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Captain America: A Matter of Time

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Chapter 1: The Long Path

 

[09-24-1946, 63°17′34″N 168°42′05″W]

Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone.

How can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you.

Steve stared at the red digital date and coordinates on the ‘time GPS device’. He took a single deep breath and noisily blew it out. He looked up; the cold, salty breeze of the Bering Sea brushing over him.

“Hang on, Bucky,” he murmured, deactivating the device. “I’m coming.”

Steve tucked the device underneath the nanosuit layer. He looked around, noting that there was nothing except for a bleak landscape surrounding him. Only a speck of white tent and a flag pole bearing the colors of the United States stood out against such a drab, desolate island.

That was his destination, and there was nothing that Steve could see that was a direct threat. Yet, he knew it was designed as such – this area had not yet been developed, and most of the inhabitants of the island were living on the western end. In a few years, there would be life here, as an early warning system would be installed.

But that was a few years that he didn’t know if it would happen anymore – not with what he was about to do. But he had already made up his mind to do it. He had chosen to do this, because after all that he had seen and done—

“Hang on,” Steve murmured again as he shook his head to dislodge his circular thoughts and concentrated on the now.

He had chosen this – he was not going back.

Setting off at a light jogging pace, Steve kept alert for any sudden movement or activation of a large-scale electronic system that would announce his arrival. He could not hear a hum of micro electronics – none of those had been invented or shrunk down to the size he had gotten used to. Technology was not running away rampantly, or almost magical-like yet.

Reaching the tent, there was a single military jeep parked behind it. It was unguarded, and the keys had been left in the ignition. Steve entered the tent and while it looked as if it were built for a guard post, he knew it was anything but.

Going to where the two cots were, he crouched at the foot of the first cot where there was a trunk. While ordinary-looking, he knew it was anything but. Taking Mjolnir into his hand, he gently placed it on the edge of the trunk and tapped the hammer.

A bolt of electricity shot out and crawled all over the trunk as he holstered Mjolnir at his side again. At almost the same time, he heard the clank and whine of gears turning, followed by the hum of an elevator rising. Stepping back, he waited a few minutes before the noise stopped.

The cots automatically parted to either side, as the ground-embedded door to the underground base slid open. The first time Steve had been here was when he had been hunting down and eradicating any remnants of HYDRA’s brainwashing facilities. Concentrating mainly on Soviet assets had almost led him to ignore this particular base.

Natasha had been the one to flag it after digging through the data that she and Fury had released. Even then, it had been almost dismissed by both of them. It was due to the fact that it came from Zola’s personal diary. SHIELD had scanned it into their databases after the scientist had physically died.

[July 2nd, 1945. Coordinates approximately 63°17′34″N 168°42′05″W, or so my captors tell me. My new ‘home’ for the foreseeable future.]

Steve clearly remembered the words, especially the coordinates. It would have made sense for the US government to hold someone as valuable as Zola in a remote area. Yet, the accuracy of the coordinates had made no sense—

He shook his head again, surprised at himself for letting his thoughts wander, when he knew that he should be more careful. The base in the here and now, was not what it had been the first time he had investigated it. It was an active base, and whatever guards down below would have clearly heard and seen the elevator move.

Swinging himself over the lip of the entrance, he dropped fifteen feet down to the catwalk and strode into the elevator. Pressing the button to take him down, he took another deep breath and focused on what was going to happen in the next few minutes.

As much as he had wanted to travel back to the exact date state in Zola’s diary, he didn’t. This particular date he had arrived in was the earliest known time and location of where Bucky was – after he had fallen from the train. Whether by fluke or by something else, someone named Alexander Lukin had made a note about this location in the Winter Soldier folder that Natasha had given him.

Steve took another deep breath and stilled his mind, as the layers of concrete and darkness that passed him by emerged to a more brighter, large cave-like structure. The elevator continued to descend, and he could see the specks of the guards grow ever closer and larger.

They were craning their necks up to see who exactly was coming down through the cage-like elevator. Keeping his hands loose beside him, Steve tilted his head slightly to stretch his neck one last time. He would play it by ear, as to whether or not the guards were friendly—

“Hands up where we can see them!” the guards shouted as soon as the elevator stopped.

