"Remember when I made you ride the Cyclone at Coney Island?"
"Yeah, and I threw up?"
"This isn't payback, is it?"
"Now why would I do that?"
The cold winds of late January blew through the air, and Jamie, ignoring Steve and Bucky's nervous words, shivered a bit in her dress as she stared down the ravine at the edge of the mountain. Today was important. Today, she had an all-time important mission to complete. Today, she, Steve, Bucky, Trent, and the rest of the Howling Commandos would be intercepting a Hydra train. The train itself wasn't important; it was one of the passengers that was. Arnim Zola. Hydra's top biochemist. He was currently on his way to one of the top Hydra research facilities, and because the American army had caught wind of his sudden travel plans, they needed to stop the train and capture him before he could pop off a cyanide pill like other Hydra agents had done before him. As the Red Skull's right-hand man, his capture could at last give them the last bit of information that they needed to stop Hydra once and for all: the location of the main Hydra base.
They'd actually received the news that Zola would be moving today just a couple weeks after Christmas. Christmas had been a very fun affair. After Jamie had unwrapped her presents, she'd changed out of her pajamas and into her new Dorothy dress and shoes, and ran all around the base for awhile with her new stuffed cat Gigi, which she'd temporarily renamed as Toto and pretended he was a little black dog ("Toto, I think we're not in Kansas anymore!"). When she grew tired of that, she curled up in a chair for a little while and quietly read a couple chapters of Peter Pan, before proceeding to run all around the base again. It was actually amusing for everyone to see her dressed up as Dorothy Gale, while at the same having her arms outstretched like an airplane while playing pretend to fly like Peter Pan ("I'm never going to grow up! I'm gonna fly away to Neverland and become the very first Lost Girl!").
In the afternoon, she and Trent went outside the base for awhile, accompanied by Steve and the rest of the Howling Commandos under the impression that they just 'happened' to want to go out and get some fresh air at the same time, and because they caught sight of Jamie and Trent building a snowman out in front of the base, they thought they'd just 'be nice,' and help build it. Jamie laughed the entire time as the balls were rolled up and plopped on top of each other, but after they'd added a carrot nose and two lumps of coal for its eyes, they'd asked her if she wanted a top hat for the head. She'd shaken her head.
"No, he needs a hardhat! He's a snow soldier, after all!"
The men had laughed, and an old military hard hat was placed on top of the snowman's head. Afterwards, the group then decided to play a quick, impromptu game of baseball in the snow with Trent's baseball and bat as the last rays of daylight died away. It had definitely been a very nice Christmas.
Now, though, it was back to business, and Jamie knew that the time for being a kid was over for now. For now, she had to go back to being Liberty Belle, and Liberty Belle had a mission to complete.
With another slight shiver, she ran her hands up and down the exposed skin of her arms and plopped down beside Trent on a small rock. Trent, who'd been checking the time on his pocket watch, quickly shut the lid of the device, and began helping her to rub herself down in an effort to warm her back up.
"Cold?" he asked.
"You've no idea," she muttered. "I wish this dress had sleeves. I'm gonna freeze like this!"
"The train will be coming any minute now. Fighting means movement, and movement will keep you warm."
"You think so?"
"I know so. It's basic survival knowhow. If you're out alone in the cold, do everything you can to keep moving. That'll keep you warm."
Jamie shivered again for a moment before continuing on.
"Trent, can I ask you something?"
"Why're you still carrying Dad's pocket watch with you on missions? I… I know that it's from Dad and everything and it's important to you, but you almost lost it back in November when Steve and I rescued you from that Hydra factory. Don't you think it'd be safer if you left it back at the base?"
"Yeah, it probably would be," he agreed, holding the silver antique device up by its chain. It glistened in the light of the sun. "Actually, I know you're one hundred percent right, but… but I just can't leave it there when I go out in the field like this."
He paused for a moment, trying to consider what to say so as to make his little sister understand.
"Well… think of it this way. If — God forbid — something were to happen to me, like I was shot or something, I'd want something of our parents with me right then. You were really close to Mom, sis, because you both loved the theatre. I was really close to Dad because we could bond together over baseball. Having this with me right now… it makes me feel as though Dad's right here, protecting and watching over me. Does that make sense?"
"Uh-huh," she nodded. "I guess so… but you can't keep talking negatively like that! You're birthday is in a couple days! You gotta think positive! You're going to be turning twenty!"
Trent smiled, and wrapped his arm around his little sister before planting a kiss on her loose brown hair. Indeed, in just a few short days from now, it would be January thirty-first, and Trenton Anthony Harper would be celebrating his twentieth birthday.
"Yeah, you're right, James. I shouldn't be so melodramatic, not when my birthday's coming up."
"Exactly! You have to stay positive! I know I'm excited! I'm going out to buy you a cake when we get back, after all!"
"Aw, come on… That's not necessary."
"Of course it is! It's your birthday! Birthdays are one of the most important days of the year in any one's life!"
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Though I do hope you will at least make sure to buy me a yellow cake."
"Yuck! Yellow cake's awful! Chocolate's a much better choice!"
"My cake, sis. My choice."
At that moment, the radio that Jim and Jones had been fiddling with to catch the radio frequency of the coming train began making sounds, and everyone quieted down so they could hear the message that the train was broadcasting.
"We were right," said Jones, pulling off his headphones and glancing over at the rest of the group. "Doctor Zola's on the train. Hydra dispatcher gave him permission to open up the throttle. Wherever he's going, they must need him bad."
Jamie and Steve quickly slipped on their mask and cowl as they got into position as everyone else began setting up the rope for the zipline. The timing of what they'd do next was very, very crucial. One slip up, and this entire mission would be botched.
Falsworth, who'd been busy watching out for the approaching locomotive with a pair of binoculars glued to the train tracks, quickly spied it coming around the bend. "Let's get going, because they're moving like the devil.
Jamie clung onto her torch tightly as she hopped up on Steve's back. He nodded to her briefly before proceeding to harness his and Jamie's pulley onto the overhead rope. She had to do this with Steve. They were all going to be racing against the clock so only a handful of them could sneak aboard the train before it passed. Since she was a child and could easily be carried by Steve on his back while ziplining down, it just made sense she should ride with him and save them all a few more extra seconds.
"We only got about a ten second window," Steve explained as Jamie wrapped both her arms around his neck as tight as she dared so she wouldn't accidentally start choking him. "You miss that window, we're bugs on a windshield."
Falsworth nodded, and glanced down uneasily at the hundred foot high ravine between them on the mountain and the train driving on the tracks.
"Mind the gap," he muttered apprehensively.
Dum Dum just laughed. "Better get moving, bugs!" he shouted.
Jamie swallowed thickly and nervously chuckled. She loved anything flying related, but even she had to admit that this scared her a bit. "Don't joke about that, Timmy! Wish us luck!"
No sooner had she said these words did Steve grasp the bar of the pulley tightly, and then leaped off the edge of the mountain, carrying her along for the ride down toward the moving train as he zip-lined down.
Jamie forced herself not to shut her eyes. It was hard to believe that a girl who had once skydived out of a plane and had felt no fear at the time was afraid to zipline, but it was the truth. She gripped Steve's neck tightly so she wouldn't fall. Behind her, she could hear Trent, Bucky, and Jones all ziplining down after them, but she did not dare to turn to glance over her shoulder at them. She just continued to cling onto Steve. She may have been genetically altered by Doctor Erskine's serum to be the perfect child super-soldier, but that didn't mean she couldn't die from over a hundred foot high drop into a ravine.
It felt like ages to Jamie, but in the span of a few seconds, Steve let go of the pulley on the zipline, and dropped, albeit somewhat clumsily, onto the roof of the train. Jamie forced herself to shake away her fear as their mission came back to her mind, and let go of him as he stood back up as Trent, Bucky, and Jones all dropped down behind them. Their plan was very simple. While Steve, Jamie, and Bucky all moved throughout the train and took care of any meddling Hydra agents, Trent and Jones would search the train for Zola, and capture him before he popped one of those cyanide pills.
Steve motioned for Jamie and Bucky to follow him to a small ladder leading down to a side door of the train. Wordlessly, as it would have been impossible to say anything to each other over the raging wind from the speed the train was moving, they all followed him down and through the door. Trent and Jones would have to find another way in. Separating into two groups increased their chances of getting this done quickly.
As soon as the three of them were all safely inside and out of the roaring wind, Bucky shut the door behind them, and they all took a good look around at their new surroundings. By the look of the place, it seemed like they had climbed into the cargo car. There were shelves all around them, stacked to the brim with all sorts of Hydra weapons and ammunition.
Very cautiously, Steve, Jamie, and Bucky moved forward toward the open door at the other end of the car. Each of them had their weapons raised in case a guard attempted to surprise them.
"This seems a little too easy," Jamie murmured quietly as they tiptoed forward.
"Careful, Libby. Don't let your guard down," Steve advised.
As the two super-soldiers passed through the open doorway first, however, the door suddenly slammed shut behind them, separating them from Bucky. The guards had set a trap, trying to keep the group split apart in an effort to make them weaker.
Almost immediately, the door on the other side of the cargo hold opened to reveal a rather large guard carrying an enormous Hydra weapon. He pointed it at Steve and Jamie and fired.
As Jamie scrambled to hide behind a rather large crate filled with weapons, Steve pulled his pistol out from the holster of his uniform and fired a few times before ducking down beside her to catch his breath.
"Get out your gun, Liberty," Steve ordered, hurrying to replace the bullets back into his pistol. From their spot, they could hear rapid gunfire coming from the cargo hole they were just in. Bucky must've been fighting himself against other guards.
Jamie vehemently shook her head, and gripped her torch tightly in protest. "I'll use my torch, thanks!" she snapped.
