Captain America #4
Born in the past. Altered by science into the first and greatest Super Soldier. A hero of World War II. Steve Rogers was flung through time to our era where he continues his battle against the forces of evil around the world as the most cherished embodiment of justice and peace the world has ever known: Captain America.
Randy Lander presents
Marvel Rebooted – Captain America
Issue #4 – Wraith of the Red Soldier
by Alexander Ramirez & T.C. De Witt
The air was warmer than expected, unseasonably so for this part of Norilsk, which averaged just below freezing during the Winter months. As Steve Rogers plummeted from the sky, he was glad he had trusted the intelligence and not worn heavy gear. He was sweating from adrenaline and nerves; added layers for cold prevention would have left him drenched in minutes once he was on the ground.
The localized warm spots this far north was the reason the Avengers had taken notices of the industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located above the Arctic Circle. There had been flashes of 70 degree weather intermittently over the past three weeks, and Stark had speculated that that sort of random atmospheric and ecological shift could be signs of the development of a super weapon or exhaust ports for a facility hidden below the earth. Steve wanted to believe that was just Tony’s regular paranoia and distrust in anyone less intelligent than himself — which would be everyone, according to the genius — but Russian activity in dark dealings and nefarious acts had been escalating in the past year. It was worth investigating. The fact that the area had been closed off to all non-Russians in 2001 was the reason the Captain was skydiving from low orbit to infiltrate the city.
Steve sliced through the lowest layer of clouds and broke into open air. Below him, he could see the large Russian city, the northern most city in the world. It was night, but the thick layer of white ice and snow reflected the city light back onto itself giving it an orange glow. There were a small number of headlights plodding along through the snowy roads, but mostly, it was a silent night. Eyes sharp, he spotted his LZ and yanked the cord on his chute. The fabric rippled out and jerked him hard, slowing his descent. With a tug on the guide lines, he circled and quickly found his footing on the rooftop of one of the taller buildings. Below him, the hundred thousand inhabitants slept on without any notion that the Avenger had just arrived.
The chute was bundled and stuffed away in moments. Steve crouched and took in his surroundings. His target building was within sight, a short sprint across three rooftops. He secured his shield and touched his ear. “On the ground. Heading to checkpoint Bravo.”
Over the comm, Sam Wilson’s voice crackled, “You just landing now, Cap? You take the scenic route outta the jet?”
Steve grinned at his partner and shook his head. “Oh, you know, I couldn’t pass up the view. I got a few selfies to add to my collection.”
“Don’t say ‘selfies’. You sound like an old man when you do that, “Sam said.
“You know, technically, I’m only a year older than you,” Steve replied lightly.
“Checkpoint Bravo is waiting for you, old man,” Sam said dryly.
Captain America allowed himself a moment of amusement and then kicked off into a sprint. He leaped over the space between buildings and landed on the next only a level shorter. He cleared the 25 meters of the roof and gave an extra burst just before he planted his foot and launched himself over the next gap between the buildings; the next roof was elevated. He deftly caught the ledge and hefted himself up over the lip. With one final sprint, he landed with a crunch on his target building roof.
“Checkpoint,” he tapped his ear.
“Got you on scans,” Sam said. “How’s it look?”
“It’s a featureless cement block with blackened windows.”
“Not suspicious at all,” Sam said.
“Actually, pretty standard Russian,” he joked in return. “Though I think it’s clear that this is what’s warming up the city. It’s hot here. Like a sauna.” They were in the right place.
The Captain moved to the roof access hatch, his entrance into the building, the warmth of the roof surface an odd juxtaposition to the ice landscape all around him. There was no snow or ice on the complex, and the air was getting thicker with humidity. Cracking the lock on the hatch, he slipped into the place.
He landed in a dark space — a closet with the strong smell of cleaning supplies. Letting his eyes adjust, he slipped his shield off his back and secured it to his right arm — removed his P320 from his thigh holster and gripped it. Carefully, he cracked the door of the closet open letting florescent light spill in from the hall on the other side. Quietly, he opened the door, peered out, and moved into the hall.
The building was silent, and the Captain padded down the corridor with controlled breath and tense muscles ready for any action, but none came. From the intelligence scans, he knew that whatever was causing the heat was far below the surface, and he found the elevator around the next corner. He tapped his ear. “Elevator in sight. Heading down.”