One had already stepped forward to yank the cage-like door open. As soon as Steve took a good look at the guards and the weapons that were pointed at them, all thoughts of being ‘friendly’ to the guards disappeared.

All of the guards were wielding Tesseract-based rifles.

“Holy shit, it’s him!”

“Fire! Open fi—”

Mjolnir flew into Steve’s right hand. The bolt of electricity that shot out and into the HYDRA-allegiance soldiers cut their declaration short. It forked and spread as Steve ran out of the elevator. Explosions littered the air as he threw Mjolnir with all of his might in an arc, damaging several key pipes that kept the life support system of this base afloat.

Alarms were already blaring, with the lighting in the immediate area shorting out emergency systems. Recalling Mjolnir, Steve holstered it and picked up the lone Tesseract-based rifle that had not been destroyed.

While this base had been home to a fledgling HYDRA in regrowth, Steve knew that it was only one of many in the world. The Red Skull and most of his European bases had been destroyed, but it was as they said their namesake was: cut off one head and two more shall take its place.

He could not casually wield Mjolnir in a destructive manner – at least not yet. The primary concern was that this was an underground base, and he did not want to collapse it upon himself or Bucky. He would consider doing that after he got Bucky out.

Steve ran down the first corridor, hoping that he had chosen correctly as to where Bucky may have been kept. The first time he had entered the facility, everything had looked to be abandoned. There had been barely anything left except for a lone, empty cryogenic pod positioned next to the elevator. What little paper trail that had been left had been burned by him, before he had laced up enough C4 to bring the place down.

Now, it was a rescue mission.

Taking cover, Steve felt the sizzling heat of the blue bolts pass by where he had been. Flecks of super-heated dirt and concrete peppered him. Steve briefly squeezed his eyes shut as he turned away from it. It was not something he wanted to do, but considering he did not know just how many soldiers the SSR had stationed here, he had to.

A split second later, Steve felt the Mind Stone slip into his left hand. Its mental link to him felt like a cool, uncomfortable cascade of oil that seemed as crystal clear as it was muddy. He didn’t like the feeling worming through him, but he had to stomach it. It certainly felt better than the dark, seductive call of the Power Stone.

He opened his eyes, briefly glancing down at the yellow stone in his hand, before curling his nanosuit-encased hand around it. A few seconds later, the multiple visages of him appeared. They were semi-transparent, but were all wearing the same uniform and holding the same Tesseract-based rifle as he was. A copy of Mjolnir had also been made.

Steve didn’t even need to command the doppelgangers he had created with his mind to move. They just did – becoming the visual distraction he needed.

Shouts carried across the corridors as the soldiers were drawn elsewhere. He waited a few more seconds for the firefight to die down, before popping out. The Mind Stone was stored in its own compartment, and its influence on his mind lessened considerably.

Hurrying down the corridor, he headed towards where he remembered seeing cell-like structure the first time. He wouldn’t put it past HYDRA here to make sure Bucky was stored in this somewhat isolated area, if whenever US government officials or SSR brass visited.

Breaking past the door that led into the cell area was simple enough – a quick application of force on the door handle. The lights were flickering with the continued collapse of life support and other systems. Most of it caused by his usage of Mjolnir, and the rest most likely by HYDRA’s wild shooting of their weapons at his visual doppelgangers.

Steve hurriedly checked all the cells, finding them empty, until he got to the last one at the end of the area. Yet, the man standing in the corner of the cell, seemingly terrified that he was about to be killed, was not who he expected.

“Michael?!”

“Steve?”

Steve immediately wrenched the cell open with sheer force, as the fear that he had seen in Michael Carter’s eyes died. Peggy’s brother gingerly stepped forward, looking at him in disbelief. His hair was grown out again, and he looked emaciated and unkempt. His appearance at the moment was much like his first appearance since being found alive as a prisoner-of-war by the Howling Commandos.

To be captured once by HYDRA in Norway and found again, to being captured a second time – by HYDRA yet again… Steve wished that he had known. When he had read the dossier SHIELD had on Peggy, there was barely a mention of her brother, Michael. All it had said was that Michael had been declared dead in 1942, and again in 1945 – shortly before VE Day. Peggy had not talked at all about her brother whenever Steve had visited her in hospice.

