won't enjoy."
"Please tell us if they're alive, sir," said Steve. "The first one's B-A-R—"
"I can spell," Phillips interrupted.
Steve and Jamie stood before him, both waiting to hear the news with baited breath.
The Colonel slowly got to his feet, and began shuffling through a stack of condolence letters on a desk behind him. "I have signed more of these condolence letters today than I would care to count," he began, looking directly at Steve at he spoke. "But that name does sound familiar. I'm sorry."
Steve stared, not wanting to believe his ears.
"Well, what about my brother?!" Jamie asked desperately. "What happened to him?!"
"Well, what's his name?" the Colonel asked.
"Sir!" called out another army private as he strolled up to the small gathering, carrying a series of small envelopes.
"Not now, private," said Phillips.
"But sir," the private pressed. "We received three more letters today for that soldier."
"You mean the sergeant?" asked Phillips, now looking over at him in interest.
The private nodded, holding up the letters. "Yes. I only came to ask if you've tracked down that soldier's younger sister yet to mail his condolence letter to, as well as return all her letters back to him. If not, I'll throw them in the bin with the other few months' worth of letters."
"Still haven't found the kid," answered Phillips nonchalantly with a shrug. "Toss 'em with the rest of the lot."
"Yes, sir," said the private. As he turned to leave, Jamie caught sight of the handwriting on one of the envelopes. Her eyes went wide.
"Those are mine!" she screamed. The private jerked around in alarm as she lunged forward and seized all three envelopes from his hands.
"Hey! What're you—?"
"Shut up!" Jamie snapped. She was staring at all three of the envelopes in her hands as she spoke, her eyes wide and frantic with shock. She'd recognized her own untidy scrawl anywhere. After several long moments she looked back up at Colonel Phillips. "These are my letters," she said slowly. "These are letters that I wrote to my big brother! Sergeant Trenton Harper of the 107th Infantry! What's going on?! Why is this private asking what should be done with them?! Why does he have them and not Trent?!"
The Colonel stared at her for a several long seconds, for once shocked for words. Then he sighed.
"I never guessed…" he muttered to himself out loud. "How did I not make the connection?"
"Sir?" said Steve. He was also confused by what was going on.
Phillips ignored him and turned to the baffled army private. "Find the rest of the letters and take them to this girl's tent. She's the kid we've been looking for."
"Y-yes, sir!" said the private, still a tad bit startled from Jamie lunging at him. He left without another word, looking more than pleased to get out of there.
Phillips then turned to look at Jamie. "I owe you an apology, Harper. I never realized you were the same Jamie Harper we've been looking for for months now…"
"What's going on?!" Jamie repeated. "Why did that man have my letters for Trent?! Why hasn't he been writing to me?! I haven't heard a word from him for over four months! What's going on?!"
Phillips sighed. "First of all, you need to understand that we weren't able to find you to inform you of what happened due to a paperwork error. Your brother listed you as his only living relative, but also wrote down your address as your old home, not the orphanage. Because of this, nobody, least of all me, connected the dots that you were the same Jamie Harper that was related to him. We've been trying to sort out who you could be and where you were living for months now so we could send you a letter. I formally apologize."
"Stop beating around the bush!" Jamie demanded, tears in her eyes. "Tell me what's happened to Trent!"
Colonel Phillips paused, trying to find the courage to break the news, but then he shrugged and just blurted it out.
"Your brother went missing behind enemy lines almost four months ago."
Jamie stared at him, not daring to say a word. Her jaw was dropped, and her eyes were wide with shock.
For a long time, it seemed as though she wasn't going to say anything in reply. Then she seemed to lose all concept of reality. She lost her balance, and began tumbling to the ground.
"Jamie!" said Steve, he and Agent Carter rushing to grab her arms before she hit the ground completely. She hadn't fainted. She just seemed to have lost the will to keep standing. As soon as he and Agent Carter helped her back up, she began speaking.
"He's… he's missing?"
Her words were no louder than a soft whisper against the drizzling rain. Phillips nodded to her. She stared at him for a little while longer as she let Phillips' statement sank in. Suddenly, her eyes went stony.
"Are you telling me," she began, her voice low and icy, "that not only have you not informed me that my brother — my only brother — has been missing for four now, but you've done nothing to rescue him?!"
She screamed the last bit so loud as she slammed both her hands onto the desk that all three adults took an involuntary step back. They'd never seen Jamie like this before, face red, and her usual smiling face fixed in a furious, raging glare. The only time that could compare was when they had seen her scream at Nick after he struck her. She was definitely a force to reckoned with when she really and truly angry.
She panted a bit after her furious scream, but then her glare faded, and tears began flowing down her face as she began to sob.
"My brother… My only brother!" she wept.
Steve patted her shoulder comfortingly, and stepped forward. "What about the others?" he asked. "Are you planning a rescue mission?"
"Yeah," said the Colonel, scoffing as he rolled his eyes. "It's called 'winning the war.'"
Jamie stared at him. "If you know where they — in particular Trent — are, why not at least—?"
"They're thirty miles behind the lines," Colonel Phillips interrupted. "Through some of the most heavily fortified territory in Europe."
He paused to move toward a large map of Europe taped to a dry erase board leaning up against the flap walls of the tent. He pointed at a small black dot several kilometers from where they were currently stationed.
"We'd lose more men than we'd save," Phillips explained. "But I don't expect either of you to understand that because you're both chorus girls."
Steve and Jamie both fell silent at this. Yes, they understood. They understood that the Colonel was choosing to abandon not only Trent and Bucky, but also at least hundreds of other good men to whatever fate Hydra had in store for them.
"I think Jamie and I understand just fine," said Steve coolly.
"Well, then understand it somewhere else," he said, walking over to where several other military leaders were waiting for him to help plan their next attack on another Hydra base. "If I read the posters correctly, you two've got someplace to be in thirty minutes."
Neither Steve nor Jamie answered him right away. Instead, they both took a good hard look at the map before them. According to it, this American army encampment was at least thirty miles southwest of the Hydra division factory the Colonel had pointed out was where he believed all the men captured had been taken, hidden between a series of Austrian mountain ranges. They were both beyond grateful at that moment for the fact that serum had granted them nearly perfect eidetic memories.
"Yes, sir, Colonel," Jamie declared. She peeked a glance up at Steve, wondering if he was thinking what she was thinking. He gave her a single, discreetly curt nod. She nodded back. "We do."
And without another word, they marched out of the Colonel's tent, and began trekking their way back towards their own. Agent Carter seemed to guess what they were planning, and ran after them as they entered their shared tent.
"What do you both plan to do?" she asked incredulously as she watched them pull out two backpacks from underneath their sleeping cots and begin filling them with necessary provisions. "Walk to Austria?
"If that's what it takes," Steve curtly replied, not even looking at her as he filled his backpack.
"You two heard the Colonel," she went on. "They're both most likely dead."
"You don't know that for sure!" Jamie snipped, jamming her spiky crown back on her head as she spoke. "Actually, scratch that! I know my big brother's still alive! I'd feel it if Trent was gone! I'd feel it!"
"Even so," Agent Carter pressed, "he's devising a strategy. If he detects—"
"By the time he's done that, it could be too late!" Steve snapped, grabbing a military hard hat. He clicked it into place on his head and threw his warm brown leather jacket on over his Captain America costume. He threw Jamie's smaller one to her, and she did the same, flinging it on over her Liberty Belle dress. She snatched up her torch and slipped on her mask as Steve grabbed his shield.
They both slung their backpacks on over their shoulders, and hurried back out into the rain.
"Steve! Jamie!" Agent Carter protested, rushing out after them.
They ignored her. Steve grabbed Jamie's hand, and dragged her behind him to a nearby deserted military jeep. He threw his shield and backpack into the backseat, and then turned and scooped up Jamie — girl, backpack, torch, and all — and plopped her into the backseat, too.
