1. Trapped Under Ice
Trapped Under Ice
Trapped Under Ice
by Drake Pendragon
Chapter 1 of the Man Out of Time
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Everything (meaning AtS) that is Joss Whedon’s is Joss Whedon’s. Everything (meaning Iron Man) that is Marvel’s is Marvel’s. I just tinker like a mad scientist.
Posting: I have only posted this story to Twisting the Hellmouth, nowhere else.
At the risk of sounding obvious or dense, the Artic is very cold. A bit of an understatement, right? Well, I can’t tell via my nerves or my joints or anything a regular human would feel. Only because I’m not a regular human. I can tell because the all the equipment that was supposed to be rated for blizzard conditions froze up about three minutes after setting it up. We are two days behind schedule because Bobbi and I have had to create individual heating systems to maintain our equipment that alter the density of the ice we were on. Tricky stuff, but I solved harder problems working at Stark.
I don’t think any of the five of us really spoke the last few days unless we had to. There was just something about this plane wreck that I couldn’t put my finger on. My three Cap-o-philes, Angel, Spike, and Agent Phil Coulson, were struck into reverent silence every time they looked at the cavern opening. Coulson was a last second addition to the team at the behest of the world’s top spy, Nick Fury. So far, he hasn’t done much to help us but I like the guy well enough not to bitch about it.
The Hydra plane wreckage was easy to find if you knew where you were looking. And we did thanks to our patron higher power. That mark on my forearm still wouldn’We set up our base camp in a biosphere around it to laughingly protect us from the elements. The plane shattered on impact and so far deep surface imaging suggested that pieces of the plane had drifted a half-mile below the surface into a tunnel complex. Great, that made me so happy. We better not find some alien temple or something down there. I zipped up my extreme-cold weather jacket and headed to the cavern opening. Truthfully, we were just using a piece of the wreckage, the loading bay, as an entry point. Bobbi suggested that the tunnels were created by the fragments of the crashing plane.
She remained at base camp to finish the prep for the revivification project. Spike walked up to me in his typical black leather duster and normal clothes on. I rolled my eyes at that. Vampires. “What? I don’t need any of that cold weather gear what with no circulation an’ all. I don’t suppose you do either if you’d just go blue,” he said.
“I don’t know how cold it’s going to get down there and I was recently depowered, remember? Who knows what my tolerance is now,” I griped.
“Well, you won’t know until you try it, will you?” he said. I grumbled before shifting into Illyria. I shot him a sarcastic smile.
“Ready?” Angel asked, hefting the last twenty feet of one of the giant cables we needed to extract the Captain. Spike picked up the other one.
“Test the winches,” I said to Bobbi. She hit the switch and the winches came to life. She turned the dial just a small amount and they started very slowly pulling in the cabling and Angel and Spike with it.
“Everything’s set,” she replied, killing the power and letting the cables go slack. Coulson and I shouldered our packs and I pulled back our makeshift door that we created to seal off the wreckage from any ambient heat coming off the camp.
Coulson and I turned on our shoulder-strap mounted flashlights and led the way down. The lights were casting everything in an eerie white glow. We hadn’t done any precursory scouting of the tunnels as we didn’t want any chance of compromising the site, so this was the first time I was seeing it. There were numerous dead bodies dressed in old Hydra uniforms scattered about. The bodies were grey and drawn. I tapped one with my foot and found it solid as a rock. Some had bullet wounds and other’s bodies were snapped at odd angles, presumably Captain Roger’s work.
“Checking to see if they’re alive, pet?” Spike asked. I moved away and huffed at the amused look on his face.
“I have reason,” I shot back.
“To see if sixty year dead Nazi’s are coming back from the grave?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes. I’m half tempted to just start shooting every corpse around here to make sure,” I said defensively.
“Have you actually encountered zombies before, Doctor Burkle?” Coulson asked.
“Not personally, but I was extremely zombie adjacent around three years ago when the Beast blotted out the sun in LA,” I said.
“That wasn’t fun,” Angel commented.
Spike laughed loudly. It echoed hauntingly throughout the frozen crypt we were in. “Love, you’re kinemortophobic,” he said.
“It’s not funny! The last thing I want is for all these frozen dead Nazis to get up and start walking around!” I hissed out
“If that were to happen you would reply with deadly force via those two climbing axes you have on your pack,” Coulson said.
“Oh, yeah. I can see it now. Fred’ll go all blue Xena Warrior Princess on them while we watch with popcorn,” Spike said with an amused snort.
“I’d prefer to be known for taking at least seventeen shots. A single clip should suffice for storytelling,” Coulson said. I glanced at him quickly and didn’t see any readily available gun on him but I didn’t doubt he had it.
“Enough zombie talk. Let’s just keep moving,” Angel said crossly.
“What put your knickers in a twist, Peaches?” Spike asked.