As much as he wanted to question why Michael was being held at this specific facility, he didn’t. After what he had learned about what Peggy’s brother did as a SOE agent, it wasn’t all that difficult to connect the dots to how the Winter Soldier had been created. HYDRA would’ve wanted a test subject before implementing the ‘final product’ on Bucky. Michael was most likely HYDRA’s ‘test subject’.

The thought angered him even further, and he was now glad he had chosen to do this. “You coming?” he asked, gesturing for Michael to follow him.

Michael gave him a puzzled look before taking the offered Tesseract rifle. “You’re...”

“Not dead,” he said, taking point, but did not bring Mjolnir to bear.

Wielding the hammer in front of Michael was not something he wanted to do – only because he didn’t want to answer questions. It was better for everyone to still think of him as dead – except for the ones he cared about. And even then, he was going to return Mjolnir to its rightful place in time – there was no need to draw even more attention to himself.

That ‘life’ he wanted, was one of peace and quiet.

“How…?” Peggy’s brother began.

“Crashed into the ice,” he stated, kicking up and snatching another Tesseract-based rifle into his hands. “Woke up, found out everyone thought I was dead. I figured that dead people have an easier time eliminating the last vestiges of HYDRA.”

“Woke up, found out everyone thought you were dead, and got a strange sense of humor,” Michael stated, as they traversed down the corridor, side-by-side. “Comics said you crashed some HYDRA super-weapon into the ice. True or not, are you certain that you didn’t get knocked around—”

HYDRA soldiers appearing at the end of the corridor cut Michael’s question off, as both Steve and the SOE agent ducked into adjacent corridors, evading enemy fire. A shout down another corridor briefly diverted HYDRA’s attention. As soon as there was a brief lull in the firefight, Steve immediately emerged and fired his weapon.

The soldiers vanished in a puff of black and blue.

“Do you know where they’re keeping Bucky?” Steve asked, as the two of them continued down the corridor.

“What?”

Steve turned back to see that Michael had stopped, gaping at him. There was a stunned look on the SOE agent’s face; it was clear that Michael never received news that Bucky had ‘died’ during the operation to capture Zola. A field agent such as Peggy’s brother wouldn’t have gotten such news anyways.

But, Steve didn’t have time to explain what happened. Instead he said, “Woke up and found out that he got captured. The trail led to here. We need to find him and get out.”

He turned back around. Before he could take more than two steps forward, Michael had closed the distance and forcibly grabbed his arm.

“When?” Michael demanded as Steve turned back around.

“Later,” Steve insisted, shaking his arm loose.

Michael looked to object, but realized that it was not the place or time to demand such things. Steve saw him curtly nod before gesturing for them to continue. It was not ideal, but Steve didn’t blame him for not knowing that Bucky was here or held captive. He thought that perhaps the two might have been held in captivity together – but that was also untrue.

If there was one thing HYDRA was good at – it was hiding prisoners away. But Steve remembered, knew the corridors like the back of his hand. Thus, he took point and continued down a set of corridors that he hoped would lead them to where Bucky was.

The rumbling of explosions continued as they made their way through the base. They occasionally ran into one or two HYDRA soldiers, but it seemed that this base only had the bare minimum of a skeleton crew guarding it. Steve could only surmise that most had been killed in the initial fight.

The alarms were not as noisy the further he traversed this area. Lights continued to flash red, and intermittent explosions rumbled through the area. Steve was greatly reminded of the first time he had searched for Bucky in Azzano.

The eerie relative quietness of the current corridor that led to what he remembered looking like laboratories, were sending even more unease down his spine. He slowed down to a cautious walk, checking behind each closed door. What he had initially thought were laboratories were much worse than he could imagine.

Apparatuses that looked like prototypes of the metal conditioning chair he remembered seeing in the Siberian silo decorated each room. Adding to his anger were several tables, some full of charts and diagrams of the human body, others of the brain.

Steve had never asked Bucky if he remembered any of his conditioning, and Steve would never. Just seeing what he was seeing was making him sick. Bucky had told him that his first ‘activation’ or deployment as the Winter Soldier had been in 1947 – Steve was here well before that year.

Bucky would never become the Winter Soldier.