They turned to face Agent Carter. "You told us you thought we were meant for more than this," said Steve, looking at the woman of his deepest affections right in the eye as he spoke. "Did you mean that?"
"Every word," she replied at once.
"Then please," said Jamie, "let us go. You have to let us go."
Steve didn't wait to hear any sort of a reply. He just turned and hopped into the driver's seat of the jeep. As he started it up, however, Agent Carter rushed forward, stopping them.
"I can do more than that," she said. "Both of you follow me."
Wordlessly, Steve shut off the jeep, climbed out of the car, and scooped Jamie back out of the backseat, too, and set her back down on the ground before he grabbed his bag and shield. They followed her away from the main hustle and bustle of the campgrounds, and toward the area where all the military planes were kept.
"Wait here," she instructed them. "I'll be right back."
And indeed, they didn't have to wait long. She returned ten minutes later as soon as dusk set in, with Howard Stark in tow.
"Stark!" said Steve, in both greeting and surprise. "What're you doing here?"
"Helping you and Jamie, of course," he said. "This is one of my planes, after all. I'm gonna fly it."
"You're going to fly us to Austria?" said Jamie, her eyes sparkling as she momentarily forgot about Trent, Bucky, and all the other men trapped behind enemy lines, and instead became excited over the prospect of about to fly in a plane. Flying was one of her favorite things, after all. "That's awesome! Thank you, Howie!"
The adults glanced down at her when they heard what she'd called Howard.
"It's Howard, kid," said Howard.
"I know that!" Jamie said. "I just shortened it, and made it cuter!"
Despite the urgency of this secret mission, Steve grinned at his protégés' innocent statement, and Agent Carter lifted a hand to her face to hide a snicker.
Even Howard himself looked somewhat amused, but he was fighting to hide this and instead look annoyed, even though he really wasn't. "Men aren't supposed to have cute names," he told Jamie.
"Too bad! Howard's a nice name, but Howie is better!" she said with a firm sense of finality.
Howard stared. Steve just shrugged his shoulders and made a face that told him just to roll with it. With a shrug of his own shoulders and a baffled shake of his head, Howard patted her head.
"All right, fine. Call me Howie if you want."
"Yes!" Jamie cheered. "Now, are we gonna fly this thing or not? Trent and Bucky and all those other guys aren't just gonna rescue themselves, you know!"
The adults laughed, but nonetheless agreed with what she said, and they loaded themselves into the plane.
"Buckle in, everyone," Howard advised Steve, Jamie, and Agent Carter as he climbed into the cockpit of the plane. "Takeoffs can be a bit bumpy."
As soon as they were all strapped in, Howard started up the plane. The engines of the plane whirred as the propellers spun about. Thankfully, because of the cover of darkness, nobody noticed as the plane left the hanger, and eventually lifted off the ground.
Jamie couldn't help herself. As soon as they were up in the air, soaring high above the earth, she started to squeal with excitement.
"We're flying! We're flying!" she cheered, unbuckling her seatbelt as soon as it was safe and sitting up on her knees in her seat as she peered out the window behind her. "Look, Steve! Look! We're flying!"
Steve had the fight the urge to smile at her enthusiasm. Had this been any other time, he wouldn't think twice about it. He always liked seeing her get excited about such simple and little things and just being a kid. But he couldn't encourage that right now. He had to make sure she stayed focused on the task of sneaking into the Hydra base.
"Focus, Jamie," he gently reprimanded. "We're currently flying across the Austrian border and about to face off an entire legion of Hydra soldiers. You can't get distracted."
"Right, sorry," she said with a sheepish grin, sitting back down normally in her seat to listen to the plan. "It's just this is my first time riding in a plane. I got overexcited. I'm sorry. I'll pay attention now."
Agent Carter smiled to her before reaching into one of the inner pockets of her uniform, and taking out a folded up map of the Austrian mountain range. She quickly unfolded it, and spread it out on her lap so Steve and Jamie could both see it.
"The Hydra camp is in Krausberg, tucked between these two mountain ranges," she explained, pointing at the area as she spoke. "It's a factory of some kind."
"We should be able to drop you two right on the doorstep," Howard added, calling out from the cockpit.
Steve nodded gratefully. "Just get us as close as you can," he replied.
"Thank you for doing this," said Jamie suddenly. "I'm sure you're both gonna get in trouble with the Colonel once you land after you drop us off."
"And you two won't?" Agent Carter asked skeptically.
"Where we're going, if anybody yells at us, Jamie and I can just shoot them." Steve pointed out.
Jamie tensed at his words. She knew she'd been designed to be the perfect child-soldier, but did she really have to kill? She could just knock out the bad guys, couldn't she?
No, she would not kill. She would make it her policy not to kill. It would be weird to Steve, Agent Carter, Howard, Colonel Phillips, and everyone else once they found out, but she would be the first soldier to fight in a war without killing a single person. She could do it. She would do it.
"They will undoubtedly shoot back," said Agent Carter, bringing Jamie back to the current situation.
"Well," said Steve, tapping on his shield as he said his next words. "Let's hope it's good for something." He paused there, and glanced over at Jamie. "You know, it's not too late," he said. "I know you're worried about your brother and you want to help, but I'd really prefer it if you were to stay here in the plane and fly back with Stark and Peggy."
"No! I'm going with you!" Jamie snapped, folding her arms and scowling up at him. "I don't care how much you beg me! I'm going with you!"
Steve sighed but nodded begrudgingly, knowing there was no way he'd be able to talk her out of coming with him.
"Agent Carter?" Howard suddenly called out teasingly from the cockpit again. "If we're not in too much of a hurry, I thought we could stop off in Lucerne for a late-night fondue."
There was a brief silence in the plane as all three of the passengers contemplated what Stark had just asked Agent Carter. Agent Carter looked irritated by his question, and Steve seemed surprised, as well as slightly embarrassed. Jamie, however, had absolutely no idea what was going on, or what fondue even was.
"Stark is the best civilian pilot I've ever seen," said Agent Carter after several moments, trying to keep Steve and Jamie focused on the mission and not on the dinner date Howard had just offered. "He's mad enough to brave this airspace. We're lucky to have him."
Jamie just tilted her head to the side. Still a simple, innocent child, she had no idea what Steve was assuming, or what had even been implied.
Steve nodded to show he understood, but it was clear he was still thinking about what Howard had said. "So, are you two…" he said slowly, pointing back and forth a bit between Agent Carter and Howard. "Do you… fondue?"
"What is fondue?" asked Jamie innocently.
Agent Carter chose to ignore both their questions. Instead, she pulled out a small electronic device. "This is your transponder," she explained, handing it to Jamie. "Activate it when you're both ready, and the signal will lead us straight to you."
"Are you sure that that thing works?" Jamie asked curiously as she stuffed it into her pack.
"It's been tested more than either of you, kid," Howard joked. He opened his mouth to say more, but at that precise moment, a great force jolted the entire plane, and a series of bright lights lit up outside. Then the plane jolted a second time, and then a third. They were under fire.
Steve and Jamie quickly exchanged silent looks of agreement, and then seized hold of their torch and shield before leaping their feet.
"Get back here!" Agent Carter shouted as Steve grabbed a parachute and Jamie stuffed her torch into her backpack and rushed to force open the side hatch so that they could both jump out. "We're taking you two all the way in!"
Steve ignored her. He bent down, and motioned for Jamie climb onto his back. She readily complied, and leapt onto him.
"As soon as we're clear," Steve shouted in order to be heard over the roar of the wind as he strapped the parachute on over himself and Jamie. "You turn this thing around and get the hell out of here!"
"Swear word, Steve!" Jamie chided, hitting his shoulder to get his attention.