“I owe that man a debt I can never repay. If what I can do for him is get him out of this ice hole, that’s what I’m going to do,” Angel replied.
I carefully pushed a fallen i-beam out of our way. “Coulson, I need a support,” I said. He reached behind him and pulled out a metal spike and handed it to me. I used my free-hand to catch it and throw it straight into the icy flooring. It only went in a few inches. The foot long spike needed to be in all the way. I stomped on it and drove it all the way in. The spike shot a rod up into the ceiling and unfolded metal plating to cover a thirty foot long section in metal scales. Everything stabilized enough for me to set the i-beam down and not worry about a collapse.
We started moving again, moving deeper and deeper in. The landscape of the tunnel changed from nearly caved in ice to sections of that destroyed plane. My sensors read we were just over a quarter-mile in with another quarter to go with no sign of Captain Rogers so far. At the halfway point, the temperature dropped to just above zero Fahrenheit. So far we needed to set up six other support wraps.
No one spoke for a while as we moved lower and lower. The temperature steadily dropped with each step. Coulson had long since wrapped a heavy duty scarf around his face. My breath shot out clouds of fog. In the back of my mind I worried that mine and Coulson’s body heat could be having an adverse effect. We finally reached what was best described as a frozen lake. There were signs that the main reactor was here but I had no idea just what powered this Hydra behemoth. If the plane when nose down like the reports said, and this was in fact the reactor core, this part of the plane would have been the hottest, accounting for the fact that it was the deepest. If it was that hot when it sunk this low, the heat would have melted down a lot of ice into water and flooded the area. It was now just a solid, clear block of ice with a star-spangled man inside.
“Bloody hell, that’s him,” Spike said.
“Let’s get him out,” Angel added.
Agent Coulson and I got to work, sinking guiding cables into the ice around Captain Roger’s body and sliding in the framing rods. I pushed in the plates to finish the sides of the casket. A little bit of binary gel sliding down the guiding cables started separating the back end of the back of the ice block. Angel and Spike stepped forward and uncoiled their lengths of cable with the other end a half mile up on the surface. They hooked up the cabling to the metal framing and I went through one final check on everything. The binary only took around thirty seconds to do its job, so it was ready to go. I hit my radio to call up to Bobbi.
“Activate the winches, twenty-five percent to start,” I said.
“Understood. Activating now,” she replied.
It took a while for the cables to tighten up but when they did the effect was immediate. The ice let out a bone jarring crack and ripped the casket free. I realized with no small amount of horror that the binary had frozen in these sub-zero temperatures and the ice hadn’t been properly melted. The frozen lake started fracturing and causing the entire cavern to tremor.
“One-hundred percent! Go!” I yelled into the radio. The casket shot off and we raced to catch up with it. The cavern collapsed behind us.
It is confusing to try to figure out what happened next. I think the fractures moved a lot faster than us and took out a section further up the tunnels. We reached one of our tunnel braces and found it to be completely blocked off. Captain Roger’s casket simply sat there with the cables pulling it up snapped. Now, like him, we were trapped under ice.
“Bobbi, come in,” I said to static. Completely cut off.
Spike exhaled noisily and sat down against the metal wall. “Well,” he said.
“Well, what?” I demanded.
“This is a right predicament you got us into,” he replied.
“Excuse me?” I shot back.
“It was your tech that failed, wasn’t it? Didn’t account for the cold? That seems to be the theme for this gig,” he said.
“Leave her alone, Spike,” Angel said sourly.
“It’s not all bad,” Coulson said.
“Yeah, how so? I figure we’re trapped in a caved in tunnel about just over a quarter-mile under the surface,” Spike said.
“It could be worse,” Coulson said.
“Damnit,” Angel and I cursed in unison. A low rumble passed through the tunnel, making us anxiously check everything.
“Never say that again,” I demanded.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
“So, Smurfette, what’re you gonna do to get us out of this?” Spike asked. I glared at him.
“Don’t call me that,” I said. I started fishing through the main compartment of my pack for something that would work.
“If the blue shoe fits,” he remarked.
“Shut up, Spike,” I said coldly. I slipped my hand into a repulsor glove. It had the arc reactor built into it. I primary carried it for combat purposes, but if I dialed down the output to around point-oh-six-two-five percent, I should be able to safely start melting through this cave in. Luckily we had around thirty more of those tunnel sections. We’d need them as we progressed.
“I’m just sayin’ that you buggered this pretty bad. I think quarter-mile below is a new one for me. What about you, poof? Oh, wait. You took that diving trip to the bottom of the ocean for three months. Left Minnie Mouse there in charge,” Spike remarked. I fired a repulsor ray right next to him, causing him to flail away and hit the opposite wall.
“Shut up, Spike!” I yelled. I dialed down the output and started the slow process of weakening the cave-in.