Steve found Bucky in the second to last ‘laboratory’ in the corridor. The door was locked like all the others, and all it took were a few blasts of the Tesseract-based rifle to get it open.

The cryogenic tube was not front and center of the room, but rather ensconced off to the side – as if it were an accessory. An operating table, along with an unusual-looking machine that contained a giant semi-transparent sphere of sorts took up nearly the entire rest of the room.

Steve immediately slung his rifle over his shoulders as he heard Michael curse. Hurrying over to where the cryogenic tube was, he searched for the panel that would allow him to wake Bucky up. To his frustration, there was nothing overt on the cryogenic tube that indicated a panel.

“Search the table and machine,” he ordered, as he went over the seams of the tube again, wondering if he missed a hidden catch. “See if there’s anything there that tells us how to open this damn thing.”

Steve tried to avoid staring at the frozen face of his best friend. He had to thank God that it looked as if there was still some power source that kept the chamber active. He was not keen on rolling the cryogenic chamber with him, but if Michael could not find—

“Got it!” Michael shouted. “Bottom edge of the chamber, panel. Three-two-two-three-one.”

Steve crouched down and ran his hand along the edge. At the left most side was a slight catch, and Steve snapped it open. Inside were three buttons, all colored the same – red. “Any indication as to which side is one, and which is three?” he asked.

“No,” he heard Michael say, as he glanced back to see him approach. “But I have a feeling that it may be opposite of traditional convention.”

“So right to left then,” Steve stated. He stared at the panel for a brief moment before tapping in the code from the right.

For a few seconds, nothing seemed to happen. Then there was a sudden hiss and pop, before a sudden rush of cold and fog enveloped the immediate area. Steve waved his hands in front of him as he scrambled up in time to dodge the chamber’s door sudden swing to open.

“Bucky…” Steve began, but stopped short as he saw the state that his best friend was in.

Dried blood and frost was stuck on the uniform that Bucky wore. It took Steve a moment to realize that the Soviets or HYDRA had not even bothered to change or clean his wounds from his fall. Lacerations and slowly healing wounds that still looked to be flash-frozen mid weep covered Bucky. The Soviets had sawed off his left arm and attached the gleaming metal arm – and the implant site still looked infected.

Worse yet, the arm was already marked with the blood red star.

“Jesus Christ,” Michael whispered in horror, stepping around Steve.

Michael’s exclamation snapped Steve out of his fugue as he reached out and placed a hand underneath Bucky’s jaw. There was a pulse, but it was incredibly faint. He didn’t know when Bucky would wake up, but they had to get out of here fast.

“Michael, take point,” he ordered, as he pulled Bucky out of the chamber. He grunted with exertion as he hefted Bucky up, slinging him across his shoulders in rescue-carry. “Back down the corridor, take a right, down past the first adjacent hall and left. Down to the end and take a right – should get us back to the entrance.”

“Got it,” the SOE agent answered, leading the way.

Steve took one quick look around the area before following Michael out. He was slightly worried that he hadn’t seen a hair or sign of Zola thus far. While not a large facility, the corridors were all interconnected. It was not his objective to pursue Zola, but he wouldn’t mind if the man was trapped down here… or even killed when he destroyed the facility.

Carefully making their way through the even more violently shaking ground that was now additionally filled with debris, Steve began to feel Bucky stir. Just after they crossed the first intersection, Steve felt a rather painful jolt against his back.

“Easy, easy!” he said. Steve stopped and gently slung Bucky off his shoulders. He grasped Bucky’s shoulder, to steady him. “Take it easy, Buck,” he continued to say.

“Wha...” he heard Bucky slur incoherently. The confusion that gripped him was short-lived. Pain immediately replaced it, and Steve immediately slung Bucky’s right arm over his shoulders to hold him upright.

“Come on, soldier. We’re going home,” he stated to Bucky while silently nodding towards Michael to continue forward.

After passing two more intersections in the long corridor, Steve could see that Bucky was beginning to regain some coherency. As soon as he felt Bucky tugging his arm away, Steve let go, but kept close to catch him, if needed.