"You can't. We're on a train. You shoot off just one fireball and this whole train could explode. I know you don't like the guns, but at the very least shoot at his arms and legs."
Jamie didn't like the idea, but she knew Steve was right. With trembling fingers, she removed her tiny gun from its holster on her hip. She peeked over the top of the crate, and slowly fired off a round at the Hydra agent's leg. The guard dodged at the last second.
Slowly, the Dynamic Duo made their way forward as they continued to fire off more rounds, with Steve's amazing shield protecting them from the Hydra guards' bullets. As soon as they were close enough, Steve kicked him right in the chest, and as he stumbled backwards, Jamie proceeded to whack the back of his skull with the blunt end of her torch, effectively bringing him. With the guard finally out of the way, Steve grabbed the Hydra weapon he'd been carrying, aimed it toward the door where he and Jamie had previously come from, and fired away.
"Captain, what are you doing?" Jamie shouted.
"We need to help Bucky!" Steve answered, running to help his life long friend. "Come on!"
Jamie nodded, and took off after her mentor.
Upon reaching the second door which was still closed, Steve motioned for Jamie to hide in between the doorway and the wall on the opposing side of him so she wouldn't accidentally get shot once he unlocked the door. Jamie nodded, and pressed herself up against the wall and made herself as flat as possible. Steve nodded in approval, and quickly swung the door open. A couple bullets flew through the air, missing them both completely.
Bucky was currently crouching down behind a large mountain of crates filled with ammunition as he fired his machine gun at the Hydra agents. Or, at least he had been, as he suddenly clicked the trigger on his gun and nothing happened. He had used up the last of his bullets.
Steve only paused a moment to toss Bucky his own gun before charging into the train car. He slammed his entire body up against the shelf the Hydra agent had been hiding behind, and the Hydra agent was forced to come out into the open to avoid being crushed. Jamie flew in, and with another quick whack to the head with her torch, the guard fell to the ground, knocked out cold as a great deal of blood starting flowing from the spot where she struck him.
Bucky, although appreciative of their help, couldn't help but look playfully annoyed.
"I had him on the ropes," he said to Steve.
Steve grinned. "I know you did."
Jamie smiled, and turned around to tell them that she thought that they should keep moving, when she caught sight of the guard that she and Steve thought they'd successfully knocked out back in the other room. He was clutching his huge Hydra weapon, and aiming it right at all three of them.
"Get down!" she screamed, immediately dropping down onto the floor of the train car.
Steve and Bucky quickly whirled around to see what she was talking about. Upon seeing the guard, Steve immediately forced Bucky down and held up his shield to protect them all mere seconds before the guard fired the weapon. Blue energy zapped through the air, and although the attack bounced harmlessly off the shield, all three American soldiers had the wind taken out of them as the attack instead blew up the side wall of the train, creating a large, gaping hole that overlooked the dangerous snowy ravine of the mountain outside.
Bucky was the first out of the three of them to recover from the sudden explosion. He quickly grabbed Steve's shield, and scrambled back up to his feet again. Holding the shield out in front of him as a means of defense, he started firing off rounds at the oversized Hydra agent. The Hydra also fired again, and the mysterious blue energy hit the shield a second time. Had it been Steve or Jamie holding up the shield, nothing would have happened, but Bucky was not genetically enhanced. He was not a super-soldier. He was an ordinary man. He lost his balance from the force of the blast, and the shield slid from his fingers as he went flying out the hole in the train. He just barely managed to catch hold of a large, protruding piece of metal so as not to fall away into the deep abyss far below.
Upon seeing this, Steve hopped right back into action. He had to save his friend. He reached for his shield, and hurled it right at the Hydra guard. The guard fell backward from the force of the blow, knocked cold for real this time.
With the guard finally out of the picture, Steve rushed toward the hole and peered out. By some miracle, Bucky was still clinging onto that piece of metal.
As all this happened, Jamie sat up from where she'd fallen on the ground and watched it occur with wide, shocked eyes. She was horrified. She didn't want Bucky to die. She didn't know him as well as Steve did, obviously, but he'd always been very nice to her, and she knew he was a good friend of Trent's. She wanted to help, she really did, but she found she couldn't move. She was too shocked to move.
"Bucky!" Steve shouted, doing his best to climb out of the train slightly so as to reach him. He couldn't let Bucky die. He was his life long friend. He had to save him. He just had to. "Hang on!"
Bucky tried to say something back, but the train hit a bump on the track, and all he could do was yelp in fear. He was terrified. He didn't want to die. Not just yet. There were still so many things he wanted. So many places he still wanted to see.
"Grab my hand!"
Steve stretched out his hand to his friend. He could do it. He was close enough. He could pull him back on board. All Bucky had to do was reach out, and he'd be safe. His friend would be safe.
Ever so slowly, Bucky removed his right hand from the piece of metal he was clinging onto, and did his best to reach out toward Steve. Steve smiled. One more inch. Bucky just needed to reach out an extra inch and he'd be fine.
At that moment, the piece of metal Bucky was clinging onto for his life suddenly cracked, and it broke away from the rest of the train. Bucky screamed as he fell away from the train, the piece of metal still clutched tightly in his left hand as he dropped down into the faraway snowy depths.
"No!" Steve shouted, his eyes wide with horror, and his hand still outstretched, as though his friend could still somehow reach out toward him.
Jamie's jaw dropped. She was stunned. Completely stunned. Bucky was gone. Gone. The thought couldn't process in her head. How could he just be… gone? Just like that? Out of all the Howling Commandos, why did it have to be Bucky who'd died? Why him? Why the one person whose death would hurt her mentor the most?
It was a very long time before Steve found the strength to climb back inside the train. He did not look at Jamie. He couldn't. He was still in shock.
"Captain?" Jamie said slowly, getting back up on her feet. Still, Steve refused to look at her. "Captain… I'm so—"
"Don't!" he said sharply, so sharp that Jamie actually took a step back. He'd never once raised his voice at her. "Just… don't!"
Her eyes somewhat fearful, she slowly nodded, and stayed silent. Her thoughts were reeling. Did Steve blame her? Did he blame Bucky's death on her? It'd make perfect sense if he did. While Steve did his best to try and climb out of the train to save Bucky, she'd just sat back and watched the whole thing happen. She didn't do anything. And it'd been her job to make sure that that guard had been knocked out. If she'd done her job right, he wouldn't have come back to his senses so quickly, and wouldn't have fired off the blast that sent Bucky flying out of the train car.
Had she finally disappointed Steve by failing to save his childhood friend? Did she let him down as his sidekick? Did he blame her for Bucky's death?
At that moment, Trent came running into the train car.
"Jones found Zola. He's tying the guy up now."
To his surprise, Steve and Jamie didn't answer him. Trent was puzzled, and was about to ask what was wrong, when he suddenly realized that there was one person missing in the train car.
"Where… where's Bucky?"
At his question, Jamie began crying, and ran up and hugged Trent. She was still so sad, and still confused. She was positive that Steve blamed her for Bucky's death. She really just wanted a hug.
Realizing the reason why Steve was so quiet and Jamie was clutching to him as she cried, Trent's eyes widened.
"No…" he whispered, hugging his sister back.
Jamie just cried harder than ever. She was responsible. Bucky was gone because she didn't do anything to try and help save him. He'd been Steve's friend, and Trent's. She shouldn't have just sat there while Steve tried to save him. She should have helped.
"You and Jones… you caught Zola?"
Trent looked away from Jamie and up at Steve. Steve's face was completely neutral as he struggled not to lose control of his emotions. He was the Captain of the squad, and he had to stay focused on their mission despite the death of his best friend.
Slowly, Trent nodded. "Jones' with him. He's forcing the train to stop."
"Good. We continue the mission. We stop the train, and regroup with the rest of the squad as soon as possible."
As he moved to leave the car and find Jones and Doctor Zola, Jamie broke away from Trent, and reached out to grab Steve's hand.
"Captain?" she said softly. "Captain, I'm sor—"
"Liberty!" he said, his voice short and cold as he shook her hand away. "Just… not now!"
He marched away without another word.
As the train came to a halt, Steve, Jamie, Trent, Jones, and Doctor Zola climbed out of the train car, the last one bound together with thick ropes to keep him from escaping, and with Jones' gun firmly pressed up against the small of his back so he wouldn't try anything funny. Despite Bucky's death, they had to follow the plan that'd been laid out earlier by Colonel Phillips. As soon as they caught Zola, they were to stop the train, and make their way towards the nearest clearing and use a transponder to call for retrieval. The other Howling Commandos would come as fast as they could in one of Howard's planes to collect them. They couldn't take any chances. Doctor Zola was an important prisoner. They needed to get him back to base immediately.
As they made their way through the snowy forest at the base of the mountain, everything was very silent. Steve showed no signs of wanting to talk to anyone, nor did anyone try to say anything to him. They knew he had to be hurting. Trent and Jones were so focused on him and Zola that they barely even looked at Jamie.
Had the other adults been paying attention, they would have seen how upset she was, and how she only barely managing to keep up with them since she was just dragging her feet through the snow as she walked. She was still under the impression that Steve blamed her for Bucky's death. She wanted to say something to him, to tell him that she was sorry that she didn't do more to help him, but every time she opened her mouth, she remembered the way he'd glared and snapped at her back on the train, and she'd quickly shut it again. She hated the way he had looked at her.
So she kept silent, and clutched her metal torch in one hand, and Trent's hand with her other. She just wanted to go home and forget everything that had happened today.
A sudden rustling in the wind caught her ears, and she looked over her shoulder at some nearby bushes. Everything seemed fine. Nothing moved in the shadows. Perhaps their group just spooked a rabbit, or maybe she just imagined the sound. It was nothing to worry about.
She was just about to shrug her shoulders and turn her head back around so as to look forward again and see where she was walking, but then she heard it again. Rustling in the trees. She abruptly stopped and was now focusing all her attention on the nearby trees. She knew she didn't imagine that this time.