Agent Carter ignored her interruption. "You can't give me orders!" she retorted.
At this, Jamie grinned, and looked over at her. "Of course he can!" she said brightly as she clung tightly to the back of Steve's neck. "He's the Captain!"
Steve snickered at her words for a moment, and then he leaped from the plane with Jamie on his back.
As they fell through the air, Jamie couldn't help but feel exhilarated despite the rapid gunfire going on around her. The feeling of the wind whooshing through her hair as she fell from the sky… she loved it. The only thing that kept her from whooping in pure joy at the adrenaline rush was remembering the fact that she and Steve were currently in stealth mode, and she had to keep quiet and not scream in pure joy from the skydive.
They fell for almost thirty seconds before Steve spotted the trees down below growing closer and closer, and he pulled on the cloth latch to unfold the parachute. They floated calmly down even through the constant gunfire.
As they came down, their parachute got tangled up within the braches of several trees, and the two genetically altered super-soldiers hung suspended in midair a short way off the ground, unable to get free.
"Perfect," Steve muttered darkly, trying to wriggle his body enough to get himself and Jamie out. "Just perfect…"
"Wait, Cap! I have an idea!" Jamie exclaimed, twisting her body around as she struggled to pull her torch from pack. "Just hold still!"
Steve just nodded, not really sure what she was planning to do. Feeling him stop moving, Jamie twisted her body around as best as she could so she could face one of the straps that kept them connected to the parachute. Clicking the special button on her metallic toy, the sparklers erupted from its end, and she hovered them over the string to burn right through it. It took almost a full minute, but it worked, and they soon felt themselves fall several feet further down in the tree before being suspended in midair again due to the other string. She repeated the process, and they fell rather unceremoniously onto the ground.
"Oof!" Steve exclaimed as he landed.
"Captain, are you okay?" Jamie asked worriedly.
"I'm fine, just got the wind knocked out of me," he said, allowing Jamie to slide off his back before getting up and brushing himself off. "How about you?"
"No bones broken, I think," she answered.
"That was a good idea with the torch, Libby," he said. "A great idea, actually."
"Thanks, Cap!" Jamie beamed.
"Right. Now, let's go."
They took off together through the dark forest in the direction of the Hydra factory. They moved quickly, but still cautiously and silently, making sure to stick to the shadows as they went. They had no idea where they were in the mountain range, but in the likely event that they ran into a Hydra platoon while in the middle of a security sweep of the area, they'd much rather prefer to have the surprise on them rather that walk straight into them.
It wasn't long before they found themselves right at the entrance to the factory, but it didn't even really look like a factory, but more like a huge, formidable fortress. A towering chain link fence with several loops of barbed wire at the top surrounded the entire facility, and great, bright spotlights shined menacingly down across the nearby main entrance, its brilliant beams of light on the look out for any intruders. A team of Hydra guards flanked the entryway, and all of them were training their eyes into the forest for any type of sign of disturbance.
"How are we going to get in?" Jamie whispered. "We're bound to be spotted before we get anywhere near the place!"
Steve frowned as he silently pondered on what to do. She was right. The only way they'd be able to get into the factory would be disguised as a Hydra officer. But how could they do that?
Just at that moment, a low rumbling sound began to echo from further down the road. Steve and Jamie both spun around. There was a small convoy of trucks that were making their way down the road to the factory.
Steve smirked as an idea popped into his head. "Follow my lead!" he whispered, and he crept along the tree line in the direction of the approaching convoy.
"Hey, wait up!" Jamie hissed, tailing along after him.
They ran along behind the final truck in line, and silently leaped in past the tarp coverings into the trunk, greatly startling the two Hydra guards that had been lounging about lazily inside.
"Boys…" Jamie smirked beneath her mask as she twirled her torch.
The guards snapped out of their momentary shock and lunged at them, but Steve and Jamie were both more than ready for this. With silent kicks and punches, they successfully managed to knock them both out, and quickly threw them back out onto the road. And not a moment too soon, as the truck turned the corner on the road, and the factory was now in plain sight.
Steve and Jamie both kept dead silent as the truck pulled into the factory gates. One small sound, one peep from either of them, and every Hydra guard in the entire fortress would be pursuing them the second that they snuck out of the vehicle.
The truck soon came to a complete stop. Steve silently motioned for Jamie to get behind him, as he could hear another guard from outside approaching the truck. Jamie didn't hesitate to comply. She squatted down behind him just as the flap hiding them from the outside world opened. The Hydra guard just barely caught a glimpse of a red, white, and blue shield with three white stars at the top before being promptly punched with a powerful, knockout punch.
With the guard out of the way, Steve and Jamie cautiously climbed out from the back of the truck, and began stealthily making their way in the direction of several Hydra jeeps and tanks. They kept low as they ran, nearly crawling their way in between them in order to avoid attracting any attention, and they kept their ears sharp for the sound of approaching guards.
"What now?" Jamie whispered.
"Hang on, let me think," said Steve. He very carefully peered over the top of the tank they were currently hiding behind. The darkness that swept over the entire compound was broken only by the many searchlights towering above them, their luminous rays brighter than the sun itself as they slowly spun around, never staying in the same spot for more than a second as they continued looking about for intruders. From what he could tell from where he was standing, the main factory building was still quite some distance away, but if they could somehow sneak around between the searchlights on the next rotation and climb up to the roofs of one of the nearby buildings, it would certainly save them time from sneaking around behind these tanks and jeeps as they worried about dodging the constantly shifting lights.
"All right," said Steve after a moment. "Here's the plan. Do you see that tank over there by that building?" He pointed to the tank and building he was referring to.
Jamie nodded. "Yep."
"When I say 'now,' you run as fast as you can to it. Make sure you stay out of sight of the guards and moving searchlights. I'll have to wait to go after the next rotation of the lights. Stay in the shadows and keep hidden while you wait for me. Do no — I repeat — do not move away from that tank until I get there. Got it?"
"Got it," Jamie said, clutching her torch tightly in her hand.
"All right… ready… ready… Now!"
Jamie sprinted madly to the tank as the searchlight rolled past. For a moment, it looked as though she might not make it without accidentally revealing at least one small red boot to the lights, but then she ducked and rolled the rest of the way, safely keeping herself out of sight of the lights. She breathed a deep sigh of relief as she hid herself in the shadows of the tank. That had been way too close.
She had to wait almost a full minute before the lights moved away again before Steve could run and join her.
"All right now, Jamie. Climb!" he quietly urged her as he hoisted her up the side of the tank before climbing up beside her.
"Climb? Where?" she whispered.
"Onto the roof," he answered. "We need to get to the main building. That's probably where they're holding all the prisoners."
"Oh," she said, nodding in confirmation.
It took them several minutes to safely cross the rooftops of the side buildings while they avoided the lights and stayed out of sight of the guards, but they soon managed to reach a hidden side entrance to the main building of the large factory. Landing catlike upon the ground, Steve and Jamie quietly crept up the small door. Steve moved to open it, but through the small pane of glass near the top of the door, he spied a guard on patrol.
"There's a guard on the other side," Steve whispered to Jamie, knowing full well she that she was much too small to see the guard through the glass window. "I'm gonna knock. When the door opens, be prepared to knock him out. Can you do that?"
Jamie silently nodded, a resolved expression on her face as she clutched her torch. Seeing that she was ready, Steve took a deep breath, and knocked twice on the door.
The door opened to reveal a rather confused guard. He clearly hadn't been expecting anyone to be coming. Without a moment's hesitation, Jamie clicked the button on her torch, and jammed the erupting sparklers toward his face. The guard yelped in pain as the sparklers burned his skin, and Jamie proceeded to whack him over the back of the head with the blunt end of her torch, effectively knocking him out cold.
"Nicely done," said Steve approvingly as he grabbed the guard by his ankles and dragged him outside in order not to draw attention from the guards inside the factory.