As silent as Bucky was, Steve could see some confusion still swimming in those pain-filled eyes of his. It was clear that Bucky was puzzled as to why he was here, where they were, and how exactly Michael was here as well. But, he was willing to put all of his questions aside and get free and to safety first, before asking.

Steve silently nodded once to Bucky, receiving the same nod in kind. It filled him with hope and happiness to see such a response. He remembered how long it had taken Bucky to recover even some of his old personality before Wakanda had removed those commands—

He mentally shook his head as he dashed the thought away, handing his rifle to Bucky as he picked up another one on the floor. He didn’t need to think about his or Bucky’s past and future that would not happen – not for Bucky now.

The three of them got to the elevator relatively unhindered. Most, if not all of the soldiers who had been ‘guarding’ the facility were dead. “Go,” he said, gesturing for the two to enter the elevator. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go set off some explosives.”

He expected their splutters and protests, but immediately turned around and lightly ran off. To his relief, neither Bucky or Michael followed him. What he could only surmise as the generators that powered the facility were down another set of corridors. The first time he had been here, he had placed most of his C4s in that particular area.

Now, he was going to destroy it using Mjolnir—

Steve skidded to a halt; the tell-tale flap and sliver of what looked to be a white lab coat flitting by the corner of another corridor. He hurried towards the corner, and turned— “Zola!”

His roar seemed to echo and drown out the alarm and explosions for a brief moment. Steve’s eyes were not deceiving him; he saw the short statured, balding, and glasses-wearing HYDRA scientist.

“The rumor of your demise seemed to have been greatly exaggerated, Captain Rogers,” Zola stated.

Mjolnir flew into Steve’s right hand. Zola’s eyes widened in surprise, but before Steve could unleash a bolt directly into the scientist, he saw him pull a small, cylindrical item out of a coat pocket. Zola pressed the button—

Steve immediately abandoned all thoughts of unleashing Mjolnir, as the Space Stone slipped into his left hand. Just as the first explosions ripped across the corridor, Steve let the ice-cold feeling of the stone snake its way through. He mentally grasped onto it, and was enveloped with a cloud of blue and black.

He stumbled out of the cloud, emerging into the main area where the elevator was. The ground roiled beneath him, as he ran up and into the elevator. Bucky had already slammed the button to send the elevator topside, while Michael had reached out to grab onto him so he didn’t fall back out as another violent explosion tore through the place.

Chunks of debris were falling all around them, crumbling from the top on down. Zola’s last stand was going to bury them, and Steve knew that they would not make it to the surface in time. He didn’t want to continue to use the stones, but he didn’t return here from 2023 only to fail.

Letting the Space Stone’s cold stab fill him again, Steve gritted his teeth as the chilly tendrils expand in his mind to capture the presence of Bucky and Michael. A second later, they were all enveloped in blue-black smoke…

… only to be deposited a few hundred feet away from the white tent, on the surface of the Alaskan island. The stone’s grip on his mind didn’t even fully receded when the ground seemingly belched, fifty yards from where they emerged.

Steve stumbled, and fell to the ground with the others, as he raised an arm to cover his own head. Peeking out from under his arm, he saw the tent, and all of its surroundings enveloped in a spray of super-heated and scalding hot dirt. Those clumps flew high into the air, before falling down like rain, pelting the immediate area.

Luck seemed to be with them, as the three of them were upwind of the explosion, and had escaped with little to no new injuries. “Everyone all right?” Steve asked as an eerie silence fell over the area.

Michael coughed before saying, “Right as rain. Nice work with the… hammer… I think.”

“Wasn’t me,” Steve said, helping him up before going over to where Bucky was. Steve helped him up, but held on – it looked like Bucky was far more injured than what he could see. “Zola set it off—”

“Zola?”

Bucky’s quiet, angry growl of the scientist’s name, coupled with his stepping away, caused Steve to turn slightly. “The mission… failed? What day is it?”

“September 24th, 1946,” Steve stated, as Bucky took another step back. As injured as Bucky looked, Steve did not miss the intense, almost strangely hostile look shot his way.