“Professor Burkle, if I may request refraining from discharging that in a weapons capacity down here?” Coulson said.
“Fine. At least our other company is quieter,” I remarked, gesturing to the dead Hydra bodies.
“I think I saw that one twitch,” Spike commented. I clenched my jaw to stop myself from dusting him.
Everything was silent for the first thirty feet of melting. It only took us about thirty minutes. I was making decent time, a foot per minute. At this rate we’d be out in around two days. Joy of joys. I could feel the silence gnawing at all of us, though. Spike would start talking soon enough. God help us all if he did. I cranked up the output to double the current, still a paltry point-one-two-five percent but it would get us out in a day at the most.
“Mr. Angel, if I may ask how you met Captain Rogers? I read the old Strategic Scientific Reserve reports on your involvement in the Second World War but they were a bit clinical,” Coulson said.
“And you thought since we’re trapped down here I’d entertain you with some war stories?” Angel asked.
“I’d like that. Melting ice is boring,” I said without looking back.
“Okay, fine. I meant the Captain when he rescued me from the vampire called Baron Blood,” Angel said.
“You were nabbed by Falsworth? That’s pathetic!” Spike exclaimed.
“The Nazis made him immune to sunlight and he was acting with Dracula’s support. If you remember, you and I pissed off Dracula rather badly back in the day,” Angel replied.
“This was what, circa 1943? I thought you were living in New York at that time, just trying to stay under everyone’s radar,” I replied.
“The Strategic Scientific Reserve knew that John Falsworth was a vampire and that he was experimented on and working with the Nazi party. They had heard rumors of me...of a good vampire, and decided that the best way to get rid of Falsworth is to send another vampire after him,” he explained.
“So you were a government spook then? I thought Rogers just kinda picked you up like a stray puppy,” Spike quipped.
“Yeah, I was a spook. Not a good one, either,” he said.
“So, how did Captain Rogers get involved?” Coulson asked.
“I don’t know the specifics, but he was tasked with recovering me in a night-time op. We fought our way out together and staked Falsworth on top of it. Hell of a guy to work with,” he said.
“That’s the best story you could tell?” I demanded.
“What, you want all the details?” Angel asked.
“Considering the situation, story time might be the only entertainment we have,” Spike said.
“Fine, fine. It was 1943, like you guessed, Fred, and I had already failed at taking out Baron Blood on my own. Captain America, Steve Rogers, had just broken into the estate where I was being held on the German/French border,” Angel said.
Falsworth thought I had more information and was trying to get it out of me. I didn’t have any but even so, his interrogation techniques were pitiful. I kept stringing him along only because I really didn’t want to be handed over Dracula. As I said, Spike and I had angered him greatly by something we did when we were evil. I didn’t look forward to what he could do to me.
My captor had just started with the fiery pokers, I mean, come on. We were twelve hours into the interrogation and he just got to them? Amateur work. Being caught by the guy who tried to turn into a bat and got stuck half way was embarrassing. So, he started with the hot objects when the front door was broken down.
“Stay here,” he ordered.
“As if I have anywhere else to be,” I said with a mocking laugh. To be honest, this job was kinda fun. Even the being captured and tortured part. I hadn’t been doing much of anything for decades, so I enjoyed the action.
“Silence, filth! You! Keep working on him. He knows something about what Dracula’s plans are,” he said, leaving the room. I couldn’t believe it. He thought I was employed by the guy that really wanted to kill me.
The enthralled manservant tried to jab me with the poker but I weaseled out of the way. It wasn't easier considering my wrists were shackled to the ceiling and I was only barely able to touch the ground. We kept this dance up for about twenty minutes. I could hear the fighting coming from outside the room. Then everything went quiet. A star-spangled kite shield flew into the room and took snapped the chains holding me up, burying into the wooden wall. I hit the ground and immediately got a hot poker through my back for my troubles. I rolled away the best I could but that poker stopped me from rolling far. I heard a sharp crack and the manservant’s body landed next to me with a snapped neck.
“Are you Liam Angel? The agent I was sent to rescue? The… good vampire?” Captain Rogers asked. I nodded a few times, not liking the feeling that poker was causing. Steve ripped it free and tossed it across the room with a clang. I saw his hand in front of me and I took it, rising to my feet.
“I didn’t think General Phillips was sending anybody,” I commented, rubbing the poker wound. I found him staring at me uneasily and I relaxed to let my face slip out of its demonic visage.
“The General said that the target needed eliminating and that if you were still… functional, was his word, I was to extract you,” he replied.
“I am,” I replied.
“Good, we have a Baron to eliminate,” he said. He pulled out his shield and strapped it onto his arm, completing the rather ridiculous image of a patriotic man. I kicked out a wooden table leg and spun it on my wrist like a blade.
“Chances are he’s reinforced the exit with his elite guard. They should be at quarter strength. I don’t think he’s had a chance to replace all of them yet,” I said.