“Comms will likely break. I don’t hear from you in thirty, I’m coming in,” Sam replied.
“You’ll hear from me in twenty.” And with that, he holstered his pistol and used his shield to wedge the doors of the lift open. Moments later, he was slipping down the cables through the dark shaft.
“Take your time. I’d love to gear up and show you how to really handle some Russian spies. Remember, you missed the fun of the Cold War. I know all about the Red Menace,” Sam said.
“Weren’t you ten when the Cold War ended?”
Sam scoffed and recovered quickly with his typical wit, “Still makes me more of an expert than you,”
Steve shook his head amused. “I’ll check in soon, Falcon. Captain out.”
Sam Wilson, the Falcon, had been Steve’s closest friend for several years now. When he had arrived in 21st century, Steve had been thrust immediately into action against a time traveling Ultron. When things had finally slowed down, he had a whole new world to understand. The new friends he had made — Tony, Natasha, Clint, Jennifer – had been incredible. They had accepted him and arranged so much for him, but they could not relate to him. Steve needed fellow soldiers. He needed others who had been through war. And that desire for comradery had drawn him to the VA and weekly group therapy sessions with recovering officers and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. It was there he had met Sam Wilson.
People often treated Steve as though he were delicate or with so much reverence that he felt uncomfortable. To the world, he had vanished for decades only to miraculously reappear as he had always been. He was a mythical hero from the “greatest” of wars. He had been a superhero, and to so many, he still was. But he did not see himself that way. He was just a soldier, and while everyone held him in high regard or as some celebrity, it was Sam who treated him like a fellow soldier; Sam treated Steve like a friend and brother.
Shortly after, Sam had revealed his history in a black ops wing of the Air Force and his Falcon identity. Steve used what clout he had with Fury at Shield and secured the Falcon equipment for Sam so the two men would have a purpose – a way to fight for their country once more, and thus began their partnership. They had bonded over their mutual experiences fighting for their Country; they had bonded over the loss of a friend. Sam had lost his partner Riley in the Falcon program, and Steve had lost Bucky.
Bucky, Steve thought as he continued his climb deeper and deeper into the building. He knew he was far below the surface now. The building had only been six stories, and he had easily descending more than a dozen at this point. As he climbed, his mind wandered from his new friend to his oldest, who was back in New York figuring out life displaced from time much like Steve had.
Only months ago, Bucky had returned from the nothingness he had vanished into. It had been as miraculous as Captain America materializing back into existence. Steve had watched his friend fall to his death so long ago, and over the decades of time between that moment and arriving in the future, Buck had been kidnapped, brain washed, altered into the Winter Soldier, an assassin controlled by Hydra thawed and un-thawed year after year to do their business. Mind wiped over and over. His entire being had been stolen from him, Steve could not fathom what it would be like to lose everything — to be stripped of identity and personality and become the tool of evil. It kept him up at night in fear and sorrow of what that had done to his friend.
But Bucky was back. He was living in the Avengers building. He was adapting and rediscovering himself. And soon, he’d be out in the field again, and Steve would have Bucky and Sam watching his back. He’d never feel lost again.
The basement of the building was like a furnace. As Steve landed at the bottom of the elevator shaft, sweat was dripping down his face and chest. He loosened his gloves and removed his mask tucking it in his belt. Wiping his face with the sleeve of his suit, he shook his head to clear it before prying the doors open just an inch. There were no signs of movement through the crack, so he opened it fully and slipped out of the shaft.
There were no bright lights down here. The few bulbs along the rocky walls were a dim glowing yellow dusty from soot and age. Several were blown out. The corridor was rocky and had been dug into the earth like a giant ant farm. The humidity made the walls damp and drip with warm precipitation. What could make this much heat? he wondered to himself. An answer came sooner than he expected.
The Captain found his way down the craggy hall to its end, which opened to a massive chamber. He froze, stunned at what he found there.
Before him was a gigantic metallic ship that Steve knew very well. Filling the huge cavern was a SHIELD Helicarrier. Its engines gentle rotating idly creating the incredible heat that was melting the snow and altering the temperature of Norilsk above. Somehow, someway, this ship had been constructed in this cave below Russia. And there could only be one perpetrator for such an act — had to be only one.