“Holy…” Michael began, collapsing to his knees. The SOE agent buried his face into his hands. “What the hell…”

“We won the war,” Steve quietly answered, looking at both of them before focusing on Bucky. “But you—”

“Fell,” Bucky quietly stated, the hostile look dying slightly in his eyes. Steve saw him squeeze his eyes shut for a moment, grimacing. “I… remember… “

The happiness that Steve knew he should have felt at the fact that he had timed it correctly, and saved Bucky from a fate worse than death, didn’t come. Relief was there, but it was severely tempered by the fact that they had escaped by the skin of their teeth. Not to mention that he had been forced to use the stones to get them here.

As uncomfortable as the silence was that stood between the three of them, Steve didn’t let it linger for long. “I need to get the two of you to a hospital—”

“Ivenchenko,” Bucky suddenly stated.

“Who?” Steve asked at the same time Michael had echoed that question.

Bucky silently shook his head, indicating that he wasn’t too sure, but said, “I just remember his name and seeing him work with Zola once… while down there.”

“No,” Steve said, shaking his head slowly. “But I don’t think anyone would’ve survived that explosion anyways.”

As Bucky glanced back towards the several hundred feet deep hole in the ground, Steve followed his gaze. The first time he had been here, he had tried to see if there were any secret passages in or out of the facility – a way that things could be smuggled in or out without going through the elevator. But there had been none in that base. There was only one way in and one way out – and now, it was destroyed.

“Let’s get you to a hospit—” Steve began again.

“What did Philips do, to make you agree to do this on your own, Steve?”

Steve opened his mouth to answer, but thought better of it, in response to Bucky’s quiet but furious question. A moment of regret that he didn’t try to find and recover his own body in this timeline first, briefly filled him, but he dashed it away. When he was finished with that task, this rescue and all of the strangeness that Bucky and Michael had witnessed would be a thing of the past.

Steve from 2023, would just be a small aberration in the flow of time.

“I… ‘died’,” he stated. “Bringing Schmidt’s war bomber down over the Artic. The war ended, but HYDRA is not yet completely defeated. This…“

“You’re not done yet, are you?” Michael’s question filled the silence as Steve fell silent.

Steve didn’t want to continue to tell Bucky what happened. This was supposed to be a new leaf for all of them – a new lease on a life that they should have had.

“One more,” Steve said after a moment. “One more, and then…”

One more – to rescue my self from the Arctic – then I can go.

“So… hospital, then?” Michael asked, getting up and slung Bucky’s right arm over his shoulder.

If there was one thing that Steve was grateful for, it was the fact that Michael knew when not to push for secrets. Bucky might’ve been Steve’s best friend, and there were little to no secrets that stood before them, but Steve was unwilling to continue to share what he knew. There were just some things that should be put to rest.

“Yeah,” he said, stepping back up to them, as the Space Stone slipped into his left hand, once again.

The piercing cold fingers of the stone enveloped his mind again, as he concentrated and expanded the sensation to include his friends. A second later, the cloud of black and blue enveloped them – and deposited them into what looked to be an airfield.

“We’re just outside of London,” he said, stepping away from both of them, letting the icy sensation in his mind receded slightly. “Think the two of you can manage?”

He could see that Bucky still had questions, still wanted answers, but the pain and his injuries were getting to him. “Don’t… do—” Bucky began, huffing with each word.

“Anything stupid,” Steve finished up, nodding towards Michael – grateful that there was someone else here to make sure Bucky made it to the hospital. “Yeah, I know. I gave it all back to you, jerk.”

“Punk,” Steve heard him mutter, before the blue-black cloud enveloped him again.

This time, it was not just an uncomfortable sensation of cold that slammed into him in a mental sense, but also a physical one. The winds howled as Steve raised his arm to try to block the snow from blowing into his eyes. Using Mjolnir to clear the snow in front of him would’ve been a good idea, if Steve were not doubtful on how steady the ice floes below him were.

He could use Mjolnir to fly as Thor did at times, but with the weather as it were, it would be difficult enough to see anything from several hundred feet above. Where he had teleported to was what he remembered seeing from the various footage file SHIELD had on the place.

Pushing forward, Steve holstered Mjolnir at his side and held up both arms against his face. Bitterly cold winds whipped at his face, stinging him, but as Steve continued to walk, he thought he could see the shadow of something large looming in the distance.