"Thanks," said Jamie as they slipped inside. She took a moment to shut the door behind them before joining him in ducking down behind a series of weapons crates for cover.
If they had thought the exterior of the factory had been busy, it was nothing compared to the interior. The entire factory was crawling with Hydra agents. At the opposite of the corridor they were in, many agents were either in the process of moving some other weapons crates to another area of the factory, or were simply lounging about since they believed that it was impossible for anyone to be able to sneak this far into the compound, but still allowed their eyes to lazily sweep the area. It certainly wasn't going to be easy for them to get around in here.
Tiptoeing between more of the weapons crates, Steve and Jamie hesitated at the edge of the great mountainous area of their cover as they waited for the nearby guard to look away from where he was currently gazing before they ran. It took a few moments, but another Hydra agent wheeling some of the weapons crates soon distracted him. Steve and Jamie took advantage of his momentary diversion, and quickly ran into the cover of several machines across the way.
The only communicating they did now was through a series of hand signals and motions, silently telling each other which way to go, or to quickly stop if one of them believed they had heard something or rather someone approaching. They could not afford to speak now. If they were to so much as whisper to one another and a guard strolling by happened to overhear them, they'd be captured immediately.
As they were squeezing their way out from the cover of some large, metallic cylinders, they suddenly found themselves standing next to a long, glowing table. Curiosity getting the better of them, Steve and Jamie crept up to it. On its surface, there was a vast number of small, glowing electric blue cartridges all scattered about.
"Strange," Jamie whispered. "What are these things, Steve?"
"I dunno," he muttered back, cramming one of the cartridges into his pocket as he spoke. "It looks like some kind of early prototype of a weapon, I think. I'm taking one with me. Stark will probably know if we show it to him."
She nodded to show she understood. "Let's keep going!" she said.
They slipped off carefully down the hall, both of them keeping one eye open for the sound of approaching guards, and the other for a clue on the whereabouts of where the cellblocks were.
It didn't take them all that long to find the holding cells of prisoners. Guarded by two Hydra agents, Steve and Jamie knocked them out easily. As Jamie struggled to unlatch the ring of keys from the belt loop of one of the guards, Steve approached the first cell of prisoners, who were all staring at the two of them with baffled expressions. Upon closer inspection, it appeared as though not all the prisoners were of the 107th infantry. The majority was, but there were soldiers from all sorts of legions.
"Who are you two supposed to be?" a dark-skinned man wearing the traditional American private's uniform asked Steve curiously.
Steve hesitated for half-a-second before replying to the question. "I'm… Captain America," he said, at last fully embracing his super-hero name.
"And I'm Liberty Belle!" piped Jamie, finally dislodging the keys from the waist of the Hydra agent and smiling cheerfully to the bewildered soldiers. She even gave them a short wave.
"I… beg your pardon?" said another private, this one wearing a red beret and his voiced laced with the hints of a British accent. He was the only one to wave back at her.
"We're here to save you!" she exclaimed, holding up the ring of keys.
The men stared at her and Steve. A French man stepped forward, and began saying something in his native tongue. Neither Steve or Jamie spoke a word of French though, and they puzzled over what he was saying.
The dark-skinned man quickly translated. "He says, 'Wow, I didn't realize the Colonel thought we were so expendable that he'd only send one man and a little pipsqueak here after us.'"
Hearing the translation, Jamie's face scrunched up into an irritable pout, and she clenched up her little fists. "Translate this back!" she ordered the dark-skinned man before turning back to the French man. "Rude ungratefulness!" she said at once with a harsh stomp of one of her bright red boots. "Here the Captain and I have traveled over thirty miles to get here and have had to work very hard just to sneak into this factory to save you all, and you have the nerve to call me a pipsqueak! How ungrateful!"
The men just stared at her from what she's said as the dark-skinned man translated her message back to the French man. As the French man's stared at her upon hearing the translation of her words with his jaw dropped slightly like the other men around him, Steve really had to fight the urge to snicker. He supposed that to these men, who had never met Jamie before now and were completely unaware of her spunkiness that was generally hidden by her usually shy exterior and cheery little smile, she could be a little shocking on first meeting. Especially if she happened to be super annoyed or angry.
Hearing no response from the French man or any of the other captured soldiers, Jamie huffed. "Well, if you're all going to be just as ungrateful as him, the Captain and I don't have to let you out! You can all stay in these cells and we'll go home!" She turned and looked over at Steve. "Let's go, Captain!"
Steve really had to fight the urge to laugh now as she took his hand, and began dragging her behind him as she marched her way back to the door.
"No, no, no!" said another private quickly, rushing forward to the front so as to grip the bars of the cell as he spoke. This one had thick red hair that was all but hidden beneath his sleek black bowler hat, and a bushy red mustache. "We'd love to get out of these cells, thanks. Think you can unlock the gate, please, er — Liberty Belle?"
Jamie beamed. "Manners! That's all I wanted!"
And she skipped forward to the cell; ignoring the baffled looks she was still getting from all the men, and the amused one's she was still getting from Steve.
One by one, Steve and Jamie unlocked each cage door, allowing the prisoners to go free. Grateful to them but still rather confused as to who they were, the men slowly emerged from the cells.
"What, are we taking everybody?" asked the bowler hat private when he spotted Steve unlocking a cell with a Japanese man in it.
The Japanese man looked annoyed at the discrimination of his heritage due to the war with Japan, and threw the bowler hat private an irritable look as he fished his dog tags out from around his neck.
"I'm from Fresno, Ace!" the Japanese-American snapped.
Steve and Jamie paid this little exchange little mind. They were currently weaving up and down the lines of prisoners as they searched the faces in the crowd for any sign of Trent and Bucky.
"Is there anybody else?" said Steve. "I'm looking for a Sergeant James Barnes."
"And I'm looking for my big brother," said Jamie. "Sergeant Trenton Harper. He's in the 107th, but he wasn't captured with all of you guys who came in earlier. He got captured months ago. I need to know if he's alive or not!"
"There's an isolation ward in the factory, but no one's ever come back from it," said the man with the red beret. "We've all heard rumors that they've been keeping one soldier there for at least over two months now. Possibly longer, but we all thought it was just rumor. We're not sure if it's true or not."
"That could be him!" she said eagerly.
"All right," Steve called out as he addressed the long line standing before him. Jamie moved to stand next to him. "The tree line in northwest, eighty yards past the gate. Get out fast and give 'em hell. We'll meet you guys in the clearing with anybody else we find."
The soldiers all looked like they had questions, but before anyone could ask anything, Jamie promptly punched Steve's arm.
"Swear word, Captain!" she angrily admonished. "Geez, how many times today am I going to have to hit you so you remember not to swear?!"
This time, it was the men who chuckled and Steve who was embarrassed.
"You're taking the girl with you?" asked the Japanese-American as soon as the last bits of laughter died away. "I think she might be safer with us. She's just a little girl, after all."
"I'm not just any little girl!" said Jamie quickly, twirling her torch around as she spoke. "I'm Liberty Belle, the world's first genetically enhanced child super-soldier, and the one who just traveled thirty miles across the Austrian border to save you all! I didn't see any of you getting out of these cells on your own!"
The men were silent at her words. She was technically right.
"Well," the dark-skinned man said delicately, "are you both sure you know what you're doing?"
"Yeah," said Steve with nonchalant nod, motioning for Jamie to follow him. "I've knocked out Adolf Hitler over two hundred times."
"And each time after I kicked him in the crotch!" Jamie added proudly.
And without another word, the super-soldier of the present and the child super-soldier of the future took off back down the hall in search of the isolation ward, leaving behind the stunned group of American soldiers staring after them in disbelief.