"Liberty?" asked Trent, stopping when he felt her hand slip away from his. The others came to a halt when they realized that Jamie wasn't following. "Liberty, what're you—?"
"Did you hear that?" she interjected, her highly advanced eyes scouring the trees for any sign of disturbance.
"Hear what?" asked Steve tonelessly, his thoughts not really in the moment, but still back in the train car with Bucky.
"In the trees. There's something out there…"
That got Steve's attention, and he forced himself to focus. "Are you sure?"
"I know what I heard!" she insisted. She didn't say anything else after that. She just silently listened and searched anxiously through the cover of the trees to find the source of the sound. It definitely hadn't been an animal; it had been too loud of a sound for any animal to make.
For a full minute no one spoke. Jamie had a determined look in her eyes as she scoured the tree line. She was just starting to think that maybe whatever had made the noise had left, when she finally saw it. Hiding in the shadows of several trees was a Hydra guard.
"There!" she screamed, and she ran off to battle against the guard, who was quickly fleeing into the shadows of the trees.
"Liberty! No!" shouted Steve. They'd been given explicit orders not to engage in battle if they came across an enemy platoon after they caught Zola unless battle could not be avoided. It was too risky to fight with Doctor Zola with them. They had to deliver him into custody as safely and quickly as possible. But Jamie had forgotten those orders, and was already disappearing into the trees.
Steve bit his lip. He wanted to help his protégé out. He really did, but he had to get Zola to the retrieval point. He wasn't sure what to do.
As it turned out, he didn't have to decide, as Trent was already rushing after his little sister.
"You two get Zola to the clearing! I'll get my sister!" he shouted out over his shoulder as he ran.
Steve nodded. It was really all he could do. They had to finish the mission. With a nod toward Jones, they started rushing to get to the retrieval point. The sooner they dropped off Zola into American custody, the sooner they could help Jamie and Trent.
Steve could only pray that by that time it would not be too late.
Jamie tore wildly through the trees as she chased after the Nazi spy. She had to get him. She had to stop him. It wasn't just because of the mission that she had to do this. She had to do it for herself. She had to prove to Steve that although she may have been the reason why Bucky died, she wasn't useless. She could still be a good sidekick.
If she single-handedly caught this Hydra spy, maybe Steve would like her again. He'd be so proud of her. He'd forgive for what happened with Bucky. If she caught the spy, he wouldn't keep glaring at her. He'd obviously still be sad about what happened with Bucky, but he would at least smile at her again. That was all she wanted. She wanted him to be proud of her.
But none of that could happen without that guard. She had to stop him.
The guard scrambled behind a particularly large boulder in a desperate attempt to get away from the child super-soldier. He was definitely running out of breath. Jamie smirked at the thought. This was going to be easy. She wouldn't even have to use any fireballs with this guy. One sharp blow to the back of his head, and he'd be history. Steve would be so proud of her.
She sprinted around the rock, her torch high over her head and ready to strike, but when she saw what was just beyond the tall rocks, she completely froze.
The Hydra guard hadn't been running from her. He'd been herding her.
There were over twenty Hydra officers on the other side of the rock.
"Look what I lead back, boys," said the Hydra guard she'd been chasing, a smirk quite audible in his voice.
Jamie snapped out of her shock. She had to get out of there. Now. She couldn't handle this many Hydra guards at one time. If she were with Steve or maybe a couple of the other Howling Commandos, maybe she could, but not alone. She wasn't strong enough on her own.
She turned on her heel, and tried to bolt away.
"Stop her!" cried another guard.
Before she moved more than a couple of yards, she was tackled to the ground by at least three of the other guards.
"Let go of me!" she shrieked, thrashing in a desperate attempt to get away. Her torch flew out of her hands during the struggle, and fell somewhere into a series of nearby bushes.
"Not a chance, kid," said one the guys that forced her to the ground. He held a gun to her head, and Jamie immediately stilled, her dark brown eyes wide with fear. "Didn't your Mommy and Daddy ever teach you not to wander off alone? You're currently worth over a million Euros' to Herr Schmidt. We want that paycheck."
Jamie's slowly began to water. She had never been so terrified in her entire life. She was getting kidnapped. They were going to take her to the Red Skull. Who knows what was going to happen to her now.
As the guards brought out a series of chains to bind her up in so she wouldn't struggle and break free thanks to her enhanced strength, Trent came bursting around the rock.
"Liberty! Liberty! What the hell do you think you're—"
He cut himself off when he saw the entire platoon of Hydra guards.
"Test Subject 32557037," said one of the guards, his glinting evilly as he caught sight of Trent. He seemed to be the leader. He raised his pistol, silently taunting Trent to try and take one more step. "What a surprise… A very welcome surprise…"
Trent snapped out of his shock. Jamie was in trouble. He had to protect her. She was his little sister. He'd die before he let these bastards take her.
"Get your filthy hands off her!" he roared.
He charged forward, forgetting all about the gun aimed at him. He'd kill all these men with his bare hands if he had to. So long as he lived and breathed, he would protect Jamie. He would protect her until his dying day.
The men easily out numbered him, though, and soon he too was on the ground, slowly being fitted with a pair of handcuffs. As Trent struggled against his captors, Jamie began to scream.
"No! Please! Don't hurt him! Don't hurt him!"
"Sounds like little Miss Liberty Belle has some sort of an attachment to 32557037," said the leader, intrigued.
"Captain!" Jamie screamed. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. Only Steve could help them now. If she screamed loud enough, he'd come running. "Captain America! Help! Please! Help—!"
She was cut off by the leader hitting her against the back of her head with the butt of his gun. She screamed in pain as blood gushed out of the wound. Her entire head throbbed from the force of the blow. The leader bent down, and grabbed Jamie by the collar of her dress to force her up onto her feet. Jamie, unable to move a single muscle because of how tightly the guards had bound the chains around her, had no choice but to comply. Her vision was a tad bit disoriented after the whack to her head, but she was still conscious and could still focus
"If you wish 32557037 dead, then by all means, scream for your precious Captain America," he told the terrified Jamie. "A clean shot through the head. He'd be dead before he even hit the ground."
"Scream, Libby!" Trent shouted, his eyes wide with fear for his only sister as he continued to struggle against the men still trying to detain him. He didn't care that her screaming would result in his death. He wasn't important. She was. Not just because she was his only sister, but because she was also Liberty Belle. Her life had more value than his did. "Scream! Don't worry about me! Just scream! Scream—"
"Gag him!" the leader ordered. Several guards forced a long piece of cloth into Trent's mouth. Trent continued to struggle as they tied it off at the back of his head, but he was unable to do anything, nor could communicate any more with Jamie, what with his mouth sealed off and his hands bound.
"Stop! Please, stop!" Jamie pleaded, tears streaming down her face from both pain and worry for her older brother. "Please! Don't hurt him! Don't hurt Trent!"
"If you wish him to stay unharmed, then you will stay silent the entire time we take you two back to our tanks. You're both coming with us."
And with that, he began to drag the poor little girl behind him by her hair through the forest. Jamie whimpered from the hair pulling, and there were many times she tripped over her own feet, but she did as the leader said and stayed quiet. She would not risk them hurting Trent.
Trent, however, was not so compliant. He screamed through his gag at Jamie, and twisted and struggled the entire time they walked. He had to get free. He had to save her.
"Stop it! Trent!" Jamie cried when she saw the guards hit him again because of his struggles. He groaned in delirious pain. "Stop! Don't hurt him! You said you wouldn't hurt him!"
"Knock her out!" the leader ordered. "I refuse to listen to her crying!"
There was a sharp blow to the back of Jamie's head by one of the guards, and the whole world went dark.
"Are you sure they ran this way, Steve?"
"Positive. We were all standing right back there with Zola when Jamie took off and Trent ran after her. It was right back there. I know they ran this way."
Upon reaching the rally point with Zola; Steve and Jones quickly activated their transponder. The rest of the squad had arrived in the plane, but upon discovering Jamie, Trent, and Bucky missing, they'd asked what was going on. Steve was then forced to explain everything, of how Bucky was dead, and that Jamie took off on her own after a lone Hydra guard, and Trent followed her. He and Jones would've gone after them, but they had to get Zola onto the plane, first.
Now that Zola was on board, though, Steve could double back to look for them. Jones naturally went along, too, as did Jim, and to the rest of the group's surprise, Jacques volunteered to go along, too.
Jim huffed as he lagged along slightly in the group. The four of them had been searching for over twenty minutes now for Jamie and Trent, but they'd yet to find a single trace of either of them.
"They're nowhere to be seen…" he muttered.
"I know that they ran this way!" Steve insisted. "Jones! You saw it! Tell him this is the right away!"
"He's right, Jim," Jones nodded. "The Captain's right. I was there. I saw it. Trent and Jamie definitely went this way."
"Well, then where the hell are they?! We can't keep on wandering through these woods until—"
He was cut off by Jacques suddenly shouting something in French. The others looked over at him. He'd wandered away from the others a bit, and was standing beside a huge boulder. He was looking beyond it, his eyes wide with shock.
"Jacques!" shouted Steve as he ran up to him. Jim and Jones quickly followed him. "Jacques! Did you find them? Are they both all—"
Steve's words died away when he saw the area on the other end of the boulder.
The white snow on the ground was greatly disturbed, as though many people had been walking through the area, and it was stained by traces of deep, rich blood.
"What the hell…?" he whispered. He was very scared now.
Where was Jamie?
Where was Trent?
Were they okay?
If they were, why didn't they walk back to the plane?
If they weren't, were they somehow hurt?
Were they even still alive?
Each question reeled in his head, and he wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to know the answers to them.
"Captain!" shouted Jones suddenly.