He didn’t know how long it took him to get to the shadow, but his hunch was right – the war bomber was here. Going to where he hoped was the wing tip, Steve fought the aching cold within his body and leapt up. Scrabbling for purchase and grabbing onto whatever he could find, he slowly climbed up.

Hauling himself up onto the top of the structure, Steve gingerly made his way across and to what looked to be the fuselage of the bomber. It was slippery here, and the unrelenting winds were threatening to knock him off.

When he got to the center of the fuselage, Steve withdrew Mjolnir and placed the flat of it on the surface. It was going to be tricky, but without a good insight as to where exactly he was on the surface of the bomber, he couldn’t use the Space Stone to teleport in. He didn’t want to anyways – the less he felt the stones crawling through his mind, the better.

Raising Mjolnir slightly Steve swung it down, hoping that the force of it and the lightning was enough to carve a hole into the hull. The dull ring of the hammer hitting ice and into the hull was nearly lost to the winds. It took Steve three tries with the hammer for the structure to collapse into a jagged hole.

Holstering the hammer again, Steve waited a few seconds for the shift in the ice floe to subside. He hoped that it would hold for just long enough for him to get in, rescue his other self from here, and get out.

Jumping into the hole, Steve landed lightly onto the deck. He was not at the cockpit, but near it. The direct corridor to the cockpit was destroyed, but Steve hoped the secondaries were still intact. Gingerly and carefully, Steve made his way through the ice-covered stiff wires, hearing the wreckage groan with the shifting of the ice floes.

Pushing and wrenching the door open to the cockpit, Steve squeezed his way through. Carefully making his way forward to the cockpit chair, Steve couldn’t help but pause at the area where the Tesseract had been kept. The device was completely inert, but the hole where the cube had burned its way through was still there.

His shield was lying a little ways away from the base of the device. Picking it up, he absently hooked it onto his back, feeling a little better with the familiar weight of it sitting there. Yet, he knew that he shouldn’t get used to it. He was just a transient visitor to this time.

The bomber groaned and shifted again, forcing Steve to pause in his approach. It settled after a few minutes, but Steve was already looking at the cockpit chair in slight puzzlement. Stepping over to it, he frowned as he turned the chair to face him.

It was empty.

Looking around, Steve could see no overt sign that his body had flown out of the cockpit chair when he had crashed. The cockpit window was spidered with cracks, but there were no signs of blood splatters from cuts that indicated a body had gone through it.

Carefully walking around as the bomber shifted again, worry began to settle within him. Steve remembered sitting in the chair, guiding the bomber down and the blackness claiming him on impact. He remembered seeing SHIELD footage of them discovering and thawing him out from the block of ice. He had no memory of being awake between the crash and his waking up in New York City in 2011.

So where was his body, in 1946?

We both need to get a life.

You first, Steve…

Steve took one last look around, half-wondering why one of the heaviest conversation he had ever had with Natasha, had popped into his thoughts. It felt wrong, for him to remain… yet…

Peggy and Bucky, the two people he cherished the most, were alive. They were here, and he had even freed Bucky before HYDRA and the Soviets had a chance to turn him into the Winter Soldier.

Then what was holding him back?

Steve glanced over at the empty chair again, before a warm, soothing feeling suddenly blossomed into his mind. The weight of his trusty shield seemed to be a bit more solid, more comforting than ever before. Unsure as to what was causing the slightly strange feeling, Steve looked around—

At once, he felt a stone slip into his left hand. Glancing down, he opened his hand, only to find the Soul Stone resting in his palm. It always puzzled him as to what the purpose of the Soul Stone was, and what powers it contained. While sinister in the nature of how it was created, Steve thought that the stone was a leash of some sort – a way to channel or exert some ‘control’ over the other stones when being wielded.

Another burst of a soothing feeling filled him, causing him to recoil slightly. The feeling lessened, and he peered at the stone. Before he could examine it further, a rather loud crack! filled the air. It was swiftly following by a groaning rumble through the decks. The floor beneath him began to feel greatly unsteady.

Stowing the stone back into its compartment, Steve knew that he couldn’t stay any longer on the wreckage. The Space Stone landed in his hand, as if by thought. Steve mentally grasped onto the ice-cold shards it offered, before being enveloped in a cloud of blue and black.

 

~*~*~*~