A few minutes after they ran off and left the freed soldiers, Steve and Jamie slowly began to hear the sounds of a major battle raging outside. The sounds of angry shouts as guns went off and tanks shot out great cannonballs of destruction.
"Sounds like they're all getting revenge on their jailers," Jamie told Steve. He patted her shoulder in reply as a bunch of Hydra guards jumped them.
The Hydra guards were hardly worth any effort taking down. The vast majority of the guards were all rushing outside to try and stop the mass breakout of prisoners that were unleashing havoc upon the factory. Steve and Jamie didn't have to worry about sneaking around the factory anymore. Instead, they ran freely as they searched wildly for any type of sign that could lead them in the direction of the isolation ward.
Whenever they accidentally ran across a large group of Hydra soldiers during their search, they worked together flawlessly, as the perfect team. Jamie would use her torch to burn the majority of them in order to get them to stumble back, and then proceed to bury them in a whirlwind of punches and kicks, while Steve would deflect their gunshots with his shield and whack the guns from their hands before sending them flying with his powerful fists. It was almost too easy for them to knock aside the massive platoons of men that attempted to surround them.
How could it not be? They were Captain America and Liberty Belle. The mentor and sidekick. The adult super-soldier of today, and the child super-soldier of the future. They were unstoppable.
They ran up a flight of stairs and emerged onto a catwalk overlooking the main room of the factory. Steve and Jamie zipped right across it, occasionally stopping to either kick or throw guards attempting to bar their way over the edge of the railing. They didn't have time for a proper fight with just one or two guards. Not when they were running out of time to hopefully find Trent and Bucky.
One guard tried to jump Steve while they were turning a corner. Steve tried to get his small pistol out from its holster, but the guard managed to get a lucky hit in, and Steve's pistol flew out of his hand and landed at Jamie's feet.
"Shoot him, Liberty! Quick!" Steve said as he tried to block the guard's punches.
But Jamie did not grab the gun. She would not use it. She would not take a human life, no matter what the circumstance was. Instead, she ran forward, and whacked the blunt end of her torch against the back of the Hydra agent's head. He fell to the ground, knocked out cold.
"Why didn't you shoot him?" Steve asked as he grabbed the gun off the ground replaced it in his holster. "I told you to shoot him."
"I know, Cap," she said.
"Then why didn't you do it?"
"I… I know I'm a soldier, sir," said Jamie meekly. "But I don't want to kill. And I did good, anyway, didn't I? I helped you. I didn't have to kill him."
"No, Captain. I don't care what you say. I'm not going to kill people. I'm going to be the first soldier that fought in a war that didn't kill a single person."
Steve frowned but nonetheless waved his hand so she'd keep following him. They'd discuss her no killing code when she was actually supposed to kill in war later, when they were not in a survival situation.
They veered off from the catwalk and took a right down a long hallway. As they ran, they suddenly spotted a short, potbellied man wearing a freshly pressed brown suit with a red bowtie and brown fedora hat rush out of one of room as he struggled to pull on a trench coat and juggle a particularly large briefcase that seemed to be stuffed to the brim with papers. The man abruptly froze when he caught sight of Steve and Jamie standing at the opposite end of the hall. They stared back at him. They personally had no idea who he was in Hydra, but he was seemingly terrified just looking at them. He turned and sprinted away as fast as he could.
Steve and Jamie paused for a moment, unsure of what they should do. The man didn't seem to be a soldier. If he had been, he would have charged at them, not run away, but he was still technically a member of Hydra. They couldn't just let him get away. They started to run after him, but as they passed by the open doorway to the room the man had come from, they caught wind of several loud groans of pain, and a rather hoarse coughing fit.
They nodded to one another. That man in the fedora hat wasn't worth it. Not when there were people either hurt or sick and trapped in the room next them. They let the man go and instead entered the room.
The room appeared to be some kind of medical facility, and in the exact center of the room, there were two fully-grown men, both of them clearly in a lot pain and belted down to metal stretchers by thick leather straps.
The first man seemed to be the same age as Steve, somewhere in his mid-twenties, and had a thick mass of wavy black hair and dark eyes. He was only semi-conscious, and mumbling words incoherently.
"Sergeant 32557038, Sergeant 32557038," he rambled over and over again.
The other young man was not only much thinner than his companion, but slightly younger as well, and looked more like a young teenager than an adult of nineteen. He had thickly matted dark brown hair and dark brown eyes, and his right leg was stretched out slightly in front of him as he coughed and wheezed loudly in his unconscious slumber. He was very sick, as his face was white as a sheet and stricken with great clobs of dirt. Unlike the first man, he'd been a prisoner here for many months, and the result of his longtime captivity was finally catching up with him.
Steve and Jamie recognized the two men at once.
The two of them ran to their sides at once.
"Bucky? Oh, my God," said Steve, taking in the young man he'd known since he was just a kid. He reached over and yanked apart the straps that connected his lifelong friend to the table.
It took a few moments for Bucky's eyes to shift back into focus, and when they at last cleared, he stared at Steve, not believing his eyes.
"It's me," said Steve with a nod and a small smile. "It's Steve."
"Come on," said Steve, helping Bucky to sit up. As soon as he was upright again, Steve clapped his hand on his friend's shoulder. "I thought you were dead."
"I thought you were smaller," Bucky retorted.
Jamie, meanwhile, was trying to shake Trent awake.
"Trent! Trent! Wake up! Wake up! You can't die! I just found you again!"
Slowly, Trent coughed and moaned. He opened his eyes just barely, but then shut them again as he groaned in feverish tiredness.
"Goddammit… Must you rat fuckers always wake me up whenever you come in? Do whatever the hell you want, but let me sleep, goddammit!"
Jamie glared at his dirty language, and promptly bonked him on the head before removing her mask.
"Ow!" he shouted, his eyes snapping open as he jolted awake.
"Language!" she shrieked. "This is the first time I've seen you again in so many months, and the first words out of your mouth are an entire string of swear words?! Shame on you, Trent! Mom would've washed your mouth out with soap if she'd heard what you just said!"
Trent stared at the little girl standing in front of him, recognizing her voice anywhere even if he didn't actually recognize her.
"The one and only! Though call me Liberty Belle, right now. I have a secret identity! Now, hold still! I gotta burn through these straps."
She clicked the special button on her torch. As the sparklers started to chew through the first leather strap, Trent started blubbering out words as he stared at the little girl claiming to be his kid sister.
"J-Jamie…? Liberty Belle…? What is…? How're you…? How did…? What the hell are you doing here?" he finally said, almost shouting in his shock before letting out a long train of deep, throaty coughs.
"Swear word, Trent! And rescuing you, of course!" she said, lightly smacking his shoulder at the use of his offensive language before moving on to the second leather strap. "Though I must say, I'm somewhat offended. No 'I'm so happy to see you, Jamie!' or even 'Thank God, you're here, Jamie!' If I didn't know better, I'd say you want to stay a prisoner here in this factory! Thankfully for you, I'm not leaving here without you, so you're coming with me whether you like it or not! And again, call me Liberty Belle! I have to maintain my secret identity!"
She just finished burning through the second strap, and was about to grab his hand to help him sit up, when Trent spoke again.
"You… you think I'm not happy to see you?"
Jamie 'eeped!' loudly as Trent suddenly grabbed her, and pulled her down to his chest as he crushed her in a hug.
"I thought I was never going to see you again, James…"
Jamie didn't move for a second when she heard her brother's old nickname for her, nor did she correct him when he did not call her Liberty Belle once again. Then she promptly flung herself into his embrace. She was entitled to have a moment with him despite the fact that they needed to leave immediately. It had been five months since she'd seen Trent face-to-face, and four months since she'd heard anything from him at all. Steve was kind and a great guy, but Trent was the one person in the world who could always make her feel safe. That there was nothing to fear.
She was with Trent. Her big brother. He'd always protect her.