Steve forced himself to turn around. Jones was over by a group of bushes, and in his hands was Jamie's torch.
Steve's blood ran cold. They'd taken her. Hydra had taken her. Her and Trent. His young protégé had been kidnapped by their worst enemies.
Jamie came to when the back of someone's hand struck her across her face.
"Wake up!" someone shouted.
Jamie groaned and slowly opened her eyes. Her cheek hurt, but she didn't focus on that pain. She was in a dark, dimly lit cell. How she got in a cell, she could not remember for the life of her, but from what she could gather, there were three Hydra guards standing in front of her and one of them was definitely the leader from the group that had captured her earlier, though he had Trent's pocket watch tied around the loop of his belt. Speaking of her older brother, she could see Trent in a cell of his own directly across from her own. He had definitely taken a beating. His right eye was black and blue, and his nose was all puffed up and squashy looking.
Jamie gasped when she saw his appearance. What had they done to him?
"Trent!" she screamed. She didn't care what the guards in front of her would do to her. She tried to stand up and run to him. He needed her right now, but more importantly, she needed him. She was terrified. She wanted her brother to hug her and assure her that everything would be okay, that Steve and the rest of the Howling Commandos would be here any minute. If he did that, she'd believe it. Trent had never lied to her before.
However, upon trying to get back up on her feet, she found she couldn't move. She couldn't move her legs, or either of her arms. She couldn't move a single muscle in any of her limbs. She was confused. What was going on? Why couldn't she move?
She looked down at her body, but quickly gasped. She was sitting in some kind of strange chair bolted down upon the floor of the cell, and thick heavy chains were wrapped around her and the chair. She whimpered and tried to break free, but the chains were bound too tight. She whimpered again. Louder. It was all but impossible to move, but she kept struggling. It was pointless, her common sense told her, but a fight-or-flight reaction had sparked up from deep inside Jamie, and every instinct in her body was telling her to struggle as hard as she could so she could get free, or else she was going to be killed by these Hydra guards.
The Hydra squad leader laughed mockingly at her attempts to get loose. "You can struggle as much as you want, Miss Liberty Belle, but it's no use. Those chains are far too thick."
Jamie ignored him. She just kept struggling. She didn't care what he had to say.
The Hydra commander was not pleased by her refusing to acknowledge him, though, and reeled back his fist, and brought it down against her cheek.
Unlike the time where Nick hit her, this punch was not holding back strength. Nick hit her with just enough force to bruise her, and only bruise her. The Hydra commander hit her hard enough that she felt blood enter her mouth.
She yelled out in pain.
"Don't you touch her!" Trent shouted. Unlike her, he was not chained up as he was not an enhanced super-soldier with amazing strength, and he leapt up onto his feet and began rattling the bars of his cell. "You hurt her, fuckers, and I swear to God! I'll—"
"Quiet, please, Test Subject 32557037," said the leader carelessly, not even bothering to look over at Trent as he spoke. "Your turn shall come later."
Jamie spat the blood out the last of the blood in her mouth, and looked up fearfully at the Hydra guard in charge.
"W-what do you w-want with us?" she stuttered, very much terrified. "W-what do you w-want? I-Is this a trap f-for the C-Captain?"
"You, Miss Liberty Belle, are currently worth a lot to Herr Schmidt. Any Hydra team that manages to bring either you, or your precious Captain America to our leader is guaranteed a definite raise in salary. However, my squad and I have decided to neglect telling our precious leader that we have you for the moment."
"We all reached a unanimous decision concerning what to do with you. You see, we want something better than what our leader has offered us. We want promotions in Hydra, but the only way to get that is to offer up something more than just you and one of Hydra's escaped test subject's. We all agree that you are a valuable member of the United States Army, as well as a high ranking one. One who is of such high rank must know a thing or two about the battle plans concerning the attacks on our Hydra bases." He leaned down, and grinned maliciously at the little girl sitting in front of him, staring at him with fear in her eyes. "Tell us everything you know about those attack plans, Miss Liberty Belle."
Jamie gulped. The truth was, she actually didn't know anything about that. She may be Liberty Belle, and she was officially a First-Class Lieutenant in the United States Army, but she was just a kid. Steve, Colonel Phillips, and Agent Carter had all agreed that there was no point talking strategy plans with her, especially because most of those meetings happened during the time she had lessons with her private tutor. She couldn't help them.
"I… I don't know anything," she whimpered.
The leader growled, and struck her across the face again. She yelped in pain.
"For fuck's sake! She's just a child! A little girl!" Trent was screaming. He was still rattling the bars to his cell. "There are rules to how you treat prisoners of war! Follow those rules, Goddammit!"
Jamie looked up a bit at that. There were rules to how prisoners of war were supposed to be treated? She never knew that.
She didn't have time to dwell on the thought though, as the Hydra guard in charge was now seething at his words.
"Test Subject 32557037, while you are also of great value to Hydra and Herr Schmidt, I suggest you quiet down. You are currently of little interest to me, but unless you wish to die a very painful death, stay silent. You are making me angry, and you will not like me when I'm angry."
"Go right ahead!" Trent growled. "I'll die a thousand times over if it means I can protect her!" He continued jumping hard against the old, rusting bars to his cell. They rattled furiously from the force of each jolt.
The Hydra guard continued to glare at him, but then he snapped his fingers. The other two guards in the cell snapped to attention. He pulled the ring of keys to the cell doors out from the loop of his belt, and dropped it into one of the other guards' hands.
"Teach him a lesson."
The two lackeys nodded, and exited Jamie's cell.
"No!" Jamie wailed as they unlocked Trent's cell door. Trent didn't care that it would cause him to receive the beating of his life. He tried to force his way past the guards and get to his sister. The guards shoved him back, and began pounding on him. "No! Please! Don't hurt him! Don't hurt him! Don't hurt Trent!"
"If you don't want him to be hurt, Miss Liberty Belle, you will tell us what we want to know," the leader hissed.
"B-but… I told you! I don't… I don't know!"
The leader struck her again. As Jamie squealed in pain, Trent screamed.
"Leave her alone!" he screamed between his own shouts of pain as the two guards continued to hit him. "For God's sake! Leave her alone!"
The Hydra guards ignored him, though the man hitting Jamie stepped away from the girl, and she cried as he moved to stand beside the cell wall.
"If you're not going to be honest with us with minor types of persuasion," he began, "then let's see how you do with more… jolting types of persuasion."
Jamie looked up at him with fearful eyes. He was running his hand along a panel on the wall she hadn't noticed before, and he grinned wickedly at her before pressing one of the buttons upon it.
Immediately, great volts of electricity was jolting up from the chair Jamie was chained down to, and coursing throughout her entire body. The electricity was zapping every inch of her, and every part of her body vehemently convulsed in horrible pain. Her hands. Her arms. Her legs. Her feet. Even her own head. It was maddening.
Jamie couldn't stop herself. She screamed.
Upon return to the American base back in London, all the military personnel in the building had gone from being gracious and excited about the capture of Doctor Armin Zola, to being sad and mournful of the death of Sergeant James Barnes, and then finally shocked and in an uproar upon learning about the disappearance of the Harper siblings. All thoughts about Zola were immediately forgotten. The Colonel simply threw him in prisoner of war cell before rushing to the nearest radio. He was currently calling in every favor that he was owed from the other leaders in the United States Army in an effort to successfully find and bring Jamie home. As much as it pained everyone to say it, Trent was expendable, but Jamie was not. They'd needed to find her as soon as possible.
The United States Army was not the only one's looking for her. Every Allied force in all of Europe was currently being told to keep one eye open for her, and if they were to come across any type of Hydra platoon, they were to do everything they could to detain at least one member before he could pop off a cyanide pill, and then deliver him immediately to the American base in London for questioning. Although Jamie Elizabeth Harper was only a child soldier in the American army, she was Liberty Belle, the super-child sidekick to Captain America. She played a vital role in the war against the Axis Powers. She needed to be found.
One man however in the American Army was currently not doing anything he could to help in locating the Child Soldier of Tomorrow right then. He was currently sitting in a small pub down the street from the American base. The entire place was deserted, and the only other person inside the bar was the owner, who was currently somewhere in the back room. The owner personally didn't care that the young blonde officer in the United States Army had been here for over three hours now, constantly ordering bottles after bottles of scotch and whisky. While he didn't understand how the man was still lucid and not passed out drunk at his table after the third bottle, he also didn't really care. Whatever got him upset was making him stay and keep drinking. He'd obviously lost someone today out there. Whatever it was that got him such a right tizzy, it was giving him good business. He'd even told the man to help himself to anything behind the bar while he left for a moment, just that he'd better not leave until he got back so he could be sure to pay.
Steve was very appreciative to the owner, and continued trying to drown out his memory of everything that happened today with the hard liquor. Losing Bucky was hard enough on him, but now Jamie was missing, too. She and Trent were currently in Schmidt's hands. Who knows what type of hell she was going through right now.
He drained his glass of scotch, and slammed it down on the surface of the table as he ran his fingers through his hair. Why oh why did he not go after her when she ran off? Had he gone with her, she'd still be here. She'd be here. Safe and sound. Sure, Bucky would still be gone, and he'd be upset about it, but at least his little protégé would be all right. Jamie was such a sweet little girl. She did not deserve whatever torments those Hydra agents were probably inflicting upon her as he sat here right now and drank.
Hell, why had he been so cold to her even right before she was taken? He'd been in shock about what happened to Bucky. Shock, and he also remembered being sad and angry that he was just gone, but he should not have taken it out on her. She just… she was about to start talking about his lifelong friend. About to start consoling him about Bucky's death and… and he just couldn't handle it. Not right then. Not while they were still technically on a mission. Had she have continued talking, he would've completely lost his focus, and despite Bucky's death, he needed to stay clear-headed, so he did the only thing he could think of in that moment to shut her up, and that was snap at her.