“Hail Hydra,” a voice hissed from behind Captain America, and before he could react, the world went dark.
* * *
Wake up Captain Roger.
Steve’s eyes shot open. He was strapped to a medical table, leather bands holding down his forehead, biceps, wrists, chest, thighs, and ankles. He began to struggle immediately, but the straps nor the table itself budged an inch. Panicked, he took in as much as his eyes could find. He was in a small metallic room. There was a single light above him, the room was cool, an air conditioning unit rumbling somewhere on the wall behind his head. And there was at least one person in the room with him.
“I am glad you are awake, Captain,” the voice said. It was a wispy, heavily accented Russian voice. “I would hate to have had you unconscious much longer. I trust you did not arrive here alone, and we should best prepare for any further incursions from your costumed friends.”
“Who are you!” Steve demanded and continued to attempt to free himself.
“Though I supposed,” the voice went on as if Steve had not said a word, “it would be wonderful to see the Winter Soldier again. I do hope he is a part of your rescue party.”
Steve struggled and felt the restraint on his right right give ever so slightly. This person knew Bucky — knew him as the Soldier. That fact and the helicarrier was all Steve needed to know. This was Hydra. He flexed as hard as he could, willing the leather to give even a millimeter more or to break.
“Do not fear, Captain Rogers. I do not wish the Soldier to come here and join us once more. No, no that ship has sailed, has it not?”
A face obstructed the light above Steve, and in the eclipse. the shadowed features of his capture came into view. The man was thin, and gaunt. His eyes were black beads and both his chin and nose were sharp. His remaining strands of hair were combed tightly back on his scalp with the sides shaved bald in a traditional Nazi cut. And the man was smiling, exposing yellowed teeth. Steve ceased his struggle for a moment to look at the face of his enemy. “Whoever you are, you’ve made a mistake,” the Captain growled.
“Truly?” the man said snidely. “The great Captain America speaks, and the enemy quivers.”
“You better pray to whatever fascist god you believe in that I don’t get free,” Steve said through his clenched teeth.
“My name,” the man continued to speak without any fear. “is Baron Helmut Zemo. I believe you knew my grandfather.”
Zemo, Steve remembered well. One of Hitler’s finest scientific minds. One of the most evil of Captain America’s villains. Steve’s mind raced. Shadows of his past continued to return and haunt him. He needed to break free to uncover everything that was happening here. He needed to fight.
“I do so enjoy this fire within you, Captain,” Zemo cooed. “I do so anticipate that fire burning so brightly in the days to come. I had hoped you would be the one that came. Had it been the green woman or even Romanova, I would have been pleased as well, but you, the legendary Captain America? Oh, but I am glad.”
Somewhere outside the room, there was a burst of gunfire. Steve looked as far as he could to the side, but his head restraint would not allow much. There was return fire followed by screams. Zemo exhaled with no sign of irritation. He even sounded amused or eager. He vanished from Steve’s view and there were sounds of equipment being moved around on a metal surface.
“AS they say,” Zemo said, “the Cavalry has arrived.”
Steve struggled harder still. Zemo’s calm was increasingly unnerving. He was showing no sign of panic when he should know very well that Avengers were closing in on the room. His operation was over. This was the final moments before his capture or his death. Whatever this was, however the carrier had come to be here, whatever Hydra was doing was going to be finished in moments. Yet this man was as calm as ever.
The gunfire continued. It was getting closer. Steve knew that meant his shield, and therefore his tracker, was in the room. He flexed his arms again, and the strap gave just a little more. He would be free in a moment. He bit his lip to tug with a surge of power when a prick of cold, tiny metal — a needle — entered his neck and the wall to his right erupted in an explosion.
* * *
“Cap!” Falcon stepped through the cloud of debris. The last of the Hydra agents had dropped with that grenade, but looking into the room he knew Steve was in, he was worried he’d done more damage then he wanted. “Captain!” he shouted and aimed his two sub machine guns around the room.
It was some sort of operating room. There was a wall of now shattered computer consoles and monitors and another wall that had been a shelf of liquids in glass; the floor was slick with chemicals and steaming puddles. On the far wall was a pile of rubble and the corner of a metal jutting out — a table by its size. Just behind it, Sam saw the shape of a leg.