"I've been so worried about you, Trentie," she lightly sobbed. "I knew you weren't replying to my letters, but I didn't know you captured! I would've come much sooner if I'd known!"
"Come sooner? Sis, as much as I'm glad to see you again, you shouldn't be here at all!" he insisted. "Do you even know what this place is? It's a Nazi science factory! They kill prisoners here if they act out of place! It's not safe for you to be here!"
"Don't worry about that, Trent. I'm genetically enhanced now! A child super-soldier! That's why you need to call me Liberty Belle! I'm a super hero!"
"Look, I'll explain later! Right now, we gotta get out of here!"
She grabbed Trent's arm, and tried to hoist him up to his feet.
"Argh!" he shouted suddenly as he tried to stand.
"What's wrong?!" cried Jamie in alarm.
"My leg!" he groaned, slowly sitting back down on the stretcher. Jamie quickly peeked down at his legs. The fabric of the pants leg on his right leg was severed in the middle to reveal a very large, deep gash. By the signs of discoloration in the veins around the gash, he had a terrible infection. That was probably the reason why he was so sick now.
"Captain!" Jamie called out over her shoulder. "Captain, please help!"
"Hang on," Steve said as he threw Bucky's arm over his shoulder to help him walk.
"No, now!" she demanded. "I don't know what to do for my brother!"
Slowly, Steve helped Bucky limp over as he recovered his strength, and then he examined Trent's leg.
"Shit… that cut looks bad," he muttered, "and I'm not even going to get started on that infection…"
"Swear word!" said Jamie, but it was just out of force of habit this time. She was too worried about Trent to lightly smack Steve.
"Look, I'm no doctor. I don't know what to do for the infection, but we can least bandage the cut in the meantime."
He shrugged off his backpack, and started rummaging around in it for the roll of bandages he'd packed.
Trent stared at the unknown man in front of him. "Who're you?" he asked.
"Steve Rogers, but in accordance to your sister, Captain America," said Steve, giving the young man before him a curt nod as he started wrapping up his leg.
"He's all right, Trent," said Bucky suddenly. "He's the one I was telling you about. You know, the friend?"
"You mean he's that Steve Rogers? Your skinny friend from Brooklyn? He's doesn't look very small or skinny to me, but then again, I'm standing next to a little girl who's claiming she's my little sister and yet doesn't look at all like her. This could all just be some strange, delusional dream from the those drugs they've been giving us…"
"No Trent, this isn't a dream, it's real!" said Jamie. "And I told you! I've been genetically enhanced to be a child super-soldier! Steve's the same! He's been biologically changed as an adult super-soldier!"
"It's a long story," said Steve. He didn't get a chance to add more, as Bucky was now taking a good long look at Jamie.
"So, Trent," he said, sizing up Jamie in her Liberty Belle costume from head-to-toe. "I'm assuming this little girl is the sister you told me about? The one who so happens to be lucky enough to share my first name?"
"I'm Jamie," she said, holding out her hand. He promptly shook it. "Jamie Elizabeth Harper, otherwise known as the Girl Wonder called Liberty Belle. Trent's little sister. Only he's allowed to call me James. Steve's told me a lot about you."
"All good things, I hope."
"Of course!" she said. She paused, and then suddenly looked suspicious. "Why? Has Trent been telling you bad things about me?"
Bucky smirked. "The fact that you're absolutely terrified of the evil witch in Snow White may have come up once or twice," he said smugly.
Jamie glared at her brother, and bopped him on the head a second time.
"As soon as we get out of here, you and I are going to have a long talk on not sharing private information about me to total strangers!" she snipped.
"Yes, ma'am…" Trent muttered, rubbing the spot on his skull where she'd hit him.
"All right, just about done," said Steve as he tied the knot on the bandage. "Let's get going."
"Wait!" Trent said suddenly.
"Trent, we need to go!"
"No, listen Jamie—"
"It's Liberty Belle!"
"Fine, Liberty Belle, we can't go yet. They took Dad's pocket watch."
"When they caught me a couple months ago, I had Dad's pocket watch on me. Remember, I told you that it'd keep me safe? They took it from me when they frisked me. Threw it in there, I think…"
He pointed to a small room off to the side with a large, clear window overlooking the room they were all currently standing in.
Jamie scrambled to the doorway leading inside it.
"Liberty! We have to go!" Steve admonished, following in after her.
"I have to find that watch!" she snapped, scrambling to open the door. "It's a family heirloom in our family! The way I have Pannie from our Dad, Trent has Dad's pocket watch! Just give me five minutes to look for it. Five minutes, and then we can… go…"
She and Steve fell silent when they saw the back wall of this tiny room. There was a large map on the wall. A map depicting all of Europe, and scattered across it were six small black triangles.
Steve and Jamie couldn't believe their eyes. They had just discovered a map depicting the locations of six other Hydra factories. Thank God they now had eidetic memories.
"You have three minutes," said Steve, not daring to tear his eyes away from the map as he spoke. "Three minutes to find the watch, but then we have to go. I'll memorize the map."
Jamie nodded, and began scrambling to search through the drawers to the desk in the corner. It wasn't in there. She checked the shelves. Nothing.
It wasn't until she started rummaging through the drawers of the nearby filing cabinet that she found it. Her father's silver antique pocket watch, its chain lying in a jumbled mess underneath a few folders.
"Got it!" she shouted, seizing it out from the drawer. She and Steve rushed back out of the room. She tossed it over to Trent.
"I thought it lost for good…" he mumbled, jamming the antique device into the back pocket of his pants.
"Just goes to show Dad really is smiling down on us," said Jamie, hugging Trent tightly. "Him and Mom."
Trent kissed the top of her head in response. She smiled.
"All right," said Steve. "If there's no more delays, let's get going! Come on!"
Jamie nodded, and promptly threw her weight against Trent's side so as to act as a crutch for him, and the two reunited siblings followed Steve and Bucky out the door, and back into the main corridor.
"What happened to you? Both of you?" asked Bucky as the four of them made their way back down the hall. His voice was croaking a bit from lack of water as he stared back and forth between man he'd known all his life to be no bigger than a toothpick, and the little girl behind him who looked more than capable of breaking his arm if she tried."
"We joined the army," said Steve with a shrug.
"Remind me when we get out of here and this is all over to have a long talk with whichever asshole let that happen," Trent said.
Jamie smacked his side. "Don't swear, Trent! Geez!"
"I'm serious! He's going to have a field day when I lay it straight with him for letting my little sister put herself in danger like this!"
"You can't," Steve called out over his shoulder. "He's dead."
"Well, then remind me when we get back to kill the bastard that killed him."
"Swear word again!" Jamie chastised. "And you can't do that either. He's dead, too."
"Well, did it hurt?" said Bucky, slowly pushing himself away from Steve and trying to walk on his own.
"A little," Steve lied. There was no point in telling Bucky and Trent how much the experiment that had changed him and Jamie had actually hurt.
"Please, tell me it isn't permanent?" said Trent, glancing down expectantly at Jamie at his side.
"Seems to be so far," she replied.
As they emerged out onto the catwalk, a great number of explosions shook the entire buildings. A series of bombs had been set up across the main floor of the factory, and they were now going off together in rapid succession. Red-hot flames and great billowing clouds of smoke rose up from each explosion, and slowly began to spread across the main level of the building.
"This way!" Steve yelled, motioning for the other three to follow him up a nearby narrow set of steel stairs to the upper balconies of the factory. Bucky ran up behind him straight away, but Jamie had a difficult time maneuvering her way up the steps while acting as a crutch for Trent.
"You go on ahead!" said Trent, trying to break away from his little sister's grip and lean on the railing of the stairs instead for support. "I can manage on my own."
"No! I won't leave you behind!" Jamie snapped. She grabbed one of his hands, and began yanking him up a few more steps.