What he wouldn't give now to turn back the clock and stop himself from doing that. Hell, if he could go back in time, not only would he have stopped Jamie from running off on her own to catch that Hydra guard, he'd do everything he could to prevent Bucky from dying, too.
He grabbed the nearest bottle of scotch, refilled his shot glass, and drank the entire thing in one gulp. He wanted so badly to forget everything that had happened today.
There was suddenly a small sound of footsteps from somewhere behind him. Steve turned, expecting to see the pub owner returning from whatever he'd been doing in the back room, but instead, he saw Agent Carter slowly entering the pub.
Steve blanched immediately upon seeing the woman enter. He didn't want her to see him like this. Not right now. Not while he was currently in the middle of blaming himself over what had happened to Jamie and Bucky by pretending that he was still a normal man that could drown his sorrows in alcohol.
He wanted to tell her to please leave and let him just be alone, but pushing someone away today led to the disappearance of one of the most important people in his life. So instead, he slowly turned back around to look at the surface of the table he was siting at, and began to speak in monotone as he grabbed his glass and the bottle of scotch again, and refilled his drink.
"Doctor Erskine said that the serum wouldn't just affect my muscles, it would affect my cells. It'd create a protective system of regeneration and healing. Which means…" he paused, swallowing thickly on his next cold hard words of truth before continuing. "I can't get drunk."
He took a sip of his drink, and then looked back over his shoulder at the woman he had long since fallen in love with.
"Did you know that?"
Agent Carter fully entered the bar, selected a chair at another table, and brought it over to Steve's single table in the center of the room. She sat down across from him.
"Yours and Jamie's metabolisms burns four times faster than the average person," she carefully replied. "He thought it could be one of the side effects."
Steve flinched when he heard her say Jamie's name out loud, and stared sadly down at the wooden surface of the table. Why the hell did she have to mention her? Couldn't she see that that little girl was part of the reason why he was even here right now? He didn't want to think about her, of how he'd failed to protect her. Had he just followed her today, she'd still be okay. She'd still be safe.
Receiving no reply from Steve, Agent Carter continued.
"It wasn't your fault."
Steve didn't look at her. He really had no idea who she was talking about right now. Bucky, or Jamie and Trent? Either way she was wrong. Bucky was gone because he hadn't been fast enough to reach out of that train car for him, and Jamie and Trent were currently missing because he'd still been in shock over Bucky's death, and then went and put the mission ahead of his protégé's safety, thereby forcing Trent into a position of running off after her. Her safety should have been his top priority, not the mission.
"Did you read the report?" he asked dully.
"Then you know that's not true."
"You did everything you could," she insisted.
Steve didn't look at her. Agent Carter frowned. She would not let Steve continue to sit here and blame himself over everything that had occurred. Somehow, she had to convince that although Bucky was gone, things were going to be okay, and that they would somehow find Jamie and Trent. Whatever horrors that that little girl was facing right now, she was probably hoping that Steve would show up at minute and rescue her. Her and her older brother. She needed her mentor to save her, but that would not happen so long as Steve continued to sit here and kept drinking himself into pretend oblivion.
She tackled the easier matter first.
"Did you believe in your friend?" she asked. "Did you respect him?
Steve slowly nodded.
"Then stop blaming yourself. Allow Barnes the dignity of his choice. He damn well must have thought you were worth it."
Silence filled the pub as Steve considered her words.
"As for everything that happened with Jamie—"
"Peggy," he interrupted, his eyes turning dark as he forced himself not to cry. "Don't."
"I will not allow you to beat yourself over this matter. What happened with Jamie is something no one could have foreseen."
"I let her go off alone. I should've stopped her, or at the very least ran after her."
"She's waiting for help. Wherever she is right now, she's counting on you to come and save her. You can't just sit here and blame yourself about her capture. Not when she needs you."
Steve slowly raised his head. She was right. He knew she was right. Wherever his young apprentice was at the moment, she was counting on him to find and rescue her. He had to pull himself together.
"We're gonna find her," he said firmly, clutching the shot glass in his hand tightly as he spoke. "We will find her… And then I'm going after Schmidt. I'm not gonna stop until all of Hydra is dead or captured."
Agent Carter smiled. She was so relieved that Steve had found his resolve again.
"You won't be alone."
"We'll try again tomorrow with you, Miss Liberty Belle. Maybe then you'll feel nice enough to tell us the answers we need."
The Hydra guards all laughed as they exited Trent and Jamie's cells, and left the cellblocks with conceited grins on their faces.
Jamie waited until they were gone before the light tears streaming down her cheeks turned into full fledge sobs. This had single-handedly been the very worst day of her entire life. Every inch of her body was in pain. On top of the pain from being consistently jolted with over two thousand watts of electricity periodically all afternoon whenever she was unable to answer the questions that the leader of this Hydra platoon would consistently ask her, each of the guards — once they stopped beating Trent — then took turns whacking her.
At first, they only dared to strike her face, but after awhile, everyone in the cellblock — including Jamie herself — had been amazed to discover that her body was slowly healing itself. The bruises on her skin had slowly faded back to nice, pretty peachy skin. The regenerative healing process from the serum had kicked in. Having discovered that they could beat her for information as much as they liked without consequences, the Hydra guards didn't hold back. They didn't care that the person they were hitting was just a little ten-year-old girl. This was Hydra. They were the bad guys, and this was war. To them, Liberty Belle was part of the good guys. She was a member of the United States Army and Captain America's sidekick. They didn't care how much they hit her, or how much she screamed.
Jamie wailed. She couldn't believe they hit her so hard that they'd actually managed to break most of the fingers in her left hand as well as couple of her ribs. She knew that after the serum injections, her bones were harder, denser. The fact that the Hydra guards had managed to fracture them meant they'd really hit her hard. Every part of her body hurt. Not even when she was enduring Doctor Erskine's experiment or when she'd been in the car crash that had killed her parents and orphaned her and Trent had she hurt this much. She wanted nothing more than to die. She could only hope that her enhanced body would heal the fractures soon.
"Jamie?" Trent called out softly from his cell. Despite his screams at the guards earlier in a meager effort to get them to leave his sister alone, he wasn't nearly hurt as bad as she was. He had no broken bones other than the fracture in his nose. Just a couple of sore areas that would probably be showing fresh bruises tomorrow. "Jamie? Look at me."
Slowly, Jamie lifted her head and stared across the way at Trent.
"You know, the kids back at the orphanage always used to tell me I'd end up in the electric chair one day. They said that's where I'd end up since I was crazy," she murmured. "I wanna go back home, Trent, when we get out of here. Not back there! I wanna go home!"
"Don't worry. I'm gonna get us home!"
He immediately leapt up on his feet, and began fiddling with the bottom part of one of the bars to his cell.
Despite still being in mind-numbing pain, Jamie stared at him, puzzled. "W-what're you doing, Trentie?"
"The reason why I kept antagonizing them back there was so that I'd have a reason to keep hitting this one bar," he explained, repeatedly thumping it. It rattled a bit, and to Jamie's complete surprise, jiggled a bit out of place, too. "It's a bit loose. If I can get it free, I can slip out, but it might take a bit of time; I just need to time it perfectly when I slip out so that I can do it while a guard change is happening, then I can knock him out and get the keys from him to bail you out, too!"
Despite still being chained up to the electric chair and being in pain from its powerful volts and broken bones, Jamie couldn't help but feel her spirits lift as hope filled her.
"Y-you… you think you can get us out of here?!" she asked eagerly.
"I don't think I can do it, sis. I know I can do it. Because I'm sure as hell not just gonna sit here on my ass and let them fucking beat the shit out of you, or let them continue to shock with that goddamn fucking chair!"
Despite her pain, Jamie frowned at his language.
"Trent, please! Don't—"
"No, Jamie, I'm gonna swear," he said firmly, not even looking at her as he kept trying to pry the bar loose. It jiggled a bit, but still remained firmly in place. "I want you to hear my swears. You need to understand how much I'm determined to get you out of here. If it were just me stuck here, I wouldn't care that much. That's why I never tried to escape when Hydra caught me a couple months ago, but I'm sure as hell am not just sit on my ass if you're here, too! I'm getting you out!"
"If we're gonna escape, what's our plan?" Jamie asked. "We'll have to do it while a guard change is happening. And what about Dad's pocket watch? That one guard took it from you! We can't leave here without it!"
Trent paused in his workings. For a long time, he did not speak.
"I'm going to work on this bar all night if I have to," he said slowly. "If I'm lucky, I'll have it loose by some time tomorrow. Once it's loose, we'll wait for the guard rotation at night. Whoever's in charge of watching us will have the keys to your cell and to those chains. I'll rush out and pummel him until he's knocked out and then free you. We'll take his guns, lock him up in your cell, and then try to sneak out, but if we're discovered, we'll fight our way out of this base. We'll run east."
"They knocked you out when they captured us, but they didn't do it to me. I saw the way they took us. We're someplace west of where we were before we got captured. We'll run east. Through the forest back to that spot. Someone from the army is bound to be looking for us around that area."
"But what about Dad's pocket watch? Where's that in the plan?"
"Jamie, as much as it pains me to say it, we may be forced to leave it behind."
"Jamie, I know it was our Dad's and that it's an heirloom in our family, but believe me! That watch doesn't mean a goddamn thing to me compared to making sure you get out of this place alive! You're my little sister, and I'll die before I let those bastards hurt you again!"
"What about you?! You said so long as I get out! Aren't you coming, too?!"
Again, Trent paused in his work on the bar.
"Of course," he said. "Of course I'm coming. I wouldn't leave you."
Jamie breathed a deep breath of relief.
"Good. You scared me for a minute there."
Trent smiled at her, and then kept working on the bar.