“Shit.” Sam hurried across the room and began yanking the debris away revealing a person. “Cap! Come on, man. I’m here. Come on. Shit.” He pulled as much as he could away as fast as he could. As he pulled a large block of cement away, Captain America’s face was revealed. “Shit,” Sam continued to berate himself. He couldn’t tell if his partner was breathing.
A split moment later, Steve was coughing. Sam was able to pull Steve from the mess. The Captain stood shakily on his feet and leaned into Sam. “Nice… rescue.”
Sam grinned in relief. “Aw man, don’t you hit me with one-liners. There’s a goddamn Shield helicarrier out there, You see that?”
“Yeah,” Steve said weakly. “Hydra.”
“Where’s your shield, brother?” Sam kept an arm on Steve and looked around.
“Here.” Emerging from behind the overturned shelf was a short, thin faced man covered in dirt and dust from the wall, a cut over his forehead but otherwise unharmed. He was holding the Captain’s shield.
Sam’s gun was up in a flash and aimed at the man. “Stop right there, Skeletor!”
The man grinned and raised his free hand. He extended the shield. “Captain,” his voice was eerily calm as he offered, “Your weapon.”
“What’s the order, Captain?” Sam didn’t take his eyes or his gun off the man.
“I don’t…” Steve muttered, his body still wobbling.
“Captain,” the thin man said in his unsettling tone. “Your weapon.”
“Cap?” Sam asked ready to blow this guy away.
“Captain,” the man smiled for some reason Sam could not comprehend. “Kill this man.”
Sam snorted and couldn’t help himself. He looked at his friend with a, “Can you believe this guy–?”
Captain America sucker punched the Falcon across the face sending him falling and sliding across the rubble strewn floor. Sam lost his guns and rolled to the edge of the opening he had made with his blast. Aghast, he looked up at his friend. The Captain stood there with a blank, emotionless expression staring at nothing in particular, his arm stiff outstretched arm and clenched fist still extended. The thin man walked to him smiling even more broadly.
“Good, my Red Soldier,” the man said and held out the shield.
“The hell you do to him, you lanky bastard!” Sam yelled.
But the man did not even acknowledge Falcon. The Captain took the shield and stood at attention, his face still blank.
Cap,” Sam pleaded. “Steve.”
“Captain,” the thin man said. “Kill that man.” And he pointed at Falcon.
Steve wound back his arm, and Sam had all of a second to roll into the hall, the shield hitting the exact spot he’d lain with a reverberating CLANG! Steve caught the shield and spun throwing it again. Sam ducked and rolled, narrowly dodging the speeding weapon again.
“Steve!” Sam shouted. “This ain’t you!” But it did no good. Captain America caught his shield and yanked his pistol off his hip firing a shot directly into Falcon’s belly. Sam took the hit, flying backwards into the wall. If not for the kevlar, Sam would be bleeding from the stomach and dying. He had just enough wherewithal to activate his wings and launch himself soaring out of the corridor.
Hydra agents had recovered from Sam’s assault. They were climbing out of holes and from the carrier, guns firing and lasers blazing. Same rocketed over all of them and toward the shaft to the building half a mile above. He had to escape. He had to get back up. Captain America had been taken by Hydra.
In the cavern of the Helicarrier, Zemo stepped into a clearing and smiled wider still. His war was beginning. He turned to Steve who was standing next to him with no expression barely blinking, and said, “Very good, my Red Soldier. Your friends will be joining us very soon.”
To be continued in Marvel Rebooted: Captain America #5
Current Active Characters in the Marvel Rebooted Avenger
Captain Steve Rogers/Captain America – World War II Super Soldier and greatest American hero
Tony Stark/Iron Man – Brilliant engineer and inventor, former heir to the Stark fortune
Sam Wilson/The Falcon – veteran Airman of covert task force with flight wings and armor, current partner of Steve Rogers
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow – Former KGB super spy defector to Shield
James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes/The Winter Soldier – Once the sidekick and best friend of Captain America, brainwashed by Hydra, now reformed assassin living in the Avengers mansion
Clint Barton/Hawkeye – Black ops, crack-shot super spy for Shield, partner and confidant of Black Widow
Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp – Molecular biologist implanted with Bio-Synthetic Wings, ability to shrink
Jennifer Walters/She Hulk – Once a NYC District Attorney turned bounty hunter turned hero with the abilities and jade complexion of the Hulk
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