They caught up to Steve and Bucky at the top, clearing waiting for them, and then they all proceeded up another long flight of steel stairs. The four began running down the topmost catwalk, but they came to a halt when they heard an unexpected voice call out to them.
"Captain America, and the ever lovely Liberty Belle!"
Steve, Jamie, Trent, and Bucky all looked across the way to the catwalk on the opposite end of the factory. On the other end of the catwalk, the small potbellied man with the fedora hat that Steve and Jamie had seen in the hallways earlier was standing behind a very tall man in a rather sleek black trench coat. He had light brown hair, and piercingly beady eyes. On each of the upper arms of the sleeves of the coat were red Hydra symbols. He was grinning rather maliciously at Steve and Jamie, seemingly amused to see them here.
They didn't need to hear the man introduce himself. Steve and Jamie knew instinctively who this evil man was within seconds. Johann Schmidt. This man was the leader of Hydra, and the one who'd been responsible for Doctor Erskine's assassination.
Jamie fought the urge to hide away slightly behind Steve, or even Trent. She was beyond terrified of the man in front of her, but still, she kept her face neutral, and stood tall and strong beside Steve. She would not grant Schmidt the honor of knowing he scared her. She was Liberty Belle. The world's first and only child super-soldier. She would be brave in the face of this danger.
"How exciting!" Schmidt went on after a moment, lazily strolling his way down the catwalk in order to get a better look at Steve, the adult super-soldier of the war, and Jamie, the child super-soldier of the future. "I am a great fan of your films!"
Very cautiously, Steve and Jamie also began making their way down the catwalk, much to the surprise of Trent and Bucky. Although the man before them was evil to the very core, they had to admit that they were somewhat curious about him. He was, after all, the only other being on earth that had also been transformed into a superior being thanks to Erskine's formula.
"So," Schmidt went on, pausing momentarily to look at the young man and the little girl standing before him from top to bottom. "Doctor Erskine managed it after all. Not exactly improvements, but still… impressive."
Anger raged throughout Steve and Jamie's bodies at Schmidt's words, and Steve quickly threw a punch right in the face at the Nazi.
"You've got no idea," he hissed.
"We're better in ways you can't even imagine!" Jamie mocked.
Schmidt only grinned. "Haven't I?" he retorted, and threw a punch of his own back at Steve.
Steve raised his shield, and Schmidt's fist landed a huge dent right into the metal. Jamie rushed forward, the sparklers on her torch burning brightly, and tried to jab them into Schmidt's side, but Schmidt expertly parried her attack and shoved her backward. She landed on the catwalk with a small 'oof!' As she got back up again, Steve tried to take his pistol out from his holster, but Schmidt caught wind of his subtle action, and whacked the gun right out of his hand. The metallic weapon went flying over the very edge of the catwalk, and fell right into the flaming abyss far below.
Steve and Jamie both glared spitefully at Schmidt, and they were about to charge forward to engage him in a second round, but at that precise moment, the catwalks suddenly disconnected from one another. The side that they were on was moving backward toward Trent and Bucky, who'd been watching all of this occur with equally shocked expressions as they marveled at Steve and Jamie's newfound strength, and the side that Schmidt was standing on was moving back toward the tiny man in the fedora hat on the opposite side. Then they realized that the man was clutching a lever. He had no doubt yanked it in order to stop the fight.
Schmidt threw Steve and Jamie a dirty look as he regained his bearings.
"No matter what lies Erskine told you two," he called out to them across the length of the factory, "you see, I was his greatest success!"
He raised one of his hands towards the edge of his neck, and began tugging abruptly on his skin. The four members of the quartet were completely taken aback by this, but they no time to ponder on it, as within seconds, they realized he was removing a mask of his own. A synthetic mask, designed to disguise his face to appear as normal, peachy colored skin. He threw the piece of rubber over the edge of the catwalk, and it floated down into the raging inferno's as he allowed the two super-soldiers before him to take a good, hard look at his true face.
Instead of having regular, peachy-colored skin and the brown hair provided by the mask, he was entirely bald, and the bones on his face jutted out in every direction, almost as though it were his skull he had truly exposed before them and not his actual face, and his skin… Every inch of the skin on his head was deep red. Red as blood.
"Holy shit…" Trent whispered.
"You two don't have one of those, do you?" said Bucky cautiously.
The two of them were unable to look at anything other than the exposed red face of the Red Skull.
Bucky did not receive a reply, because the moment Jamie had seen the true face of the super villain, she'd screamed in utmost horror, and flung herself behind Steve to hide. She was terrified, and no longer cared what was thought of her as Liberty Belle as a hero. She did not want to look at that terrifying, horrible face. Steve did not say anything to her, nor did he glance behind him to see if she was okay. He himself was horrified and in slight shock of Schmidt's true face.
The Red Skull laughed at Jamie's utter terror.
"Ignorant child," he sneered. "I don't know what Erskine was thinking when he created you. War is no place for sniveling children."
Jamie said nothing, but spared a small peek out from around Steve. Steve kept his stance firm and defensive. He would protect his young sidekick from Schmidt with his life.
"You are both deluded, Captain, Liberty," the Red Skull went on. "You both pretend to be simple soldiers, but in reality, you two are just afraid to admit that we have left humanity behind! Unlike you two," he continued, following the little man toward a small elevator off to the side of the catwalk. "I embrace it proudly! Without fear!"
"Then how come you're running?" Steve shouted.
The Red Skull ignored the question, and just clicked the button that made the elevator's doors slide shut.
Jamie growled. She shouldn't have hidden away when she'd seen the Red Skull expose his true face. She should have been brave and just stared, not screamed and hide cowardly behind Steve. She so badly wanted to go after him and reclaim her honor, but at that moment, another explosion rocketed the building, and fiery fireballs and greats chunks of metal rained down from the ceiling. She shook away her thoughts of chasing after the Red Skull. She and Steve would get another chance to fight him. For now, they had to get out of here and live to see tomorrow.
"Come on, let's go!" Steve called, leading the group up another stairwell to the highest catwalk in the factory. "Up!" Wordlessly, Jamie, Trent, and Bucky all ran up after him.
He led them up the stairs, and to a somewhat wide, but still rather rickety beam that connected their catwalk to the catwalk on the other end.
"Let's go, one at a time!" said Steve.
"Trent first!" said Jamie. "He's sick and injured!"
"No, Jamie!" said Trent. "No, you go first!"
"I'll be fine, Trent! Don't worry!" she said. "I'm genetically enhanced now, remember? Now, go!"
Not letting him debate with her, she promptly grabbed his uninjured leg, and swung it over the edge of the railing and onto the beam. Trent looked somewhat conflicted, but nonetheless swung the rest of his body over the edge of the railing, too. Very, very cautiously, he held out both of his arms to balance himself, and took a few hesitant steps onto the metal beam. He very carefully made his way across the beam, and eventually made it safely to the other end.
"All right, Bucky! You next!" said Steve.
"Let me take the girl with me!" said Bucky, reaching down to scoop up Jamie, but Jamie deftly swatted his arms away.
"No way!" she said at once. "I mean, look at that thing! It can't hold the weight of two people at once! It'd crumble before we're even halfway across!"
"Then you go next!" he insisted.
Again, Jamie shook her head. "No. Again, I have super-soldier abilities just like Steve on my side. Should something happen, I'll have a much better chance with him to get out of here than you would."
Bucky seemed to think this over for a few moments before finally nodding at her logic. He carefully climbed over the railing, and stepped warily out onto the support beam. He went a little faster across it than Trent had since he was not sick and did not have a wounded leg to slow him down. Perhaps even a little too fast, as the beam was growing steadily weaker and weaker due to his constantly shifting weight. As he was nearly across, there was a very loud clunk, and the metal of the beam began to give way. Terrified, Bucky leapt forward, and seized hold of Trent's hand on the other catwalk mere seconds before the beam broke apart, and fell down into the great, flaming inferno down below. With Trent's help, Bucky hoisted himself up, and stood climbed over to the safety on the other side of the railing.