"Like I said, I might need twenty-four hours to work on this bar. I hate to ask this of you, James, but can you deal with another of those beating sessions? They're going to beat you again for information that you don't have. They're going to electrocute you again. I'm sorry to ask this of you, sis, but can you handle it?"
"Just one more session, right? I only have to deal with just one more session?"
"I'll have finished this by tomorrow."
"Then I can handle it."
Steve stood beside Agent Carter in front of the one-way glass window mirror. He wanted so badly to be the one who'd be doing this interview. He'd make the fucker talk. If not by niceties, than with his fists if need be.
It had been exactly twenty-four hours since Jamie and Trent's disappearance. Every minute that ticked past was a minute wasted. That's why Colonel Phillips had arranged for an immediate interview with Doctor Zola. Unless they, the American Army, or if by some miracle one of their allies managed to catch and detain another Hydra agent before he could pop a cyanide pill, Zola was currently their only chance at finding out where Trent and Jamie could be. They had to make him talk.
Upon learning that they would be interrogating the biochemist, Steve had immediately volunteered to be the interrogator, but Colonel Phillips quickly shot down his request with a shake of his head.
"You're too involved, Rogers," the Colonel explained. "You're too close to the Harper siblings. Particularly Lieutenant Harper. She's your sidekick. Emotions would run wild. You'd lose your temper."
Steve hadn't been pleased, but he'd nodded in agreement. Phillips would be the one to do the interview. If it had to be anyone other than him interrogating Zola, he was glad it was the Colonel. The Colonel was probably the only one on base other than himself who would not take no for an answer when it came to finding out where Trent and Jamie were being held.
Agent Carter gently touched his arm. He turned to look at her.
"We're going to find her, Steve," she told him gently. "Colonel Phillips will make him crack."
Steve nodded to her. She was right. They'd make Zola talk.
The door to the cell opened, and Zola was led inside the interrogation room. He stood inside for a moment and looked around a bit. It was a tiny, whitewashed cell containing only a cot in the back corner, and a desk in the exact center of the room with two chairs. One on either side of it. One for the prisoner to sit on, and the other for the interrogator to sit on.
The door opened a second time, and Zola turned to look at it. The guard had just let Colonel Phillips enter. To Zola's surprise — and Steve's — he was carrying a few papers and a tray. A tray with a glass of milk and a steak and potato dinner.
"Steak?!" Steve growled, clutching his fists tight when he saw it. "He's giving Zola steak?!"
"The Colonel knows what he's doing, Steve," Agent Carter assured him. "Trust him."
Begrudgingly, Steve nodded, and watched Phillips as he set the tray down on the table.
"Sit down," Phillips ordered Zola.
Slowly, Zola sat down in one of the chairs. Phillips sat down on the chair opposite, and slid the tray closer to the biochemist.
Zola cringed when he saw it shoved toward him.
"What is this?" he asked.
"Steak," answered Colonel Phillips.
"What is in it?"
Still, Zola did not touch the dinner Phillips had provided him with. He just continued to shrink away from the delicious meal.
Colonel Phillips sighed.
"Doctor," he said, "do you realize how difficult it is to get ahold of a prime cut like that out here?"
Zola stared solemnly at him.
"I don't eat meat," he replied.
"It disagrees with me."
From his place behind the two-way mirror, Steve was seething. Was this a game to the biochemist?
Again, Agent Carter touched his arm.
"Give him a chance, Steve. The Colonel is actually aware of this. We brought that steak in deliberately."
Steve turned to her to give her a puzzled stare, but he never got a chance to ask her what she meant, as back inside the cell, Colonel Phillips was chuckling darkly, and he quickly returned his focus back to that.
"How about cyanide?" Phillips asked. "Does that give you the rumbly tummy, too?"
This time, Zola actually looked uncomfortable.
Phillips smirked as he pulled the tray away from Zola and back toward him. He started to eat the steak himself as he went on.
"Every Hydra agent that we've tried to take alive has crunched a little pill before we can stop him," he said, cutting up a bit of the steak and popping it into his mouth. He swallowed it and continued. "But not you. So, here is my brilliant theory. You want to live."
Zola smirked. "You're trying to intimidate me, Colonel."
"I bought you dinner," Phillips countered.
Wordlessly after that statement, the Colonel pushed the sheets of paper he'd brought in along with the tray across the table toward Zola. This time, Zola was puzzled, and quickly read the contents of the top sheet out loud.
"Given the valuable information he has provided," he said, "and in exchange for his full cooperation, Doctor Zola is being remanded to Switzerland…"
Colonel Phillips grabbed the saltshaker on the tray, and lightly sprinkled it over the potatoes. "I sent that message to Washington this morning. Of course it was encoded," he added as an afterthought. "You guys haven't broken those codes, have you? That would be awkward."
Zola looked uncertain now.
"Schmidt will know this is a lie."
Phillips was unfazed. "He's going to kill you anyway, Doc. You're a liability. You know more about Schmidt than anyone. And," he added, his voice now stern, " the last guy you cost us was Captain Rogers' closest friend, and you also went ahead and kidnapped his sidekick Lieutenant Harper along with her brother, so I wouldn't count on the very best of protection."
Steve straightened up a bit at this. Finally, Colonel Phillips was getting to Jamie. He'd been starting to fear that he was only going to focus on finding the main Hydra base.
"It's you or Schmidt," Phillips continued. "It's just the hand you've been dealt."
Zola didn't say anything for a few moments as he considered Phillips' words. Finally, he spoke.
"Schmidt believes he walks in the footsteps of the Gods," he began. "Only the world itself will satisfy him."
The Colonel scoffed. "You do realize that's nuts, don't you?" he asked.
"What?" said Zola, rolling his eyes. "The sanity of the plan is of no consequence."
"And why is that?"
"Because he can't do it!"
Colonel Phillips attacked a bit of the steak with his fork and popped it in his mouth.
"What's his target?"
Zola leaned forward.
"His target," he whispered, actually sounding a bit amused, "is everywhere…"
The Colonel abruptly stopped chewing the piece of steak.
From their place beyond the mirror, Steve and Agent Carter were exchanging bewildered looks. Despite their worry about Jamie, this was completely shocking. They knew Schmidt was crazy, but this was beyond nuts. As soon as they rescued Jamie, they'd have to stop Schmidt before he destroyed the entire planet.
Colonel Phillips recovered from his momentary shock, and swallowed the food in his mouth.
"Sounds like we're gonna have our hands full dealing with him after we save Lieutenant Harper…"
"You actually think you'll save her?"
"Of course I do, because you, Doctor Zola, are going to tell us where she is."
"Lieutenant Harper and Sergeant Harper are part of the deal, Doctor. You don't tell us where they, in particular Lieutenant Harper, are, the deal's off."
"But what if I can't tell you?"
The room fell silent.
Beyond the glass, Steve went completely still.
No… this couldn't be happening. Zola… he had to be bluffing! He had to have meant to say, 'But what if I won't tell you?' Not 'But what if I can't tell you…'
"Say again?" said Phillips.
"I have no idea where that platoon took Liberty Belle, or the boy."
"Schmidt has offered up over a million Euro's to whichever Hydra team can successfully bring Captain America or Liberty Belle to him alive. As far as I know, that platoon lucked out when they caught her, but I have no idea what platoon it was that caught her and that boy. If they haven't taken her to Schmidt yet, I can only suspect that they decided to take her back to their own base."
"Why? Why not tell Schmidt that they caught her? A million Euro's is a lot of dough."
Zola frowned. "We're Hydra, Colonel. The bad guys."
"The bad guys always try to squeeze as much as they can out of a deal. My rough guess would be that they thought they could squeeze out valuable information about your army out of that girl before they delivered her to Schmidt. Does she have any such information, Colonel?"
Colonel Phillips remained silent.
"I'll take your silence as a 'no.' If she has no such information, I truly pity that little girl, because those men won't stop until they get something out of her. When you do find her, I can guarantee she won't be the same. Torture," said Zola, his eyes actually looking somewhat sad, "is something I've personally never agreed with in Hydra. They're going to break her until she tells them something. They won't stop until she's cracked."
Steve was in shock. Torture… that Hydra platoon were probably torturing Jamie. Innocent, sweet little Jamie. They were torturing her for information she did not have. There'd never been any reason to tell her anything other than what was necessary before missions. She was just a kid. She had enough to worry about with her schoolwork with her private tutor, so they didn't bother telling her, and she had never asked.
Jamie and Trent were currently in the middle of hell, and Doctor Zola — the only person they'd believed had any chance at knowing where they were — couldn't help them.
Day two of Jamie's living nightmare had ended approximately two hours ago, and despite enduring countless amount electrical shocks throughout the day and the throbbing pain in her left hand again that had slowly faded away from her advanced healing, she really couldn't have been happier.
In the wee hours of the morning, Trent had successfully managed to pry apart the bar on his cell. Jamie had been thrilled, and had begged Trent to run and find the guard right then and there and knock him out to get the keys.
Trent, as much as it pained him, couldn't agree to do it.
"We have a plan, James. We need to stick to it."
"Please, Trent! I don't want them to hit or electrocute me again!"
"I'm sorry, sis, but waiting until nightfall tonight is the only way! Just try and live through today!"
"Jamie, this is how we both survive! It's the only way! Don't you trust me?"
"Then please! Endure today, and we'll be out of here before midnight tonight!"
"Midnight… your birthday."
"Your birthday's tomorrow, Trentie. You can't spend your birthday in this cell. If you have to make me do one more beating… at least make sure we escape tonight! We can't celebrate your birthday in these cells!"
"Jamie, that's not important—"
"It is to me, Trent! Promise me! Promise me we won't celebrate your birthday in this cellblock! Promise me that if I have to endure another beating, we'll both leave together tonight!"
"I promise, sis," Trent replied, carefully rearranging the loose bar so that it only looked like it was still strong and sturdy. "I promise. We leave tonight!"