“Is there any other kind of guard here?” he asked.
“No, why?” I asked. He unslung the crossbow on his back and held it at the ready.
“He doesn’t have an elite guard anymore,” he replied. I gave a brief, amused laugh.
“Good, just him,” I said.
“Let’s go, Agent Angel,” he said.
“Ugh, just Liam, please,” I said.
“Alright, Liam. Let’s go,” he said. We headed out of the torture room and I noticed the halls were a lot dustier than when I came in. We made our way out of the east wing and down to the foyer where Falsworth was waiting, as I predicted.
“Angelus! Leaving so soon?” Falsworth called out.
“He is, and you won’t be around to watch us go,” Steve said. The guy radiated pure heroism. It was something to see. He threw his shield again, narrowly missing Falsworth’s head. I lunged forward with the table leg and tried to stake him. He shattered the stake with one swing of his hand, knocking it clear out of my grip. I swung a punch at him and it connected with his jaw but nothing happened. Steve fired a crossbow bolt at him but Falsworth just stepped out of the way.
“Are you impressed?” Falsworth said with a laugh. He was going to monologue, I knew it. I started circling around so Steve and I had him flanked.
“What is this new devilry? None of the other vampires could move like you can,” Steve said.
“Of course not! Herr Schmidt saw the true power of a vampire and conducted experiments that made me what I am today,” he said.
I laughed to myself. “Well, that’s not necessarily true, is it, John? You wanted to be like Dracula and forced a gypsy to reveal the spell to turn into a bat. Turns out the gypsy lied. They do that,” I said mockingly.
“Shut up!” he screeched. And when I say screeched, I mean that like bat sonar.
“Maybe they should call you Batman instead of Baron Blood, cause this is just pathetic,” I added.
“Shut! Up!” he screamed. Steve tried to capitalize on the distraction and struck out at Falsworth with a well-placed fist. It barely fazed the part bat vampire and he retaliated by throwing Steve across the foyer.
“Touched a nerve?” I asked.
“Don’t you get it? The power of all of Hydra runs through my veins! The immense power of the Tesseract is in my blood!” he declared. I had no idea what a Tesseract was at the time but he had no idea how stupid his mistake was.
“Liam!” Steve called out. Falsworth whipped around to face stars-and-stripes. I lunged at Falsworth with my game face on and sunk my fangs into his neck, drinking in his blood. It was really disgusting. Whatever the Nazis did to him was foul tasting, but it was powerful. I could taste the sheer power in his blood. Tasted not unlike chicken and ozone.
Falsworth threw me aside, but it was too late for him anyway. I picked up a shard of that table leg and threw it like a knife at speeds that I could have never imagined attaining. The wood screeched through the air as the wind broke on the surface. The shard buried into his heart and he gave a pained and surprised look before exploding into ash.
I helped Steve to his feet. “Thought that might work. Power in the blood and all,” he said.
“Good call. Let’s report back to General Phillips. He should know about this Tesseract thing Falsworth mentioned,” I said.
“Agreed,” he replied. Steve picked up his kite shield and we headed out the chateau doors. The sun’s rays had just broken the mountain line and I immediately recoiled back into the chateau. Then I realized that I hadn’t been burnt at all. Vampires know when they were even nicked by a solar ray and I was, but I wasn’t hurt. There wasn’t even sunburn. Power in the blood indeed.
“Oi! That’s how you became a daywalker back then? You got it the easy way,” Spike said.
Angel shrugged. “You joined with Hydra to cause pain and chaos, some of it had to come your way,” he replied.
I snorted a laugh. “Because having to be tortured to get your prize was so easy,” I said. There was only about ten feet left to go until we hit base camp since I picked up the pace during Angel’s story. I charged the repulsor back up to max and blew out the remaining ice. Bobbi ran back to the entrance to see what the commotion was and was greeted by the sight of Angel and Spike pulling the Captain out of the ice hole he’s been in.
“I feared the worst! I’ve been inventing thousands of new forms of radio to try and reach a signal to you. I was going to try resonating the ice itself to deliver messages but then I figured that might amplify it until the entire cavern came down on you,” Bobbi said.
“Again,” Spike pitched in.
“Spike, would you leave her alone already?” Angel demanded.
“Hey, little girl blue got us out of it nice and quick-ish. I’m proud of her,” he retorted.
“Doctor Burkle, Agent Morse, I presume Phase One is complete?” Coulson said.
“Phase Two is standing by,” Bobbi replied.
“Good, let’s get to work,” I said. I picked up the casket by myself and moved it to the lab area we set up. Bobbi slid of the top metal sheet and gasped at the sight of the perfectly preserved, if only a little freezer burned, Captain America.
“Holy shit,” Bobbi said. I nodded in agreement.
End Chapter One