Steve and Jamie exchanged worried looks. They were now effectively trapped on their catwalk without any means to get across.
"There's gotta be a rope or — or something!" yelled Trent, looking around anxiously for something to swing across to Steve and Jamie.
"Just go!" shouted Steve. "Both of you! Get out of here!"
"I love you, Trent!" screamed Jamie. "Go! Be safe!"
"No!" yelled Bucky, looking directly at Steve as he did. "Not without you!"
"I won't leave you here, Jamie!" shouted Trent.
"Hell," Steve muttered as he looked around anxiously for what he could do to get himself and Jamie to the other side. He looked down at the railing, and an idea sprung into his head. He began tearing and bending away the metal.
"W-what're you doing?" said Jamie, too scared about the current circumstances to comment on his swearing.
"Just get on my back and hold on tight!" he ordered, bending down to her level. "We're going to have to make a jump for it!"
Jamie nodded, and hopped up onto his back and held on as tight as she could, considering she had to hold onto him and her torch at the same time. As soon as he deemed her to be holding onto him tight enough, Steve stood back up, and began to back away a bit from the gap in the railing. Jamie squeezed his neck tighter and closed her eyes. She was very, very scared.
Steve took a deep, self-assuring breath, and glanced up at Trent and Bucky across the way. They too were holding their breath, and praying hard for this to work.
And then, Steve dashed forward to the gap, and leaped as hard and as far as he could into the air and across the way.
Agent Carter stood solemnly in Colonel Phillips tent, not wanting to clear her throat and get his attention. It was just after dawn, and all night, she had waited for Steve and Jamie to activate the transponder she'd given them to call for evacuation, but the signal never came.
"Senator Brandt," said Phillips, saying what he wanted the soldier who was currently typing the letter to the Senator in his typewriter to write in the letter. "I regret to report that Captain Steven G. Rogers and ten-year-old Jamie E. Harper went missing behind enemy lines on November third. Aerial reconnaissance has proven unfruitful. As a result, I must declare Captain Rogers and young Harper killed in action. Period."
Agent Carter sighed, and discreetly coughed. The Colonel turned.
"The last surveillance flight is back," she said simply. "No sign of activity."
The Colonel turned to the man behind the typewriter. "Go get a cup of coffee, Corporal," he ordered.
"Yes, sir," he said, and quickly left the tent.
As soon as he was gone, Colonel Phillips rounded on the woman. "I can't touch Stark," he said angrily. "He's rich and he's the army's number one weapons contractor. You are neither one."
"With respect, sir," she said carefully. "I don't regret my actions, and I don't think Captain Rogers or little Jamie did, either."
"What makes you think I give a damn about your opinions?" said Phillips. "I took a chance with you, Agent Carter. And now America's Golden Boy, Wonder Girl, and a lot of other good men are dead 'cause you had a crush."
"It wasn't that," she defended herself. "I had faith."
Phillips wasn't pleased by her response. "Well, I hope that's a big comfort to you when they shut this division down."
Agent Carter fought to keep her face neutral. He'd all but just told her that she was going to be dishonorably discharged from the army.
Phillips opened his mouth to say more, but a great number of shouts from some soldiers outside caught his and Agent Carter's ears, and they both turned in the direction of the yells. Men were running toward the main entrance to the camp.
"What the hell's going on out there?" he muttered, quickly walking in the direction all the men were rushing toward. Agent Carter followed. She, too, was curious to know what was going on.
Men were gathering at the main gate to the camp, and some were wearing shocked expressions as to what they were seeing, but others, like the Colonel and Agent Carter, had no idea what was going on, and only headed over in order to see what all the commotion was. Within seconds, their faces mirrored the one's who were staring dumbfounded at the pathway leading up to the main entrance.
Steven Grant Rogers and Jamie Elizabeth Harper were leading a long procession of survivors from the Hydra factory behind them as they marched right up to the American campgrounds with Sergeants James Barnes and Trenton Harper at their heels.
"Look who it is!" shouted someone up front.
Immediately, the entire camp was in an uproar as a couple men lunged forward to open the gate and let everyone in. Men who'd still been sleeping soundly up until then were shaken awake by their tentmates, and sleepily dragged out of their tents to see the extraordinary sight as well as welcome back Steve, Jamie, and all the other men who had been held captive in the Hydra weapon's facility. The survivors weren't the only things that Steve and Jamie were leading into the camp, either. The men were carrying vast amounts of Hydra weaponry, driving Hydra tanks, and there were even some carrying some supplies that they had manage to scavenge from the factory before the whole place exploded. On and on the line of survivors came. There didn't seem to be an end to them.
The men in camp quickly parted on either end of the main pathway as Steve and Jamie led everyone into the camp, and began applauding and congratulating them all. Jamie took notice of this. She just clutched her little torch in one hand, and Steve's hand in her other. She was worried about what might happen next. She and Steve had to find Colonel Phillips and surrender themselves for punishment for running off across the Austrian border without permission.
It didn't take long to find the Colonel. He was marching right toward them from the main area of the camp alongside Agent Carter. His face was completely devoid of emotion, and it left Steve and Jamie wondering if he was trying to hide an absolutely furious expression.
They came to a halt before the superior officer, and Jamie had to let go of Steve's hand so they could both salute him out of respect.
"Many of these men need to see doctors," Jamie respectfully told him. "My big brother especially."
The Colonel glanced down at Trent's leg. It was a bit swollen from the long trek from Austria back to Italy.
"We'd also like to surrender ourselves for disciplinary action," Steve promptly added.
There was a long pause as the Colonel stared at the two super-soldiers.
"That won't be necessary," he said at last.
Steve nodded. "Yes, sir," he said.
The Colonel turned to look at Agent Carter.
"Faith, huh?" he asked. He didn't wait for a reply. He just vanished into the gathering crowd.
Agent Carter stared after him for a moment, and then stepped forward to speak to Steve and Jamie.
"You're late," she stated, though it was very obvious she was trying to mask her apparent joy at seeing them both alive and well before her.
Jamie just giggled, and reached into her backpack to reveal the transponder she'd given them the night before. Its antenna was snapped in half, held together by only a couple of wires.
"We couldn't call our ride," she sheepishly explained.
Agent Carter smiled and patted her shoulder, and then looked up to smile at Steve.
"Hey!" shouted Bucky suddenly. The three glanced over at him as the crowd quieted down to hear what he had to say. "Let's hear it for Captain America!"
"And Liberty Belle!" Trent added proudly.
The men crowded around began to whoop and cheer as they vigorously applauded the brave young man and little girl who had single-handedly risked their lives to rescue over four hundred men all together in the Hydra weapons factory.
Jamie blushed shyly, and tried to bury her face into Steve's jacket to avoid the cheering faces. All her life, even before she'd gone to stay in the orphanage, she'd always been considered a bit strange. Never before had she been recognized like this if she wasn't singing or dancing on stage in her elementary school drama club, or singing and dancing the Captain America and Liberty Belle theme song while on the USO tour.
Steve wouldn't let her hide herself, though. Instead, he dropped his shield, and literally scooped Jamie up in his arms so she could see and fully enjoy this. She 'eeped!' a bit, but it was drowned out when the crowd cheered harder than ever when they got a better look at her.
Jamie blushed harder than ever at the attention.
"Hard to believe these men were throwing those tomatoes at us yesterday afternoon, huh?" Steve whispered.
Jamie shyly. "No kidding," she said nervously. "I guess we've finally got their respect."
"That we have, Jamie," Steve agreed with a nod. "That we have…"