Jamie smiled, but didn't get a chance to say anymore, because at that moment the door to the cellblock opened, and their captors came strolling in, and the day of torment had begun.
All day long, Jamie had pretended to plead with the leader of the Hydra guards to let them go, and had played up the scared little girl routine.
"Please…!" she'd scream and whimper over and over again. "I told you all yesterday… I don't know anything!"
The Hydra commander would grow more and more furious with her lack of information, and would up the voltage on the electric chair before instructing the guards to beat her. She'd scream over and over again as the watts of electricity coursed throughout her entire body and her bones cracked from the forces of their beatings.
Trent would on occasion scream at them so as to force them to start hitting him instead. He did it for two reasons. The first was so he could play up the protective big brother approach he'd shown them yesterday, but more importantly because he hated seeing his little sister in so much pain, and he knew that if he forced them to hit him instead, it would allow her body to regenerate and her bones to heal. The more breaks between beatings he allowed Jamie, the better equipped she'd be for their escape tonight. And besides, he wasn't important enough in the army to know the battle plans that these Hydra officers, so the guards didn't hit him nearly as hard as they hit her, because they knew that he at least was telling the truth when he said that he did not know anything; they believed that as he was just a Sergeant, but they couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that Jamie really didn't know anything, either.
"You, Miss Liberty Belle," the Hydra leader would continuously growl out throughout the day, "are Captain America's sidekick! You must know something!"
"But I don't!" she'd wail, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. "I really don't!"
Every time she said this, the leader would grow even angrier, and raise the voltage on the electric chair, or order the other guards to beat her harder.
Jamie would scream and cry. It was such a horrible day.
Now, though, the day of torment was over. It was dusk. They just had to wait until it was a bit darker. The guard change would happen beyond the cellblock door. Trent would knock him out, free her, and they'd make their escape.
"How much longer, Trentie?" Jamie whispered.
"Give it another hour," he said back. He was fiddling with the loose bar as he spoke, carefully arranging it so he could slip out easily within a moments notice if need be. "Another hour, and then we'll make our move."
"I'm scared, Trent…" Jamie murmured as frightened tears filled her eyes. "I'm really scared… What if they catch us on the way out?! What happens then?!"
"How can you be so sure?"
"I'm not." He replied, his face grim. "All we can do, James, is try. We can't just stay here and wait for rescue. Look what happened with me! I had to wait months for you and Steve to rescue me, Bucky, and all those other men. We won't survive if we have to wait months for Steve and the other Howling Commandos to find us. The Hydra guards at that factory didn't beat the prisoners, but these men are! We won't survive if we have to wait. We need to leave now. Tonight!"
She was cut off by the sound of footsteps echoing down the hall outside their cellblock.
Trent and Jamie both froze when they heard the sound. This had not been planned. The guard change wasn't supposed to happen so early.
"Oh, no!" Jamie whispered.
"Stay calm," Trent ordered, his eyes never leaving the door. "If we're lucky, that guard won't come in, and if he does, play it cool. Continue to act scared. Do not, I repeat, do not act cocky. Do that, and whoever's there will suspect something's up."
Jamie gulped, but nonetheless nodded. Trent had been a prisoner of war before. He knew what to do.
To the Harper sibling's dismay, the door opened, and the Hydra squadron leader stepped inside the cellblock.
Jamie gulped as the leader glared furiously at her as he strolled down to her cell. In the day and a half since her capture, she'd slowly come to fear this man. He scared her almost as much as the Red Skull did when she first saw him expose his true face.
The Hydra guard unlocked her cell, but didn't bother to shut it behind him as he entered.
"I have had quite enough of this nonsense with you, brat," he said gruffly. "The men in this platoon are growing tired of your constant insistence that you know nothing. Tell me right now what the American Army's battle plans are!"
"I… I don't know!" she cried. "Really! I don't! Don't you think I'd have told you by now if I did?!"
"For God's sake, you bastard!" Trent snarled as he gripped the still solid bars of his cell. "Leave her alone! For fuck's sake! She really doesn't know anything!"
"Quiet, 32557037!" the Hydra leader shouted. "My quarrel is currently not with you!" He turned back to Jamie. "Tell me what the American's are planning!"
"I don't know!" she screamed.
The Hydra leader just growled in angry frustration. Jamie cowered back in her seat. She was worried. What if he decided to start electrocuting her again? If he decided to start a late night torture session, she and Trent would definitely miss the guard change happening soon.
But the leader did not approach the control panel to the electric chair. Instead, he studied her, seemingly intrigued, as he appeared to consider something. Then, his eyes glinted evilly, and he smirked.
"Perhaps… a change in tactics will get you to talk."
Jamie and Trent stared at him in apprehension. What did that mean?
The guard slowly placed his hand on his hip, and removed both the ring of keys to the chains securing her to the chair, and his gun from his holster.
He pointed the gun at Jamie, who'd gone completely white.
"I'm going to remove your chains," he declared, his gun held firmly in his hand. "If you try anything — anything at all — a bullet goes straight through your skull. I will not hesitate. Do you understand me?"
Jamie did not hesitate in her response. She quickly nodded.
His smirk grew. "Good."
With his gun still raised firm and true at her forehead, the leader slowly unlocked the chains around Jamie and the chair, and began tugging them away. They fell to the floor of the cell with a loud clatter.
"What the fuck are you doing?!" Trent demanded.
The guard ignored him, and continued to smirk wickedly at Jamie.
"Stand up," he ordered.
Though completely terrified, Jamie nodded again, and she shook a bit in fear as she got to her feet. Her legs were rather stiff after being forced to stay sitting in the same position for a day and a half, but she still did it.
"Take off your dress."
Jamie was bewildered. She was only a little girl. She did not know what that was supposed to mean, but the idea still frightened her.
"What did you just say to her…?" Trent whispered, his tone completely deadly, and no louder than a whisper as he gripped the bars of his cells so tight, his knuckles turned white.
The guard ignored both Jamie's confusion and Trent's quiet rage. He just continued to stare at Jamie with maliciousness in his eyes. "Take off your dress, get on the ground, and—"
"What the fuck did you just suggest to my little sister?!"
The Hydra leader barely had enough to turn around before Trent burst out from the concealed opening in his cell, and bounded through Jamie's open cell door before knocking him to the ground.
The guard's gun went flying as Trent forced himself on top of the guard, and began pounding on him as hard on him.
"How dare you! How dare you!" He screamed over and over again. He didn't give the guard a chance to respond as he continued to beat his fists over and over again into the guards' face. "She's my sister! She's ten-years-old! How fucking dare you! How dare you even think of her that way! There are rules, Goddammit! Rules to how you treat prisoners of war! There are rules! You fucker!"
Jamie was in shock. She didn't know what it was that the Hydra guard had wanted her to do, but whatever it was, it had gotten Trent angrier than she'd ever seen him. She shrank back against the walls of her cell. As much as it ashamed her to say it, she was actually afraid of her big brother in that moment. She didn't know what these rules of war were, but whatever it was that Trent was talking about, she hoped he calmed down soon. He was protecting her, but still scaring her at the same time.
The Hydra guard, now coming out of his shock of Trent not only having escaped from his cell, but knocking him down, too, began trying to throw punches of his own back at Trent. Trent did his best knock them away, but the guard was older than Trent was, and stronger, too.
All too soon, he managed to throw Trent off of him, and now he was on top, pounding viciously on the young man's face.
Seeing her brother like that, having the living shit beaten out of him by this horrible, evil man, something snapped in Jamie. She did not consider what she wanted to do. She did not hesitate to do it. She didn't even remember thinking about wanting to even do it.
She lunged for the fallen gun, aimed, and fired it directly at the Hydra leaders' head.
His entire brain exploded. Brains and blood flew everywhere throughout the cell, and his lifeless body fell in a messy clump on top of Trent.
Jamie froze with the gun still between her fingers. Her eyes were wide. Her jaw was dropped open. She couldn't believe what she'd just done. She'd just killed a man. She. Killed. A. Man. She broke her all-time important rule. She'd promised herself she would not kill anyone. She hadn't even thought twice about doing it.
The gun slipped out from her fingers, and fell with a small clank on the floor of the cell.
She killed a man. She was a murderer.
She started to whimper in shock as the thought rolled through her mind.
Trent quickly pushed the lifeless body off of him, and looked over at Jamie.
"Jamie…" said Trent. Although he wasn't pleased by these turn of events, he was relieved that his sister had done what was necessary. He had to get her focused, though. Thanks to that gunshot, the other guards were bound to come running any second. "Jamie, look at me."
Slowly, Jamie turned to look at him with wide, shocked eyes.
"I… I killed him…" she murmured. "I killed him!"
"It's okay," he assured her. He moved, and rested both of his hands on her shoulders. "Listen to me, James. The guards are coming. We have to leave! Now! You're going to have to kill more men as we get out of here!"
"This is how we survive, Jamie! This is how we survive!"
Slowly, she nodded. "O… Okay…"
He fished through the holster on the Hydra leader's belt, and drew out the second gun. As he moved to grab Jamie's hand and drag her out from the cell behind him, she quickly tugged away.
"Wait, Trent! The pocket watch!"
She pointed sharply at the leader's belt. Their father's pocket watch was sticking out from it.
Wordlessly, Trent bent down, and untied it from the belt loop. Instead of cramming it into his pocket, though, he threw the chain of it around Jamie's neck.
"I love you, Jamie. May Mom and Dad watch over you and keep you safe," he whispered.
Jamie whimpered, and hugged him tightly.
"I love you, too, Trent."
Trent smiled. He kissed the top of his little sister's forehead, seized her hand, and dragged her behind him out of the cell, and out the cellblock door.
Just as Trent had predicted, guards were flocking towards the cellblocks after hearing the gunshot. Trent and Jamie did not stop to fight them. They just ran in the opposite direction.
They ran. And they ran. If any guard attempted to bar their way, they'd immediately shoot them. They did not stop to think twice about it.
Jamie was currently on autopilot as they fought their way out of the base. Her mind was still in shock over not only killing someone for the first time, but also from everything that had happened to her in the past twenty-four hours. Her mind was incapable of dealing with the pressure right then, but still recognized that she needed to get out of there, so the emotional impact that she should have been experiencing from all the deaths she was deliberately causing right now had been locked away deep in her subconscious. It'd return at full force later on, but right now, it was gone, and she could focus on escaping. The only real thoughts actually running through her head right now were two things:
How much she wished she still had her torch, and where was the way out of this place?
It took awhile, but eventually, Trent and Jamie managed to find the door leading to outside.
Jamie grew excited when she saw the outside world. Freedom. True freedom. All they had to do was run through the gates straight ahead, and they'd be free.
She started running so fast, she was now the one dragging Trent behind her. She didn't stop when she realized he was struggling to catch up with her. She didn't stop to think about the fact that he was not genetically enhanced just like she was, and that he couldn't match her speed. She didn't think twice when his hand slipped out of hers.
She just ran.
She had just reached the main gates to the Hydra complex when she suddenly heard a gunshot, and Trent screaming in pain.
The sound of her brother in distress brought Jamie back to reality, and she quickly halted and whirled around. Her brother was several yards behind her and on the ground, clutching his right leg. The same leg that had been injured many months beforehand. One of the guards had his pistol raised. He'd shot him to stop him from escaping.
Jamie was completely immobile. Every part of her was screaming at her to run back and help her brother, but she couldn't bring herself to move.
Trent glanced up, and saw her standing frozen at the entrance to the gate.
"Run, Jamie!" He screamed to her as the guards surrounded him. "Run! Don't stop! Run! Run!"
Jamie did not want to run. She wanted to go back. She had to help him! He was her brother! She couldn't just leave him here!
But instead, her feet turned, and she was running away from the base as fast as she could force her little legs to take her.
She wanted to turn around, to force her body to go back. Trent was her brother! Her only brother! She had to save him! But her mind would not force her body to turn back around. Her feet would dead set on their course to the nearby forest, and they did stop pounding through the snowy terrain.
As she ran away from the base, a single gunshot rang through the air.
Jamie cried, but she did not stop running, nor did she look back once.
All throughout the remainder of the evening, Jamie ran. It was dark by now, and she was tired. As Trent had instructed her, she ran east as soon as she was out of sight of the base, and straight into the middle of the nearby forest. It was dark, it was cold, and she was scared. She was all alone.
The cold winds of winter blew through the trees, and Jamie shivered. She stopped for a second and ran her hands over the exposed skin of her arms from her Liberty Belle dress. As she did so, she noticed that the tips of her fingers were beginning to turn blue. She was freezing. She wanted nothing more than to stop and find someplace to warm up, but she couldn't. For all she knew, the Hydra guards were right behind her, and Trent had told her before that even if she were cold, movement would keep her warm. And more importantly alive. She had to keep moving.
She gulped thickly. The cold, snowy air was driving her mad. The pain she'd experienced from back in the Hydra base had long since vanished, and in its base was the pain from frostbite, but her body wasn't kicking in to speed up the healing process. She was much too cold, and was still exposed to the icy elements. She'd freeze to death out here before she found anyone willing to help her and warmed up her up enough for her enhanced physiology were to kick in. The only reason she was even still holding onto her gun was because her fingers had frozen completely onto the metal weapon. Had she been able to, she would have dropped it a long time ago simply because her fingers were in so much pain and could not bear to keep holding onto it.
Slowly, Jamie forced her feet to continue trudging forward through the snow. Combined with the fact that the snow was making it difficult for her to move around in, she was exhausted, and could do no more than just drag her feet along the ground. She was moving at zombie-speed. After running as fast as she could for hours and hours on end in her effort to escape the base, she'd run herself into complete exhaustion, and moving any faster required a great amount of determination.
As she continued on her way through the snowy forest, she thought about Trent.
Trent… her wonderful big brother. How could she have done that? How could she have just left him there? She had heard the gunshot, even if she hadn't turned back to witness it. She knew. She knew he was gone.
Tears began to stream down her cheeks, but they quickly froze halfway down when they met the icy temperature of the air. She really was all alone without her brother anymore. She really was an orphan now. If she survived to see the end of the war — hell, if she survived the night, even — she'd probably be sent right back to the orphanage in New York. Nick, Becky, and all the other kids would enjoy welcoming her back. She could just envision what would happen upon her guaranteed return.
"Look, everyone! It's the Freak! She's back! She may have saved the world, but she was too stupid enough not to know how to save her brother!"
"Welcome back, War Girl! Why're you back…? What's that? You left your brother behind to die?! I knew you were always dumb, but I never thought you were a heartless murderer!"
Murderer… that was another word floating around in her head. In addition to being the unintentional cause of her big brother's death, she'd also killed that Hydra guard today. Him and so many other men. She couldn't believe she'd done that. She'd said for months now whenever Steve or any of the people in the army had tried to persuade her to use her guns that she would not kill. Ever. And yet, she'd killed so many men today without thinking twice. She'd broken her no-killing code. She was a cold-hearted murderer…
A flash of light in the trees snapped her out of her thoughts, and Jamie went still. What was that? Was it a Hydra guard? Had they managed to catch up with her?
Before she could so much as consider hiding herself behind a tree, she heard a loud array of voices. Most of them were jumbled, and because she was tired, she could not force her brain to try and figure out what they were saying, but there was one voice that called out that she could understand very clearly.
"Hello? Is someone out there?"
Jamie didn't answer. She attempted to raise her gun and fire in the direction of the voices, but all she heard was a clicking sound. She'd used up all her bullets while escaping the base.
She turned around, and bolted away from the area as fast as she could, which wasn't very fast at all considering how cold and exhausted she was. She was right. Hydra had caught up with her. She had to get away.
As she ran, the lights shined in her direction. Although she didn't look back, she heard strangled shouts of shock, surprise, and alarm.
"Holy fuck! Liberty Belle?! Stop!"
But Jamie did not stop. She had to get away. Trent had given his life to make sure she escaped from the Hydra base. She could not afford to be captured again. She ran and ran.
"Wait! Stop!" screamed the one voice she could understand. "Stop!"
She heard the group of Hydra agents starting to follow after her, and she forced her weary legs to move as fast as they could. She climbed over logs, dodged around trees, and at once point forced herself to become even colder as her red boots splashed through a very shallow stream, not large to wade through, but enough to make her splash water up from her ankles to the exposed skin of her legs. She shivered. But she kept on running.
"Stop! Please! We won't hurt you! Stop! Stop!"
They wouldn't hurt her? That was new. They'd already hurt her. They'd strapped her to an electric chair and zapped her for hours on end these past two days. They'd beaten her. They beat her so hard they made her harder and denser than normal human being bones to actually break. But most importantly, they killed Trent. Trent… the one person in her life she still had left. When they killed him, they killed what was left of her.
As she tried to jump over some large, overgrown roots of a tree, one of her boots got tangled, and she tripped, and fell face-first onto the ground, and her head banged up against a nearby rock.
She screamed in pain as her vision blurred. She was seeing double, but still, she had to get away. She tried to force her body to stand, but the world spun before her eyes, and she fell back down into the snowy earth.
The footsteps grew closer to her, and she started crying again. She'd failed. Hydra was here. They were about to take her back to that base. They were going to beat her, electrocute her, and do God's knows what else until she drew her dying breath of air. Trent had given his life in order to give her a chance to live, but she had wasted it. He'd died only for her to get captured once again.
The platoon of men drew nearer, and Jamie forced herself to keep her eyes open despite her tiredness and the world continuously swirling around her in a viciously blurry cycle of snow. To her surprise, these Hydra agents were not wearing the traditional black Hydra uniform. Instead, they were all dressed in light blue, and one of them was carrying a red, white, and blue flag.
As Jamie fought to focus on her new captors, there was a great uproar from the men as they shouted and jabbered in shock upon finding her. Jamie didn't understand most of what they were saying, but the leader of the brigade appeared to be the one who'd been screaming at her to stop before, and he was continuing to shout now.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph… It is Liberty Belle! Holy fuck!"
He carefully lifted Jamie up off the ground and into his arms.
"Shit…! She's ice cold! Marceaux! Run on ahead back to the tanks and get blankets! Benoit! Go with him! Radio camp! Tell the Commander to start radioing the Americans in London that we found the girl!"
Despite her blurring vision, Jamie watched lifelessly as two of the men in the group ran away from the main group. Jamie wanted to squirm out of the grasp of this Hydra agent, but she was two tired and cold to move. All she could do was make a weak protest.
"Don't… don't take me back…" she whimpered. "Don't wanna go back… I… I wanna go home…"
"Don't worry, kid," said the man carrying her as he and the other men began running through the trees. "You're in good hands. We're the good guys."
Jamie groaned. This was cruel, even for Hydra. To make her believe that she was safe and sound as they dragged her freezing cold corpse through the trees back to their base hidden somewhere on the mountain.
With a sigh, she raised her icy, freezing fingers up to her chest, and grasped tightly at her brother's pocket watch hanging around her neck. If she was to die here, in the forest, as these Hydra agents brought her back to base, she wanted to know the time. The time at which she died. The time at which she failed to get back to the spot where she'd been kidnapped and where Steve and all the other members of the United States Army was currently looking for her.
It took her a minute to click open the lid of the watch, but she managed it, and with a shaking hand, she raised it up to read it.
Her vision was dancing now, but she could distinctly make out both the hands of the clock pointing upwards.
"Happy birthday… Trent…" she whispered.
And the world went black.